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.


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


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.

December 19


» 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, Monroe County, Florida where I live. What part of "zero tolerance" don't you understand?

Dickford Cohn
December 26


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


Sorry to hear about your 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 WILL be stopped. Absent any other charges...or aggravation, your fine and costs will exceed $ 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


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.


A friend of mine in San Diego replied to this:

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.


My response:

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.


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

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.


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


Chavez Loses Constitutional Vote

Dec 3, 6:54 AM (ET)


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.