How BP Handles a Coffee Spill
I'm going to start more serious blogging again soon. But until then... enjoy this:
Maybe the Dinosaurs Wrote the Declaration of Independence
Texas is deciding to re-write history... again. And contrary to what some believe, these changes do not provide "balance"... they provide craziness. Here is a list of some of the "balance" that Texas is adding:
- A reduced scope for Latino history and culture. A proposal to expand such material in recognition of Texas' rapidly growing Hispanic population was defeated in last week's meetings - provoking one board member, Mary Helen Berlanga, to storm out in protest. "They can just pretend this is a white America and Hispanics don't exist," she said of her conservative colleagues on the board. "They are rewriting history, not only of Texas but of the United States and the world."
Really? I think of all the states in the Union that can't deny an increased Hispanic population, it's Texas. Next thing you know, California will deny it has a border with Mexico. Whether you like it or not, Hispanics are in Texas.
- Changes in specific terminology. Terms that the board's conservative majority felt were ideologically loaded are being retired. Hence, "imperialism" as a characterization of America's modern rise to world power is giving way to "expansionism," and "capitalism" is being dropped in economic material, in favor of the more positive expression "free market." (The new recommendations stress the need for favorable depictions of America’s economic superiority across the board.)
What's sad here is that 1. These people think of Capitalism as a negative connotation which ought to be encouraged and 2. These people think the system we have, with heavily over burdened regulations, corporate corruption and government subsidy is "free market".
- Thomas Jefferson no longer included among writers influencing the nation’s intellectual origins. Jefferson, a deist who helped pioneer the legal theory of the separation of church and state, is not a model founder in the board's judgment. Among the intellectual forerunners to be highlighted in Jefferson's place: medieval Catholic philosopher St. Thomas Aquinas, Puritan theologian John Calvin and conservative British law scholar William Blackstone. Heavy emphasis is also to be placed on the founding fathers having been guided by strict Christian beliefs.
This is the stupidest one of them all. Thomas Jefferson was our 3rd President, and the primary author of the Declaration of Independence for God's sake! In these new, "improved", text books... exactly who do they say authored that document? Dinosaurs? As it turns out, one of the board members leading this charge is a creationist, who apparently thinks humans raked leaved next to dinosaurs. Perhaps George Washington discovered the Declaration, along with the Constitution, in a dinosaur egg he cracked open for breakfast.
- Excision of recent third-party presidential candidates Ralph Nader (from the left) and Ross Perot (from the centrist Reform Party). Meanwhile, the recommendations include an entry listing Confederate General Stonewall Jackson as a role model for effective leadership, and a statement from Confederate President Jefferson Davis accompanying a speech by U.S. President Abraham Lincoln.
Because of course, it's extremely important to reinforce the fact that there can only ever be two parties in power. Bull-Moose I'm sure is also out. I wonder what the Tea Partiers in Texas think of this?
- A recommendation to include country and western music among the nation's important cultural movements. The popular black genre of hip-hop is being dropped from the same list.
Does Country Music need more support in Texas than it already has? Really? Hasn't Country music done enough damage?
Via Reason Hit & Run.
The License Plate In Your Wallet
Back in the 1970's, President Nixon (in all his brilliance) decided to tackle the issue of "escalating oil prices" by simply saying you can't raise the price. Soon rationing followed in various states, and we were left the "Odd-Even" days at the gas pump. Your license plate determined whether you could even buy gas on a specific day.
Now Obama is proposing we fix prices on insurance. Anyone want to bet that doctor's offices will start enacting "Odd-Even" days based on your Social Security card? Isn't it convenient that each citizen now carries the equivalent of a license plate in their wallet?
Government Sponsored Theft
Congratulations to Integrated Mail Industries for successfully strong arming land from Bee Bus Lines:
Land on Milwaukee's north side will become available for an adjacent company to expand under the pending settlement of a two-year-old eminent domain dispute.
The parcels are owned by Bee Bus Line Inc., which operates at 4330 N. 35th St., just north of the site.
The Redevelopment Authority in December 2007 began eminent domain proceedings to force a sale of the parcels. City officials said the land is needed for a 60,000-square-foot expansion of Integrated Mail Industries Ltd., 3450 W. Hopkins St.
Bee's properties are adjacent to Integrated Mail, a direct-marketing company, which says it might leave Milwaukee if it cannot expand its 167,000-square-foot facility. Integrated Mail, with 120 employees, expects to create 50 full-time jobs by expanding.
The Common Council authorized eminent domain proceedings after land sale negotiations between Integrated Mail and Bee broke down. The Redevelopment Authority would use eminent domain to buy the land and then resell it to Intergrated Mail.
Bee objected, saying the sale should be negotiated between the two companies without the city's intervention. Integrated wanted to buy the parcels for much less than what Bee paid, the bus company said. Bee also said Integrated Mail would not negotiate in good faith because of the eminent domain proceedings.
Of course, the way the article is written, it seems so wonderful. After all... jobs will be created with this new land! But let's look at what really happened here. IMI went to Bee and asked to buy the property for a price. Bee said it wanted moren (actually they just wanted at least what they paid for it), and IMI, instead of continuing to negotiate in good faith, went to the city and demand they use eminent domain to take the property at a lower price and resell it to them. This is nothing but government sponsored theft.
If property rights meant anything, then a property owner (Bee Bus Lines) ought to be allowed to ask whatever they wanted for that property. If their price is too high, than no sale will be made and they'll be stuck. But just because IMI didn't want to pay a price doesn't mean that they ought be allowed to go the city to "force a sale". That is like suggesting that if a woman declines a man at a bar, he ought to be able to go the police and have a cop hold her down while he rapes her... to force the completion of a "transaction" he demanded of her. Having a right to something means nothing if it does not include the right to refuse sale of that item, for whatever reason. This isn't the God Father... you have the right to refuse an offer.
The framers of our Constitution thought the same thing when they drafted the 5th Amendment:
... nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.
When the Kelo decision was handed down, so many states objected to the poor decision that they passed laws strengthening property owner's rights against eminent domain. One of the dangers of course is that someone who is politically well connected can use Eminent Domain against private property owners who are less well connected. It should come as no surprise to anyone that this is probably happening in this case.
What was left out of the article above is that Integrated Mail Industries is owned by the AB Data Group. Among many of the companies under the AB Data umbrella is the AB Data Consulting Group. Their home page lists this as their mission (emphasis mine):
Our clients are working hard to change the world – and A.B. Data is helping them do it. For over 25 years, the AB Data Consulting Group has fostered dedicated partnerships with nonprofit charitable and progressive advocacy organizations, pushing the boundaries of direct response fundraising and securing the resources they need to fulfill their critical missions. AB Data's long record of integrated programs and cutting edge direct response fundraising solutions pave the way for success.
They were the major direct major consulting firm for the Obama campaign, and the owners of AB Data are major political movers in Milwaukee. During the 2008 election cycle, between the three owners (Jerry Benjamin, Chuck Pruitt and Bruce Arbit) more than $10,000 was personally given to the Obama campaign alone according to a record search on OpenSecrets.org (along with various other Senate and Congressional campaigns). A similar search on the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign showed smaller amounts given to dozens of state candidates over the years. Unfortunately, Tom Barrett is not required to report on his campaign contributions for his gubernatorial run until the end of the month, but his mayoral contributions show Benjamin gave $1000 during the last mayoral campaign and the Arbit family donated less. It's a bit hard to tell if that is all because the data is not combined anywhere in a single report.
Did any of this have to do with this recent decision? It's hard to tell. However, the fear over these very questions was the reason why the prohibition against government taking property for private benefit was placed in the Constitution in the first place. And even if the reasons for the eminent domain proceedings had nothing to do with any contributions, Bee Bus Lines still had their lands stolen for IMI's profit.
Update 02/02/2010: It should also be noted that in the January Continuing 2010 report for Tom Barrett's Governor's campaign (searchable here) both Pruitt and Arbit gave $1,000. Jerry Benjamin did not donate as far as I can tell at this point.
Has Milwaukee Been Officially Declared Catholic?
JSOnline notes that there will be a ceremony welcoming Archbishop Jerome Listecki to Milwaukee:
Archbishop Jerome Listecki will be the guest of honor for an hourlong program that begins at 10:30 a.m. in the first floor rotunda.
Expected to attend are several state and local politicians, some of whom are seeking higher offices, including gubernatorial candidates Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett and County Executive Scott Walker.
The Syrena Polish Folk Dance Ensemble of Milwaukee will perform in honor of the Milwaukee Archdiocese's first Polish prelate.
Listecki, 60, was installed as archbishop of the 10-county archdiocese on Monday. He succeeds the Most Rev. Timothy M. Dolan, now archbishop of New York, as the spiritual leader of southeastern Wisconsin's nearly 650,000 Roman Catholics.
Friday's event is being recorded by City Channel 25 and will be shown at 10 p.m. Friday and 9 p.m. Sunday in Milwaukee on Channel 25 on Time Warner Cable and on AT&T U-Verse Channel 99.
My question is why? The City of Milwaukee is already short on funds... so why is it spending money to have a lavish ceremony complete with Polish Dancers for a man who does not represent the entire population of Milwaukee? After all, the Catholic churches in this area are doing a fine job at honoring their new archbishop, as they should. There was a long ceremony at St. John's (which both Tom Barrett and Scott Walker attended), which was televised on local stations. There will also be numerous other ceremonies at other churches as well. The Catholic church should honor their new leader in the Catholic tradition. The City of Milwaukee should continue in the business of running city business, which does not include Catholic worship.
The 1st Amendment of the United States Constitution states:
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.
Milwaukee is not officially Catholic. When choosing only to honor the leadership of one particular religion, they are choosing one over the other. There are Jews, Protestants, Hindus and many other groups here. You can't even argue that Listecki somehow represents all Christians in Milwaukee. He does not represent all Christians... he only represents Catholics. Either way, the city of Milwaukee has no business honoring or recognizing a new leader of a religious group. When the Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod has a new member in the Council of Presidents, is he invited to city hall to be honored? Of course not. And who knew that Congregation Churches everywhere were going to be left in the cold by the city because they don't have a royal hierarchy.
Catholics love their pomp and circumstance. Catholic leadership enjoys being looked upon as royalty. Our forefathers fought a war rejecting royalty in this nation, and there was a Protestant Reformation rejecting it in the church as well. They city should consider these things when it chooses to only honor a single religion. Keep Catholic ceremonies where they belong... in Catholic churches.
Let Tiger Woods Fall Hard
The media is obsessed with Tiger Woods. Every day there is a new revelation regarding another affair he had, often times accompanied by the woman herself... take full advantage of her 15 minutes of fame, no matter how lurid it is. She sits there talking about how wonderful Tiger was, and how caring he was. One woman I heard interviewed claimed to not know he was even married... and then shared text messages where he told her not to call him because "there were too many people around." Tiger may have liked them busty, but apparently not very smart.
Most of what I'm reading from people regarding this entire episode just want it to be over. They want it to be over because it's distracting from more important issues that affect our daily lives. Frankly... I do as well... mostly. There are also a good number of people who want it to be over because we're delving into a person matter of his, and after all... nobody is perfect. James Wigderson makes the typical Catholic argument regarding Tiger's inherent sinfulness:
Not that it would shatter any illusions I have about Tiger. I don’t have any thoughts on him personally, but I know that man is inherently fallen in nature, prone to sin, and what is Tiger if not a man with more temptations than the rest of us?
This is not to excuse his behavior, whatever it was. It’s just that I have a hard time understanding how it affects me. At most I might wonder why he cracked up a Cadillac instead of the Buick he endorses, and which car would be better for my golf swing?
There seems to be a good contingent of people who want Tiger to be left alone to deal with his sins in his own privacy with his family. I get that. Really I do. After all, just because he's a millionaire golfer doesn't mean he owes anything to the public, right? Or does it? It's important to remember that Tiger Woods made a great deal of his money (if not most of it) through endorsements for products... not winning golf tournaments. Sure, winning a major tournament isn't chump change, but promoting a Buick is worth a lot more. And realistically speaking, driving a Buick has nothing to do with driving a gold ball down the fairway. He was given an endorsement deal mostly because of his recognizable name, as well as his clean and wholesome image.
Many would say that it's only up to Buick (or any of the large number of companies he gave endorsements to) to kill their contracts with Tiger if he no longer represents the wholesome image they want to show to their customers. But what of the customers who already bought their products on Tiger's word? The entire idea behind these types of endorsements is that people put their trust (correctly or not) in that person because of his achievements. If he's such a successful golfer and family man, then if he says a product is good, they trusted him, and bought that product. I'm not saying this is smart, but it is certainly how many people think. It has been this way since before the television was even invented. Tiger took advantage of this trust people had in him, and cashed it in at the bank.
These sorts of scandals, though raunchy, and tabloidesque, do uncover important information for people. It shows that Tiger Woods is a horrible family man who cares more about getting his rocks off than he cares for his wife, and children. I look at what he has done, and see nothing but a disgusting excuse for a tiny boy who never became a man. If he can't be trusted to keep one of the most important promises he has ever made in his life (to honor his spouse, and care for his children), then how the hell can we trust him to be honest regarding something as mundane as our choice in a car? He made millions on people's trust, and now he wants to quietly slither away and lick his wounds? Part of me says... I don't think so. If you make millions on your good image, then when your good image turns out to be a sham, the people who trusted you have a right to take it right back out of you. Now the papers will make millions off of him, and he deserves every little bit.
So while part of me just wants this all to be over so we can get on to more important things, part of me also says let Tiger fall... let him fall hard... and I hope he never gets back up.
Happy Veterans Day
Thank you to all those who have served in our armed forces... those who made it home, and those who haven't.
Also, let us not forget that the roots of Veterans Day lie in Armistice Day... which is also celebrated today in most of Europe. It is the anniversary of the signing of the armistance that ended World War I... the "War to End All Wars". We celebrate all veterans today, not just the few who still survive from World War I, but I think it is also important to celebrate peace... the end of war. Those men knew they were coming home on that day. So while we honor those brave men and women who are actively fighting in foreign lands, the point of the day is also to remember a time when those men and women will be home with their families.
Rest in Peace Patrick
As most of you have now heard, Patrick Swayze passed away yesterday after a battle with cancer. While most people are remembering his roles in Dirty Dancing ("Nobody puts Baby in a corner") and Ghost ("Ditto"), my brother-in-law Randy reminded me of a skit he did for Saturday Night Live. So for my female readers... I give you this:
Thoughts on Obama's Education Speech
I know I seem to start a lot of posts like this, but... I find the reaction to Obama's speech to be far more interesting than the speech itself. On the one hand you have a lot of folks on the right who are worried that this is all about "indoctrinating" our children. On the other side of the aisle you have folks talking about the times with George H. W. Bush and Ronald Reagan made similar speeches to school children. At the time, Democrats complained loudly and even held Congressional hearings. Republicans didn't seem to think it was a big deal. Now that the parties are reversed... so are the opinions.
So my question to both sides is... Were Democrats right then in saying it is inappropriate for a President to speak to children and Republicans wrong... or are Republicans right now in saying it's inappropriate and Democrats wrong. As I see it, there are really only two explanations for why people on both sides of the aisle are reacting so differently based on who is doing the speaking. The first possibility is that they could all be a bunch of partisan hacks. The second possibility is... ummmm... you know what... I'll get back to you when I think of another possibility.
My personal reaction is two fold. First of all, I actually don't think it's all that wrong for a President to take the time to speak directly to children, at their level. Most political discourse happens around children, and at a level as well as on issues that are just outside their bounds. Having the President of the United States (an office we should theoretically have respect for), speak to children on rather bland and generic ideals we all pretty much agree on (finish school and do good things) isn't terrible.
The idea that a President... any President... would be stupid enough to "indoctrinate" children at any level is kind of silly really. The blow back from any "true indoctrination" would be so huge, that it would be nearly suicidal. Hell... even Newt Gingrich seems to agree with me. Of course, there are those who object because this sort of grand standing by any President elevates his importance higher than it ought to be. I understand that idea... but not enough to understand the kind of reaction people are having.
With that said... I do have issues with the idea that the Dept. of Education passed along suggested materials to be completed by students with regard to the speech. I have issue with it, not because of any one suggestion being "too political" (though I think there are good arguments that the materials were in some cases). I have issue with it because it's an unconstitutional role for the Federal government. Hell, the entire Dept. of Education shouldn't exist. Classroom materials are created and prepared with approval by local school boards, where parents of the children will have the most say in how their children are educated.
Parents and teachers are smart enough to create their own lesson plans based on the speech without the "help" of the Dept. of Education. Let them do their job. That's what the Constitution mandates anyway.
Politicians Aren't Public Servants
To date, I really haven't commented on the death of Ted Kennedy. Now that he has been buried, its a little bit easier to examine what people are saying about him, and reflect on who he was. What bothers me in general about the commentary regarding Kennedy's death are the references to how we need to thank him for his "sacrifice" and "public service". In fact, this is a common phrase that is echoed whenever someone who has spent a great deal of time in politics has died... and is even used when a major political figure simply retires to private life. Their "public service" must be honored and praised.
Politicians, no matter which side of the aisle they sit on, deserve no honor for "public service". They are elected, and compensated, for doing a job. They rarely, if ever, "sacrifice" themselves in that job. In fact, they are compensated far too much, and take from the public for their own individual needs far too much. All politicians do this, Ted Kennedy among them. They also create rules for themselves which other people who are not members of the ruling class do not enjoy. They receive benefits for what they do that are far more lavish than the average person, and make sure that the rules are written in such a way that it is difficult to get them out of politics until they choose to leave.
He became Senator, not because of any specific sacrifice on his part, but because he had a rich and privileged father, and two brothers who had made waves in politics before him. And while in office, he never sacrificed of himself. Politicians never do. Favor is curried to them by anyone who wants a bill passed, and they take from those people whatever they want for their own personal enjoyment. Whether it's killing off a wind farm because it will obstruct your vacation home's view, or avoiding scrutiny in the death of a woman. He had power, and he used it. He enriched himself at the expense of all of us... and took from us not only money, but freedom.
Exhalting politicians for their "sacrifice in public service" is an insult to real public servants who truly do give of themselves or the benefit of others. Those who serve in the military, firemen, and those police officers who choose not to allow themselves to be corrupted, truly sacrifice themselves for the greater public good. Not only should what they do be held up more as an example, but we should not diminish the term "sacrifice" by claiming others do it when they clearly do not.
This news story about some New Jersey cops not knowing who Bob Dylan was became a conversation topic at work. Here's roughly how the conversation went:
Coworker: So, Bob Dylan got stopped by a 20 something cop, and he didn't know who he was. He was just walking around a neighborhood looking at houses before a show. The cop asked him for identification and called for backup. Another 20 something cop shows up, also doesn't know who he was. They end up taking him back to his hotel, where the staff verified who he was.
Me: Why was he stopped?
Coworker: I don't know, it was standard.
Me: So he wasn't doing anything wrong?
Coworker: No, the cops just saw him wandering around the neighborhood and asked him for ID.
Me: I still don't understand why the cops stopped him in the first place.
To me, this is an even more clear cut case of police abuse than the whole Robert Gates fiasco. From the story, there was absolutely zero reason for Bob Dylan to be stopped, other than "he looked out of place". Yet, for that reason only, he was stopped by police, detained for some period of time, and then taken against his will away from where he was.
Yes, nobody was tazed, and nobody got beaten. But at the same time, it shows how this country has become one where "papers please" is no longer a question that people are shocked to be asked. It would seem that Dylan's only crime was being "in a neighborhood where he shouldn't have been in".
I'm Running Out of Family Friendly Ways to Describe Politicians
Remember last week when I noted that the hypocrites in Congress were asking for two more private planes to be purchased by the Air Force to ferry them around? The House has upped the ante, and are now asking for eight:
Congress plans to spend $550 million to buy eight jets, a substantial upgrade to the fleet used by federal officials at a time when lawmakers have criticized the use of corporate jets by companies receiving taxpayer funds.
Geoff Morrell, the Pentagon press secretary, said the Department of Defense didn't request the additional planes and doesn't need them. "We ask for what we need and only what we need," he told reporters Wednesday. "We've always frowned upon earmarks and additives that are above and beyond what we ask for."
Get your sorry asses on American and fly coach, you hypocritical *insert your favorite swear here* ... Via John Stossel.
The American Clunkers for Foreign Cars Program
I have to admit, one of my favorite statistics so far to come out of the "Cash for Clunkers" program is this one:
Under the government's "cash for clunkers" program as of Aug. 5:
TOP VEHICLES PURCHASED
- Toyota Corolla
- Ford Focus FWD
- Honda Civic
- Toyota Prius
- Toyota Camry
- Ford Explorer 4WD
- Ford F150 Pickup 2WD
- Jeep Grand Cherokee 4WD
- Jeep Cherokee 4WD
- Dodge Caravan/Grand Caravan 2WD
So 4 out of the 5 top vehicles purchased were foreign cars made by non-union workers, and 5 out of 5 junked cars turned in were American made. I wonder if Congress had this in mind when they created the program?
Update: Please see a correction in this post.
So Let Me Get This Straight...
So when CEO's use private jets, it's a public outrage that requires them to answer for their crimes in Congressional hearings. When Congress demands private jets for their flying pleasure... it's what... stimulus?
Last year, lawmakers excoriated the CEOs of the Big Three automakers for traveling to Washington, D.C., by private jet to attend a hearing about a possible bailout of their companies.
But apparently Congress is not philosophically averse to private air travel: At the end of July, the House approved nearly $200 million for the Air Force to buy three elite Gulfstream jets for ferrying top government officials and Members of Congress.
The Air Force had asked for one Gulfstream 550 jet (price tag: about $65 million) as part of an ongoing upgrade of its passenger air service.
But the House Appropriations Committee, at its own initiative, added to the 2010 Defense appropriations bill another $132 million for two more airplanes and specified that they be assigned to the D.C.-area units that carry Members of Congress, military brass and top government officials.
Because the Appropriations Committee viewed the additional aircraft as an expansion of an existing Defense Department program, it did not treat the money for two more planes as an earmark, and the legislation does not disclose which Member had requested the additional money.
Hypocrites. They are all so used to using other people's money for their own pleasure, that they just don't care anymore. All politicians are underserving of any respect.
Why Do Conservatives Care Less About Adultery?
So yet another Republican politician, this time a state senator who also a law prohibiting gay people from adopting, has been caught in a sex scandal with his intern. Of course, there is the usual ridicule by pretty much everyone, but I find the conservative reaction to actually be the most interesting. Even when Jessica McBride was embroiled in her pay for play scandal with Chief Flynn, the reaction among many conservatives boiled down to:
It's a shame that this has happened, and we feel sorry for her husband and her children who will have to deal with the consequences of this, but we won't comment on the morality of what she's done. Same goes for the Chief.
I wonder why so many conservatives refuse to comment on the morality of what these people have done, and frankly, why don't they call for harsher punishments against the adulterers? After all, even Wisconsin actually has laws against adultery, but the general consensus among conservatives was that it was good not to prosecute the parties involved.
But why? After all, adultery destroys families, and is harmful to children. It also destroys and devalues the institution of marriage. And as we all know, these were they core reasons why people wanted the Gay Marriage Amendment in Wisconsin. And realistically speaking, there are far more heterosexual married people who commit adultery than there are gay people who want to get married. So wouldn't it be wiser for conservatives who value marriage and child welfare to go after heterosexuals who commit adultery? Heck, even the ten commandments lists adultery as a sin, but is silent on homosexuality. You have to dig further into the Bible before that's covered.
With that in mind, I would suggest that those people who commit adultery, and are found guilty of such in court, face the following punishment:
Their Marriage Shall Be Immediately Annulled and Adulterers Shall Be Forbidden From Marrying Again: Clearly, if it is dangerous to the institution of marriage that gay people ought not be allowed to marry, then adulterers should also not be allowed to marry again.
Adulterers Shall Lose Parental Rights to Their Children: Once again, if gay couples make unfit parents, then it is important to follow suit and enforce the same standard against adulterous people. After all, they would likely teach their children that what they did was acceptable, which would pass lessons onto the next generation that would further erode this important institution.
Now to be clear, I'm not suggesting any sort of jail time for adultery, nor a fine. I'm simply suggesting that people who commit adultery be treated exactly the same in our society as homosexuals. If adulterers want to live together, then fine, just don't go asking to get insurance benefits from your partner!