Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Educational Cartel

One of the more interesting dichotomies in American society is that we in this country have a deeply suspicious mindset about monopolies. The Anti-trust laws in America are tough. But when it comes to certain things in this country, we have come to accept a monopoly in one vitally important area without so much as a serious question--education. Face it, unless you have enough personal income to pay both your tax burden and private school tuition, for most Americans there is no choice but to attend public schools and for decades we have not only accepted the fact that a monopoly exists--we have bought into the notion that if we just give the monopoly a little more money--it can fix itself.

No one would have thought that if we just give a little more money to Ma' Bell before the break up that it would have fixed itself. So why do we accept a monopoly in primary and secondary education? Why do we assume that if we just pay a little more money, education will get better?

I can't wait to watch this movie: Neither should you.

Nike Air Ad

Love this one.

They had to invent a machine to eliminate Maria Sharapova's grunt from her air. Very funny.

Making the Health Insurance Mandate Constitutional

As was the story last week when President Obama signed the health care financing overhaul in to law, 14 states rushed to a U.S. District Courthouse and filed suit on the constitutionality of the individual mandate among other things. Today, in a USA Today column, Jonathan Turley discusses the issue of constitutionality as well.
To date, 14 states have joined the stampede to the courthouse to challenge the legislation. One of the most contested issues is the so-called individual mandate under which Congress has ordered all citizens to get medical insurance or face fines. Though the federal government has the clear advantage in such litigation, these challenges should not be dismissed as baseless political maneuvering. There is a legitimate concern for many that this mandate constitutes the greatest (and perhaps the most lethal) challenge to states' rights in U.S. history.

With this legislation, Congress has effectively defined an uninsured 18-year-old man in Richmond as an interstate problem like a polluting factory. It is an assertion of federal power that is inherently at odds with the original vision of the Framers. If a citizen who fails to get health insurance is an interstate problem, it is difficult to see the limiting principle as Congress seeks to impose other requirements on citizens. The ultimate question may not be how Congress can prevail, but how much of states' rights would be left if it prevailed.
Which begs the question, if the overhaul's individual mandate is unconstitutional, could the solution to that problem be solved by permitting one of the most sought after reforms from the GOP, buying insurance across state lines?

As we all know by now, an individual purchasing health insurance cannot do so across state lines. If you live in Maryland, like me, you cannot buy insurance even from Pennsylvania or Virginia, even though both states are less than a 30-minute drive from my house. That holds individuals hostage to your state's insurance mandates for coverage of services. For example, a single man, aged 25, wanting to buy health insurance in Maryland has to buy a product that includes coverages for birth control, pregnancy, hysterectomies, and other conditions that as a man will never affect him. Likewise, a female aged 25 has to have a policy that requires coverage for treatments of testicular cancer--a disease that she can never contract.

Each state has its own set of insurance mandates, some lists are much longer than others, and all are the result of a political decision or other--usually because some politician had a family member or constituent whose insurance company didn't include coverage in their policy.

So the question of an individual mandate being interstate commerce is a tricky one. Yes. many insurance companies operate in multiple states, with lots of different product options. But a person buying insurance, either individually or through their employer is, by definition, not engaged in interstate commerce. People are buying a product designed for purchase in a specific state. Since I cannot buy a health insurance plan from Pennsylvania or Virginia or Wyoming, I am not personally engaged in interstate commerce. Thus, Congress cannot regulate it or require me to do buy it.

But what if Congress actually lifted the prohibition on buying health insurance across state lines? Then, at least in theory, I could buy insurance from any state that would suit my needs. My employer could do the same as well. Then, at least, there is the possibility of interstate commerce that would allow the government to regulate the transactions.

Now, of course, that doesn't address the problem that Congress has created with the mandate on individuals itself. Allowing for the interstate purchase of insurance doesn't suddenly make the bill palatable to me. There is still the problem of the government telling me, under penalty of a fine, that I have to buy a product from a private company (or ultimately the government). But at least as far as giving themselves a justification for exercise of this governmental power, allowing for the purchase of insurance across state lines will go a long way to possibly curing one of the many defects in the health bill.

Monday, March 29, 2010

$438,000 Per Person to Cover Unfunded Entitlements

Bill Frezza of RealClearMarkets talks about the numbers in the age of "progressive" (read socialist) government:
With legislative success however tarnished by rancor and dissent, the hopes and dreams of generations of Progressives have been fulfilled. The trifecta of Social Security, Medicare, and the first installment of Universal Healthcare are now the law of the land.

Based on a common set of financial principles and an unshakable faith in the wisdom of government the productive power of the young, the healthy, the successful, and generations yet unborn are now fully lashed to the yoke of redistribution. The poor, the old, the infirm, the government employee, the union worker, the dropout, and the slothful have cause to rejoice as their party has delivered the goods.

Or so they think. Let's take a quick look at the numbers.

According to the most recent Social Security and Medicare trustees report, the unfunded liabilities of these New Deal and Great Society programs exceed $100 trillion dollars. Add the unfunded Medicaid mandates imposed on the states along with the pension liabilities of millions of federal, state, and local government employees and the total becomes almost impossible to comprehend.

Try this on for size. If you confiscated the entire Gross Domestic Product of the US for ten years you couldn't cover all these liabilities.
If the entire GDP of America were earmarked for payment of the unfunded liabilities of the biggest sectors of our economy, it still would not be enough.

Of course, the numbers were are are talking about boggle the mind. The GDP for 2009 based on the fourth quarter estimate from the Bureau of Economic Analysis is $14,453.8 billion or $14.4 trillion dollars, written out that would look like this:


The population of the United States is 330 million (a pretty big number itself) which looks like this:


So let's do a little math with these numbers. Ten years of GDP (assuming no growth or change at all, not likely, but illustrative for our purposes) looks like this number:

$144,538,000,000,000.00 (that is $144 Trillion dollars)

Assuming no population growth (also unlikely, but helpful for our purposes), if you divide ten years of GDP by the current population, you get a very large number as well: $437,993.93. What does that number represent?

That is the amount that every man, woman and child in America right now would have to pay in to the government to cover all the estimated unfunded liabilities in Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, pensions for government workers, etc. That number does NOT represent what needs to be taxed by the various levels of government to provide all those other servcies governments do like police, military, schools, road maintenance, etc. So in addition to all the other taxes we pay, we would have to come up with $438,000 per person or $1,752,000 for a family of four, to cover the unfunded entitlement spending.

But let's also be realistic--a large percentage of that 330 million population are retired, or minor children with no income, or people who don't pay taxes, are here illegally, so the real number of the population who would have to shoulder the burden is probably half of 330 million or about 165 million--so double that number of $438,000 to nearly $900,000 PER PERSON.

How's that for a number that is hard to comprehend.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Thoughts on Capitalism

In a recent comment exchange with a friend Facebook, I made these comments about capitalism. After responding a posting about Republicans thinking President Obama was a socialist, the following came out of my head:
While I am sure we will have to agree to disagree, most of what has made this country great (and I mean truly great), wealthy and the most powerful country on Earth has been based in large part on the pursuit of the dollar. Capitalism has brought us everthing that has expanded and improved the American standard of living and the world standard of living--the train, the car, the plane, the computer, cheap clothes, cheap food, cheap energy, cheap travel, indeed every amenity of the modern life is brought to you by capitalism. Take a look around your house, everything you have is offered to you by a capitalist--from the foods you eat to the clothes you wear to the house you live; it is based on the capitalist pursuit of profit. Even things that people on the political left think are good, like cap and trade, has a part of it that is capitalism--the trading of carbon credits will make some people very rich.

But the pursuit of capitalism does not foreclose being a generous person or neighbor. Take a look at American foreign aid. How many other countries have a foreign aid budget that comprises 2% of their annual budget. Who pays the biggest dues to the U.N? When natural disasters strike, where to the eyes of the world turn? Capitalism has enabled the United States to be the most generous nation on earth when something goes wrong. Capitalism makes countries and people prosperous and wealthy; it gives them comfort at home and enables us to share our wealth. Capitalism allows for the generosity of the human spirit. Think of the most profilic philanthropists out there and I will show you a capitalist.

Capitalist who ignore those around them rarely make a profit for very long. Capitalists who don't reward the people that make them successful aren't successful. Capitalism is the most human and humane economic system in the world. Nothing has ever come close. Is it perfect? No--it is a human institution, but for every robber baron you may complain about there are dozens, if not hundreds of good, honest decent capitalists out there who have made and are making the world a better place.
The pursuit of profit is not evil.

Every exchange in the marketplace is viewed by the participants as generating a beneficial return, even an act as simple as buying a gallon of milk. I need or want some milk and a grocer or dairy farmer wants to sell me his milk. I get some milk, he gets some money--everyone benefits.

But socialism, and the socialization of America will not produce exchanges that all participants will find advantageous. I don't want to be forced to buy a product I don't want or need simply because Congress, the President and less than 50% of Americans think I should.

I oppose the health care plan and most of the Obama domestic agenda on those grounds. I don't need or want, or wish to foist off on anyone else, the government (any government) telling me what I can and must buy. I don't want my choices limited by anything other than what the market has to offer.

If you look at history, and look at every time we have had a deep recession--at the heart of it is not a market failing caused by pure market forces--but a market failing caused by government trying to prevent or correct a perceived market failing. Markets self-correct and usually very fast. That is why capitalism is a humane economic system--its failures never last long.

I cannot say the same about this recession.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

MLS-Player's Union Have a Deal

That is good news. Details on the contract to come of course:

This was an interesting item that Ives Galarcep noted: T
he league will create a new Re-Entry Draft, where players out of contract will be able to be selected by new teams after the season. A very interesting development. Details on that should be interesting.
Can't read to read the details.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Fulham to Face Wolfsburg in Europa League Quarterfinals

The matches will take place on April 1 & 8 (two and three weeks away). Fulham will host at Craven Cottage on the April 1.

Come On You Whites!!!!

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Dempsey Sinks Juventus in Europa League

Fulham stormed back after falling 3-1 against Juventus in Turin last week and going down a goal in the second minute in the return leg at Craven Cottage. But Fulham scored three goals to pull even after Fabio Cannavaro was sent off in the first half. Then Dempsey comes on in the 71st minute and scores in the 82nd minutes to send the Cottagers off to the quarter finals of the Europa leauge.

Here is the video of Dempsey's brilliant, cheeky strike to win the tie: Dempsey talking about his winning goal: "Nine times out of ten you don't make those but thankfully it dropped in."

Is this goal on the same level, better than or not as great, in terms of Fulham history as Deuce's goal over Liverpool in 2007?

Pelosi's Challenge

Speaker Nancy Pelosi is in teh fight of her political life and legacy. But it now looks like for every step forward she makes, she is forced back two steps. What is Nancy Pelosi to say when one of her chief deputy whipsRep. Stephen Lynch (D-MA) says he can't vote for the current bill. Furthermore,
Lynch, who serves as one of Pelosi’s key vote counters, said he also can’t support a proposed “deem and pass” procedure that would allow Democrats to vote to strip out controversial portions of the Senate bill and then “deem” that the entire package has passed without a second, direct vote.

“It’s disingenuous,” said Lynch, who considers unfair a Senate provision to tack a surcharge on higher-end health plans. “It would really call into question the credibility of the House.”
Yep, it is crunch time and that "end of the week" deadline is coming closer and closer.

I see another slipped deadline.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Why Stop with the Deception Now

Rich Lowry notes that the Democratic leadership shouldn't start to suddenly be transparent in what they are doing:
The finale of the health-care debate couldn't be more fitting. House Democrats are considering passing an exotic parliamentary rule relieving them of the burden of voting for the underlying bill, which will be "deemed" passed.

So a bill sold under blatantly false pretenses and passed in the Senate on the strength of indefensible deals would become law in a final flourish of deceptive high-handedness. How appropriate for what would be the worst piece of federal domestic legislation since the fascistic, recovery-impairing National Recovery Act of 1933 or the Prohibition disaster of 1920.
The self-executing rule is ten times as bad as the Senate "vote on the reconciliation" because at least the Senate holds a vote. A House "self-executing" would not even have a vote--which leaves every single vulnerable Democrat with the ability to say "Well, if we had a vote, I would have voted against it." The beauty of that mindset is that it provides cover without any evidence to the contrary.

The problem is that more and more Americans are distrustful of the machinations. Not enough Americans and rightfully so, don't understand the minute mechanics of legislative procedures. But they do understand whether a bill has been voted on or not. Americans do understand when legislators are ducking responsibility.

A self-executing rule should be read as political suicide.

Tyranny and Liberty

From Prof. Bainbridge:
Democratic pollsters Patrick Caddell and Douglas Schoen reflect on polling data about Obamacare and the broader issue of government intrusion into the private sphere:
[A] solid majority of Americans opposes the massive health-reform plan. Four-fifths of those who oppose the plan strongly oppose it, according to Rasmussen polling this week, while only half of those who support the plan do so strongly. Many more Americans believe the legislation will worsen their health care, cost them more personally and add significantly to the national deficit. Never in our experience as pollsters can we recall such self-deluding misconstruction of survey data.
Yet, the Democrats seem bound and determined to ram Obamacare down our throats no matter what the cost.
And yet, Jefferson's supposed political descendants celebrate because they think we're going to continue down the road towards a Bismarkian nanny state that runs our lives from cradle to grave (at best):
When people look back from 2060 on the creation of the American welfare state, they’ll say that FDR, LBJ, and BHO were its main architects, with Roosevelt enshrining the principle of universal social insurance into law and Obama completing the initial promise of the New Deal.
I'm afraid Yglesias might be right, except for one thing. Obamcare isn't a completion. It's a camel's nose. Or should I say, Leviathan's nose?

I vehemently disagree with the methods of V, from whom I've taken the titular quote. But the quote is a paraphrase of a much older one from none other than Thomas Jefferson himself:
When the people fear their government, there is tyranny; when the government fears the people, there is liberty.
It's time to make the statists in Washington fear for their jobs. Scott Brown's win was a good start. Now we need to double down in November.(links in original omitted)
Interestingly, I had a short discussion about health care with a couple of clients today. I am not sure there are the votes for the bill and the popular reaction doesn't seem to be sinking in amongst the leadership.

Ours is a government that derives its powers from the consent of the governed. Almost without significant exception, our laws to date have been premised on the notion of denying someone the ability to do a thing because it either a). violates some moral principal that the country holds dear (i.e. theft) or b). violates another person's rights (think trespass).

If this monstrosity is passed into law, the health care bill will in essence be the first federal law that mandates, backed by the force of law and penalty of law, persons act in a specific way. If you don't buy health insurance that is qualified and certified by the government, you will be fined.

See the difference? Previously government said "you CANNOT do x,y, or z because your freedom impinges on others." The health care bill says, "you MUST do x,y, or z otherwise you are violating a law your freedom be damned." The general mindset is very different, one is a prohibition, the other is a compulsion.

It is important to understand the difference and I fear that too many Congressional Democrats don't but I think a growing majority of Americans do. But before the Democrats can pay the price, we have to pay the price.

Do YOU know the general U.S. Budget?

I am not talking about how much money the Department of Education gets. I am talking about general categories, like Medicare, debt service, Defense, non-defense discretionary? Well, as Reason Magazine Reports, most Americans have a basic understanding the budget and the relative amounts the government spends on big budget categories:
Zogby has a Family Feud-type poll in which respondents are asked to give a factual estimate of known statistics. How well can people guess the spending percentages in the federal budget?

Better than you might have expected. Although there were traditional overestimates such as the foreign aid budget, majorities of the 2,068 people polled were in or near the ballpark on defense and Medicare/Medicaid, and a large minority was close enough for government work on Social Security.
Here are the categories that were asked:

Social Security
Foreign Aid
Assistance to Low income families
Interest on Debt
Non-discretionary domestic spending.

What percentage of the U.S. budget goes to each of those categories? I was low on non-discretionary spending and education and long on Social Security and Debt interest.

Althouse on the Church of Gore:

Now, what's the rule on whether we can observe the weather and say something about climate change? I'm just trying to get this straight. I think the rule is: Weather can be used as evidence of climate when it supports the theory of global warming anthropogenic climate change. There's also a corollary: Whatever happens is evidence global warming anthropogenic climate change. Another way of putting this is: You may only make statements of belief in global warming anthropogenic climate change.

See how easy it is to be a member of the Church of Gore?

Monday, March 15, 2010

Rep. Paul Ryan: "There is nothing simple about this process."

Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) argues that despite the so-called transparency claimed by the Democratic majority on health care, and the statement that the bill should have a simple up or down vote, the legislative process on the health care bill is neither simple nor transparent.

Has anyone access to the full language of the so-called "reconciliation bill?" I haven't seen it. I doubt that Mr. Ryan has seen everything that is to be included in the bill. I am also pretty sure that there are not enough votes to pass it. If they had the votes, Nancy Pelosi would call the bill to the floor and vote on it. But the fact that such a vote hasn't happened means that they are short of votes.

White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs has claimed that the bill will be law of the land come next week. But I have heard that before. Previous deadlines have been Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year's Day, Valentine's Day. But each time the Democrats have found that the bill is so unpopular that they don't have the votes to pass the beast and the deadline keeps getting pushed back.

Nancy Pelosi has burned all over her limited credibility and an very substantial amount of political capital on this issue and I think she is headed for disaster. To get the votes, she may very well have to buy and sell the souls of Representatives who can ill afford the bargain. For every promise she makes to one Member, another is likely to object. Too many swing district Democrats are worried, and rightfully so, about their political futures. I doubt that very many are willing to stake their job on a principle that is marginal at best and certainly not a fundamental right.

This is do or die for the Democrats right now. If they can't pass the bill now, they never will--a defeat for President Obama's "signature" issue. For all intents and purposes, President Obama will be a lame duck not 18 months into his first term.

If Democrats wait too much longer to try and pass this bill--it will become a legislative albatross around their neck come November.

Co-Ed Dorm Rooms

This story does ask an important question--at what point do we allow college students, who are nominally adults, to make their own decisions. The context is not just co-ed dorms, where men and women might be assigned to different wings or floors, but actual rooms where men and women share the room.
That's how Pitzer College sophomores Kayla Eland, female, and Lindon Pronto, male, began sharing a room this semester on Holden Hall's second floor. They are not a couple and neither is gay. They are just compatible roommates in a new, sometimes controversial, dormitory option known as gender-neutral housing that is gaining support at some colleges in California and across the nation.

Eland, a biology major who hopes to become a doctor, said that a roommate's personality and study habits are more important than gender. "This might not be right for everyone," she said of sharing the small, cinder block-walled room with a man. "But I think it's important to have the right to choose where you want to live, how you want to live and who you want to live with."

Pronto, an environmental studies major who works each summer as a forest firefighter, agreed. Apart from remembering to lower the toilet seat, he said, living with a woman friend is not much different from rooming with a man. "As far as I'm concerned, a roommate is a roommate," he said.
Now, I know there are going to be some people who get up in arms about this, but consider. If these two young people lived off-campus--they would be allowed to share a house, perhaps even a room in that house, without almost no-one asking questions.

Are their concerns pragmatic? Certainly--compatibility is not just for couples, but when you live in a tiny college dorm room it might even be more important. The way in which roommates are selected early on-essentially a crap shoot of random assignment--leads to a great deal of stress at a time when Freshmen need less stress.

I don't know if we are in a "post-gender" world, but I do know that younger generations have less concern about gender (and nudity for that matter) than older generations.

Do I think it is for everyone? Certainly not. The schools apparently take care to counsel those who are romantically involved not to live together given the potential implications of a break up. This isn't a particularly popular choice and it does require a certain maturity that some young college students may not have, but why should a school, absent a pedagogical or religious objection, tell a student that their chosen roommate is inappropriate. To be clear, a school should not force a student to have an opposite gender roommate, but if both students choose an opposite gender roommate who is a relative, what good reason--outside of pedagogical or religious reason--exists for a school to deny the option?

We as a society constant harp on the idea that young people have to make their own decisions. So who are we, as a society, to determine what decisions they can make and what decisions they can't make. Again, if two young people at a college choose to live together off campus, why can't they make that same decision to live together on campus?

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Just In Case You Didn't Think Curricula Were Political

Check out this story from Texas:
The State Board of Education tentatively approved new standards for social studies Friday with members divided along party lines — some blasting them as a fraud and conservative whitewash, others praising them as a tribute to the Founding Fathers that rightly portrays America as an exceptional country.

The standards, which will influence history and government textbooks arriving in public schools in fall 2011, were adopted by 10 Republicans against five Democrats after weeks of debate and across a racial and ideological chasm that seemed to grow wider as the proposal was finalized Thursday.

The document faces a public hearing and a final board vote in May.

The often contentious process has been watched closely across the nation, particularly this week as the board gathered to debate and vote on the proposed standards. Because of Texas' size, decisions by the board on what should and should not be included can influence publishers whose textbooks may be adopted by other states.

Democrats on the board — all of them black or Hispanic — complained the new standards dilute minority contributions to Texas and U.S. history.

“We have been about conservative versus liberal. We have manipulated the standards to insist on what we want to be in the document, regardless whether it's appropriate,” said Mavis Knight, D-Dallas. “We are perpetrating a fraud on the students of this state.”

But Terri Leo, R-Spring, called the proposal “a world class document” and told her Democratic colleagues the board has “included more minorities and historical events than ever before ... I am very disappointed at those allegations because they are simply not true.”

Ken Mercer, R-San Antonio, said the proposed standards reflect the desires of his constituents to emphasize “personal responsibility and accountability” and “to honor our Founding Fathers, and our military.”

Mary Helen Berlanga, D-Corpus Christi, said the standards ignore the Ku Klux Klan in Texas, Texas Rangers “killing Mexican-Americans without justification” and the U.S. Army's role in the attempted extermination of American Indians.
Having not seen the curriculum or standards, I can offer no comment on the substance of the document, but this just proves how politically contentious the formulation of a curriculum can be.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Political Correctness More Important than Accuracy in Textbooks

Three out of five Americans believe that to be an accurate statement.
Sixty percent (60%) of Americans with children in elementary or secondary school say most school textbooks are more concerned with presenting information in a politically correct manner than in accuracy.
Now, there might be some people wondering how that happens, after all, supposed experts write the textbooks.

Well, that is not fully accurate. There are a number of matters which must be understood about textbooks.

1. Textbooks are expensive to produce. Not surprising, of course, but the effort for textbook publishers, will be of course to maximize profits by having standard textbooks acceptable to the largest population possible.

2. The curriculum that is considered by a local/state school board is a political document. People that that a curriculum is an educational document, but it is not. A curriculum may start off as a document with a goal of educating our kids as best we can, but it it always massaged, altered, amended and adapted to account for a variety of political constituencies, from minorities, to women, to whoever needs to be appeased about their role in literature, history, science, economics, what ever.

3. When you consider item 1, you have to expect textbook publishers to look at the biggest education markets and you get California, Texas and New York. Curriculum decisions in those states drive the production of textbooks. If a smaller state wanted to have a different curriculum, then the textbooks become significantly more expensive to be "customized."

The result of course is that the political correctness of California, New York, Texas and other large states drives what you see in textbooks.

I wonder what the state by state breakdown on the Rasmussen Poll shows.

Soccer, Haiti, competition

The U.S. Women's U-17 National Team is playing in a tournament in Costa Rica against other CONCACAF teams. Recently, the U.S. Women played the team from Haiti and the U.S.Soccer Website had their normal post match quote sheet. A couple of them stood out for me:

U.S. defender Olivia Brannon
On the post-game hug with the Haitian goalkeeper:
"It just puts everything into perspective. It makes you realize what is truly important, your family, having a roof over your head, and having food on the table. We take all those things for granted. I had my mom in the stands cheering for me tonight. Some of these girls might never have that again."

U.S. forward Taylor Smith
On facing Haiti after their tragedy:
"That was probably the saddest game I’ve ever played."

I find it likely that the Haitian players were probably, by staying in a hotel, staying in far better conditions that probably exist at home. I find their heart encouraging. But at the same time, I find the empathy from the U.S. players touching as well. You cannot help but think of the differences in condition between the players and their home lives.

Tuesday, March 09, 2010

Secret millionaire: Woman leaves fortune for Lake Forest College scholarships -

Secret millionaire: Woman leaves fortune for Lake Forest College scholarships -

Posted using ShareThis
Why aren't this story:
"Harlem now has more school choice per square foot than any other place in the country," says Eva Moskowitz, who operates four charters in Harlem. Nationwide, the average black 12th grader reads at the level of a white eighth grader. Yet Harlem charter students at schools like KIPP and Democracy Prep are outperforming their white peers in wealthy suburbs. At the Promise Academy charter schools, 97% of third graders scored at or above grade level in math. At Harlem Village Academy, 100% of eighth graders aced the state science exam. Every third grader at Harlem Success Academy 1, operated by Ms. Moskowitz, passed the state math exam, and 71% of them achieved the top score.

When Seth Andrew, a founder of Democracy Prep, set up his charter middle school in 2006, it occupied the same building as a traditional public middle school that opened the same year. "We both opened with sixth grade and about 100 kids, though we had more special-ed children and English language learners," he says. "After two years in the same building with the same kids on the same floor, this school was the lowest-performing school in Harlem, and we were the highest-performing school in Harlem."

And Harlem parents are responding. They're breaking all the stereotypes that low-income, minority parents won't take the time and effort to research which schools would be the best fit for their children. They care and they'll come out in a snow storm to find out about better choices for their children. And their choices are not the regular public schools.
Charters are getting the job done and the teachers unions are running scared. It is hard to argue with Moskovitz's results with a population that everyone tends to write off.

Of course, Randi Weingarten and her crowd will say "oh the charters only pick the cream of the crop," but that is not how it works. Each open space often has dozens of applicants for that spot. If the schools were that bad, how do you explain that.

Sunday, March 07, 2010

Icelandic Tea Partiers

Apparently the whole country is about to reject a massive government bailout of debts incurred by the country's banks. Via Instapundit. A great observation:
Well, we haven’t reached Iceland’s situation yet. But if we do, I suspect that Americans will be less well-behaved than Icelanders, even though the Icelanders are being pretty rowdy by Icelandic standards. However, governmental deficits are ultimately limited by what taxpayers will put up with — and at the limits, that’s usually somewhat less than government deficit-runners think they will put up with.(Emphasis added).

Saturday, March 06, 2010

Prosecuting the Red Box

You may have seen them, the Red Box kiosks in your local grocery stores or other stores that allow you to rent DVDs for $1 and they are self-serve. The one at my local grocery store appears to do pretty brisk business. I didn't really give it much thought and haven't used the service myself, but I think it is a brilliant service that lots of people use--smart capitalism.

But apparently, some people didn't like losing business and so were "suggesting" that prosecutors bring criminal cases against the kiosks for allowing children to rent videos that might be R-Rated.
Today brings a new installment of the convince-government-punish-your-competitors sweepstakes, this one in the U.S. of A. Video rental stores in Indiana (already in trouble thanks to Netflix and On Demand) demanded that the county prosecutor go after Redbox, those neat little $1 video rental kiosks in supermarkets and drugstores, for making R rated movies available without age checks:

"I'm not on a crusade," said Paul Black, an Evansville attorney who says he suggested the inquiry to [the county prosecutor's] office on behalf of a client who operates several video store locations. "We're just looking for a level playing field here."

I particularly like the gentle use of the word "suggested." I know I always ask my lawyer to make "suggestions" for me. In writing. To government officials.

The video store lawyer seems to have "suggested" that from now on the kiosks should stock only G movies. Otherwise kids could get ahold of an R- or PG-rated film without their parents' knowledge—something that is currently completely impossible in any other venue, as everyone who was ever an American middle-schooler knows.

Of course, Vanderburgh County Prosecutor Stanley Levco—in a classic political Pavlovian response to the phrase "for the children"—happily obliged. He sent out "letters threatening legal action against retailers providing space" to the perfidious kiosks of sin and temptation, thus soothing the concerns about the well-being of the children and allowing the lawyer for Redbox's competitors to sleep better at night.

As it turns out, This story actually has a happy ending for more people than just one guy with some letterhead paper and a J.D. After some press attention, the county prosecutor announced this morning that he had decided to drop the case.
So let's recap--it is not illegal to have the kiosks, it is not illegal for parents to allow their children to watch R-rated videos (yet), its not illegal for underage kids to possess or view R-Rated videos--but because we were "protecting the kids" these prosecutors seriously considered prosecuting the stores and the kiosk owners. Yeah that makes sense.

So the prosecutors get to decided what is appropriate for kids to see--talk about a nanny state.

Felony "Hate Crime"

From St. Louis Post-Dispatch:
Two students at the University of Missouri-Columbia were suspended Wednesday after their arrests in a case of cotton balls thrown across the lawn of the campus black-culture center.

Campus police on Tuesday evening arrested the students, one of whom is from the St. Louis area, on suspicion of a felony hate crime. The two were released on bond, and charges were pending.

The incident happened early Friday at the Gaines/Oldham Black Culture Center, near the middle of campus. Nathan Stephens, the center's coordinator, said students were offended because of the "symbolic violence" that harkened to days of slavery on cotton plantations.
Let's be clear, these two young men committed a crime--vandalism.

I don't know if that is a felony or a misdemeanor in Missouri or not, but make no mistake, these two chuckleheads did commit a crime.

But they didn't commit a hate crime. Being offensive is not a crime, being tasteless is not a crime. Having lacivious thoughts is not a crime. You see, mental thoughts are not a crime.

But because someone was offended and the cotton balls "harkened back to days of slavery" these two idiots are being charged with a felony "hate crime." How do you convict someone of "hate?" We are policing thoughts, and if you choose the wrong litter you can be charged with a felony. That is dumb.

Educated Idiots

I have come to really wish that Rep. Thaddeus McCotter was my Congressman. He appears pretty regularly on The Dennis Miller radio show, he is funny, grounded and pretty common sensical. McCotter has a site called that I recommend if you want a common sense approach to issues and Ideas and what he calls Educated Idiots. His first Educated Idiots award is to evironmentalists who think that increasing gas prices is needed to cut carbon emissions.
(In what is rarely a good sign) a New York Times blog reports the Harvard-based Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs has determined fuel prices must rise significantly to reduce carbon dioxide emissions. Thus, in the name of discredited Leftist psuedo-science, your gas prices could reach $7 a gallon.
In this tepid spat of Think Tanks vs. Gas Tanks, we glean two things: these researchers have recession-proof jobs; and they are unconcerned you don’t.
How else to explain these researchers’ cavalier demand that your shrinking family budget must get smaller and your job must become more tenuous all so Goddess Gaia can keep her cool?
Here is the problem with increasing gas prices that McCotter assumes but doesn't break down:

We are a gas dependent society!!. We don't have big mass transit programs that will enable us to get from home to work without getting in our car. Our attempts at developing "sustainable" communities is laughable. How many times do you get in your car to run an errand? How far do you have to drive to get to the grocery store? How far do you have to drive to get to work? How much do you drive to get to things on teh weekend, your kid's soccer/baseball/hockey/football game? How far do you drive to go out to dinner?

All those planned, mixed use developments are miles from your house. We are a nation of suburbs, which means we are a nation of commuters. Gas at $7 per gallon will kill this economy faster than anything else.

So yeah, that is good idea.

Obama Care 2.0--Even More of the Same

From David Jacobs:
If Mr. Obama were sincere about input from The Republicans and Independents at “The Parting of The Seas Meeting,” why not wait until after the meeting and incorporate some of their ideas in HIS plan? Because, of course, the meeting was merely a media spectacle designed to give the illusion (a poor one at that) of potential compromise.
ObamaCare 2.0 is troubling on many fronts. ObamaCare is a combination of the House and Senate Bills, which takes control of every American’s health care life. This plan would not improve the current system, and is fatally flawed because it:
Rations and denies access to healthcare. Denying access to healthcare is the most inhumane and unethical means of cutting costs;

Costs $1 TRILLION ( $100 Billion more than The Senate Bill) ;
Creates over 110 Federal Agencies, commissions and boards;
Creates The Health Insurance Rate Authority….a direct violation of States’ Rights;
Establishes a “ Comprehensive Database” on Americans;
Establishes Individual and Employer Mandates ( Mr. Obama’s own Chair of Council of Economic Advisors has stated that this alone would cost 5.5 Million jobs….more unemployment. );
Institutes $748 Billion in new taxes;
Cuts Medicare by $500 Billion, over a period when 30% MORE Americans will be added to Medicare rolls, (You do the math…);
Imposes $136 Billion in tax hikes on working families making LESS THAN $250,000 (Americans for Tax Reform Analysis);
Ends Medicare Advantage Program for Seniors and forces them to a more expensive plan with less benefits;
Applies Medicare Tax to unearned income;
Increases Medicare Payroll Tax from 2.95 to 3.8%; and
Increases unfunded mandates on every State.

To make matters worse, when The Congressional Budget Office was asked to review and “score” ObamaCare 2.0, its response was: “The CBO can not score or evaluate the plan due to a lack of detail.”
I am not so much of a fool to think that the modern political process is bipartisan. Neither party is showing a willingness to talk or compromise on anything and right now that is a good thing. There are too many Americans who are divided too sharply for there to be enough of a consensus to get something done.

However, if the Obama Administration and the Democratic Congress pass this monstronsity, there would be a bloodbath in November. It is not because everything listed above is a bad idea (and they are) it is that there is absolutely no pretense of considering what the American people want.

Americans like change, but they like incremental change, slow change, change that can be undone if it shows itself to be an error. This path is not that kind of change.

Friday, March 05, 2010

If the U.S. Were Like Ireland

The U.S. budget would be slashed by $328 billion if certain austerity measures were put in place. Even in multi-trillion dollar budget, it is not a bad cut.

Of course, people will do nuts about the program ideas and few Washington politicians have the spine to enact such cuts, but it is a wonderful thought experiment.

Keep in mind though, that some of the cuts proposed in this piece are but a drop in the bucket of full spending. States provide a lot of funding for the mentioned programs, so it is not like they would complete dry up.

Also, note that Ireland's budget, while very small compared to the U.S. budget, is for a country of approximately 6.2 million or about the same population of Tennessee. Tennessee's budget, by the way, is $29.6 billion for FY 2010.

Isn't It Ironic

From Atlanta:
A 45-year-old woman, charged with ending a domestic dispute by killing her 26-year-old husband of five days, is a registered lobbyist for a group fighting domestic violence.

Thursday, March 04, 2010

Divorced Before Puberty -

Yemeni girl, married and divorced at age 10, and best selling author by age 12.

Tuesday, March 02, 2010

DC United Update

The second stage of DC United's preseason tour of the south will take them to Charleston, SC for that side's Challenge Cup.

So far the star of the pre-season has to be 19-year old goalkeeper Bill Hamid. Hamid, who was DC United's first academy signing has greatly impressed with his performances in goal during the preseason. Hamid's form has been such that he forced DC United to release trialist (and veteran) keeper Ray Burse. With Josh Wicks on the injury list with multiple injuries, it is looking like Hamid will start the Red & Black's season as the number 2 and for good reason.

The injury bug is starting to hit United though. According to Goff, regular starters Marc Burch and Clyde Simms are carrying some knocks. Simms, with a knee problem, is expected to be out for about three weeks, or until just before the opening game in Kansas City. Burch's injury is a bit more serious with a foot injury that could keep him on the sidelines for months. Burch, and his killer left foot, will be missed on the left back position.

Injuries are the last think this team needs going into the season, it is hard to climb out.

On the positive side though, it looks as though Santino Quaranta is returning to form after off-season foot surgery, as is Danny Szetela.