Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Dear Environmental Lobby--Pick 1 Please

Bird group calls for end to wind energy due to threats to species.

Don't get up in my face about the need for more wind energy and then get all uppity when those big honkin' windmills start killing birds that fly into them.

There is a reason why coal, natural gas and nuclear work so well--not as much bird damage there.

A Media Double Standard


Remember almost four years ago, when Don Imus was hounded off the air and suspended for two weeks for calling some players of the Rutgers University Women's Basketball team "nappy-headed hos." Was it a smart thing to say? Nope. Was it a funny thing to say? Probably not. Should Imus have been suspended? Yeah, I think so. Imus is back on the air and I think he has learned a lesson-but whom am I to know.

When Imus said what he said, the liberal left was all up in arms. There were calls for him to be fired, including calls by one would-be president junior Senator from Illinois named Barack Obama, who at the time opposed Imus returning to the air. CBS and MSNBC stopped carrying Imus in the Morning, but eventually Imus returned to the air.

So why rehash all this history? Because Bill Maher should be taken off the air for terms more derogatory, more insensitive and demeaning to more than a dozen young women who probably shouldn't have been insulted by Imus, but had. Bill Maher has called former Governor Sarah Palin and U.S. Representative Michelle Bachman, names that SHOULD make everyone's blood boil, having called the two conservative women "dumb twats," "bimbos" and "cunt." The Daily Caller's Amy Siskind writes:
Mr. Maher’s most recent string of vulgar comments has little to do with political party, and everything to do with his utter contempt for women.

Mr. Maher’s use of the terms dumb twat, bimbos, and cunt hurts not only Rep. Bachmann and Gov. Palin, but each and every mother, daughter and wife.

Mr. Maher’s statements reveal his belief that rather than criticizing or questioning a woman on her positions or ideas, it is acceptable and appropriate to demean and diminish her by sexualizing her or presuming that, because she’s a woman, she’s unintelligent.

But while the National Organization for Women has criticized Maher for his statements, there does not seem to be a lot of calls to push the "comedian" off the air. Maher was almost fired by HBO for referring to Hillary Clinton's lady parts in a derogatory fashion. (Note: Maher didn't call Hillary Clinton the c-word, only referred to it as somehow worth more money that seeing Janet Jackson's nipple) If it was almost a firing offense to do it once, why isn't a repeat of the offense a firing offense?

The lack of truly public outcry for Maher's ouster is indicates yet another media double standard. It is not okay to call young black women "hos" but is it okay to call conservative, elected leaders and former elected leaders "bimbos" and "dumb twats" and worse. Good to now that the media has standards, that HBO has standards and that Bill Maher can be insulting to women in such a public and personal manner and still collect a paycheck.

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Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Scarborough on Hypcoris

The hypocrisy of the American left by Joe Scarborough at
That extremism required that the Bush years be filled with images of CODEPINK protesting on Capitol Hill, anti-war activists clogging the streets of New York City and left-wing commentators beating their chests with the self-righteous indignation of Jim and Tammy Faye Bakker.

But in the morally murky afterglow of the Obama years, the certainty of these secular saints has melted away.

President Barack Obama bowed to his generals’ demands by tripling troops in an unending war. CODEPINK did nothing.

Obama backed down on Guantanamo Bay. Anti-war protesters stayed at home.

America invaded its third Muslim country in a decade. The American left meekly went along. Without the slightest hint of irony, liberals defended the president’s indefensible position by returning again to a pose of moral certainty.

Democrats streamed to the floors of the House and Senate to praise the president for invading Libya. It was, after all, a moral mission that would stop the slaughter of innocent civilians. Whether protesting for peace or calling for war, these liberals once again convinced themselves of the moral superiority of their positions.

While one can make the moral argument that countries can be attacked strictly on humanitarian grounds, that argument is laughable when it comes to Libya.

How can the left call for the ouster of Muammar Qadhafi for the sin of killing hundreds of Libyans when it opposed the war waged against Saddam Hussein? During Saddam’s two decades in Iraq, he killed more Muslims than anyone in history and used chemical weapons against his own people and neighboring states.


Katrina vanden Heuvel, one of the few liberals to take a principled stand against what America is doing in Libya, has written in The Nation that the anti-war left has been silent since Obama took office because they don’t want to hurt the president’s reelection chances.

In defending Obama’s Libya offensive, they are compromising their own morals. The American left is also making it abundantly clear that it does not find all wars morally reprehensible — only those begun by Republicans.

As I am sure Scarborough knows--this kind of moral relativism is not new nor is it unique to the Left either.

When a nation chooses a military option, it must do so in a clear way, with a clear understanding of the moral, national security and global implications. I fear that this Administration is not clear on any of them.

I am also not sure whose side we are on. In domestic politics, it is a far more tenable position to be in support of a notion than to simply be opposed to a position. If you are simply opposed to something, the inevitable question will be what is your alternative or suggested solution. If you are simply anti-"something" you have nothing to offer.

I fear we are in similar situation. The President has determined that Ghaddafy must go. But that is just an anti-Ghaddafy stance--who should be in charge when Ghaddafy is gone? The President has no idea or at least he has not articulated one. But that hasn't stopped the President's cheerleaders from supporting him-despite the complete lack of a moral foundation that any of his supporters have. Like so many politicians and their supporters have done in the past, the President and his liberal/left support structure are focused simply on winning in 2012. They have made no effort to understand the long view.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

South Dakota Institutes a Waiting Period to Get an Abortion

The waiting period is 72-hour wait between consultation and abortion. As Ann Althouse noted, "Under the case law, "the means chosen by the State to further the interest in potential life must be calculated to inform the woman's free choice, not hinder it.""

Of course there is going to be a court challenge, so the battle will join again. Once again we will see hypocrisy on both sides. But let me lay out a big hypocrisy that the political left simply will not be able to overcome:

Why is it okay for a woman to choose to end a life (and make no mistake that is what she is doing) without waiting for three days but at the same time, the people who advocate for the "right to choose" think that it is right to make a woman who wants to buy a gun for self-protection should have to wait?

The hypocrisy on the political right is that they claim to stand for personal freedom, individual choice, but want to deny a private choice because of their ideology. Neither side has a consistent stand on the matter.

Both sides are guilty of abandoning their principles in order to impose on someone a moral choice they think superior to all others. That particularly high horse ridden by each side chafes me to no end. But there is another aspect of abortion law that bothers me:

Where are the father's rights in this matter? Leave aside cases of rape and incest because they are special circumstances where the father of the child has forfeited any say in the matter, in other cases why doesn't the father get a say? Of course, women will argue "it is my body that the child is in?" That is true, but unless the woman got pregnant by artificial insemination or immaculate conception, in order for that child to have been created--the woman had to share her body with the father. The resulting child is genetically half the father. If the child is born, then the father has rights, but the political left's response is that during the gestation period the father has no rights. That is wrong, it is a narcissistic self-delusion and it thinks the worst of men.

Of course, lots of people will ask, what do you think? Well, let me start with my base position: I could never counsel a woman to get an abortion. Call it morality, call it conservative, call it what you will, I just don't think I could do it in good conscience. Yet, if a law makes a woman wait to think about the consequences of her actions, and she considers them, and still decides to move forward with the abortion, it is not my place nor should it be the state's place to stand in the way. Will the law have an effect on reducing the number of abortions? I don't know and we may never know if the law is struck down. But if the law simply says you have to wait and does nothing else, what is the harm to the choice options of the woman?

I have no evidence to believe that before seeking to obtain an abortion a woman has not considered the implications of her actions. By the same token I don't have any evidence to support that they do think about either. So what is the harm in waiting? If it is such a problem, could not the woman simply go to another state that doesn't have a three day waiting period to get an abortion?

I fail to see how this law in any way restricts a woman's "right" to get an abortion.
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Yes, Violence Can be the Answer

That is the headline at American Thinker in reaction to the viral video of an Australian kid who decided to turn the tables on the kids who had bullied him mercilessly for years, including responding that day to actual punch in the face. I think Casey Heynes was fully within his rights as a human being to react as he did and, given what we have learned about the history of bullying Mr. Heynes endured, he fact that Mr Heynes didn't body slam his tormentors earlier is a demonstration of patience that I think a lot of kids wouldn't have.

Or, as American Thinker's Selwyn Duke points out--the fact that Mr. Heynes didn't react sooner may be attributed to the "experts" who say that violence is not the answer to any situation.

What a mountain of rubbish. Violence may not be THE answer, but violence is AN answer and in some circumstances the best answer.

Should violence be the first response to a problem? That depends greatly upon the problem. Should a country tolerate an attack by foreign power on its own soil and say, pretty please--don't do that again? No. Could the country try a diplomatic solution? Sure and it might work or it might not. Maybe violence--controlled violence in the form of a military strike--is the proper response.

The so-called "experts" will say that violence is not the answer and do so with regularity. But how much should a bullying victim endure? I would guess that Mr. Heynes had complained to his teachers, parents, and/or school administrators. I would not be surprised if his tormentors had not been suspended or otherwise disciplined for their actions. But what had it gotten Mr. Heynes? No doubt once released from their punishment, his tormentors resumed their activities. What had non-violence gotten Mr. Heynes?

As Duke writes:

Yes, Casey could have done a ‘50s-style duck-and-cover. Hey, kid, don't you know you should just cower and curl up into a ball? And, for sure, violence is never the answer...except with the Nazis, Mussolini, and Napoleon; during the American Revolution, the Barbary Wars, and the Battle of Tours; and when stopping the criminals during the North Hollywood Shootout, University of Texas Tower Shooting, and incidents every single day in which someone, somewhere uses physical force to thwart a crime. It's never the answer -- except, sometimes, when you actually have to deal with reality.
Mr. Heynes reality is not one that the experts were dealing with. The experts were not being subjected to verbal and physical abuse. Duke quotes another expert:
Perhaps he'll take the advice of another expert, child psychologist Susan Bartell, and find some other way to "manage" it. When analyzing Casey's response, she said, "A better course of action...would have been for him to walk away. Would have been for him to immediately take the power away from the bully, who was punching him in the face, and just run away, walk away...." "Take the power away from the bully...."
Take the power away from the bully by walking away--walking away. Really? Mr. Heynes had probably walked away dozens of times and he had not take the "bully's power" away. The only way these bully's were going to have their "power" taken from them was by force. Mr. Heynes no doubt tried what the experts say he should, walk away, ignore the bullies, talk to adults, etc. But the final humiliation, being punched in the face on video, was the last straw and Mr. Heynes took the bully's power by taking it from them by force. Mr. Heynes walked away from his tormentors with the sure knowledge that he responded with the only message these bullies can understand--violence.

I do not believe that violence should be the first answer in human relations, but neither do I think it is necessarily the absolute last resort. I do believe that there is a proper of amount of violence that can be applied to counter a violence visited upon you. The problem with these so-called experts is the almost patent hypocrisy. Would they be preaching non-violence if a criminal (and that is what these bullies are because the committed a battery on videotape and probably multiple assaults over time) was assaulting their own family? Would they go look for an "adult" or "police officer?" Or would they show a backbone and resist?

I know what I would do if someone is assaulting my family and I can assure you that the criminal will not be walking away. I will stand "trial" for my "crime" of using violence to stop violence every day and twice on Sunday without blinking, without fear and secure in the knowledge that I did right.

Mr. Heynes, I salute you, you didn't try violence first, but your reaction was right and the "experts" were wrong.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Obama Is OK with Off Shore Drilling--Just Not Our Shores

According to this AFP report, during his recent visit to Brazil, President Obama and the U.S. Export-Import Bank "announced $2 billion in credit to Brazilian state-run oil giant Petrobras, Latin America's biggest company, which aims to become one of the world's biggest oil producers in coming years." Where will that drilling take place--yep off Brazil's shores.

So a drilling moratorium for American oil production but a $2 billion credit card for a Brazilian company to drill for oil off its own shores.

Yeah, that works for American energy independence.

The word you are looking for is hypocrisy.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Victor Davis Hanson--Lots on His Mind and I Share His Concern

In America Through the Looking Glass, a piece on Pajamas Media, Hanson talks about a number of issues:

For two weeks, the administration was largely quiet about the unrest in Libya until the insurgents began taking entire cities and seemed on the verge of closing in on Gaddafi’s Tripoli. Then President Obama called on Gaddafi to step down and stop the “unacceptable” level of violence. But things then got worse, not better, once Gaddafi began to employ a level of violence that his ilk counts on to stay in power (cf. Assad in Syria or Ahmadinejad in Iran). So at last we announced a funny sort of no-fly-zone, inasmuch as Gaddafi can put down the rebellion without use of his planes and gunships.
So, President Obama does nothing while civil unrest--like that seen in Tunisia, Egypt, Bahrain and other places grows. We do nothing to fan the flames of freedom, we do nothing to put a halt to Gaddafi's brutal response. Then when the brutality gets too many headlines on CNN and the President has finished his NCAA Bracket--we get the most wishy-washy, mealy-mouthed response. Where is Ronald Reagan, where is George W. Bush, hell at this point I would take a Bill Clinton--at least they had a real response. You either hated the response or you loved the response-but at least you knew it was a response. What is this action by the President?

Debt is now the father of us all. In some sense, every cruise missile fired, every Social Security check cashed, ever NPR show aired is done so in part with borrowed money. In response, the president saw the impending doom of insolvency, appointed a bipartisan commission to draft a solution, and then ignored his own appointees’ recommendations. So far the excuse is largely that George Bush ran up debt as well, although last month Obama’s red-ink exceeded the entire 2007 budget deficit under Bush — 30 days of Obama trumping 365 of Bush.
Well all know that debt is a problem, my larger concern is the inability of this Administration to own up to its spending habit. Further irritating me is that this Administration continues to blame George W. Bush. I didn't like the spending Bush did, I think it was wrong in some regards. But I have never, ever, in my lifetime or in my reading of history heard of one President blaming his predecessor for so long. Sure, Obama inherited a fiscal mess--but this Administration has done little to clean it up and in fact has added piles of debt to the nation's balance sheet. Even my kids eventually admit that they did something wrong after blaming their sibling--but not this President. He seems oblivious.

Double Standards:
There is no longer a “war on terror,” and we are to understand that its former components — tribunals, renditions, preventative detention, Guantanamo, Predator assassinations, Iraq, the Patriot Act, wiretapping, and intercepts — were as subversive to the Constitution under Bush as they are essential to our security under Obama.
So if it was bad under Bush--why isn't it as bad under Obama. The difference is clear--in 2008 Obama was a candidate not responsible for the saftety and security of 330 million Americans. The world looks a lot different when you pick up that burden. The fact is, the Constitution is a document designed to protect the American People from the American Government. The document does not protect those who would do our Nation harm. Cross our nation, feel her wrath--that is the what the World needs to understand.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Brilliant--But Read Through to the Punchline

Bill Ferriter--satire extraordinaire!

A Modest Proposal for March Madness

Like I said, wait for the punchline it is great!

Haunted by the Past

What were you doing fifteen years ago?  Did you engage in a legal activity?  Did you do something illegal?  Do you regret what you were doing 15 years ago?  Does anyone care?

Well, if 15 years ago you appeared in a pornographic movie--you might lose your job--not once but twice.  That is the story of Tera Myers, AKA Terika Dye, AKA Rikki Andersin.  Ms. Myers, 15 years ago, when she was 23, was apparently broke and so chose to appear in a porn film.  She was clearly above the age of consent, made a decision, made a pay check, and did nothing illegal.  In fact, she probably did nothing that she hadn't done in her personal life, the difference is that her escapades were captured on film.  So, after a student found out and reported her to the school system, Ms. Myers is now without a job, having resigned.

But this is not the first time that Ms. Myers lost her job after being outed as a former porn actress.  But just I like a blogged about almost five years ago, forcing Myers to resign sends the wrong, and inconsistent message.  If Mrs. Myers had been appearing in porn videos while employed as a teacher--then there is a case for the violation of a morals clause.  But it is just an argument--not necessarily cause for her firing.

How many teachers out there, young and old, have gone out, had a few drinks and driven home.  That activity is illegal (the drinking and driving--not the drinking).  But teachers who are convicted of DUI are not routinely fired.  But a bigger question is how many teacher drank and drove 15 years ago--before they were teachers.  Probably more than a few, but we don't fire teachers for that activity that happened in the past--an activity that was and is illegal.  Where is the line to be drawn?  What is Ms. Myers has appeared topless in a magainze?  What if she had appeared nude in a magazine?  Would it matter if the magazine were say GQ or Details as opposed to Playboy or Hustler?  What about appearing nude in a magazine with a man or another woman?  What is Ms. Myers was briefly topless in a "mainstream" movie?  What if Ms. Myers has appeared in an R rated movie nude but not in a sex scene?  What is she has appeared nude in a sex scene in an R rated movie?  What about soft core porn, where the sex is explicit but actual penetration is not shown?

Not a single one of these activities is illegal.   But where in that list of options does someone cross a line into immoral behavior?  Where is the line?  More importantly who gets to define where that line exists?

Ms. Myers is described by the New York Post (admittedly not the most circumspect of papers) as "buxom" "blond" and so, if she is attractive (and the picture in the New York Post is not the most flattering), she is almost assuredly the subject of her male students adolescent comments and fantasies.  Why should the fact that Ms. Meyers has a past change that?  Just because a few sexual acts were captured on film doesn't mean that her male (and perhaps some female) students can't imagine it for themselves.

Joanne Jacbos wonders if Ms. Myers should lose her job?  My answer is no.  This is nothing more than a morality police double standard.  If you want to fire a teacher for past illegal activity--you might actually have a problem--if it was disclosed.  But no employment questionnaire that I have ever seen asks if you did anything 15 years ago that is "immoral" based on someone else's unstated standard.  What Myers did was not illegal and in my and many other people's book, not immoral.  You may not agree with her choices, but it is not immoral.
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Saturday, March 12, 2011

Changing the Way We Train Teachers

One of my absolute favorite education writers is teacher Bill Ferrirter and he puts the spotlight on a facet of teacher education that I had long suspected but for which I never had any empirical or even anecdotal proof: teacher education does actually prepare a person to be a teacher.  In Redefining Teacher Education, Ferriter writes: 

The thing is that despite being protective of my profession—teaching really does require unique knowledge and skill that few people outside of education actually understand—I’m ready for people to start questioning teacher preparation programs delivered by colleges of education.

Here’s why: I didn’t learn a darn thing in five years of higher education—including the graduate work that earns me a 10% annual salary stipend here in NC—that actually prepared me to be a classroom teacher.

In fact, I think I'd go as far as to say that outside of a course on Constructivism and an adolescent psychology class taught by a professor that I still quote to this day, my degrees were essentially exercises in professional hoop-jumping—an expensive prerequisite for employment that did little to help me once I was actually employed.
I am 99% sure that most teachers feel the same way, but very few of them will ever admit it.  For that reason alone, I admire Ferriter's honesty. 

As an attorney, I can attest to the fact that law school has very little to do with the actual practice of law, that is the day in, day out practice of law.  However, perhaps unlike teacher education, a legal education does provide the basic skills necessary to be a successful lawyer, but it takes a few years of apprenticeship with an experience attorney to actual become a good lawyer. Sure there are some people who can exit law school, pass the bar and be a successful solo practitioner without working at a law firm under experienced lawyers.  Similarly, there are teachers who can exit college and be effective teachers from day one.  But I know such lawyers are very rate and I suspect that such teachers are very rare as well.

Ferriter's solution:
Easy: Start by requiring longer apprenticeships for pre-service educators. And---as Louise mentions in a particularly insightful comment below---require that at least a part of that apprenticeship be spent working in the field that a teacher is going to be certified in.
Do you know how much actual full-time teaching I did before becoming certified as a teacher?
About 8 weeks.

Sure—I went on a school visit here or there. I also spent another 6-8 weeks observing my cooperating teachers in the senior year of my education program.
But I only had about 8 weeks of full-time experience with students before I was licensed for life. The rest of my 5 YEARS of college preparation was spent strapped into seats in lecture halls listening to professors drone on about collaborative learning for hours on end.

And do you know how much time I spent working with other geographers, journalists or scientists---the fields that I'm supposedly qualified to prepare my students to enter?
Not one day.
Can it really be that simple?  Given my belief that Ferriter has spent some significant time thinking about this problem, I dare say--yes.  To be it seems imminently logical.  It is a two step process--learn the subject matter that you will teach and learn how to teach in a real environment with real students under the guidance of an experienced, effective and knowledgeable teacher. 

So why isn't that done more?  I dare say that too stringent and too lengthy a process affects the ability of the teaching profession to attract practitioners to replace the turnover that happens in teaching.  But I think that the teachers unions should embrace a more stringent licensure and apprenticeship process--it increases the value of the teaching license.

Let's face it, unless you are a convicted felon or a sex offender, most college educated individuals can pass the testing requirements to get a teaching license.  Now before teachers jump down my throat, I didn't say that the person would be a good teacher, I just mean to say that the academic and testing standards for a teaching license are not particularly high compared to other licenses professionals, such as engineers or doctors.  I firmly believe the standards should be much stronger and it should be more difficult to get a teaching license, but that has been the subject of other posts

So while the testing and academic standards could be higher, what Ferriter and I are arguing is that before a lifetime license is granted to a teacher, they should be spending a lot more time in front of students.  I would suspect that prospective teachers spend their final two years of teacher education in a classroom, everyday, with constant evaluation, before even being eligible for a teaching license. 

If policy makers don't want to listen to me, they should listen to guys like Bill Ferriter. 

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Friday, March 11, 2011

Then Do Something About It

Matthew Tabor has a post on his very good blog titled Grass is Green, Sky is Blue (as Rome Burns or Something) where he talks about the annual Metlife Survey of the American Teacher. Matthew pulls this quote from the study regarding the aspirations of students wanting to go to college and the actual realities:
That could be a challenge for some, however, as teachers surveyed said only about 63 percent of their students would be prepared for college without taking remedial coursework. Teachers estimated about half of their students would graduate from college.

Matthew asks why that little nugget is not a headline. I have a more important question:

If teachers are aware of the lack of preparation--then why isn't more being done to prepare the students for college without needing remedial work?

Wednesday, March 09, 2011

David Border, Dead at 81

David Broder has passed away from complications arising from diabetes.

I didn't always agree with Broder, but I did always admire his writing.

My condolences to his family.

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About that Obama Care Waiver for the Entire State of Maine

Look, I like the state of Maine, I really do. The folks from Maine that I have met are a good lot, and anyone who regularly deals with that crap weather the get a lot of deserves some respect. But Maine got a golden ticket from the Obama Care mandates when the entire state got a waiver. As John Hayward points out:
Since society as a whole benefits from universal access to the “basic human right” of health care, the Left thinks it’s fair to total up the cost and spread it across the entire population.

But now we’ve got over a thousand waivers to ObamaCare, including one that applies to an entire state. Everyone is not paying for government-run health insurance, at least not equally. Some corporate and union entities are granted permission to step outside the system. What kind of “universal” solution doesn’t apply to everyone?

From long ago, there was an engineering principle that boiled down to this: Better, Faster, Cheaper--choose any two. You generally cannot create something new that encompasses all three features. You can choose two unless you are willing to compromise on all three.

With health care there is a triumvirate of features as well: Universal, Comprehensive, Affordable--choose only two. The problem with universal health care (if that indeed is the goal of Obama Care--which it won't accomplish by the way) is that if you want it truly universal--you can only have one of the other two features. If ObamaCare was intended to be affordable by forcing everyone to pay--how does the notion of waivers play into that plan. It is clear that not everyone will be subject to the rules, including the entire state of Maine. Hayward is right--it can't be universal if it doesn't apply to everyone.

But the key fact to look at is the reason why Maine needed a waiver: the state has only three insurance companies that market individual plans and if required to comply with Obama Care, one of those companies might leave the market--not will--might. And that assumes that no other company will come into the market.

Waivers are being granted on mere speculation and self-serving statements. I have no doubt that insurance companies are going to close--there might not be a way for them to make money under the Obama Care scheme. But the reason for them going out of business is created by the very government granting the waivers. The regulatory structure of mandates and coverage requirements makes it impossible for insurance companies to make money and why is a company in business if not to make money?

But a larger concern is beginning to creep in: what if the general rule of Obama Care is swallowed by the growing list of exceptions. Where will it lead? Is it good policy to have a rule or law that is so riddled with exceptions that the structure of the law can no longer stand under its own weight?
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Nice--This is What Gov. Scott Walker is Dealing With

One Wisconsin Democrat says…if people don’t like paying union dues that are used to support Dem candidates, they can always get another job. I would be all for it, reducing the government payroll, but yeah, we are in a time of 10% unemployment.

Say it with me: Not Gonna Happen.

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Funny/Not Funny

Daily Pundit » Funny/Not Funny

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Rep. Alcee Hastings Sued for Sexual Harassment of Former Aide

Rep. Alcee Hastings Sued for Sexual Harassment of Former Aide. The Florida Congressman is a former federal judge, who had been impeached from his judicial post for corruption.

Yeah, I am not sure how he got elected either.

Surf's Up

This is why the federal budget is so hard to trim, tiny cuts and big complaints,

In the context of federal spending that will total something like $3.8 trillion this year, $61 billion is a rounding error. Yet the Democrats resisting that amount in House-approved cuts say it will wreck the economy while leaving children unschooled, taking food from the mouths of the elderly, and casting disabled people into the streets.
Laughter is the only appropriate response to such predictions. In these absurd times, when both parties quibble over crumbs while the layer cake of debt rises higher and higher, laughter is a mark of fiscal seriousness.
Yet, when we talking of a 1.6 percent reduction in spending, you would think the apocalypse is just around the corner.  Want an example?  Here is one from Sen. Harry Reid (D-NV) and this is pretty mild.

Speaking of accounting problems:  That $6.5 billion in spending cuts proposed by Democrats--yeah not so much.  The Congressional Budget Office says it is really $4.7 billion.  Love that fuzzy math.

Another Governor doing somethings right, this time in Puerto Rico.
Since coming into power in 2009, Gov. Luis Fortuño  (R-Puerto Rico) has cut government spending by 20 percent, lowered taxes and raised the territory’s bond status to its highest rating in 35 years – all during a punishing economic climate.
Impressive, yes.  Not getting a lot of play elsewhere.

Shocking, I know, but college kids have sex.  So why all the hubbub about Brigham Young University suspending their star center on the #3 ranked basketball team in the country?  Because he had sex--really?  Yes, and it is not because he had sex, but because he violated the school's honor code.  Brandon Davies signed an honor code before enrolling, understood that and has accepted the consequences of his actions.  I personally think the BYU code is a tad restrictive, but it is based on the Mormon religious beliefs so who am I to question it.  What I find refreshing is that both the school and the student taking the Honor Code seriously.  If only more schools had and enforced an honor code, we might be better off.

Speaking of higher education--don't be surprised if public and private universities start up an escalator of ever-increasing tuition hikes.  State and local higher education spending hit a 25 year low and with booming enrollement and the coming end of the federal stimulus money to higher education, don't be surprised to see big, big tuition hikes coming.

The end of an era.  The Space Shuttle Discovery landed a short while ago after its final mission and the third to last for the Shuttle Program.  The future of the NASA Space Flight program is in limbo.  I think, though, that private space companies will start to take up the slack.

In soccer/charity news, Major League Soccer's Sporting Kansas City club announced the naming rights for its new stadium will go to champion cyclist Lance's Armstrong's Livestrong Foundation.  This is just way cool, as a percentage of all revenue at the stadium--ticket sales, concessions, etc., will go to the Foundation.  Sporting KC is one of the 18 MLS clubs and they are all getting their acts together on an off the field (well except maybe Toronto--whose front office is being a joke).

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: Welfare State: Handouts Make Up One-Third of U.S. Wages - CNBC

CNBC's Fast Money: Welfare State: Handouts Make Up One-Third of U.S. Wages.

Holy Cow!!

Even as the economy has recovered, social welfare benefits make up 35 percent of wages and salaries this year, up from 21 percent in 2000 and 10 percent in 1960, according to TrimTabs Investment Research using Bureau of Economic Analysis data.

“The U.S. economy has become alarmingly dependent on government stimulus,” said Madeline Schnapp, director of Macroeconomic Research at TrimTabs, in a note to clients. “Consumption supported by wages and salaries is a much stronger foundation for economic growth than consumption based on social welfare benefits.”

That apparently doesn't include salary payments made to government workers either. Shocking.

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Tuesday, March 08, 2011

State Pensions Probably Worse Than Everyone Thinks

Reason Magazine's Veronique de Rugy takes a look at just how bad state pension mismanagement or more accurately mis-reporting might be.
For decades state officials have encouraged adults to believe in the financial equivalent of the Tooth Fairy: that state pensions can yield high returns while being risk-free. Now taxpayers are in for a serious toothache.

Nearly every state offers defined-benefit pension plans for public employees. Financed through a mix of employee and employer contributions along with the investment returns on pension funds, a defined-benefit plan represents a contractual obligation to dole out a set amount in annual payments for as long as the recipient lives, regardless of whether there are sufficient assets in the fund at the time of the employee’s retirement.

One would think this obligation to pay no matter what would have led states to invest conservatively and plan ahead. Instead, they have been following accounting rules that pretty much guarantee the funds will be unsustainable.

First, by law, states are not required to pony up regular contributions to pension systems. Lawmakers generally jump on any opportunity to be fiscally irresponsible, so many states have deferred pension payments and used their share of the contribution to increase spending in other areas.
Yes you read that right--by law the state--that is the employer of state workers--have not had to pay their portion of the pension contribution. They have been able to, and regularly do, defer making the payments in order to fund other projects. The result is that the amount of money available to make investments to get a return is not there--so the return is not as much.

States have an unrealistic vision of a rate of return--8 percent. So using that number (as unrealistic as it is), if there is $100 million in the coffers, 8 percent is $8 million. But if the state hasn't put their share into the coffers--then that $100 million might be significantly less. Over time that underfunding actually results in drastically less in terms of return.

De Rugy also points out that public pension accounting rules and private pension accounting rules are very different, resulting in very different outcomes.

But make no mistake--public pensions are screwed up and the ultimate victims are going to be the taxpayer.

Monday, March 07, 2011

What Are the Limits of a Court's Power to Order Medical Treatment?

Eugene Volokh has an interesting post on the question of whether a court may order treatment on a woman on the basis of "delusional" religious beliefs.

“During a hearing conducted on March 1, 2011, the District Court determined that L.K. is not competent to make her own medical decisions and directed that she undergo a radical hysterectomy on March 3, 2011, against her desires. L.K. objects to the surgery on religious grounds, and expert testimony admitted at the hearing indicated that her religious objections are delusional.” So states an order of the Montana Supreme Court, in Office of State Public Defender on Behalf of L.K. v. Montana Fourth Judicial District Court; the Montana Supreme Court stayed the district court’s order, and ordered an expedited appeal.

So an expert testified that L.K.'s religious beliefs are delusional, but by whose standard?  One of the most commonly held religious beliefs, spanning almost the entire breadth of world religion is the belief in an afterlife or reincarnation or something similar, that is a belief that the soul will live beyond the corporal existence of the body.  We accept that religious tenant despite having almost no empirical proof of its existence.  One could argue that after millennia of a dearth of proof of an afterlife, that maintaining such a belief is delusional.

The trial court, presumably based on expert testimony as to the delusional nature of L.K., ordered her to undergo an hysterectomy, despite L.K.'s own testimony that she wants to have children, that her husband is agreeable AND that she might change her mind about undergoing the recommended procedure.  Since, informed consent is the hallmark of medical treatment, and this woman has, in an apparently rational basis, considered the advice, consulted with her husband and remains open to the notion that she might changer her mind and have the procedure, I am wondering how the trial court came to the conclusion to force her to undergo the procedure? From the portion quoted above, it does not say that L.K. is completely incompetent or otherwise insane, only that the religious beliefs underlying her objection are delusional.   How far can the courts go to require otherwise competent, religiously zealous, person to undergo medical treatment against their will?

This case has some serious implications beyond this single dispute. Is religious zeal now a "condition" by which someone can be determined to be legally incompetent to make their own medical decisions?  It seems to me that there is a case for arguing that the court has infringed upon someone's right to the free exercise of their religion.

What if we are talking about other medical treatments, other than a radical hysterectomy?  Could a court order a heart surgery?  Could a court order a kidney transplant?  What about other life-saving treatments that are not so radical?  Could a court order a morbidly obese person into treatment involving exercise and diet changes?  What if the person is objects on the grounds that "God made me fat and who am I to disagree with God?  It's his plan and I am but a part of that plan."  There might be no question that the person will likely die if they don't exercise and alter their diet, but I find it to be perfectly normal to believe that God's plan might include morbidly obese people.  That is not delusional or at least, I don't see how it is delusional.

Since we are talking, in L.K.'s case, about reproductive health, could a court order an abortion?  Could the court order an abortion even when doctors are certain that either the baby or the mother or both will die as a result of carrying the child to term?  What if the mother AND the father, both competent, agnostic or atheist adults believe that it is wrong to terminate a pregnancy and that view is not based on any religious doctrine?  What if those agnostics or atheists want to, in light of all the advice to the contrary, carry the child to term despite the risks?  How can a court order a procedure when a sane person has made an informed choice?  Where does the court draw the line as far as whose life is more important?

Is this not the opposite of the question of "death panels" wherein governmental bureaucracy might ration health care in cases where they deem it to be unlikely to succeed?  IN other words, are we going to have a health and legal system that can at once deny care in some cases and require and enforce care in others?  How is that freedom or liberty?

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Saturday, March 05, 2011

Good to Know

Hey guys, the next time you get caught by your wife or girlfrield staring at that super models rack or that girl in the mall with the improbably low cut blouse, you can tell your wife or girlfriend that is is helping your heart health.

Staring at breasts increases heart health according to a German study. Nice, very nice.

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Friday, March 04, 2011

Seniority should not make teachers immune to layoffs

Herein lies the problem with collective bargaining, you get laws and policies that might actually hurt students as New York is learning, seniority should not make teachers immune to layoffs, but that is exactly what happens:

If, as seems likely, New York City must lay off thousands of teachers
because of budget problems, Mayor Michael Bloombergwould like a say in who goes
and who stays. Topping his list of those who should lose their jobs are
2,671 teachers who have been rated unsatisfactor over the past five years, 882
teachers who lack a teaching license, 291 whom an arbitrator found to be
incompetent or guilty of malfeasance and 183 with recrods of excessive lateness
or absenteeism. But state law enshrining the policy of "last in, first
out" doesnt' allow performance to be a factor and that means good teachers -
possibly even great teachers - are likely to be forced out of the

The last hired, first fired policy results from years of collective bargaining whereby the unions and their leadership develop all of the institutional memory that results from negotiating multiple contracts over time. The politicians, particularly at the local level, tend to either be transitory--that is moving up the political ladder or leaving office after a short period of time--or they remain in offce due to support from the unions. As a result, there is not a significant check on the long-term strategy of moving the goal posts as step or two each year. If a new union came in and demanded a "last hired, first fired" structure, they would not get. But if you start by setting up seniority rights on other aspects, such as transfers or benefits, then over time the power of the long term teachers grow and it is over time that they take more and more benefits and power.

The poltical bodies that are supposed to be a check on the matter tend to focus only on the short term, that is the next budget, or the next couple of years. Teachers unions, on the other hand, can afford to take the long view and so they do.

As a check on this power, the trick has to be to completely scrap every contract and every provision to start from scratch every time. There cannot be hold over provisions, side agreements or addenda that remain in place from contract to contract. These added on provisions are often brought in through incorporation by reference, rather than explicitly being written out in the new contract. The political body, the school board or local city or county council, don't have the resources or institutional knowledge to know what the incorporated documents say or don't say. But the union negotiators do, having spent years and multiple negotiating cycles to learn these provisions. But if the contract is a single document, no references, no incorporations, and no addenda that aren't renegotiated each time, the resulting contract would be free from these last hired, first fired provisions that might actually end up hurting a school system or students.

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This Week's Playlist

It has been a slog over the past couple of weeks at work, so blogging has been, shall we say, a bit light.  However, I am trying to get back.

I am a child of the 80's and musically, it was a time when my tastes began to diversify (particularly later in that time frame), but I started getting a taste of different styles.  I was (and always will be) a rock and roll guy, I started testing different ideas.  Here is my list of 1980's songs that I still enjoy 20+ years later.

  1. Money for Nothing by Dire Straits.  Seriously, this must have been the 1980's MTV anthem, with Sting ethereal lead in and hook to Mark Knopfler's picked guitar lick and crafty lyrics.  The video was brilliant and remains so today.
  2. Beat It by Michael Jackson.  Yep, I liked Michael, particularly on the Thriller album.  Say what you will, the man was a genius performer.  When I heard the guitar solo, I knew who it was, even though most of my friends didn't believe me--I knew Eddie Van Halen's guitar work.  This was a harder Michael and I had to decide between this song and Thriller, but went with this one because this was the song that got me into Jackson as an artist who was more than just fancy dancing and pop songs.
  3. The Heart of Rock & Roll by Huey Lewis & The News.  Huey Lewis & the News were on a tear with Sports, but this song just gets me going and as an added bonus, provides a great geography lesson in music.  Their later albums had much more of a jazz feel, but Sports hit the big time.
  4. Owner of  a Lonely Heart by Yes.  Progressive rock extraordinaires, Yes was a favorite my father's.  Their early stuff was a tad pretentious (lots of prog rock was), but so very orchestral.  They were a band that showed that rock was music and didn't have to be a 3/4 or 4/4 time with a simple melody to be good.  90125 was a brilliant album that put Yes back on the musical map.  I also like Leave It from the album as well.  Now about that snake in the video, still don't get that.
  5. Sledgehammer by Peter Gabriel.  An iconic video, a basic beat and superbly sung lyrics made Gabriel a household name with this song.  I had heard Gabriel with Genesis (my father a big fan of them) and with some solo work ("Shock the Monkey" and "Solosbury Hill") but when I hear Gabriel, I think Sledgehammer and Solosbury Hill.  But Solosbury Hill was not released in the 1980's so doesn't make the cut.
  6. On the Loose by Saga.  This Canadian quintet was largely underrated.  They were in heavy rotation early on MTV, particularly with this song.  I think a lot of people looked at them as a bit too theatrical, but their musicality was terrific, with complex guitar riffs and keyboard overlaying a solid rhythmic core.  Worlds Apart remains one of my favorite albums as a whole unit, with each song occupying a perfect place.   
  7. Abacab by Genesis.  The song and album named for the chord progression was probably the last of Genesis' more "progressive" rock albums.  Not long after this, Phil Collins hit it big as a solo artist and Genesis took off with Invisible Touch.  The musical outro seems to go on a bit too long for me, but this is still a brilliant song showing off the hallmarks of prog rock music, with different time signatures and slightly less than easily followed lyrics.
  8. Cool the Engines by Boston.  Third Stage was a brilliant album, and while still recognizably Boston, a little different with more ballads.  Cool the Engines though is classic Boston, big heavy bass and drums and Tom Scholz's multi-layered guitars.  Brad Delp's vocals never sounded better and the song really does progress from the rising beginning, blistering middle sections with Delp and Scholz reaching their peak and then easing off.  A song that suits its name.
  9. Photograph by Def Leppard.  Pyromania put the boys from Sheffield on the world musical map and Photograph led the charge.  The guitar/drum combo intro is easily recognizable and instantly put you in the groove.  While Hysteria solidified Def Leppard's sound, you can hear the sound coalescing in this album.  
  10. Jump by Van Halen.  Van Halen with David Lee Roth hit new heights with this album and this song is about as straight forward rock and roll as you can get.  While this was not the first time Van Halen has used synthesizers in their albums, this song was the first to make such prominent use of them, but it doesn't cheapen the experience.  What usually went unnoticed in this band was Michael Anthony and Alex Van Halen, probably one of the best bass/drum pairings in rock and they never missed a beat in this song.
  11. Rain on the Scarecrow by John Cougar Mellencamp.  Mellencamp had something to say with Scarecrow, an album that showed a distinct break from his previous work, much darker, moodier and yes more political.  Rain on the Scarecrow still stands as a truly brilliant song, evocative of the problems facing farmers.  The lyrics are powerful and while political, still tell a story without being too preachy.
  12. Where the Streets Have No Names by U2.  From big stars to superstars with one album, The Joshua Tree solidified U2 as a world wide band and as a band whose politics went beyond just Ireland.  Musically, Joshua Tree was an eclectic group of songs that still hung together.  This song is, in my mind, the more "mainstream" of the songs, except maybe the ballad "With or Without You," but it still is a classic of musicianship and lyrics.
  13. Tom Sawyer by Rush.  No compilation of my 80's songs would be complete without Rush's Tom Sawyer.  Prog rock musicality, high pitched signing, Neil Peart's drums and slightly gravelly guitars on a recognizable synth track.  I loved this song then and I love it now.
  14. If Looks Could Kill by Heart.  Barracuda and Magic Man remain my all-time favorite Heart songs and the 1980s saw the Wilson sisters in big hair and tight clothes, but still solid musicians.  This is a slightly less known rocker from their self-titled album that brought you "Never" and "These Dreams" this song was simply more like the Heart of the late 70's, rockers first and balladeers second.
  15. Promises in the Dark by Pat Benatar.  This rocker always gets me going.  Benatar's massive vocal range is highlighted a couple of times here, her ability to make her voice a little rough on some lyrics and absolutely ethereal in the next breath simply demonstrates why she won so many Grammy's.  Husband Neal Gerardo's guitar work is classic.  The length of time she holds that note in the middle/end of the song never fails to get me.
  16. Born in the U.S.A. by Bruce Springsteen.  He was always a rocker, always a story song writer, but this album put Bruce on the map globally.  The organ/synthesizer melody line is recognizalbe instantly.  I knew this would be a classic.  
  17. Sweet Child O' Mine by Guns & Roses.  This song changed the way I looked a metal and hair bands.  The basic guitar riff and slow guitar solo remains two of the best guitar lines ever written and while Axel Rose might be a chucklehead, he and the rest of G&R knew how to put together some rocking songs.  This song may have changed music in the late 1980's, paving the way for grunge, but what a way to change it.  I even sang this song to my oldest daughter as a lullaby--that is the beauty of the song.
  18. Cult of Personality by Living Colour.  What can I say about this New York City foursome.  This song's brilliant lyrics, punchy drums and some of the coarsest guitar work ever brought about one of the greatest debuts ever.  So solid were these guys that they opened for the Rolling Stones when no one had ever heard of them.  Vernon Reid is one of the most criminally underrated guitarists/songwriters around and the way he plays guitar is amazing, from the gravel of Cult of Personality to the funk of Funny Vibe, they did it all on the Vivid Album and only got better with age.
  19. Don't Stop Believin by Journey.  Another 1980's arena band classic, which will always remain with me as the song my friends and I performed in an air band contest in 7th grade.  The piano work at the beginning is brilliantly crafted and the lyrics tell a pretty story.  
  20. Take Me Home by Phil Collins.  A lot of people might remember this video of Collins appearing in various iconic places around the world, but I love this song for the way it builds up.  In particularly, if you listen to teh drum loops, how they are distinct, but as more are introduced they emphasize each other.  Some of the lyrical turns of phrase as absolute genius.  This may not be Collins' most famous song, but as a musical journey, it is one of his best.  

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Thursday, March 03, 2011

It's Spreading

Union threats against legislators who look to limit collective bargaining for public sector workers.


More on those BS Statistics onf Wisconsin's Educational "Prowess"

This time from Iowahawk who compared in a real way, the comparison between non-union Texas educational ability and the unionized Wisconsin.
The point being, I suppose, is that unionized teachers stand as a thin chalk-stained line keeping Wisconsin from descending into the dystopian non-union educational hellscape of Texas. Interesting, if it wasn't complete bullsh**.
(Edit is mine since I do try to keep this blog free from swearing as much as possible (although it sometimes limits me from choosing the absolute right word).

Wednesday, March 02, 2011

Chief Justice Roberts Has a Sense of Humor

Jonathan Adler at the The Volokh Conspiracy pulls a great quote from the recent opinion in FCC v. AT&T, a case in which AT&T was asserting a "personal privacy" protection to avoid disclosure of corporate information in from FOIA requests made of the Federal Communications Commission, Chief Justice Roberts wrote:
We reject the argument that because “person” is defined for purposes of FOIA to include a corporation, the phrase “personal privacy” in Exemption 7(C) reaches corporations as well. The protection in FOIA against disclosure of law enforcement information on the ground that it would constitute an unwarranted invasion of personal privacy does not extend to corporations. We trust that AT&T will not take it personally.