Thursday, February 28, 2013

Now when you push this . . . KA-BLAM!!!

Van ISD is a sleepy East Texas school district near Tyler, Texas that made the news last month when its board of trustees voted on a new policy for protecting its schools from the Adam Lanzas of the world.
It voted to authorize 30 teachers and staff members district-wide to carry concealed weapons on school campuses and at school events. This was per a recent state law that gives Texas school districts the option of arming its teachers. Here is a snippet of the announcement found on the district website.
“After consulting with our school attorney, local law enforcement, DPS officials, and pursuant to its authority under Texas Penal Code 46.03(a)(1), the board authorized specific school employees and other persons to possess certain firearms on school property, at school-sponsored or school-sanctioned events, and at board meetings in accordance with board policy CKC(Local).”
“By approving this policy, the board addressed concerns about effective and timely response to emergency situations at schools including invasion of the schools by an armed outsider, hostage situations, students who are armed and posing a direct threat of physical harm to themselves or others, and similar circumstances.”
“Please rest assured that we will remain vigilant. Van ISD will continue to do everything we can to ensure that our children are educated in an environment that is safe, healthy, and supportive.”
The inclusion of having guns at board meetings, to me, is particularly affecting.
But these employees had to undertake a mandatory course in concealed handgun training, mandatory before being able to secure a concealed weapon permit in Texas.
And a good thing, too, otherwise we would have never heard about how a school custodian taking this course last night shot himself in the leg while engaged in one on one training after the class. The gun suffered a “mechanical failure” and it went off, the bullet ricocheting off the floor and slamming into his leg.
Well we all know that accidents like that cannot happen with school children around because, well, because of the training thing.
At last report, the school district was not in the process of rethinking its policy, so obviously they still think that students will be safer and healthier in the presence of armed teachers and custodians.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

You Get What You are Willing to Pay For

Perhaps in a move to give House Republicans a glimpse of the near future, the Homeland Security Department’s Immigrant and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has announced that, in anticipation of the tight budget that will result from The Sequester, ICE has started releasing hundreds of illegal immigrants being held in immigration jails awaiting deportation proceedings.
Instead of holding them for $164 per day, ICE is letting them out on “supervised release,” a program costing between 50 cents and $14 per day.
Other cost cutting measures are sure to follow, including border patrols and airport screenings.
This move, and the other anticipated ones, are menu items from what can be termed  “Republican Hell.”
And Republican congresscreeps are screaming bloody murder.
I think that this is a good proactive move on the part of the administration. It not only cuts spending – a “Republican Heaven” but it gives Americans an idea of how many ways they want to skewer their Republican legislators. But I think it doesn’t go far enough.
Like legal services and law enforcement.
Federal courts should maybe suspend some legal proceedings like issuing Writs of Habeas Corpus. And instead of having federal law enforcement officers, maybe they could be replaced by drones.
Then there’s all the hidden costs of running Congress.
While federal legislators have constitutionally guaranteed salaries, isn’t it time that they close their dining rooms and plushy weight rooms? Cut travel budgets and perks? Maybe they will have to take out their own trash, too. And they are going to have to pay for their own smartphones.
If TEApublicans are truly salivating over sequester, let them get a piece of what they are shoveling down the throats of the middle class.

Monday, February 25, 2013

TEApublican Heads Explode Watching The Oscars

They saved it up for the final award of the evening, Best Picture. Then Jack Nicholson turned over announcing the winner to FLOTUS Michele Obama who had her very own envelope to open. She obviously was having a good time, and the young women standing behind her seemed to be tickled to death. One even bounced on the balls of her feet at one point.
And “Argo” won.
And hundreds of thousands of TEApublicans’ heads began to explode.
And they didn’t waste any time criticizing the First Lady for barging in on their television viewing. They didn’t want to be reminded one more time yesterday that there is a black family living in the White House and that Barack Obama was re-elected. They didn’t want to see her having a good time.
So they said things like “Can these people wear out their welcome?” (Limbaugh) or “It is not enough that President Obama pops up at every sporting event in the nation. Now the first lady feels entitled.” (Jennifer Rubin).
Let’s get something straight here. With the exception of a few well-known people (one of whom is known to talk to empty chairs), the Hollywood film industry can be confidently called Obama’s “Base.” As such, it is a no-brainer that some sort of presidential participation in their party of the year might occur. It is, after all, their party and they can pretty much do what they want and invite whomever they chose to speak. They let us at home watch it live, but it is their party, and these conservative grumps have no standing in this. Complaining about the First Lady being at The Oscars, even remotely, is like complaining about the taste of the cake and ice cream at someone’s birthday party that you are crashing.
I don’t recall a massive hue and cry by Democrats when, in 2002, Laura Bush appeared as one respondent in a short film about “What Do the Movies Mean to You?" No one said she was intruding.  
The haters will continue to hate. That’s just what they do and they can’t help it. I really do think they should mind their own business though. Talk about entitlement, where did they ever get the idea that they could have a say in who the Academy invites to speak, and who they would rather not hear from.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Texas Hearts Its “Cruz Missile”

He is pilloried on Capitol Hill.
He is upbraided by Democrats and Republicans alike.
He has been compared to “Tail Gunner” Joe McCarthy in his demagogical style.
But Texans love themselves some Ted Cruz, junior senator from wacky, wacky Texas.
This article in the Houston Chronicle outlines this phenomenon, an article about Ted Cruz’s recent visits to Leander, Texas businesses. Leander is a burg outside of Austin and contains two businesses whose clientele and owners bestowed upon Cruz loud and vocal approval for his antics.
An assault rifle manufacturer and a lumber yard.
You know, places where your typical citizenry will show up on a daily basis.
These audiences, in short, were targeted as much as any AR-15 gun sight will do. Cruz holds his public discussions by preaching to the choir. I doubt that he would venture 10 meters onto a college campus – well A&M maybe.
So the Chron article, while newsy and ironic, is just a tad disingenuous. Not all Texans are toothless rubes with confederate flags on their baseball caps.
Some of them, but thank God, not all of them.
They’re all in Mississippi.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

The Half Empty Picks for The Oscars

Now I have made an effort this year to see as many of the Oscar-nominated films as possible and have spent a pretty impressive sum of dead presidents doing so. So I think I have earned the right to do what I have seen on all the news and politics shows that I watch on a daily basis. I deserve the right to present my predictions for the winners at The Oscars tomorrow night.
So here goes.
Best Picture goes to “Lincoln.” No doubt. Doris Kearnes Goodwin’s story of Lincoln’s struggle to get his 13th Amendment passed became the year’s lesson in history, a better lesson than the killing of UBL.
Best Actor? Hands down Daniel Day Lewis. Hal Holbrook did a good Lincoln on the 80’s mini-series “North and South” but you close your eyes and you heard Holbrook. You close your eyes at the movies and you heard Lincoln.
Best Actress. Jennifer Lawrence. The film was surprisingly good, and you figure out why when you realize that if anyone else played Tiffany it would have been just a so-so film.
Best Supporting Actor. Alan Arkin. If  you don’t agree, argo fuck yourself.
Best Supporting Actress. Sally Field. It’s all about how The Flying Nun finally gets to play Mary Todd Lincoln and you don’t even realize it’s her.
Cinematography. “Life of Pi.” It was the cinematography that made it possible to turn that book into a movie. Nothing else.
Best Director. David O. Russell. Spielberg directed a bangup movie but only someone as crazy as Russell could have come up with the magic of an undiagnosed bipolar male.
And finally, Best Original Score. Does anyone doubt that it is going to be Adele’s “Skyfall?”

Friday, February 22, 2013

Let the Finger Pointing Begin

You have to love our Washington politicians. Now, as sequestration is just a week away, and congress remains in recess, we are starting to see the finger pointing that goes with any kind of impasse that develops in DC.
This time we are being told by conservatives that this was Obama’s idea, and liberals are tsk-tsking, saying that sequestration originated with congress.
Well a pox on both your houses. First for wasting time trying to lay the blame at the feet of the opposition instead of working out a compromise, and second for the sheer hypocrisy that goes with the blame game.
It’s everyone’s fault.
When President Obama announced in debate with Romney last year that “the sequester is not something that I've proposed,” he was deflecting. He was spoke inaccurately. The truth is, when the Budget Control Act of 2011 was being negotiated the Obama team suggested, as an incentive to deal, that defense budget cuts could automatically go into effect if the “super-committee” couldn’t agree on a budget. This to give Republicans the incentive to deal. A similar measure in social programs was settled on to give Democrats incentive to deal. There was never any intention of cutting any budgets. This was a poison pill.
And the problem with leaving congress blameless in this is that they voted for it. Giving Obama the complete blame is idiocy at its best. It’s like blaming someone else for your jumping over a cliff because that person suggested you do it.
So now, because no deal is on the table despite the fact that the poison pill is about to be swallowed hair pulling and finger pointing rules the day.
And you know what is really ridiculous? Watching all of this whining and moaning as congress edges our economy over an abyss of their own construction.
Why not just repeal sequestration?

Thursday, February 21, 2013

On the Eighth Day, God Created Oklahoma

Back in May, 2005 the Kansas Board of Education flirted with the notion of teaching intelligent design, the pseudoscience that teaches that the universe was created by an intelligent being (God) and not in the ways that collective scientific knowledge has put forth.
In other words, it’s kind of more like we read in the Book of Genesis and not a lot like the ideas of Einstein, Darwin and primordial soup theory.
The hearings were well-attended by those sold on the notion that the universe was created out of nothing by a benign all-knowing deity, but completely boycotted by the scientific community.
The way this was started, by the way, was through an organization called The Discovery Institute which developed a “Critical Analysis of Evolution” lesson plan. This is a thinly veiled attempt at proselytization in public schools under the guise of academic freedom and critical thinking skills.
The Board adopted these new standards, then the voters went to the polls, then the Board voted again to reject these standards.
Fast forward to today. Today the same thing is being tried in Oklahoma, but this time the standards are being legislated by Republican State Rep Gus Blackwell, a conservative evangelical Republican. The song is the same, this time it is being called the Scientific Education and Academic Freedom Act.
Same theme. This one though says that it is all right to talk about alternatives to evolution, alternatives to global warming (?) and alternatives to human cloning. In short it allows a conversation in the Biology class ”without repercussions.”
”Without repercussions?”
Blackwell explains:
“I proposed this bill because there are teachers and students who may be afraid of going against what they see in their textbooks. A student has the freedom to write a paper that points out that highly complex life may not be explained by chance mutations."
Now let me tell you why this is a horrible idea, and why lesson plans should not be legislated.
Biology is a vast subject. It is such a broad subject that these days biological information is growing almost vertically with time. There is so much to teach. The last thing you want to do is get bogged down in nitpicking and challenging things you need to learn about in order to become informed in biological sciences.
Legislators have no idea what goes on in a science classroom and how little time there is left to science teachers just to teach their content. Legislators need to get out of the education business, and evangelical Republicans need to put religious notions back in church where they belong.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

A Joke? It Was a Joke?

Should we be surprised that Republican senator Rand Paul fell heavy and fell hard over what amounted to a joke? A joke that he took absolutely seriously?
The story is here at Gawker.
It seems that New York Daily News reporter Dan Friedman called up a Republican staffer to get what they had on Chuck Hagel, asking them about whether they had something like Hagel’s unacknowledged campaign contribution from Friends of Hamas, a totally factitious group that doesn’t exist.  The staffer must have had the hair on the back of his neck raise as he had no idea about that one.
It quickly got conveyed to blogger Ben Shapiro who writes dirt on Breitbart’s website where it was developed into a story.
A story that was then conveyed to Rand Paul who believed it and admitted he was concerned about it.
But really, I think the problem is that Republicans are listening to these rightwing nutjobs on uber-rightwing websites as well as Limbaugh and Fox News, and they just make stuff up all the time.
So to them, this was nothing new. And it was the kind of made-up news that is grist for their mill. So when Friedman came out and admitted that he was the originator of this myth, egg went on the collective faces of the GOP, and especially Rand “Gullible Me” Paul.
Maybe now these wacky TEApublicans will start to check on their facts before making complete fools of themselves.
Or maybe not. It hasn’t worked up to now.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

The Right to Be Southern White Supremacists

The Texas Division of the Sons of Confederate Veterans want to build (another) monument that glorifies Texas’ contribution in the War of Northern Aggression, known elsewhere as the Civil War. They want to build one in sleepy Orange, Texas which is perched on the Texas-Louisiana border.
Such a monument, they say, will “attract people to the region,” especially when they see a Confederate battle flag fluttering in the breeze, visible from Interstate 10.Indeed, said a Sons of Confederate Veterans-Texas Division public relations officer “the more education about the South and what they were fighting for, the more compassion people will have for the Confederates and what they did.”
So they want to build a monument in Orange, Texas, as soon as it stops raining.A
And that, one supposes, is because monuments to Texas Confederate soldiers is rarer than hen’s teeth in this state. Oh, except for the lawn surrounding the state capitol building in Austin where one cannot walk 20 feet in any direction without running into one.
The Sons of Confederate Veterans say that they are simply trying to spread their message of truth about the real reason that the South seceded from the Union in 1861, and it had nothing at all to do with slavery.
No, really, slavery had nothing to do with it.
It was all about states’ rights and the 10th Amendment.
Sort of like it is now.
If a state determined that it was right and proper for one man to own another as chattel then that’s a states’ rights issue, not a moral issue. Not at all.
And really, it is good and proper for the Sons of Confederate Veterans to spread their words of truth because that is their 1st Amendment right to do so. It is completely within their rights to put these monuments up just as it is completely within the rights of American Nazis to assemble and extol the virtues of Adolf Hitler and the advantages of National Socialism.
It is, in short, their right to look, act, and speak in a manner repugnant to the vast majority of Americans. It is a further reminder of just how base some people can be, and it helps us all if they identify themselves for us so we can avoid them and do harm to their cause.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Thank God for Mississippi

Thank God for Mississippi. If it weren’t for Mississippi some other state, like the one I live in, for instance, would be last, 50th out of 50 in something. Mississippi is the state that is rated last in education however which way to measure it. In Mississippi, if you are dumber than a bag of hammers that might qualify you for your school’s honor roll.
The proof really is in the pudding. Take for example an error of oversight discovered by Mississippi resident Ranjan Batra.
Ranjan Batra went to see Spielberg’s latest triumph, the movie “Lincoln” a must-see movie based on an account of history reported in Doris Kearns Goodwin’s book “Team of Rivals” in which Abraham Lincoln resorted to desperate politics in order to get his 13th Amendment passed to put an end to slavery in America forever. He did some independent research and discovered that 3/4ths of the extant states at the time had ratified the amendment, leaving 4 of the 5 remaining states to ratify the amendment by 1865.
Not surprisingly to most of us, Mississippi was the lone holdout. Further research revealed that Mississippi had actually ratified the amendment – in 1995. Better late than never, I guess. But that act was never made official by notifying the US Archivist, a necessary requirement.
One person can nullify the whole process, you see, simply by forgetting to send a letter to DC to let them know what they did. It was an error of oversight, they claimed.
Now stupid is as stupid does, and it is plausible that Mississippi’s Secretary of State might have been ignorant of the fact that he had to notify the Archivist, getting back to the 50th of 50 in education theme, but I doubt it. And it could be that the Secretary of State was too preoccupied that day and simply forgot to get that letter drafted, but there, too, I am extremely skeptical.
More likely, I think, the error of oversight came from the fact that Mississippi once had a lot of overseers.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Texas House Contemplates Teaching Gun Handling in High School

A Member of my State House, the Texas House of Representatives, has a new bill filed this week that authorizes public high schools to teach courses on firearms and how to shoot them.
My, what a great idea.
The bill, filed by East Texas State Rep James White, R-Hillister as HB 1142, will allow the state’s 1100 school districts to offer classes for 9th to 12th graders with a curriculum that includes “training and educating young people on their rights and responsibilities, based on the Second Amendment, liberty, constitutionalism and being members of a free society.”
White said that the course could be offered as an elective, but I have to say, with the multi-tasked curriculum that these new courses include, the courses could be offered to replace for example, a social studies course, like the 1 semester required course in US Government.
Or it could be a PE course.
Hunting is a sport, after all.
And the course is going to be multi-disciplinary in that it will teach the handling and use of not only hunting rifles but also shotguns, pistols and revolvers.
There was no specific mention of training in the use of assault rifles or semi-automatic pistols, although one could conclude that these are necessarily included as part and parcel of the tools necessary for proper home defense.
And ever-farsighted, White included words in his bill that required that the people teaching the firearm training course must be certified handgun instructors or law enforcement officers. No mention of the instructor being certified to teach in secondary classrooms or needing to take a TB test, but I assume that this was an oversight and will be corrected in the amendment process when this bill reaches the House floor.
The only downside that I can foresee is that school districts might have to take on more liability insurance to cover themselves if someone suffers an injury during the training. But as White, himself, pointed out, there are all sorts of dangerous activities that take place in high school such as chemistry experiments and football practice.
Gee, he has a point. Besides, what could happen to someone at a shooting range, anyway?
And there is the added benefit that having such courses offered by high schools might just decrease the dropout rate as well as boost the grades of that group of students known as gangbangers who will simply flock to these courses as a way to hone their firearm handling skills and learn of their constitutional right to keep and bear arms.
Truly a win-win for Texas schools.

Friday, February 15, 2013

Warren Asks “The Question”

Senator Elizabeth Warren must have had her Wheaties this morning because in her very first Banking Committee meeting she asked the question we have all asked each other for nearly 5 years now: Why no prosecutions of Wall Street banks and hedge fund managers for their role in the fraud they committed that sent our economy into the crapper.
Her wording:
            “When was the last time you took a Wall Street bank to trial?”
This was a loaded question because Senator Warren, because of her banking expertise, knew full and well that no bank or manager has ever been hauled into court and tried. She kept asking the question and kept getting evasive answers. Here are two.
Answer 1: “"We do not have to bring people to trial" because they always settle out of court.
That wasn’t exactly answering the question, was it? The answer would have been “Never.”
Answer 2: “I will have to get back to you with specific information.”
Famous last words. The last time I heard that it was Mitt Romney promising to get back with an answer to a question about his finances.
And then the icing on the cake: her summation.

“There are district attorneys and United States attorneys out there every day squeezing ordinary citizens on sometimes very thin grounds and taking them to trial in order to make an example, as they put it. I'm really concerned that 'too big to fail' has become 'too big for trial."

And you know, it’s ironic. I’m pretty sure that there are tea baggers out there that would wholeheartedly agree with Warren.
Texas sent Ted Cruz to the Senate and he got his hand slapped by veteran senators for McCarthyesque demagoguery. Massachusetts sends Elizabeth Warren to the Senate and she turns Wall Street regulators into quivering and stuttering spineless masses.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Ted Cruz Pulls a McCarthy

Today, Texas junior senator, Ted Cruz, impugned theintegrity of Vietnam War veteran Chuck Hagel by implying that he might, just might, have alliances with North Korea and Saudi Arabia.
This is because Hagel had dealings with both countries, according to Cruz.
So this means the proposed Secretary of Defense is in cahoots with foreign powers.
This is a play stolen from the playbook of infamous former congressman Joe McCarthy.
Well his committeemates, Republican committeemates no less, didn’t let him get away with this low form of demagoguery if I may be allowed a redundant phrase. John McCain, for one, slapped Cruz down.
But you know, Cruz had a point. Politics make strange alliances.
You know…Ted Cruz is not a natural born citizen.  He’s naturalized. He was born in Canada.
He’s Canadian.
Does Ted Cruz have improper alliances with our neighbor to the north? They have French-Canadian separatists in Canada. They sometimes committed acts of violence. Ted Cruz, a Canadian, MAY have committed violent acts.
Is Ted Cruz a terrorist in hiding? People want to know.

Bye-Bye Marco Rubio

So last night I made reference to one of the oddest political moments I’ve ever personally witnessed, the mad grab for a bottle of water. It was so awkward. You don’t. You are not allowed to. You simply avoid doing something besides talking while your eyes are locked on the camera.
Didn’t see it? Here is a clip so you don’t have to listen to the entire speech. Nice of CBS news to do that for us.
You know, this is going to be on everyone’s mind ever again. Marco Rubio and his water bottle gaffe is going to follow him around forever. It has ended any future for Rubio. And who knows, it might just end the Republican response forever and ever. First Bobby Jindal squeaking his way into irrelevance, and now Rubiio. They may not be able to get another Republican to do this when they see how its only effect is the rendering of a political career into the dustbin of history.
You know, this reminds me of the Carter/Ford presidential debate when Gerald Ford, who had a headcold that evening, had a dribble develop under his left nostril. A dribble that got longer and longer as millions of TV viewers paid rapt attention to his dribble, but completely missed what Ford was saying.
That and Poland lost Ford his re-election.
Oh, and pardoning Nixon.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Oh Boy, Here We Go

State of the Union guest, attendee Ted Nugent
I am popping the popcorn tonight to settle down to a rip roaring speech by President Obama that is hopefully to be peppered by insulting commentary by the TEA Party lowlife that slithers about on the House floor, as both Members and guests.
Because if I don’t miss my guess civility has completely left the building in Washington DC, and is being replaced by theatrics and downright idiocy.
The whole idea, to some of these characters, is not to get anything done and not to serve their constituents. Their whole reason for being in Washington is to wreak havoc and tear it all down.
Or I could be completely wrong and President Obama’s speech will be duly considered by a lucid and rational legislative body who will politely allow the president his time at the podium uninterrupted by outbursts.

UPDATE: Well Ted kept his seat and now I know why. It seems that 31 Democratic congressmen each invited victims of gun violence to be their guests at the State of the Union Address. 31 to 1.  

And now I'm watching Marco Rubio whining about big government. And making a fool of himself with a water bottle. I predict it will get notice. Rubio's "Watergate."

Monday, February 11, 2013

The TEA Party Makes It Official

Up to just the last couple of decades the President’s State of the Union message was a one-sided thing where the President satisfies his constitutionally required duty to deliver to Congress “Information of the State of the Union” “from time to time,” and there was no answering speech by the party currently not having a president in office.
Then, in 1966 an official response to the presidential address was organized, with the opposing party picking one of their own to make its case to the public should they deign to listen.
I always thought that it was a pointless exercise in that it only underlined the fact that everything they mention is not an actual agenda item of the Executive Branch. Besides that it is an open admission that they wield no power.
But be it as it may, it’s a good thing that we had a two-party system or we would have to suffer through God knows how many opposing speeches as they might have in Italy.
Up until this year, that is.
This year, the TEA Party made it official that they are becoming a third party in that they will have their own serious response to the president’s speech. It’s true.
Marco Rubio will be the next Bobby Jindal this week, signaling again the Republican Party’s desperate attempts to make themselves look like a multi-cultural diverse party. But then we get to hear the TEA Party’s opposing views which are, presumably, not the views of the mainstream Republican Party.
And even better, the TEA Party speech will be delivered by (Ayn) Rand Paul. You may recall that in two previous years, the TEA Party's response were laughingly delivered by Congreswoman Bachmann (T - Whacktown) and failed presidential hopeful Herman (9-9-9) Cain. This effort marks the first time that an actual serious TEA Party operative will deliver the speech. It is the first legitimate TEA Party response.
One wonders if Senator Paul will take shots at both the President’s and Rubio’s speeches or whether he’ll concentrate on one side or the other.
I find this to be a fascinating turn of events and underlines what is clearly becoming a deep schism in the party of Lincoln (a party, I believe, that Lincoln would not be a party to today). This could mean the beginning of the end of the conservative movement in this country where the fight for dominance will do nothing but render each faction completely impotent.

Saturday, February 09, 2013

Republicans Continue Eroding Our Constitution

The irony is this: Republicans and TEA Partiers make a big deal about following the constitution and make that point by wearing a flag pin on their lapels, and carrying a pocket version of the constitution everywhere they go, pulling it out and showing it to the cameras from time to time.
And at the beginning of the previous congress it became a rule in the House that the constitution should be consulted for every piece of legislation that gets introduced. Something that they kind of forgot about in the present session.
The irony is this: Republicans do all of the above and they are the ones chiefly responsible for continued erosion of our constitutional rights and liberties.
Today, let’s look at the Post Office.
The Post Office is a federal government agency expressly required in the US Constitution.
 Section 8 of Article 1:
         The Congress shall have Power To…establish Post Offices and post Roads.
And this is because being able to get mail delivered everywhere was considered to be a necessary function of the government, and right from the beginning.
But now we find that, due to budgeting matters that are beyond their control, the post office must put an end to delivery of mail on Saturdays starting in August.
And that, friends and neighbors, was fully intended by the lame duck session of the Republican-controlled congress in late 2006. Congress jammed a law through in the waning days of 2006 that made doing the business of mail delivery at reasonable rates an impossibility.
Congress made it a law that the Post Office must fully fund a retirement program for its employees to be available for disbursement to retirees who aren’t even born yet – and they gave them only 10 years to do it.
No one, no one in the private sector does business like that. The purpose of the law is and was clear at the time it was passed: it was a naked assault on the Post Office to drive it out of business so that the mail could be delivered by for-profit enterprises, like FedEx and DHL. So that 44 cent stamp to send a letter to Aunt Mildred can be replaced by a 27 dollar fee that one pays FedEx for the same service.
So the Post Office has begun to tighten its belt and Saturday delivery will be no more. Next, we will be hearing about “Tidy Friday” in the Post Office. So the end of the Post Office has begun and no one in the present House seems to want to put a stop to it.
Even though the framers of the constitution seemed to think it was a necessary function of government.

Thursday, February 07, 2013

Brits Free Their Gays

In an overwhelming Yes vote, members of the British House of Commons approved a measure that would serve to allow gays in England and Wales to marry with full rights that come with marriage.
They beat us damnit.
Just like they beat us with national healthcare.
The surprise is that the bill was supported by the Tory (conservative) Prime Minister, David Cameron. And I was not so surprised to find out today that more than half of Cameron’s own party voted against the measure.
They’re supposed to be in the majority.
The vote wasn’t even close, with 400 voting Yes, and 175 voting no, and while 123 Tory members voted for the legislation, 136 voted to oppose it and a whole bunch abstained. But with a combination of the grand majority of Labour Party votes, and the minority votes from the majority party, the measure was easily passed.
And I think many were enabled to vote their consciences once it was settled that the Church of England would not be coerced into performing marriages of gays, something they have indicated that they do not want to do.
Interesting. Interesting that the C of E’s equivalent in America is the Episcopal Church, which not only had gay pastors but were among the first to perform gay marriages where it is legal here.
Interesting also, that the Church of England was essentially founded on the principle of changing the definition of marriage to one where divorce was not only tolerated, but allowed on numerous occasions.

Tuesday, February 05, 2013

An Armed Camp or a Classroom?

What do you think Texas parents would prefer, sending their children to a school to learn things, or sending their children to an armed camp? Legislators in the state capitol met today to discuss the arming of teachers in schools – among other things – and listened to a wide spectrum of ideas about all that. You can read about some of these ideas here.
As I mentioned in a previous blog, there is one school district in northern Texas that has permitted some of its teachers to carry concealed weapons to protect the school should there be an armed attack by gun-wielding villains. And in Utah, teachers have been allowed to carry concealed weapons and are not required to tell the parents of their students that they do. As a matter of fact, they are forbidden to do this – it’s all part of the safety plan.
And like belly buttons, everyone has an opinion.
But whose opinion should legislators listen to? Of all the interested parties, whose opinion matters the most?
If you don’t know the answer to that question you have never been a parent, or you have forgotten what it’s like to be one.
The only people whose opinions matter in this controversy are parents. I say let the parents all vote, and the pro-armed camp teachers can all have their children bussed to one campus where every teacher is packing a Glock.
All one of them.
One teacher and a one room schoolhouse is all you would need. Preferably painted red.

Monday, February 04, 2013

Judge Dietz 2.0

Judge John Dietz has – again  - ruled that the way that the state funds its public education system is unconstitutional, and doubly so.
This is round two for Judge Dietz who is no novice when it comes to inadequate school funding. In 2004 he ruled in a case brought by 300 school districts that the state’s education funding system was unconstitutional and inefficient, and ordered the state to halt school spending in October 2005 if problems aren't fixed.
The state legislature responded by cuts local school property taxes by one-third while allocating more state funding. To prevent revenue loss, they placed minimum funding requirements on districts based on a “temporary freeze” in the amount of money districts spent per student that year. The temporary freeze was never lifted, however. In addition the Legislature capped tax rates at $1.17 per $100 of property valuation and allowed each district to choose how much to levy in taxes.
Then the legislature, in 2011, slashed the funds that the state provided by $5.6 billion while at the same time passing new standardized testing standards that raised the bar on what every public school student must do in order to graduate.
To this, Judge Dietz had some choice words in today’s ruling:
“There is no free lunch. We either want increased standards and are willing to pay the price, or we don't.”
In today’s ruling, Judge Dietz ruled the funding system unconstitutional on two fronts: it does not provide adequate funding for “general diffusion of knowledge” as required in the state’s constitution, and that the funding system was a de facto income tax, which is forbidden by the constitution.
A written ruling will be issued within a month, but nothing is going to happen on this one until the all-Republican state supreme court gets a chance to rule, and that won’t happen during this legislative session.
Because as you know, there’s no hurry. When it comes to raising revenue for public school education in Texas there is never a need to hurry.