Thursday, May 31, 2007

Japanese Hotel Has Gold Bathtup Stolen

How do you not notice someone making off with a gold bath tub?
A glittering bathtub made of gold worth nearly $1 million has been stolen from a resort hotel, an official said Wednesday.

A worker at Kominato Hotel Mikazuki in Kamogawa, south of Tokyo, notified police that the fancy tub was missing from the hotel's guest bathroom on the 10th floor, according to a local police official who only gave his surname, Ogawa.

The round tub, worth $987,000, is made of 18-karat gold and weighs 176 pounds.

The tub, flanked by two crane statues, has been a main feature of the hotel's shared bathroom. Visitors can take a dip in the tub, but it is only available a few hours a day "for security reasons," the hotel's Web site said.

Someone apparently cut the chain attached to the door of a small section of the bathroom where the bathtub was placed, but not riveted, and made off with the tub, Ogawa said.

"We have no witness information and there are no video cameras," he said. "We have no idea who took it," the official said.

Man Enters Not Guilty Plea to 28th DWI charge

Twenty Eight times, as in just short of 30. That is how many times a New Mexico man has been charged with DWI.
Bernalillo County sheriff's deputies arrested Brill in an Albuquerque neighborhood on March 14. Deputies said they saw him park, then fall out of his pickup truck.

The deputies said they tried to give him a field sobriety test, but he could not complete it. They said he then refused a breath test.

A criminal complaint said [Joseph] Brill had 27 prior DWI offenses, with at least 14 convictions, before the arrest.

State District Judge Ernesto Romero set bond at $100,000.
While 28 charges is one thing, he has a 50% conviction rate.

why is this man still allowed to drive? Why isn't he in jail?

Cocaine in Italian Air


NJ Supreme Court Certifies Class Action Against Wal-Mart

Via Reuters:
The New Jersey State Supreme Court on Thursday certified a class-action lawsuit against Wal-Mart Stores Inc. filed by employees who allege the retailer deprived them of rest and meal breaks while forcing them to work "off the clock."

In a 5-1 ruling, the state's highest court revived a lawsuit by about 72,000 current and former New Jersey employees who had previously been denied class-action status by trial and appellate courts.

The court said it certified the status because "common questions of law and fact predominate over individualized questions" and class-action is the most effective way to settle the matter.

"We're disappointed with the decision and we are studying the opinion," Wal-Mart spokesman John Simley told Reuters.
I haven't found a link to the opinion yet.

Having been former Wal-Mart employee, I can tell that the rules forbid this kind of action and my managers never asked me to do anything like this. Technically, we on the night receiving crew were "locked in" the store, we were still able to leave when necessary. We all ate in teh store since meal break was at 3:00am and nothing was open at that time to eat.

St. Louis School Board to Counter Charter Movement

The St. Louis School Board issued a no-bid contract to a PR firm to "drive the message of the negative impact of charter schools."
Documents on file with the Missouri Secretary of State show the marketing firm is an affiliate of Gracie Mae Entertainment.

The document says Gracie Mae Entertainment has an address connected to Elizabeth Brown of St. Louis. Lizz Brown is a morning radio host on WGNU.

Board member Peter Downs appears on Brown's show each Wednesday morning to discuss board policy along with his personal board agenda.

In March, Brown and board member Donna Jones headed a five-day student takeover of Mayor Francis Slay's office to protest a state takeover of the district scheduled for June 15. The state's education department has revoked the district's accreditation.

One option available to district students is to attend charter schools.

Board Vice President William Purdy said he placed the Brown item on the agenda after consulting with Downs. Downs said the district needs Brown's help to "present the case that we can do things better than the charter schools can."

Purdy said the district has fallen behind in the effort to persuade parents to reject entreaties from charter schools. Since their introduction six years ago, charters have steadily eroded enrollment in the city schools.

State funding is predicated on enrollment.

"We are being eaten alive by advertisements and commercials for charter schools," Purdy said. "They're recruiting our kids and we're sitting there silently, doing nothing to promote the St. Louis Public Schools."
The School Board also voted to cancel its contract with Teach for America, citing budget pressures.

The St. Louis school district will be taken over by the state next month after years of pitiful performance.

Tax Break for Vegetarians?

That is exactly with People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals President Ingrid Newkirk is urging:
In a letter sent Wednesday to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), PETA President Ingrid Newkirk stated, “[V]egetarians are responsible for far fewer greenhouse-gas emissions and other kinds of environmental degradation than meat-eaters.”

The letter added that vegetarians should receive a tax break “just as people who purchase a hybrid vehicle enjoy a tax break.”
Now the first question that comes to mind, of course, is, How do you verify someone is a vegetarian? Well Newkirk has an idea--make the government develop a system.
Asked how the government would certify that taxpayers are vegetarian, PETA spokesman Matt Prescott said, “I imagine that a system could be adopted whereby taxpayers could show receipts for food purchases and/or sign an affidavit attesting … that they are vegetarian. If Congress is seriously interested about rewarding people for reducing their carbon emissions, then it could develop a system to verify that people are vegetarian.”
Of course, that tax code is used by the government to incentivize all kinds of activity, including charitable giving, home ownership and other "social goods." But this one seems a little odd.

Receipts for food could be incomplete, i.e. I go to the grocery store one week and buy vegetarian. The next week I buy meat, but only submit receipts for vegetarian weeks. What then also about eating out?

See the problem is not in the attesting to being a vegetarian, but the question is how the IRS would go about proving or disproving it.

Anonymous Gift of $100 Million to Univ. of Chicago

The latest in a long string of big time donations to colleges. I wonder what could be done if this money were invested in K-12 education?

When Even Your Supporters Question Your Judgement

Froma Harrop, nominally a supporter of Hillary Clinton, question's the Democrat's choice of friends and supporters:
Sometimes I forget why the Clintons disturb me. Then they offer a reminder. Case in point are reports that one of Hillary Clinton's most pampered donors made big bucks off scams against the elderly.

Vinod Gupta heads infoUSA, a "list broker" that has been selling the names of elderly Americans to known con artists. In 2002, he flew the Clintons to a vacation in Acapulco on the company jet. The Omaha-based enterprise subsequently paid Bill Clinton more than $2 million in consulting fees. Gupta gave $1 million to his foundation.

The concern goes beyond the Clintons' decision to consort with such questionable personalities. That they would do it so openly magnifies long-festering discomfort over their judgment.
Harrop is generally supportive of Bill Clinton's politics and policies and seems enamoured of Hillary's "courageously centrist" positions, but wonders why such nominally smart people make such bad judgments about people.

Does this impact her fitness to be President? Of course, and one must wonder how much the Democratic voters must ignore for her to win.

Conservatism vs. Liberalism

In the recent weeks, Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama and John Edwards have talked about an expanding scope of govermental power. Everything from new protection of American workers, to expanded health care coverage and just about everything in between, the Democratic candidates are furiously battling over who is a better liberal.

But liberalism assumes that there must be an equality of outcomes, that everyone, in the end must be the same. The problem with such a utopian viewpoint is, of course, that it fails to recognize differences in people; different skills, different motivations and different opportunities.

George Will
makes a good case for conservatism and why conservatism, if properly explained and its principals translated into sound policy, will, over the long run appeal to more Americans than liberalism.
Today, conservatives tend to favor freedom, and consequently are inclined to be somewhat sanguine about inequalities of outcomes. Liberals are more concerned with equality, understood, they insist, primarily as equality of opportunity, not of outcome.

Liberals tend, however, to infer unequal opportunities from the fact of unequal outcomes. Hence liberalism's goal of achieving greater equality of condition leads to a larger scope for interventionist government to circumscribe the market's role in allocating wealth and opportunity. Liberalism increasingly seeks to deliver equality in the form of equal dependence of more and more people for more and more things on government.


Steadily enlarging dependence on government accords with liberalism's ethic of common provision, and with the liberal party's interest in pleasing its most powerful faction -- public employees and their unions. Conservatism's rejoinder should be that the argument about whether there ought to be a welfare state is over. Today's proper debate is about the modalities by which entitlements are delivered. Modalities matter, because some encourage and others discourage attributes and attitudes -- a future orientation, self-reliance, individual responsibility for healthy living -- that are essential for dignified living in an economically vibrant society that a welfare state, ravenous for revenues in an aging society, requires.

This reasoning is congruent with conservatism's argument that excessively benevolent government is not a benefactor, and that capitalism does not merely make people better off, it makes them better. Liberalism once argued that large corporate entities of industrial capitalism degraded individuals by breeding dependence, passivity and servility. Conservatism challenges liberalism's blindness about the comparable dangers from the biggest social entity, government.

Conservatism argues, as did the Founders, that self-interestedness is universal among individuals, but the dignity of individuals is bound up with the exercise of self-reliance and personal responsibility pursuing one's interests. Liberalism argues that equal dependence on government minimizes social conflicts. Conservatism's rejoinder is that the entitlement culture subverts social peace by the proliferation of rival dependencies.

The entitlement mentality encouraged by the welfare state exacerbates social conflicts -- between generations (the welfare state transfers wealth to the elderly), between racial and ethnic groups (through group preferences) and between all organized interests (from farmers to labor unions to recipients of corporate welfare) as government, not impersonal market forces, distributes scarce resources. This, conservatism insists, explains why as government has grown so has cynicism about it.


Conservatism embraces President Kennedy's exhortation to "Ask not what your country can do for you -- ask what you can do for your country," and adds: You serve your country by embracing a spacious and expanding sphere of life for which your country is not responsible.

Here is the core of a conservative appeal, without dwelling on "social issues" that should be, as much as possible, left to "moral federalism" -- debates within the states. Regarding foreign policy, conservatism begins, and very nearly ends, by eschewing abroad the fatal conceit that has been liberalism's undoing domestically -- hubris about controlling what cannot, and should not, be controlled.

Conservatism is realism, about human nature and government's competence. Is conservatism politically realistic, meaning persuasive? That is the kind of question presidential campaigns answer.
Conservatism, unlike liberalism, believes in a reality based world; that in our world there are inequalities and the best way to overcome inequalities is to give people the same opportunities. Personal effort and personal responsibility overcomes inequality--there is nothing the state can do to permanently address inequality.

The Stupidity of Hate Crimes Laws

The House recently passed the Local Law Enfocement Hate Crimes Prevention Act, which would make it a federal crime to "willfully cause bodily injury" because of the victim's race, color, religion, national origin, "actual or perceived" sexual orientation, gender identity, gender, or disability.

So what we have is a politically correct addendum to state laws that already cirminalize the willful infliction of bodily harm--called battery in most states. But because the victim is a member of a "preferred" class, the criminal act will be punished as both a state criminal act and a federal "hate crime." Stuart Taylor, after pairing some very heinous crimes together, notes the double standards that have been previously applied and then writes of the bill:
One reason for the double standards at work in these cases may be that many journalists, interest groups, and academics assume (incorrectly, in my view) that it would fan the flames of white racism and homophobia to paint a true picture of race and crime in America.

The deeper reason is that a true picture would undermine the same politically correct mythology that fuels the push for "hate crime" laws. This mythology also increases the large risk that such laws will be enforced very selectively, with evenhanded justice being eclipsed by politics, fanfare, and interest-group lobbying.

This risk may be the most important reason to oppose the House-passed bill.

The bill might be worthy of support if anyone could point to a single bias-motivated crime that it would have prevented. But nobody has. And such proposals have a lot more to do with political posturing than with ensuring that such crimes are adequately punished.

The Washington Post editorializes that we need this bill because hate crimes "terrorize whole communities." Bosh. It would be one thing if the KKK were on a violent rampage unchecked by local and state authorities. But that is not the case. The reality is that only a minuscule percentage of violent crimes are motivated by the targeted biases. And people murdered over money are just as dead as those murdered out of bias.
Hate crimes legislation is thought policing, nothing more and nothing less.

Hate crimes assumes and presumes a mental attitude about an attacker based upon the identity of the victim. The identity or characteristics of the victim may be unknown to the attackers, but if it comes out later that the attackers were racists, homophobes, or anti-Semitic, then the crime is presumed to be a hate crime, even if the motive was money, revenge or even random rage.

ACLU Shakesdown Boeing

The American Civil Liberties Union sued a Boeing subsidiary on Wednesday for allegedly helping the Central Intelligence Agency transport prisoners under its extraordinary renditions programme.

The ACLU lawsuit alleges that the subsidiary, California-based Jeppesen Data­plan, provided the CIA with services for flights that were used to send three prisoners to secret detention facilities where they claim they were tortured.
I am not sure what the ACLU's legal theory is though.

So it seems the goal is to shame/embarass/extort companies from helping the govnerment when you don't like what the government has done.

What is next, ACLU to sue Lockheed because the planes these prisoners were transported on were made by Lockheed?

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

New Jersey Tax Dollars at Work

Even though New Jersey Governor Jon Corzine can't be bothered to put his seat belt on, he can find time to create a government agency to combat obesity:
New Jersey's health department is escalating the battle against the bulge by starting an Office of Nutrition and Fitness to better coordinate programs aimed at preventing obesity.
New Jersey may be the first state to create such a government body. The agency is particularly needed there.

The Garden State has the highest percentage of overweight and obese children under age 5, at 17.7 percent, according to a 2004 survey by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. New Jersey also has many black and Latino youths, who are more likely to be overweight than white youngsters.

Fred M. Jacobs, commissioner of the state Department of Health and Senior Services, said young people are a crucial target for the new agency because it is easier to instill good diet and exercise habits to prevent obesity in young people than it is to reverse weight problems in adults. Adults almost always gain back any weight they lose - and then some.
Actually, you won't reduce obesity in children if you don't change the habits of their parents. Kids will do what they see their parents doing. If the parents are exercising and eating right, nothing the state can do will make the kids do any differently.

Of course, there may be exceptions to that rule, but the exceptions are just that--exceptions.

The story continues:
Fred M. Jacobs, commissioner of the state Department of Health and Senior Services, said young people are a crucial target for the new agency because it is easier to instill good diet and exercise habits to prevent obesity in young people than it is to reverse weight problems in adults. Adults almost always gain back any weight they lose - and then some.

Jacobs says he wants to tackle the obesity problem through education, support groups and encouraging physical activity, rather than by banning particular foods. One goal is to "de-normalize" the massive portions served in restaurants.

"I want to do that without creating a further stigma on individual people," Jacobs said. "It's bad enough when you're fat that people think less of you. I don't want the government piling on."

He is mulling the idea of having schools notify parents, via report cards, of children with weight problems.
This last one is of particular concern. The notification is predicated upon two things. First, that the school knows whether child has a real weight problem--which I grant it may--but how does it determine the problem. Second, this notice system assumes parents will read the report card AND act upon the notice. The later premise is shaky at best.

With 60 percent of the New Jersey population obese or overweight, one has to wonder how the state is going to combat the obesity problem.

Kerry-Edwards Campaign Audit

A draft audit report of the Kerry-Edwards 2004 campaign is to be considered by the FEC tomorrow. Because the Kerry campaign received public funding in 2004 for the general eleciton, the audit of the committee is required by law.

One of the issue of greatest contention is the assertion by the FEC audit staff that the Kerry campaign violated the rules for payments related to customizing two aircraft that were used by John Kerry and John Edwards. See pages 14-22. Make sure you drink some coffee and have a pen and paper handy to understand what is going on. From what I can discern, the Kerry campaign and the FEC disagree over what accounting standards should apply to the costs of customizing the aircraft for use. For the accounting junkies out there, there are disagreements about depreciation, which FEC regulations apply and which accounting rules apply. All very important stuff I tell you.

While some of the audit findings I can agree with, by in large, this finding about the aircraft borders on the silly. While there are limits on what a campaign can spend on the general election due to the receipt of public funds, this eight page discussion is rediculous. reports that Kerry attorney Marc Elias
says the campaign stayed within the limits and accused the commission’s auditors of taking “an unsupportably aggressive view of the law.”

The commission – a statutory panel of three appointees from each party, now with one vacant Republican seat – can reject or amend parts of the audit before voting on it.

And Elias said “I believe that at the end of the day the commissioners will look at the draft audit report and reject novel legal theories than can’t be justified.”

If commissioners agree Kerry-Edwards overspent, though, Elias said the campaign, which had $5.3 million on hand at the end of March, likely will appeal the decision rather than pay the fine.
This is an arugment for not having public funding of campaigns if there ever was one.

Do Americans Cherish Education Less

Despite all the rhetoric about education and its importance in our society, when compared to countrys with far less that America, it would not be hard to reach the conclusion that Americans don't value their education and education system in the same manner as other peoples and nations. From Education Sector:
In today's debates about how best to improve student performance, little mention is made of how students' personal views on learning may affect their academic achievement. Specifically, commentators seldom discuss students' understanding of the utility of an education and the effects of this perception on how much they value education and how well they perform in school. Perhaps because doing so can be controversial.
Not perhaps, it would be controversial. The controversy would come because we would have to start holding kids accountable for their actions and this flies in the face of the "student-centered" mindset we have cultivated in recent decades. We are so concerned as a society about the "well-being" of student that we don't ask teh student to sacrifice their wants and desires for something that we as adults know is important. Such a move would "damage the self-esteem" of the child.

The Ed Sector writer, Adbul Kargbo, continues:
As someone who attended school in both Africa and the United States, I think both Winfrey and her detractors are somewhat off the mark. It's not enough to argue about whether or not inner-city students want to learn. Rather, we should be asking why these students don't value education enough to want to do well at it.


After all, Sierra Leone is one of the poorest countries in the world with limited opportunities for social and personal advancement. There, however, education is valued because it is seen as a guaranteed path to social and professional advancement and holding an advanced degree is enough to earn one the respect and admiration of peers and the wider society. In the U.S., on the other hand, while my high school peers all expressed a desire for personal success—vaguely understood to be ownership of a house, car, or some other material thing—few seemed to see the utility of education in getting them from where they were to where they wanted to be in life. And, almost without exception, the people they admired—athletes, musicians, entertainers—had attained success through talent or training and not a formal education.

This under-appreciation for learning is not just limited to students in low-income districts. In college I befriended many students from wealthy and upper-middle-class families who were more interested in athletics and partying than in their studies. After graduation, many were able to fall back on family and personal contacts to land their first jobs and get the requisite experience that would ensure success later in life. At a time when almost everyone is entitled to a high school diploma and increasing numbers have the opportunity to attend college, internships, work-experience arrangements, and personal contacts seem to have become more relevant to future success than educational achievement.

It thus appears that while the popular view is that everyone has an equal shot at success, some students cannot always see how education can put them on the path to success. And who can blame them? If they seldom see the long-term benefits that can come from being educated, can they realistically be expected to work hard at something they don't believe will pay off in the future? Ultimately, many students may conclude that academic achievement will play only a minor role in their future career prospects.
Read the whole thing, it is a stunning indictment not only of the American education system, but the American student.

Diversity and Socialism Not Compatible

So asserts the Only Republican In San Francisco:
After all, in a socialist system, the government makes more decisions on behalf of the citizens. If you and your neighbors generally see things the same way, this can be done with relatively little conflict. The countries of Scandinavia have long fit this description.

Such a system is much less likely to work if not everybody has the same priorities. A variety of ideals is a good thing, but it means that if you want (or have) a diverse population, you need a system that is fundamentally built to allow citizens to pursue different economic goals.

Socialism is not compatible with diversity, as history repeatedly demonstrates. A free market, however, not only can survive cultural differences, it often thrives on them. (Think specialization of labor.) Paradoxically, by allowing economic diversity, we achieve greater assimilation.
I am not sure about teh assimiliation part though.

Assimilation is a two way street, while a free society may assimilate some of the traits and customs of an immigrant population over time, the immigrant population must make an effort to assimilate themselves. The problem with assimilation in both directions is that it takes time and unfortunately, most people lack the patience to see the process through.

Hat Tip: Darren

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Secret Service Strained

Given the large field of candidates, I am not surprised, but I didn't think it was this bad:
The U.S. Secret Service expects to borrow more than 2,000 immigration officers and federal airport screeners next year to help guard an ever-expanding field of presidential candidates, while shifting 250 of its own agents from investigations to security details.

Burdened by the White House's wartime security needs, the persistent threat of terrorism and a field of at least 20 presidential contenders, the Secret Service was showing signs of strain even before the Department of Homeland Security ordered protection for Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) as of May 3, the earliest a candidate has ever been assigned protection in an election season.

Its $110 million-plus budget for campaign protection -- two-thirds more than the record $65 million it spent for the 2004 election -- was prepared when the service did not expect to be guarding Obama or anyone else until January. The agency has already been forced to scale back its efforts to battle counterfeiting and cybercrime.


And while the 2008 campaign gets going, the service is also gearing up for January 2009, when President Bush is set to leave office; officials are mindful of the 1993 assassination effort by Iraq against his father, former president George H.W. Bush. The service has begun training agents to fill 103 full-time slots as to be part of the current president's retirement detail.

"You've just ticked off what you might say are unprecedented challenges," said David G. Carpenter, formerly the head of Clinton's Secret Service detail and assistant secretary of state for diplomatic security and now vice president of global security for PepsiCo.

The stresses come as the agency's duties have grown faster than its funding.
Not surprising. Even a quick influx of agents now will not help since it does take a while to train them.

Obama's Health Plan

Widely expected, Sen. Barack Obama introduced his universal health plan today at a speech in Iowa. There is nothing particularly new or inventive about the plan. It would retain private insurance for those who can afford to pay or have employer provided health care. Those without health insurance would get a subsidy based on a sliding scale. Obama would pay for it by "taxing the rich."
Obama said his plan could save the average consumer $2,500 a year and bring health care to all. Campaign aides estimated the cost of the program at $50 billion to $65 billion a year, financed largely by eliminating tax cuts for the wealthy that are scheduled to expire. President Bush wants to make those cuts permanent.

"The time has come for universal, affordable health care in America," Obama said in a speech in Iowa City, at the University of Iowa's medical school.

While Obama's plan is aimed at expanding coverage, he said cutting costs was also essential.

"We have reached a point in this country where the rising costs of health care has put too many families and businesses on a collision course with financial ruin and left too many with no coverage at all," Obama said. "This cost crisis is trapping us in a vicious cycle."
All three front running candidates have a preference for universal health care, through different mechanisms, but paid for in much the same way, through taxes (although Obama calls his the ending of tax breaks for the rich, it is still a tax increase).

The problem with all three plans and indeed any plan designed to increase coverage or reducing costs is that the American health "insurance" industry is not really insurance, but a third party payor system. The only difference is that the payer is a private insurance company and not the government.

Insurance is protection against catastrophic costs or costs beyond the means of most people to pay. A good example of true (or at least truer insurance) is homeowner's insurance. Homeowner's insurance covers damage caused by fire, storms, burglary, faulty construction or just household accidents, like pipes bursting or (as in my case) the wash machine springing a rather nasty leak. What homeowneer's insurance doesn't cover is maintenance, like lawn care, or everyday maintenance items.

But American health insurance pays for the everyday maintenance items like going to the doctor for a visit because you have the sniffles. The fact that most Americans only pay between $5 and $20 for a visit to the doctor's office (which the doctor charges between $50 and $80 on average) means that most of a doctor's bill is covered by insurance. Because the actual out of pocket cost is hidden for maintenance items, people consume more healthcare. The more healthcare they consume, the more the "insurance" company pays out and the more it must take in to cover the added payouts.

The never-ending spiral leads to higher healthcare spending, and higher premiums, pushing more and more people out of the insuranble realm.

The only way to cut healthcare costs over the long term is to change the way in which health insurance really works and go back to a true insurance system. Under a true insurance system, individuals have to pay out of pocket for maintenance visits. They can claim insurance coverage only after a certain deductible is reached, say $250 or $500 or whatever that individual is comfortable with.

Giuliani Ambushed at Fundraiser

A radical group at a Bronx fundraiser confronted Rudolph Giuliani on Tuesday morning, accusing him of being one of the "criminals of 9/11."

The Republican nominee for president was outside City Island's Sea Shore restaurant in the Bronx, speaking with's Adam Shapiro about his fundraising in New York.

Afterward, a young woman claiming to be the relative of a Sept. 11, 2001, firefighter who died when the towers collapsed, asked Giuliani why he allegedly told Peter Jennings the towers would not fall that day, but did not stop the rescue efforts of firefighters and police officers.


Giuliani was extremely polite, telling the young woman she was wrong and that he never said what she claimed. At that point, another protester from her group, a young man, interrupted Giuliani with the same allegations.

Giuliani replied by saying, "I didn't realize the towers would collapse." He later added, "No one that I know of had any idea they would implode. That was a complete surprise."
For a man known to have a quick temper, Giuliani appears to have handled himself in a very presidential way.

HIllary Talks Economics

Oh wait, she's a rich guy, right? From AP
Presidential hopeful Hillary Rodham Clinton outlined a broad economic vision Tuesday, saying it's time to replace an "on your own" society with one based on shared responsibility and prosperity.

The Democratic senator said what the Bush administration touts as an "ownership society" really is an "on your own" society that has widened the gap between rich and poor.

"I prefer a 'we're all in it together' society," she said. "I believe our government can once again work for all Americans. It can promote the great American tradition of opportunity for all and special privileges for none."

That means pairing growth with fairness, she said, to ensure that the middle-class succeeds in the global economy, not just corporate CEOs.

"There is no greater force for economic growth than free markets. But markets work best with rules that promote our values, protect our workers and give all people a chance to succeed," she said. "Fairness doesn't just happen. It requires the right government policies."
Actually markets work best with fewer rules, since rules skew incentives and outcomes. But that is beside the point.

Context for this pronouncement of economic principals is important in this case and should not be overlooked.
Clinton spoke at the Manchester School of Technology, which trains high school students for careers in the construction, automotive, graphic arts and other industries. The school highlighted one of the nine goals she outlined: increasing support for alternative schools and community colleges.

"We have sent a message to our young people that if you don't go to college ... that you're thought less of in America. We have to stop this," she said. "Our country cannot run without the people who have the skills that are taught in this school."
Um, actually, a free market works best if you have fewer rules. One of the most interesting facets of a free market is that despite some of the inequities, some basic sense of fairness still pervades, it is a reflection of our shared values. While employer wants to pay the employee as little as possible and still get quality work done, they can't pay any less. When an employee provides more value to the employer, he can ask for more pay--that is the nature of a free market.

SoCons Support Rudy?

Well, that may be a stretch.
Rudy Giuliani, whose positions on abortion and homosexuality mark him as the most socially liberal Republican presidential candidate in more than a generation, is so far winning the contest for the support of social conservatives, according to a new analysis of recent polls.

Widespread perceptions that Giuliani is the most electable Republican in this year's field are driving his support among social conservatives, according to the analysis by the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life.
I tend to think that Social Conservatives think that Rudy will be far better than any of the Democrats in the field. I think they are holding on the the hope that Rudy Giuliani will, if not continue the rise of conservatives on the bench, at least not further the liberal side of the bench. So the SoCons are taking a risk by supporting Giuliani, but it is based on the hope that he can beat Hillary or Obama, who will further undermine their values.

The fact that the courts have taken on such a prominent role in the presidential calculus is of greater concern to me, but no one talks about that.

Here's A Good Memorial Day Piece

This one by Philip Mella. The piece begins:
Powerful images and concepts such as 'sacrifice' and 'hero' have a kind of cultural half-life, and, as such, we should expect them to become degraded through casual over-usage, not through intentional abuse but because our understanding and appraisal of them inevitably changes with the passage of time.

Therefore, it's a useful exercise to cast a deeper retrospective eye to recalibrate those notions to ensure that those who have made the ultimate sacrifice are given our deepest respect and appreciation.
and ends like this:
We can only imagine the tens of thousands of lives that were lost during our nation's wars--lives that were youthful, strong, and hopeful--cut brutally short, never to know the many joys and pleasures we so often take for granted.

May God bless the legions who gave their lives and who now rest in cemeteries here and abroad, all so that we--and millions the world over--might live in freedom.
Read everything in between.

Dyslexia--Middle Class Way to Hide Stupidity?

The reaction to this story is not going to be pretty:
Dyslexia is a social fig leaf used by middle-class parents who fear their children will be labelled as low achievers, a professor has claimed.

Julian Elliott, a leading educational psychologist at Durham University, says he has found no evidence to identify dyslexia as a medical condition after more than 30 years of research.

"There is a huge stigma attached to low intelligence," he said.

"After years of working with parents, I have seen how they don't want their child to be considered lazy, thick or stupid.

"If they get called this medically diagnosed term, dyslexic, then it is a signal to all that it's not to do with intelligence."

He added: "There are all sorts of reasons why people don't read well but we can't determine why that is. Dyslexia, as a term, is becoming meaningless."

One in ten people in the UK - including 375,000 schoolchildren - has been diagnosed with dyslexia.

The condition is said to impair short-term memory and the ability to read, write, spell and do maths.

Supporters of the condition argue that dyslexics are intelligent people who have difficulties processing information and need extra help and time than others who are poor readers.

But Professor Elliott has claimed that the symptoms of dyslexia - such as clumsiness and letter reversal - are similar to those seen in those who simply cannot read.

He argues that the condition should be rediagnosed as a reading difficulty.

His comments provoked fury among dyslexia campaigners.
You think.

Here is more likely the reality. Dyslexia exists and it does occur in some children. However, like most ADD or ADHD, it is often over-diagnosed because some parents spend too much time reading about it and then mis-interpreting actions by their kids as symptoms of the condition. Their kid is not doing well in school and rather than spending the time and effort to figure out why and determine a response, the easy thing to do is get a diagnosis of dyslexia to cover it.

Let's face it, by definition half of the kids in the world are below average in intelligence. It doesn't make them bad kids or bad students, it must makes them a statistic. Despite what we want for our kids, not every child can be an Einstein or a Marie Curie or the next Nobel Prize winner in physics or literature.

What we as a society have to do is learn to come to grips with teh differences in children and stop trying to acribe slow progress in school to some sort of medical condition. Sometimes there is a condition or a learning disability, but sometimes the child is just not the brightest bulb in the box.

Reflections on Memorial Day Reading

Generally on Memorial Day, I don't spend a lot of time doing much of anything. I spend time with my family, call my father and great uncle (veterans both), and give thanks to all those who have served and sacrificed so much so that I can live the way I live and shoot my mouth off about anything that crosses my mind. This year was a little different as I composed a fairly lengthy email for my brother who is now in Iraq and sent him a few pictures of my family (who refer to him as Uncle Tickles).

As has happened in years past, I have read a number of items about Memorial Day, largely presented in the press and the range of items is fairly impressive. Many of the items are heart-wrenching (which is the point I suppose) and some tend to be overly political in nature (at least this year). However, as the Iraq war progresses Memorial Day has taken on a different meaning for many Americans.

Some people still view it as a day to spend with family and friends, firing up the grill and swapping stories while the kids play in the pool or run around the yard. Unlike some veterans, who view the day with a religious intensity and view such scenes of carefree living as almost sacriligious, I tend to think that those who died in the service of this country would think of the activities as a fitting tribute to teh way of life they protected. This is not to say that such sun-worshipping activities should not be without moments of reflection, but I think it is what those who died would want.

In reviewing many of the items written about Memorial Day, I came across this one in the Washington Post by photojournalist Andrea Bruce, about a young sargent who was returning from Iraq. Bruce had a connection with Sgt. Andrew Snow, having been embedded with his unit in Iraq, and that connection is somewhat apparent. While the story is not particularly groundbreaking, the story does contain on interesting insight into the Iraq War that I think is very enlightening.
More than 100 people, mostly elderly, waved little American flags outside the country club. The mayor made a surprise appearance and gave a little speech. Andrew accepted the "Welcome homes" and the "God bless yous" and tried to answer "Is it really as bad as they say it is?" But war was not what he wanted to talk about. He wanted to chat with high school friends and tease the kids he used to babysit. He said thank you to each person. Then he sneaked out to the palm trees for a smoke with his best friend from high school.

"It was overwhelming," he told me after the party. "A lot of people trying to talk to me, congratulate me. I didn't really think I deserved congratulations." He said he knew the party was really for them -- the people holding the flags. For many of them, he is their only real connection to the war.(emphasis added)
The welcome home party was not really for him but an attempt to connect with a war that far too many people are disconnected from.

While I don't agree with those who say the war is unwinnable or that we shouldn't be there fighting in the first place, I can respect their opinion. But the fact that too many people don't have a connection to the war means that both our government and the media have done a poor job helping people make the connection. Arguably, the war is the biggest political issue extant right now and for many Americans it is an abstraction, an amorphous thing that is out there, one upon which most Americans have an opinion. However, that opinion is not connected in any way to the reality of the war. Most Americans don't worry themselves sick about a loved on in harm's way. Most Americans claim to support the troops, but don't do anything to show that support short of a little sticker on their car and some politically correct platitudes.

The fact that we have an all-volunteer force has to some extent dehumanized the war effort. During Vietnam, the draft was real and omni-present. It wasn't the fact that it was someone else kid from some far off city or state, it could be your kid or your neighbor's kid or your doctor's kid who could be called to fight in Vietnam. It made the risk of the war real, tangible and personal--even if you were opposed to Vietnam.

Today, an all-volunteer force shields most of America from the true cost of the war. For those who have no personal connection to the fighting, they can simply look upon Iraq as a political abstraction, another issue in the political arena that costs each person very little. It becomes easy for most Americans to look at the servicemen fighting in Iraq and think of them as something else--not someone they know, but an abstration, almost at automaton not to be thought of as a person, but as a tool, a tool of a foriegn policy they don't agree with and therefore incapable of making a personal connection.

But Memorial Day is that one day a year when we should be looking at our fighting men and women in hopes of finding a connection. The stories of Memorial Day, yes, are about the dead, but they are also about finding a connection to those who have gone to serve our country. If Memorial Day serves no other purpose than to make people see a connection to the living, breathing, and yes, sometimes dying, men and women serving our country, then perhaps it has served its purpose.

Friday, May 25, 2007

As Memorial Day Approaches: Thinking About Heroes

Gary Bauer introduces us to a couple of heroes:
Take Army Sergeant 1st Class Curtis Haines, who received the Medal of Bravery for diving into a burning vehicle to extract an Iraqi citizen seriously injured and on fire after a car bomb exploded at a military checkpoint. Haines pulled the civilian out of the raging fire and carried him 50 yards to safety before administering medical aid, saving
the man's life.


There are literally thousands more stories of ordinary Americans performing extraordinary acts of selfless bravery on battlefields across the globe. While their stories are different, these soldiers share two things: a singular devotion to the idea that freedom must prevail and the courage to subordinate themselves to do wha t it takes to achieve that end.

Sadly, our military heroes have one more thing in common: anonymity. The mainstream media would have us believe we are engaged in a war without heroes. So far the only names the media trumpet are those whose actions speak to the alleged malfeasance of the American military, like Lynndie England and those involved in the boorishness at Abu Ghraib. But Workman, Haines and Dunham deserve to be held up as the heroes they are. While it is a sign of America's goodness that we expose and denounce abuse by our troops - for while winning this war will not be easy, we guarantee our defeat by stooping to the level of our enemy - what does it say about our nation that we refuse to recognize those whohave performed genuine acts of heroism?

My brother just arrived in Iraq for his third tour there, a tour that will likely last 15-18 months. Although Bauer talks about heroes that all but the heroes themselves would acknowledge, every single member of our armed forces, past, present and future should be thanked and praised for the anonymous work they do.

For it is truly the hero who does what he must without fanfare, without acknowledgment and indeed, in the face of animosity.

Thank you Chris and all your squadmates and fellow soldiers.

I won't forget--ever.

What You May Not Know About Immigration Bill

I didn't know this, but I haven't read the bill yet either:
The immigration bill, according to its critics, hands out amnesty to illegal immigrants as soon as some ineffectual steps toward enforcement are taken. Don’t believe it. The bill provides amnesty as soon as it is enacted.

The Bush administration wants to divert attention from this fact by talking about “Z visas,” and some of the critics have fallen into this trap. But the government will start issuing those visas only after it meets its enforcement benchmarks — if that ever happens. Illegal immigrants are eligible for “probationary” legal status, on the other hand, as soon as the bill passes. The government has only one business day to run a background check on people applying for this status.
Read the whole thing.

Military Spending Not In Tune with Needs

From American Thinkers, Gerd Schroeder:
On the 17th of May, Congress, in a 397 to 27 vote, has forced the military to cut $32.1 billion from its budget over the next five years. The biggest hit is aimed at the Army, which is currently shouldering most of the burden in the war. One may think that this is acceptable reduction of an annual budget of roughly $538.5 billion (including the $100 billon being withheld by Congress). However the question is why the military is being forced to cut back in a time of war?

Many in Congress love to crow about how the military is getting run down in maintenance, retention, and training. Yet the same people are refusing to give the military what it needs to heal itself, conduct a war, and stay ahead of the rest of the world.

Congress is taking $26 billion dollars from the American People, to buy votes to fund the Congress's new policy game of, "lose the war". However, one could rightly say that Congress is taking from the budget of the US Military in the form of $32.1 billion from 2008-2013 in funding, to pay for the pork that they are dolling out to shiftless members of Congress to buy votes for a policy that will severely damage National Security, otherwise known as withdrawal from Iraq.

Many people seem to have forgotten what the American Military has been recently asked to do. Here is the short list.
  • Increase the US Army by 30,000 soldiers;
  • Fight a war in Iraq, Afghanistan, and in many other diverse places around the world against our Islamic fascist enemies;
  • Keep the military technology ahead of the rest of the world to maintain a overwhelming conventional overmatch to competitor nations;
  • Secure the seas for safe passage of ships to provide economic security to the nation and the world;
  • Increase the Marine Corps and Army by almost 100,000 over the initial 30,000 mandated increase;
  • Have the best trained Military in the world;
  • Provide every technology we can to protect our fighting men and women;
  • maintain air superiority; and
  • fight two conventional regional wars simultaneously.

This all takes money.

While $538.5 billion dollars is a great deal of money to the average American, the military budget is still less than 4% of the GDP. Compare that to the Cold War funding (between 13.1 and 4.6% of GDP) or WWII (about 40% of GDP). The military doesn't even have the money to do the missions that it is asked to do now; yet Congress, somehow, sees fit to cut the military budget. It is as if we are in wonderland, and Congress is painting the roses red in an effort to cover up their increasingly damaging policies.

Gone are the days of the infamous $1500 toilet seats and $500 hammers. The military budgetary process is very restrictive and regulated from within, and from without by the CBO, and GAO. The money that the DoD asks for is required by the demands of Congress.
Good questions to be asking for a Congress that "supports the troops."

Super Thin Video Screen

This is kind of cool:
Sony may have developed one to beat them all - a razor-thin display that bends like paper while showing full-colour video.

Sony Corporation posted video of the new 2.5 inch display on its' web page.


The display combines Sony's organic thin film transistor, or TFT, technology, which is required to make flexible displays, with another kind of technology called organic electroluminescent display, it said.

The latter technology is not as widespread for gadgets as the two main display technologies now on the market - liquid crystal displays and plasma display panels.
Sony says they don't have definite plans for commerical applications, but it sure does look neat.

Congressman Rodney Frelinghysen Nabs Pickpocket

via Reuters:
A U.S. congressman chased and caught a man who picked the lawmaker's pocket on Thursday night in Washington's tiny Georgetown neighborhood, a local television station reported.

Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen, a New Jersey Republican, was walking in the area when a group of young men came up behind him. Frelinghuysen felt someone grab at his wallet and when he turned, the would-be robber took off, WRC TV report.

Frelinghuysen, 61, gave chase and caught the suspect a short distance away. Two passing police officers saw the chase and arrested the 18-year-old suspect, the report said.

Frelinghuysen, a seven-term congressman, was not immediately reachable for comment.
The DC pickpocket got nabbed, but not so in the case of the Oslo Police Chief's case: A police campaign to crack down on pickpockets has come too late to help the capital's top crime fighter.
Police Chief Anstein Gjengedal's wallet was snatched by a pickpocket as the campaign was set to begin, the Oslo newspaper Dagbladet reported Friday.

The police chief was on the Oslo airport train Monday when a group of people jostled him. When he checked a few minutes later, his wallet was gone.

"I didn't have much money with me," he was quoted as saying. "But it still wasn't very nice."

Gjengedal said he had followed police advice by having the wallet in the inner pocket of his jacket, but the thieves got it anyway.

Virginia Teacher Indicted On Charges of Sex Abuse

The problem is that the teacher was teaching third grade.

According to this TV report, the teacher hasn't been arrested. The teacher is also on PAID Leave.

Surprise!! Students Try to Cheat

Try as we might to believe that our kids would never try to cheat the system in school, the fact is that a significant minority of them do. In the wake of the cheating revelations at an Anne Arundel County high school, County School Board members met with student government leaders and learned a great deal about cheating. From the Baltimore Sun,
Amid concerns about cheating at Severna Park High School, Anne Arundel County student government leaders said that the problem is common at their schools too and goes unchecked because of defensive parents, weak administrators and a frantic competition to get into top colleges.

At a forum this week with two school board members, students said they do not believe their schools are abiding by a five-year-old Board of Education policy that requires an Honor Council made up of parents, educators and students in every middle and high school. The council is supposed to keep tabs on the academic integrity in schools and review and update policies as concerns over dishonesty arise.


Students from some middle schools described the tactic of tapping on desks to share answers during multiple choice tests. Others talked about "homework deals" where each student in a group is responsible for answering one or two questions, then they all trade the responses to complete an assignment.

A student who shared some of these details before a teacher apologetically said, "I'm not trying to say teachers are oblivious..."

But Meade Middle School social studies teacher Robi Gilbertson admitted it: "No, we are. We don't know some of the things that are going on. In the last two minutes, you've just told me things that I had no idea were going on."

Annapolis High sophomore Nia Calhoun said cheating at her school was common.

"I haven't seen it on any major tests like AP or anything, but it happens all the time on class quizzes and homework, it's like, 'Hey, what's your answer on this?' or 'What'd you get for that?'" she said.

Calhoun and others from Southern, North County and Northeast high schools described an "unhealthy competition" that grew out of a frenzied and competitive rush to get into exclusive colleges. That rush, along with the school board's recent push for higher enrollment in the courses, had many classmates signing up for AP courses to beef up transcripts, even if they're not ready for the college-level work.
So let's see, students cheat on homework and quizzes, this is not surprising, nor are "homework deals." The fact is that teachers should know better and if they don't they should be taught better how to spot cheating. The problem of course is that teachers have to have a creative imagination for cheating schemes and that may not be easy since they are butting up against numbers. A small number of students will cheat or attempt to cheat. Those students will combine their brainpower to attempt to overwhelm the teacher, who has other things to worry about and thus doesn't devote the brainpower to ferret out cheating.

But the fact that cheating occurs is no surprise, but the fact that students place some of the blame on the administration is troubling. The pressure to inflate the enrollment in advanced classes (which is one measure of a school's quality thanks to Jay Mathews' Newsweek list of the most challengeing high schools) means that student unfairly feel pressure to attempt difficult classes for which they are unprepared. Thus that cheating occurs should not be that surprising given the pressures.

So what is to be done. Well first, there needs to be a great deal of focus put on ethics and honor codes. The punishments for cheating need to be harsh, severe, public and quickly meted out. Failure of a test or quiz is a good first start, but if the practice continues, the punishments must get stiffer, including and up to expulsion. Ethics are taught at a young age and if a student believes they can get away with cheating or get only a light punishment, they will continue to cheat because the cost/benefit analysis they make leans toward cheating.

Second, put an end to homework deals, making the participation in such arrangements, unless specifically authorized by the teacher, equal to cheating on a test or quiz.

Third, teachers need to be taught, perhaps by students themselves, about cheating schemes. Teachers could also use an in-service day or two to spend on the matter, exchaning ideas. In short they need to set up their pool of brainpower to counter the students.

Fourth, start using technology to mix things up. One method by which standardized test developers use to counter cheaters is to have multiple test forms, where the questions on the test are the same but in a different order. Teachers, and school administrators, should start mixing the questions on tests and let students know that tests have multiple forms as a means of counteracting cheating. It doesn't need to be a unique form for each student, but usually three forms would be enough. It also doesn't have to happen on each quiz, the simple fact that there could be multiple forms would be a deterrent as long as multiple forms were used occasionally.

Fifth, the school administration, from the school board on down should revamp its push for higher level classes until they can be sure everyone is ready for such coursework. This means focusing on elemetary and middle school curricula as well as basic level curricula in high school to be sure students have the necessary skill and knowledge to perform in AP/IB classes without having to resort to cheating.

One thing is for sure, Maryland schools should be a lot more vigilant.

Stand Up GOP--The Democrats are Scared

Yesterday, Matt Stoller said that one of the reasons the Democrats caved on the Iraq funding bill was the the Democrats were scared!? that the GOP was going to criticized them on the matter of including a timetable. While it is true that the GOP would criticized the Democrats on the matter, it would have been true regardless of whether the timetable was included or not.

Today, Lorie Byrd makes the case that the GOP needs to take a cue from The View's Elizabeth Hasselbeck and stand up to liberal rhetoric, not just about Iraq, but about everything:
Myths are born when an untrue statement is repeated frequently enough, and loudly enough, that many come to believe the statement must be true because they have heard it said over and over again, usually with no refutation. For too long conservatives have allowed statements like Bush “stole the election” and “lied us into war” to be repeated with little if any opposition. When outrageous statements are first made it often seems unnecessary to bother refuting claims that are demonstrably untrue. That was the case with the kooky 9/11 “truther” claims that floated around the internet. The claims that the US government played a role in the 9/11 attacks were treated by most as something only tinfoil hat-wearing Bush haters could possibly believe and most (including me) chose not to dignify them by bothering to respond. Popular Mechanics debunked the various 9/11 conspiracy theories in book form, after all, and to most (again including me) it seemed unnecessary to bother pointing out something so obvious.

though. They continued to spread the 9/11 conspiracy theories and even enlisted the support of celebrities like Charlie Sheen and Rosie O’Donnell. What has been the result? Recent polls show that “Democrats in America are evenly divided on the question of whether George W. Bush knew about the 9/11 terrorist attacks in advance. Thirty-five percent of Democrats believe he did know, 39% say he did not know and 26% are not sure." The lesson we should learn from this is that any inaccurate claim that is made, regardless of how outrageous or seemingly unbelievable, must be vigorously refuted as loudly and frequently as possible, getting all available facts into the public arena so that such unfounded theories are not allowed to take hold in the first place. Conservatives cannot depend on those in the media to do this. Too often reporters simply give public figures a microphone to say anything they please, not offering any fact-checking whatsoever.
These two items are so related that it should seem obvious.

Democrats in Congress and looney liberals like Rosie O'Donnell tend to make statements that are either at odds with the truth or at odds with what America needs or both. What America needs is the truth and if the Democrats don't want to speak the truth, it is up to the GOP and Americans in general to speak the truth.

That is the lesson of Stoller's diagnosis and Byrd's call to action, Democrats can't stand to hear the cold hard facts nor can they stand up to the pressure of supporting their assertions with cold hard facts. In either case, cold hard facts scare the Democrats. Use them as weapons.

A Challenge to Freedom of the Press--Internet Style

Mike Antonucci, whose reporting on the antics of teachers' unions must drive the unions nuts, takes a break from his usual education-centric writing to post on an importanct case in Hawaii. Malia Zimmerman, an internet journalist if there ever was one runs the Hawaii Reporter, an independent, internet news publication. Hawaii Reporter has been sued over their coverage of the Ka Loko Dam breach on the island of Kuai, which killed seven people. The plaintiff in the case is landowner James Pfueger, who is alleging that Zimmerman is not entitled to protect her sources for her story. Here is what Zimmerman posted recently in regards to her operation's Fifth Anniversary:
The last 5 years have brought a priceless journey that has taught the people in our media organization invaluable lessons. We’re proud that we have told stories that otherwise would have gone unreported, made government and business more accountable and elections more interesting, and given more people a voice. In the end, by shining the light, we hope we’ve made Hawaii a better place in which to live.


Without accountability, Hawaii’s economy, business climate, small business survival rate and standard of living were spiraling downward, while property taxes, general excise taxes, government fees and the cost of living were shooting upward. There were few alternatives in Honolulu to the two daily papers, and if they ignored a story, quite often no one heard about it. That happened all too often. Television stations -- with a few exceptions -- settled for 10 second sound bites for issues they carefully selected and more entertainment than investigative or enterprise reporting.


We decided rather than complaining about the climate of fear, lack of education and retaliation, we had the talent and means to do something about it. We planned to create a venue for more investigative and enterprising reporting, to establish a news entity (first print, then television and radio shows) without restrictive ties to advertisers, and to let more people publish their views. We offered the public a chance to print their entire letters or opeds. We also published public record and audits with our reports so people could read more for themselves. We are the only local media to do so.

Backed by a handful of investors, we built an online daily newspaper that today still offers news, views from all perspectives, political analysis, opinion and original investigative reporting on government, business, education and politics. A second division in Hawaii Reporter offers vital local public record and a tracking system that allows lawyers, investors, accountants, real estate and mortgage professionals, marketers and small business owners to watch and track their competition with minimal time investment.

The biggest rewards come each day with the many stories we document that would have gone untold had we not uncovered and reported them and the grateful readers who write in to say they had not seen these stories anywhere else.


The most recent coverage comes because we are challenging in court two subpoenas for our journalism records and sources and testimony by one of Hawaii’s most rich and powerful people, James Pflueger, and his team of attorneys led by William McCorriston. This is a case that could result in precedent setting First Amendment guarantees to the newest form of journalism -- electronic media and is gaining national attention.
Fortunately, one of Hawaii Reporter's main competitors the Honolulu Star-Bulletin is firmly supporting Hawaii Reporter's status as a real news organization despite the fact that it is not a dead tree publication. The Star-Bulletin writes:
A lawyer is challenging the right of Internet journalist Malia Zimmerman to protect the identities of her confidential sources, mistakenly calling her a blogger. Zimmerman clearly derives her livelihood from gathering the news and disseminating it on her Web site and deserves the same protection given to more traditional journalists.


McCorriston's assertion that Zimmerman is a blogger is far off the mark. In fact, she might be Hawaii's only independent journalist who depends entirely on the Internet for distribution of news, albeit with her conservative spin.

The question of what constitutes a blogger and what protections should be provided has stalled a proposed federal shield law for more than two years. Former New York Times columnist William Safire told a Senate committee that he thinks "the lonely pamphleteer has the same rights" as the Times. Indeed, Aaron Barlow, author of the new book "The Rise of the Blogosphere," calls Ben Franklin "the patron saint of the blogs."


What makes a journalist's use of confidential sources an essential element of the First Amendment is that the person is "in the business of gathering news," Safire testified. That factor should be key.

Those considerations might be impossible to include in any legislation to create a federal shield law. Courts should be relied upon to use common sense in determining whether a person spreading news and opinions, whether door to door or across the Internet, needs certain rights in order to preserve the integrity of the First Amendment. Zimmerman clearly falls into that category.
The First Amendment, despite being written on paper and about paper, has routinely been expanded as technology for delivering the news and editorial opinion has changed. Radio, broadcast TV, cable TV and other technological innovations have allowed for faster distribution of news and the internet is no different.

I am no reporter, just a guy with a keyboard, a blog and a big mouth. I rely on people like Zimmerman to provide news and if the provision of that news includes the use of confidential sources, I am not only fine with that concept, I embrace it. While I may blast the media's biases and decisions about what is news and what is not news, I will never, ever stand idly by and allow anyone to silence their right to their business and their opinions. Nor should anyone else who believes in the Freedom of Speech, Freedom of the Press or any other First Amendment Rights.

I hope anyone who reads this post will do your best to publicize the incident.

The Presidential Campaign So Far

William Kristol looks at the campaign so far, noting that despite the "early start" we are almost halfway to the New Hampshire Primary and Iowa caucuses (can you believe it). Kristol notes that the Democratic campaign has been pretty steady, but the GOP campaign has been a bit more volatile. This graph grabbed my attention though:
So whereas three-fifths of the Democratic vote now goes to the two front-runners, fewer than half of Republicans support Giuliani or McCain. What's more, one recent survey had only 52% of Republican primary voters saying they were satisfied with the current crop of candidates running for their party's Presidential nomination, compared with 77% of Democratic primary voters. The door is open far wider for Thompson—and perhaps Gingrich—to enter the G.O.P. race than it is for Gore to join the Democratic contest.
Honestly, I think that bodes well for the GOP.

Primary races that are real races tend to forge a candidate far better than a presumptive nominee. Hillary Clinton is getting a decent challenge from Obama, but in the end, she will probably win the nomination more out of sheer inertia than anything she has actually done to win the nomination.

But the candidate who wins the GOP nod will have spent months in a bruising primary fight that tends to toughen a candidate to the demands of campaigning. A contested primary sharpens the candidate and the team behind the candidate, making them much more formidable than a team that was not challenged as much.

Right now, I have to say I like Giuliani's chances but if Thompson or Gingrich get in the fray, it is going to be a rough ride for the nation's mayor and whoever comes out on top will be the better candidate, not necessarily the right candidate, but a better candidate.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Teacher Pay

Denis Doyle, writing at EduStat Blog asks a question about teacher pay at private schools:
A little noted question continues to interest me – How do private schools get away with paying lower salaries than public schools? There are a multitude of small answers – religious order members take vows of poverty, but their numbers are few and shrinking; uncredentialed teachers can’t get hired in the public sector, but temporary credentials are easy to get in many jurisdictions; private school teachers are not unionized, but it’s not clear that unionization forces salaries up by much.
While it is true that most private schools pat teachers less than their public school counterparts, part of it may be skewed by the number of non-profits and religious schools in private education.

But I do want to take exception with the assertion that unionization forces salaries up by much. While on a strictly pay level, this may, MAY, be true, there is more to pay than actaul salary and the unions have been remarkably good at extracting non-monetary types of compensation, such as health care, reduced hours, vacation time, retirement benefits and the like.

Furthermore, as Nitin pointed out in the comments, public school teacher salaries are not subject to the normal market forces regarding labor that are present in other fields. As a result, we don't know if unionization has pushed public school teacher pay or not. My guess is that it has, but I don't know which way. Given the whining and complaining from unions on the teacher pay issue, you would think it would be higher, but unions seem unable to extract pay raises from school boards despite having professional negotiators on their side, facing largely volunteer school boards. In a era where education spending seems to be on the rise, you would think teh unions would be better at it.

But then again, the unions also press for smaller class sizes, meaning more teachers are needed, which results in depressed salaries since the salary pie is only so big.

Brilliant Criticism of Feminism

This comes from jetgirl, who commented on this post from Darren at Right on the Left Coast about a group of University of Washington women who created a calendar of beautiful women for a class project. Jetgril wrote:
I believe after years of research and exposure I've started to break the feminest code.

You see, if you sleep with everyone in sight for free, you're empowered. If you take pictures of the same thing and sell them, you're oppressed.

It's not really the sexuality they're objecting to, it's the capitalism.
Brilliant and sadly apparently true.

If you are interested in the capitalist approach see here.

The Burden of Proof in Campaign Finance

The Center for Competitive Politics has a story from Washington State that I find interesting and illustrative of campaign finance reformer's efforts:
For years, Washington state law mandated that no political fundraising could take place during the legislative session, as well as, the 30 days prior to and after the session. The purported reason for the ban was that accepting donations during this time period could corrupt the legislators.

Recently, Washington decided to move its primary up from September to August. As part of the primary legislation, "lawmakers ended the post-session freeze to compensate for the lost fundraising weeks."

More simply, faced with the prospect of losing fundraising time, the politicians admitted that the post-session ban on contributions was more about political rhetoric than preventing corruption.

Taking advantage of the new law, two fundraisers were scheduled in Gregoire's name by supporters during the former blackout period. The fundraisers were clearly permissible under the law, but that didn't stop some from labeling the fundraisers as "unethical."

Gregoire responded to the charges with a challenge: "To those who say there is some influence - prove it."

Unfortunately for Governor Gregoire, so-called "reformers" use a different burden of proof than most Americans are used to. Actual corruption is just too darn hard to prove, so why bother? Instead, they will say that the Governor must prove that the fundraisers were not corrupting. Indeed, to satisfy the "reform" crowd, she must go further and prove that they do not even appear corrupt, a difficult task when the "appearance of corruption" amounts to nothing more than what self-appointed "reformers" declare it to be.
While the exchange is kind of silly in a 3rd grade sort of way, the request that reformers make that Gregoire prove herself innocent of not only corruption but the appearance of corruption is ludicrous and oh, yeah contrary to how things work.

If you want to implicate someone, the usual method is to have some evidence proving your claim. But reformers don't need that, they want the officeholder to prove themselves clean, rather than reformers proving them dirty. Only in this arena is that acceptable.

On a related note, why is the Governor, who is not a member of the legislature, subject to the fundraising ban?

Happy Milestone

Yes, I am vain enough to check my Site Meter stats regularly enough. I have always thought the best way to get better at what I do is to look at the data and see what people are coming to visit to read.

Well not too long ago, the Old Site Meter registered the 30,000th visitor to this humble little blog. The visitor from Vienna, Virginia came to the site via and just visited the main page. They didn't stay long, but I am glad they and everyone else has visited this blog. I hope you keep coming back.

Democrats Afraid of Bush?

That is the theory of Matt Stoller at MyDD, with regard to the lack of a timetable in the war supplemental funding bill:
Bush has the bully pulpit. Obviously it's a good move.

These are the attitudes of Democratic members and pollsters. There's no evidence that Bush moves numbers anymore. In fact, when he talks he becomes less popular. He has no credibility, which means that his access to the bully pulpit is severely diminished. Yet Democrats are afraid of him.
Actually, I don't think that the Democrats are afraid of President Bush, I think they are afraid of Americans.

Putting a timetable on the funding bill is widely seen as cowardice, a lack of conviction to use the Constitutional methods available, i.e. actually not funding the war, in favor of trying to tie the President's hands.

Stoller continues:
And while the news media is abuzz with talk of Democratic capitulation, I'm watching idiots like Louise Slaughter on C-Span saying that this is not a concession to Bush, and that Congress is fighting to end the war. And she really believes it. She really thinks that Democrats are fighting Bush with this bill. It's amazing. It's like la-la land.


The key take-away here is that the Democratic Party is degraded and disorganized, and it shows. It's not just that the party is bought off, though some members are. It's that even the ones who want to do the right thing are constantly being told by people like Yang that capitulating to the President is obviously the right move, and that their concession is not actually a concession.
Given their performance on the war funding issue and their complete inaction on any other substantive legislation, Stoller's characterization of degraded and disorganized is pretty charitable.

Greg Sargent has more in a similar vein:
Oooooooooooooo, scary! If we didn't give Bush his way, the White House would have criticized us!

Seriously, the Times account dovetails with what we've heard from multiple Dem staffers. And it has to be said that this is, like, soooooooooo June 2006. Recall that last spring many Dems were terrified of taking on the GOP and the White House over Iraq because they worried that the Republicans would tell the electorate an irresistable story: Dems are weak, and Republicans are strong. When Dems finally realized that Republicans would tell this story no matter what they did, they started telling the story their way: The war in Iraq is a disaster; it has made us weaker; Dems want to end it, and Republicans don't. The rest is history. Dems won the argument.

Now Dems appear to have let their own worries about the potential story that Republicans will tell -- Dems are on vacation while the troops are wanting! -- largely shape their course of action here. Sure, you want to game out what the opposition will do. But Dems, Republicans are going to keep telling the story this way no matter what you do. Indeed, the President just reminded everyone at today's presser that some Dems didn't want to support the troops -- even though the Dem leadership has already agreed to give him his no-timelines funding. Why not start by deciding what the right policy is, and then tell your story as forcefully as you can? Dems can win arguments, as 2006 showed.
It's like the majority party is still stuck in the mindset of being the minority party. Talk about identiy crises.

Another Grim Milestone?

Gateway Pundit has some numbers up about the fatalities of the US military in the War on Terror.
The US has been fighting the War on Terror for over 5 years and has lost just over half the soldiers in battle as the Clinton Administration was losing during peacetime in 8 years.
Some of the data is presented in some funny ways, but there are some interesting views.

One thing is that the deaths are skewed. From what I can tell, the military deaths for the George W. Bush administration do not included deaths outside of the Iraqi or Afghan theaters, while the Clinton years do.

I wonder what the scale looks like when all military deaths are included.

This is not to say that the price is too high. One death is a high price, but freedom and security are too--that is why we elect leaders to make these decisions.

Immigration Bill Costs...We Don't Know

Bruce Kestler notes that the Congressional Budget Office, a non-partisan group of experts who provide the cost estimates of legislation, has not released an estimate of how much the Immigration proposal will cost. One estimate is $2.5 trillion over 18 years or $139 billion per year. Admittedly that comes from a conservative think tank and is probably a worst case scenario, but if that is even in the ball park, Congress needs to sit up and take a good hard long look at this bill.

Problems with Statistics

Here is an example of a post that tries to use statistics to make a point, but the numbers presented make no sense. Read some the comments to get an idea of how wrong this chart is in presenting useful information.

Now, it may be that the United States has a smaller proportion of its population living on less than $11 per day ($4,015 per year), but I doubt it. Next, does this graph account for welfare benefits as income? I seriously doubt it, but those are real considerations.

Now of course, Coyote's argument is that the welfare states of Europe are going worse with their poverty programs that we are. But if a person in the United States is living on $11 a day, it is almost a certainly that they are living on many welfare programs.

Hate is Not a Crime

Captain Ed links to a number of reports about a story out of Florida involving two 16 year old girls, an anti-gay flier and charges of hate crimes:
A Florida teenager has been denied bail until her trial for perpetrating a hate crime. The unidentified girl and a friend distributed a flier at school attacking homosexuality and pointed out at least one classmate as gay, which caused police to arrest the pair for disturbing the peace and charging them with a felony hate crime (via CQ commenter brainy435):

A pair of 16-year-old girls face hate crime charges after they allegedly handed out anti-gay fliers targeting a classmate at their northern Illinois high school.
The girls were arrested May 11 after handing out fliers in the parking lot of Crystal Lake South High School that depict a male student kissing another boy and contain hateful language about gays.

Officials say the fliers targeted a male classmate, who is also a neighbor of the girls. The two girls had apparently been feuding with the boy.

Earlier today, a judge rejected bond for one of the girls, citing her home environment and already lengthy juvenile record — 13 run-ins with the cops. Instead of home detention, the girl will be held at the Kane County Juvenile Justice Center while the case is pending, according to the Daily Herald.
None of the media reports to which I've linked tell much about the actual content of the flier. Fox gets a little more specific in its description of "hateful language about gays," but none of them mention any specific threat. The charges arrayed against the girls don't involve a threat of violence, so presumably the flier just contained stupid, hateful insults towards gays in general and at least one student in particular.

If that's the case, then I don't see an actual criminal act. I do see an opportunity for civil tort action against the girls and their parents, as well as the school, on behalf of the student they humiliated in the flier. Otherwise, it isn't a crime to insult people -- and that's a good thing, too, because 75% of the blogosphere would have to surrender to the police.

This is the problem with hate-crime legislation -- and perhaps with terrorist legislation as well, as I noted in my earlier post about Jonathan Paul. Both of them specifically criminalize motive, rather than leave them as a component of an objective crime itself. Beating up a gay person should carry the same penalties whether hate motivated it or not. Similarly, terrorism as a civil crime (ie, not in the context of foreigners attacking the US) also creates a thought-police mentality that is pretty seductive to people determined to stamp out evil -- in their subjective opinion of it.(links in originial omitted)
Hate crimes represents a fairly stupid category of criminal behavior. First, it assumes a certain mentality in the perpetrator based upon characteristics of the victim. In the example above that Captain Ed uses, if a two men beat up a third to rob him of his money, the fact that the victim is gay will create a hate crime, even if the victim is a complete stranger to the assailants!!

But itnerestingly, if two gay men beat up a straight man, they cannot be charged with a hate crime, even if the two gay men "hate" straight men. Because hatred of the majority is not a crime, only hatred of minorities.

Hate crime classifications are a result of a quest for more "protections" for minorities. In reality, these protections are actually more rights than anyone else. If you harbor ill will to any "protected" group, the logical extension of hate crimes legislation is the criminalization of your thoughts.

NY Times on Ethics Reform

The Times is bent out of shape over broken promises:
The House’s new Democratic majority is flirting with disaster as it guts key provisions of the strict lobbying reform it promised voters last November. Rebellious lawmakers, worried about their own career path, fought their leaders to defeat tighter restrictions on the sleazy, revolving-door culture by which members of Congress move on from an apprenticeship of merely serving the people to real Washington money as insider lobbyists.


For all the promises, the bundling disclosure mandate is in deep trouble as opposition mounts from Blue Dog, Hispanic and black caucus Democrats intent on protecting their re-election campaigns. The pity is that the proposal they are fighting doesn’t even stop this ethically indefensible practice — it merely puts the details on the record.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi knows failure to approve bundling disclosure will reduce the Democrats’ vaunted vows to political farce and shorten their chances of retaining the majority. Republicans are chortling, but the smarter moderates in their ranks better keep their eyes on the people’s agenda, not the lobbyists’ A.T.M.’s. A crucial vote over the lobby bill’s debating rule is about to determine whether reform dies at the hands of greedy incumbents. They might remember that next year’s voters will check for enactment of last year’s promises.
Two things. While I don't agree with any of the proposals put forth for this "ethics reform" package, I will say that if you promise to do something as a party, you should follow throught. Look at the Contract with America. The GOP did not promise to enact into law all the points, just vote on them in the first 100 days. They did so, they kept the promise. Democrats promised something, indeed made the ethical challenges of the GOP a focal point of their campaign--yet failed to deliver. Not smart if you want to keep control.

Second, note the the NY Times does not take all Democrats to task, only the conservative Blue Dogs and the minority caucuses. The failure is not with these groups, their self-interest is understandable. The failure belongs to Nancy Pelosi, Steny Hoyer and the rest of the Democratic leadership for failing to rally their caucus. The failure of leadership will presage the failure of the caucus and could cost them control in 2008.

Huckabee v Richardson

We could have a much worse match-up politically. Although the two men are opposed in almost every way, they have something that most of the other candidates in the crowded presidential race don't have: A genuine love of people and the race itself. David Broder writes why it probably won't happen:
In their dreams, political reporters can imagine what a race between those two would be like: two lively, loquacious politicians with strongly opposed viewpoints but a liking for people -- and a promise of a few lighter moments to relieve the tedium and the tensions of a long campaign.

Odds are it will never happen, even though Americans have tended to prefer governors over senators when it comes to picking a president. That's why no sitting senator has been elected president since John F. Kennedy in 1960.

But Bill Clinton and George W. Bush, both of whom went straight from the statehouse to the White House, have taken much of the bloom off that particular rose. Huckabee, who hails from Clinton's home town of Hope, and Richardson both built their reputations in relatively small, out-of-the-way places. And as we learned with both Clinton and Bush, mastery of a state legislature does not transfer to mastery of Congress.
It is a shame that two men who may be eminently qualified have come along at just the wrong moment. Of the two, Richardson has a better chance to break into the top tier mostly on the grounds that, unlike the democratic frontrunner, he actually has the credentials and experience to be a good president. But it is a shame, a race between the two men would probably much more enjoyable than the race we will get.

Immigration Deal Not Trusted by Americans

Of course, that is no surprise given recent polling on the issue. But George Will does a pretty good job explaining why:
Although the compromise was announced the day the Census Bureau reported that there now are 100 million nonwhites in America, Americans are skeptical about the legislation, but not because they have suddenly succumbed to nativism. Rather, the public has slowly come to the conclusion that the government cannot be trusted to mean what it says about immigration.

In 1986, when there probably were 3 million to 5 million illegal immigrants, Americans accepted an amnesty because they were promised that border control would promptly follow. Today the 12 million illegal immigrants, 60 percent of whom have been here five or more years, are as numerous as Pennsylvanians; 44 states have populations smaller than 12 million. Deporting the 12 million would require police resources and methods from which the nation would rightly flinch. So, why not leave bad enough alone?
There is a long history to talk on immigration, but rarely does anyone really think about the actual gut feelings of Americans.

Collectively the American people have been raised up believing in the fundamental premise of the rule of law and those who flout the law should not be rewarded. For example, take a long look at how people feel about Barry Bonds and the home run record. Because they believe he has used drugs and cheated his way to where he is, many feel he should not be rewarded for his efforts. If Americans feel that way about a baseball record, how do you thinkg they feel on something far more consequential to our safety and security? They don't like giving someone a free pass for breaking the law just because there are 12 million of them.

But what is interesting to me is that our so-called leaders, don't recognize a few basic facts and the impact that immigration has upon the outcome of those facts.

Fact: We as a nation are facing a fiscal crisis in our entitlement programs.
Fact: Most illegal immigrants are a larger drain on our economy and services than they provide in terms of labor. Services including police, fire and rescue services, schools, hospitals, and other public services.
Fact: Some significant percentage of crimes committed in this country are committed by illegal alients. I don't know the percentage, in fact I don't know if anyone does, but our jails and prisons are full of illegal aliens, so there must be some connection.
Fact: Most Americans oppose the immigration deal proposed by Ted Kennedy.

Conclusion: Taxpayers pay a very large amount of money each year to support illegal immigrants and immigration and they are tired of it.

While I have no doubt that this immigration deal will not become law, I am not convinced that our leadership in Washington understands why. The heart of the problem is that Americans have a healthy skepticism on illegal immigration and being the Americans they are, feel that the law should not benefit those who break it.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Ehtics Overhaul Elusive

NY Times:
House Democratic leaders pushing a promised lobbying overhaul are facing resistance from balky lawmakers and fending off accusations that a prominent member is flouting new ethics rules.

The Democratic leaders were forced to scrap a promise to double the current one-year lobbying ban after lawmakers leave office. Now, they are struggling to pass legislation requiring lobbyists to disclose the campaign contributions they “bundle” — collect and deliver — to lawmakers. Failing to deliver on both measures would endanger similar provisions already passed by the Senate.

Other House rules changes this year appear to have done little to alter business as usual on Capitol Hill. House Democrats voted along party lines on Tuesday to block the censure of one of their most powerful members, Representative John P. Murtha of Pennsylvania. He was accused of violating a new ethics rule that prohibits lawmakers from swapping pork for votes.

Still to come is a long-overdue report by a House committee considering the creation of an independent watchdog to monitor compliance with ethics rules. Democrats say the House is unlikely to endorse the idea, which the Senate has already rejected.

Republicans, pummeled by Democratic accusations of corruption during the last election, reveled in the turnabout. “It looks like the Democratic leaders should have brought their caucus along when they were thinking up campaign themes,” said Representative Ray LaHood, Republican of Illinois.
Actually, the ethics bill is not elusive, it is right there "on the table" as it were.

What are really elusive in Washington are backbones.