Wednesday, August 31, 2011

This is All You Need to Know About Theocracy

Proof, as if more were needed, that Islamic theocracy is a spent force comes from today's WSJ. Apparently, a large outbreak of squirt gun fights are threatening the foundations of the so-called "Islamic Republic." The outbreaks have gotten the attention of the authorities, who are questioning toy shop owners about whether the "tools of Satan" were manufactured in America, ostensibly to corrupt the youth of Iran. Apparently the greatest problem is the embarassment caused by pictures of Islamic boys and girls (fully covered) cavorting with squirt guns, and laughing and having fun. But the bearded ones had other ideas (WSJ):
Among Iranian authorities, the fun and games triggered a different reaction. Police raided the park, engaging in a four-hour cat-and-mouse game with the youth, who turned their squirt guns on the cops and threw plastic bags full of water on the policemen's heads, according to participants and media reports.
. . .

Although the water wars and the government response have a comically absurd quality, the recent tension shows how fearful the regime is of its young.
. . .

Earlier this month, police arrested the administrators of the Facebook page for Shiraz Water Wars, and 17 young men and women who were playing in a water park in the southern coastal city of Bandar Abbas were detained, according to media reports. Authorities also paraded young people on television, forcing them to confess—a move typically reserved for political detainees.
I draw hope from the pictures of Iranian youth having fun. It shows the limits of indoctrination and the power of freedom. Maybe the mullahs are right to be afraid, but they should heed Leia's advice to Tarkin.

"Police will deal forcefully with park violators who are threatening the security and peace of our society," Tehran police chief Hussein Sajedina said.



Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Endorsing DeMaio - One Tea Party View

I don't speak for the tea party movement, no one does. I think that's necessary to understanding the movement as a whole. The best explanation for this comes from the SCTRC web page on the Starfish and the Spider. The principles that bring the tea party movement together are less government, less regulation, and lower taxes and lower costs of government. It is as much a state of mind as a movement. We question why government at all levels has become so big and dominant. We question why government costs so much.

When looking to endorse a politician for mayor of San Diego, I have to ask, among the major candidates, who has been the most vocal advocate of those principles? To me it is obvious that Carl DeMaio is that man. His strong and vocal opposition to Proposition D (1/2 cent sales tax) is the most reliable indicator of where he stands on issues important to the tea party. He has pushed hard for more competition in providing government services. He has been the most visible supporter of the pension reform initiative. Temple of Mut reminded me of this little gem regarding DeMaio.
DeMaio stood up for California Citizens, challenging the airing of the odious union-backed ad that tries to undermine our state’s petition process by false claims of identity theft. Sadly, the (un)The Fair Political Practices Commission has dismissed a request.
My one beef is that he is still willing to use tax dollars to fund some "investment." Part of his response to a question about "redevelopment."
When you have things like the Convention Center expansion, North Embarcadero, that can and should be funded first because they will ignite private investment, On the Chargers stadium, if we’re going to pull that off, it’s not going to be through redevelopment money as much as it’s going to be through public/private partnerships, perhaps some of our existing landholdings in, for example, the existing Qualcomm site, redeveloping it.

I also have reservations about the "Republican establishment," which exists as surely as the tea party movement, even if not officially. I perceive Dumanis and Fletcher as part of that group. As a taxpayer, I have been unhappy with how Republican mayors and city council members have handled underfunding the pensions, the city's Enron like accounting, and until recently, giving away city dollars to professional sports franchises. The 1997 agreement to renovate Jack Murphy Stadium using "lease revenue bonds" has not worked out well for the city and still sticks in my craw. From the 2003 task force report.
Thus, the contract we are dealing with today is the 1995 agreement as modified in 1997 (referred to hereafter as "the Contract"). It would be fair to say - - indeed, an understatement - - that the 1995-97 Contract has not worked out well for the City. The ticket guarantee has cost the City millions of dollars. The trigger/renegotiation clause threatens to cost the City more, and possibly permit the Chargers to leave town. And notwithstanding contract language suggesting that the renovations would bring Qualcomm up to state of the art, the NFL, the Chargers, and certain professional architects and contractors assert that Qualcomm Stadium is out of date already, and that single-purpose football-only stadiums are far superior to Qualcomm. Thus, with the benefit of hindsight, the Contract is highly unfortunate and the $78 million renovation and practice facility may have been uneconomic.
My issue is that the Republican establishment seems bent on rewarding big businesses in the city with little regard for the tax paying public. They don't seem to mind monuments of grandeur that we the taxpayers don't particularly want to fund. Petco Park, another football stadium, a bigger city hall (Sanders endorsed), a big new library downtown; these are all symptoms of the same disease.

Even though many tea partyers are willing to make alliances with Republicans and business types to prevent the labor unions from bleeding the taxpayers dry, expect us to oppose the monument building waste that is the penchant of that group. (I love the Chargers, but if they leave town, tough, I don't want to foot the bill to keep them. Nor do I want to force other taxpayers to do so.) This is a big part of my attraction to DeMaio, he doesn't seem to be part of the established order, unlike Dumanis and Fletcher or Filner on the union side, for that matter. Here is what DeMaio says on much the same theme about the contest collusion between big labor and big business.

There’s a very cozy system at City Hall. Big business and big labor don’t think there’s anything wrong with City Hall. The only thing they think is wrong is that you’re not paying enough. And in areas where they have the ability to do so, like water bills, they’ve increased what you’re paying into city government. They’ve tried with sales tax increases to get you to pay more through taxes. I think it’s an illegitimate system. And you’re going to find that my administration is fundamentally different and operates in a totally different fashion than prior administrations.
Spot on.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Reforming Medicare and Fraud

Medicare is both one of the most costly and popular entitlement program, rivaling social security in annual outlays. Medicare is projected to spend $623 billion in this fiscal year, 2011 compared to $748 billion for social security. What is not widely reported is the high level of fraud and theft involved in a system that is designed to quickly reimburse doctors, albeit at low rates. Further, the reimbursement rates for medical devices are out of control. Many of the fact in this article come from a Reason magazine article by Peter Suderman, Medicare Thieves, which is not available on line.

While there are no reliable numbers on the amount of medicare fraud, the GAO made an estimate of $48 billion in improper payments in a 2011 report. Because this did not include the drug program, and was only an estimate, the actual rate of fraud is potentially much higher. Fraud against Medicare is reportedly very easy to accomplish. In prepared testimony before the House Ways and Means committee, Aghaegbuena Odelugo testified: DME fraud is incredibly easy to commit. The primary skill required to do it successfully is knowledge of basic data entry on a computer. Additionally required is the presence of so- called “marketers” who recruit patients and often falsify patient data and prescription data. With these two essential ingredients, one possesses a recipe for fraud and abuse.
. . .
Physicians are given a “unique physician identifier number” (UPIN) to prove that the physician is who he/she claims to be. These numbers are readily available to the public online. The UPIN can be a useful tool for a fraudulent DME provider to exploit.
. . .
I would like to finally talk about what I perceive to be the most significant flaw in Medicare: the rates of reimbursement. I do not know who decides, or how the decision is made, but the rate of reimbursement for certain pieces of durable medical equipment is beyond exorbitant. An example is the case of the knee braces. These items are available on the market to a DME provider for less than $100.00. Medicare, however, reimburse, if I remember correctly, approximately 1,000% of this cost. Back braces that cost approximately $100.00 are reimbursed at a rate of almost 900%. Wheelchairs that cost less than $1,000.00 are reimbursed at almost 500% of cost. For anyone engaging in fraud, these numbers are too good to be true.

On the last point, even if you are not engaging in fraud, these numbers are too good to be true. One might try to institute various reforms of the system to catch the crooks, but that would be unpopular, as physicians and patients would be left waiting for payment or services respectively. The private insurance markets are much more effective at detecting fraud. Further, the whole fraud issue obscures questions around patient abuse of the system in which they have no financial stake.

This is why I am in favor of Paul Ryan's plan to allow senior's to shop for their own insurance with medicare dollars. It is a necessary first step in reforming the system. First, given the private sector's higher success in combating fraud, the savings can be used to reduce spending on the program. Second, if we were to repeal Obamacare, then the insurance market place could open up novel cost sharing proposals that would stretch senior's insurance dollars for when they really needed costly medical care.

Ultimately, I understand that the U.S. has a robust social safety net. But I think we have gone overboard. We aren't a country that promises cradle to grave support, like socialist Europe. The vast majority of Americans need to enter old age having planned for their retirement, not reliant on social security and medicare as their sole means of support. To this end, I support rationalizing these programs a step at a time, to wean people from them, and give them back more choice.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Weekend Music Chill


We were at the old car show in La Mesa last night, followed by beer, cigars and football at Hoffer's. In short, the perfect guys night out. In honor of a great tradition in downtown La Mesa, I wanted to put up some music in the theme of last night's event, the last one this summer.




I was going to go with another Beach Boys classic "My 409" but this little gem caught my attention. Here is War with Lowrider. (It was tough to find a family friendly video on this topic.)






Max was behind the bar, handing out great recommendations, and Phil, the proprietor, hooked me up with a very nice little Alec Bradley "Family Blend." The Port Brewing "Panzer Imperial Pilsner" could hardly be called a pilsner at about 10% abv, but it was big and very flavorful.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Dumanis Disqualifies Herself

Bonnie Dumanis was interviewed by the U-T editorial board today. Ricky Young, @sdutYoung on Twitter, has a couple of key quotes.
Dumanis to U-T edit board, asked about Prop D, says she voted but ''My vote is personal''

Dumanis says she doesn't remember Prop 23, last fall's effort to undo AB32, so doesn't know how she might have voted.

Gustafson asks for Dumanis' ideas... She starts, ''First of all, there are no new ideas."
By contrast, Carl DeMaio's efforts were key to Proposition D's (1/2 cent sales tax increase) defeat. In fairness, Nathan Fletcher was also on record against the measure, but didn't seem to actively campaign against it. Filner is so in the tank for the unions that I will never endorse him.

My tea party endorsement is never going to go to anyone who won't oppose tax increases until we have done all we can to reduce the size and cost of government.



Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Personal Experiences: Why We Must Limit Government

As my readers may know, I am a federal employee. I am fortunate to work in one of the best run parts of the federal government. We have had pay for performance for over twenty years, well before any other part of the government. Even the sub-units of our organization post financial results, managers are judged on their profit and loss (although we are required to break even as an organization.) Our employees are mostly well educated and most of them work very hard; there are always many cars in the parking lot at the end of working hours.

In spite of this, we are still inefficient compared to the commercial sector. We are mired in red tape and it hurts our ability to perform our work, and I think we are among the best in the federal sector. K.T. explains the difficulty of working for the feds in an excellent post with comments worth reading as well.

Government employees operate under more regulations than any of them [other regulated industries]. If you don't believe me, stop by any government agency and check out their contracts department. That's where the money gets distributed to businesses to do work. That's where stimulus meets employment.
. . .
Increased government intervention means, at the micro level, more people will spend more time following the rules like the ones laid out in the Department of Interior site linked above.
. . .
The progressive faith in government is built entirely on a foundation of ignorance. It sounds like a good idea to intervene, but in real life it fails because the government wastes people's time. Wasted time reduces economic output. It's as simple as that.

And the coup de grĂ¢ce, from his comments.
It's not that government employees are stupid, lazy or wasteful, it's that government, by proper design, is inefficient and wasteful. It should be doing as little as possible.

Dean chimes in:
I'm in the initial stages of my DAU training [acquisition training] and after each session, my head hurts.

It hurts from tons and tons of good intent.
The whole article is worth a read.

This is All You Need to Know About Federalism

P.J. O'Rourke famously said, "You can't get good chinese takeout in China and cuban cigars are rationed in Cuba. That's all you need to know about communism." In these United States we can see the effect of stupid policies unveiled in one state, but not others and take note. (I wasn't thinking of Romneycare, but that's not a bad example either.) This is the beauty of federalism.

In January 2011, a massive tax hike was enacted in Illinois by the Democratic controlled legislature and here are the results.



Meanwhile, I found this picture on the BLS website regarding employment in Houston, TX:


Note how Houston continues to add jobs, better than the whole of America which is also adding jobs even at a lower rate, unlike Illinois.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Paging Admiral Ackbar

The scene at right, (Picture H/T LCR), coupled with the news that Gaddafi is still at large brings to mind that the rebels alliance may have fallen into a trap. Gadhafi's forces were getting pounded by NATO air forces when out in the open outside of urban areas. Luring the rebels inside Tripoli may have been an ingenious trap. Since the previous reports of Gadhafi's demise seem premature, who knows what is really happening?






If you wondered what happened to Ackbar after the rebellion succeeded in dethroning the Empire, click here.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Lemonade Freedom Day Follow Up

This was the result of selling lemonade in our nation's capital (H/T Carpe Diem.)



This video speaks for itself. However, the female officer who kept shoving her hand into the video camera appears to be acting above the law. She's annoyed? Who cares; she has no right to commit a crime, in this case assault, under color of authority. I invite any reader who might be in law enforcement or knows someone in law enforcement to tell me if I am wrong.

I know that the police eventually had to make arrests under the letter of the law, but doesn't it show that the law is a crock?

Good Timing for a Grocery Strike? UPDATE

Yesterday's U-T headline announced that San Diego County's unemployment rate had increased to 10.5% during the "summer of recovery."

Unemployment in San Diego County ticked up in July to 10.5 percent, up from a revised 10.4 percent in June, reaching a high not seen for nearly a year, according to data released Friday by the state Employment Development Department.


So imagine my surprise this morning when I read that local grocery workers had voted to go on strike against Vons, Albertsons and Ralphs. One would think that the supermarkets will have no problem getting replacement workers.
More than 90 percent voted to reject the supermarkets' offer, which could affect scores of stores in San Diego County and across Southern California. The vote was open to more than 62,000 workers across Southern California, but union officials did not reveal the exact turnout, only saying it was a "record high."
I presume the key issue is the desire on the part of the grocers to have their employees pay more for their health insurance. Union President Mickey Kasparian, from the same article:
Under the grocery chain’s proposal, some workers would go from having no paycheck deductions to having an average of $92 per month deducted for health insurance, although it would vary depending on family size and other factors, Kasparian said.
Is this the result of the passage of Obamacare? I don't have hard evidence to prove that, but I wouldn't be surprised. Businesses are facing rising health care costs since the passage of the bill that we needed to pass to see what was in it. Everything I have read about the negotiations for the grocery workers lead me to believe that health care costs are the key sticking point. Costs are going up and neither side wants to pay for them.

Meanwhile, the stores are getting ready for a strike, some are putting up signs asking for applications for replacement workers. Since my youngest son has been having trouble finding work, he took the opportunity to go to one of the local stores to fill out such an application. He said it was a difficult endeavor, because he didn't want to ask current employees how to apply to be a replacement worker. Instead, he made his way to the manager's office to fill out an application there. Even though there were media reports of signage asking for replacement workers, this Vons in Clairemont had no such signs. The manager gave out a standard employment application form, no different than under non-strike conditions. Perhaps they are hoping for an 11th hour settlement and don't want to unnecessarily upset current employees.

I lived through the grocery strike eight years ago (2003-2004), and remember the unions not doing very well when the results were in. From the lib.com website.

59,000 UFCW members voted on the three-year contract over the weekend of February 28-29. By any standard, the settlement must be considered an important employer victory. While the supermarkets did lose $2.5 billion in income during the strike, they established a precedent for many pending contracts around the country, and not merely for supermarkets. Wall Street greeted the settlement, and Safeway stock prices remained firm throughout the strike.

The new contract provided for a two-tier system. Current employees will receive no pay increase for the first two years of the contract, but will receive a ratification bonus. In the third year, they will begin making monthly payments for the family health plan. New employees will have lower wages and will receive only limited health coverage. The two-tier contract will thus open the way for pushing older employees out the door. Finally, the contract allowed the supermarkets to fire up to 630 UFCW members for “misconduct” on the picket lines within 36 hours of ratification.

I personally crossed the picket line and was interviewed on local TV about why I did so. The answer was simple, we needed groceries for a party and didn't feel excessive sympathy for the worker's position. At the time, Walmart was starting to move into the grocery business and the big grocery chains needed to contain costs in order to compete. I think the problem for the grocery store workers is that it doesn't appear that high levels of education or training are necessary to perform their work. As a result, they will constantly be under competitive pressure. This is not meant as disparagement, I am on friendly terms with many unionized grocery workers and they treat me very well. They work in a field where economists would say there are low barriers to entry into that workforce, unlike health care, for instance. Ultimately, the price I pay for my groceries is a good part of the consideration of where I decide to shop. Regardless of their helpfulness, prices that are too high will send me elsewhere.

I sincerely hope the strike ends soon, but I don't see how the workers are in any better position to win concessions than they were eight years ago. Further, I wonder how they will explain to their unemployed neighbors that they went on strike because their health care costs went up. Isn't that true for almost everyone?

UPDATE

Apparently, Verizon workers are returning to work without a contract, although negotiations will continue. The striking Verizon workers are in the land line portion of the business, which is under great strain because of the shift to wireless. This makes their situation similar to the grocery workers, being in an industry of increasing competitive pressure. That they felt it necessary to return to work is not a good omen for our local UCFW folks. Health care costs were also a big part of this strike as well. Seems Obamacare isn't a good deal for private sector unions.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Public Service Announcement - Lemonade Freedom Day

Today is Lemonade Freedom Day, (H/T Roger) the brainchild of Robert Fernandes. Even though this is one small effort to push back on the statist elite who would rule every minute aspect of our lives, it is an important effort worthy of our support. Movements like this are part of the overall rebellion of our citizenry against the continually encroaching tyranny of all levels of government. Even if you don't have kids participating, I encourage you to buy some lemonade today from your local stand.

Benefits:
  • Teaches kids the fundamentals of capitalism. They take raw inputs and make a product that they sell, hopefully, for a profit. Advanced instruction might include inventory control over things like the ice and lemons.
  • It is the perfect poke in the eye to the regulatory regime. IJ has learned the value of finding sympathetic victims of government's over reach.
  • It will encourage other grass roots efforts to respond to our government's over reach.
Maybe we should have national garage sales weekend next.



Friday, August 19, 2011

Obama Administration's Illegal Illegal Immigration Plan

The administration announced Thursday that it will cease deporting those identified as illegal immigrants who pose no threat to public safety or national security so that it can focus on catching and expelling criminals who do. That's the purported rationale. Let's look at the overall policy of the administration with a view to actual results.

Step 1. Don't enforce the border. (Too be fair, this was the Bush position as well.) Illegal immigrants continue to walk across a border that is only defended in urban areas, thereby falling prey to thirst, coyotes (the people), and coyotes (the animals). OK, I made up the part about the animals. Net effect, many illegal immigrants make it across the border, some die along the way.

Step 2. Step up enforcement of targeting employers of illegal immigrants. Destroy businesses and jobs by so doing. Note that if employers inquire too closely about immigration status based on race, appearance, or language, they can be targeted in discrimination lawsuits.

Step 3. Don't deport the illegal aliens identified in step 2, leaving them unemployed, but hanging around the U.S.

Step 4. Make sure that the families of the newly unemployed illegals who were not deported receive welfare benefits. This happens primarily because the children born in the U.S. of illegals are entitled to benefits as citizens.

Step 5. Make sure that the illegals receive health care benefits under Obamacare.
. . . a recent award of $28.8 million to 67 community healthcare centers around the country would inevitably end up benefiting illegal immigrants, contrary to Obama’s pledge.

Of that $28.8 million, $8.5 million is earmarked to target migrant and seasonal farm workers — a group that Wilson claims is comprised of illegal immigrants.

Net effect of failed policies: Permanent underclass dependent on government benefits, raising a follow on generation also dependent, destined to vote for the Democrats who provide these benefits. My libertarian friends who are in favor of open borders should look at this result.

Hmmm. Immigration policy leads to more Democrat voters. Government authorized gun running operations kill U.S. agents, leading to calls for more gun control. Obamacare subsidies and regulation appear poised to run insurance companies out of business which would lead to government being only insurer. If I were a cynic, I might say these were intended consequences, not unintended consequences of legally and constitutionally questionable activities of this administration. Good think I'm not a cynic, or I might get more than a little angry.

Weekend Music Chill

Tomorrow is lemonade freedom day, so I was looking for some musical accompaniment. This man also performs some of my favorite romantic music. Here is Herb Alpert & The Tijuana Brass performing "Lemon Tree."



And because I was in the mood for one more romantic tune:



My anniversary is coming up, so these will definitely be on the Sonos playlist.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

401(k) - Better for Workers

Is a promise that won't be kept really a promise at all? I was thinking about the issue of defined contribution plans (401(k)) vs defined benefit plans for city workers that will be on the ballot in June 2012. The Voice of San Diego summarized the issue neatly:
It [the ballot measure] was an agreement to unite and to set in motion what could be the climax of a nine-year drama about the city of San Diego's mounting pension liabilities. The city never set aside money to meet those obligations. And the bills due today are suffocating other city services while the distrust the decisions created destroyed the city's ability to ask taxpayers to rescue it.
Essentially, the city is going to be unable to deliver essential services if the trend continues with regards to its pension liabilities. The ultimate end of that path is bankruptcy whereby the promises of defined plans are abrogated. How is that better for workers than benefits that get paid into a fund when earned? For those who would argue that the ballot measure does nothing to change the current problems, because it only applies to future employees please read the whole VOSD article. The plan is not as great as a conservative might like, but gives us the tools to reduce future pension costs.

Another reason that 401(k)'s are better is that the pension fund belongs to the employee, not some retirement board that can be swayed by politics or mendacity. Consider this article regarding the San Diego county pension board from the U-T Watchdog.

Less than a month after the county pension board refused a recommendation to invest $100 million with a former Wall Street trader, the agency’s top adviser is bringing the plan back for another vote.

Former Deutsche Bank trader Boaz Weinstein lost $1.8 billion in now-notorious “credit default swap” investments in 2008.

The pension board’s outside portfolio strategist, Salient Partners of Houston, is suggesting board approval on Thursday of the investment with Weinstein’s new company, Saba Capital Partners.

If you are an employee, counting on the returns from this investment to fund your retirement, and you think the fools who were part of the whole mortgage backed securities game should be in jail not in business, what can you do? Not much, it turns out.

However, a properly managed 401(k) using dollar cost averaging and periodic sector re-balancing, can actually beat market returns. See this article for a short primer.

Or take CALPERS, please. In June 2007:
The California Public Employees' Retirement System, the nation's largest public pension fund, has invested $140 million in such unrated CDO portions, according to data Calpers provided in response to a public records request. Citigroup Inc., the largest U.S. bank, sold the tranches to Calpers.
CDOs are collateralized debt obligations, mortgage backed securities. Further, CALPERS has a history of supporting union interests ahead of total returns for employees. If you are an employee, do you really want an investment board that puts the political interests of unions ahead of your returns?

In summary, I don't understand why unions would be arguing against defined contribution plans, unless it deprives them of power over the work force. America is moving towards this system because it reduces the uncertainties associated with future bankruptcies and offloads the investment risk to the individual, where it belongs. As individuals become better investors, defined contribution plans will actually improve the economy by adding to the investment capital available.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Defeating Obama

This is my 1000th post on The Liberator Today; it is appropriate that I return to the theme of defeating Obama that informed my first attempt at blogging. As I have gotten older, I have taken a more relaxed view of the outcome of any particular election, including the most recent presidential edition in 2008. I noticed that things never seemed to turn out as bad as I feared when the other side one, and were never as good as I hoped when our side won. However, Obama's first term broke this rule, because he had extraordinary majorities in the House and Senate for his first two years in office. This resulted in doubling down on every failure from the Bush administration while foisting the most massive increase in federal reach in the history of the Republic in the form of the health care bill.

However, the health care bill hasn't fully kicked in, even though its ill effects and budget busting effects are already evident. A massive defeat for Obama in 2012 would provide the majorities to perform the biggest roll back of a federal program ever achieved. This will require strength at the top of the ticket. This is why I may be less interested in ideological purity than some others in the tea party movement. However, I also realize that electing a Republican who wouldn't sign a repeal, or who would continue the path of unsustainable deficit spending is no victory at all.

This is the dilemma for the tea party. The front runners Romney and Perry seem to have serious issues with issues of health care and crony capitalism respectively (and other issues as well, but time does not permit.) But those with better positions and records don't look strong enough today to challenge Obama, Ron Paul and Gary Johnson come to mind. Fortunately, its still early and I think the eventual Republican nominee is going to have to repent of something to win the nomination. We should be pressuring the candidates now to recant of their various heresies, and until they do, be supportive of those candidates that have shown seriousness of purpose in reducing federal spending.

The energy of the tea party movement will move the country in the opposite direction that Euro socialist protestors want to move Europe. This country still embraces capitalism to a greater degree than any other large nation, which will allow us to remain leaders of the world for some time to come. We need to continue the counter-revolution against the progressive movement that has been undermining the founders' vision of limited government for over 100 years.

Programming Note

I have disabled anonymous commenting on The Liberator Today. The comic relief provided by some anonymous comments wore thin. The content of this blog is the product of my intellectual effort. I was no longer amused as the attacks became more sophomoric and lacking in depth, so for my own convenience, I disabled anonymous commenting. Those who choose an on-line identity, even if not using their actual names, can continue to comment.

Monday, August 15, 2011

If You're Not Lucky, We Can't Use You - UPDATE

One of my favorite expressions from my years in the submarine force was "If you're not lucky, we can't use you." My first Commanding Officer was Dick Raaz, who was, according to legend, the inspiration Gene Hackman used for his Crimson Tide character Capt Ramsey. Raaz explained that the perils of our profession required more than a bit of luck for success, so he was looking for lucky officers. (You can see Raaz on YouTube, skip to 3:45.) Although the subject expression may sound cruel, it underpins a certain truth which isn't about luck, per se. We know in our hearts that luck is often the result of courage, tenacity, daring, boldness or some combination that works in ways we can't see but sense, so we call it luck. There is even a Latin phrase for it "audentes fortuna juvat," or "fortune favors the bold."

This was especially important to the submarine force of World War II, where the expression originated, as 375 officers and 3,131 enlisted men were lost along with 52 submarines. Since most submarines were lost with all hands on board, having a lucky shipmate would be fortunate indeed. From a senate resolution on the subject "the submarine force destroyed 1,314 enemy ships in World War II (weighing a cumulative 5,300,000 tons), which accounts for 55 percent of all enemy ships lost in World War II," in spite of these heavy casualties. (And I don't think they counted the train they "sank.")

Which brings us to the President, sort of. In a speech in Iowa yesterday, Obama opined and whined:
"We had reversed the recession, avoided a depression, gotten the economy moving again," Obama told a crowd in Decorah, Iowa. "But over the last six months we've had a run of bad luck." Obama listed three events overseas -- the Arab Spring uprisings, the tsunami in Japan, and the European debt crises -- which set the economy back.
Without debating the truth of whether the recession was ever really reversed, one has to ask, do you really want four more years of an unlucky President? These are perilous times; having someone lucky at the helm of the ship of state sounds attractive. Peggy Noonan commented on Obama over a year ago in this vein, calling him "snakebit."
But Mr. Obama is starting to look unlucky, and–file this under Mysteries of Leadership–that is dangerous for him because Americans get nervous when they have a snakebit president. They want presidents on whom the sun shines.
Her article was in response to his handling of the Gulf Oil spill, remember that? But Obama hasn't looked any luckier since, taking a shellacking in mid-term elections, a steady drip of bad reviews about Obamacare, an economy that won't mend and record deficits that have the country nervous. The only bright spot was killing bin Laden, and even that seems a bit tarnished with the death of some of the same Seals who completed that mission. By Obama's own admission, he has been unlucky. But the steady reports of misfortune cause us to wonder whether the Bard had it right when he had Cassius declaim "The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars, But in ourselves, that we are underlings."

This is why I can' t help but like Rick Perry and frankly, could never bring myself to hate Bill Clinton. They both seem to be very lucky men whom fortune has favored. Its also why I don't think Obama will be re-elected.

UPDATE

I can't believe I forgot to include the other widely used submariner phrase that would apply to Obama's economic policies, "The stupid shall be punished."

Sunday, August 14, 2011

One In, One Out

I am pretty pleased with Rick Perry entering the Republican race and Tim Pawlenty leaving. I thought Pawlenty's attacks on Michele Bachmann were uncalled for, and it made him seem desperate. He also seemed a bit like a Republican version of Al Gore, no spontaneity and even some "cap and trade" baggage to weigh him down.

Rick Perry enters the race with strong credentials on keeping taxes and regulation low, and creating jobs in Texas. The fact that Axelrod felt it necessary to immediately attack Perry is an indicator that the White House is worried about his candidacy. He doesn't need to polish any "social conservative" credentials, so he brings a broader coalition than Gary Johnson, and certainly Mitt Romney. But I have my concerns.

First, he needs to emphasize the issues that will beat Obama, spending, jobs, and regulation, which are all intertwined. If he gets off the reservation and pushes issues like gay marriage, I am going to be an unhappy camper, because it scares off potential members of the coalition to reduce the size of government. He has already made his position known on a number of these issues. With regards to the gay marriage issue, he need merely state that his position is the same as Obama's, that he supports the federal law on the issue the defense of marriage act, and drop it. If Obama tries to pursue the issue, he knows it might be a loser for him in some swing states.

Second, he needs to apologize or at least recant any talk of secession that was previously associated with him. See my previous post. Secession can be seen by some as code for racism, and there is reasonable historical precedent for that view. Mr. Perry is certainly not racist, so I would expect him to put some distance from that.

With Obama's job approval on the downward trend again, the chances for a Republican victory in the Presidential race look at least 50-50 to me. Intrade odds below seem to confirm.


The spike in May is after Osama bin Laden's death.

Interestingly the odds makers put Perry ahead of Romney (36% vs 30%) as of this writing to win the Republican nomination for President. Michele Bachmann, in spite of winning the Ames straw poll sits at 7% to be nominated.

None of this really matters, because its a long time between now and November 2012. However, the fundamentals of the economy don't look good for Obama. Since he keeps doubling down on stupidity like fast trains and slow energy, and his regulatory minions can't seem to help themselves from killing jobs (EPA on CO2, NLRB on Boeing to name two) we can't expect the economy to improve on his watch. Further the gang of 12 super-Congress is going to end in a stalemate that will provoke more backlash. I actually worry that it will succeed in some compromise that results in increasing marginal tax rates.

But the campaign has officially kicked off. I know of tea party types supporting Gary Johnson, Ron Paul, Sarah Palin, Michele Bachmann and Rick Perry. Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich, not so much.

UPDATE

Fellow tea partyer W.C. Varones alerted me to a third issue for Rick Perry, crony capitalism. I take that issue seriously, so felt I had to add this link and quote.

The Emerging Technology Fund was created at Mr. Perry's behest in 2005 to act as a kind of public-sector venture capital firm, largely to provide funding for tech start-ups in Texas. Since then, the fund has committed nearly $200 million of taxpayer money to fund 133 companies. Mr. Perry told a group of CEOs in May that the fund's "strategic investments are what's helping us keep groundbreaking innovations in the state." The governor, together with the lieutenant governor and the speaker of the Texas House, enjoys ultimate decision-making power over the fund's investments.

I don't need to read another word of the article to know that there were or will be accusations of favoritism and that favored companies donated to Perry or fellow Texas Republicans. That is a powerful counterargument the left will use, because the collusion of big government with big business, especially Wall Street, is a favored theme. It is also a real problem that we in the tea party want to attack, by removing government's power to pass out favors. The left's answer is to try and limit free speech and campaign contributions, known losers. But if Republicans nominate crony capitalists, its going to hurt. Perry needs to back away from this one, but I doubt that he will.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

More On Gingrich and Lean Six Sigma -UPDATE

I noticed I received some search engine traffic because of a previous post on Newt Gingrich's endorsement of Lean Six Sigma (LSS) for the federal government. I loathe LSS, but I didn't explain why. LSS is a process improvement methodology already widely adopted by the Department of Defense. How could I be against process improvement? I'm not. I'm against a cumbersome bureaucratic approach to process improvement that actually prevents the outcome it purports to achieve. If you applied lean thinking to the LSS formal methodology, you would toss most of it overboard as non-value added, to use the vernacular.

My personal experience is that LSS events always fail to deliver results, but process improvement projects that have a specific goal usually succeed. Why is that? Because one of the Seven Habits is to start with the end in mind. LSS has no particular end in mind, because it is focused on process. But process is only a means to an end, so LSS is doomed to failure.

But of course, it lives on, like some zombie religion that you can't seem to kill off, no matter how many lives it wrecks. Its adherents display all of the personality traits of cult victims, hence KT's hilarious video in the previous post and my tweet that I thought that Newt was a Christian.


KT has a post where he quotes an anonymous industrial engineer at GE regarding LSS and process improvement.
It used to be that I (a trained industrial engineer), in the normal course of my day, would observe quality or process problems and take appropriate action to analyze and correct them. I could often do this very rapidly so that we would enjoy the benefits of the changes immediately. But with the introduction of Six Sigma, such a logical system is no longer possible.

With Six Sigma, if you don't run the gantlet of Six Sigma paperwork (charts, reviews, critiques, etc.) for every little thing, you're wasting your time. You see, now at GE, the litmus test for any employee is Six Sigma credit, a fact that I noticed while completing one of my first Six Sigma projects in order to earn my Green Belt certification.
Read the whole thing.

Exit question: Is Newt really serious about lean six sigma, or is it actually a devious plot to bring the entire federal government grinding to a halt?

UPDATE

In the comments, KT says:
I think Newt read about it or was told about it by some corporate consultant and he fell in love with it. Newt's got lots of great ideas, but since he never does anything, he can't tell which ones will work and which ones are just blather.
We don't need a conservative version of Obama in the White House. Gingrich may have been Speaker of the House, but that was a while ago, and he has never really had an executive leadership position.

Friday, August 12, 2011

The Real Loser in Last Night's Debate in Ames

. . . was Obama, no matter any other spin I have read. The energy in among the Republican contenders and their supporters was palpable. I sense that the President is way behind in the count and that a poor showing by him could prove disastrous for his party in November 2012. I would welcome that result if I thought the Republicans would focus on repealing Obamacare, rolling back regulation and trimming spending. We'll see. They have betrayed these principles before. Hence the need for a non-partisan movement to hold them accountable.

Weekend Music Chill

Times for a covers edition for the weekend music. Since Obama is burnin' down the House, with all the new debt since he took office, we thought this would be appropriate.

The original.




The surprisingly fabulous cover.



H/T to Road Dawg who tipped me off to the cover years ago.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Romney on Obamacare and Romneycare

Mitt Romney got a couple things right after being hit up on the similarities of Obamacare to his plan. First, he said that if elected, he would direct the Secretary of HHS to grant waivers to all 50 states as his first act in office. He also called for the repeal of Obamacare. Unfortunately, he didn't really disown his prior position and I think it leaves him weak.

Rick Santorum made a donkey of himself by mis-characterizing the 10th amendment position of the other candidates in the segment on health care. For some reason, Santorum rubs me the wrong way, and it goes beyond mere policy.

Gingrich Support Lean Six Sigma? Ugh!

KT, call the office, if Gingrich wins, we're doomed. Tonight on Hannity, Newt said he would apply Lean Six Sigma to the entire federal government. It's the kind of pseudo-intellectual wonkish sounding proposal that makes him sound good, but reveal that he is actually an idiot. From The Scratching Post:





Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Sarah Palin Channels Her Inner SLOB

On August 8, Sarah Palin posted an excellent piece on Facebook (H/T Hotair) that got me wondering what she and her staff are reading. The SLOBs, I decided. Some comparisons, first this August 8th tweet from Temple of Mut:
Tea Partiers weren’t “fiddling” while our country's fiscal house burned. We were grabbing extinguishers.
Compare to Palin's:
Blaming the Tea Party for our credit downgrade is akin to Nero blaming the Christians for burning Rome. Tea Party Americans weren’t the ones “fiddling” while our country’s fiscal house was going up in smoke.

In an earlier part of the post, Palin warns that our path is even less sustainable that Europe's.
European nations with less debt and smaller deficits than ours and with real “austerity” plans in place to deal with them have had their ratings downgraded. By what magical thinking did we figure we could run up perpetual trillion dollar deficits and still somehow avoid the unforgiving mathematics of a downgrade? Nothing is ever “too big to fail.”

Compare The Scratching Post's frequent analysis of the European situation and the power of math, this post from July 29.
To me, this doesn't make any sense at all. Austerity isn't a solution to a problem, it's a consequence of our actions. The math is simple.

If, up to now, you've lived like this:
Spending1 = Earning + Borrowing
and now your creditors won't lend you any more money, you have to live like this:
Spending2 = Earning.
This is simplified, but it's close enough. From these equations, it's naturally obvious that
Spending1 > Spending2.

On the theme of Obama's economic illiteracy, here is yours truly on June 1 of this year.
Here is why Obama should demand his money back from Columbia and Harvard for failing to educate him on basic economics. His administration's policies of propping up the housing market only prolonged the recession. Further, it was inevitable that the market couldn't be propped up forever.
Palin on the President's education:
And there’s no such thing as a free lunch. Didn’t we all learn that in our micro and macro econ classes? I did at the University of Idaho. How could Obama skip through Columbia and Harvard without learning that?
I find her quote especially effective because it drives the elites crazy, to question the hallowed halls of ivy league academia.

Here is Dean, critiquing Obama's energy subsidy policy last April.
Of course, you see what's going on here, right? "Subsidies" are for the oil industry, yet we "invest" in green energy. Subsidies, bad. Investments, good. Wash, rinse and repeat.

Look, you want to eliminate tax breaks and depreciation write-offs for the oil and gas industry? Fine by us but don't double down on stupid and insult our intelligence at the same time by taking this estimated $4 billion that Big Oil gets and pour it into the
not-yet-ready-for-primetime green energy sector that also happens to be a mosh pit of crony capitalism and picking winners and losers. Whether it's oil and gas, wind turbines, solar panels, choo-choo trains or corn and milk, we're not really sure what the government is doing in the subsidies business in the first place.
Sarah Palin reaches a similar conclusion, with as much wit.
And we don’t need any more happy talk from the White House about “investing” in solar shingles and really fast trains. The White House shouldn’t even bother floating these new spending programs. We can’t afford them. Period.
I could probably go on, and I'm sorry if I missed some SLOBs. What I really like is that it is a really decent critique of our current issues and a straightforward way ahead to deal with them. Her swipes at Obama are spot on as well, but most importantly she doesn't offer magical solutions. Perhaps she is still a force to be reckoned with.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Wisconsin Recall and Lefty Attacks and Counterattacks

It's coming down to the wire in Wisconsin to retain Republican control of the state senate. Right now the outcome is too close to call; of six races, three went to Republicans, two to Democrats and one is still a toss up. If the Democrats win the last race, Darling (R) vs. Pasch (D), then they will have gained control of the Wisconsin senate. There are two recalls of Democrats next week, however. There is a twitter post from John McCormack that Darling has won, but I haven't seen hard news.

The labor unions have spent massively to make this a referendum over the curtailment of collective bargaining privileges passed by the Wisconsin legislature and signed by Governor Scott Walker. But money has poured in on the conservative side as well, but not as much according to HotAir. Regardless of the outcome, we have to face the fact that the labor unions, often funded with your tax dollars, are going to fight reform every step of the way. 2010 is not likely to be repeated in 2012, as the left and labor learn how to counterattack.

Relatedly, we see the strategy that Team Barry will take with whomever the GOP nominates. Politico is reporting that since Obama believes that Romney will be the nominee, his team has the following brilliant campaign strategy:

Obama plan: Destroy Romney

How's that hopey-changey, no more politics as usual, bring the country together thing working for you?
I guess when your lame excuses sound like this, you can't do much else:



"When I said change we can believe in, I didn't mean change we can believe in tomorrow, I didn't mean change we can believe in next week." Fundamentally transforming America is not change I will ever believe in.

UPDATE

Wisconsin News 3 is calling the last race for Darling, the Republican.
Labor, outspending Republicans 2:1, $13 million. Not retaking control of the senate, priceless.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Missed in the Downgrade Hubbub - No Entitlement Reform


For all the blame of the tea party has taken for the recent debt downgrade, the real culprit was lost in the news. The S&P report is remarkable mostly for stating the obvious. That the President would issue excuses and denials is more evidence, as if we needed it, of his lack of leadership.

The money paragraph from the S&P report:

The political brinksmanship of recent months highlights what we see as America's governance and policymaking becoming less stable, less effective, and less predictable than what we previously believed. The statutory debt ceiling and the threat of default have become political bargaining chips in the debate over fiscal policy. Despite this year's wide-ranging debate, in our view, the differences between political parties have proven to be extraordinarily difficult to bridge, and, as we see it, the resulting agreement fell well short of the comprehensive fiscal consolidation program that some proponents had envisaged until quite recently. Republicans and Democrats have only been able to agree to relatively modest savings on discretionary spending while delegating to the Select Committee decisions on more comprehensive measures. It appears that for now, new revenues have dropped down on the menu of policy options. In addition, the plan envisions only minor policy changes on Medicare and little change in other entitlements, the containment of which we and most other independent observers regard as key to long-term fiscal sustainability.
Parsing this, there are four problems, all obvious.

1. The two political parties are far apart in their philosophical differences on how to deal with the the federal government's liabilities. I wrote that the voters will have to decide in 2012. Maybe they won't. This is a reasonable cause for downgrade, because uncertainty exists. Tea partyers, we need to keep the pressure on and push the election of those who will get serious about debt reduction.

2. Only modest savings were agreed to. Sounds like a tea party position to me. And we get the blame? Of course only modest savings were agreed to, because big savings require political consensus that is still lacking, see paragraph 1.

3. New revenues are needed. Before you expel me from the tea party for agreeing, let me state the manner in which I agree. New revenue does not mean new taxes, even if that's what S&P meant. Reform of the personal and corporate tax code to close loopholes, special favors and incentives, while reducing rates in a manner that would be scored as revenue neutral would in fact increase revenue. This is because in a dynamic economy, rather than the static one envisioned by the CBO, the misapplication of resources caused by the tax code will cease. This will in turn increase economic output. Further, corporations will spend less on tax compliance, releasing those resources for investment and hiring. What about the armies of unemployed tax lawyers you might ask. Really? Did you ever meet an unemployed lawyer? And if you did, how is that a bad thing? Further, rolling back Obamacare and other anti-jobs recent regulation will also increase revenue. All with lower tax rates.

4. And the big money issue: only minor changes in entitlements. Structural changes to social security, medicare and medicaid are necessary for fiscal solvency as they form about half of all federal expenditures. Somehow they are off limits, according to Democrats. In a future article, I intend to propose ways to "save" these programs by reducing their costs all while wrapping the pitch in lefty rhetoric.

This is all obvious; we don't need a panel of analysts with PhD's in economics to realize that the debt issued by the United States is less solid than it once was. The most likely outcome is that the government will give current investors a "haircut" through inflation/devaluation of the currency. If you don't think that's likely, you didn't live through the 70s. The only real question in my mind is how low should the rating go. If we are evaluating the risk to our capital by buying long term treasuries, and inflation could easily erode that capital, maybe AA+ is too high a rating.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Debt Downgrade - Blaming the Tea Party - San Diego Responds

All of the usual suspects have decided to blame the Tea Party for the recent S&P downgrade of U.S. government debt to AA+. This should be in the category of dog bites man news, of course, but it somehow makes the papers. First of all, the downgrade is long overdue. Second, unless spending is curbed, the debt will grow; tax revenues will not increase until the economy is growing, and there are upper limits on how much tax revenue the federal government can squeeze out of the economy. Hint, it's less than the current rate of spending. Even though I supported Boehner on this deal, as the best we could get under the circumstances, the deal itself stinks because Democrats blocked any serious spending cuts.

Many of your local tea party bloggers have reaction to the stupidity of lefty talking points about "the Tea Party" downgrade.

Temple of Mut sets the stage:
No one here in San Diego, across the country, or elsewhere in the world, who has been closely following the news, is surprised that S&P downgraded this nation’s credit rating from AAA to AA+. The simple, bitter truth is that the United States of America spends money it doesn’t have. And S&P formally stated what the taxpayers of this nation have been saying loudly these past three years — you can’t spend us back to solvency.
. . .
Republican and Democrat establishment politicians, and their elite media supporters, own the downgrade. They fought Tea Party representatives at every turn, while using derogatory terms such as “terrorists” and “hobbits”. They were the ones who forced a deal which was insufficient, essentially kicking the can of fiscal responsibility down the road and off the cliff.

The same article also quotes local SCTRC leader Sarah Bond.
It’s time for real spending cuts. Time for “shared responsibility” to mean something more than tax hikes for everyone. Time for redundant regulation to be slashed so that the businesses of this once great nation can roar back to life. It’s time for the rule of law to mean something. And time for government to STOP bailing out every bank, home owner, and union dominated industry that fails.
W.C. Varones reminds us Geithner's reassurances last April.
Tonight, Timmy the Tax Cheat Geithner joins Bernanke in the Idiots or Liars Club. As recently as April, Timmy said there was "no risk" the U.S. would lose its AAA credit rating. How's that working out for you now, Timmy?
Beers with Demo takes on the new leftist meme that the downgrade is somehow the Tea Party's fault. Responding to algore's call for an "American Spring" Dean had this to say:
After reading this, it struck us: What it is algore desires is a call to arms to.... protect the status quo. Imagine that: a revolution to keep things just as they are!

Record debt and deficits? Apparently, they're all for it. Unsustainable entitlement programs? More, please. Increased government power? Right on, man. Power to the people? Hell, no.

It shouldn't surprise anybody then that it would be Al Gore at the intellectual spear tip of the most counter-intuitive democratic uprising in history. No change!
And the award for snarkiest comment goes to K.T. Cat of The Scratching Post:
Personally, I blame the terrorist lunatic Taliban extremist Tea Partiers for blocking our path into Europaradise.
K.T. also predicts more inflationary policies from the Fed (and I agree in the short term):
In Quantitative Easing (QE) I, the Fed printed hundreds of billions of meaningless dollars and used them to buy government debt. In QE II, the Fed printed hundreds of billions more and bought still more government debt. Now that S&P has downgraded the US for the first time in history*, expect QE III.
Les Carpenter at Left Coast Rebel nails the real reason for the downgrade.
It is clear that Standard and Poors recognizes the most desirable path to fiscal sanity, and thus stability rests in further spending cuts. There is a reason for this.

This nation has been living beyond its means for a long while, going back to the seventies. Deficit spending has somehow crept into the American economic lexicon as an acceptable way of doing the government's business.
Finally, and somewhat gloomily, Richard Rider reminds us that the federal debt isn't even the total debt we owe through various levels of government.
But according to an April 2011 USA TODAY article, the TOTAL per U.S. household debt owed to governments is now $531,472 – the household’s piece of the estimated $61.7 trillion U.S. federal, state and local government debt/liability obligation. At 5% interest, the household bill is $26,573.60. EVERY year. . .
And yet still I persist in my optimism, because Americans are capable of meeting great challenges.

The following video, taken in February 2010 is a reminder that the energy with which the tea party movement was launched has had a salutary effect on the politics of the nation. For those of us involved and those who support our goal of small and limited government, it's a healthy reminder of how far we have come.


video

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Rethinking Public Education

I have always been a supporter of a voucher system to improve the performance of education for those afflicted with the ills of the inner city school system. Now, a fairly wealthy county in Colorado provides another compelling reason for providing vouchers to parents to spend on educating their youth, saving money. From the WSJ:
Nationally, most voucher programs are run by states. Qualified students receive a voucher that is accepted as full payment at local private schools.

Douglas County does it differently, acting as middleman between state and student—and taking a cut. The state sends the district $6,100 per pupil; the district forwards 75% to each voucher recipient and keeps the rest. Even after administrative costs, the district expects to make what amounts to a profit of $400,000 this year on the 500 students in its pilot program.

Of course, there are complaints from the usual suspects. Predictably the ACLU is arguing against the horror of allowing parents to use the money to pay for religious schools. Interestingly, parents who have kept their kids in public schools are upset.

Opponents, however, fear kids in traditional public schools will suffer. If a high school loses 10 freshmen to vouchers, for instance, it loses more than $50,000. In response, the principal may lay off a math teacher and distribute his students among other instructors, raising class size. The district says it will help the hardest-hit schools, but acknowledges some class sizes may increase.

That enrages parent Cindy Barnard, who says it isn't fair that her son's education in public schools may be diminished so her neighbors can use tax dollars to pay private-school tuition.

What I don't understand is why she should complain, because there will be money left over for her kids education under this plan, as the school system is already making an extra $400K this year.

This could result in huge savings. Let's look at the situation in California. According to the state of California's data, there is a total of approximately $50 billion spent on K-12 education. (I am approximating, because the exact total seems a little squishy depending on the source.) This results in per pupil spending of $8452 per year. A voucher to parents of about $6300 would save the state $2100 per pupil. If only one million of the approximately 5.5 to 6 million students, the state could save $2.1 billion dollars. The more parents take advantage of the program, the more the state saves. At the state level these kinds of savings shouldn't be ignored. It might have the additional impetus of encouraging a mass exodus from failing public schools. I also note that in the review of literature for this article that only 61% of spending in California's schools goes to classroom education. That means the schools have an overhead rate of 63%. It seems obvious that parents could get a more value from 75 cents of every education dollar than they get from the public system.

Cost savings and better education? A massive voucher program for every child in school seems like an easy way to save.

Weekend Music Chill

George Thorogood epitomizes much that is great about American rock and roll. He lays down the Bo Didley beat better than anyone I know. Here are two videos from him:



Thursday, August 4, 2011

Of Course SDSU Only Applied Non-Discrimination Policy to the Christian Sorority

Sisters of Alpha Delta Chi - Delta Chapter.

In yesterday's news, 10news is reporting that the 9th Circuit has ruled against San Diego State sorority Alpha Delta Chi, the only Christian sorority on campus. The crux of the issue is whether an officially recognized campus group, which can receive funding if recognized, may restrict membership on the basis of religion. Alpha Delta Chi requires a pledge of faith akin to the Nicene Creed for membership. Given that the taxpayer dollars are used to support officially recognized groups, I have some sympathy for the policy of the California State University system, (from the 9th circuit ruling):
No campus shall recognize any fraternity, sorority, living group, honor society, or other student organization which discriminates on the basis of race, reli- gion, national origin, ethnicity, color, age, gender, marital status, citizenship, sexual orientation, or disability. The prohibition on membership policies that discriminate on the basis of gender does not apply to social fraternities or sororities or to other university living groups.
However, when we review the details of the case, we find that SDSU isn't quite so squeaky clean as they would have us believe. The 9th circuit remanded the case to the trial court because, hey, what do you know, maybe SDSU doesn't apply the so called anti-discrimination policy in a non-discriminatory fashion.
In this case, Plaintiffs also offer evidence that San Diego State has granted official recognition to some religious student groups even though those groups, like Plaintiffs, restrict membership or eligibility to hold office based on religious belief. For example, the Catholic Newman Center’s application for official recognition by San Diego State provides that its officers must be “members, in good standing, with the Catholic Church.” Further, some non-religious but officially recognized groups appear to discriminate on prohibited grounds, in contravention of the policy. For instance, the African Student Drama Association’s constitution limits its leadership positions to students from Africa.

Now the University is going to have to defend whether or not they applied the policy in an even handed manner. I look forward to seeing their response. I imagine that they will deny status for the aforementioned groups and look tough for a while until this blows over, then resume discrimination against Christian groups only. H/T Volokh.

Cross posted to sdrostra.com.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Article of the Week - The Failure of the Statist Elite

Walter Russell Mead expands on Stanley B. Greenberg's article Why Voters Tune Out the Democrats with some brilliant follow up. His understanding of the anger against an unelected ruling elite that has seized power for itself to rule our lives is brilliant. Please indulge of few extended quotes.

On the "promise" of the left.

The progressive, administrative regulatory state and more broadly the technocratic and professional intelligentsia who operate it sold themselves to the public as an honest umpire in charge of American life. . . . Instead, we would have government by philosopher kings, or at least by incorruptible credentialed bureaucrats. Alabaster towers of objectivity such as the FCC, the FDA, the EPA, the FEC and so many more would take politics out of government and replace it with disinterested administration. Honest professionals would administer fair laws without fear or favor, putting the general interest first, and keeping the special interests at arm’s length. The government would serve the middle class, and the middle class would thrive.
The reality.
For large numbers of voters the professional classes who staff the bureaucracies, foundations and policy institutes in and around government are themselves a special interest. It is not that evil plutocrats control innocent bureaucrats; many voters believe that the progressive administrative class is a social order that has its own special interests. Bureaucrats, think these voters, are like oil companies and Enron executives: they act only to protect their turf and fatten their purses. . . . The professionals and administrators who make up the progressive state are seen as a hostile power with an agenda of their own that they seek to impose on the nation.
The source of resentment.
The progressive state has never seen its job as simply to check the excesses of the rich. It has also sought to correct the vices of the poor and to uplift the masses. . . . But it’s impossible to grasp the crisis of the progressive enterprise unless one grasps the degree to which voters resent the condescension and arrogance of know-it-all progressive intellectuals and administrators. They don’t just distrust and fear the bureaucratic state because of its failure to live up to progressive ideals (thanks to the power of corporate special interests); they fear and resent upper middle class ideology.

The whole article is worth a read. When Obama tells us to "eat our peas," it is more of the same elitist crap of the left condescending to us and presuming to be our betters and know better than us what we should do.

It is a fight to break the power of a credentialed elite that believe themselves entitled by talent and hard work to a greater say in the nation’s affairs than people who scored lower on standardized tests and studied business administration in cheap colleges rather than political science in expensive ones. I think part of the anger the left feels towards Sarah Palin is that she is a living affront to their belief in the rightful ordering of society. How dare the former female jock take a position of leadership against our the shiboleths the statists hold dear? She graduated from the University of Idaho and participated in beauty pageants for crying out loud.

So take heart, tea partyers, the progressives have painted themselves into a corner. Their policies may be popular in theory, but Americans hate being ruled. We just need to keep up the pressure to restore an America of freedom.