Friday, December 23, 2011

Random Thoughts--December 23, 2011

Does anyone else find it ironic that anti-Christmas atheists are making a protest in Santa Monica--you know a town named for Saint Monica.

What is it about Christmas that inspires massive baked good preparation?  Why don't we make a lot of cookies for say Easter or July 4th?  It is not like the three wise men brought gold, sugar cookies and pie.

Saw this today and smiled a little:
To our Republican friends: Merry Christmas! To our Democratic friends: please accept with no obligation, implied or implicit, out best wishes for and environmentally conscious, socially responsible, low stress, non-addictive, gender neutral celebration of the winter solstice holiday practiced within the most enjoyable traditions of the religiuos or secular practices of your choice, with respect for the religious/secular persuasion and/or traditions of others, or their choice not to practice religious or secular traditions at all. This wish is made without regard to the race, color, age, physical ability, religion, or sexual preference of the wishee.

Courtesy of ChangeMaryland.

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An Undeniable Asymmetry

The inestimable Don Boudreaux had this piece An Undeniable Asymmetry, the substance of which is this:

But let’s be clear about one indisputable fact: capitalism vigorously pursued has never produced the atrocities – starvation, tyranny, and genocide – that are produced by statism vigorously pursued. Nothing remotely close.

Capitalism vigorously pursued might produce trade cycles and long periods of high unemployment; it might produce anxiety in yesterday’s successful entrepreneurs who now face competition from today’s upstart entrepreneurs; it might cause too many people to become obese; it might kill off animal species in unusually high numbers; it might cause the earth’s climate to change; it might create asset bubbles; it might spark envy and over-work in the Smiths who are trying to keep up with their neighbors, the Joneses. It might do these things and others that reasonable people might regard as unfortunate in comparison with some imaginable paradise.

But we must never lose sight of this important asymmetry: complete or near-complete state control of the economy has proven to be a sure recipe for deep impoverishment and brutal tyranny, while historical periods that have been close to laissez faire – that is, much closer to laissez faire than is America at the dawn of 2012 – have produced nothing remotely of the sort. Indeed, whatever problems might be caused by more and more reliance upon laissez faire capitalism are always accompanied by – and are at least partially (and arguably more than completely) off-set by – unambiguous benefits of capitalism such as the elimination of starvation, more abundant supplies of clothing, and better housing.

Any problems promoted by greater and greater reliance upon capitalism, in short, are first-world problems (which isn’t to say that these problems should be tolerated); they are problems incomparably more tolerable than are the horrors promoted by the elimination of capitalism.

In the United States we have a group of well-fed, generally well-educated people, faux representatives of the mythical 99%, who took up residence in various public parks in high quality gore-tex tents, sleeping bags and possessed other high-quality and in some cases high cost, equipment like iPads, smart phones and laptops served by Wi-fi to protest one perceived excess of capitalism--income inequality. In short the children and grandchildren of capitalism railed against capitalism because they envied successful people.

Yet at no time did they see the irony of their position. Through the capitalism of Steve Jobs (a very rich man at his death) and Bill Gates (a phenomenally rich man) and thousands of others who have brought, health, security, comfort, cheap useful technology and, yes, that dreaded wealth, to America, these protesters were able to attempt to affect change though a Constitutionally guaranteed right to free speech, assembly and to petition for redress of grievances to the government. The change they wanted to affect was, in essence, give us more. What more do they want?

Time Magazine has named The Protestor as the Time Person of the Year. Make no mistake, the Protesters in Egypt, Syria and other of the Middle East risked far more that some Occupy Wall Street Protestor. Middle East protestors risked life, liberty and limb to affect change. A Occupy protester risked possible arrest (not not likely prosecution), maybe some pepper spray by overzealous police officers, and maybe some discomfort if the local Starbucks's Wi-fi went down or ran out of vanilla syrup for their lattes. A protester in Syria could get arrested an indefinitely detained without due process of the law, or worse yet, shot and possibly killed. You don't hear of protests in North Korea do you--because of the aforementioned arrest without due process and summary execution.

The fact of the matter is, discomfort and displacement is a part of the capitalist system. That same system that produced Chelsea Elliot (a 2008 college graduate who grew up, literally, in the womb-like embrace of one of the greatest economic booms in history), also produces the unemployment and disenchantment we see today. The difference is, in a capitalist society, a disenchanted protestor is well-clothed, well-fed, protected by due process of the law and afforded the Constitutional right to act as they do.

So while the protesters have a right to assemble and turn places like Zucotti Park into a human garbage dump without consequence---we should take with a huge grain of salt their protest of capitalism. In fact, the Occupy Wall Street movement should have a tag line associated with it:

The Protest Made Possible by Capitalism.

How's that for asymmetry.

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Mark Steyn on The Gingrich Gestalt

All I can say is Wow! I have a new mission in life to be able to write something like this bit in the National Review Online

To be honest as a registered Republican, I don't know who I am planning to vote for. The list of candidates is hardly inspiring. But I will say this about Newt Gingrich:

Yes, he has baggage (but it is a mostly known baggage). Yes, he has some positions that I find distasteful and alarmingly big government in nature. Yes, he is not nearly as right wing as he appears to try and paint himself as in the primary process.

But I will say this about Newt Gingrich--he has a lot of ideas. Some of them are dumb, some of them are no practical, and some of them are best left unsaid. But he seems to be the only guy (besides Herman Cain) who has ideas and is not afraid to say them.

Ideas built this nation--indeed, the ideas of our Founding Fathers were at once conservative and radical. Maybe it is ideas that we need to break out of this funk that we are in.

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Congratulations Taxpayers, Chevy Volt is the Most Government-Supported Car at Up To $250k in Subsidies Per Vehicle Sold - Hit & Run : Reason Magazine

Remember folks, the people paying those subsidies are the same ones who want to run your healthcare. They can't even pick a winner of a car, how the heck do you think they are going to do with say, your own body?

Just a thought.

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The 50 Best Political Quotes For 2011

As compiled by John Hawkins of Right Wing News. There are lots of really, really good one. To be fair though, I don't like the #1 quote. It smacks to me of opportunism since the quote was not made by a political person or a person saying what he said for a political reason. But I won't spoil the surprise since I can't quibble with any of the other selections. Although it is not the "best" political quote, I think the lack of eloquence of this quote summarizes how I feel, and I think how many Americans feel, about that state of affairs.

21) My name’s Ronnie Bryant, and I’m a mine operator…. I’ve been issued a [state] permit in the recent past for [waste water] discharge, and after standing in this room today listening to the comments being made by the people…. [pause] Nearly every day without fail — I have a different perspective — men stream to these [mining] operations looking for work in Walker County. They can’t pay their mortgage. They can’t pay their car note. They can’t feed their families. They don’t have health insurance. And as I stand here today, I just … you know … what’s the use? I got a permit to open up an underground coal mine that would employ probably 125 people. They’d be paid wages from $50,000 to $150,000 a year. We would consume probably $50 million to $60 million in consumables a year, putting more men to work. And my only idea today is to go home. What’s the use? I don’t know. I mean, I see these guys — I see them with tears in their eyes — looking for work. And if there’s so much opposition to these guys making a living, I feel like there’s no need in me putting out the effort to provide work for them. So as I stood against the wall here today, basically what I’ve decided is not to open the mine. I’m just quitting. Thank you. — Ronnie Bryant

(link in original) It is not that businessmen don't want to be in business or hire people or get the economy moving again--it is that they are afraid to so do, they are afraid that they will be regulated out of business, that the government will make it very difficult, very costly to engage in the kind of business they want. Government, and in particular the federal government, has now put up so many barriers, so many obstacles to the efficient flow of business and commerce that you can almost envision bureaucrats and politicians sitting in their nice comfy office thinking of ways to keep themselves in that nice comfy office by regulating and passing legislation.

If that seems like a scene from Atlas Shrugged, you might be right. And that is a problem.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Random Thoughts--December 22, 2011

I love it when I get word that my work day will be shorter than anticiapted--even if I have to wait 24 hours for the short day.

Saw this today:  Is Marriage the New Status Symbol?  Interesting thought, a marriage will be like a luxury car.  Gives new meaning to the term "trophy wife" or "boy toy" doesn't it?

Bwahahahahaha----an unmarked police car was stolen in Denver on the same day that Denver police announced an education effort to warn motorists not to leave their car running unattended.  Ironic isn't it?  Newer cars have push button start and a separate device to unlock the doors.  Use them in conjunction and you might prevent theft.  Of course, the old fashioned method of not leaving you running car unattended is just as effective.

I bought picture frames today for some gifts.  One of the frames I bought boasted that it came with art already included in the frame.  I was wondering if I was paying more for the frame.  I also wondered if they lost sales because their art in the frame sucked.

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Disconnect Between High School and College

The San Jose (Ca.) Mercury News has a report that California State college campuses are overwhelmed by students needing remedial education classes before staring their course of study. 

The remedial numbers are staggering, given that the Cal State system admits only freshmen who graduated in the top one-third of their high-school class. About 27,300 freshmen in the 2010 entering class of about 42,700 needed remedial work in math, English or both.

That is 63.9% of students, nearly two out of three entering freshman need some sort of remedial classes.  And these are students are in the top thrid of their high school class.  That is staggering.

So the statistic begs the question:  What is the disconnect between a high school education and preparation in English and Math and the level of acumen required in college?  Presumably the top 1/3 of a high school class is generally groomed to attend college, so what are they NOT learning in high school that they need in freshman English and math?  If the goal of college preparatory programs in high is to actually, you know, prepare students for a college education, then how does the secondary education system explain this massive disconnect?

Of course, the problem is not limited to California.  One need only look at the course offerings and schedule of any public university in the United States and see the sheer number of remedial classes being offered. So the fundamental question is how much do high school curricula match the fundamental college curricula?  Clearly they do not meet so the next logical question is why?  Why aren't the people who write high school curricula studying college requirements to make sure that student graduating from high school have the basic English and math skills to begin college without the need for remedial education?

 As I have said on multiple occasions, while colleges like to bemoan the need for their students to take remedial classes, they have a perverse incentive to keep providing the classes on a wide basis--they make money.  I proposed a solution:

[S]tart billing that student's K-12 school system for indemnificaion for failing to do their job. That would be a big financial incentive for K-12 schools to do a better job. Can you imagine that annual bill?

So if the student graduates in say, the top third of their high school class, and they require remedial classes upon entering college, the college or the student should submit a bill to the school system to cover the cost of remedial classes for which the student receives no credit.  If there is a financial incentive in place, you can bet that curriculum specialists will be under intense pressure to actually make sure that high school students are prepared to enter college without needing remedial education.

Of course to do so would admit that the sacred cow of public education does not actually prepare our best students for a college education.  As Glenn Reynolds put it:   "California spends a fortune on schools and pays its (unionized) teachers very well."  And we can't have an education system in which our teachers feel bad about their performance.  That would be just as bad as students feeling bad about their performance--at least until they are no longer the responsibility of our public high schools.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Random Thoughts--December 21, 2011

Well, it looks like it won't be a White Christmas here in Maryland this year.  With my luck a massive snowstorm will hit on January 4, the day after we return from vacation in Florida.  It won't happen while we are in Florida since that will extend my vacation to "inability to travel."

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Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Random Thoughts--December 20, 2011

Heard in court today from a judge that it is advisable to get a lawyer for allegations of driving while on a suspended license since the potential punishment is $1,000 or a year in jail.  Judge offers a postponement for people to seek the advice of a lawyer, including the public defender.  Heard six defendants waive their right to counsel AND their right to a jury trial.  Really?  Don't you want to at least think about that one?

Major League Soccer training camps begin in 4 weeks.  I am stoked---I think I maybe I have a problem.  Admitting your problem is the first step to recovery right?

I have been reading case law at work about lawyers behaving badly---there are times when I am amazed that more judges don't just say "Really?  You  are bringing a lawsuit based on that?  Seriously?  Get the f--- out of my courtroom."  It certainly would make court watching more entertaining.

Is it just me, or does the National Christmas Tree  like a breast in the cold with a nipple ring?  Or am I just imagining things?

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Monday, December 19, 2011

Random Thoughts--December 19, 2011

Some random thoughts that have occurred to me today:

1).  The federal government wants automakers to build cars that are more fuel efficient, which often means lighter cars.  If the government is serious about fuel efficiency, how about sponsoring an X-Prize competition to radically improve the internal combustion engine--which is largely unchanged over several decades?

2).  A man whom I respect a great deal as a soccer commentator and with whom I probably disagree with politically wonders: "Is it that civil discourse is simply an antiquity in our modern blogging, social media world. We write what WE think and have no patience or tolerance for what anyone else has to say."  We live in a world dominated by confirmation bias--and in a world where most people don't know what "confirmation bias" means.

3).  What is it about the Star Spangled Banner that inspires children to recite the Pledge of Allegiance or sing the National Anthem, yet adults are rarely inspired to do so?

4).  If soccer is not a "big time" sport in America, why did I see two pickup soccer games on the National Mall yesterday, but only one pickup football game?

5).  Did the man who invented the Smurfs' song (you know that annoying la, la, la, la song) know that he was dooming millions of fathers to hours of insufferable repetition by children?  It a brain worm worse the "It's A Small World After All."
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Take 15 Minutes and Listen

Just listen to Senator Marco Rubio.

Are we are the verge of a nation so beset by class warfare that we have made it impossible for a person to become rich through hard work?  Have we destroyed the American dream?

Just listen and let me know what you think?

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Huh...Not Surprised

Althouse: 1% of the population of Wisconsin applies for a concealed carry permit.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

The Federal Government Needs to Pick a Position

Earlier this week, the National Transportation Safety Board, proposed a total cell phone ban which has led to some groups worrying about a federal overreach

On Tuesday, the National Transportation Safety Board recommended a complete ban on the use of cell phones and text messaging while operating a motor vehicle.

The recommended ban includes hands free devices.

“No call, no text, no update is worth a human life,” Deborah A. P. Hersman, chairman of the N.T.S.B., said.

According to a CNN report, “The safety board also recommended the electronics industry develop phones that would discourage their use by drivers, but could identify a car occupant’s location so that passengers could use the devices.”

The federal agency insists the law, along with “strict enforcement” and “aggressive educational campaigns,” are all necessary to curb distracted driving.

Now, there are of course a whole host of reasons why this is a really bad, bad idea.  there are constitutional questions as well as propriety questions, as in whether this is a reasonable exercise of any police powers, let alone federal powers.  But I have a more fundmental, basic question.  How on earth does the NTSB propose to enforce this cell phone ban? 

The only possible way I can see enforcement of this proposed law is to have local law enforcement officers police and enforce the law.  Of course co-opting state and local law enforcement to police a federal law carries a whole host of federalsim concerns all of which have been explored on multiple occaisions by the courts and thus not particularly likely to pass unless the federal government provides for some sort of block grant or other appropriation to enforce the ban.

Now here is the question:  If local law enforcement is good enough to enforce a cell phone ban in cars, why is local law enforcement NOT good enough to enforce immigration laws?

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

President "It's Not My Fault"

President Barack Obama Now Adds Bill Clinton To Blame List For Lousy Recovery

Really, three years into his term of office and the President will not own up to the fact that maybe, just maybe his policies suck.

Just a thought.

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Proposed Constitutional Amendments on Free Speech

I always thought of the First Amendment as pretty clear on the matter of free speech (accepting that there are limits) But Eugene Volokh questions a proposed Constitutional Amendment and wonders if anti-business non-profits (like maybe unions) would be exempt: Here is the proposed Amendment sponsored by Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) and a group of Democratic representatives:
Section 1. The rights protected by the Constitution of the United States are the rights of natural persons and do not extend to for-profit corporations, limited liability companies, or other private entities established for business purposes or to promote business interests under the laws of any state, the United States, or any foreign state.

Section 2. Such corporate and other private entities established under law are subject to regulation by the people through the legislative process so long as such regulations are consistent with the powers of Congress and the States and do not limit the freedom of the press.

Section 3. Such corporate and other private entities shall be prohibited from making contributions or expenditures in any election of any candidate for public office or the vote upon any ballot measure submitted to the people.

Section 4. Congress and the States shall have the power to regulate and set limits on all election contributions and expenditures, including a candidate’s own spending, and to authorize the establishment of political committees to receive, spend, and publicly disclose the sources of those contributions and expenditures.

Volokh talks about the rights of business oriented non-profits (read trade associations, chambers of commerce, etc.) which would seem to be barred from free speech rights, but anti-business non-profits (read unions and "public" interest groups) would not. Maybe.

But read that first sentence of Section 1. It goes beyond just the First Amendment, it speaks to all rights protected by the Constitution as the "rights of natural persons" AND do not extend. But what about the rights of the states? The 10th Amendment guarantees some rights (those not reserved to the people) although they are ill-defined. Would this Amendment alter that relationship? Reading the plain language, it would seem that way. Of course, a state is not organized for business purposes as we traditionally think of business, but many states are engaged in business which is not prohibited. Would those states no longer have an ability to speak on issues?

What about unincorporated associations? What about partnerships?

I don't think this proposed amendment will come anywhere close to ratification--but you can't help but wonder--why do people hate business so much?

Thursday, December 08, 2011

ATF and Obama Administration have used Fast & Furious to push gun control

We have stepped through the looking glass, Alice: New e-mails: ATF officials discussed using Fast & Furious to … push gun control.
Congressional Democrats and even Eric Holder himself have already used F&F as a pretext to call for more gun control. I thought the sleaziest bit of White House scandal spin we’d see this year was the Energy Department asking Solyndra to hold off on layoffs until after election day in 2010. Nope: Per the new F&F e-mails, they’re actually using their own scandals now as a pretext for greater regulation. Says Dan McLaughlin, “Obama Administration once again lives down to every paranoid caricature of itself.”

Seriously! At first, I thought John Hindraker's piece on this matter might have been a bridge too far:
If the Obama administration did arrange for the shipment of arms to Mexican drug gangs, not for any legitimate public purpose but in order to advance a left-wing political agenda, and those guns were used to murder hundreds of Mexicans and at least one American border agent–which they were–then we are looking at a scandal that dwarfs any in modern American history. I think one would have to go back to James Buchanan, who ordered the shipment of federal armaments to the South so that they could be commandeered by secessionists when disunion came, to find a worse scandal. And one could argue that even that act by Buchanan, generally considered the worst President in American history, was motivated by principle and not politics, and therefore was not as craven as Obama’s gun walker scandal. But such a judgment would be premature. A great deal more investigation needs to be done before we can conclude that Fast and Furious was the worst scandal since pre-Civil War days.

But then again, maybe not. Because as Ann Althouse pointed out quite logically:
If Hinderaker's conclusion seems extreme, consider that it could be easily refuted by a clear statement from the Obama administration disclosing the true and legitimate purpose. The absence of such a statement propels us toward the extreme conclusion.

But we don't have anything from the Obama administration on this matter and Eric Holder still has a job. I am still baffled by what was supposed to be accomplished by the Fast & Furious program. I am even more baffled by why we as a nation, who has a "war" on drugs would be in any kind of deal with Mexican drug cartels. If Hindraker is even partly right--this is ridiculous and borders on treason and certainly falls into the high crimes and misdemeanors territory.

Bill Clinton was a philanderer and the Congress impeached him for lying about his womanizing, but at least no one died because of what Bill Clinton did. This Obama Administration, certain agents and executives of the ATF and Eric Holder have the blood of an American border agent and doznes of Mexican civilians on their hands and for what--so that they can impose gun control?

If I lived on the Mexican Border and my government was giving guns to murders, thugs and hooligans, I would be buying every gun I could get my hands on---or moving to Montana.

Monday, December 05, 2011

Sexting Among Minors Is Not As Bad As We Thought

So, not as many minors are sexting as was thought (or feared):

One in 10 children ages 10 to 17 has used a cellphone to send or receive sexually suggestive images, but only 1 in 100 has sent images considered graphic enough to violate child pornography laws, a new study found.


An earlier, often-cited study had estimated that as many as one in five teenagers engaged in sexting, but it included 18- and 19-year-olds, most likely increasing the overall prevalence.

In recent years, high-profile cases in which teenagers were arrested for forwarding nude pictures of other minors have attracted nationwide attention. Despite sexting’s reputation as a teenage pastime, surveys now suggest that it is actually more common among young adults than children.

So, we pushed the panic button for nothing? To the extent that people freaked out, yes there was far more smoke than fire since there was a problem with the previous study's sample construction. An 18 year old who texts a nude picture of themselves is not breaking any pornography standards. But including 18-19 year olds in a study about minors sexting was poor.

The study did note:

Over all, the new report found, 149 youths interviewed for the study, or 9.6 percent, said they had sent or received images that included full or partial nudity in the previous year. Just over 2 percent of those who engaged in sexting said they had appeared in the pictures or had taken them themselves, and 7.1 percent said they received sexual images from someone else.


About 31 percent who appeared in or took sexual images said that alcohol or drug use had been a factor. And despite public concerns about lewd photographs of minors that start out as private messages becoming widely distributed, only 3 percent of the minors in the study said they had forwarded sexual photographs that they had received.

The fact that about a third of sexual messages were created or sent when alcohol or drugs were involved suggests that the children who are doing the riskiest messaging are engaging in other risky behaviors as well, said Nancy Baym, a professor of communication studies at the University of Kansas and author of the book “Personal Connections in the Digital Age.”

But Dr. Baym, who was not involved in the study, said it was important that the research documented “that a considerable percentage of texting is not problematic, but an extension of the kinds of flirting and relationship-maintaining behavior that goes on in consensual teen relationships and stays within those relationships.”

The use of alcohol and drugs with their tendency to reduce inhibitions impacting on the sexting is not surprising. But what is surprising is that even among teenagers, the purpose appears to be an extension of behavior that is considered normal, if not healthy, in consensual relationships.

Of course, is it smart for teenagers to send nude photos of themselves or others around? No, clearly not. But then again, we say the same thing about teenagers having sex. We know that teenagers have sex. So we encourage abstinence but prepare for intercourse by teaching safe sex practices. I think we should consider the cyber world equivalent of discouraging sexting, but we should encourage safe practices (what ever they may be). Those "safe" sexting practices should be presented in an atmosphere that does not accuse and/or classify the activity as criminal.

Before some overzealous prosecutor gets a burr under their saddle and starts charging teenagers with possession and desemmination of child pornography, a close examination of who sent what to whom and for what purpose should be considered.

But of course, in the world of the Nanny State, commons sense will always take a back seat to irrational fear mongering.

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Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Liberty and Government.

From Professor Robert Higg's Tocqueville Award Acceptance Speech:

I espouse individual liberty in this “extreme” fashion for two reasons, which in my mind complement one another. The first is that freedom is the optimal condition for each individual’s engagement in society. To be driven, bullied, abused, disregarded, treated with contempt and dishonor―these are bad things in themselves, not only for me, but for every human being. We ought to recoil from them, regardless of whether the perpetrator is a local cop or the government in Washington. Yet all too many of us become accustomed to such official cruelties and take them in stride without much conscious thought that they are wrongs and ought to be stopped, regardless of their source.

To many of us have come to accept from government the kind of behavior we would never tolerate coming from an individual simply because it is the government.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Another Case for Prosecutorial Misconduct:

 Reason Magazine has the story of Parents who have sued a Wisconsin D.A. for charging their 6-year-old son with a felony after he played doctor with a 5-Year-Old Girl.  Might there be some political overtones:

According to the complaint (PDF), the girl is "the daughter of a well-known political figure in Grant County," and her brother, who is the same age, also was involved in playing doctor but was not charged. In addition to Riniker, the lawsuit names as defendants retired Grant County Sheriff's Sgt. James Kopp and Jan Moravits, an investigator with Grant County Social Services "whose regional the political figure's wife's sister-in-law"—i.e., the aunt of the alleged victim. 
Although the boy, now 7, is too young to be prosecuted or named in a juvenile delinquency petitition, reports, county officials are using the felony charge to force his parents into accepting "protection or services" for him. The lawsuit says that once he turns 18, he will be listed as a sex offender.

Seriously, I am sorry, but this kind of crap is just plain stupid.  Back in my childhood at age 6 or 7, if I had played doctor with a 5 year old neighbor, my parents would have gotten a call, I would have gotten a talking to and that would have been the end of that.

But what is criminally tragic is that this boy, for doing something that is relatively innocent and completely normal, could be branded a sex offender for LIFE for doing something when he was 6.

Surely there is something more important for this D.A.(Grant County, Wisconsin, District Attorney Lisa Riniker) to be doing.  No community is so devoid of even marginally criminal activity or DUI's that a case of "playing doctor" has to be ratcheted up into a criminal case.

I don't practice criminal law, but I do vaguely recall from my criminal law course  that part of a criminal case is that there has to be an intent to commit a crime (the mens rea), the intent to do wrong.  That is something I am pretty confident in saying that this boy didn't have.

Why the Court has not tossed the criminal case out on it ear is shocking to me.

Oh, by the way, the D.A. was able to get a gag order that prevents the parents (but thankfully not their lawyers) from talking about the case.
The station (WISC-TV) spoke instead with their lawyers, who are not covered by the order:
"That behavior by a prosecutor is outrageous," said Christopher Cooper, an attorney for the boy's parents.... 
"She [Riniker] bypassed the parents and sent a 6-year-old boy a summons, on which is a threat that the 6-year-old will go to jail for failure to appear," Cooper said. 
The attorneys said they have sought the opinion of many experts who said that children "playing doctor" is not a sex crime. 
"[The experts say] a 6-year-old child is unable to intellectually and emotionally associate sexual gratification with the act that D has been accused of committing," Cooper said.... 
Repeated calls to Riniker and an attorney for [her] and two co-defendants have gone unanswered since Friday, WISC-TV reported.

Is this a case for prosecutorial misconduct?  Maybe, but what is more interesting is the political link.  I am sure almost all of this case activity is going to be conducted under seal given the fact that kids are involved, but D.A. Riniker's lame excuse "that that legislature didn't put an age limit on sexual assault" is no excuse for not using a healthy dose of common sense.  If she was pressured by other politicians, there is going to be some really interesting things coming out of this case.

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President Obama and the Budget: What We Have Here is a Failure to Lead?

Lead, follow or get out of the this point, I would be happy with the latter.

Betsy's Page: When a president fails to lead: With this president, it was clear that we were never going to have some grand deal to reduce the federal debt. He is just not interested. ...

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The Path to Freedom and Success Cannot Run Through the Government

Thomas Sowell and Frances Fox Piven AND Milton Freidman talking about equality of opportunity vs. equality of results and the government's role in either.

Everything old is new again.

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Questioning Authority

My daughters love the Disney Channel Movie "Lemonade Mouth" and one of the messages of the movie (and I am assuming the book of the same name) is to question the motives of authority, to challenge the status quo. I kind of like that notion.

In the adult/political world, we don't see enough of that. In the modern (and by modern I mean in the last three years), debate about the "rich" paying their "fair share" of the tax burden and the rise of the "patriotic millionaire" who asks to be assessed higher taxes (but doesn't voluntarily part with his/her money to the government), the class warfare has gotten pretty nasty but few people have taken the time to explain why the so called "conservative" rich people don't want to pay more in taxes. Well, Victor Davis Hanson has done that in Why Not Pay Higher Taxes?

I think a few disclaimers are in order:

1. I am not part of the $200,000 plus crowd and while 10 years ago I might have wanted to be, I am happy with my life as it is now. But while I am not inclined right now to seek inclusion in that "1%" and I don't harbor any resentment of those are in that category, either by hard work or by luck or by talent, or more likely the combination of the three.

2. While I am technically part of the so-called 99%, I certainly don't identify with the economic message of the Occupy Wall Street crowd, i.e. tax the 1% so they are paying their "fair share." I begrudge no one the money they earn so long as they earn it or don't steal it out of my bank account or off my labor.

3. I am NOT opposed to a social safety net, so don't think me callous. But I believe that the social safety net, i.e. welfare, food stamps, unemployment assistance, free medical care through Medicaid, etc. are a hand up when you fall or are pushed down. But they should not and cannot be a hand out.

4. I am NOT opposed to paying taxes. However, I am a believer in a limited government, which means my tax dollars should be spent ONLY on those functions which government MUST do, i.e. those things and powers that are granted to the government because it is part of the social compact.

So with those disclaimers in mind, I think that Hanson has nailed a few items on the head. While Hanson lists it third, I think it is the most important:
3) Wise Spending?

Then there is the manner in which the collected money is spent. It is not true to say Great Society programs have not helped millions, but it is legitimate to ask “at what cost?” came the expansion from a safety net to a sort of guaranteed livelihood. The spread of food stamps to almost 50 million recipients, the increase in unemployment to 99 weeks, the plethora of housing, health, and education supplements — all that creates not just necessary charity, but a mechanism for millions to find an alternative lifestyle, where subsidies, occasional cash, off-the-books work, and “other” activities can supplant work. Mindless “Black Friday” splurging is not just done by the well-off. Once legitimate questions have simply became taboo: “Do you make enough to support that additional child? Do you really think you needed to buy that flat-screen TV? Do you avoid alcohol and drugs?” To inquire like that is to earn liberal invective, but not to is intellectually dishonest.
When some states, such a Florida, proposed requiring drug testing as a requirement for receiving state welfare payments, the liberal crowd got all exercised. But the fact of the matter is, asking that question is not only legitimate since it relevant to the question of what welfare monies will be spent on, but it probably moral since the money that is being given to recipients is not the state's money. In fact since Florida doesn't have an income tax, it is more likely my money--at least in part-- a result of when I visit Florida and pay sales, hotel and other "tourist" taxes.

However, while the Occupy Wall Street crowd, and the liberal elite, question why the rich don't want to pay more taxes, the same folks never ask the question of whether we are spending the money in a wise manner. We never ask the analogy to the "Do you have the money for that big screen TV?" which is "Do we as a nation/government/state have a need to spend money on that social program or weapons system or governmental agency?" That question is not routinely asked at ANY level of government or by either party (yes GOP, I am looking at you). When the question is finally asked, it is always asked in the context of recession or fiscal emergency. Such a question is never, ever asked in times of plenty, despite that obvious and visible evidence that an economic down turn will occur as surely as the sun rises in the east.

Furthermore, what the 1% are implicitly asking when they object to paying more in taxes is why are we as a society asking the tough question of our political leaders; is that really a wise or necessary use of our tax dollars? What the 1% are saying is, why aren't the 99% questioning authority?

We don't ask the question enough, that is we never put our political leaders' feet to the fire and question their authority, to question their motives in what they are doing, in essence, we don't challenge the status quo. So when the demand for the rich to pay more (whether it is fair or not) is met with a question of why should they pay more, the response from the liberal thinker is "because you are rich." It is never, what you do you mean." The response is "you are greedy." The response is not to question authority or the status quo, but to challenge the very people who are questioning authority or motives.

Much like the kids in Lemonade Mouth, the 1% are challenging the status quo and they are right to do so. In the end, the kids in Lemonade Mouth are called geniuses and revolutionaries. Maybe the lower end of that 1% will be seen as such as well.

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Oh My Gosh....

I am a big fan of Outside the Beltway and James Joyner as a writer. I don't know him personally at all, but I feel for him now.  His wife passed away at age 41 in her sleep of causes currently unknown.  Mr. Joyner has two young children and now faces a terrible challenge.

Shocking to say the least that his wife would pass away at such an age--my age--in her sleep. How does one handle that, I have no idea.

My thoughts and prayers for Mr. Joyner and his family.

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Teen tweeter won't apologize to Sam Brownback

From the AP via
 A Kansas teenager who wrote a disparaging tweet about Gov. Sam Brownback said Sunday that she is rejecting her high school principal’s demand for a written apology.
Emma Sullivan, 18, of the Kansas City suburb of Fairway, said she isn’t sorry and doesn’t think such a letter would be sincere.

The basis for the demand that she apologize is that she was at a school sponsored event. I don't think she should have to apologize either, even if she is at a school sponsored event.

First, I don't have a problem with the Governor's office monitoring social media--in fact I think they should. But the fact that they contacted this girl's school over the text just smacks of Big Brother. Unless the teenager threatened harm to the Governor, she exercised a right that the rest of us have as a matter of course. It should not have matter one whit if she was on a school trip or there on her own.

Second, just because she is on a school trip does not, in and of itself, give the school the right to require an apology. Again, absent a threat, she did nothing that is legally wrong. She might not have said something nice, which might break the Golden Rule, but it didn't break any law--again short of a threat on Brownback's life or family...what has she done wrong? She wasn't respectful? Big deal. First of all she is a teenager, second, she didn't like what Brownback did with the arts budget and she voiced her opinion. Big deal.

Really, if we are going to teach our children about free speech and being involved in the political discussion, things like this are not likely to encourage that behavior. Of course, that may be the goal of the political elites anyway.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Now About Eric Holder

Donald Berwick is on his way out after the U.S. Senate refused to confirm his recess appointment.

Berwick's politics aside, he was relatively harmless.

Now about Eric Holder......not so harmless.

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On "the 99%"
"[S]top talking about “solidarity” when all they mean is “those who want to work will be taxed so we can give it to those who do not (want to) work.'"

"Every single loser in America that carries a sign reading “Tax the rich” is an individual who wants the benefits of wealth and the power of wealth but steadfastly refuses to invest the work or develop the mental acuity required to earn and create the big pile of money. "

On Energy Policy:
"[D]eliberately importing these sources of energy [foreign oil] in order to export the environmental degradation that comes with extracting them doesn’t sit well with my version of decent Christian ethics either."

On the size and complexity of government:
"Nobody in their right minds should feel safe or liberated while they live under a government that is too complex to adequately monitor or understand."

Some food for thought in the larger piece.

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DEA Overreach? A Regulatory Takings Case

An 88 year old man, a retired metallurgist who runs a small business with his 85 year old girl friend is being forced out of business because he makes iodine crystals to purify water. The Drug Enforcement Agency is requiring Bob Wallace implement expensive security measures for his business (run out of his garage) because the product he makes has shown up in some meth labs. Reason Magazine cites the DEA: Methamphetamine is an insidious drug that causes enormous collateral damage," wrote Barbara Carreno, a DEA spokeswoman. "If Mr. Wallace is no longer in business he has perhaps become part of that collateral damage, for it was not a result of DEA regulations, but rather the selfish actions of criminal opportunists. Individuals that readily sacrifice human lives for money.
OK, but is Mr. Wallace one of those criminal opportunists who sacrifice human lives for money? Nope, he makes and sells a product that has non-criminal uses.

Perhaps an analogy would make this stupidity a little clearer. A lawn and garden center sells fertilizers of varying sorts, all for legal purposes, such as making tomato plants grow better or make my lawn a little greener. But if some marijuana grower comes in to buy a couple bags of fertilizer to help grow his pot plants, that doesn't make the lawn and garden center culpable.

Of maybe something a little different. A licensed gun owning man comes into a gun shop and buys a box of ammunition for his hunting rifle. That is a legal purchase and the gun shop is make a legal sale. The licensed gun owning man then goes out a kills another human being by accident (in a hunting accident). The law does not hold the gun shop liable for selling ammunition.

So if some meth maker buys some of Wallaces crystals to make meth--how is Wallace responsible? What Wallace sells is legal and the state has not proven that Wallace is guilty of anything. But Wallace is "collateral damage" to the DEA.

No, what has happened is that the DEA's requirement that Wallace implement security measures that are prohibitive in cost in comparison to the size of Wallace's business has amounted to a regulatory taking of Wallace's business.

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Of Pepper Spray, Free Speech and Due Process

Photo from The Daily Caller

The pepper spray incident at University of California Davis is reprehensible, no matter what your politics are or you feeling about the Occupy Wall Street Movement.  As it has been reported, the officer involved and the campus police chief have been suspended and may possible be headed for the unemployment line and rightfully they should.

However, I think the incident and some of the fallout posits and interesting dichotomy.  Professor KC Johnson (of the Duke Rape Case fame) posits some interesting things that have come out of Durham with regard to the UC-Davis incident about student rights and how campus administrations should deal with students.

However, students are (usually) adults and the college campus has long been a place where protests of one sort or another take place.  That should be something that campus police forces should be aware of.

But what I find interesting is the outrage over the incident.  As  FIRE President Greg Lukianoff noted, the UC-Davis Pepper incident is not the first time in recent times that campus police have been so over zealous as to be violating the rights of students.  Yet, because this incident is about Occupy Wall Street protests and was particularly stupid and heinous, it has received a lot of press coverage.

The fact is that campus all across the country routinely trample the rights of students and faculty alike.  But we rarely hear about such incidents.  I believe the campus incidents are simply another means by which the government attempts to limit our ability to speak.  Young people have a courage that many older adults don't have or lost.  Perhaps that is a courage born of naivete or idealism, but when the notion of free speech is quashed in the one place where it should flourish, and quashed by means of an armed police force, then the decision to speak up the next time is harder to make.  Eventually, the concept of free and open speech dies on the vine.  

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Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Saudis face waning power in North America

If the Canadian oil development and pipeline makes the Middle East oil sultans worried and reports are the Saudis face waning power in North America, the the quicker we build the pipeline the better.

What ever happened to energy independence? I would much rather rely on Canada's good graces than on Saudi Arabia's.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Perry Wants a Debate---with Nancy Pelosi?

The Daily Caller reports:
Texas Gov. Rick Perry has challenged the women conservatives love to hate — House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi — to a public debate next week.

In a letter obtained by The Hill, Perry requested that the pair meet for a debate during Perry’s visit to Washington next week to compare the plan he rolled out this week to “Uproot and Overhaul Washington” with the current system.

Why? Cause Perry is struggling in the polls and thinks this is a good idea. I think if Perry is struggling, he needs to focus on his current problem--winning the nomination. Nancy Pelosi is not the debate opponent he needs to show that he can do the job. Republicans don't really want to hear what Pelosi has to say.

Plus this just elevates Pelosi again, for what purpose? There is a reason why Perry is plummeting in the polling--this is just one of the reasons.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Eric Holder: Calls For Resignation Grow

The Daily Caller.

Why doe Eric Holder still have a job? Does he have pictures of Obama playing golf with the Devil?

Monday, November 14, 2011

Deal-breaker election looms over supercommittee negotiations (Meghashyam Mali/The Hill)

Deal-breaker election looms over supercommittee negotiations (Meghashyam Mali/The Hill): Color me shocked--the "super committee" was designed from the get-go as a "get out of vote jail free" card for Congress. If you truly expected this Committee to do anything--raise your hand. Everyone with their hand raised is delusional and should have their head examined.

Friday, October 28, 2011

On Income Inequality and Work

Ladies and Gentlemen, a news flash for everyone--this is going to be shocking news for everyone who has spent the past few weeks occupying Wall Street, Washington, DC and all those other places--on the issue of income inequality

I will admit it it--income inequality exists. I can't deny it, I won't deny it and I am certainly not going to apologize for it. Income inequality exists because we live in a, nominally, capitalistic society. Oh, and income inequality has always existed. Income inequality will always exist in one form or another. Get used to it. Get over your whiny little envy. If you want some money--I have a solution for you. Get to work!

But the fact is that probably won't happen. The Occupy Wall Street crowd isn't so much about income inequality as much as it is about income envy and a sense of entitlement. NOTE: Yes I know that the OWS crowd has other concerns, which I think are more legitimate, i.e. the too close relationship between big government and big business, although I think they have the causation direction wrong.

As the class warfare heats up (and make no mistake the OWS crowd has bought into the class warfare hook, line and sinker without actually asking why), the income inequality argument is going to be brought up. When we talk about income inequality, we need to be clear about the causes of that income inequality and the number one reason for the inequality is a function of talent and drive--that is those intangible attributes, along with luck and a lot of work, that determine how "successful" we are in life.

First let us dispense with the notion that the poor in this country are anything like being truly poor, that is so poor that they live in a 1 room shack, or have not shelter at all, wonder where their next meal is coming from etc. As James Pethokoukis notes in 7 reasons why Obama is wrong on income inequality, even the poorest among us is far better off today than they were 30 years ago. But while the rich have gotten richer (again, not going to deny it or apologize for it), the poor have gotten richer also, just not at the same pace that the rich have:
Liberals frequently claim the average American family has been losing ground for the past three decades—or at least since Ronald Reagan took the presidential oath in January 1981. (As if the 1970s with its sky-high Misery Index was a great economic time.) The CBO refutes this. Its data show real median after-tax household income (half of all households have income below the median, and half have income above it) grew by 35 percent over the past three decades.
Those are hard numbers issued by the CBO in the same report that talks about the income growth among the top 1% and it means that even the poorest  Americans are generally far better off than they were 30 years ago. As my father has noted to me several times in his volunteer work for Cathlic Charities, there are a great many people coming to Catholic Charities for help with electric, water, mortgage bills where both adults and their three kids all have cell phones, have cable TV, and a roof over their heads. The poorest in other countries don't have the latter luxury, let along TV and a five cell phone plan.

Nor are people stuck in their position as "poor," which, as Rick Moran notes "a Treasury study on income mobility found that starting in 1996, half of taxpayers who started in the bottom 20 percent had moved to a higher income group by 2005." So we have income mobility and just because you are poor now, doesn't mean you have to remain poor, if you are willing to work. 

Recently, the President touted some numbers in a recent Congressional Budget Office analysis of income inequality. The CBO report states that average after tax income for the top 1% grew by 275 percent between 1979 and 2007. Looked at in isolation, that certainly looks bad. But Pethokoukis posits that there is some reasons for some of the disparirty between the 1% and the 99%The first addresses that 1%:
One potential explanation from CBO: ”The compensation of ‘superstars’ (such as actors, athletes, and musicians) may be especially sensitive to technological changes. Unique characteristics of that labor market mean that technical innovations, such as cheap mass media, have made it possible for entertainers to reach much wider audiences. That increased exposure, in turn, has led to a manyfold increase in income for such people.” The CBO also mentioned ”changes in the governance and structure of executive compensation, increases in firms’ size and complexity, and the increasing scale of financial-sector activities” as possibilities.
In a nation of 340 Million people, 1% is still 3.4 million people. The CBO and the White House have placed a lot of emphasis on technological change as the driver of wealth and income. While it may be a factor, it is not the end all be all. It is true that those on the cutting edge of technology stand to make a lot of money, but I don't hear anyone from OWS or the White House complaining about the money Steve Jobs or Bill Gates made by being on the forefront of technology. Yes, technology can make lots of money--but it can lose a lot of money too--the reward is proportional to the risk.

But let's look at one segment of that 1%, the entertainers/athletes of one sort of another. But those few professional athletes and top entertainers do very well financially. We hear of athletes making $20 million plus a year plus endorsements, or movie stars making millions per movie, plus royalties and a share of the merchandising, and musicians raking in millions in album sales, iTunes sales, concert tickets, merchandising etc. Thus, even among the top 1% of the top 1%, there are massive income disparaties that no one talks about. The President has spoken of taxing people making more than $250,000 per year, something that many liberals champion. But consider, I hear no one in the Occupy Wall Street crowd complaining about the injustice to some average worker in relation to the minimum salary of an NFL player, which. in 2011 is $340,000 for the year. An NBA player minimum salary for a rookie is $457,588 and a 10 year NBA veteran's minimum salary is $1,306,455. Even the lowest paid athletes in the two biggest revenue sports in America are well into the top 1% of the top 1% of America. If the OWS crowd acknowledges that, no one seems to be clamoring for those people to give up their money or that they don't deserve that kind of pay.

But while a football player or basketball player, even a rookie who has not proven himself in his profession, make have unique skills that are compensated on a different scale that us average athletes, are not people with special skills likewise rewarded in our culture. But on a lesser physical scale, the others in that top 1% have no doubt done something that a vast majority of the OWS crowd has not done, cloaked as they are in a sense of entitlement, worked their butts off to succeed. Success is not given simply because someone has a college degree (as I have seen some demonstrators talk how they went to college and still don't have a job). Success is a function of talent, training, effort and perhaps some luck. Of these four, only training is something the government can "give." But just because training is available, it still takes effort, energy and desire to make it useful. The other three factors, effort, luck and talent, cannot be given out. Thus, there are inherent inequalities of talent and ambition among us (the things we are told to celebrate because it creates a diverse community) that ultimately lead to income inequality. Those who have a special talent or are willing to work harder than the next guy are almost certain to succeed financially.

But like the NFL or NBA player, those people possessing in demand or unique skills are compensated better because precisely because they are in demand. Which by the way, iis a function of a capitalist society--paying those with in demand skills more. And those in demand and unique skills do not necessarily come from a college degree. One of my criticisms of Pethokoukis' piece and many other commentators is that we think of technology as the only way to a better life. As technological change accelerates and becomes more pervasive, the market will reward workers with more education and skills. As Pethokoukis notes:
Numerous researchers have concluded that, on balance, the technological changes of the past several decades—and perhaps the entire past century—increased employers’ demand for workers with higher skills and more education. That increase, along with a smaller increase in the supply of workers with higher skills and more education, generated substantial gains in the relative wages of more-educated worker. In the past decades, inequality has been going up everywhere.” It is a global phenomenon.
But in a society that has, as the Obama Administration is fond of pointing, crumbling infrastructure, there is a need for people who are not necessarily better educated in terms of the degrees they hold or colleges they attended, but skilled workers none-the-less. I would wager that in 25 years, a skilled plumber, electrician or welder might be making more--without a college degree--than half a dozen bachelor degree holding college graduates put togther. Why? Because they have skills that are in demand and people are willing to pay for those skills.

As our colleges and universities churn out young men and women specialized degrees in ever increasingly esoteric subjects, they have not learned any of the basics of caring for their own homes, let alone their community. But as we have begun to fetishize education, putting so much stock in a college degree, we have neglected the basic needs of our society and have made second class citizens of blue collar workers, portraying them, for the most part, as uneducated buffoons who are incapable of being successful or rich and of course demeaned because they don't have a college degree. But when my plumber charges almost as much per hour as a lawyer or doctor--you tell me who is smart and who is not.

We know that not everyone can be an NBA point guard or center, nor can everyone be a NFL linebacker.   At the same time, not everyone has the skills or knowledge to be the CEO of a car company or bank. Those are unique skills that require alent, training, effort and a little luck. But that position also comes with a price, in terms of time spent at work, cost in human terms like time away from family and friends, or damage to one's health.

Similarly, not everyone has the talent or drive to go to college, yet they can become comfortable, if not well-off, by being that person who can fix my air conditioning or plumbing because I have neither the skill nor the time to do so. And given that we have made blue collar, skilled labor a "second" choice instead of a viable alternative, there is a labor shortage for those skilled workers.  And as capitalism tells us, if something is in short supply, people will pay more for it.  But even among skilled workers some people are going to make more money because they are willing to work harder.

But the key fact is work or effort. If a person is willing to work, at what ever their chosen occupation, they will be rewarded and compensated. If a person wants to make money, they have to work harder. That is something that the average clue collar worker understands almost intuitively, but something that a degree toting dilettante fails to grasp.

Two facts remain:

  1. So long as people are born with different talents, there will be income inequality because some talents and skills will be able to command better pay because fewer people have that skill.
  2. So long as some people are willing to work harder, work longer and sacrifice somethings that the rest of us are unwilling to do, they will make more money than the rest of us.

Congress and the President cannot legislate talent and motivation. So if you envy that 1% and you don't have the unique talent to do something, my best advice is start working----hard.  

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

As Rhode Island follows the Greek model, what states will be next?

As Rhode Island follows the Greek model, what states will be next?

For years and years, state and local governments have promised generous benefits to their workers without real regard for where the money would come from in the future to fulfill those promises. If these governments pay all that they've committed to pay for retired workers, they soon will be in the position that they will be spending all their money on workers who aren't working and have nothing left over for schools or prisons or roads or any of the other functions for which people look to their state and local governments.

When I hear public sector union leaders state they will block any reform, I am led to question, why in the heck do our elected leaders give them such power? Union leaders are elected officials.

So elected officials, you need to grow a spine and realize that no matter where you got your campaign money from, you have a duty to act in the best interests of the state.

Ohhhh, wait...............that is not what elected leaders believe any more. The concept of statesmanship has taken a back seat to getting and keeping power.

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Abortion And the Republican Party

For a very long time, the issue of abortion has divided the nation and it has divided both political parties, although you don't hear much about such a division among Democrats although it does exist. But quite frankly, the GOP is and probably always will be sharply divided by the issue and in a recent campaign event in Iowa, the issue came up again at Iowa Forum for Republicans.

Not long ago, Herman Cain made the statement that he is personally pro-life, but felt that government should not be involved in that decision.
“It is a liberal canard to say I am personally pro-life, but government should stay out of that decision,” Mr. Perry said, drawing enthusiastic applause from a crowd of social conservative voters. “If that is your view, you are not pro-life, you are pro-having your cake and eating it too.”
To me this is a perfectly legitimate and quite libertarian position to take. I understand the moral outrage that social conservatives have about abortion. But I also understand that some people believe it should not be the role of government to get involved in the decision. What I find appealing about Cain's initial position (since he is now starting to walk it back) is that it makes a moral sense. So, like Herman Cain, I am am pro-life but believe that government should not be involved in the matter because the government and the courts have have already stepped into this quagmire and muddled it up. Essentially what Herman Cain and I have in common on this issue is that government is that the issue is so muddled that the only place left that is logical is to stake out a personal position and then step back and say that government shouldn't be involved But Rick Perry, in an effort to make his social conservative bona fides took Cain to task.

But certain segments of the GOP are ready to kill their own on this matter because they have a position, Pro-Life or nothing, that leaves no room for the gray areas that accompany this issue. For example, there are very, very few Republican candidates who will say "No abortion, doesn't matter what the circumstances are." If you talk leading GOP candidates there are always "exceptions" that they are willing to accept, such as life of the mother, or a child conceived through rape or incest. So what does such a willingness to accept "exceptions" do to the moral "clarity" that social conservatives want to have in their candidates. The fact is that abortion is such a murky topic that any clarity is impossible to achieve, so why do social conservatives demand such clarity of their candidates when most cannot maintain that clarity in their own mind.

If we are looking for honesty and clear conviction in our candidates, then isn't Herman Cain being honest about a personal belief (at least before he started walking it back in order to avoid getting trounced). A president has almost no say in abortion "policy" in America, so why do we care? How can Rick Perry stand up at a campaign event and call someone who has declared himself pro-life a liar. Just because Herman Cain, at one time, believed that government shouldn't be telling people how to live their personal life doesn't make Herman Cain any less pro-life.

In fact, I could argue that Cain's position is more pro-life than Perry, because at least Herman Cain believes that you should be able to live your own life with government saying what you can and cannot do in your personal life.

Friday, October 21, 2011

A Good Question

Does killing a dictator make an illegal war legal?

Methinks no, but then again, I have a pretty principaled stand when it comes to the use of military force...that is the President needs Congress's approval before doing so.

So that Libyan resolution? Still waiting.

That Ugandan resolution or authorization? Not a peep.

Just because the results are good (if they are good) doesn't validate the fact that the process was violated.

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Occupy Wall Street Crowd Wearing Out Their Welcome

New Yorkers rage over ‘Occupy Wall Street’ protestors. Can't say that I am surprised.

While the fundamental purpose of the Occupy Wall Street protest was to draw attention, the problem with an "Occupation" as opposed to a kind of rally type protest, even a rally that occurs on a daily basis, is that an occupation carries the risk of wearing out your welcome and then instead of building support, the protest tends to lose support at best and generate outright opposition at worse.

I will be the first to defend the rights of the occupiers to make their protest even if I think much of their message is silly. But like with all long term protests, there takes a bit forethought and cooperation with the locals to makes sure basic things, like hygiene are considered. As one story I have seen discusses, protesters are defecating on private property. Furthermore, locals are being harassed while going about their daily business and the protesters are apparently making noise at all hours of the night.

Manhattan is a particularly difficult area to protests. Unlike a lot of "business centers" in major cities, Manhattan is also a very residential place, making clashes with local residents much more likely.

Protest all you want, but when you start disturbing the rights of others, there has to be some limits, even if it means disbursing every day.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Fetishizing Education?

Charles C. W. Cooke has looked at the Occupy Wall Street crowd noted that a great many of them are unemployed. Cooke is not surprised that people are miffed about that (I am upset about it and I have a job), but Cooke was incredulous at their non-sequiter, "And I went to college!" Cooke then asks, "so what?"

Now what I am about to say I say as a guy with a bachelor's degree and a law degree. There ain't nothing magical about have a degree and there is certainly no magical connection between having a degree and having a job. Outside of a few professions (like the law or medicine) you don't need a specific degree to have a job in that field. A good case in point is my friend with a zoology degree who owns and operates her own successful web development company.

Cooke goes on to write:
In the West, we are hard at work establishing a culture that fetishizes education, and instills the belief that college — regardless of its content or application — will, and should, inexorably lead to a better job, or a better life, or even a better America. Worse, that one has a right to these things. In doing so, we have created a Potemkin aristocracy, one based upon the erroneous and tragic conceit that having letters after one’s name intrinsically confers excellence. We are happily encouraging our children to join its ranks, regardless of whether there is any evidence that to do so will be in their interest. This is supremely ironic, given that so many of America’s billionaires — i.e. those who pay for more educations and create more jobs than anyone else — are college dropouts. Indeed, both Steve Jobs and Bill Gates failed to finish college. Can we say with a straight face that this has adversely affected them, or America at large?
Indeed, being an educated person is not just about degrees and one can have a bunch of letters after their name, have formal education and lack any sense of what is real in the world. Having spent four years in the Navy before returning to complete my degree, I can tell you that my first job out of college was less technically and intellectually demanding than the work I did in the Navy.

Indeed, we have so elevated the "need" and insistence that going to college is the way to the "good life" that we have forgotten, as Cooke points out, that a fair number of wildly successful people don't have a degree other than some honorary degrees bestowed later in their lives.

Having a degree, or multiple degrees, does not equate to the right to a job. Just because you are in possession of a piece of paper that says you went to college and graduated does not mean anyone has to "give" you a job as if it were your birthright. A person still has to go out a "get" a job.

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Is This NASA Document Saving or Killing Manned Private Spaceflight? - Popular Mechanics

Is This NASA Document Saving or Killing Manned Private Spaceflight? - Popular Mechanics
For the past few years, NASA has been funding private space companies in the hope that they can build spacecraft that will carry astronauts to orbit. This is a historic change: Until now, every NASA craft has been designed and wholly owned by the agency. Now, industry would build and operate rockets and spacecraft, and it would do it more quickly, cheaply, and flexibly than the government could, opening a new era of spaceflight.

But not so fast.

This month, NASA released the first draft of the document that describes how it plans to ensure the privately built spacecraft they will use will be safe. The document will define America’s future in space, because it sets the rules private companies will have to follow, though few seem to have read it. But we read through the dense language of the contract, called the Commercial Crew Integrated Design Contract (CCIDC), and found that it sets terms that keep NASA very much in control of the design and timeline of the next astronaut-carrying spacecraft and launch vehicles.

Space companies are quietly pushing back against parts of the contract. Officials complain that the terms leave open questions over who has final say over the engineering. There are new government review boards that can reject hardware designs.

Hey, just as a reminder--spaceflight is dangerous, it doesn't matter who designed the spacecraft. I would bet that the astronauts understand that.

Also, private spacecraft will have to be safe in order to make any money--that is the point.

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Dems' 900 Days Of Irresponsibility

Investors Business Daily:
Over the weekend, Senate Democrats passed a dubious milestone — going 900 days without fulfilling their legal obligation to pass a budget. Worse is the fact that this gross dereliction of duty has gone largely unnoticed.

You have to go all the way back to April 29, 2009 — just three months after President Obama took the oath of office — to find the last time Senate Democrats managed to discharge their legal obligation to produce a budget plan.

That's right — legal obligation. It says right in the Congressional Budget Act of 1974 that the Senate must produce a budget resolution by April of each year.

Dear Senate Majority Leader Reid, don't lecture any company, business, or individual about fiscal responsibility if you can't even pass a non-binding budget resolution.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Zbigniew Brzezinski: Make Public Rich People's Charitable Giving

Stupidity of the week:  Former national security advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski things that published lists of wealthy people's charitable giving is a good idea.

Seriously, you can't make this up.

First, Brzezinsky has how much credibility on this topic?  He is a national security expert (at best--having served in that position some 30 years ago), not on fiscal, tax, finance or economic matters.

Second, the last time I checked, what a person does with their money is their own business.  Who I choose to give to or not give to is my business and I am not rich.  If a person is rich and they don't want to publicize their giving--that is their right--it is an extension of the freedom of speech and of association.

Third, I am pretty sure that most charitable organizations are not and should not be required to disclose the identity of their contributors.

Fourth, how long before this idea is extended to the next step.  The next step will be a determination of whether such groups are worthy of money or a public shaming if a person gives to an unpopular group.

I wish this was made up, I really do, but follow the link and hear for  yourself.

Um....Not so sure about this:

Saw this pic on a post about the Occupy [Insert City here] movement.  Among the various signs you see here expressing various platitudes, take a look at the sign second from the right.

"Student Loan Debt==Indentured Servitude without Job Security"


The last time I checked college was not required in this country so you didn't have to incur the student loan debt.  Also, I believe that the taking of student loans was likewise voluntary, you could have worked your way through school or tried to get scholarships (and if you think you got it bad Ms., I suggest you try finding scholarships for white men).  I also note that there is no right to job security in this country--ever.

The problem is that people expect all jobs to pay equally.  They don't and I am not sorry about it.

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Is our "Science Deficit" a function of our Education Deficit

Last night I saw a show on CNBC called Meeting of the Minds: The Business of Science, a panel discussion featuring such science luminaries as J. Craig Ventner (the DNA sequencing guy), Dr. Mae Jemison (a former astronaut), Dr. Michio Kaku (physics professor and author), Jim Simons (mathematician and investment firm leader) and Bill Joy (former chief scientist at Sun Microsystems and now partner in a greentech practice), and Bob Hugin (CEO of Celgene). The discussion and format of the show is pretty wide ranging.

But about 30-35 minutes in there was a discussion about science literacy and how political decisions affect and alter research and development. I thought it was fascinating how these scientists with undoubtedly great access to political and regulatory leaders complained of how little our political leaders knows. Dr. Kaku also complained of the growing loss of leadership in basic research areas occurring in the United States, losing the leadership in physics and genetics and other fields mainly to Europe.

Dr. Jemison noted that the science fields still tend to be dominated by whites and Asians and largely male in nature. She also (I believe it was her) briefly noted that science education is lacking which in turn leads to a lack of science illiteracy. The science illiteracy is compounded by the practical flood of information readily available, much of it highly technical, but difficult to understand without further explantaion.

The discussion on science literacy touched briefly on the subject of failure in the scientific process. Mr. Hugin noted that venture capital is reticent to get invovled in pure research, looking instead to a minor tweak that might lead to a marketing bonanza. Another of the panelists then noted that most of them got into science because it was fun and they liked it, but they learned that part of the scientific process of discovery was failure and then trying something different.

Something clicked at that moment that brought all of these little threads together. Venture capitalists refraining from backing pure research or long-range development, the lack of science literacy among our political leaders, and our lack of science/technology education of our children are all related, in my mind to something more fundamental--our desire to avoid seeing our children fail.

That's right, the coddling of kids and the helicopter parent phenomenon is destroying America's leadership in science and technology. It is a pretty brash statement, I know, but some of the faults that we have in our education system will do doubt lead to a more dire science illiteracy in the coming generation.

Science education is not just about learning the periodic table or the parts of a cell or the anatomy of a frog or the laws of thermodynamics or any of the hundreds and thousands of topics out there for exploration. Science education is partly that, but it is also about DOING. Science is hands on, it is experiments, it is dissection, it is mixing chemicals and Bunsen burners, its about getting dirty and yes, it is about failure. Failure is as much a part of the scientific process as making an observation. But failure can be heartbreaking if it is not taught as part of the process. Failure, however, is what pushes us beyond what we know, it drives us forward, making us, both the scientist and the society, better.

How much of that happens now? Does our schools' fears of liability prevent this hands on aspect of science? Do parental worries that little Jane or John is going to get hurt prevent kids getting their hands dirty? Do parental fears of their child failing contribute to a lesser emphasis on science education? Nobody wants to assuage broken hearts when an experiment fails and expectations are not met. So do parents avoid the problem by subconsciously steering kids in a way that won't challenge them or set them up for failure.

I believe all of these factors are contributing to the general problem of science illiteracy. Science is not cheap, it is not clean, it is not flashy, and it is often more about failures than it is about successes. Science sometimes has those occasional small steps forward and even more rarely giant leaps ahead. But mostly science is a grind, it is the little steps and the failures, that teach us things. But because science is often a large collection of failures that litter the pile of progress it is fraught with disappointment, with failure and that can be disheartening.

But we must teach our children that failure in science, failure in anything, is not a bad thing. It is a good thing if we learn something from our failure, even if it is just one small thing that we learn. Failure is part of the process of discovery. But if we as a society shield our kids from all failure, we shield then from the wonder that is science.

I am not a scientist, I am a lawyer. But I see my own daughters filled with excitement about science, and I want to encourage that. I don't want them to fail miserably--but they do need to fail occasionally in order to understand how to learn from failure. What better place to learn how to fail and how to learn from failure than in science.