Thursday, January 27, 2011

Hollywood Has a Woman Problem

Ben Shapiro thinks so, and I have to agree:
Quick, think of the ten greatest living film actors. It’s not that tough – we have iconic male film stars all the time. Now think of the ten greatest living film actresses. Now take away all women over 50. Still thinking, aren’t you?

The simple truth is that actresses were far more iconic fifty years ago than they are now. We may want to shtup most of the actresses we see on screen today, but we don’t show up to see them because of their standout screen personas. That isn’t because today’s actresses are less talented than their predecessors – we have many talented actresses on the scene. It’s because screen executives have decided that truly feminine women, with both brains and looks, are no longer in keeping with the times. Instead, film execs have cut a sharp dichotomy between “sexy” women and “smart” women – it’s either Megan Fox or Kate Winslet. Charlize Theron can’t play a strong, graceful, beautiful woman – she’s got to be either a lesbian serial killer or a piece of eye candy.
That is not to say that haven't been some female roles in recent years that expose us to smart, beautiful and savvy female characters. But the certainly don't seem to be the norm. I find the trend disturbing that the best female role models for my daughters are animated--like Rapunzel in Tangled.

I admit, I am not a big movie fan, but I am a big fan of some TV and there are some smart, beautiful, competent women characters on TV. Take a look at Kate Beckett on Castle (ABC), or Diviya Katdare on Royal Pains (USA Network) or even Kara Thrace on Battlestar Galactica (now cancelled on ScyFy). All three characters are smart, competent at their jobs and also look good. But like real humans they have their problems, emotional needs and emotional baggage. They have goals, wants, desires and needs, but they are good female characters.

Shapiro is right though, in a city and industry where the liberal thought is that females should be empowered, there is a lack of empowered female characters who are women. But then again, this is also a city and industry who thinks that Sarah Palin is the worst feminist in the world because she dares to be attractive, female and conservative.

HHS grants 500 new healthcare waivers - The Hill's Healthwatch

What the hell is the point of having a law if everyone and their grandmother can get a waiver from the law. HHS grants 500 new healthcare waivers to organizations who might not be able to make the minimum coverage levels.
The law gives HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius the flexibility to grant waivers to avoid disruption in the insurance market, but Republicans say the waivers are either gifts to Democratic allies or proof that the reform law isn’t working. However, a large number of businesses, in addition to unions, have received waivers.

The waivers have been granted to hundreds of so-called "mini-med" plans that offer limited health coverage to employees. The waivers are designed to preserve stability in the insurance market until new state-run insurance exchanges open in 2014.

The House Energy and Commerce Committee asked HHS last week for details on the waiver process. HHS said Wednesday night that it wants to make the waiver process transparent.
Now, pardon me for asking, but if you knew that there might be a need for these waivers, and the Obama Administration wanted to avoid "disruption" in the insurance market (aside the the intentional disruption of interfereing in the marketplace), then why not make sure the state run exchanges were up and running BEFORE you started requiring businesses meet the minimum coverage levels.

This is the kind of crap logical inconsistencies you get when you don't think about the law or even read the law before enacting it.

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Althouse: "No people of color have been nominated for Oscars."

Not that I give a toss about the Oscars but this is not a good sign for the liberalatti: Althouse: "No people of color have been nominated for Oscars."

Of course, I also don't favor a "quota" either.

If the liberals are going to argue that the Oscars are about merit, fine. I will take that.

But you can't say merit is okay in movie performances and awards and not okay in other areas of life. Pick a position and stick with it.

Check out my soccer blog at Nutmegs and Stepovers

Another Reason to like Chris Christie

He is not afraid to tell you like it is.  At a recent public appearance, the following exchange reportedly took place:

Policeman: “My salary went up 2%. And after the increase in my healthcare costs went in, do you know how much my check went up Sir? $4. How am I supposed to live on that?”
Gov. Christie: “Here’s the difference. You’re getting a paycheck. And there are 9% of the people in the state of NJ who are not.”

Touche Governor.  What is unsaid, is that the police officer in question is probably making a very solid living and with overtime, probably is quite comfortable.  

Check out my soccer blog at Nutmegs and Stepovers

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

This Week's Playlist

They (whoever they is) often states that smell is the sense that generates the most vivid memories.  For me, music often carries very specific memories when I hear a song.  Here is a list of 20 songs and the memory I associate with them.

  1. In America by the Charlie Daniels Band.  When this song came out, it seemed to be playing on the radio everytime my family drove to the beach in St. Augustine Florida, so I always associate it with the beach.
  2. Homebound Train by Bon Jovi.  I just love the ryhtmn guitars in this song, but oddly enough, this song was playing when a buddy of mine and I were riding the train back from a climbing trip in West Virginia.
  3. We Didn't Start the Fire by Billy Joel.  My wife and her family were big Billy Joel fans and we all went to see Joel in Washington DC, one of the best memories before my father in law passed away.
  4. Acoustic Curves by Animusic.  My wife and daughter had gone to Boston with my wife's friend.  I used a four day weekend to paint four rooms in our house.  My wife was surprised and I discovered Animusic during that painting blitz.
  5. Flying in a Blue Dream by Joe Satriani.  Flying in a Blue Dream was my first Satriani album purchase and after hearing this song on my Walkman coming home from the mall, I was hooked instantly.  Satriani remains one of my favorite artists ever.
  6. Don't Stop Believin' by Journey.  Me and my friends entered an air band contest with this song in the 7th Grade. I rocked the air drums and the lip synching.
  7. Enter Sandman by Metallica.  My Navy roommate and I would blast this song when ever we would go rock climbing.  Since we went climbing 3 or 4 times a week, the CD got a lot of play.
  8. Even Flow by Pearl Jam.  One of my housemates in college got me hooked on Pearl Jam thanks to this song.  She went absolutely nuts listening to the song.  I will never forget her introducing me to this band.
  9. Another Rainy Night (Without You) by Queensryche.  A squad mate in the Navy just after boot camp turned me on to Queensryche by playing this song.  I will always associate hearing this song with the knowledge that I had been selected to join the U.S. Navy Ceremonial Guard.
  10. AFH by Slackjaw.  My Phi Sigma Pi friends from U. Va. (Chris and Sabine) turned me on to this Charlottesville band.  This song is forever associated with road tripping during college.
  11. Panama by Van Halen.  From high school, I remember when this album came out as a freshman in high school and how much my friends and I would listen to it before soccer practice.
  12. Kryptonite by 3 Doors Down.  Another song that got me hooked on a band during college, I remember listening to these guys on the radio in the bus I was driving through Georgetown to pick up a tour group.
  13. Where the Streets Have No Name by U2.  I remember sitting in the theater with a former girlfriend watching the opening of Rattle & Hum, still one of my favorite rock documentaries.
  14. Explosive by Bond.  I had a business trip to San Francisco/Sacremento and I remember this song being on the CD player in my rental car as I walked through the streets of San Francisco toward the Golden Gate Bridge.
  15. Dream On by Aerosmith.  From my much younger days, this was the song that was on the radio when I first started listening to Rock 105 from Jacksonville Florida.
  16. I Alone by Live.  This was the first concert I went to with the woman who would become my wife.  Live at HersehyPark Stadium was brilliant and the first of dozens of concerts we have attended.
  17. Represent by Weezer.  This is my soccer song.  I remember watching the game where the opening commentary came from and I can't help but see that goal by Jonathan Bornstein and Landon Donovan's goal against Algeria in the World Cup.
  18. To the One Who Knows by Yanni.  I know, Yanni right, but I actually like some of his stuff.  Me and a girl I liked in the Navy danced to this song while watching a thunderstorm move in.  Never really got the nerve up to date her, sorry Karmin.
  19. Barracuda by Heart.  "No this ain't the end" was something of an anthem for my high school soccer team when we got behind.  This song still reminds me of travelling for games.
  20. London Skies by Jamie Cullum.  I picked up my wife after her trip to San Francisco and this song was playing which she just loved and it reminds me, oddly enough, of London.

Check out my soccer blog at Nutmegs and Stepovers

Surf's Up

American Thinker's C. Edmund Wright has the  Top Ten Reasons to Support Herman Cain for President.  I don't know much about Cain, but if half these things turn out to be true, I would love to see that campaign.  My favorite reason:
4. Never held office before: While Cain's opponents -- on both sides of the aisle -- are licking their chops over this one, they should rethink this.  Mr. Cain already has a lethal (can we still say that?) response to this one: "Everyone in Washington has held public office before.  How's that working out for you?"  Case closed.
I would love to see someone pose that question to Cain and see him respond to that in a debate.  It would be absolutely brilliant.

Last night was the State of the Union speech and I have to say, I am completely underwhelmed.  Yeah, it was delivered well, I have never claimed that Obama can't deliver a speech, but like most SOTU speeches it lacked any kind of coherent theme or message and delved into the typical laundry list of items on a to-do list.  My biggest problem is that the President and indeed many national leaders, except maybe Paul Ryan and a few others, are looking at the biggest problem we as a nation face:  DEBT.  Reason Magazine's Peter Suderman points out the same thing, much better than I.
But the mounting national debt is not just a problem. It is the problem. We are out of money. The national wallet is virtually empty, the bank account dollars are all spent, and the line of credit is about to get more expensive. All other policies—from health care to unemployment to infrastructure spending to the tax code—must be considered in the context of the debt.
Of course, that is something Congress should have been doing since the time of FDR, but has largely abdicated that responsibility.

I have engaged in a debate with friends about why there is so much scorn heaped on public sector employees and/or unions.  My beef is not so much with individual employees--unless they don't do their job or treat me like an afterthough when they are supposed to provide a service.  My beef has always been with unions and here is a good reason why:

Despite the dire financial condition of his state, and the fact that it was (and still is) a sovereign deadbeat that fails to pay its bills, Illinois Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn found room to cut a sweetheart deal with its public employee unions in September. They were guaranteed two years of cost-of-living increases and no layoffs. Quinn, in turn, got the union's endorsement and won his 2010 election by less than 1 percentage point.
This provides a dramatic illustration of what has for years been political business as usual for liberals in public office. To save their own jobs, they cut deals with your money, offering premium benefits and exorbitant salaries to public workers. Much of the cost is deferred until these employees retire, and so the unfunded liabilities of public pensions have become enormous, threatening states and cities with imminent insolvency. By some estimates, state and municipal governments will have to come up with $3.5 trillion in new funds just to keep the pension checks going out. Things are so bad in California that state officials had to commission an independent Stanford University study just to get a handle on its pension liabilities, which turn out to be a staggering $535 billion.
Now, of course, part of the blame has to go to politicians who have refused to either 1) adequately fund the pensions at the proper time and 2) failing to show some spine and say no.

Tired of politics and can't give a toss about the Oscars and entertainment award season--check out this Toy of the Year nominee list.

I hate meetings--I find them utterly unproductive in 99.5% of the cases.  When I was a lobbyist, so much of my time was wasted in meetings.  If you hate them too, and have control of the agenda, I recommend this and a stopwatch.  Man what a deal.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Surf's Up

Remember the Dream Act? Joanne Jacobs has an idea, link the Dream Act to military service.  There is a long history of using military service as a stepping stone to citizenship.  The only downside to Jacbobs' idea is that in the past the military would take legal immigrants into their ranks, this would be a signficant policy change, allowing illegal immigrants into the ranks gives the air of legitimacy to their actions--even after you require them to disavow allegiance to their home nation.
As the round of state of the states addresses and state budget proposals start making their way into the news cycle, one this is almost certain--there are going to be some painful cuts in state spending--including education: It's a tough time to be a state legislator. I spent Saturday morning listening to Washington State House Education Committee testimony from school board members, teachers, principals, and parents of kids in special program all speaking against budget cuts. No one in the room seemed to understand that everything is different this time.
Money manager Whitney Tilson suggests that the fiscal crisis "means that the 100+ year bull market in education funding is likely over." Over the last thirty years, we doubled staffing ratios, added generous pensions, and greased the wheels of reform with lots of extra spending--that is over. The ARRA stimulus will be noted as the zenith of education funding (and federal control in education); states are broke, the cliff is here.
Indeed, many states are looking at 10% to 20% budget shortfalls (Nevada is looking at 40%) on top of the budget shortfalls that took place in the past 2-3 years necessitating spending cuts or tax increases.  The time when schools were largely insulated from spending cuts is over.

Speaking of education, is the Rhodes Scholarship losing its luster?  Well maybe not the scholarship itself, but at least on scholarship committee members seems to think that the quality of candidate is going down and she blames the growing specialization of an undergraduate degree these days.  I have, however, become increasingly concerned in recent years - not about the talent of the applicants but about the education American universities are providing. Even from America's great liberal arts colleges, transcripts reflect an undergraduate specialization that would have been unthinkably narrow just a generation ago.
As a result, high-achieving students seem less able to grapple with issues that require them to think across disciplines or reflect on difficult questions about what matters and why.
The writer is Heather Wilson, a former U.S. Representative from New Mexico, U.S. Air Force officer and Rhodes Scholar.

As usual, Don Boudreaux lays out in a nice simple, easy to understand case about health care, and what the GOP should do to answer the question about what to do about health care, here is my favorite nugget:
“Most importantly, yes, the government will step aside to let each of you make your own choices, and to let entrepreneurs experiment creatively and competitively with different ways of supplying and financing health-care.
“No, the result won’t be unlimited health-care for anyone.  But, yes, it will be more, better, and less costly health-care for everyone.  Oh – and, yes, America will also be a freer society.”
Of course, it is unlikely that the GOP will say such things because we as a society have gotten used to the government intervention in health care.
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One for the Bad Idea Files: GOP to push for D.C. gay marriage ban -

In a move calculated to please the Christian conservative segment of the GOP but just about no one else, the GOP is reportedly considering a move to ban gay marriage in DC.
House conservatives say they will pursue legislation that would ban gay marriage in the nation’s capital.

Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio), chairman of the conservative Republican Study Committee (RSC), told The Hill that he will push for a vote on the controversial issue in the 112th Congress.
I cannot begin to describe how bad an idea this is, and not just because I think that the government has no business telling people who they can and cannot marry.

The Republicans were swept into power in the House and nearly the Senate because they were talking about all the right things with regard to government spending and fiscal policy. Now is not the time to start talking about social issues. So long as the GOP remains focused on reining in runaway government spending they are will be on solid footing.

Before anyone starts wondering how Congress can do this in light of the new House Rule requiring citation to a Constitutional provision permitting the government action, Congress has the power to legislate on all matters within the District of Columbia. Article 1, Sec. 8 states, in part:
To exercise exclusive Legislation in all Cases whatsoever, over such District (not exceeding ten Miles square) as may, by Cession of particular States, and the acceptance of Congress, become the Seat of the Government of the United States.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Surf's Up!!

Today's Internet waves

The media response to the Tuscon shooting, according to Le·gal In·sur·rec·tion, is a roadmap to how the media will work to destroy challengers to President Obama in 2012.   It is a good, logical exposition.  I have little doubt that such efforts will take place.

Speaking of liberal bias in the media, Bryan Caplan thinks we need to look at bias in the school system as well.

Political leaders in this country previously touted the Canadian  healthcare system as a model for the United States to follow.  Lots of people in this country thought such a model was inherently wrong to follow in terms of healthcare.  But instead of healthcare, maybe we should take a long hard look at how Canada has turned around their budget crisis
A federal government runs a large deficit. Deficits are so large that the ratio of federal debt to Gross Domestic Product (GDP) approaches 70 percent. A constituency of voters have gotten used to large federal spending programs. Does that sound like the United States? Well, yes. But it also describes Canada in 1993. Yet, just 16 years later, Canada’s federal debt had fallen from 67 percent to only 29 percent of GDP. Moreover, in every year between 1997 and 2008, Canada’s federal government had a budget surplus. In one fiscal year, 2000–2001, its surplus was a whopping 1.8 percent of GDP. If the U.S. government had such a surplus today, that would amount to a cool $263 billion rather than the current deficit of more than $1.5 trillion
Keith Olberman is leaving Countdown.  Supposedly the highest rated show on MSNBC, you have to wonder what will happen to the network.  I won't miss his "Worst Person" segments.

So why does Gov. Abercrombie make such a promise.

Politicians make promises all the time and there are two types of promises in politics:  The promises that are so easy to keep that they are no danger to make and promises that are so unrealistic that everyone knows they mean nothing.  A promise to appear at a civic event is easy to make and if something comes up, easy to rehabilitate, and thus are an example of the former, easy promise to make.  A promise to "cut taxes and restore fiscal sanity" is an easy promsie to make and completely meaningless.

But Hawaii Governor Neil Abercrombie made a promise to produce a birth certificate for President Obama but not it turns out that he may not be able to:

"Pressure was mounting on Hawaii Governor Neil Abercrombie today amid increasing confusion over whether President Obama was born there." This is the UK Daily Mail. "Abercrombie said on Tuesday that an investigation had unearthed papers proving Obama was born in Hawaii in 1961. He told Honolulu's Star-Advertiser: 'It actually exists in the archives, written down,' he said. But it became apparent that what had been discovered was an unspecified listing or notation of Obama's birth that someone had made in the state archives and not a birth certificate. And in the same interview Abercrombie suggested that a long-form, hospital-generated birth certificate for Barack Obama may not exist within the vital records maintained by the Hawaii Department of Health. He said efforts were still being made to track down definitive vital records that would prove Obama was born in Hawaii."
Remember, he started out, the whole reason for doing this was to firmly prove it and establish and get it off the table so it wasn't an election issue for 2012. And he's done the exact opposite now. I mean how many of us could get away with saying, "Yeah, there's a little notation somewhere there in the archives. We can't find the birth certificate.

Now, I am not one of those people who are all up in arms about whether or not President Obama is a natural born citizen or not.  Truthfully, I don't particularly care and I do think he was born in Hawaii.  So, I think he is Constitutionally qualified to be presdient.  But when Abercrombie made such a promise, he should have made sure that he could actually produce one by doing a search before making such a promise.  That would have been smart.

But then again, politicians do stupid things all the time, just ask Silvio Berlusconi.

Check out my soccer blog at Nutmegs and Stepovers

Friday, January 21, 2011

Surf's Up!!

Today's interesting internet waves:

Supreme Court Justice Elena Kagan doesn't use her position on the highest court in the land to get out of jury duty. Admirable and you would think that the lawyers or the judge would think twice about empaneling her.  If she doesn't get out of jury duty, I am pretty sure you won't be either.

Municipalities are permitted to declare bankruptcy under the federal Bankruptcy Court, but generally states are not.  Is there movement afoot to allow states to declare bankruptcy?  Yep, but it is not that easy. What is standing in the way is the notion of state sovereignty.  But what is interesting is whether or not states are truly sovereign in our nation anymore given their dependence on federal funds and the multiple restrictions and legislation that forces states to act in a certain fashion.  That will be an interesting dispute.

The GOP has announced some real spending cuts.  What will the President do?

Much was made of the effort in Congress to maintain the Bush tax cuts as law, which ultimately succeeded.  However, the problem is that the tax cuts will go away as states and localities are passing income tax hikes in order to cover their massive budget shortfalls.  Illinois is one such state and it is ugly.

Remember Barry Bonds, yeah that guy who hit a lot of home runs was indicted in November of 2007 on 11 counts of obstruction of justice and perjury.  But his trial has been delayed multiple times and it still a few months away.  Professor Michael McCann's column in Sports Illustrated takes a look at what to expect in the trial.

Check out my soccer blog at Nutmegs and Stepovers

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

About that New Civility Thing.....

Rep. Steve Cohen (D-TN) Compared Republicans to Nazis last night.

So, let me be clear about the rules on civility: Militaristic language like "target" "crosshairs" and the like cannot be used, but comparisons of an entire political party to a genocidal regime are acceptable.


On Jared Loughner, Guns, Mental Health and Rights

"No personal shall ... be deprived of life, liberty, or property without due process of law."
                                                          U.S. Constitution, Fifth Amendment

In the  past couple of weeks, I have engaged in a number of debates about Tuscon gunman Jared Loughner and guns, mental health, Loughner getting a gun, and gun control.  Among those I have debated have been people who have urged that mentally ill people should be denied access to weapons, as if this is the first time something like Tuscon has happened.  The debate has usually proceeded along these lines: the shooting was so tragic, how could a man so obviously disturbed get a gun, they should ban such people from getting guns, someone should have reported his problems, no mentally ill persons should be able to get a gun.  There have been hints at banning glocks, high capacity magazines, and other gun control advocacy.

The fact that the people I have been debating are smart, articulate and passionate has never escaped me.  However, there are so many assumptions being made by those I have been debating and some other very smart people in the general commentariat.

One of the biggest errors that has been made is looking at Loughner from a viewpoint of hindsight and the benefit of an investigation.  Evidence has certainly come to light of his drug use, of his probable mental health issues, that Loughner was denied entry into the armed forces, that Loughner had issues at school, that he had a disturbing obsession with Rep. Giffords, various other run-ins with the law, etc.  The list seems endless, but each of these incidents, when viewed by themselves, as the incidents must be considered at the time they occurred, does not reveal to any single participant anything particularly wrong or potentially dangerous (keeping separate Loughner's own private actions).

It is only when viewed in the aggregate, with hindsight, that we see a clear picture of what appears to be a truly disturbed young man.  Many people express shock that all of these people who had dealings with Loughner didn't see his problems.  Why should that be shocking?  As a loner, most of Loughner's interactions with people would have been limited, discrete encounters where he might have seemed,at most, a little weird, but not really anything that would suggest he was capable of murder.

So with hindsight, we see a different person than those who interacted with him saw prior to the shooting.  We now piece together his life with the benefit of a concentrated investigation that no one had the benefit of before.  That he wasn't recognized as a potential threat before the shooting is not particularly shocking.  What seems so obvious now is anything but as the events are unfolding.

Regarding the calls for prohibitions on people like Loughner getting access to guns, again, the benefit of hindsight sheds a very different light on matters.   One of the comments I have heard is that there should be a way to prevent a mentally ill person like Loughner from getting a gun.  Well, like most state, there is a law in Arizona that prohibits the sale to and possession of firearms by people who are a danger to themselves or others.  Arizona's Criminal Code, Title 13 of Arizona Revised Statutes 13-3101 reads (in part):

7. "Prohibited possessor" means any person:
(a) Who has been found to constitute a danger to himself or to others or to be persistently or acutely disabled or gravely disabled pursuant to court order under section 36-540, and whose right to possess a firearm has not been restored pursuant to section 13-925.
Arizona Revised Statutes 13-3102 reads, in part:

A. A person commits misconduct involving weapons by knowingly:..... 
4. Possessing a deadly weapon or prohibited weapon if such person is a prohibited possessor; or
5. Selling or transferring a deadly weapon to a prohibited possessor; or...

So as you can see, possessing or selling a deadly weapon to a prohibited person, which is defined as someone determined to be a danger to themselves or others is already banned in Arizona.  The law is on the books.

So why wasn't Loughner on the list of prohibited persons is a legitimate question but one that has a simple answer:  No one thought to ask a court for a determination that Loughner was a danger to himself or others.

No one asked, because, as stated above, there might not have been enough cumulative evidence to any one person (outside of possibly his family) to suggest that Loughner was dangerous.  The Arizona criminal code made it a crime for Loughner to possess a weapon only after and therefore not before, a court issued an order that declared him a danger and proscribed treatment.  But getting such a court order is not a simple or necessarily short matter.  The reference in the prohibited possessors definition "pursuant to court order under section 36-540" entails some specific procedures and protections to avoid having people improperly classified a unstable when it should not apply.  Here is what Arizona Revised Statutes 36-540 says,
A. If the court finds by clear and convincing evidence that the proposed patient, as a result of mental disorder, is a danger to self, is a danger to others, is persistently or acutely disabled or is gravely disabled and in need of treatment, and is either unwilling or unable to accept voluntary treatment, the court shall order the patient to undergo one of the following:
N. If a person has been found, as a result of a mental disorder, to constitute a danger to self or others or to be persistently or acutely disabled or gravely disabled and the court enters an order for treatment pursuant to subsection A of this section, the court shall grant access to the person's name, date of birth, social security number and date of commitment to the department of public safety to comply with the requirements of title 13, chapter 31 and title 32, chapter 26.

Clear and convincing evidence is a lower standard of proof than in a criminal context, which is reasonable doubt, but higher than the standard of proof necessary in a civil trial, which is usually preponderance of the evidence or a "more likely than not" standard.  So under Arizona law, Title 13, chapter 31 dealing with guns and gun ownership, to be denied the right to own a gun is contingent on a court hearing and clear evidence of danger to oneself or others.

The only way a mentally ill person can be put on a list to prevent him from purchasing a firearm is for a court to conduct an evidentiary hearing, which involves the collection of documentary evidence and testimony (usually from more than one person).  Only if the judge is satisfied by clear and convincing evidence that the person presents a danger to themselves or others and only if the judge enters an order for treatment can someone's right to or possess a firearm be prohibited.

In the case of Jared Loughner, some would have had to bring his case before the courts to make a determination that he was a danger to others.  The courts cannot issue orders on case not properly before them and the police cannot be empowered to deny rights without a process.

So why all these legal hoops to jump through to prevent a shooting like Tuscon?  Why can't some just make a complaint about a "crazy" person and the courts or police simply put them on the list of prohibited possessors?

The Fifth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

The 5th Amendment reads, in full:
No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a Grand Jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the Militia, when in actual service in time of War or public danger; nor shall any person be subject for the same offense to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb; nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.
(Emphasis Added).  The bolded and italicized text is what is important here.  "No personal shall ... be deprived of life, liberty, or property without due process of law."  If the government (including the police and the courts) wants to or must deny anyone, including those suspected of being a danger to themselves or others, their liberty or freedom there must be a proper legal finding and ruling.  Governmental limitations on someone's rights that they would otherwise enjoy can only be imposed pursuant to due process of law, which means a court proceeding, following the proper rules of procedure and the protections all citizens enjoy, even those who are mentally deranged.

Like it or not, the default law of the land is that adult Americans and resident aliens are free to own weapons, including guns (subject to reasonable licensing and registration laws).  That is the default position, that gun ownership is  a freedom established in this country.  If the state is going to take away that liberty, the state must followed a proscribed process of law.  We cannot allow the government, the courts or any police agency and just as importantly, the emotional reaction of the public, to take away rights without giving a fair chance for a hearing.

What happened in Tuscon, while tragic, is not a failure of gun control.  It is a failure, of so many people, to bring Loughner's problems to the attention of the court so that a court could determine, pursuant to procedure, if Loughner was a danger to himself or others.  But such a failure is, for the most part, a blameless failure because we as a society are conditioned to "mind our own business" and "live and let live."  But unless someone, family, friends, or an employer brings the problems to the attention of the authorities, then there is nothing that can be done.  Unfortunately it sometimes takes a tragedy to see the full scope of someone's problems.

In order for Loughner to have been put on the prohibited possessors list in Arizona, five things would have had to have happened:

  1. Someone would have had to recognize or suspect that Loughner was a danger to himself or others.  
  2. That someone would have had to report the concern of Loughner being a danger to someone to a proper authority, i.e. the courts, police or mental health agency.
  3. A proceeding would have to have been initiated by someone asking a court to determine, by clear and convincing evidence, that Loughner was a danger to himself or others.
  4. That a court actually found Loughner to be a danger AND ordered treatment of some kind, which would have put Loughner on the list of persons prohibited from owning a gun.
  5. That a legal gun seller would have adhered to the law and checked the prohibited possessors list.

Of course, all of this pre-supposes that Loughner would not have illegally obtained a weapon.

In summary, laws exist, even in Arizona, to prevent mentally ill persons from legally obtaining weapons.  The problem is that in order to prevent such an occurrence there must be recognition of a problem, action taken on that recognition and then adherence to a due process of law to deny someone their rights to own or possess a weapon.

Policy debates about wide-spread gun ownership rights is a concern separate and apart from what happened in Tuscon.  Gun control advocates can pursue legal and political channels to change that law, but right now gun ownership is a protected right.  Denying that right to a specific individual, even one with mental health problems or impairments, requires the due process of law.

Emotionally, I feel for those who have suffered at Loughner's hand.  I believe that we all do.  But we are a nation governed by the rule of law, not the rule of emotion.  We cannot allow the washes of emotion to dictate policy, for doing so enacts bad law, and actually creates a government no better than the whims of a tyrant.  I know the law offers no comfort in a situation such as this, but we have laws to prevent the denial of rights based on arbitrary, if understandable, emotional considerations.

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Surf's Up!!

Some of today's waves

If you are a politician and you are going to have a sex scandal, don't pull a Bill Clinton and hide it with one woman, make sure your sex scandal is as salacious as possible.  Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi is under investigation not for just having sex parties but doing it with underage girls.

Most people, rightfully, think that Martin Luther King, Jr. was a proponent of peaceful change, but he also believed in protecting his family.  A little known fact, until now, is that King had not only armed guards protecting his family and home, but had at one time applied for a conceal carry permit because of death threats.  Guns are not just about slaughter but also about protection.

Speaking of Dr. King, Meira Levinson raises the question of whether or not we teach the right lessons to school kids about Dr. King.  Prof. Levinson believes we should be talking more about Kings methods, methodologies and collective civic action.  I have some thoughts on the matter as well.

Even though we are some 20 months from the 2012 elections, some long serving Senators are heading for the door.  Sens. Joe Lieberman, Kay Bailey Hutchison and Kent Conrad are all exiting.  One Independent, one Republican and one Democrat.  Jennifer Rubin looks at Hutchison and Conrad and the differences between the two.

A week ago or so, the Illinois Legislature voted a 66% increase in taxes for that state on some taxpayers.  Wisconsin is not actively courting businesses to come to the Badger state.  Newly elected Illinois Governor Pat Quinn is now on the defensive, claiming that Illinois is still the economic engine of the Midwest.  Maybe, but for how long?

Close to my home, we are seeing in the Maryland Republican Party, an endangered species as it is, a rather stupid implosion over the former State Senator Minority Leader Allan Kittleman resigning over his support of a civil union bill.  The talk is about "litmus" tests and how ridiculous it is for a party that is in critical condition in the state to force the resignation of a man who campaigned heavily for Republicans of all stripes in the last election and still stood up after the party got kicked in the teeth.  There are lots of different takes on the matter, from a political viewpoint, a concern about "litmus" tests, and of course, a failure of Republican "leadership" to see the larger picture. Seems pretty stupid.  My advice to Republicans--focus on economic and government spending and let everything else wait.

Check out my soccer blog at Nutmegs and Stepovers

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

The Debt Ceiling--Can I Raise My Debt Ceiling Too?

Former Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty argues against raising the debt ceiling and makes a common sense suggestion for Congress--pay our debts first.
In an interview with The Wall Street Journal Sunday and in an appearance on "Fox News Sunday," Mr. Pawlenty challenged even leaders in his own party, who have said Congress must increase the federal debt ceiling rather than risk a default that could send interest rates skyrocketing and the economy back into recession.

Mr. Pawlenty said Congress should pass legislation that would put interest and debt payments ahead of other federal spending and allow the federal government to pay its creditors as tax revenue flows in. With the surge of tax payments that come in between April and June, that would at least buy time to try to cut spending dramatically, he said.

This makes sense to me, because that is how real people do it.  Look, when you and I get paid, we have to prioritize our payments.  Maybe you put a savings deduction or a religious tithe first, but at the top of your (and my) payment list is things like:

credit card debt payments
utility payments

Regardless of how you do things, normal people pay their debts before embarking on new spending.  The federal government should be the same.  If the government pays its debts first and only then addresses other spending or new spending, they will find themselves with less money to play with.  Congress then pays the debts  (thus securing the long term financial health of America) and then can spend the rest in a fiscally responsible manner (we hope).

Makes sense--you know like real people sense.

Are the Lessons We teach About Martin Luther King, Jr. the Wrong Lessons?

Meira Levinson, guest-blogging for Rick Hess calls into question the lessons we teach about Martin Luther King, Jr. This is not to say that the lessons we teach about King are, per se, bad, but Levinson simply wonders if we spend too much time about King the man and hero and not nearly enough time about King as a leader, about his methodologies and successes (and failures) as a leader.
[W]e need fundamentally to change how schools teach civic heroism and civic action. MLK is important not because he was "one man with a dream." Rather, he was a civic leader who inspired and mobilized hundreds of thousands of ordinary Americans--including over 3,000 kids in Birmingham who chose to be jailed on behalf of the movement--to take actions that sustained the civil rights movement and actually ensured its victories. These lessons are more historically accurate and far more civically empowering than what students learn today.

In line with this, I think that students should actually spend less time learning about extraordinary heroes like MLK--an admittedly daunting figure, especially insofar as he was assassinated for his actions; who wants to get involved in politics if it gets you killed??--and more time learning about ordinary role models. Young people should have the opportunity in school truly to get to know a variety of local civic activists who look and sound like them, and whom they could imagine actually emulating. They should learn how the ordinary, everyday acts taken by these people make significant differences to their communities. Then they should spend time in school identifying and practicing the key skills deployed by these ordinary role models as a means of becoming efficacious, engaged civic and political actors themselves. Of course, this takes time and effort to do well. We can't just add ordinary role models to the curriculum without sacrificing something else. But I would be happy to give up time even that kids spend studying Martin Luther King, Jr., himself if it meant that they were inspired and enabled to engage in truly meaningful civic action.

My daughters watch a lot of Disney Channel television. The channel does not have a lot of "commercials" but is very heavy on the PSA like messages on everything from eating healthy (with First Lady Michelle Obama) to "Friends for Change" series about being environmentally conscious. Most of the messages are pretty practical, but the ones I really like to see are the messages that focus on a local effort by some tween student who took the message to heart. Recently Disney was showcasing an effort by a young lady who organized a clean up of a shoreline, an episode of a young man (about 13 now I think) who has lead multiple catastrophe relief efforts and a "Friends for Change" chapter who was replanting a fire ravaged area in California.

Now all of this goes to Levinson' point is that these are "civic actions" and "collective action" that should be highlighted locally by students and teachers alike. In my state, students graduating high school are required to engage in 150 hours of "volunteer" work in the community. (I know, the words "requirement" and "volunteer" don't go together, but still). While students are required to write about their experience, how much of that experience is shared with other students. That is, who else besides the teacher knows about the effort?

Why are local student civic leaders featured in the classroom? Why shouldn't students from one side of a county connect with students on the other side, or younger students to talk about their efforts? I believe we lose a multitude of chances to develop a community spirit with our students and to develop leadership skills of high school students who could work with middle and elementary school students on a civic or collective action. We should be encouraging communications like this.

While there are many problems that Dr. King sought to alleviate through his efforts, I don't think that simply thinking on a grander scale of "civic action" is necessary as Levinson seems to imply. Rather, great civic movement can be done by simply connecting smaller, student led projects together. Massive movements, the Tea Party and the Civil Rights Movement, don't just spring up, they are built over time, by making connections within a community. We can achieve much over the long term by building a base in the early years and expanding it over time.

Levinson's discussion of making more of King's methods and campaigns and less of King the man as the focal point of lessons in schools will go a long way to making King's dream a reality. We have already wasted 25 years teaching the wrong thing, but maybe we can make a difference in the next 25 years.

This Week's Playlist

Not that I am casting about for a theme for each week, but I try to have something that links the songs together.  This week, I pulled out the common theme of music I discovered or found in 2010.  That is not to say that every song was released in 2010 (although a majority of them are), but it is music that I got in 2010.  Some of these songs come from the Free Weekly download from iTunes (which I very much encourage).  Most of the stuff on the free download is pretty mainstream, but still worth the fact that some are duds (to me) and some are hidden little gems that I might not have discovered otherwise.

  1. Synchronicity II by Queensryche.  This song is taken from their 2007 album of cover tunes.  The Police classic is a bit harder edge in keeping with their metal roots, but of all the Police songs, this is one that fits a metal band very well.  The guitar work on this song is brilliant and the deeper bass of Geoff Tate deftly replaces Sting's vocal range.
  2. I'm Bad by The Last Vegas.  Straight forward rock and roll with a metal edge.  The chorus rocked me when I first heard the song, but when you listen to the lyrics, you can get a sense that these are not one-dimensional rockers.
  3. The High Road by The Broken Bells.  I love bands that put some thought into their lyrics and they certainly did, but I was torn about including this song because I am not a fan of the instrumentation and arrangement, but it is a solid song from a band that is on the right path musically.
  4. Caravan by Rush.  I have been a Rush fan for, well, decades.  Geddy Lee's singing has matured, Neil Peart can still write the lyrics and Alex Lifson can still make a guitar sing.  Into their fourth decade of music making and the Canadian trio can still deliver.  Not their best song ever, but a very good song.
  5. Behind the Sun by Living Colour.  Vernon Reid and the boys certainly deliver on this disk.  This song stands out a bit more for me because of the guitar riff, which is much cleaner than you often hear from Reid, whose work with Living Colour is often more gravelly.  The melody as sung by Corey Glover delivers as well.
  6. Around My Head by Cage the Elephant.  A retro-punk feel to the music and lyric delivery appeal to me This song is courtesy of the iTunes free download recently.  The song is growing more on me by the listen.
  7. All I Want by A Day to Remember.  The band sounds a bit familiar, kind of like early Offspring with a little less quirkiness. The riff is basic, the drums solid and the melody a little catchy.  They may not fully take off, but A Day to Remember has put together a solid effort.
  8. Run Back To Your Side by Eric Clapton.  The greatness that is Clapton and his blues infused rock is apparent.  He has been doing this so long, it is hard to believe that he can still be so fresh in his work.
  9. Strong Medicine by Patty Reese.  Reese appeared at a free outdoor show at my wife's theater and I was immediately impressed.  Reese brings the blues somewhat like Bonnie Raitt, but without the heavy guitar.
  10. Don't Stop the Music by Jamie Cullum.  If you like your jazz with great lyrics and a fun time apparent in the music, then Cullum is your guy.  The chorus is brilliant and the musicianship classy.  Cullum is crossing a little into the pop side of music and this song will show you why.  
  11. Littleworth Lane by Joe Satriani.  Satriani is by far one of my favorite artists (I think one of his songs has appeared in just about everyone one of my weekly playlists).  On his latest album, Black Swans and Wormhole Wizards, he has really expanded his repetoire of genres and this song is blues guitar through and through.  The song doesn't try to overwhelm you with a flurry of notes and that is teh appeal because blues guitar doesn't either.
  12. Take Off the Blues by the Foreign Exchange (feat. Darien Brockington), another iTunes freebie but this song took a while to grow on me.  The groove is mellow and the feel melodic.  The lyrics are decent but I think it is the rather basic musicianship that bothered me most.  Not quite a guilty pleasure, but pleasurable nonetheless.
  13. Bulletproof by La Roux.  Dance music is not my thing, as I like something more than just a peppy beat or simple lyrics.  But the lyrical quality in this song is truly solid, although La Roux's voice is a little to bright for the song, but I like the melody and the beat is accomplished not through heavy bass, but by the crafty use of synthesizers.
  14. Love is Dead by The Lovemakers.  A surprisingly up tempo song for such a dreary topic.  A duet that melds the two voices together well.  
  15. Animal by Neon Trees.  A stripped down basic beat song with a brilliant melody laid down on top without a lot of flash and over the top arrangement.  The lyrics are not a good as I think they could be, but that is simple a personal taste.
  16. Think Like a Man by Orianthi.  I am a big fan of this woman (maybe it is the guitar or the Aussie accent or both).  While her guitar work is good, this song definitely shows some songwriting chops and a bit of sardonic side as well.
  17. Trinity by Paper Tongues.  The melody caught my attention immediately on hearing this song.  A mesmerizing cycle backed by a chorus that emphasizes rather than clashes with the stanzas by keeping the same kind of familiar melody in place.
  18. Keep on Lovin' You by Steel Magnolia.  Although I have gotten much more country over the past year, this song resonated a bit more than others.  A solid song with  a terrific duet, more of a rock beat that most country.  Although to be fair, country is not a label that really fits this band.
  19. Represent by Weezer.  The unofficial anthem of the U.S. Men's National Team written for the World Cup in South Africa by Rivers Cuomo, I can see the Jonathan Bornstein goal in my head from the lead-in clip and a personal little highlight reel in my head.
  20. Maybe by Sick Puppies.  An inspirational song wrapped in solid rock music, an odd band name and brilliantly delivered.  I just love this song.

Surf's Up!!

Welcome to my new daily feature that I am going to call Surf's Up!  These are some links that I found interesting in my Reader feed today.

College students are not learning to think critically.  "An unprecedented study that followed several thousand undergraduates through four years of college found that large numbers didn't learn the critical thinking, complex reasoning and written communication skills that are widely assumed to be at the core of a college education."  Are these really the skills that we think of as core skills of a college education?  If so, why?

President Obama will sign an executive order to cut down on wasteful business regulation.  Well, gee thanks, that is about two years too late.  Now about that other branch of government cutting down on legislation that authorizes regulation.  Any hope on that front?

As our President wants to move to a more "European" style health care, Britain, said to be the preferred model, is looking to move away from a "second rate" health care system.  "In a speech outlining the government's plans to overhaul public services, Cameron promised to get rid of 'topdown, command-and-control bureaucracy and targets.' He said that with an aging population and growing demand for new medical treatments, 'pretending that there is some easy option of sticking with the status quo and hoping that a little bit of extra money will smooth over the challenges is a complete fiction.'"  Hmmmm.

USA Today:  States are looking at long term budget problems.  The opposing view:  It's Wall Street's fault.  Seriously guys, there's lots of blame to share.

From the "if you have to ask, you can't afford it" department, a $1 billion dollar yacht.

Monday, January 17, 2011

No. 2 bank overcharged troops on mortgages - TODAY Home & Garden -

No. 2 bank overcharged troops on mortgages - TODAY Home & Garden -

Friday, January 14, 2011

Battle of the States

In the coming months, we will see two things in state politics:

  1. States will be pursing economic recovery with Republican governors will be pushing fewer taxes and lower tax rates, while Democratic states (like Illinios) will increase taxes. The Wall Street Journal's Kimberly Strassel looks at neighbors Wisconsin and Illinois for just such a divergence of policy.
  2. We will also see just how interconnected our state and national economies really are.

It might be ugly, but it will be entertaining.

Is the Problem with the Constitution That We are Misreading It?

Having we misread the Constitution?  The more I think about it, I am coming to the conclusion that yes, we have.  After the reading of the Constitution in the House of Representatives and despite the provisions in the new House Rules regarding the citation of a Constitutional provision for every piece of legislation introduced in the House, it is not going to matter much in my opinion.  There will be three provisions cited more than any other:

  1. The Interstate Commerce Clause.  With the notion that just about everything impacts interstate commerce, Congress will regulate every kind of business, even one that is purely intrastate.
  2. The Necessary and Proper clause" even though this clause was created to allow Congress to pass legislation necessary and proper for carrying out its delegated powers in Art. 1, Sec. 8.  I don't the the House Leadership should let this pass, there needs to be something else cited, but we will see.
  3. The General Welfare clause.

It is that last one that carries the most danger--and I am not even talking about how you define "general welfare," itself a significant problem.

Article 1, Sec. 8 gives congress the power to levy taxes and appropriate money for the general welfare of country.  The problem is that the general welfare is interpreted so broadly by Congress, no matter who is in power on Capitol Hill.  But a broad interpretation of a delegated power runs contrary to the purpose behind the Constitution, the creation and framework for a government of LIMITED powers.

The Congress wants to expand its power, that much is almost assured and they frequently use the spending power as a means to do so, spending money and attaching strings  and conditions to that money in order for states/localities to spend it.  The classic example is federal highway money, which used to be given to states only if they had a 55 MPH speed limit and a drinking age of 21.  So in order to force compliance with what Congress decided was in the general welfare (i.e. a speed limit or drinking age despite those being largely a matter of state concern), Congress held federal money hostage, money that had been taxed from the various states and their citizens, in order to obtain a policy goal it ordinarily would not have been able to touch because it is not within the purview of its delegated powers.

The Courts have almost universally allowed such "covert" regulations and legislation to be attached to spending bills with impunity because Congress can spend for the general welfare. But more and more I find myself wondering if that the courts and Congress and the states themselves, were just completely wrong and we have let it go for so long that we think it is the natural order of things.  We have allowed the notion that Congress can attach any kind of strings to federal spending.  The Preamble to the Constitution states:

We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.

We the People wanted to promote the general welfare by establishing a national government of limited, delegated powers designed to keep the federal government limited.  But if the spending power for the general welfare is located in the list of limited powers of the Congress, how can it have such a broad scope, allowing Congress pass laws that otherwise would not be possible under the limited powers of Art. I, Sec. 8?  In other words, if the power of Congress is limited by Sec. 8, why is the spending power treated and interpreted so differently than other powers?   Did the Framers really intend to provide a list of limited powers and then say, "those limited powers and spheres of responsibility don't apply if Congress is spending money for the general welfare?"  

Are policies related to policing (speed limit), health and welfare (drinking ages or education) of the citizenry not a matter for the states and localities?  Where in the theory underlying the Constitution of a limited government of delegated powers and a concerted effort by the Framers to circumscribe and check the powers of the national government do the Courts, Congress and national Executive find the power to regulate matters outside the discrete list of Section 8 Powers?

We need to seriously think about how to resolve that conflict that is in keeping with the actual Constitution.

An Unsavory Argument for a Sour Policy

Another argument for the ending of agricultural subsidies of all kinds from Professor Don Boudreaux.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Binding Arbitration--Not Good for Writing Contracts

Jeff Jacoby points to the real victims of binding arbitration for public union contract negotiations and it is us.
When contract talks between a union representing public employees and the state or local government they work for are deadlocked, many states require that the disagreement be referred to an outside arbitrator for a binding decision. Since strikes by public employees are intolerable — no one wants firefighters, teachers, or trash collectors walking off the job — letting a neutral third party hear both sides out and settle the issue can sound like a fair and practical way to resolve thorny issues.
Sound imminently reasonable right? After all, an arbitrator is neutral, has no stake in the fight and is beyond the scope of the dispute. Once a decision is made by an outside arbitrator, no one can complain about right? The labor union and the governmental body has to suck it up what ever the decision by the arbitrator.

The problem is that there is no accountability for the arbitrator (who gets paid by both sides splitting the costs--which is not cheap). So the taxpayers pay the arbitrator's cost directly through the governmental body and indirectly by paying the salaries of the public employees who then pay dues to the union who then pay the arbitrator. Nice huh.

But Governor John Kasich (R-OH) makes a really good point:
“You think these local governments want to be stuck with binding arbitration?’’ Kasich asked. “I don’t know if you all know what binding arbitration is. When there’s a labor dispute, they bring somebody in from Kokomo, Indiana. He comes into Ohio. He imposes a settlement on our cities. He goes back to Kokomo — and we pay the bill.’’

With municipal budgets strained to the breaking point, said Kasich, the last thing local cities need is higher costs imposed on them by outsiders. “If you talk to the mayors of cities, Republicans and Democrats alike — Democrats will tell you off the record — [they] can’t stand binding arbitration . . . Binding arbitration is not acceptable. You are forcing increased taxes on taxpayers with them having no say, by people who come from a far-away place and have no accountability to the taxpayers.’’
Therein lies the problem--with no stake in the fight, the union can force an impasse that a governmental body does dare create. Public sector unions can threaten job action and there is minimal risk to them, after all, shouldn't cops and firefighters and teachers be compensated for their time and talent? But a city council can not afford to be in a position of "forcing" public employees to work for less or get fewer benefits because they know that if they do, every public employee union will campaign against them and the public will blame them for lack of police, firefighters, etc. They can't win.
In Michigan, notes the Mackinac Center for Public Policy, a respected think tank, “the average arbitration process takes 15 months to reach a decision.’’ When those decisions are reached, the price tag is generally high. A task force appointed by former Michigan Governor Jennifer Granholm surveyed the economic literature and reported in 2006 that the overall impact of binding arbitration in states that require it “is to raise municipal expenditures . . . by 3-to-5 percent relative to other states. While small in percentage terms, this impact is large in dollar terms.’’
By the way, Granholm is a Democrat--not some union busting, labor hating Republican. Here's the killer:
As state and local governments have learned to their chagrin, once binding arbitration becomes part of the collective-bargaining process, it doesn’t facilitate compromise — it undermines it. Unions quickly figure out that they risk nothing by making extreme salary or benefit demands, rejecting reasonable counteroffers, and then waiting for the ensuing impasse to go to an arbitrator. How can they lose? They know that the arbitrator will almost never award public employees less than the government’s final offer.
If there is a dispute as to the meaning of a term in an operating contract, arbitration is usually a good move and generally cheaper than going to court. By the way, it is not always cheaper, since arbitration is essentially a private trial, with witnesses, testimony, evidence presented and all the other features of a trial. Arbitration is just before a private decision maker who acts as a judge who can't be appealed. If you really wanted it to be cheaper--mediation is the way to go.

So what is the solution? Quite simply, blunt the power of public unions to make unreasonable demands and put some real bargaining power in the hands of the government. Unions who make unreasonable demands in the contract negotiation talks can be countered with a mandatory mediation procedure. If the unions make no progress or offer no compromises, the government can walk away from the table and the contract is automatically reduced by 2 percent in salary and benefits and put in place for one year. If no progress is made in that next year, the contract is reduced again by 2 percent in salary and benefits. In the second year of an impasse, the union has to pay the reasonable costs and fess for the governmental entity paid by the union negotiators. Thus if the parties come to an impasse, the burden is on the union to get the reasonable negotiations moving.

Now some people will argue that such a law is not fair to the unions, who after all work hard. I am not arguing that the union members work hard, but the contract negotiators almost never are union members, but outside experts hired to burglarize the tax coffers. Public sector work is relatively safe in terms of job security, but it cannot be a means of simply getting paid more and more for doing the same work, there must be a limit and we cannot have public sector unions simply holding the government hostage to force a binding arbitration by acting in an unreasonble manner and make outrageous demands.

After all, the public sector unions are public employees paid by tax payer dollars and the tax payers should hold much more power than they do now.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

I thought we moved beyond the Heavy Metal Causes Crime Meme

Seriously, can we give up the 'heavy metal makes people do bad things' meme. I thought such a notion went out the window 20 years ago. Drowning Pool responds to allegations that their music had any influence on AZ shooter and it didn't, at least we have no evidence that it did. Drowning Pool says the song is about the mosh pit.

If music is supposed to make young people do things they normally wouldn't do, then why is it that when I was growing up every time I played Barry White or Marvin Gaye for girls they didn't jump into bed with me?

Ready, Aim, OVERREACT!

Washington’s top five most ridiculous reactions to the Arizona shooting includes some pretty wacky ideas.

2. Impose a federal ban on carrying a firearm within 1,000 feet of any “high-profile” public official

New York Republican Rep. Peter King, with full approval from New York City’s freedom-loving mayor Michael Bloomberg, has vowed to introduce a bill that keeps all guns at least 1,000 feet from from him at all times.

Seriously, how are you going to enforce that? We can't even ensure a gun free school zone law and the school is a fixed point of geography. How do we keep a 1,000 foot bubble around a moving person?

Like I said, wacky.

Three Quick Thoughts on the Tuscon Shooting Reaction

1. It was only a matter of time before we started to discovery these kinds of threats against Sarah Palin. I know many of my liberal colleagues don't like Sarah Palin, my question has always been why? Beyond disagreement with her policy positions, what specifically has Sarah Palin done to warrant such vitriolic, nay, hateful speech?

2. My worry about Congressional reaction to the Tuscon shooting was that our leaders will see the need to distance themselves even further from the people they serve. My thinking was that town hall meetings will come with security and metal detectors or would be held in secure facilities of some type. I also figured that public events will not be publicized far enough in advance to all voters in a given region except for known supporters to create an actual dialog with voters. Turns out, I wasn't nearly wacky enough for some Representatives from both sides of the aisle.

3. I wonder, in light of # 1 up there and the overreaction among the liberal commentariat, blaming Palin, Bush, Tea Party, Conservatives or just about anyone who believes in the right to bear arms, would the reaction be the same if the Congresswoman fighting for her life was Michelle Bachman? Methinks not. There might even have been celebration.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

This Week's Playlist

This week, I decided to go with some instrumentals this week.  I had a few problems because I told myself that I would select no more than two songs from any one artists (I don't have as much instrumental only music).  But by the same token, it opens up some other genres that I have been moving into a bit more.  So enjoy this list.

"Storm" by Vanessa Mae.  A violin virtuoso who plays regular classical and crossover classical on different albums.  This song is a crossover that is pretty solid musically.
"Acoustic Curves" by Animusic.  Saw this song and video on PBS a few years ago and was enthralled.  This is not animation set to music, it is music that drives the animation.  Check them out here.
"Vein Melter" by Herbie Hancock.  What can you say about the man and the album ("Headhunters") that changed the face and sound of jazz.  Mellow groove and brilliant writing.
"Flatbush and Church Revisited" by Vernon Reid & Masque.  Living Colour's guitarist Reid's "side project" shows that Reid is not just about the gravelly guitar work that made Living Colour great, but that he can play with so many different styles.  This song is brilliant, clean and demonstrates that that Reid is one of the most underrated guitarists around.
"Kashmir" by Bond.  Say what you will about Bond, a manufactuered classical string quartet who makes dance music (and look good while doing it), any classical quartet that takes on a Led Zeppelin classic is brilliant.
"Baluchitherium" by Van Halen.  Most Van Halen instrumentals are usually Eddie Van Halen and his guitar but this one is definitely a song to hear.  Eddie is brilliant on the guitar and the rhythm section of Alex Van Halen and Michael Anthony show why they are among the best.
"Zap (Live)" by Eric Johnson.  Unless you follow guitarists, you might not know about Johnson, but his guitar work is distinclty influenced by his Texas roots and is certainly clean.  This live cut is from a tour he did with Joe Satriani and Steve Vai.
"Wormhole Wizards" by Joe Satriani.  This is my favorite track from Satriani's most recent album, Black Swans and Wormhole Wizards.  This is classic Satriani, a song with great guitar work, but the album is working in other instruments a bit more.
"Reel Around the Sun" by 12 Girls Band.  This group of 13 women (only 12 are on stage at one time) playing traditional Chinese instruments take on a classic song from "Riverdance" and make it work so well.
"Answers (Live)" by Steve Vai.  One of the most creative and ambitious guitarists around, Vai makes one of his older songs very fresh in a live setting.
"YYZ (Live)" by Rush.  Behind Neal Peart's lyrics, it might be hard to forget that the Canadian trio are also fantastic musicians.  This instrumental from "Moving Pictures" really solidified my liking of the band (which got better as Geddy Lee stopped trying to shout/sing and just sing in a more natural range for him).
"Highly Strung" by Orianthi.  Steve Vai makes another appearance on this list, teaming with the young Australian woman who has impressed Vai, Carlos Santana and Michael Jackson (Orianthi was hired to be Jackson's guitarist on the King of Pop's tour that didn't happen).  Technically sound, lots of fun and proves that Orianthi is not just a hot guitarist, but a guitarist who happens to be hot (and can sing).
"Banana Mango 2" by Joe Satriani.  This is my second cut from Satriani (of my limit of two).  This piece includes some really fun rhythm and drums in addition to some brilliant technique from Satriani.
"Fuego" by Bond.  I love this song and like the Spanish influence.
"Cathedral" by Van Halen.  A short technique piece from Van Halen that sounds much more like a viola or cello than a guitar.
"Pipe Dream" by Animusic.  A much more rhythm/drums piece that if someone could do it live with vibraphones, xylophones and other percussion would be absolutely brilliant.
"Doll" by Keiko Matsui.  Another jazz entry, I heard this song at the movie theater in the pre-show entertainment.  I thought it a fantastic piece and got me interested in Mastui.  There are many other much better songs by Matsui, but I will never forget this one.
"Lily Was Here (DNA Remix" by Candy Dulfer.  I love the interplay of saxophone and guitar in this jazz piece.
"Home Blues" by The 5 Browns.  This classical piece contains a guest appearance by Chris Botti and just mesmerizes me.  I just love this piece.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Ban the Glocks

This kind of an op-ed piece took longer than I expected to appear:

If Loughner had gone to the Safeway carrying a regular pistol, the kind most Americans think of when they think of the right to bear arms, Giffords would probably still have been shot and we would still be having that conversation about whether it was a sane idea to put her Congressional district in the cross hairs of a rifle on the Internet.

But we might not have lost a federal judge, a 76-year-old church volunteer, two elderly women, Giffords’s 30-year-old constituent services director and a 9-year-old girl who had recently been elected to the student council at her school and went to the event because she wanted to see how democracy worked.

Loughner’s gun, a 9-millimeter Glock, is extremely easy to fire over and over, and it can carry a 30-bullet clip. It is “not suited for hunting or personal protection,” said Paul Helmke, the president of the Brady Campaign. “What it’s good for is killing and injuring a lot of people quickly.”

Yes, the events in Tuscon are a tragedy of irreducible proportions for those who lost a loved one.  But the reaction cannot be "let's ban all Glocks."  First, I am not sure if we know that Loughner got the Glock legally or illegally.  Whose to say that if the Glock was a banned weapon that he wouldn't have been able to obtain one anyway.

You know what surprises me?  That someone else didn't shoot Loughner to stop him.  If Arizona is so "gun crazy" why didn't that happen?

Paul Krugman Is an Idiot

Generally, that is hard for me to say about anyone, most particuarly someone who has won a Nobel Prize for something other than the Peace Prize, but with his latest little diatribe, found here, I have no choice but to call Krugman an idiot and most importantly an influential idiot.

In the wake of the shooting of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords and Judge John Roll and the other men, women and girls who lost their life, Krugman is, like most media outlets, blaming the conservatives and/or Tea Party (I am not sure which).   So let's take a look at what Krugman has to write--about the right.
Last spring reported on a surge in threats against members of Congress, which were already up by 300 percent.
Now that little gem comes with absolutely no link or any citation other than a general time frame and website--hardly the kind of documentation that a Nobel Laureate should be engaged in.  The New York Times editors didn't even provide a link (but they did find and include a link to a Homeland Security report about right-wing extremism and one of Krugman's own pieces about from 2008 about the campaign.) I have no idea if threats to members of Congress have increased 300 percent, but I do know this.  If you have 10 threats in one year and 40 threats the next year, that is a 300 percent increase.  While every threat is of concern, 40 isn't really all that much.  By the way if you go to and run a search on "Threats," "Threats of violence" or "Threats to Congress" in teh time of Feb 1, 2010 to August 1, 2010, you don't get any reports of a 300 percent increase in the number of threats to Congress. 

The point is that there’s room in a democracy for people who ridicule and denounce those who disagree with them; there isn’t any place for eliminationist rhetoric, for suggestions that those on the other side of a debate must be removed from that debate by whatever means necessary.

OK so far.  Pretty fairly balanced.  Both parties have been guilty in the past of uncivil discourse (Krugman included).  There isn't any place in civil politics for the kind of vitriol that sometimes passes for political discussion.  So Krugman is okay here.

And it’s the saturation of our political discourse — and especially our airwaves — with eliminationist rhetoric that lies behind the rising tide of violence.

Here's where start seeing the punch coming.  "Espcially our airwaves" is Krugman speak for conservative talk radio and to a lesser extent cable shows.  The fact is that conservative talk radio dominates the airwaves because it connects to people in their everyday lives.  Air America sucked because it didn't entertain or enlighten people or make them think.  I would welcome more liberal shows, but they don't last because they can't draw an audience, which means they can't draw advertisers which is necessary to make money.  But I digress.

Where’s that toxic rhetoric coming from? Let’s not make a false pretense of balance: it’s coming, overwhelmingly, from the right. It’s hard to imagine a Democratic member of Congress urging constituents to be “armed and dangerous” without being ostracized; but Representative Michele Bachmann, who did just that, is a rising star in the G.O.P.

And there’s a huge contrast in the media. Listen to Rachel Maddow or Keith Olbermann, and you’ll hear a lot of caustic remarks and mockery aimed at Republicans. But you won’t hear jokes about shooting government officials or beheading a journalist at The Washington Post. Listen to Glenn Beck or Bill O’Reilly, and you will.

And BAM!! There's the punch.  According to Krugman (and the rest of his leftist elitists mates), Rep. Giffords lies in a hospital and families are burying loved ones because of Michelle Bachman or Sarah Palin or Glenn Beck or Rush Limbaugh.  Make no mistake, that is exactly what Paul Krugman wants you to believe.  Some crackpot goes a-shootin and it is the fault of the political right.  

Of course, the political left would never do such a thing.  Nope, Keith Olberman would never says someon is the worst person in the world.  Oh, wait.  The political left would never compare a conservative leader with Hitler....oh, wait--sorry.  The political left would never forget that they regularly get called on the carpet for excessive vitriol.  Oops, forgot this little bit.  No the left doesn't hate.

Oh, forget being crafty with my language, just go check this not so little collection of leftist hate.

Are we as a nation politically divided.  Yep.  Is there too much hate in our political discourse--maybe.  But let's not forget, Mr. Krugman, it takes two sides to have a fight and perhaps it would behoove you to put those vaunted academic skills to use a d do a little research before spraying around such unsupported statements as leftist commentators would never spew hate speech.

Wednesday, January 05, 2011

Memory Hole: The Debt Ceiling Debate

The Washington Examiner editorial today gives us a reminder of the not so distant past:
[Chairman of the White House Council of Economic Advisers Austan] Goolsbee should consult a floor speech delivered not so long ago by a certain member of Congress who offered this counterargument to automatic debt ceiling increases: "The fact that we are here today to debate raising America's debt limit is a sign of leadership failure. ... It is a sign that we now depend on ongoing financial assistance from foreign countries to finance our government's reckless fiscal policies." Which die-hard Tea Party wingnut said that? It was none other than Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., speaking on the Senate floor in 2006 just before he voted against raising the debt ceiling.

Oh how the view changes when the job title and control changes.

Therein lies the problem, too many politicians change their view or at least their expressed view when it suits them. If raising the debt ceiling in 2006 was a bad thing (regardless of who was in control of the purse strings) then it is bad policy in 2011. Seriously, a little consistency would go a long way.

Tuesday, January 04, 2011

This Week's Playlist

This week's playlist features songs with lyrics that I love or have a turn of phrase that for some reason simply resonates with me.  So with each song, I have put in one lyric (which may be one of many in the song) that just worked its  way into my head.

  1. "Tears of Yesterday" by Hoobastank:  "I write your name in my breath on the window, sit and watch as it fades away."
  2. "Citizen Soldier" by 3 Doors Down:  "For when they simply need a place to make their bed/right here underneath my wing you can rest your head."
  3. "I'm Not Running Anymore by John Mellencamp:  "Well I got two circus clowns who like to fight/they've got one black eye and a bloody nose.  They are the hoodlums of my third wife/whatever I say they will oppose."
  4. "Scenes from an Italian Restaurant by Billy Joel: "And the king and the queen went back to the Green but you can never go back there again."
  5. "The Devil Went Down to Georgia" by the Charlie Daniels Band:  "My name is Johnny and it might be a sin, but I'll take your bet, you're gonna regret cause I'm the best that's ever been"
  6. "Mine All Mine" by Van Halen.  "Some only see what they want to see, claiming victory oh but that's not me.  Gimme a truth, gimme something real.  I just wanna feel that it's mine, all mine."
  7. "This is My Song" by Carbonleaf.  "My name is Hope, Luck just ran out.  He said he'd  return without a doubt, ah but don't you believe him.  Oh I happen to have a message from Love, she told she knows what you've been dreaming of."
  8. "Grey Street" by Dave Matthews Band.  "There's a stranger who speaks outside her door, says 'Take what you can from your dreams, make them as real as anything.  Ohh, it'll take the work out of the courage.'"
  9. "Hysteria" by Def Leppard.  "When you get that feeling, when you start believing."
  10. "Bobby Jean" by Bruce Springsteen:  "You'll hear me sing this song, if you do you'll know I'm thinking of you and all the miles in between. And I'm just calling one last time, not to change your mind, just to say I miss you babe, good luck, good bye, Bobby Jean."
  11. "If You Only Knew" by Shinedown:  "I don't regret any days I spent, nights we shared or letters that we sent."
  12. "Twentysomething" by Jamie Cullum:  "Who knows the answers, who do you trust.  I can't even separate love from lust." 
  13. "3x5" by John Mayer.  "Didn't have a camera by my side this time, hoping I would see the world through both my eyes."
  14. "Nothingness" by Living Colour:  "This is the place I call my own, I live with the lies and the fear all alone."
  15. "Solosbury Hill" by Peter Gabriel:  "TOday I don't need a replacement, I tell them what the smile on my face meant, my heart going boom, boom, boom, "Hey," I said, "You can keep my things, they've come to take me home."
  16. "Time Stands Still" by Rush:  "I turn my back to the wind, to catch my breath before I start off again/ Driven on without a moment to spend and pass the evening with a drink and a friend"
  17. "Home Again" by Queensryche.  "For me it wasn't easy to raise the flag and leave, but I thought that you should know how much you mean to me.  I won't be there to see you dance or hear you sing the songs we love, so please be strong, it won't be long till I'm home again."
  18. "The River" by Bruce Springsteen.  "Is a dream a lie if it don't come true, or is it something worse?" 
  19. "It's Probably Me" by Sting.  "The jury's out, your eyes search the room but one friendly face is all you need to see.  If there's one guy, just one guy who'll lay down his life for you and die, its hard to say, I hate to say it, it's probably me."
  20. "Departure Bay" by Diana Krall:  "The fading scent of summertime, arbutus trees and firs, the glistening of rain soaked moss, going to the Dairy Queen at dusk."
There it is.  These is not everything, but I have always admired the way songwriters can put together a series of words and phrases to evoke an image, a feeling, or a thought.  Couple with music, the impact is palpable.  I can hear these phrases and lyrics and reconstruct the entire song in my head.  That is what makes these lyrics to powerful for me.