This Could Be Controversial Only In A Government Or Union Environment

Governor Chris Christie on teachers:

Gov. Chris Christie on Tuesday unveiled a tough-love reform package that will make classroom achievement — not seniority or tenure — the basis for pay hikes and career advancement in Garden State public schools.

* * *

Unqualified teachers will feel the lash. The governor is demanding that teachers in kindergarten through fifth grade actually pass tests in reading and math in order to be certified.

“It might lead to the firing of lousy teachers and bad principals who hurt our children,” Christie said.

The fact that teachers will have to actually know the subject matters they teach and impart that knowledge to children competently qualifies as taking “the lash” to teachers?  Outside of union and government positions, competence is a prerequisite to getting and keeping a job, and competence provides no guarantee of keeping a job.  It seems that the easiest and most cost-effective way to improve the quality of our schools is to hold teachers and principals to the same standard.

Published in: on September 29, 2010 at 2:06 pm  Leave a Comment  

Dems Try To Motivate Voters By Insulting Them

This seems like a bad idea:

Massachusetts Senator John Kerry, [said] “We have an electorate that doesn’t always pay that much attention to what’s going on so people are influenced by a simple slogan rather than the facts or the truth or what’s happening.”

* * *

This week President Obama chimed in with another uplifting message about the American electorate. Mr. Obama told Rolling Stone that the tea party movement is financed and directed by “powerful, special-interest lobbies.” But this doesn’t mean that tea party groups are composed entirely of corporate puppets. Mr. Obama graciously implied that a small subset of the movement is simply motivated by bigotry.

The President said “there are probably some aspects of the Tea Party that are a little darker, that have to do with anti-immigrant sentiment or are troubled by what I represent as the President.”

* * *

Vice President Joe Biden recently urged the party’s base to “stop whining” and “buck up,” a message echoed by Mr. Obama in his Rolling Stone interview. The President demanded that his supporters “shake off this lethargy,” warning that it would be “inexcusable” for liberals to stay home on Election Day.

Mr. Obama added that “if people now want to take their ball and go home, that tells me folks weren’t serious in the first place.”

That’s how it always is with this bunch. 

They even fathom the possibility that just over half of the voters in 2008 thought they were voting for a post-partisan moderate guy, ended up with a nasty, incompetent, historically-challenged radical President paired with a Congress controlled by similarly-minded hard-core leftists, and that a big chunk of them regret the mistake and want to undo it as best they can.  No, that can’t be it. 

The voters must be throwing a temper tantrum, inattentive and influenced by slogans instead of the truth, flat-out crazy, or just plain bigotted fools. 

And by the way, let’s remember the empty slogans used in 2008  — Yes we can!, We are the ones we’ve been waiting for!  It seems that the people who got influenced by simple slogans instead of the truth — that Obama was an unprincipled, inexperienced, leftist radical with a redistributivist agenda rather than a god-like figure of historic greatness — and should have been paying more attention are the ones who voted for Obama.

Published in: on September 29, 2010 at 1:17 pm  Leave a Comment  

The Denver Post — Endorsing Betsy Markey With A Puff Piece Disguised As News

Today’s Denver Post piece about Democratic incumbent Betsy Markey provides a nice lesson in how to write a biased puff piece about an imperilled Democratic incumbent.

First off, label the candidate as an “independent” in this anti-Democrat year:

Incumbent Democrat Betsy Markey concedes her independent streak probably got her into trouble with her voting base in the massive 4th Congressional District. But Markey thinks the straight-shooting rural voters of the 32,000-square-mile 4th appreciate her efforts to help everyone, not just her Democratic backers.

“When I came to Congress, I tried to be an independent voice, and I think people recognize that,” said Markey, whose first term was marked by breaks with President Barack Obama’s agenda.

Funny, I don’t seem to remember any breaks with President Barack Obama’s agenda when it mattered. 

Let’s see.  How did Markey vote?:

  • Voted for the spendulus fiasco that threw $800 Billion at favored special interests, pet projects, and public employees’ unions.
  • Voted for Obama’s “green economy” corporate welfare program, wasting billions more of our money.
  • Voted for Obamacare.
  • Voted for the “cap-and-trade” energy tax.
  • Voted with the Democratic majority 94% of the time.

Then throw in an endorsement from an independent-sounding guy who isn’t:

“We need to recognize we are in a global recession and to ask ourselves, ‘What can we do to move forward?’ ” Markey said.

Her efforts are appreciated by Les Gelvin, who runs a farm and ranch real estate company near Fort Collins.

“I think she’s the best representative we’ve ever had,” said Gelvin, who is unaffiliated. “She’s smart, she doesn’t have a political agenda, and she wants what is best for the 4th District.”

Les Gelvin might be “unaffiliated,” but he is not unbiased.  He and his wife Jeanne Gelvin collectively gave Markey $2,532 for her 2008 campaign, according to www.opensecrets.org

Finally, close with a few words from her opponent at the end to show a pretense of impartiality. 

Published in: on September 29, 2010 at 11:23 am  Leave a Comment  

Jumpin’ Joe Biden Gets Something Right!

Vice President Joe Biden to liberals: “Buck up.”

I can support that.

Published in: on September 28, 2010 at 10:49 pm  Leave a Comment  

I Can’t Really Disagree With The Sentiment That The Obama Administration Is Incompetent….

….but I also can’t agree with Richard Cohen that it caused the latest failure to negotiate a final settlement of the Israeli/Palestinian dispute:

Every so often, the sayings of Casey Stengel come to mind. The longtime manager of the New York Yankees, accustomed to a Prussian professionalism, moved over to the astonishingly hapless New York Mets in 1962 and, surveying his new team, uttered an exasperated question: “Can’t anybody here play this game?” What applied to those Mets applies now to the Obama administration. In the Middle East, it’s no hits and plenty of errors.

* * *

From the start, the President has taken a hard line against settlements, refusing to distinguish between an apartment in Jerusalem and a hilltop encampment in the West Bank. He seems not to understand their importance to some Jews. . . . Obama approach to the Israeli-Palestinian problem has been counterproductive. Either the Palestinians have to back down from their insistence that all settlements be frozen in place or Netanyahu has to back down from his pledge that any moratorium would be temporary. Either Abbas or Netanyahu has to lose credibility, and neither man can afford to.

Obama, too, has to husband his credibility. He foolishly demanded something Israel could not yet give. It was bad diplomacy, recalling neither Metternich nor Kissinger but the Ol’ Perfessor and his question about the inept Mets. The answer, so far, is no.

I happen to think that the Obama Administration’s incompetence and hostility toward Israel runs far deeper than his blanket opposition to settlements.  But the answer for every President that has waded into the mire of this dispute has been, so far, no. 

And it alway will be “no” until the so-called “international community” recognizes and truly supports Israel’s right to exist within secure borders, and brings pressure to bear on the Palestinian thugs who control the Palestinian territories and its culture.  The real threat to peace is Palestinian violence and the death cult Palestinian leaders and culture have cultivated for generations.  Until and unless the Palestinians recognize Israel as a permanent resident of the Middle east and cease waging war against it (primarily by attacking civilians with random missile attacks and suicide bombers, while hiding among and behind their own Palestinian civilians), there will be no peace. 

So while I agree that the Obama Administration is hopelessly incompetent on Middle East policy (as with so many others), this particular imminent failure is not Obama’s fault.

Published in: on September 28, 2010 at 4:32 pm  Leave a Comment  

Sorry Excuse For A Blogger

That’s me!  I got distracted by life and work for several days, including yet another trip to Boise followed by a few days off in lovely Santa Fe, New Mexico, so I failed to blog at all for the longest period since I started the blog.  But I’m back.

Published in: on September 28, 2010 at 4:16 pm  Leave a Comment  

Bankruptcy, It’s Not Just For California Anymore

Sadly, it may be coming to a town near you

Elbert County, Colorado is broke, its county assessor has been indicted, its election manager may get hit with perjury charges, its budget officer quit in July (and left the country!), and it has been mortgaging its assets to pay the bills.

Elbert County is a small-town rural county on the Eastern plains, but it does not appear to be impoverished in general.  According to U.S. Census figures, in 2008 it median household annual income was about $19,000 than the statewide median.

So how could this happen?

For fiscal years 2006 through 2009, expenses have exceeded revenues. According to financial records obtained by Whistler, Elbert County took in $8.5 million in revenue in 2009 but spent more than $13 million.

I guess that explains it.

Published in: on September 17, 2010 at 3:51 pm  Leave a Comment  

Colorado Insurers Will No Longer Sell Child-Only Insurance Policies Because Of Obamacare Requirements

Surprise!

Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Colorado, the state’s largest individual-market health-care provider, announced Friday that it will stop selling new child-only individual policies on Sept. 23 because of uncertainty created by new federal mandates.  

The company becomes the sixth major insurer to confirm that it is pulling out of the child-only individual market in the past 2-1/2 weeks, including four of the state’s six largest individual insurance providers.

This kind of thing was not unexpected.  If you impose requirements that make it impossible to earn a profit providing a service, those who previously offered the service will stop offering it.  This is not rocket science.  It is the most fundamental, simple, and straightforward principle of basic economics.

And don’t complain about evil insurance companies, corporate greed, or any of that kind of nonsense.  The officers and directors of these corproations have a duty imposed by law to act in the best interest of the corproations’  owners or shareholders.  They would violate those duties and be subject to legal liability if they ran the company into the ground in the name of Obamacare. 

Please thank Michael Bennet, Betsy Markey, John Salazar, and Ed Perlmutter for their vote in favor of this ridiculous healthcare takeover in November.

Published in: on September 17, 2010 at 2:24 pm  Leave a Comment  

More On Mile High Cab And Taxi Competition

Susan Greene of the Denver Post has a column out today on the Mile High Cab saga that covers some points similar to those I made previously here and here.  She makes an additional point that I did not previously cover that I would like to now address:

There are legitimate reasons to regulate the taxi industry. We want to make sure rates are fair, meters are accurate and we’re not going to be picked up by felons with no insurance who charge 2 miles for every mile driven.

In general, I agree.  I am not anti-regulation, per se, though I do prefer that regulatory burdens be light.  I am primarily against certain kinds of regulation. 

The Mile High Cab case provides an excellent example of good versus bad regulation (in general terms). 

Good regulation seeks to ensure the safety and welfare of person who are not in a position to have sufficient information to make such determinations on their own.  Bad regulation attempts to determine who will be the winners and losers in the market, or to determine who may even enter the market.

A taxi customer does not have a reasonable opportunity to inspect an individual cab to ensure that its brakes have been adequately maintained, for example.  Nor does the customer have the ability to do a background check on the driver before getting into the cab and a potentially dangerous situation.  And it is not possible for the individual customer to know whether a cab carries adequate insurance.  These things can and should be the subject of regulation.

Moreover, taxis are historically notorious for driving extra distances to increase fares for those who are in unfamiliar territory.  Having a regulatory body that requires the use of meters and punishes unreasonable practices intended to drive up the cost of a fare — such as taking a longer route than necessary — is another good thing.

I probably start to part ways with Ms. Greene when she wants “to make sure rates are fair.”  I prefer using competition to set rates rather than having a utilities commission interfere in the market.  But taxis are a bit different, in that one often hails a cab on the street and may not know the rates being charged until it is more or less too late.  So I could probably be convinced that a cap or some other limitation is an appropriate use of regulatory power.

But then there is clearly bad regulation from a public policy point of view, as illustrated by the Mile High Cab situation.  Mile High just wants to compete by charging $0.25/mile less than current providers, and by eliminating extra passenger or bag charges. 

Using myself as an example, this would save me a fair amount.  My wife and I probably take cabs to and from downtown twice a week on average.  On the outbound leg, we call a cab by phone; to get home, we hail one on the street.

Each trip currently costs about $10 one-way before tip.  Under Mile High’s proposed rate structure, we would save $1 off the top (extra passenger fee), and another $1.00 or so on the meter, each direction.  For such a short trip, 20% off is pretty decent savings.

Of course, Mile High Cab might not make it at those rates and fail, or it might need to increase rates to stay in business.  Maybe competitors would lose business and have to match Mile High’s rates, or some competitors might go under. 

That’s called competition.  And competition is the only reliable way to figure out what services consumers really want, what amount consumers will pay, and who should get to provide them.  Regulators simply cannot make this determination reliably.  Ever. 

So they should stop trying.

Published in: on September 17, 2010 at 1:56 pm  Leave a Comment  

Prediction — Dan Maes Will Be Polling Under 10% By November

Pull the plug, Dan:

Dan Maes was fired from a small-town police department either because he was a threat to powerful people, or because he bungled an investigation into an alleged gambling operation by tipping off the suspects.

It depends on who’s telling the story.

A former head of detectives from the Liberal, Kan., Police Department said Thursday that Maes in 1985 let slip to a member of the Andrade family — soon to be Maes’ in-laws — that police were investigating a football bookmaking operation run out of the family home.

Sonny Ralston, 67 and now chief of police in nearby St. John, Kan., said the slip-up cost the department the investigation, which Ralston oversaw. No arrests were made. No charges were filed.

Seriously, is it even remotely plausible that a young local cop was such a threat to powerful interests that he had to be run out of town?  Maes’ story sounds like a bad Patrick Swayze movie from the ’80s.

Published in: on September 17, 2010 at 10:52 am  Leave a Comment  

This Might Not End Well — Sunspot Activity Is Trending Toward Zero By As Early As 2016

With all the talk of global warming and the trillions of investment and forgone economic growth politicians and the major media tell us we must sacrifice to prevent it, there has been little discussion among activists, politicians and the media about the role of the sun in the matter.  Notwithstanding its central role in heating the planet, the sun seems to be all but ignored.

Solar activity, specifically sunspot activity, changes through cycles that last about eleven years.  The highest point of sunspot activity is called the Solar Maximum, and the point of lowest activity is called the Solar Minimum. 

Solar astronomers and some climate change researchers have noticed a significant decrease in sunspot activity over the past several years, as we transition from what is known as Solar Cycle 23 to Solar Cycle 24.   Solar Cycle 23 was unusually long, and the transition to Solar Cycle 24 was unusually quiet, with a large number of spotless days in 2008 and 2009.  

Now, solar astronomers Matthew Penn and William Livingston of the National Solar Observatory in Tucson, Arizona, have released a paper in which they conclude that the trend overall sunspot magnetic field strength implies that there will be “half the number of sunspots in Cycle 24 compared to Cycle 23, and . . . virtually no sunspots in Cycle 25.” 

The last time we had an extended period with virtually no sunspots is known as the Maunder Minimum, a period roughly from 1645 to 1715, when sunspots were extremely rare.  Another period of observed very low sunspot activity was the Dalton Minimum, which occurred from about 1790 to 1830.  

Why is this relevant?  Well, the Maunder Minimum corresponds with the so-called “Little Ice Age,” an era in which Europe and North America had bitterly cold winters, leading to starvation and the migration of populations.  The Dalton Minimum corresponds with another period of exceptionally cold weather, including 1816, “the Year Without a Summer.”  

Wouldn’t it be ironic if global warming activists had it exactly backwards, and we are entering a cooling period?  It would also be quite scary, since cooling temperatures are a much greater threat to human life and activity than warming temperatures. 

 
 

 

Published in: on September 16, 2010 at 2:50 pm  Comments (1)  

Great Idea — A Constitutional Amendment Allowing States To Repeal Federal Laws And Regulations

At the Volokh Conspiracy, Professor Randy Barnett links to an oped he co-wrote with William Howell, the Speaker of the Virginia House of Delegates, regarding a proposed Repeal Amendment that would proved for the repeal of any federal law or regulation on a vote of 2/3 of the state legislatures.  The proposed text is as follows:

Any provision of law or regulation of the United States may be repealed by the several states, and such repeal shall be effective when the legislatures of two-thirds of the several states approve resolutions for this purpose that particularly describe the same provision or provisions of law or regulation to be repealed.

As of now, the only route available to the states for overturning federal laws and regulations is a constitutional amendment.  This is not only very difficult; it also requires more or less permanent changes to the text of the Constitution.  Given the manner in which some Judges and Justices interpret the Constitution, text changes can easily lead to unpredictable results.  Moreover, fighting about language is likely to make passing of most proposed textual amendments all but impossible, especially given the likelihood that certain Judges and Justices can be expected to interpret the new text in a manner unforseen by its proponents.

Getting two-thirds of state legislatures to overturn a federal law would not be easy, but it would be easier than getting agreement on new language to be forever enshrined in the Constitution.  Moreover, with a 2/3 disapproval requirement, the power would only be exercised if a law or regulation is very unpopular among a broad swath of states.  That would provide a check on federal power — especially expansions of power, such as the Obamacare takeover and individual mandate — without unduly undermining the general supremacy of federal law.

This Repeal Amendment is really an excellent idea.  It would return to the states some small measure of the power that has been taken from them by federal encroachments over the past several decades.  As the authors note:

The Repeal Amendment would help restore the ability of states to protect the powers “reserved to the states” noted in the 10th Amendment. And it would provide citizens another political avenue to protect the “rights . . . retained by the people” to which the Ninth Amendment refers. In short, the amendment provides a new political check on the threat to American liberties posed by a runaway federal government. And checking abuses of power is what the written Constitution is all about.

Amen to that.

Published in: on September 16, 2010 at 1:18 pm  Leave a Comment  

Who Are The Real Extremists?

As we head into the November elections, the Democrats are trying to hold onto Congress (and some Republicans are trying to discredit upstart outsiders) by painting tea party backed candidates as extremist crazies, Andrea Tanataros makes an important point.  The gang in power — including lots of Republicans party elites — have been acting in a manner that has been extremely destructive to our present and future:

But Rove, George W. Bush and many incumbents, including President Obama, are the reason we even have the Tea Party movement. Bush ran up deficits. Obama quadrupled them. To many disgruntled conservatives, Rove was behind Bush in giving us open borders, tax cuts that expire, Medicare Part D and busted budgets.

The current alternative from the left is even more cuckoo to voters: higher taxes, a new health care regime, more rights for terrorists, disregard for immigration law and constant apologies to other countries. Now that’s nuts.

So, with mud on their faces, both sides of the aisle are trying to shred the personal credibility of the outsiders. They’ve blasted O’Donnell for not liking porn and blasted Paladino for liking it too much. They call O’Donnell a liar in a year when the Democratic Senate candidate from Connecticut, Richard Blumenthal, lied about serving in Vietnam, and Charlie Rangel and Maxine Waters face serious ethics charges.

Make no mistake: Paladino’s racist and lewd email forwards were disgusting and wrong. But his message is right: New York is financially broken. The porn we should worry about the most is the screwing we’ve gotten from Albany and Washington, something that Democratic gubernatorial candidate Andrew Cuomo and other career politicians have no intention of fixing.

And although the outsiders aren’t guaranteed victory, democracy has already won. Both Republicans and Democrats need to beware: The outsiders have broken into the institution of politics and cannot be ignored. After all, what’s so crazy about restoring power to the people and a mandate to throw all of the big government bums out? In our current state of affairs, it sounds like the right kind of folly.

There is something both nerve-wracking and comforting in seeing candidates who are not sanitized and pre-packaged by the party establishment gain nominations in the Republican party.  That is not to say that it will result in nothing by sunshine and roses.  It can and will produce some candidates who say stupid things or have extreme views on certain topics. 

For example, Ken Buck’s joke about not wearing high heels was ill-advised (although in context it was clearly not intended to be sexist), and I very much disagree with his absolutist position on abortion.  But so what?  Like most people, I am not a single issue voter.  What I want is someone I agree with in general, and someone I trust to do what he says he will do.

Unlike Michael Bennet, Buck’s commitment to the general principles of small government, lower taxes, and less spending is sincere.  Buck isn’t saying what he thinks voters want to hear right now, as Bennet is doing.  Buck actually appears to believe in these things, and I am confident he will act on those beliefs.  Bennet, on the other hand, found religion on federal spending just in time for the election season, and does not exhibit the zeal of a true convert.

We are indeed living in a messed up time  if candidates who believe in principles of small government, lower taxes, and less spending are considered extreme, while those who have quadrupled our debt, pushed for higher taxes, imposed a new health care regime over the objection of most of the country, and refused to secure our borders are thought to be mainstream.

This is a true grass roots phenomenon that the party elite on both sides of the aisle ignore or denigrate at their peril. 

Vis Glenn Reynolds at Instapundit.

Published in: on September 16, 2010 at 12:30 pm  Leave a Comment  

How About Just Explaining How Reality Is Proving That Obama Is Wrong?

David Harsanyi’s column in the Denver Post today addresses recent comments by two prominent conservatives trying to psychoanalyze President Obama, and gives them a nice smack-down:

Take the tortured contention of noted conservative author Dinesh D’Souza. In a recent Forbes cover story “How Obama Thinks” he blames the president’s “odd” blame-America-first, re-distributionist behavior on his Kenyan father’s long lost anti-colonial philosophy.

* * *

“What if (Obama) is so outside our comprehension, that only if you understand Kenyan, anti-colonial behavior, can you begin to piece together (his actions)?” Newt Gingrich, highly impressed by D’Souza essay, explained to National Review Online. “That is the most accurate, predictive model for his behavior.”

Is Obama really outside your sphere of comprehension? To say you need a predictor to decode Obama’s next move is to say that the president is offering us something more than the hard-left agenda the Democratic Party had promised — rather unambiguously — when they came to power.

Obama’s policies are no more exotic than that of the nearest progressive academic, the angry, union-shilling, purple-shirted sign waver or New York Times editorial board member. There is no whodunit when it comes to “fair trade” or “social justice.” There is nothing novel about embracing illiberal “friends” abroad. Nothing unique about redistributive economics or regulatory dictatorships.

Exactly. 

I hate it when liberals try to figure out “What’s the matter with Kansas?” and examine conservatives like they’re on an anthropological expedition into darkest Flyoverstan.  It is insulting, stupid, and a waste of time.  Conservatives should stay out of that kind of muck and leave it for the left to wallow in.

Who cares why Obama thinks redistributive policies, overbearing regulation, and apologizing for our (mostly imagined) transgressions to actual international bad guys are a good thing?   Maybe it’s because of some exotic inner workings in his mind.  Or maybe his thinking on such issues never advanced beyond the level of your typical ivy league college sophomore.  Maybe the guy just isn’t particularly smart.

But I don’t care why Obama embraces misguided policies.  The only relevant question is whether his ideas are right or wrong. 

Moreover, pondering such theories gives the left and the mainstream media (but I repeat myself) a chance to change the subject from the (quoting Harsanyi again) “uncluttered argument — using the empirical data of a collapsing economy — that less spending, less regulation and less government is the way to create more prosperity.”  The Democrats are losing this debate on the merits, and in a big way. 

A foray into psychobabble offers no help in debating the issues.  Let’s keep focus people.

Published in: on September 15, 2010 at 5:36 pm  Leave a Comment  

Betsy Markey Dodges Debate

In the midst of a tough fight to hold onto her seat representing Colorado’s 4th Congressional District, Rep. Betsey Markey has derailed a debate scheduled for October 16.

Markey’s pretext is that she didn’t like the rules for the debate, which would have excluded two small party candidates who failed to meet the 10% polling support threshold for inclusion.  But that has to be just a pretext, since the rule is standard, common, and more inclusive than the 15% threshold used for presidential debates.   

Unless Markey is a terrible debater expecting a bloodbath, I cannot fathom why she would do this.  All she gets is bad publicity when she already has a target on her back (maybe one of them nifty new Dem logos!).  Dumb move.

Published in: on September 15, 2010 at 4:38 pm  Leave a Comment