Friday, April 18, 2014

Friday Follies Happy Hour 2014.04.18

I'm still recovering from paying my income tax this week...

What A Revolting Development This Is

I like to think of myself as a glass-is-half-full kind of guy, tempered with a healthy dose of realism. But lately that dose of realism has reached such proportions that it threatens to overwhelm my normally sunny disposition. I won't post a laundry list of reasons why that is so. It would take too long and be too depressing. Besides, I'm sure you're familiar enough with them yourself. But I will post one more gloom and doom article. Tomorrow, however, I promise there will be something to take your mind off all these clouds gathering over our heads. In the meantime, though, you'll have to suffer through this.
In real terms, the U.S. economy expanded by a total of $290 billion dollars in 2013. With some minor adjustments, that's essentially the amount of extra income created by the nation as a whole. It also represents the increase in the purchasing power of its residents.

By comparison, China's economy added over $800 billion dollars to its citizens spending power during 2013 alone. That's an extra $800 billion that is now available for Chinese households to purchase new products and services or to save and help fund new ideas and technologies. At this rate, China is expected to overtake the U.S. as the largest marketplace in the world by the end of the decade.
One implication of this trend is that international capital -- both financial and intellectual -- will begin to shift from the U.S. to China. As a result the chicoms will be able to invest in new and improved physical facilities and infrastructure. They will also attract the 'best and brightest' by virtue of being able to provide opportunities for innovation and growth. The U.S., in contrast, will become less and less attractive to producers and entrepreneurs.
What can be done?

A lot is beyond our control. China is already large and is still growing quickly. Although the pace is starting to slow, the yuan is still undervalued by perhaps 10 percent or 15 percent, and it is hard not to see its economy making similar size gains for the rest of the decade.

But the U.S. can and should grow faster. It needs to grow faster. For demographic and budgetary reasons. And also to ensure it remains an attractive place for biotechnology, communications, electronics and other forms of frontier knowledge. Low growth perpetuates itself.
How did we get in this mess? In short, declining workforce participation.

(Average labor productivity and economic growth) have fallen sharply in the last few years. Some of this is surely cyclical. But much is beginning to look structural. The Congressional Budget Office now estimates that U.S. economic growth will remain below post-war levels well into the next decade ... the growth in total hours worked will fall to just 0.6 percent per year. Since population growth will continue unabated well into the next few decades, this means that the average American is expected to work less and less.

The decline in working hours has been happening for quite some time now. More precisely, after adjusting for population growth, fewer and fewer Americans are working, or even trying to work. In 1999, at the height of the tech boom, over 74 percent of working-age Americans were employed. The same ratio is now 67.4 percent. That represents a loss of about 14 million workers. It also appears that those still at work are also working slightly fewer hours, although the evidence is less clear.

Reversing this trend has to be a priority for the next administration. And virtually every major domestic policy debate should be viewed from this perspective. Any policy reform that fails to deal with this issue has to be seen as an outright failure.

For example, the ongoing changes in health care law may or may not lead to improvements in the provision of quality medical care. However, their impact on the labor market is nothing short of disastrous. Once fully implemented, income-linked subsidies for individuals, combined with the employer mandates and various tax penalties, are estimated to cost us a minimum of another 2.5 million full time jobs.
Two related problems:
Reforming Social Security and immigration are two other major unresolved policy issues that will have a large impact on the incentives for households to work, on job creation, and ultimately the U.S. economy's growth potential. These have to be our primary focus.
These are the types of problems that in the past were addressed at least to some extent by our elected 'leaders.' But today's politicians are more concerned with cementing their worthless posteriors into office in perpetuity than in solving the problems we face. Until that changes (or until we change them) things will continue moving from bad to worse.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

"The Other Side" Are People Too

I've certainly spent my fair share of time bashing and denigrating liberals. But I do have some liberal friends. I like them, and enjoy their company. In fact, we agree on many of the same issues and problems facing our country today. Where we differ, however, is how to solve them. And while I sometimes get exasperated with them during after-dinner discussions (and, I suspect, they with me), we are for the most part able to see the merit in the other person's argument, even if we don't always find it convincing.

Which is why this article struck a chord with me.

What I learned as a liberal talking head on Fox News
For a radical progressive who once harbored negative stereotypes about folks on the right, it was a turning point for me: Though Sean Hannity or Sarah Palin and I disagree profoundly on politics – they're personable, kind, and human. If you want to persuade people, you can’t demonize them.

My time at Fox News was marked by meeting and working with some of the kindest, smartest, and most talented people I've had the pleasure of meeting in life... Sean Hannity is one of the sweetest people you'll ever meet – and even now that I've parted ways with Fox, he remains a good friend and mentor.

For a radical progressive who once harbored negative stereotypes about folks on the right, it was a turning point for me to meet people such as Mr. Hannity, Karl Rove, Monica Crowley, Sarah Palin, and so many others, and see that – though we certainly disagree profoundly on political issues – they're personable and kind and human. Just like me.

It's strange to suggest that a seemingly simple realization such as that is in fact a profound revelation, but in our hyperpartisan era, when we often vilify the other side as being less-than-human, it is.

Once I had that experience with some of the most visible voices on "the other side" – in my case, the right – it was an easy leap to find connection and compassion with everyday conservative audiences. These aren't evil people, either, or stupid, or any of the other things that some liberals, in their lowest moments, have suggested. In fact, in many cases, I've learned that the ideological labels that feel so firm and unyielding among the professional political class are rather malleable among ordinary Americans.

Most people just want a better life for themselves and their kids. And they're worried about the things they see as barriers to that opportunity – whether it's big banks gobbling up all the money and real estate titles or higher taxes or struggling public schools or the cost of food. In real communities in real places across the United States, I've found that liberals and conservatives share many of the same concerns and problems and simply gravitate toward two different sides in searching for solutions.

Personally, I agree with the side that says our problems, our barriers to opportunity, are the result of runaway economic inequality baked into our society by giant corporations that have crippled our government and our community supports in order to get whatever they want, and as much of it, at our expense.

But if I want that viewpoint – and those who share it – to get more powerful, so that we can fix these systemic problems once and for all, then demonizing people who disagree with me won't help. In fact, I need to persuade them. And no one will even listen to your argument, let alone agree with you, if they think you don't like them.

This is where it comes full circle: According to social science research, we're more likely to be persuaded by people we like and we're more inclined to like people who, we think, like us...
The bottom line: We respond more positively to and are persuaded by people who treat us pleasantly.

If you were a salesperson trying to persuade a potential client to switch suppliers, you would be kind and friendly to that client, not dismiss them as stupid or worse for their current supplier choice. So if you're trying to sell an idea – whether on the national political stage or at a family dinner with your uncle – why would you behave any differently? Kindness, respect, finding the basic goodness and human dignity in everyone – that is the essence of emotional correctness, and that is how we begin the conversations that lead to change.
(The author, Sally Kohn, is a CNN contributor and columnist for The Daily Beast. She was previously a Fox News contributor and regular guest on MSNBC.)
Methinks the lady has a point. I especially like the last paragraph. When I was in the corporate world, I began negotiations in much the same way. Find common ground - something both sides agreed on - and proceed from there. Sadly, I'm afraid that the national discourse has become so polarized that we may have passed the point where finding common ground with the other side is no longer possible. 

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Testing Theories Of American Politics - Examples

Earlier today I said something about how this country's political system is broken. Here are two illustrative examples; the first serious, the second absurd.

Earlier this year congress passed a new farm bill. As happens every time the bill comes up for renewal, it morphs from legislation ostensibly intended to regulate farm policy into a catchall for political favors and special interests.
The name “farm” bill is itself a misnomer.  It’s really a “food stamp” bill since about 80 percent of its spending is dedicated to the food stamp program.  Politicians are forthright about why these unrelated programs are packaged together: politics.  Ranking member of the Senate Agriculture Committee Thad Cochran (R–MS) explained farm bill politics well when he argued that the farm bill includes food stamps “purely from a political perspective” since “it helps get the farm bill passed.”  Food stamps and farm programs are combined together so that the farm bill gets the support of the two distinct constituencies.  Urban members who support food stamps vote for the farm bill to protect their interests, and the rural members vote for their agriculture programs.
But wait! There's more!
...The most expensive farm program, crop insurance, wasn’t reformed at all.  While even President Obama would have cut about $12 billion from this costly program in his budget, the new bill actually increases costs by about $6 billion. Yet, programs that restrict supply and drive up food prices, such as the sugar program, were left untouched.

The special handouts to wealthy agribusinesses were left unscathed as well.  Taxpayers pay about 62 percent of the premiums for farmers who purchase crop insurance.  A minor reform in the Senate bill could have slightly lowered the subsidy for farmers with adjusted gross income of $750,000 or more.   Even this one little effort to provide some sensible policy to help taxpayers was excluded from the farm bill.  The sucking sound you hear is the money coming out of your pocket and being handed over to special interests.

Even holidays aren’t immune from the new bill.  It includes a provision from the House bill that requires the Department of Agriculture to allow a “mandatory assessment” (i.e. tax) on Christmas trees.
It gets worse. This year's version of the bill fails to plug even the most egregious loopholes.
The farm bill will allow “broad-based categorical eligibility” to continue, a policy that allows states to bypass asset tests for food stamp recipients. This means that individuals could have an unlimited amount of assets and still be eligible for food stamps as long as their income is low enough.
The 'farm bill' isn't limited to just agriculture and food stamp issues, either.
The farm bill includes the Payments in Lieu of Taxes (PILT) program.

A Department of Interior (not Agriculture) program called Payment in Lieu of Taxes (PILT) provides compensation to local governments to help make up for lost revenue resulting from federal land ownership (federal land generally can’t be taxed).

The (farm bill) includes direct handouts and loan guarantees for advanced biofuels and bio-refineries, and bio-based product manufacturers. It also re-authorizes the Rural Energy for America Program, where your taxpayer dollars help “complete energy audits and feasibility studies, complete energy efficiency improvements, install renewable energy systems... convert older heating sources to cleaner technologies, produce advanced biofuels, install flexible fuel pumps, install solar panels, build biorefineries, and much more.”  The farm bill even includes the re-authorization of the biodiesel fuel education program to help (educate) government entities, vehicle fleet owners and the public about the benefits of biodiesel use.
I've long been a proponent of single-issue legislation. Let each bill stand or fall on its own merits, as opposed to mixing up an unholy brew of regulations that benefit special interests, to the detriment of the general public. Sadly, I doubt if that will ever come to pass.

As for the ridiculous example I promised you, here's the back story.
After an intense search by hundreds of volunteers, the body of Peretz Sontag, the Pomona father of seven who has been missing since Friday March 14th, has been found in his car by a hiker and confirmed by New York State Park Rangers.

The 2012 Black Kia Optima driven by Sontag was discovered by a hiker down a 80-100 foot cliff off Lake Welch Parkway in the Haverstraw section of Harriman State Park.
A tragedy, to be sure. But the ridiculous part is the action of the New York State Park Police.
Volunteers attempting to search the area of Seven Lakes Drive in the Bear Mountains section of Harriman State Park were ticketed by officers of the New York State Parks Police for trespassing and illegally parked vehicles...

Volunteers of United Search and Rescue have told JP that last week Monday and again on Thursday they attempted to search the exact area where Mr. Sontag was found, but they were turned away by the Park Police.

The sources noted, that when the organizers of the volunteers search efforts reached out to the Park Police to assist with the search, they refused to take part in the search, claiming that they do not have enough resources. However, for some reason, they found resources to issue tickets.
Shades of the Cliven Bundy-BLM standoff. Funny how government entities never seem to have enough resources to help the general public (remember all the closures during the sequester?), but always manage to have enough when it comes to intimidating or outright oppressing We the People.

Sigh ... I need a drink...

Testing Theories Of American Politics - We Failed

As a former university professor, I have a tendency to place more weight in academic journals than other outlets. Granted, academics often have an agenda, and can be as guilty of cherry-picking data as better known commentators. However, they are kept in check, or at least somewhat restrained, by the peer review process. I'm not claiming academic journals are infallible or 100% bias-free, but I will argue that in general they are more objective than other sources.

Which is why I read this paper with mixed emotions. On the one hand, it confirms what I've felt for quite a while now. On the other hand, it paints a very depressing portrait of our country's political structure.
Who governs? Who really rules? To what extent is the broad body of U.S. citizens sovereign, semi-sovereign, or largely powerless? These questions have animated much important work in the study of American politics.

While this body of research is rich and variegated, it can loosely be divided into four families of theories ... Each of these perspectives makes different predictions about the independent influence upon U.S. policy making of four sets of actors: the Average Citizen..., Economic Elites..., Mass-based Interest Groups, or Business-oriented Interest Groups...
What differentiates this study from previous ones is the authors' use of an advanced statistical technique known as multivariate analysis "to test these contrasting theoretical predictions against each other within a single statistical model." The paper used a large data set that measured key variables for 1,779 different policy issues. (Multivariate Analysis is a set of powerful statistical techniques for analyzing large amounts of data with many variables to identify patterns and relationships among multiple variables.)

Before your eyes glaze completely over, I'll cut to the bottom line. In what should not come as a surprise to anyone who has been paying attention, the authors conclude:
"our analyses suggest that majorities of the American public actually have little influence over the policies our government adopts... America’s claims to being a democratic society are seriously threatened... the preferences of the average American appear to have only a minuscule, near-zero, statistically non-significant impact upon public policy ... Economic Elite Domination theories do rather well in our analysis...”
There you have it, ladies and gentlemen. The United States of America is not a democracy, or even a democratic republic. Rather, we have become an oligarchy - "a form of power structure in which power effectively rests with a small number of people."

The implication:
What the authors are able to find ... is important: the first-ever scientific analysis of whether the U.S. is a democracy, or is instead an oligarchy, or some combination of the two. The clear finding is that the U.S. is an oligarchy, no democratic country, at all. American democracy is a sham, no matter how much it’s pumped by the oligarchs who run the country (and who control the nation’s “news” media). The U.S., in other words, is basically similar to Russia or most other dubious “electoral” “democratic” countries. We weren’t formerly, but we clearly are now.
R.I.P., U.S.A.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Pictures Worth A Thousand Words Department

I think there's enough blame to go around on all sides in the Bundy-BLM standoff in Nevada, but I did get a kick out of these images.

Everyone Has Problems...

...but some people's problems are worse better different than others'.

Kate Upton hates her breasts
They’re two of the biggest stars in fashion, double-billing on the covers of Sports Illustrated, Vogue and Vanity Fair and lusted over by countless admirers — still, Kate Upton can’t stand them.

“I wish I had smaller boobs every day of my life...

If only they were a little more like . . . earrings, the covergirl muses of her natural-born 34-D’s.

“If I could just take them off like they were clip-ons...”
Sorry, Kate, but we all have crosses to bear...

Pay Up - Or Else

April 15th ... taxes due today ... sigh...
It's tax time. I know this because I'm staring at documents that make no sense to me, no matter how many beers I drink.   -- Dave Barry

Monday, April 14, 2014

Beef Plus Beer Equals A Healthy Lifestyle

Summertime is almost here. For men, that means grilling season. This summer there's even more reason to enjoy cold beer and hot coals.

Beer marinade lowers cancer risk in grilled meats
The study started out like any barbecue—with pork chops, charcoal, and beer. Researchers marinated the chops for four hours in either regular or nonalcoholic pilsner, or a dark ale. Then they fired up the grill. After cooking, they analyzed the chops for polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, or PAHs, which are found in smoked and grilled meats, and may up your risk of cancer.

Turns out dark ale cut PAH levels in half, compared to unmarinated meat. The extra antioxidants in dark beer may be the trick, researchers say. Because PAHs form with the help of free radicals, and antioxidants could slow down that process. So if you're health-conscious, but love to grill? A simple beer marinade might let you have your steak…and eat it, too.

Here in Central Texas we often fire up the grill to cook fajitas. Here's a simple recipe that tastes great, and thanks to science, we now know is healthy as well.

Beef and Marinade
  • 1/4 cup canola oil
  • 1/4 cup lime juice
  • 1/4 cup soy sauce
  • 1 Tablespoon chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 4 large cloves garlic, crushed or diced
  • 12-ounces dark beer
  • 2 pounds flank steak, trimmed and sliced against the grain into thin strips

Combine all these ingredients in a ziplock bag. Marinate (refrigerated) for at least 8 hours, preferably overnight.

  • 4 Tablespoons canola oil, plus extra for brushing
  • 3 bell peppers (your choice of colors - I like one each red, yellow, and green), seeded and cut into strips
  • 1 onion, cut into thin slices
  • 2 Tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • 1/2 teaspoon oregano
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper

Combine the veggies, oil, vinegar, and seasonings in another ziplock bag. Stick in the refrigerator for 2-3 hours.

Pico de Gallo (literally, "rooster beak")
  • 4-5 medium size plum tomatoes (firm, not soft), diced
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 2-4 jalapeno peppers (adjust number to your taste), diced
  • 1 bunch cilantro, chopped
  • 1 lime
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Combine the first four ingredients. Add the juice from the lime. Add the salt and pepper. Mix.

Fire up the grill. Let the coals get to a medium high heat. Drain the meat and veggies, discarding the leftover marinades. Toss the meat and veggies into a grilling basket. Grill until done to your taste (approximately 6-8 minutes for medium rare).

Wrap meat and veggies in warm tortillas, top with pico de gallo, and serve with cold beer.


FOD 2014.04.14

Out of town friends were here this weekend ... plus a round of golf on Friday ... plus a charity event Saturday night (read: open bar, silent auction, and live auction - I didn't win anything, but it wasn't for lack of trying) ... plus a golf tournament Sunday ... plus friends over for dinner Sunday night.

Bottom line - I'm relying on others for today's FOD.

Remember how obama caved in to Iran on the whole nuclear processing thing? Haven't seen much about that in the media lately, have we. Here's an update:
The head of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran announced that Iran retains the right to enrich uranium to weapons grade, and said that Iran will build four new nuclear power plants with Russian assistance...
Iran has no plans to relinquish the construction or operation of its heavy water reactor...
The Iranian armed forces emphasized today that the army will not accept an “irrational” agreement limiting Iran’s nuclear capabilities...
Also, notice how silent the mainstream media has been on the Ukraine situation. Here's an update on that:
Yesterday there was violence in eastern Ukraine, as armed men loyal to Russia seized police stations in several cities, and the Russian flag was raised in some locations...
Obama has shown that he doesn’t know when to avoid non-credible bluster (Syria) and yet he doesn’t seem reluctant, surprisingly, to threaten force when in a (political) jam; it’s a dangerous combination. He has now walked into a potentially devastating trap in eastern Europe and allowed a crisis to develop in which we have no good options...
I remember when America was a country to be respected and feared. Now we are laughed at and mocked, thanks to obama.

Too bad the SOB wasn't on  Malaysia Airline Flight 370...

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Sunday Funnies 2014.04.13

If you're a golf fan, you know that this is Masters week. Enjoy the tournament, and enjoy these jokes.

A golfer standing on a tee overlooking a river sees a couple of fishermen and says to his partner, "Look at those two idiots fishing in the rain."

(Think about it...)

An avid golfer found himself in Africa with time to play. He asked at his hotel for the nearest golf course, was put in a cab, and spent two hours being driven deeper and deeper into the jungle until he arrived at a course.

He checked in with the pro and asked to rent some equipment and, since he'd never played the course before, for a caddie. In a few minutes, he was escorted to the first tee, where his caddie was waiting with a bagful of clubs under one arm and a rifle under the other.

The golfer was taken aback, but composed himself and hit a good drive down the fairway of the opening hole, a tough par four. As they were walking to his ball, a tiger sprang out of the rough and charged the golfer.

Without missing a beat, the caddie dropped the bag, aimed his rifle, and shot the animal dead.

Again, the golfer had to compose himself, taking a minute to catch his breath. But he quickly recovered, hit a good approach, and parred the hole.

The same thing happened on the second hole, a long, twisting par five. But this time it was a lion that bolted out of the jungle, charged the golfer, and was dropped by a single shot from the caddie's rifle.

By now the golfer was visibly shaken, but the caddie looked unflappable -- and obviously was a good shot -- so they played on.

The third hole was an easy par three surrounded by water. The golfer hit a good short iron, which landed near the cup. As he was walking onto the green, a crocodile slid out of the water and began moving toward him.

Unfazed, the golfer looked to his caddie for help. But the caddie stood motionless. The crocodile moved closer, and the golfer, beginning to get upset, again glanced at the caddie, who didn't move.

Finally, with the crocodile just inches away, the golfer screamed, "Aren't you going to do something?"

The caddie looked at the scorecard and said, "I'm sorry, sir, but you don't get a shot on this hole."

It was a beautiful sunny day on the golf course. The gentleman took aim on the ball and drove his first shot deep into a wooded area. He sighed and proceeded to the area where the ball had gone into the woods.

As he was looking around for his ball, he heard a voice calling to him. He whirled around and there stood a very ugly witch. She had his golf ball and explained to him that it had hit her in the head. She was not very pleased about this, but went on to explain that she had little contact with the outside world and when she did have an encounter, she considered it a special occasion.

The witch said that she had magical powers and would grant the man one wish. However, when the wish was granted, the man would notice a tremendous decrease in his sexual desire and ability to perform. The man thought about this for a few minutes and then stated that he would agree to those conditions.

The witch asked what his wish was and the man simply stated, "I want my golf game to improve.'"

The witch rocked back on her heels and stared at the man. After a few minutes she said, "Is that all?"

He said, "Yes, that's it".

The witch said, "Are you telling me that is all you want, when you could have anything in this world?" The man looked her in straight in the eyes and said, "Yes."

Two years later, on another beautiful day, the man is at the same golf course and drives a tee shot into the woods. The man starts shaking because he had not hooked or sliced a shot since the day he had encountered the witch. He went into the woods and there stood the witch. She looked at him and said, "I made your shot go bad because I wanted to talk to you."

The man was visibly relieved when he heard this and asked what she wanted. The witch wanted to know if he had any regrets about his wish.

The man said, "Well, things couldn't be better with my golf game. I've won every major tournament on the amateur circuit and I'll soon be on the PGA tour. As far as my sex life, I have only had six encounters in 2 years."

"Hasn't that bothered you?,'' asked the witch.

The man said, "No, I'm alright''.

The witch said, "Well, I'm glad it all worked out, although there is nothing you or I can do about it now - the spell that was cast can never be changed."

With that, they parted company. On his way out to the fairway, the man said to himself, "The PGA Tour and sex three times a year - not bad for a small parish priest".

Saturday, April 12, 2014

No Fly Zone

This story was in my email inbox today. Supposedly it's a true story. If not, it should be...
An airline had a flight scheduled from Seattle to San Francisco . Unexpectedly, the plane was diverted to Sacramento along the way.
The flight attendant explained that there would be a delay, and if the passengers wanted to get off the aircraft the plane would re-board in 50 minutes.

Everybody got off the plane except one lady who was blind.

A man had noticed her as he walked by and could tell the lady was blind because her guide dog lay quietly underneath the seats in front of her throughout the entire flight.

He could also tell she had flown this very flight before because the pilot approached her, and calling her by name, said, "Kathy, we are in Sacramento for almost an hour.  Would you like to get off and stretch your legs?"

The blind lady said, "No thanks, but maybe Buddy would like to stretch his legs."

Picture this:

All the people in the gate area came to a complete standstill when they looked up and saw the pilot walk off the plane with a guide dog for the blind!  Even worse, the pilot was wearing sunglasses!

People scattered.  They not only tried to change planes, but they were trying to change airlines!

Vive la Différence

Women in three pictures:

Men in three pictures:

Friday, April 11, 2014

Friday Follies Happy Hour 2014.04.11

For all you classic muscle car buffs out there...

Pencils, Knives, and Warriors

You may have already seen this story about a seventh-grader who was suspended from school for twirling a pencil.
Glen Meadow Middle School seventh grader, Ethan Chaplin, was recently suspended after, he says, he was simply twirling a pencil in math class. News 12 New Jersey reported that the Vernon Township, New Jersey teenager was twirling a pencil with a pen cap on top when another student yelled, “He’s making gun motions, send him to juvie.”
Sounds like the typical seventh-grade male sense of juvenile humor. But in today's hyper-sensitive world, any hint of anything remotely related to a gun is cause for massive over-reaction.

After the story hit the media, the school district superintendent backtracked - sort of.
The interim superintendent of the Vernon Township School District says reports a middle school student was suspended last week for twirling a pencil are untrue...

"The story that we expelled or suspended a student is partially not true ... We did exclude" the student from attending until a proper psychological evaluation was done, interim Vernon Superintendent Charles Maranzano told the newspaper.
Ah, it wasn't a suspension. The boy was simply 'excluded' from school until he was examined by a shrink. He also had to pass a physical exam and drug test.
If a student "demonstrates odd behaviors, non-conforming behaviors, it causes us to take a closer look," he told the newspaper. "If a student gestures or demonstrates behavior that could be construed as a threat to others in a classroom ... then that's also a trigger for us."
Setting aside for the moment the idea that "non-conforming behaviors" can get a kid suspended (under that rubric I never would have graduated from elementary school, much less more advanced grades), I still fail to see how twirling a pencil can possibly be considered as a threat to others. Keep in mind that the only witness to the alleged threatening behavior is another seventh grade boy - not exactly the most reliable category of witnesses.

Hey, I've got a daughter in high school, and a couple of grandkids in middle school.  I understand the need for vigilance. I get the concern of parents and school officials. But I'd sure like to see a little common sense enter into the equation. After all, the kid that just went on a slashing rampage in a Pennsylvania high school didn't exhibit any odd, non-conforming, or threatening behavior.
Some classmates at Franklin Regional Senior High School describe (the attacker) as having few friends and being quiet, but also as a "really nice kid."
"This is not a dysfunctional family," Hribal's lawyer, Patrick Thomassey, told CNN on Thursday. "They're like the Brady Bunch. These parents are active with their two sons, and we're trying to figure out what happened."
Speaking of that incident, the American Thinker had an interesting article about it. If you're a parent, you may want to share it with your kids.
A multiple stabbing attack by a lone perpetrator in a Pennsylvania school, in which more than 20 were wounded, has everyone crying for more metal detectors in schools, and for more guns in the hands of teachers, other school personnel and even students.

Now, I’m a big proponent of an armed citizenry. I think an armed citizenry is one of the greatest, most effective deterrents to crime.

But when I heard about this incident, my first thought was, “Whatsamatta, weren’t there any chairs in that school?”

I believe this particular attack could have been curtailed without a single gun. In a school setting, the key to defense against a knife-wielder is in your head and under your butt.

The “under your butt” part is the chair ... Four or five students wielding chairs can fairly easily neutralize and detain a single knife attacker. And a classroom is chock-full of any number of other objects that can be used as defensive (or even offensive) weapons.

But this is where the “in your head” part comes in.

Imagine, if you will, such a knife attack taking place in a room full of Spartan children, or Viking children, or Zulu children? How about Gurkha children, or Apache children? Or, if you still don’t get where I’m going with this, how about a room full of Klingon children?

Because those are all great warrior cultures. And I guarantee you that in none of them would children be trained and encouraged -- make that indoctrinated -- to be passive and non-combative the way that “modern” American children are...

Rather than pick up their chairs to use against the attacker the way a circus lion-tamer uses a chair to keep a 400 lb. mass of teeth, claws and muscle at bay, these kids probably froze, or cowered, or reached for their cellphones to dial 9-1-1 (as they’d undoubtedly been trained to do no matter what the crisis) and then waited for the authorities to ride to their rescue.

Thank God not all Americans are now steeped in passivity. Todd “Let’s Roll” Beamer and his fellow passengers on Flight 93 realized that there is a time to fight, even if you’re up against a deadly weapon and you have little more than seat cushions and rolled-up magazines. What would have happened had they all just cowered in their seats?

Just as our kids are taught to scan a room for the fire exits, they should be taught to scan for objects that can be utilized for self-defense. For example, the flagpole at the front of the classroom could be very handy in keeping an attacker at a distance. Or do they not have flagpoles in classrooms anymore, because the flag might be “offensive” to illegal aliens?

A lot of attitudes are going to have to change.

Back when I was still in the classroom we had to undergo 'active shooter' training. The gist of it can be boiled down to three simple actions, to be performed in this order.
1. Bug out.

If at all possible, get away from the situation. Use any available exit, including windows

2. Hide Out.

In a classroom, this basically consists of turning off the lights, locking the doors, and making sure everyone is out of sight

3. Fight back.

This is the last resort, because you are basically going after an armed attacker with your bare hands. We were taught to use whatever is at hand as a weapon or distraction. One technique is to have the less physically imposing students throw erasers, books, staplers, or whatever else is available at the shooter while the rest of the class rushes him en masse.
I'm not sure how effective the above might be, but it's better than cowering in place hoping the shooter runs out of ammunition before he gets to you.

Of course, the liberal response to knife attacks is to pass knife control legislation.

Think I'm kidding? They already have an early form of that in the UK.

The Conran “R tip” anti-stab utility knife, £7.95 from Newport Knives, UK

This is not the world I grew up in...

Thursday, April 10, 2014

I Agree With Lois Lerner

House panel votes to hold ex-IRS official Lois Lerner in contempt of Congress

I agree with Lerner on this one. I'm contemptuous of Congress also...

Missed The Bus

Imagine obamacare is a bus. If you just missed the bus (the March 31 signup 'deadline') the next one won't come around until Jan. 01, 2015.
There is yet another ObamaCare surprise waiting for consumers: from now until the next open enrollment at the end of this year, most people will simply not be able to buy any health insurance at all, even outside the exchanges.
"It's all closed down. You cannot buy a policy that is a qualified policy for the purpose of the ACA (the Affordable Care Act) until next year on January 1," says John DiVito, president of Flexbenefit which has 2,500 brokers.
John Goodman of the National Center for Policy Analysis in Dallas adds, "People are not going to be able to buy individual and family policies, and that's part of ObamaCare. And what makes it so surprising is the whole point of ObamaCare was to encourage people to get insurance, and now the market has been completely closed down for the next seven months."
That means that with few exceptions, tens of millions of people will be locked out of the health insurance market for the rest of this year.
You can read more about the implications of that particular 'feature' of obamacare at the linked article.

I can only shake my head (again). As more and more details of that pile of bull excrement leak out, it becomes more and more obvious what a wrethced piece of legislation it is.  I am continuely amazed that anyone defends it anymore. It is a spectacular failure in terms of its stated objective - to bring affordable health insurance to everyone.

Which leads to the obvious question: is obamacare in reality a smokescreen for another, more nefarious, objective? Such as destroying our existing health care system in order to replace it with a single-payer system, such as Canada's or Great Britain's?

So we're left with two alternatives. One, obama is a total incompetent who has the reverse Midas touch - everything he touches turns to crap.  Two, obama is an evil Machiavellian genius who devised and implemented this incredibly complex plan designed to crater an industry that makes up around 20% of our national economy?

In other words, incompetent clown or evil genius?

Based on everything else I've seen about him, I vote for incompetent clown...

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Mile High Koozie

Back home from Denver - for one night. I have to take another out-of-town trip tomorrow, but thankfully it's only an overnighter. The Denver trip went smoothly, for which I'm grateful. But it also worries me. The travel law of averages means that sooner or later I'm due for a Trip From Hell.

One of the things we tried to do while in Colorado was find a marijuana shop. No, not to score some weed, but simply out of curiosity. What we learned is that the state of Colorado may have legalized marijuana, but it also inserted a 'local option' clause into the law. That means each municipality can decide for itself whether or not to allow sale of pot within its boundaries. Interestingly, many municipalities have opted out. We were in Littleton, a small town on the outskirts of Denver. Littleton allows sales of medical marijuana (you need a state-issued ID card), but not sales for recreational purposes. We found one such store, which also sells an interesting line of hemp-based products (clothes, bags, purses, etc.). When I saw the item below, I couldn't help myself. I just had to buy one.

It's a hemp koozie...

... made by the Hemp Sisters.
It does a good job keeping condensation from the bottle off the furniture, but doesn't keep the beer as cold as a traditional koozie.

Anyway, I'm home just long enough to drop off my dirty laundry and pick up a change of clothes. Then I'm back on the road Wednesday, home Thursday, hosting guests for the weekend beginning Friday, and playing in a golf tournament on Sunday. Hopefully things will slow down next week.

Being retired is starting to wear me out...