Monday, May 23, 2011

Israel Deserves Better Treatment by Her Friends

Peace in the Middle East is a lofty goal.  Left to make it's own choices on the subject, Israel would have had Peace since 1950.  Instead, she was invaded from almost every border almost from the day the country was reconceived in the modern world.  In the end of several of these conflicts Israel, the defending victor, seized the lands of its aggressive neighbors, trying to build a buffer zone against new assaults. 

By all rights, these lands now belong to Israel and have for 44 years. 

There is a lot that has gone into the negotiations with the various factions that have sought Israel's distruction for the better part of the last 60 years, but one thing has stood out.  Israel has never been willing to give up that which it's sons and daughters died to win, that buffer zone. 

So, when Her closest ally on Friday suddenly changes position to support the idea of Israel going back to the 1967 borders, that is a slap in the face.  Expediency should not come before Right.  Appeasing terrorists should not replace Justice.  Shame on you, Mr. president.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Education in America

What's your motivation?  As we've discussed before, the incentive concept is what I believe drives our lives.  For teachers' unions the motivation is the best hand for the teacher.  Teachers provide members, money, clout.  For the politician who takes union money, who needs union support to keep his job, the motivation is essentially the same.  He needs the union who needs the teachers, so it is the teacher who comes out ahead.  Who represents the students?

A former head of the United Federation of Teachers once famously said "When school children start paying union dues, that's when I'll start representing the interests of school children."  Albert Shanker wasn't far off the mark there. 

Reforming how teachers are hired and fired is an essential part of reforming education.  You can't fix a system using the same faulty parts.  People much smarter than I have tried and some have succeeeded in adding better parts to fix the whole, but unless you reform the HOW the parts work, you can't fix the system.  Consider this op-ed from the New York Post by Joel Klein, who oversaw one of the greatest increases in public school performance in this country.

More recommended reading of Mr. Klein was in the May 9, 2011 Wall Street Journal.

Bottom line on this aspect of this topic is this:

If we don't represent the interests of our students, if we don't hire and fire based on merit alone, if we continue to put the needs of the worthless above the needs of those we serve then our educational system will continue to decline.  As that decline spreads, so does the decline of this nation of ours.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Why Do We Allow This NONSENSE!?

Picture this scene.  You're taking your kids on vacation.  For your two youngest, ages 6 and 3, it's their first trip on an airplane.  As you proceed through security checkpoints, your children are pulled aside by a 30 something year old stranger with a disgruntled look.  This man then proceeds to feel up the legs and cup the butt of your children. 

Pedophiles come in all shapes and sizes and work for all types of organizations.  If you think they aren't in the TSA you're an idiot.  If you wouldn't stand for this type of conduct toward your own children, why are you willing to ignore it when it's someone else's kid that this happened to?  There are laws against inappropriate touching of a minor, it's time they were enforced.

If law enforcement doesn't step in, some angry parent will and then the wrong person will be going to jail.

Monday, May 9, 2011

What You Won't Hear on the News Tonight...

Federal and State Tax revenues are increasing. 

I don't know why anyone is surprised.  Maintaining lower tax rates, instead of raising them, has encouraged people to engage in business activities that produce tax revenue instead of working to avoid it.  You never hear this news when taxes fail to go up.  Partially government accounting is to blame.  When tax cuts are seen as expenditures and increased revenues are seen as a means to spend more, then an increase in revenue due to lower tax cuts must be brushed under the rug.

In other news Private payrolls continue to expand, not surprising now that unemployment benefits are allowed to wind down.  Also not surprising is that more people are re-entering the work force, thereby increasing the official unemployment rate.  Unofficially and more accurately, unemployment is still somewhere closer to 15% than the 9% currently reported.  The discrepancy comes from the fact that the "official" number doesn't factor in people who have stopped looking, taken early retirement, or have taken low paying jobs now that unemployment has run out.

Hopefully, this increased revenue gets used to reduce our deficits and pay down debt rather than provide an incentive for our government to go on another debt fueled binge.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Can't Buy Me Love

The Beatles sang about it.  Later, Dr. McDreamy as he's now known, acted it out on the big screen, and now, Pakistan has proven it. 

First, a show of hands.  How many people actually believe that the Pakistani's had no idea that Osama (Usama) bin Laden was living in a fortified compound right next to their equivalent of West Point?  Over the last 10 years we have dumped billions of dollars into Pakistan, billions of dollars we didn't have, billions of dollars we borrowed.  What has this money bought us?  NOTHING.  It bought us a few low level operatives, and a warm glow maybe, but in the grand scheme, when we wanted to get something done, we still had to do it ourselves. 

Our money!  Our tax dollars and the tax dollars of future generations of Americans paid for this "ally" to become more of a militarily run nation, assassinate one of the only voices of reform, and the harboring of our primary target in the War on Terror.  And you wonder why I have such disdain for government spending.  It's the height of stupidity to continue to give these people money.  We will.  Our government has the remarkable ability to self delude, to try to cover up mistakes with more mistakes, throwing more borrowed money at someone else's problem. 

We can't buy the love of the world.  First it doesn't work and second because we simply can't afford it.  Countries will gladly take our money, then spit in our eye.  It's like giving money to a beggar on the street and then finding out he's stolen your wallet.  In this case Pakistan is a bum we've been giving money to only to find out that he's broken into our car and stolen our radio. 

The Haves and The Have Nots

We frequently hear the refrain that the distance is growing between the haves and the have nots, that the income gap is widening, that the rich are getting richer while the poor are getting poorer.  One word can sum up my response.  "Duh."  Yes, the rich get richer.  The poor often do not get that much poorer, however the growth of income for the poor is far far lower than it is for the rich.  That has more relation to the power of money to attract money and the ability to risk more to earn more.  Not my topic.

No, what I want to discuss is a topic that has been near to my heart since I was a child.  The ability to break the cycle, to grow out of your caste and why it's so rare that this happens.  Part of the discussion is psychology and as this is not my forte, I will leave it to my own experiences.  The rest revolves around our education system and ideas to improve.

First, if you haven't seen "Waiting for Superman," I highly encourage you to do so.

It is clear to me that for the vast majority of people, a decent education opens the doors to a greater chance for success in life.  In too many of our school districts, that is hard to come by.  For many others, regardless of the quality of the education offered to them, there is no drive to achieve.  Instead we find an indifference towards self-improvement that is quite honestly, appalling to me.  Most of that starts in the home.  There was never a question of whether or not I would finish high school or go to college.  It was ASSUMED.  My family was not rich, in fact, we were not even upper middle class.  My parents couldnt' afford to pay college tuition out of pocket.  Still, there was no question.  In other homes, there is a hope to finish high school and go to college, and I think that the children in those home benefit from that desire, be it their own or their parents.  Yet, in too many homes in this country there is no desire, no hope, no expectation.

Education starts at home, or so the saying goes.  This may very well be true, but if we are to turn this tide, shift this imbalance and get our whole nation up to an educational minimum standard that we can, as a society, accept, then we have to act in a way that we can.  We can't overturn years of inertia in the home.  Maybe we can do it in schools.

Last year, due to teacher layoffs, Indiana fired it's current Teacher of the Year.  Obviously this young teacher had not performed poorly.  No, the problem was that she was too new.  The older teachers, protected by tenure and a policy of last in, first out were exempted from the layoffs.  This is just one illustration among many across the country.  Other problems persist as well.  Poor students are trapped in underperforming schools or school districts due to their geography.  Schools in poor neighborhoods are often more dangerous, exposed to drug dealings and violent crimes.  Good teachers don't want to teach in many schools due to threats, vandalism, and lower pay. 

So, what are some answers?  I don't know.  What I do know is that politicians have thrown dollar after dollar at the issue for years, with no discernible result.  Spending per student has risen at greater than the rate of inflation for more than 30 years, while performance compared to the rest of the industrialized world has slid.  If money is not the answer, what is?  Personally, I think it's freedom and empowerment and a healthy dose of good old fashion market competition. 

Chew on that and we'll discuss this in greater length next week.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Osama Bin Laden Dead

Yes, he could have been dead more than a month ago, but bombing a compound where we're told he is is much messier than going in and getting him.  I think it was probably the right decision.  One of the only right decisions our president has made in his term.  Major thanks goes out to all of the spooks, interrogators and military and civilian intelligence agencies that made this intel possible (even if they did have to dunk someone's head to get it) and especially to our Special Forces (Go Seals!) who went in and did the job. 

Burial at sea, within 24 hours, so let the conspiracy theorists begin!