Saturday, December 29, 2007

Paul blackballed?

I heard both from the local Fox Valley Ron Paul Meetup group and from Downsize DC that Ron Paul was to be excluded from the January 6th Republican debates:
According to the New Hampshire State Republican Party and an Associated Press report, Republican presidential candidate Ron Paul will be excluded from an upcoming forum of Republican candidates to be broadcast by Fox News on January 6, 2008.

So, using the handy link provided to me by Downsize DC, I wrote to Mr. Chris Wallace, the moderator of the debate:

Dear Mr. Wallace,

I tried to locate details of the upcoming Republican roundtable discussion on Fox News to be broadcast on January 6th, but I was unsuccessful. All I've heard is what I've been told by the Downsize DC organization. And what I've heard is disturbing.

You may certainly invite anyone you wish to participate in the discussion. You may, indeed, have logic on your side; that is, the logic of the polls, though a couple of your invitees have poll numbers no stronger than Dr. Paul whom you've elected not to invite.

I would ask you to consider two things. One is the victory of Jesse Ventura in the Minnesota gubernatorial race several years ago. Insurgent, non-centralized campaigns are certainly not dead. Ventura won against a field of very uninspiring major party candidates. Keep that in mind as you try to figure out who is the least objectionalble candidate for the Republican nomination.

The second is the very real possibility that Dr. Paul may finish third in Iowa, ahead of three of your invitees. It might seem a bit odd to your viewers to exclude someone who succeeded so improbably, against conventional wisdom, against the odds, and by ignoring the experts.

Please reconsider your decision to exclude Dr. Paul from the January 6th discussion. It might be better for Fox if you did.

Sincerely,

Steve Erbach
Neenah, WI


I'm not a fan of Fox News, and certainly not a fan of the provocative and pusillanimous things they've said about Dr. Paul. The link to Downsize DC is above. Write your own letter. It's fun, and it might just be effective.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Update - haven't we had enough of this?

More dialog on the 10-year-old girl arrested for using a steak knife on her lunch. I've corresponded with a group of friends on this topic and here's what's been said recently:
December 19

Steve,

100 incidents is a lot to research and a lot to read. But is the number significant? 100 by itself means little. You'd have to know if this represents 1%, 10%, or 90% of the times a student was caught on campus with a 'weapon' before you could say 100 is meaningful.

YMCA, Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts, I would think , being private organizations, would not be under the same proscriptions as a public entity, and could more easily disregard an absolute policy. So that comparison may not be fair.

That it 'seems' to happen more in the schools can be explained by the lack of discretion that those in authority may perceive that they have. IOW, their hands may be tied. For some that is a frustration. For others a relief.

Rocky
December 19

Rocky,

» IOW, their hands may be tied. For some that is a frustration. For others a relief. «

Ooooo! Good one! You have a future in the punditocracy, methinks.

As to the research, the 100 incidents chronicled on my site represent a fraction (not sure of the size of the fraction) of the total stories during that time. I focused on stories involving zero tolerance in the schools, but I didn't see every one. I only saw those that made national news, so there is an additional filter in place to the one you mention; i.e., the actual number of incidents vs. the number that were reported in the news.

One could just as well apply the same filter to reports of DEA agents breaking down the wrong door or incidents of racially motivated police harassment. What does it mean when those incidents are reported in the news? Sometimes it's enough to set off firings, police dept. investigations, protests, etc. Are those sorts of reactions justified or appropriate based on the total number of incidents? It's immaterial, really; the outcry and the reaction is still there, appropriate or not.

As far as zero tolerance policies go, the more reports there are of such things the better, as far as I'm concerned. Those reports may lead to a greater acceptance of school choice, vouchers, alternative schools, etc.

Steve Erbach
December 19

Dear Steve,

While I share certain sympathies with your position on this matter, lemme ask you this: Had this girl stabbed another girl with that "weapon", would you still maintain your position? Or, would you have asked "where were the responsible adults in this situation?" That's a rhetorical question.

Re: "I keep finding and reacting to these things"...yep! "Reacting" is the key reason that these laws, regulations and law enforcement is involved. Given the climate of the times (Columbine and it's clones), most responsible people wouldn't have it any other way.

You must have led a sheltered life...I entered a public high school almost fifty years ago (in rural Sauk County, Wisconsin): Here are merely some of the reasons you could be (and were) arrested for:

- Possession of any firearm, any knife with a blade greater than four inches (including steak knives), razor blades, slingshots, zip guns, clubs, ice picks, brass knuckles, steel-toed boots, fireworks, ammunition, etc.

- Possession of drugs, whether legally-prescribed or illegal, condoms, any tobacco product, liquor, pornography (including Playboy magazine), stolen property (including overdue library books), suggestive lingerie, etc.

-Truancy, assault (including verbal), battery, inappropriate sexual contact, etc.

You could be suspended or even expelled for:

- Fighting, wearing jeans or leather jackets, wearing suggestive clothing (girls were not allowed to wear pants of any kind...except in winter), wearing shorts, drunkenness or inappropriate / disruptive behavior (including cursing), smoking, pregnancy and a whole host of other offenses.

Most of these same rules are applied today here in Moron...er, Monroe County, Florida where I live. What part of "zero tolerance" don't you understand?

Dickford Cohn
December 26

Dickford,

Sorry about not replying earlier on this one. Came down with a cold on the 20th, was out of town from the 21st to the 23rd, then Christmas and all. Not much time spent at the confuser.

The "responsible adult" thing was aimed directly at the school personnel that called the cops and the cops themselves who hauled this girl downtown. As you know, when laws are broken the cops have some latitude. When you're stopped for speeding there's a whole range of things that can happen: verbal warning, written warning, ticket, or haul your ass downtown.

What is unbelievable in this situation is that the ONLY response possible was that this girl had to be arrested and taken from the school. My ire isn't directed at the rules banning knives and guns, fer cry yi! It's the completely pig-headed and blundering policy to follow through with the inappropriate response.

Asking what my "reaction" would have been if that girl had stabbed someone is silly. Of course I would have been horrified. But the fact that the rule against knives did not, in fact, prevent a knife from physically being brought into the school in a paper sack illustrates the only role that law enforcement has in these situations: cleaning up the mess (if there is one). The teachers and administrators could tell immediately that this girl wasn't going to carve anybody up. So the follow-through involving the arrest of this girl served what purpose? To make everyone feel good about the rules?

I don't object to the rules. No knives, fine. No guns, fine. But laws are written with intent in mind, too. Why treat a 10-year-old who completely unwittingly and innocently brings a knife to school with her lunch the same as someone who brandishes that knife in a threatening manner? I object to the completely our-hands-are-tied reactions.

Steve Erbach
December 26

Steve,

Sorry to hear about your cold...no apologies are necessary for the rest.

RE: When laws are broken the cops have some latitude.

Normally, you'd be right...but not when a "zero tolerance" policy is in effect. Apparently, that policy is what you don't understand. Using your very own "stopped for speeding" example...let me elucidate:

Where I currently live, the cops enforce a zero tolerance policy with regard to speeds in school and construction zones. Go 16mph in a 15mph school zone...you WILL be stopped. Absent any other charges...or aggravation, your fine and costs will exceed $600...no exceptions...for exceeding the limit by one mile-per-hour.

I am not disagreeing one whit with your disgust over this whole situation. I am merely pointing out that this is where OUR society IS at this point...and that all of the "authorities" involved did precisely what WE REQUIRE them to do. Apparently, we do not trust any "latitude" that they may have employed.

This is akin to "mandatory sentencing guidelines"...which remove ANY "judgement" from judges.

Dickford Cohn

December 26

Dickford,

Well, so, like, um ... you're agreeing with me by feigning disagreement and being tiresome?

Oh, I get it! You're using the old cross-examination trick of feigning disagreement and being tiresome to wear down the witness! Ho, ho! You have to get up pretty early in the morning to pull the hairy covering of a cloneable mammal over MY aging peepers, old son!

Steve Erbach

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Recent commentary: free exercise of religion

Should nativity scenes be displayed on government property during the Christmas season?

(published 24-Dec-2007, Appleton Post-Crescent)

"Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof". The key phrase is "free exercise". Nothing prohibits, say, Skokie, IL, from erecting a huge menorah for Hanukkah. How lawyers figure that city governments shouldn't have "free exercise" is beyond me. The Green Bay nativity scene kerfuffle escalated when a Wiccan display was vandalized. (Personally I liked the "Flying Spaghetti Monster" idea, but that's just me.) Now the mayor wants only "legitimate" religions to erect displays. There's a Constitutional issue for you: How do you define a "legitimate" religion? Then came the standard over-reaction. Council VP, Chris Wery, has changed his mind: "I thought this would encourage our community to share good will this holiday season, and, as we've seen, it's done the opposite." No, it hasn't. All it shows is that people are sensitive about religion and that some people have bad manners.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Haven't we had enough of this?

I mean, enough of arresting 10-year-olds in public schools? This young girl brought leftover steak for lunch and a steak knife. She began to eat her lunch using the knife properly and ... I can't go on. Here's the story:
Knife At Lunch Gets 10-Year-Old Girl Arrested At School

OCALA, FL -- A 10-year old Ocala girl brought her lunch to school and a small kitchen knife to cut it. She now faces a felony charge after being arrested. The school and the sheriff's office disagree on the reason for the arrest.

School officials say the 5th grader was brown-bagging it. She brought a piece of steak for her lunch, but she also brought a steak knife. That's when deputies were called.

It happened in the cafeteria at Sunrise Elementary School. The 10-year-old used the knife to cut the meat.

"She did not use it inappropriately. She did not threaten anyone with it. She didn't pull it out and brandish it. Nothing of that nature," explained Marion County School Spokesman Kevin Christian.

But a couple of teachers took the utensil and called the sheriff. When deputies arrived, they were unable to get the child's parents on the phone, so they arrested her and took her to the county's juvenile assessment center.

"And we didn't handcuff her or treat her like a criminal. But, we took her to the assessment center to be assessed," said Capt. James Pogue, Marion County Sheriff's Office.

School officials said it doesn't matter what the knife was being used for. They said they had no choice.

"Anytime there's a weapon on campus, yes, we have to report it and we aggressively report it because we don't want to take any chances, regardless," Christian said.

But the sheriff's office said the extreme measures in what some may say was a harmless incident had to do with school policy, not theirs.

"But once we're notified, we have to take some type of action," Pogue explained.

The student now faces a felony charge for the possession of a weapon on school property and the principal suspended her for ten days. The parents of the girl could not be reached for comment.

The sheriff's office has turned the case over to the State Attorney's Office.

She didn't use it inappropriately, but when the school couldn't reach her parents, the girl was arrested. "[W]e took her to the assessment center to be assessed," said the eloquent sheriff. Will they assess the damage done to the reputation of the school for this insane response? Do the teachers who called the sheriff feel proud that they averted a possible killing spree?

In any situation involving law breaking there is an element of judgment. Does anyone really believe that the teachers would have been disciplined (they can't be fired; they're union, you know) if they hadn't called the sheriff? If they'd just given the girl a good talking to? Anyone? Would the school system have tottered if they'd simply sat the girl down in one of the 17 counseling offices in the school (there are at least that many in any modern public school) and just asked her for her side of the story?

Bah! No Child Left Behind, indeed.

Update:

A friend of mine in San Diego replied to this:
Steve:

Right issue. Wrong target. We know you've got it in for the public school system. But this is not a problem unique to the public school system. In fact, given a bit broader view, it is really a problem of employment in the public sector, and has been with us since the creation of civil service (maybe longer).

How many times does this NOT happen. IOW, if you knew that there were 42,000 incidents last year like this which were handled as you think they should be, without the intervention of the police or some other draconian reaction by the school, what would you think, then? You're angst implies that this incident represents the way it's always done, which, if true, I would agree is boneheaded. No one thinks that the blind application of a policy this way is the right thing to do. But I question whether this truly represents SOP. Any incident handled discreetly, would, by its nature, never come to your attention.

In the public sector, unlike the private, there is no reward for taking initiative, exercising judgment, or exposing yourself to unnecessary risk. There is no downside for a school (or the police) to apply the zero tolerance policy, other than the ridicule of the public, which is not enough to overcome bureaucratic intransigence. Even though I would venture to say many times the policy in contravened by a sensible teacher, principal, or cop.

This pattern is equally applicable to stiff necked civil service employees across the board. Ever run across something like this at the Post Office? Get a parking ticket for being two minutes over? Nevertheless, billions of pieces of mail get handled efficiently every year, and lots of parking tickets get written and paid for which are richly deserved.

In fact, one might say you are guilty of the very thing you criticize. Your chronic attacks on the public school system have become pro forma, automatic, and any misstep by any teacher, administrator, or educational bureaucrat becomes proof for you that the entire system is deeply if not fatally flawed. No Child Left Behind (which I have retitled No Child Gets Ahead) has nothing to do with zero tolerance for weapons on campus.

Your target should not be public schools but human nature and the government we must live with to create and maintain an orderly society. Simply change human nature and incidents like this will never happen again.

Rocky

My response:
Rocky,

You make a decent point. The "however" that I'm going to throw in is related to the very large number of similar bone-headed incidents I documented on my blog over the past three years. I had a category for school-related zero tolerance stories. I posted 100 of those stories over that time until I figured I'd made whatever point I was trying to make. I think that more of these incidents get to the bone-headed stage in the schools than they do in the YMCA or the Boy Scouts/Girl Scouts, Boys/Girls Brigade, etc.; that is, any other organization that deals with young people for extended periods of time. It's the schools where this stuff happens and it goes beyond the reasonable response way more often than in those other organizations.

Steve

And I'm going to change my weak closing line to something another friend in Kentucky suggested to me: I think it's time to pray ... pray for deliverance from these fools.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

The Ron Paul Tea Party

On Sunday, December 16th, tens of thousands of Ron Paul supporters will donate $100 each to raise another huge chunk of money for his campaign.

Vote for Ron Paul in the Republican primary in your state. Check Ron Paul's site for the date and requirements for voting.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Saturday, December 08, 2007

Polar bears on the brink?


Interesting article in the London Daily Mail about a film crew doing a new documentary, "Polar Bear Week", about the bears around Churchill, Manitoba. One member of the crew, Dennis Compayre, is a life-long resident of Churchill who has been around the bears for decades:
Dennis Compayre raises bushy grey eyebrows as he listens to the environmentalists predict the polar bear's demise.

"They say the numbers are down from 1,200 to around 900, but I think I know as much about polar bears as anyone, and I tell you there are as many bears here now as there were when I was a kid," he says as the tundra buggy rattles back to town across the rutted snowscape.

"Churchill is full of these scientists going on about vanishing bears and thinner bears.

"They come here preaching doom, but I question whether some of them really have the bears' best interests at heart.

"The bear industry in Churchill is big bucks, and what better way to keep people coming than to tell them they'd better hurry to see the disappearing bears."


The man doing the filming had some insights, too:
After almost three months of working with those who know the Arctic best - among them Inuit Indians, who are appalled at the way an animal they have lived beside for centuries has become a poster species for "misinformed" Greens - Nigel Marven finds himself in broad agreement.

"I think climate change is happening, but as far as the polar bear disappearing is concerned, I have never been more convinced that this is just scaremongering.

"People are deliberately seeking out skinny bears and filming them to show they are dying out. That's not right.

"Of course, in 30 years, if there's no ice over the North Pole, then the bear will be in trouble.

"But I've seen enough to know that polar bears are not yet on the brink of extinction."

Thursday, December 06, 2007

They did the math for me!

Tuesday's analysis of the proposal by Israeli environmentalists to reduce carbon emissions during Hannukah involved a fair amount of unit-conversion math to show that the projected emission savings wouldn't amount to a hill of beans, as they say.

Well, this Bloomberg story is more like it: all the math is done for me!
Hot Air Emitted by Climate Summit Equals 20,000 Cars

By Alex Morales and Kim Chipman

Dec. 6 (Bloomberg) -- Government officials and activists flying to Bali, Indonesia, for the United Nations meeting on climate change will cause as much pollution as 20,000 cars in a year. The total of 40,700 tons of gas created by the conference is equivalent to the annual emissions of 20,350 mid-sized cars, each traveling 12,000 kilometers, according to www.atmosfair.de.

The delegates each will produce an average 4.07 metric tons of carbon dioxide, or CO2, to reach the resort island 950 kilometers (600 miles) from Jakarta, according to estimates e- mailed to Bloomberg by the UN agency holding the conference.

Some of the 187 nations participating in the two-week forum promised to offset their so-called carbon footprint by planting trees or buying emission credits. The symbolic actions won't help stop global warming, some scientists say.

As P. J. O'Rourke once put it, these folks get all tangled up in their Birkenstock straps falling all over themselves to promise to "offset" the harm that the conference will cause to the climate:
Indonesia will plant 79 million trees to offset the entire conference's emissions, Emil Salim, head of the host country's delegation, told reporters yesterday in Bali. The Asian nation is investigating how to develop its tree-planting activity to ensure a lasting offset, said Amanda Katili, special assistant to Environment Minister Rachmat Witoelar.

"We have to know where the trees will be planted and make sure that they grow and not be cut down until they make enough carbon stock," Katili said in an interview.

The U.K.'s 40-person team will have their emissions neutralized through a central government fund, a spokeswoman for the country's environment department said.

EU Environment Commissioner Stavros Dimas and three of his staff are buying so-called carbon credits, each representing a reduction of a ton of carbon dioxide, on the EU Emissions Trading Scheme, commission spokeswoman Barbara Helfferich said in a telephone interview.

$132 `Out of Pocket'

"I'm paying out of my own pocket, and some individuals will also offset," said Helfferich, adding she's spending about 90 euros ($132).

The environmental group WWF International, known in the U.S. as the World Wildlife Fund, is also making sure the visit to Bali by about 80 of its workers is carbon-neutral, according to Martin Hiller, a spokesman for the group's climate change program.

"Our flight emissions are equivalent to about half an hour's emissions from a normal coal-fired power station of about 600 megawatts," Hiller said in a telephone interview from Bali. "We're offsetting all our travel with emissions credits."

Sheesh! Enough, already! At least there's somebody with a lick of sense, and whaddaya know? She's from the USA!:
The U.S. won't compensate for the emissions of its delegates because "we feel the best use of taxpayer dollars is for technology advancement, not purchasing carbon offsets," said Kristen Hellmer, a spokeswoman for the delegation.

And what will these oodles and oodles of delegates be doing at the conference aside from apologizing for their carbon footprints?
The goal of the Bali meeting is a deadline for a new international treaty to limit emissions after the current accord, called the Kyoto Protocol, expires in 2012.

Bully!

Some things cannot be parodied

I'll let this article speak for itself:
Kangaroo farts could ease global warming

December 06, 2007 11:56am

Article from: Agence France-Presse

AUSTRALIAN scientists are trying to give kangaroo-style stomachs to cattle and sheep in a bid to cut the emission of greenhouse gases blamed for global warming, researchers say.

Thanks to special bacteria in their stomachs, kangaroo flatulence contains no methane and scientists want to transfer that bacteria to cattle and sheep who emit large quantities of the harmful gas.

While the usual image of greenhouse gas pollution is a billowing smokestack pushing out carbon dioxide, livestock passing wind contribute a surprisingly high percentage of total emissions in some countries.

"Fourteen per cent of emissions from all sources in Australia is from enteric methane from cattle and sheep,'' said Athol Klieve, a senior research scientist with the Queensland Government.

"And if you look at another country such as New Zealand, which has got a much higher agricultural base, they're actually up around 50 per cent,'' he said.
Researchers say the bacteria also makes the digestive process much more efficient and could potentially save millions of dollars in feed costs for farmers.

"Not only would they not produce the methane, they would actually get something like 10 to 15 per cent more energy out of the feed they are eating,'' said Mr Klieve.
Even farmers who laugh at the idea of environmentally friendly kangaroo farts say that's nothing to joke about, particularly given the devastating drought Australia is suffering.

"In a tight year like a drought situation, 15 per cent would be a considerable sum,'' said farmer Michael Mitton.

But it will take researchers at least three years to isolate the bacteria, before they can even start to develop a way of transferring it to cattle and sheep.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Whatever next?

The Jerusalem Post reports that
In a campaign that has spread like wildfire across the Internet, a group of Israeli environmentalists is encouraging Jews around the world to light at least one less candle this Hanukka to help the environment.

The founders of the Green Hanukkia campaign found that every candle that burns completely produces 15 grams of carbon dioxide. If an estimated one million Israeli households light for eight days, they said, it would do significant damage to the atmosphere.

OK, lets do the math:
  15 grams of carbon dioxide per candle per day
x 1,000,000 candles
= 15 million grams of carbon dioxide per day

Lets convert that to tons per day:
  15 million grams per day
x 1 pound per 454 grams
x 1 ton per 2000 pounds
= 16.5 tons per day

According to the Earthlab Carbon Calculator, for a car to emit that much CO2 it would have to travel:
  16.5 tons per day
x 2000 lbs per ton
x 1 gallon of gas per 19.564 pounds of carbon dioxide
x 21 miles per gallon (avg. car in the U.S.)
= 35,465 miles per day

Well, that's a bit far to travel in one day. Lets round it up to 35,500 miles and have a fleet of cars travelling 500 miles each day, how about that? That means:
  35,500 miles per fleet of cars
x 1 car per 500 miles
= 71 cars in the fleet

So, we finally come up with 71 cars travelling 500 miles each day of Hanukkah; that is, 4000 miles each, or from New York to LA and back to Chappell, Nebraska.

Are we really worried about this? With about 150 million cars travelling an average of about 33 miles per day (12,000 miles per year / 365 days) in the U.S. for a total of 4,931,506,849 miles per day? That's 39,452,054,795 miles traveled in 8 days.

So burning a million candles on each of 8 days turns out to be the equivalent of 71 cars driving 4000 miles each (284,000 miles) ... which is .00071986% of the total emitted by all the cars in the U.S. over the same period.

I repeat, are we really worried about this?

Monday, December 03, 2007

Excellent!

Chavez Loses Constitutional Vote

Dec 3, 6:54 AM (ET)

By FRANK BAJAK

CARACAS, Venezuela (AP) - Humbled by his first electoral defeat ever, President Hugo Chavez said Monday he may have been too ambitious in asking voters to let him stand indefinitely for re-election and endorse a huge leap to a socialist state.

"I understand and accept that the proposal I made was quite profound and intense," he said after voters narrowly rejected the sweeping constitutional reforms by 51 percent to 49 percent.

Opposition activists were ecstatic as the results were announced shortly after midnight - with 88 percent of the vote counted, the trend was declared irreversible by elections council chief Tibisay Lucena.

Some shed tears. Others began chanting: "And now he's going away!"

Without the overhaul, Chavez will be barred from running again in 2012.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

On being correct, III

Zero tolerance or zero intelligence? You decide:
Students Suspended For Fake Drug Use In PSA

WAYNESBURG. PA - Two students at Waynesburg Central High School have been suspended for 10 days because of the way they depicted an activity they were trying to discourage. John DiBuono and his classmate made a public service announcement for a TV workshop. They used crushed Smarties candies. In the video, his friend pretended to snort cocaine. It was supposed to be a message against using drugs.

In a statement, the Jerome Bartley, superintendent of the Central Greene School District, said: "Although the individuals involved were not using illicit drugs, the district's policy prohibits look-a-like drugs, substances, liquids or devices."

It's listed in the student handbook, but DiBuono's father says the punishment doesn't fit. "I believe that the discipline is a bit excessive, and you know this was clearly an anti-drug statement," he said.

In addition to the suspension, DiBuono, a 4.0 student, said he was told to attend drug counseling. "The only words said in the entire public service announcement was, 'Don't do drugs,' and now I'm being sent to rehabilitation conference," he said. "I think it's a little ridiculous."

The superintendent says the students weren't assigned to do a public service announcement that day but instead, "took it upon themselves to produce a short video depicting drug use."

DiBuono says it was an ongoing project.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

One to watch, II

My earlier post about the potential Supreme Court case, District of Columbia v. Heller, expressed hope that the Court would hear it. Now it looks like my wish has been granted:
Supreme Court Will Hear D.C. Guns Case

Nov 20 03:23 PM US/Eastern
By MARK SHERMAN
Associated Press Writer

WASHINGTON (AP) - The Supreme Court said Tuesday it will decide whether the District of Columbia can ban handguns, a case that could produce the most in-depth examination of the constitutional right to "keep and bear arms" in nearly 70 years.

The justices' decision to hear the case could make the divisive debate over guns an issue in the 2008 presidential and congressional elections.

The government of Washington, D.C., is asking the court to uphold its 31-year ban on handgun ownership in the face of a federal appeals court ruling that struck down the ban as incompatible with the Second Amendment. Tuesday's announcement was widely expected, especially after both the District and the man who challenged the handgun ban asked for the high court review.

The main issue before the justices is whether the Second Amendment of the Constitution protects an individual's right to own guns or instead merely sets forth the collective right of states to maintain militias. The former interpretation would permit fewer restrictions on gun ownership.

Gun-control advocates say the Second amendment was intended to insure that states could maintain militias, a response to 18th century fears of an all-powerful national government. Gun rights proponents contend the amendment gives individuals the right to keep guns for private uses, including self-defense.

Alan Gura, a lawyer for Washington residents who challenged the ban, said he was pleased that the justices were considering the case.

"We believe the Supreme Court will acknowledge that, while the use of guns can be regulated, a complete prohibition on all functional firearms is too extreme," Gura said. "It's time to end this unconstitutional disaster. It's time to restore a basic freedom to all Washington residents."

The only tricky point, the one that the Court will clarify, is whether the 2nd Amendment applies only to federal laws.

Our friends, the Saudis, II

As expected, the Saudi Arabian justice system has defended it's ruling of a few days ago that sentenced a 19-year-old rape victim to 200 lashes for riding in a car with an unrelated male:
Saudi defends verdict against gang-rape victim
Tue Nov 20, 2007

RIYADH (Reuters) - Saudi Arabia defended on Tuesday a court's decision to sentence a woman who was gang-raped to 200 lashes of the whip, after the United States described the verdict as "astonishing".

The 19-year-old Shi'ite woman from the town of Qatif in the Eastern Province and an unrelated male companion were abducted and raped by seven men in 2006.

Ruling according to Saudi Arabia's strict reading of Islamic law, a court had originally sentenced the woman to 90 lashes and the rapists to jail terms of between 10 months and five years. It blamed the woman for being alone with an unrelated man.

Last week the Supreme Judicial Council increased the sentence to 200 lashes and six months in prison and ordered the rapists to serve between two and nine years in jail.

In my original posting about this case I used the term "double jeopardy" to describe the startling legal tangle in which this young woman finds herself. Upon further consideration I've concluded that there is no word that I know of for this situation; i. e., the victim of a violent crime is charged and convicted of the crime of violating a tenet of Sharia law. Then, upon receiving an extremely harsh sentence (90 lashes), the court decided to up the dose to an inconceivable 200 lashes.

Double jeopardy doesn't fit because that merely covers the case of a defendant being found innocent of a crime and then being tried again for the exact same crime. This is indescribable. Jesus Christ himself only endured 39 lashes.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Think it can't happen here?

A British emigré to New Zealand is having trouble getting his wife to join him. No, she isn't reluctant to move to NZ. She's been disqualified from moving there because she's too fat:
Richie Trezise, 35, a rugby-playing Welshman, lost weight to gain entry to New Zealand after initially being rejected for being overweight and a potential burden on the health care system.

His wife, Rowan, 33, a photographer, has been battling for months to shed the pounds so they can be reunited and live Down Under but has so far been unable to overcome New Zealand’s weight regulations.

A drain on the national health care system. Does that sound familiar?:
Robyn Toomath, a spokesman for Fight the Obesity Epidemic and an endocrinologist, said she was opposed to obese people being stigmatised. "However, the immigration department’s focus is different," she said. "It cannot afford to import people into the country who are going to be a significant drain on our health resources.

So how did Mr. Trezise's doctor react?
Mr Trezise, a submarine cable specialist and a former soldier, said: "My doctor laughed at me. He said he’d never seen anything more ridiculous in his whole life. He said not every overweight person is unhealthy or unfit.

Can it happen here?

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Our friends, the Saudis

Tough to find words to describe my reaction to this. I'm going to let the story speak for itself (emphasis mine):
Saudi punishes gang rape victim with 200 lashes

Nov 15 10:51 AM US/Eastern

A court in the ultra-conservative kingdom of Saudi Arabia is punishing a female victim of gang rape with 200 lashes and six months in jail, a newspaper reported on Thursday.

The 19-year-old woman -- whose six armed attackers have been sentenced to jail terms -- was initially ordered to undergo 90 lashes for "being in the car of an unrelated male at the time of the rape," the Arab News reported.

But in a new verdict issued after Saudi Arabia's Higher Judicial Council ordered a retrial, the court in the eastern town of Al-Qatif more than doubled the number of lashes to 200.

A court source told the English-language Arab News that the judges had decided to punish the woman further for "her attempt to aggravate and influence the judiciary through the media."

Saudi Arabia enforces a strict Islamic doctrine known as Wahhabism and forbids unrelated men and women from associating with each other, bans women from driving and forces them to cover head-to-toe in public.

Last year, the court sentenced six Saudi men to between one and five years in jail for the rape as well as ordering lashes for the victim, a member of the minority Shiite community.

But the woman's lawyer Abdul Rahman al-Lahem appealed, arguing that the punishments were too lenient in a country where the offence can carry the death penalty.

In the new verdict issued on Wednesday, the Al-Qatif court also toughened the sentences against the six men to between two and nine years in prison.

The case has angered members of Saudi Arabia's Shiite community. The convicted men are Sunni Muslims, the dominant community in the oil-rich Gulf state.

Lahem, also a human rights activist, told AFP on Wednesday that the court had banned him from handling the rape case and withdrew his licence to practise law because he challenged the verdict.

He said he has also been summoned by the ministry of justice to appear before a disciplinary committee in December.

Lahem said the move might be due to his criticism of some judicial institutions, and "contradicts King Abdullah's quest to introduce reform, especially in the justice system."

King Abdullah last month approved a new body of laws regulating the judicial system in Saudi Arabia, which rules on the basis of sharia, or Islamic law.

You've heard of double jeopardy? It's a TV game show, right? Well, in this case it's something we've never had to deal with in this country because of the Fifth Amendment. Somehow I don't think "I claim the Fifth" would go over very well in Saudi Arabia. That poor girl is going to feel the weight of Sharia with every lash.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Hurricanes in the U.S.? What hurricanes?


Well, here we are near the end of this year's hurricane season, and for the second year running the number of hurricanes to hit the United States was zero. This makes it annoyingly difficult for the global warming johnnies to support the notion that 2005 was only a taste of the horrible killer hurricanes we could expect from now on, now that man-made climate change is upon us.

Note that the number of hurricanes forecast for 2007 was between seven and ten. Five actually formed. This year's hurricane curve hugged the 1944-2005 average curve precisely.

What does this all mean other than the fact that it's very pleasant not to have to clean up after multiple Hurricane Katrina's? Not much. We'll continue to have hurricanes every year. Some of them will hit the United States, some won't. Some will be severe. Some won't.

But for global warming apologists to have suggested that 2005 was a watershed year for hurricanes was the silliest sort of hubris. I very fervently want them to know that.

What is December 16th? The Tea Party!

Does anyone else find this completely bizarre?


Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie, without doubt two of the most well-known actors in the world, have purchased one of the 300 islands (the one shaped like Ethiopia) for sale in Dubai, part of "The World" development. According to the news story:
The Hollywood couple intend to use the reclaimed piece of land to showcase environmental issues and encourage people to live a greener life, the Emirates Today newspaper said.

The bizarre thing to me is the idea that to make this "showcase" an island had to be built from scratch in the Persian Gulf as part of arguably the most expensive land development on the planet. This isn't like those prairie grass plots you see around here; every speck of the island Pitt and Jolie purchased was deposited there by machines and a lot of Indians: the white sand, the palm trees, the docks, the breakwaters, the millions of yards of dirt, etc.

And if this is a "showcase", I wonder how it will be shown to an eager world? Is this hyper-exclusive real estate development going to be a magnet for wealthy eco-tourists? Somehow I can't see a Disney-like water ride around the "showcase". Maybe an episode on "Lives of the Rich and Famous"? Or is there to be a special episode of "Extreme Makeover: Dubai Edition"?

Now, don't get me wrong. I have no quarrel with rich people deciding to buy their very own island. However, I am — "curious" isn't strong enough, but it'll have to do — curious about the motivations to create this environmental "showcase" in a place where no normal person will ever see it.

That is, as the Emirates Today article says:
The plots will be accessible only by boat and security teams will patrol constantly.

Not too conducive for anyone viewing the "showcase" but invited guests , I'd say.

Monday, November 12, 2007

One to watch: District of Columbia v. Heller

The final chapter in our country's long history of angst over the right to bear arms could be decided by the Supreme Court in a few months. The case involves a security guard in Washington, DC, who insists that he has the right to keep a handgun in his home, contrary to the DC law.

On Tuesday we might know whether the Court will take the case at all, that's the first step.

It's curious to me that something like the establishment to a right to abortion can be manufactured out of "penumbras" (i.e., thin air), but that a phrase right out of the Bill of Rights ("the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed") would lead to so many federal laws restricting that Constitutional right.

Here's the story about the case. And here's a very interesting article written about it.

Monday, November 05, 2007

The Ron Paul Money Bomb

From the RonPaul2008.com web site:
ARLINGTON, VIRGINIA—Republican presidential candidate Ron Paul has raised over $3.1 million in the past 19 hours, making today’s the single largest fundraising effort of the 2008 election cycle. At 4:00 pm, the campaign’s $2.7 million broke the record for the largest online presidential primary fundraising effort in a single day, and by 6:30 pm, the campaign broke Mitt Romney’s $3.1 million record for single-day fundraising this year.

Thus far today, approximately 25,000 supporters have contributed to the so-called “money bomb.”

I made my contribution at around 10:15 pm Eastern time. The total for today so far is over $3.7 million. Take that you Republican party hacks!

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

On being correct, II

Multiple stories today that cover the spectrum of the government-sanctioned compulsory-attendance matriculation centers. First:
GISD moves ahead with threat to sue parent

By Rhiannon Meyers
The Daily News

Published October 31, 2007
GALVESTON — The public school district has officially demanded that parent Sandra Tetley remove what it says is libelous material from her Web site or face a lawsuit for defamation.

Tetley said she’ll review the postings cited by David Feldman of the district’s firm Feldman and Rogers. She’ll consider the context of the postings and consult attorneys before deciding what to delete.

Feldman said Tetley’s Web site — www.gisdwatch.com — contained the most “personal, libelous invective directed toward a school administrator” he’s seen in his 31-year career.

Feldman cited 16 examples of what he says are libelous postings. Half were posted by Tetley; the other half were posted by anonymous users.

The postings accuse Superintendent Lynne Cleveland, trustees and administrators of lying, manipulation, falsifying budget numbers, using their positions for “personal gain,” violating the Open Meetings Act and spying on employees, among other things.

Tetley said the postings were opinions only.

“Everyone deserves to have their opinion,” she said. “I don’t think they have a right to make me, or anyone else, take down criticisms of them off the Web site. They’re not going to force us to take off our opinions because we have no other place to go.”

From Tetley's web site:
Mr. Feldman, the School District, the Board and the Firm have unlimited funds with which to fight me. They’ve already spent thousands of dollars monitoring the website, discussing their options and bringing in Mr. Feldman himself for the dramatic presentation to the School Board. You can see the check registers on the GISD Board Book and request a copy of the legal bills through an Open Records Request. I’ve seen the individual line item attorney charges – they charge the district for monitoring this website. Nearly every day.

I believe this whole issue to sue me for gisdwatch is a reflection of the school board members' and of the superintendent's disdain for public dissent, criticism and open government. I strongly believe it is a direct attempt to stifle some of the most sharp and revealing criticism of their actions. I believe it is a direct attempt to stifle teachers and administrators from questioning their authority, alerting us to problems and to voice their distaste for the administration. No longer can the administration and board go unnoticed. They apparently do not like to be questioned on their actions. They apparently do not appreciate being made a parody but who does? But do each of us go out and sue someone for making fun of us or criticizing us or calling us names?

So this whole imbroglio will be worth watching if only to see how far the school district gets in suing someone for her opinions.

Next, a school forbids certain Halloween costumes:
Political Figures, Latex Among Items Banned For Various Reasons

(AP) There will be as many standards for Halloween costumes today as there are schools in Illinois. At West Elementary School in north suburban Glencoe, princesses and superheroes will walk the halls. But there will be no Richard Nixons or George Bushes.

This is because school administrators have banned costumes depicting political figures, calling them inappropriate for 8- to 10-year-olds.

Many schools prohibit costumes, while some elementary schools allow only preschool and kindergarten students to dress up. Masks are generally prohibited at schools that allow the bizarre on Halloween, as are fake weapons. Hatchets coming out of heads are also frowned upon.

At Naperville Central High School, latex is a no-no. There is a student and a custodian at the school with a life-threatening latex allergy.

Just par for the course at schools these days (including the accommodations for the two allergy sufferers). I do wonder, however, why schools don't just ban all holidays. Let the kids out for the federal holidays but ignore the secular and religious ones.

Looks like Russian schools have banned Halloween:
MOSCOW (Reuters) - Moscow schools have been ordered to ban students from celebrating the cult of the dead, better known as Halloween, despite the widespread popularity of the imported festival to Russia.

Halloween is being forced underground because it "includes religious elements, the cult of death, the mockery of death," a spokesman for the city's education department Alexander Gavrilov said on Wednesday.

"It's not an attempt to block the celebration of this holiday completely, just in schools and colleges," he added.

Pumpkins and images of witches are widespread across Russia, with many bars organizing special fancy dress parties, despite the efforts of the Kremlin and especially the Russian Orthodox Church to curb enthusiasm for non-native festivities.

"This is destructive for the minds and the spiritual and moral health of pupils," said Gavrilov, saying the ban had been recommended by psychiatrists.

Of course, the experts know best what's good for us.

On to the next story:
Teachers' Muslim dress order

By ANDREW PARKER

Published: 31 Oct 2007

Rufford primary school in Lye, West Midlands [England], was yesterday accused of making teachers dress up as Asians for a day – to celebrate a Muslim festival. Kids at the 257-pupil primary have also been told to don ethnic garb even though most are Christians.

The morning assembly will be open to all parents – but dads are barred from a women-only party in the afternoon because Muslim husbands object to wives mixing with other men.

Just two members of staff – a part-time teacher and a teaching assistant – are Muslim.

Yesterday a relative of one of the 39 others said: “Staff have got to go along with it – or let’s face it, they would be branded racist.

“Who would put their job on the line? They have been told they have to embrace the day to show their diversity. But they are not all happy.”

The day aims to belatedly mark Eid, the end of Ramadan.

Sally Bloomer, head of the school, insisted: “I have not heard of any complaints.

“It’s all part of a diversity project to promote multi-culturalism.”

Oh, gawd! Spare me! It'll happen in the U.S., mark my words.

And, finally:
N.Y. Students Stage Walk-Out, Protest Rats

Tony Aiello

NEW YORK (CBS) -- Hundreds of students walked out of a Rockland County High School Wednesday, voicing their concern about vermin, filling the school's athletic field and banging on the fence that surrounds it in protest.

Students at Clarkstown North High School claim the "three R's" have been supplemented with two more: roaches and rats. Some held signs reading, ""Clean North" and "Rams not roaches," according to the Journal News.

Cases of rat sightings have been widespread of late. According to football player Steven Jean-Baptiste, when he took his shoe out from his locker, three big roaches crawled out.

Another student used a camera phone to snap a picture of a rodent outside the high school door.

The district, located just north of New York City, removed three dead rats, including a decomposing one that was crawling with maggots, at the high school's annex building, officials said.

Wednesday, hundreds of kids cut class to protest the grotesque conditions.

"The problem of roaches at North High School is decades long and from my understanding, it's probably the most resilient life species that exists on the face of the earth," said Clarkstown Superintendent, Margaret Keller-Cogan.

"Students need to stop leaving sandwich crusts and french fries lying about. This does attract critters and other things on the floor. One thing we can do is pick up the garbage and simply throw it out," Leonardatos said.

Students however, say the vermin issue is so vexing they'll protest at the school board later this month.

It's bad enough when the kid brings home a cold from being at school. But what if he brings home bubonic plague instead?

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Recent commentary: likeable politicians

Who's your favorite public official?

(published 29-Oct-2007, Appleton Post-Crescent)

In school I thought that one of the female Congresscritters might be worth admiring because there's no way she could be worse than her male counterparts. I've always liked Mike Ellis, ever since we used a couple sound bites of his back in my radio days for our annual blooper tape. But that probably isn't the best reason for liking a public official. I also like and support Congressman Ron Paul, even to the extent of being one of the people that hold up those "Ron Paul for President" signs you see on highway 41. Judging by the ratio of thumbs-up to other, less congenial hand gestures I've seen, lots of other folks like him, too. The guy makes sense, he's intelligently consistent, his voting record is Constitutionally superb, and he tells it straight. His Texas constituents have re-elected him nine times. I'd love for us to elect him as President.

Friday, October 12, 2007

You don't think environmentalism is a religion?

Then consider what erstwhile Vice President Al Gore said upon being notified that he had won this year's Nobel Peace Prize:
We face a true planetary emergency. The climate crisis is not a political issue, it is a moral and spiritual challenge to all of humanity.

It isn't political at all! Why haven't I gotten the message? It must be that my spirit is suffering a moral dilemma or conflict or something. The Vice President says so!

Actually, as P. J. O'Rourke put it so piquantly, I've had an epiphany. I've achieved regime satori. And I just remembered that the Nobel committee gave the Peace Prize to Yasser Arafat in the early 90's. (Arafat, by the way, is still in stable condition in a grave in Ramallah.)

Thursday, October 11, 2007

"Serious scientific inaccuracies, political propaganda and sentimental mush"

It took a British judge (stories in the Times of London, New York Times, and Agence France Presse) to utter those words describing parts of erstwhile Vice President Al Gore's movie, "An Inconvenient Truth". He said those words when handing down his ruling that the movie could, indeed, be shown in 3500 British secondary schools, but that
the Oscar-winning film should be accompanied by government guidance notes and to distribute it without them would breach education laws prohibiting the promotion of unbalanced political viewpoints.

That quote is from the Agence-France Presse story on the ruling.

Judge Michael Burton noted 9 inaccuracies that would require those "government guidance notes":
The inaccuracies are:
  1. The film claims that melting snows on Mount Kilimanjaro evidence global warming. The Government’s expert was forced to concede that this is not correct.
  2. The film suggests that evidence from ice cores proves that rising CO2 causes temperature increases over 650,000 years. The Court found that the film was misleading: over that period the rises in CO2 lagged behind the temperature rises by 800-2000 years.
  3. The film uses emotive images of Hurricane Katrina and suggests that this has been caused by global warming. The Government’s expert had to accept that it was “not possible” to attribute one-off events to global warming.
  4. The film shows the drying up of Lake Chad and claims that this was caused by global warming. The Government’s expert had to accept that this was not the case.
  5. The film claims that a study showed that polar bears had drowned due to disappearing arctic ice. It turned out that Mr Gore had misread the study: in fact four polar bears drowned and this was because of a particularly violent storm.
  6. The film threatens that global warming could stop the Gulf Stream throwing Europe into an ice age: the Claimant’s evidence was that this was a scientific impossibility.
  7. The film blames global warming for species losses including coral reef bleaching. The Government could not find any evidence to support this claim.
  8. The film suggests that sea levels could rise by 7m causing the displacement of millions of people. In fact the evidence is that sea levels are expected to rise by about 40cm over the next hundred years and that there is no such threat of massive migration.
  9. The film claims that rising sea levels has caused the evacuation of certain Pacific islands to New Zealand. The Government are unable to substantiate this and the Court observed that this appears to be a false claim.

Believe me, I am no fan of government, and the thought that school children would need "government guidance notes" is repellent to me. But British law is different from American law and the kiddies in the British public school system there are going to be treated to government guidance whether they like it or not.

Mr. Gore has his Academy Award. He has the ear of the enthusiastic mainstream media. Now he has well-wishers that placed a full-page ad in the New York Times containing an open letter to Mr. Gore urging him to run for President. The letter contains the following, shall we say, heartfelt statement:
America and the Earth need a hero right now — someone who will transcend politics as usual and bring real hope to our country and to the world.

I'm afraid I have to excuse myself. I feel somewhat indisposed...

Saturday, October 06, 2007

An excellent on-line Presidential preference quiz

USA Today has put together a superb interactive preference quiz for the 17 Republican and Democratic Presidential candidates still in the race. "Superb" because after you answer each of the 11 questions you can see which candidate falls in line with your answer. Here's a snapshot of my own results:
There are sliders provided for you to weight the results based on any of seven factors: the Iraq War, health care, immigration, global scare-mongering (that is to say, anthro-centric / anthropogenic global warming), etc. You may then determine which candidates are really more in line with your way of thinking if you downplay certain factors and emphasize others.

For those that like grids more than graphs, this site gives you that as well:

Ron Paul is my man!

Friday, September 28, 2007

Recent commentary: Favorite fall thing

What's your favorite thing about fall in Wisconsin?

(published 1-Oct-2007, Appleton Post-Crescent)

Halloween! My wife makes terrific costumes, especially duplicates of costumes from artsy children's movies. Last year she dressed our daughter in the wedding dress from "The Castle Cagliostro". Obscure, hunh? She's very good at papier mache, too. We still have an amazing papier mache mask of Anubis that she made for our second son a dozen years ago. I even managed to squeeze into it when I had bowl duty. Nobody quite knows what to say when Anubis answers the door, you know? The kids, having been drilled never to take candy from strangers, know that it's different on Halloween; but a guy in an Anubis mask holding out a bowl of Snickers and Milk Duds crosses the line somehow. You can almost hear them thinking, "Is this dude like Jason from 'Friday the 13th' and he's going to whip out a chainsaw or something?" How can you beat that?

Monday, August 20, 2007

And speaking of Greenpeace...


...you've heard, no doubt, about the latest photographic "installation" composed by Spencer Tunick? 600 people stripped bare to stop glaciers from melting, or something like that. Oh, wait! It's a global warming protest, that's it!

Greenpeace has a slideshow, a "making of" movie, and Windows wallpaper here. I downloaded the 1440 x 900 wallpaper myself. I never want to forget the significance of this event.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Just keeping an eye on it for ya


The 2007 Atlantic storm forecast, that is. There isn't much one can say about the curve so far other than it's one ahead of last year which was a pretty average storm season.

I'm simply watching. The anthropogenic/anthro-centric global warming johnnies keep making noise about the horrible hurricanes and storms and heat waves that we're going to have. They had to have been severely disappointed that not a single hurricane made landfall in the U. S. last year...especially after 2005 more than fulfilled all of their hopes, and made Al Gore's movie a hit.

I'd say that we should keep our heads, as Bjorn Lomborg advises. He's the author of a fabulous book, The Skeptical Environmentalist: Measuring the Real State of the World, debunking the worst environmental scares perpetrated by the green crowd. Since he's a former member of Greenpeace, it might pay to listen to him.

Lomborg has a new book coming out next month called Cool It: The Skeptical Environmentalist's Guide to Global Warming. Here's what author Michael Crichton (The Andromeda Strain, Jurassic Park, Disclosure, State of Fear)has to say about it:
Lomborg is only interested in real problems, and he has no patience with media fear-mongering; he begins by dispatching the myth of the endangered polar bears, showing that this Disneyesque cartoon has no relevance to the real world where polar bear populations are in fact increasing. Lomborg considers the issue in detail, citing sources from Al Gore to the World Wildlife Fund, then demonstrating that polar bear populations have actually increased five fold since the 1960s.

Lomborg then works his way through the concerns we hear so much about: higher temperatures, heat deaths, species extinctions, the cost of cutting carbon, the technology to do it. Lomborg believes firmly in climate change--despite his critics, he's no denier--but his fact-based approach, grounded in economic analyses, leads him again and again to a different view. He reviews published estimates of the cost of climate change, and the cost of addressing it, and concludes that "we actually end up paying more for a partial solution than the cost of the entire problem. That is a bad deal."

In some of the most disturbing chapters, Lomborg recounts what leading climate figures have said about anyone who questions the orthodoxy, thus demonstrating the illiberal, antidemocratic tone of the current debate. Lomborg himself takes the larger view, explaining in detail why the tone of hysteria is inappropriate to addressing the problems we face.

In the end, Lomborg’s concerns embrace the planet. He contrasts our concern for climate with other concerns such as HIV/AIDS, malnutrition, and providing clean water to the world. In the end, his ability to put climate in a global perspective is perhaps the book’s greatest value. Lomborg and Cool It are our best guides to our shared environmental future.

Can't wait to get my copy.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Recent commentary: P-C Pro & Con -- Universal Health Care in WI: I'm against it

Universal health care isn't for U.S.

Government system more expensive, less effective

(published 13-Sep-2007, Appleton Post-Crescent)

"The government is good at one thing...it knows how to break your legs, and then hands you a crutch and says 'See? If it weren't for the government you wouldn't be able to walk.'" -- Harry Browne

That quote is so astoundingly appropriate to the universal health care debate one hardly has to say anything else. But for those that think the government makes great crutches, read on.

I must first make a sobering observation: we are going to have more government meddling in health care. The government juggernaut cannot help but roll over every aspect of health care delivery, covering the landscape with new regulations. This is not a guess. No matter how vehemently I or anyone else opposes greater regulation of health care, it is simply going to happen. If that makes you happy, then give three cheers because you're gonna get what you've always dreamed of.

All I can do is play Cassandra and, in my humble yet deadly accurate way, predict just what will take place.

First health care will get scarcer. That is, it will take longer to get any AND there will be less of it. When health care is "cheaper" because it's "universal" and the government is subsidizing it for the millions of people without insurance, the first thing that will happen is that you won't be able to see your doctor nearly as quickly as you do now because loads more people will start going to see her. It's the Iron Law of Economics and it works for health care just as it does for milk, iPhones, and mortgages: people will buy more of something at a lower price than they will at a higher price.

You say that you're OK with longer waits as long as everybody gets to have a chance to see a doctor without breaking the bank? Then please consider how long our neighbors in the Great White North have to wait for certain procedures. Canada's Fraser Institute does a survey every year to determine average waiting times for surgery and other treatments by specialists. The AVERAGE wait time in Canada is near its all-time high of 18 weeks -- over four months.

From the latest (Oct, 2006) report: “Canadians should not expect to see any dramatic improvement in waiting times as a result of the latest federal-provincial agreements regarding waiting lists. The long waiting times for medically necessary services are a symptom of a much greater problem: a poorly designed health care system.”

The totally government-controlled health care system in Canada is "poorly designed"...and they're talking about "medically necessary services", not Botox treatments. In other words operations that will keep patients alive can't be had because the waiting lines are so long.

If it weren't for the government you wouldn't be able to walk!

Second, doctors will leave practice early or will avoid certain specialties. There is already a crisis in 22 states with ob-gyn doctors: there aren't enough to go around because of astronomical malpractice insurance rates. Some hospitals have closed their obstetrics departments. Universal coverage will do nothing to bring ob-gyn doctors back. Not only that, but geriatrics as a branch of medicine is imperiled by low Medicare (government) reimbursements.

Third, more of the doctors that are left will refuse to take patients covered under the new regulations. If you think that the new "universal" plan will force a doctor to see patients, you must not have heard of Medicare and Medicaid. The American Medical Association's own survey done last year revealed that 45% of physicians treating elderly patients would refuse to take new patients after the January, 2007, Medicare cuts went into effect. Medicare already pays less than most insurance plans...and it's a LOT harder to shake down the government.

U. S. Representative Steve "Doctor Millionaire" Kagen -- the darling of the universal coverage set -- wrote in the Post-Crescent on August 8th: "We cannot fix health care without doctors, and the [Children's Health Care and Medicare Protection] CHAMP Act ensures doctors will be paid adequately so they may continue to care for their patients." He recognizes that government meddling has made for reduced availability of doctors because they weren't paid enough from the public trough. So he's going to put a pin in one of the legs that the government broke to see if it'll hold up without crutches.

He also says it's "fiscally responsible". It takes a big man to admit his mistakes, but what kind of metaphor applies to enormous government programs? What does it say about Medicare's multi-decade custodians that the program will only NOW be "fiscally responsible"?

Universal health care will definitely be more expensive, less available, more unwiedldy, and less effective than the mess we're already in. If you think that it's expensive now just wait until it's "free".

Friday, August 03, 2007

Recent commentary: volunteerism

Do you spend any time volunteering?

(published 6-Aug-2007, Appleton Post-Crescent)

Cub Scout leader, community theatre board, chess club director...all that's in the past. My full-time volunteer work continues: rearing two step-sons and a bio-daughter. Anyone who marries into an existing family makes an interesting – to say the least – volunteer commitment. There have been many times that I've tried to live up to the example of my own step-father. He was steady, fair, firm, and reliable. Not particularly warm and fuzzy, but he had plenty to handle with four of us reacting to him in a variety of prickly ways. I have half as many step-children so I figure my task is one-fourth as difficult (inverse square law). Every kid is different and my step-sons really aren't like my brothers and sisters. I only hope that they'll look back with understanding on my attempts to rear them when they become fathers and step-fathers themselves.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Health insurance is NOT health care, I

Single-payer, government-administered health insurance plans have one thing going for them: they're simple to explain. That is, what could be simpler than dealing with one organization, the government, when it comes to health insurance claims? The government isn't out to turn a profit nor is it motivated by looking for ways to avoid taxes or to satisfy stock holders. None of that rubbish.

But perhaps things aren't quite so clear. In a paper posted on the Free Market Cure web site, author David Gratzer examines the issues that make "simple" government-run health insurance a tad more complicated. Here's his summary:
[P]rominent politicians recognize the angst of middle America and flirt with single payer. "I think we've reached a point where the entire health care system is in impending crisis. I have reluctantly come to the conclusion that we should begin drafting a single-payer national health plan," former Vice President Al Gore stated in the fall of 2002. His comments weren't greeted with a sea of enthusiasm but the fact that a serious contender for the Democratic presidential nomination would flirt with the idea suggests that single-payer health care is at least a possibility.

And it is. True, there is limited enthusiasm on the part of federal politicians to take on a sweeping new initiative after the grand failure of Clinton-care. True, too, that American journalists increasingly report the problems of single-payer systems like Canada's medicare. But Americans wouldn't completely dismiss the idea.

It lives on because of its simplicity. Those who promote single payer present the idea as a magic bullet. Why fuss with the sticky economics of health care when all you need is a simple government initiative? Indeed, the word simple (and its derivatives) seems to appear as often in Himmelstein and Woolhandler's book as motivation speakers shower their talks with the word empowerment.

In this paper, we explore the government temptation. Far from being an elegant solution, we find that government-run health care systems are universally plagued with deep problems. Whether we look to Canada or Britain or Germany, we find that single payer is a fanciful temptation, like hoping that a new house will save a troubled marriage.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Instead of that fruitcake, Kennedy...

...how about this from Dr. D. Bruce Merrifield, former Undersecretary of Commerce for Economic Affairs and Professor Emeritus of the Wharton School of Business at the University of Pennsylvania:
Summary

The earth has been subjected to many warming and cooling periods over millions of years, none of which were of human origin. Data from many independent sources have mutually corroborated these effects. They include data from coring both the Antarctic ice cap and sediments from the Sargasso Sea, from stalagmites, from tree rings, from up-wellings in the oceans, and from crustaceans trapped in pre-historic rock formations.

The onset of each 100,000-year abrupt warming period has been coincident with emissions into the atmosphere of large amounts of both carbon dioxide and methane greenhouse gases, which absorb additional heat from the sun, a secondary warming effect. Solar radiation would appear to be the initial forcing event in which warming oceans waters release dissolved carbon dioxide, and melt methane hydrates, both of which are present in the oceans in vast quantities. Subsequent declines in radiation are associated with long cooling periods in which the green house gases then gradually disappear (are re-absorbed) into terrestrial and ocean sinks, as reflected in the data from coring the Antarctic Ice Cap and Sargasso Sea.

The current 100 year solar radiation cycle may now have reached its peak, and irradiation intensity has been observed to be declining. This might account for the very recent net cessation of emission of green house gases into the atmosphere starting about 1988, in spite of increasing generation of anthropomorphically-sourced industrial-based green house gases.

While it seems likely that solar radiation, rather than human activity, is the "forcing agent" for global warming, the subject surely needs more study.

That's just the summary of the article. Having somebody like Robert Kennedy calling people traitors for not doing something about global warming puts me right off my feed. I just can't get over how willing people are to believe all of these politicians that have jumped on the anthropogenic/anthro-centric global warming bandwagon and who are now fighting for the reins.

Monday, July 09, 2007

"Get rid of all these rotten politicians"

Hear! Hear! That was Robert Kennedy creating part of the sound and fury signifying ... well, nothing ... at the Live Earth Concert:
[I]t was nonmusicians at this concert who made the most passionate pleas about demanding action for the environment. "Get rid of all these rotten politicians that we have in Washington, who are nothing more than corporate toadies," said Robert F. Kennedy Jr., the environmentalist author, president of Waterkeeper Alliance and Robert F. Kennedy's son, who grew hoarse from shouting. "This is treason. And we need to start treating them as traitors."

Well, I like the part about getting rid of "all these rotten politicians", but why for refusing to move more quickly to forestall anthropogenic, anthro-centric global climate change? I say "Hear! Hear!" to that! Stall forever, says I!

There were more maudlin appeals:
Primatologist Jane Goodall offered a greeting in chimpanzee language, before saying, "Up in the North the ice is melting, what will it take to melt the ice in the human heart?"

And there was this bit of bloviating:
For John Mayer, the raised awareness that Live Earth U.S.A. brought to the issue of climate change made the event a success. "I think a lot of people at Giants Stadium today want to listen," he said. "Awareness works likes a vitamin. You go to the bathroom and 99 percent of it is gone but you hope that you retained 1 percent."

How apropos to use bathroom similes for this event.

Sunday, July 08, 2007

You can be skeptical all you want...

...but, jeez, lady! Keep it to yourself, eh? French Housing Minister, Christine Boutin, expressed apparent belief that President Bush was behind the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon:
French official suggested Bush was behind September 11

Sat Jul 7, 7:34 AM ET

PARIS (Reuters) - A senior French politician, now a minister in President Nicolas Sarkozy's government, suggested last year that U.S. President George W. Bush might have been behind the September 11, 2001 attacks, according to a website.

The www.ReOpen911.info website, which promotes September 11 conspiracy theories, has posted a video clip of French Housing Minister Christine Boutin appearing to question that Osama bin Laden's al Qaeda group orchestrated the attacks. Boutin's office sought to play down the remarks.

Asked in an interview last November, before she became minister, whether she thought Bush might be behind the attacks, Boutin says: "I think it is possible. I think it is possible."

The next paragraph is particularly revealing:
Boutin backs her assertion by pointing to the large number of people who visit websites that challenge the official line over the September 11 strikes against U.S. cities.

"I know that the websites that speak of this problem are websites that have the highest number of visits ... And I tell myself that this expression of the masses and of the people cannot be without any truth."

Followed by a little CYA:
Boutin's office sought to play down the remarks, saying that later in the same interview she says: "I'm not telling you that I adhere to that position." This comment does not appear on the video clip on ReOpen911.

It would be my public duty to inform Madame Housing Minister that lots of people believe lots of things. Conspiracy theories, the honest-to-God-this-time end of the world scenarios, receiving $5 from Bill Gates just for visiting the Microsoft web site, horoscopes...you name it, people will believe it.

I think that Mme. Boutin should visit Snopes.com and put her mind at rest about the tendency people have to believe three outrageous things before breakfast.

Saturday, July 07, 2007

Anthro-centric global scare mongering, XXXVII


Well, the concert's over and Madonna has saved the planet:
Wearing a below-the-knee puff-sleeved dress, matching knee-length leggings and black patent Mary-Janes, the star of the show, Madonna, took to the stage for her performance of Hey You where she was joined by a choir of schoolchildren.

She then strummed an electric guitar to Ray of Light before bursting into La Isla Bonita accompanied by cult New York Gypsy punk band Gogol Bordello

Madonna thanked Al Gore, the brainchild of the nine concerts across the globe, "for giving the world the wake-up call it so badly needs and for starting an avalanche of awareness that we are running out of time".

"Running out of time." Gad! It is absolutely amazing how much people want to believe that things will go to hell unless we sing about them or watch Al Gore's movie.

Madonna tried to resurrect the most amazingly drastic global warming reversal ever attempted (emphasis mine):
She said: "Lets hope tonight's concert and the concerts going on around the world are not just about entertainment but starting a revolution around the world. If you want to save the planet let me see you jump."

She must have heard about World Jump Day! Say! With the concert "beamed to 2 billion people", she certainly had a much larger audience than WJD was able to muster!

What this planet needs is LIVE BAIT!

A reader of my last post about Al Gore's Live Earth concert sent me a link to his own blog. The link describes a far more constructive event than the silly world-wide music concerts for anthropogenic global warming. That event is Live Bait!

Global WORMing Responsible for Global WARMing

June 25th, 2007

GLOBAL WORMING may be the culprit behind the much-talked-about “climate crisis” that, according to people like Al Gore, threatens the existence of life on Planet Earth.

This revelation comes courtesy Jim Frederickson, research director at the UK-based Composting Association. He was quoted in a recent Materials Recycling Week magazine article as saying the following:

“Worms produce a significant amount of greenhouse gases. Recent research done by German scientists has found that worms produced a third of nitrous oxide gases when used for composting.”

and

“The emissions that come from these worms can actually be 290 times more potent than carbon dioxide and 20 times more potent than methane. In all environmental systems you get good points and bad points.”

Now that mankind has been duly informed that worms are serious polluters likely responsible for global warming, I’ve developed a handful of possible solutions for dealing with this slimy menace.

And, by golly, he lists some pretty good ones. Makes me want to take up fishing again.

Friday, July 06, 2007

"The last thing the planet needs is a rock concert"

So said rock patriarch Roger Daltrey of The Who regarding erstwhile American Vice President Al Gore's Live Earth concert set to start tomorrow.

I haven't said anything about anthropogenic, anthro-centric global climate change in quite a while. Not that there haven't been oodles of news stories; it's the quantity that gets to me. I'm juicing up for a couple, three reviews of the news here shortly.

But this story about pop stars expressing doubt about Live Earth roused me enough to laugh, at least. Here's what some of them are saying besides that gem by Daltrey. Bob Geldoff, organizer of Live Aid and Live 8:
"Why is he (Gore) actually organising them?" Geldoff said in an interview with a Dutch newspaper in May, adding that everyone was already aware of global warming and the event needed firm commitments from politicians and polluters.

Rock group, Arctic Monkeys
have become the latest music industry stars to question whether the performers taking part in Live Earth on Saturday are suitable climate change activists.

"It's a bit patronising for us 21 year olds to try to start to change the world," said Arctic Monkeys drummer Matt Helders, explaining why the group is not on the bill at any of Al Gore's charity concerts.

"Especially when we're using enough power for 10 houses just for (stage) lighting. It'd be a bit hypocritical," he told AFP in an interview before a concert in Paris.

Bass player Nick O'Malley chimes in: "And we're always jetting off on aeroplanes!"

Large parts of the band's hometown of Sheffield were flooded at the end of last month after a deluge of mid-summer rain that some blamed on global warming. Two people were killed.

But the band wonder why anyone would be interested in the opinion of rock stars on a complex scientific issue like climate change.

"Someone asked us to give a quote about what was happening in Sheffield and it's like 'who cares what we think about what's happening'?" added Helders.

"There's more important people who can have an opinion. Why does it make us have an opinion because we're in a band?"

The Pet Shop Boys, Neil Tennant,
attacked the arrogance of pop stars who put themselves forward as role-models.

"I've always been against the idea of rock stars lecturing people as if they know something the rest of us don't," he was reported as saying by British music magazine NME.

OK, it isn't all that humorous. All of these folks taking themselves way too seriously about an event that is the modern equivalent of a rain dance.

Thursday, July 05, 2007

Books: Crazies and Wimps

This week I've been reading the latest book by Bernard Goldberg, Crazies to the Left of Me, Wimps to the Right - How One Side Lost its Mind and the Other Lost its Nerve. Goldberg is the author of Bias: A CBS Insider Exposes How the Media Distorts the News, Arrogance: Rescuing America from the Media Elite, and 100 People Who Are Screwing Up America (and Al Franken is #37).

There are lots of little tidbits on Don Imus, Ann Coulter, Fox News, "Bush Derangement Syndrome", Alec Baldwin, girly men, global warming, the separation of church and state, muslim extremists, the War on Terror, Jews, pork barrel spending...lots of stuff. All of it organized very well, allowing one to crack open the book anywhere and spend a pleasant half hour.

His most trenchant commentary is on the subject of race in America. I thought I'd quote a passage towards the end of Crazies. I think it hits the sweet spot of the overwhelming hypocrisy built into our handling of racial issues:
[I]f affirmative action and racial preferences are such a good idea, then why don't we use them in really important things, like sports and politics?

Let's start with basketball. To make college and pro teams more diverse, let's reject some really talented black players in favor of white guys, who might not be as good but bring something very important to the table—namely the color of their skin; their minority whiteness.

But what about merit, you say. Shouldn't we take the best players without regard to race? In a word, No! White kids grew up with a distinct disadvantage. They go to inferior high schools (basketball-wise), and could never compete in the big leagues without affirmative action.

But won't the white kids feel stigmatized? Won't they know they got picked for the team not because of their ability but because of their skin color? Who cares! Too much is at stake to worry about such insignificant matters. Sports, as we all know, are a microcosm of America. And so America has a stake in the greater good. And that greater good is called ... diversity!

My plan is to initiate affirmative action at two college basketball powerhouses: the University of Michigan and Michigan State. Why there? Because in 2006 the head coaches of the men's basketball teams at both of those schools publicly came out against a state ballot measure that would have outlawed racial preferences in college admissions. "I know what it takes to build a team," Tom Izzo, the Michigan State coach said, "and that is diversity. We need all kinds of players on our team."

So, if Coach Tom Izzo and his pal Coach Tommy Amaker of the University of Michigan care so much about diversity then I'm sure they'd be very happy to ditch four or five of their talented black players to make room for four or five young white men who can't jump—or maybe can't dribble, either. All in the name of diversity, of course!

Now let's move on to politics. Under my plan, beginning with the 2008 presidential campaign, every white male candidate would have to tell the American people where he stands on affirmative action as it is currently practiced—meaning that race is used not just as a factor, but often as the factor in deciding who gets into college or who gets hired in the workplace. Once we've established who's for it and who's against it, we would then use the University of Michigan affirmative action plan as our model. Under that plan, certain applicants got twenty extra "admission points" simply because they were minorities. The system worked quite well. It kept many highly qualified white kids out, since they had the wrong skin color. Diversity, as we all know by now, is more important than anything else.

And so it is with presidential politics. Last time I checked, this country has never elected a black president. That's because Americans are racists. If they weren't, they would have elected a fine, decent, honorable man like Al Sharpton, when he ran.

Under my plan every white male candidate who comes out in favor of affirmative action—if he is running against a woman or a racial minority—would have to spot that candidate ten percentage points before the votes are even counted, to make up for past injustices against women and minorities. So if the white male candidate were to "win" the vote by, say, nine percentage points—he would in fact lose the election, because of the ten bonus points. What could be more fair?

Satire, yes, but the point he makes is that racial preferences do nothing for "diversity"; the divide is only increased. It becomes reverse institutional racism. Why do we have to go through that all over again?

The answer? Because it makes people feel better to think that something exculpatory is being done to redress grievances. And if that something bears an uncanny resemblance to the flawed racist policies of the past, well then, we have a lot of guilt to atone for.

It's masochism, self-flagellation. However, many people opposed to this reverse discrimination say nothing because being in the crosshairs of the diversity crowd's gunsights isn't too far removed from what would have happened to a white bus driver in Selma, Alabama, in the 50s who dared to allow blacks to sit in the front of the bus.

Remember what happened to Lawrence Summers, former Harvard President and former Secretary of the Treasury under Clinton? The reverse discrimination/affirmative action crowd at Harvard disgorged him from his position as President because he dared to say out loud that he thought that genetics might be a reason why there were fewer women in the fields of math and the hard sciences.

Summers crumpled under the relentless criticism from the diversity mavens because he knew that he had said something entirely out of character for a Harvard President with the pedigree he has. He apologized repeatedly and abjectly for having strayed from the fold. He even went so far as to pledge other people's money to increase diversity awareness at Harvard. None of it was good enough for that crowd, though. Summers resigned and order was restored, the order of the right-thinking diversifiers. (A very good synopsis and analysis of Summers' gaffe can be found here.)

The Crazies insist that their guilt-ridden compassion should be the law of the land and the Wimps accept the craziness as the price of high office. Isn't it time for "a little rebellion, now and then" that Jefferson called for?