Monday, June 23, 2008

it's our own fault

It’s Our Own Fault

But we can fix it. According to an ABC News/Washington Post opinion poll, 82% of Americans felt our country was on the “wrong track.” This is the most impressive outpouring of American pessimism since the 1970’s. Respondents point their fingers at gas prices, the war in Iraq, fear of terrorism and concern that Johnny and Steve are finally going to get married. At no point, did any respondent step up and say, “I’m to blame. The country, my country, is doing things I don’t like. It is rushing quickly into a darkness known as the future and it’s all my fault.”

Gone are the days of “the buck stops here.” President Truman roll over in your grave now. No one is embracing the responsibility that comes with freedom. Foolishly and embarrassing ignorantly, most Americans believe we live in a democracy. It simply is not true. I don’t mean the-politicians-are-all-purchased-by-big-corporations lack of democracy frightened little people whine about over their lattes or Milwaukee’s Best. I mean the Constitution of the United States establishes the United States as a republic. What? Those few of you who have read this far may be wondering. A democracy is a form of government where the citizens have to vote on the issues. A republic is where the citizens vote for a government to handle most of the issues on our behalf. Really. Who would want to live in a democracy? Especially one as big as the U.S. Every couple of weeks a whole new round of issues would await you at the polls. It is hard enough to build a quorum at the polls four years, imagine trying to get people to vote every month.

Interesting? Probably not. Most likely you don’t care, so why did I bother wasting your time splicing hairs about a democracy and a republic. In a democracy, since citizens have to vote for every major issue, there is no hiding behind the elected government. In a republic, too many of us treat voting like picking a mechanic. Once we pick a good one, we rely on the mechanic to tell us what is wrong with the car and fix it. We’ll just pay the bill at the end. If we don’t like the mechanic we chose, the next time we need a repair we will pick another one. Anything the mechanic did wrong isn’t our fault. It isn’t our responsibility.

Pulling the level in the voting boot is not the end of our responsibility. It really is just the beginning. We own every decision the elected government makes on our behalf, even if we voted for the other guy. It is our responsibility to monitor the government. It is our responsibility to let them know how we want the government to be run. It is our responsibility to tell the government which track it should be on.

Marco Riz, an illegal immigrant was fired from his job at the Texas Roadhouse. Frustrated by not being able to serve warm cinnamon buttered buns (they really are good at the Texas Roadhouse), Marco decided to go and rape someone. Marco isn’t exactly the type of upstanding law-abiding (other than illegally invading our country and illegally taking a job from a citizen) non-citizen immigrant enablers want you to think about when discussing soft hearted and soft headed amnesty laws. He is the knife wielding, SUV stealing, rape your women type of illegal I like to think about when discussing illegals. Marco apparently was wondering around with a 12-inch knife and happened upon a woman in a parked SUV. He hoped into the SUV and became the poster child of detestable. The brain trust officer discussing this case thought that this was a crime of opportunity. Marco just happened to run into an opportunity and took it. That doesn’t really explain why he was walking around with a 12-inch knife. The knife alone suggests this little crime spree was a bit premeditated.

Marco was the guest of the Providence police department before. There was an extradition order on Marco at the time. Unfortunately the Providence police department has elected to not follow proper procedures when checking on legal status of people it arrests. Instead of sending an electronic verification to Immigrations and Customers Enforcement (ICE), the Providence police department faxes over a hand written list of people they have arrested that day. First, I didn’t know people still owned fax machines. That isn’t really related to anything but I haven’t even seen a fax machine in years. Second, had Providence actually utilized ICE’s system, which is set up and ready to go in the Providence department, Marco would have been flagged as an illegal and perhaps deported.

Last week, Rhode Island Senator Marc A. Cote attempted to introduce legislation requiring all Rhode Island business with three or more employees to utilize Everify, a system allowing employers to quickly and easily verify the work eligibility status of new hires. Had this legislation been in effect when Marco applied at the Texas Roadhouse, he may have been refused employment. Following this line of what-ifs, had Marco not worked with those hot buttery Texas Roadhouse buns and then subsequently been fired, our friend Marco may not have been in Rhode Island to rape one of our citizens.

Unfortunately Senate Majority Leader M. Teresa Paiva-Weed (my rule of thumb, never trust anyone that needs so many names) refused to put forward Senator Cote legislation. She cited the growing hour, the lateness of the session and the other pressing issues, for example who pays for fire hydrants. Senator Paiva-Weed broke trust with the Rhode Island citizens by not allowing our representatives to vote on our behalf. One person with selfish desires has set government policy for all of Rhode Islanders. While we do not live in a democracy, Senator Paiva-Weed damages the concept that we live in a republic.

As citizens, it is our responsibility to monitor our government and to take action when our representatives fail us. Therefore, Rhode Islanders must become involved and save our community from our representatives. First, each of us must write or email our representative and insist that Rhode Island enact legislation requiring Rhode Island businesses utilize Everify. If such legislation is not enacted by November, inform your Senator you will be voting against the incumbent. Further inform your Senator you’re your expect Senator Paiva-Weed to be removed from the position of Senate Majority Leader. Second, citizens in Senator’s Paiva-Weed’s district (District 13, Jamestown, Newport) must remove her from office. Third, each of must contact our mayors and police departments with the expectation that they use ICE’s electronic verification system on all people arrested. Four, reach out to local business and ask them to voluntarily use Everify. Give you business to companies that utilize Everify.
That nothing has happened on immigration reform is our own fault. We can fix it. We simply need to inform our elected representatives that we will remove from office anyone who prevents a fair and just protection of our values.

Check out for Rhode Islanders for Immigration Law Enforcement

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Drill Here. Drill Now. Pay Less.

The old Newt is trying to become relevant again by feeding off of the oil lead energy crisis. He had launched a campaign and petition entitled "Drill Here. Drill Now. Pay Less." It's goal, other than to make people think Newt still exists, is to push congress to open drilling for oil anywhere and everywhere we have it in the U.S. The final hook for the American Ignorant is paying less at the pump. Every study done shows that if we drilled in every national treasure and through every caribou's' head, the price of oil would go down less than a percent and the price of gas may go down as much as a nickle . . . by 2020 when all of these oil fields would actually be up and running at full capacity.

Newt also has a plan to build nuclear power plants to, he claims, reduce our dependence on foreign oil (by 2025 once the plants are built). Of course, very little of our oil goes to generating electricity. Oil refineries take in crude oil and separates it into different types of fuel; e.g. gas and heating oil. If we stopped using oil to generate electricity, the quality of oil used to power those plants wouldn't have another use. It would just sit there. Nuclear is not an option to offset oil use.

So as much as I'm calling Newt a liar for falsely claiming drilling will significantly lower the price at the pump, I am for drilling. My purpose wouldn't be to lower price but would be decrease exporting American money and jobs. Additionally many of the countries that export oil are using our own money to fund military and terrorist groups against us.

I am concerned about global warming too. I'm not an alarmist but I feel there is enough possibility that global warming is real that we should take it into consideration when making long term policy. Therefore, I believe we also need to start getting off our oil addiction. What's my plan?

Do it all and do it now. Drill. Conserve. Shale. Wind. Solar. Higher CAFE standards (and raise the equivalent standards on dish washers, washing machines, etc). Convert the farm bill from providing farmers short term assistant to helping them add wind to their fields and facilities to convert farm waste into energy, providing them a second source of income for years to come. Replace income/capital gains taxes with taxes on oil, coal, virgin wood, fertilizers, tobacco, etc. It would encourage people to use less of these items and raise the economic viability of alternatives. Additionally, it would make illegals and drug lords pay taxes since taxes would be on consumption instead of production. Use global warming agreements with other countries to minimize China's and India's growth in oil usage.

and interesting read

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Urinal etiquette

While most men do continue to support the three main rules of urinal etiquettes, men are allowing themselves to forget the finer points of appropriate urinal etiquette. The biggest of the big three is, of course, your chin line should never title below 30 degrees down. Traditionally, your chin should be tilted 30 degrees up. This explains why finer establishments place sports sections of recent newspapers at above average men’s eyelevel. (Note by “average men”, I’m referring to height). As our culture has gotten more casual and, simultaneously, more politically correct, more mainstream establishments lowered the newspaper placement to a more manageable level for shorter men. This led to a tacit acceptance of a level chin at the urinal. Of course, where standards are lowered a little, too many people attempt to lower them further. To appease the masses, the tilt of the chin is allowed to dip below level if the man relieving himself has had more than three beers. I can not stress enough that no amount of consumption of flavored martinis allows one to dip their chin below level.

The second major etiquette rule men continue to support involve appropriate conversation. Let me again reference the most traditional application of etiquette first. Tradition limits urinal conversations to the following phrases, sometimes referred to as “The Four Bests”: “Hey” “Time to break the seal” “The beer is going right through me” “See the game?”. The proper response to any of the The Four Bests is for the urinalmate to simply grunt and nod one’s head, remembering the first rule of etiquette. If your chin line is already approaching the lower end of acceptability, the head nod can either be left out entirely or accomplished by first lifting the chin and then dipping it back to its original position. Again, there has been etiquette creep and the rules for conversation are much less explicit. In less than traditional establishments, actual conversations of considerable depth can be had. For example, one may discuss the current baseball or football game. Golf is not an acceptable topic. It is increasingly becoming acceptable to reference how good it feels to finally relieve oneself but I must provide a cautionary yellow flag here. One may only reference urinary pleasure once and it can not be accompanied by an noises and/or movements of one’s hips. Repeating or expounding on exactly how good it feels is not proper etiquette. Men over the age of 50 with possible prostate issues are pardoned from the no noise rule and from the 30 degree chin line rule. They are typically focused entirely on themselves, usually saying the “Please, Lord, let me pee” prayer and should left alone. Urinalmates in this condition have enough problems that they no longer need to worry about certain rules of etiquette. Besides, most of us will be there one day.

The final rule of the etiquette big three is appropriate dismount, including the obligatory shake. There has been no dumbing down of this rule since allowing the third shake for southern states in the 1950’s. The procedure is simple but must be adhered to exactly. Shake twice (or three times if one is south of the Mason-Dixon line), button, step back and turn left. Zipping is accomplished simultaneously with the left turn. Notice that there is no proper urinal etiquette for “snaps”. If one’s pants snap, it would be best to use a stall with the door firmly closed and latched.

Where urinal etiquette appears to be slipping is with urinal selection. When there is only one or two urinals, simply approach the open urinal. When there are three or more urinal’s one must be more aware one’s surroundings and follow two simple rules. First, when possible select odd numbered urinals. For example, if there are three urinals, select the urinal on either side, the one or the three urinals. The middle urinal should on only be selected when both the one and the three urinal. The second rule is to select urinals with at least one empty urinal between oneself and men already using the urinals. One might think that if one empty urinal is good, then two empty urinals is better, space permitting. While on the surface this logic seems attractive, it does not take into consideration new urinalmates approaching after one is already committed to one’s urinal. Consider this example, one enters a restroom in a large theater. The theater is showing Bette Midler’s new movie, so the men’s room is largely empty. The only preexisting urinalmate has selected the three urinal, as numbered from the left. Using the two empty urinals concept, one may then select urinal six. If only one new urinalmate approaches before you are finished, he may select urinal one and all remains well. When another urinalmate approaches, urinals one, three and six are occupied. The natural selection would be to choose an odd numbered urinal, either five or seven both of which are next to you. The new urinalmate would rule out urinal two with two adjacent urinalmates. Urinal four would also be acceptable, but still uncomfortable.

Northern men number urinals from left to right. Southern men number urinals from right to left. When there are an odd number of urinals, both the northern and the southern counting methods result in each urinal correctly being assigned an odd number. That is in a three-urinal scenario, whether a urinal is numbered one or three it is still odd. Traditional establishments do not have an even number of urinals do to the potential confusion in selecting odd numbered urinals. Even so, occasionally establishments with even number of urinals are accepted in either the far north or the far south. If one finds oneself near the Mason-Dixon line and there are an even number of urinals, the only etiquette appropriate action is to relieve oneself in the alley behind the establishment. Alley etiquette will be discussed in a later article.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Education comparison

Obama vs. McCain on Education

I went online to the official sites for Obama and for McCain and picked an issue to compare the candidates’ solutions. As I logged on, Lou Dobbs was on the T.V. discussing education. He didn’t really go into how poorly are high school graduates are; how our graduating seniors rank way to lowly compared to other industrialized countries; how companies trying to relocate call centers from India to the U.S. are having difficulty finding highly educated enough people to answer the phones. He was simply discussing our pathetic graduation rates. We only graduate 70% of our kids. It varies race. Whites were a little better than 70%. Hispanics and African Americans were a little better than 50%. Almost half! How can we possibly hope to break the poverty chain with half of these groups not graduating? It made selecting an issue to look at pretty easy. I simply pulled each candidates position on education from their own website. I’ve made zero effort to verify their claims.

First I copied McCain’s position to a Word document. At first glance, I thought it missed some and checked his site again. I got it all. It was a sparse 484 words (including the title). I don’t need a lot of words. The more words in his solutions, the more I have to read. It’s kind of ironic I don’t want to read a whole lot to write an analysis on education. I can deal with the irony. Let me sum of McCain’s proposal in two words; Choice and Accountability. That’s three words but I think it is fair to not to count “and”. Somehow, although not clear from his program, McCain relies on “honest reporting.” I’m concerned he might be considering No Child Left Behind as honest reporting. Unfortunately, NCLB doesn’t have a test. Each state or district has its own testing criteria. There is no consistent method of measuring graduation rates (note that the 70% is likely to be understated). Also there are no measurements of after school participation, extracurricular activities or internships.

Basically, McCain relies on parents seeing the reports, however honest they are or are not, then moving their children to a better school. Federal dollars (which only supplement the schools locally funded budget) would follow the child to the new school. Schools would be forced to compete to be better because if enough students leave, presumably, the school could no longer afford to stay open. Theoretically, this would drive administration and teachers to perform at their best. Unfortunately it provides zero incentives in small town America where there may be no other schools to go to. In areas where most schools are poor performing, an administration really will have no incentive to be more than mediocre. Mediocre when the competition sucks is actually pretty good.

The program works well for middle class students in areas with multiple schools in a reasonable area. Currently, many middle class parents consider school performance before deciding where to live. This will allow parents to separate the decisions of home and school. It will require commuting. That brings us to poor single parents who would have an issue commuting their kids to better schools. McCain is not proposing bussing support. He doesn’t seem to have a plan for who gets into the school. I’m assuming the best school will have more students trying to get in then it has capability for. How is the administration going to select from students. Could a person who lives across the street be left out of a school because too many people from across town want in?

McCain’s program seems like it should be a small part of a bigger program. The affects would be slow and there are too many ways where schools will have no incentive to improve.

Then to Obama’s plan. Obama is planning from birth to graduation from college. He also has a lot of effort put into leveling the education access for the poor. His plan looks at incentives for schools, teachers and students. The main issue with such a comprehensive plan is money. It will be expensive to execute. Obama and I will be always have an issue where he is going to want to spend more of my money than I will want him to spend. At least with education, I can agree on it being a priority.

A quick run down of Obama’s plan:
Provide grants to states to promote voluntary universal pre-school. My kids went to preschool part time. We tried three different schools over their preschool career. The final one they went to is one we are very happy with, but I question how much education they are receiving. This point I have to think is not worth the money.

Quadruple funding for the existing programs of Early Head Start and Head Start in addition to improving the quality of these programs. He does not admit to a plan on how to improve these programs but I am generally a fan of how these programs work currently.

He wants to provide affordably high-quality child care to ease the burden on working families. His words. I don’t really think this is the job of the federal government. Again, don’t spend my money here.

Here wants to reform No Child Left Behind to improve the assessments and the use of these tests. He wants to use the results of the tests to support the schools that need help in contrary to the current program (and McCain’s suggestion) to punish under performing schools.

To improve math and science education he wants to require more math/science teachers and create programs for math/science teachers to work with professionals in their respective fields. He will also expand and deepen the science curriculum at all grade levels.

He wants to invest in intervention strategies to minimize dropouts, providing personal academic plans, teaching teams, parent involvement, mentoring, etc.

He also wants to expand after school opportunities by doubling the funding to these programs. He has more bullet points on this subject but I’m getting tired to writing about them.

To focus on teachers, he will actively work to recruit, prepare, retain and reward teachers. Additionally, he wants to expand education credits for college. I’m concerned that throwing more money (funded by my taxes) at the colleges will raise their prices, requiring more taxes from me.

Overall, I agree with the school level programs and the teacher supports but I disagree with the cost effectiveness of both the early schooling and increasing federal funding of college.

To be fair, let me show my plan for education.
Increase funding head start, after school programs, etc.
Increase the comprehensiveness of testing with one test being applied across all states. It should include essay, grammar, science, history, etc.
Rate every school based on the test results, improvements from prior years, graduation rates, participation in programs like music, sports and clubs.
Based on these ratings, each year place the bottom performing 200 districts on a five year corrective action plan.
Allow students to go to any school subject to availability and federal funds will follow the students.
Increase teacher pay. Part of the increase can be a flat percent but the rest will be based on locally defined merit.
Increase the length of the school day and the length of the school year.
Start foreign language in 1st grade and maintain foreign language education through out high school.
Require all students to have an internship, do a semester abroad or volunteer prior to graduation.
Create meaning in high school degrees by indicating test performance as well as grade point.

It is my belief that improving the graduation rates and improving the quality of our education, fewer of our graduates will need to go to college. That alone should help with the affordability of college. As few students need college, the cost of college will slow.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Dance recital weekend

Dance recital was last weekend. If you have a daughter, I assume I have your sympathy. The dance school had hundreds of dancers from three to twenty-three years old in 71 scheduled dances. My two girls as planned a year ago by my very insightful wife went to the same three classes together, limiting us to three performances instead of six. As it was, we had three dances on rehearsal Saturday morning, three dances for Saturday afternoon performance and three dances for Sunday afternoon taping. Between the two girls, it equaled 18 dances, 18 costume changes, four bouquets of flowers, four pairs of stockings, 12 shoes, sixty pictures, two tantrums and eight times daddy wished he had a beer. I lost count of how many times the girls looked bored or asked if they could go home. Next year I will bring beer.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Mad as hell.

Many women seem to feel sexist elements in the media stole this presidential election from them. These women feel wronged and want to send a message. They want to loudly and clearly say, “That’s not OK!” This movement is growing more and more passionately anti-Obama. They are calling for voting McCain into the White House, despite his anti-feminist stances, in an effort to punish the media.

I understand these women wanting to harness their passion and make their voices heard. They need and they should have their American Rhetoric “I’m as mad as hell and I’m not going to take it anymore” moment. I don’t dare challenge their rights or their passion. I will suggest focusing on effectiveness. Throwing open the windows and screaming in American Rhetoric provided that gestalt release but then everyone went back to their living rooms with their toaster, their T.V.s and their steel belted radial tires. So what! That scream felt good but it didn’t outlast a bowl of cookie dough ice cream.

Voting against Obama may provide a modern day gestalt “Mad as Hell” moment in the voting booth but that scream will never be heard. How sad is it when their righteous indignation won’t be heard by the sexist media and elects someone who wishes to overturn Roe v. Wade.

Their voices can be heard. Those who wronged women can be punished. They can boycott any and all programs, channels, papers, etc. who acted with sexism. They can email the advertisers and tell the companies they will boycott their products as long as they are on such sexist channels. This will take money from the media. This will punish those who were wrong. This will focus their rage into effectiveness.

In November, vote as your conscious guides but do not let sending a message elect someone who will remove your rights to your own body.