Thursday, January 31, 2008

Random Trivia

Rats can't vomit.

Casual Reading

I just got my first book of the year in the mail: Jefferson and Hamilton on the Separation of Church and State.

It's a collection of letters, notes, essays, etc., written by the two during their lives regarding religion and politics. I'm excited to read it, which means I'm probably a bit of a geek.

Just so long as I don't bring it to the Cabin in March.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Subsidizing Religious Education

It's the last year of the presidency, and President Bush gave his last State of the Union address, as mandated by the Constitution.

In it, President Bush alluded to the Surge, implying that it's successful because violence is down. I still believe it's going to be years before one can determine if the Surge was successful, because what it was intended to do was allow the Iraqi government room to function as a government, which it has yet to do, and until that happens, the Surge cannot be considered a success.

But more to the topic at hand, President Bush urged Congress to work more on No Child Left Behind, and particularly to fund a voucher program for religious schools, as reported on Americans United for Separation of Church and State.

I have no issue with private schooling. I'm a product of public schools, and I think I turned out all right, but I know that there are private schools out there that offer exceptional educations and exceptional opportunities for college and college success, and if I could get my children into one of those, I would. But there are problems when it comes to funding parochial education with public funds. First off, when the church receives government funds, then the government can have a say in what the church does. The government gets to use the carrot to compel the church to teach in a particular manner, or to not teach in a particular matter. While the schools would have the opportunity to say no and turn down the money, it's not a stretch to imagine that these same schools would yield to the state due to a dependence on these funds (look at the highway earmarks and drinking ages as an example). I don't want my government telling my church what to do, and support programs that would keep this from happening.

That's not the only problem with voucher programs, though. In my children's elementary school, there are about 800 students. In the high school they would go to if we were to stay in the same area, there are approximately 5000 students. There are 4 high schools and about 30 elementary schools in the district. In this area, there are 8 private schools. I don't know what the total enrollment of those private schools are, but I would highly doubt there would be room for all the students from our district, let alone all the schoolchildren from all the Houston area districts to attend. What does that mean? It means that the private schools would get to choose who got to use the vouchers, and who didn't. And what criteria would the private school use to select who got to go? A lottery? An essay contest? No. They would choose the students who would best be able to maintain the esteem, image, and prestige of the private school, and reject those who are problem children, or who are not as academically successful, or who look dirty, or whatever. In other words, they would choose the children from the "failing" (to use the President's word) public schools who least need the boost into private schools, and leave the public schools with the rejects.

Consider that for a moment. The Government tells you that your school is failing. Then the Government gives these golden tickets to let you go to a school that it says is not failing. Then that school does not choose the student because he's not good enough. Now what do you have? You have a rejected student in a failing school being told that he's getting a lesser education and there's nothing he can do about it. Well, I can see the happy ending there, can't you?

Yet, that's not even the end of the problems. While many private parochial schools do provide outstanding educations for their students, there are scores more that do not. One of the problems with simplifying the education problem as the President has done is that it presumes that "private" or "parochial" necessarily means "better." So not only do we run the risk of alienating students by telling them that they must be left behind in a failing school whose funds have been stripped by No Child Left Behind to help the select few students get a private education, but many of those dollars will go to private schools who provide an even worse education than the school that is allegedly failing the students. Sign me up!

Finally, the President's plan ignores one of the biggest issues of all. The No Child Left Behind Act presumes that the academic problems of this country all stem from teachers in a failed system failing their students. It does not consider the problems with parents, bad parents, poor parents, drunk parents, hooker parents, absentee parents, abusive parents, crime infested neighborhoods, drug infested neighborhoods, children who have to work at night to help pay the rent, children who have to watch their siblings because their parents have to work nights, children with emotional issues that need assistance (one of the casualties of the current charter school concept that takes monies for public education and sets it aside for the select few who get chosen to "succeed" is the guidance counselor, whose budget is not a "necessary" expenditure, because none of these students have problems outside of school), etc.

Throwing money at the educational system won't fix public education. But creating a system where monies are taken from all the students and reserved for only a few is quite possibly even worse. And doing so while undermining the concept of church-state separation, that should not be allowed to happen.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Maybe about half right...

What Steven Means

You are the total package - suave, sexy, smart, and strong.

You have the whole world under your spell, and you can influence almost everyone you know.

You don't always resist your urges to crush the weak. Just remember, they don't have as much going for them as you do.

You are a seeker. You often find yourself restless - and you have a lot of questions about life.

You tend to travel often, to fairly random locations. You're most comfortable when you're far away from home.

You are quite passionate and easily tempted. Your impulses sometimes get you into trouble.

You are friendly, charming, and warm. You get along with almost everyone.

You work hard not to rock the boat. Your easy going attitude brings people together.

At times, you can be a little flaky and irresponsible. But for the important things, you pull it together.

You are very hyper. You never slow down, even when it's killing you.

You're the type of person who can be a workaholic during the day... and still have the energy to party all night.

Your energy is definitely a magnet for those around you. People are addicted to your vibe.

You are very intuitive and wise. You understand the world better than most people.

You also have a very active imagination. You often get carried away with your thoughts.

You are prone to a little paranoia and jealousy. You sometimes go overboard in interpreting signals.

Insert Clever Headline Here.

I kind of like the idea of a national sales tax in place of our current income tax. That way people would all pay for what they use, as opposed to being charged by the government more for being more successful at earning money. I understand that there are people who don't like the idea. I've heard it posited that a sales tax (or a "fair tax") would disproportionately tax lower income families because they would spend a greater percentage of their income on taxes.

Retail shoppers in England have found a similar situation, though not quite tit-for-tat. The nation's second largest food retail chain has busted to the pressure and stopped charging more for larger size bras. This Yahoo news article kept us abreast of the situation. It now appears that A cups and F cups can be bosom buddies when shopping.

How is this similar to the fair tax? Well, women who buy larger bras buy more fabric, which increases the cost of manufacture. Women who buy smaller bras buy less fabric, which would cost less to manufacture. Now, women who buy smaller bras are spending more proportionately than their more endowed sisters, meaning a higher percentage of their endowment will go to line the bra manufacturer's and the department store's coffers. But, the increased sales anticipated from the larger bras will surely prevent any cleavage into the profit margins.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

It's Saturday

I need to buy a new suit. I think I'm going to try to get two suits, as Macy's is having a 2 for 1 sale. At least they were, last I checked.

We're going to go to the Y this afternoon, as soon as my sweats are dry. The kids need the chance to stretch their legs and I need to get a workout in.

My frames should be done today. I also need to get a couple generic frame holders for my undergraduate degrees.

I think we're going to have steak for dinner. Maybe I'll get some Montreal steak rub. Although salt and pepper is just as good.

I like my job, but I would like a more full time position.

I'm going fishing in July. This is something I really am looking forward to. Last year we pulled in 9 keepers and probably close to 30 altogether. The Boy will be going along again, which is something that will please him and me.

I hope my blood pressure is ok today. It was high last weekend, but this week it's run pretty close to normal for me.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Random Trivia

A day late, but trivia nonetheless.

Most telephone dial tones ring in the key of F.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Because if you don't talk about it, it doesn't exist

When I was in high school, we had a dog named Izzy. He was a good dog - friendly and patient (and loud). He generally was well behaved, as you might expect a collie mix to be. Every now and then, though, he'd do something that he just shouldn't. I remember one day, we had gone out (maybe to church? I can't recall where). I had bought a package of Oreos that I had opened and had about 4 cookies out of. When we left, I left the cookies on the computer desk in the family room. Izzy was not a dumb dog; and he managed to figure out how to get the cookies off of the table (which was taller than he) and, being that he likes food, he proceeded to eat all the cookies.

We got home, and I saw the cookie wrapper lying on the floor in the doorway between the family room and the living room. I look at Izzy, and I point to the cookie package saying "look at that!" The dog looks away. I go over to where he looks and I point at the package again - and he turns his head the other way. This continues for a few minutes, with Izzy never looking at the package. His strategy was to pretend that if he didn't see it, it wasn't there. Except of course, it was there.

Tennessee seems to be playing a similar game with homosexuality, that if you don't talk about the Gay, then the kids won't catch the Gay. State Representative Stacey Campfield has apparently decided that it's important for the state to protect their children by introducing legislation that would ban any discussion on homosexuality in elementary and middle schools. I first read about this and the proposed verbiage at the First Amendment Law Professors Blog here.

The language of the bill is as follows:
The general assembly recognizes the sensitivity of certain subjects that are best explained and discussed in the home. Human sexuality is an immensely complex subject with enormous societal, scientific, psychiatric and historical implications that are best understood by children with sufficient maturity to grasp such issues. Notwithstanding law to the contrary, no public elementary or middle school shall permit any instruction or materials discussing sexual orientation other than heterosexuality.
The bill itself is a bit confusing, in my opinion. If sexuality is so complex a subject to discuss, then why only ban one aspect of it? Wouldn't it make more sense to put a complete moratorium on it, if you were truly concerned about the children's ability to understand?

It also seems to me that this phraseology could pose some future problems with the Religious Right. The wording would ban all "materials discussing sexual orientation other than heterosexuality." A plain language interpretation of this bill would ban the Bible (read Leviticus lately?) - something that Religious Right has railing against for years. Additionally, the justification for this bill - that "the sensitivity of certain subjects are best explained and discussed at home" - is precisely the rationale many give for wanting to keep religion and religious education out of public schools.

I doubt this bill will make it very far, and I certainly hope it doesn't. Simply turning a blind eye to the Gay is not going to keep children from being gay. All this bill would do is demonstrate to a significant portion of the populace that their lifestyle is verboten.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Because I can't pass up a good funny headline

I give you this: Sweden to Study Belching Cows.

The article notes that this research is already being done in Canada, which helps cement Canada's place at the front of scientific study.

Wednesday is Haiku Day!

The Apple is ill
Home with a fever, with me
He'll get better soon.

As always, I look forward to your submissions.

What so many knew all along

The President and the Executive Branch made several hundred false statements with regard to Iraq in the 2 years prior to the second Iraq War, according to research gathered by 2 nonprofit journalism organizations.

What's going to happen here, you might ask? People are going to read the article, they're going to see the research, and then they're going to decide whether they want to believe the results based not on the research done or on the methods of research or any empirical reasons. Instead, they're going to decide whether or not to believe the conclusions based on whether they like or dislike President Bush. Which is unfortunate, because if the President did make misstatements to lead this country into war, then that is serious and demands an objective inquiry.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Veggie Tales

We took the children out to the movies today. We saw The Pirates Who Don't Do Anything.

It reminded me of Galaxy Quest - similar plot, a couple similar plot tools. It was cute. There were a couple jokes that you just had to laugh at, and more than a few spots to grin. I wouldn't say it was a classic of American filmmaking, but I do think it was entertaining, and worth the expense for the kids.

It was a bit talky for a kids movie, but it was cute enough. Even the Apple sat still through it.

All in all, I'd say it's decent matinee fare for a child between 3 and 6.

Friday, January 18, 2008

Rest in Peace, Bobby

Bobby Fischer died yesterday. He was 64.

Bobby Fischer was a chessplayer, but to leave it at that would be like saying Abraham Lincoln was a politician, or that Patton was a soldier. He was and is revered and reviled by American chessplayers - many of whom were inspired to play because of the shocking victory Bobby had over Boris Spassky in 1972, beating the Russians in the game they dominate and winning the title of world champion.

I remember reading stories of interviews with Bobby that showed his unique nature. Bobby was raised by his mother, who was Jewish, which makes his anti-semitic statements late in his life even more bizarre. He once said in an interview that he hoped to build a house in California shaped like a Rook. He played in the Game of the Century, where he beat Donald Byrne by sacrificing his queen and both rooks (this is one of the games that really put him on the chessplaying map). When he beat Spassky, he was pursued for various endorsement deals. He turned down a deal to endorse a car after he test drove it to see if he did, indeed, like it.

Part of Bobby's problem, I think, was that chess was what Bobby knew. He was raised to be a chessplayer; it's where he was comfortable. It was his goal - to become the world champion. And when he did so, he was unable to create any new goals. He accomplished all that he'd set out for, and couldn't adapt to his new position. In a way, it's unfortunate that he accomplished his goal so early, because that left decades in which he could tarnish his legacy. He was a great chessplayer, and will be remembered as one of America's greatest (if not THE greatest). And chess in America still owes him gratitude and respect.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

It does not bode well

When the judge reviewing the CIA tape destruction says he suspects the CIA duped the court.

This has been going on for a while, and the same song and dance has been played. The Executive Branch office has been saying that the destruction was inadvertent, that they shouldn't have to turn it over, that they were not included in the FOIA request, that the courts and Congress should let the Justice Department (an executive branch entity) do its investigation first, that the dog ate their homework, etc.

The stonewalling has been somewhat effective, but I don't think it's going to last. Again, we're looking at perception. It could be that it was inadvertent that the e-mails were destroyed, but the actions of the CIA, and the fact that so many were destroyed create the appearance of malfeasance.

It's gotten to the point where the judge determining if the CIA should be held in contempt for destroying the e-mails is even questioning whether the CIA was forthright in dealing with the court (a coequal branch of government and certainly a member of the checks and balances that created this Government). Now, I'm just a baby lawyer, but I know that it's not a good thing to lose the judge before the hearing even comes.

Once this comes to fruition, it's likely to be ugly.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Wednesday is Haiku Day

I hope the choices
Are not of a Theocrat
And a Clinton - Yuck.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Just what so many have speculated

After I got home this evening, staying late in a war room meeting for the MDL, I quickly ate some dinner and helped Mommy help the Princess finish her homework, and before helping The Boy finish his volcano, I stopped on blogger, as I am wont to do.

I went over to my good friend Just Wondering's blog, Vim and Vinegar and saw this post linking to this article from The Raw Story.

To say I'm surprised isn't accurate. I'm not surprised, not really. I mean, it's a shock that he would basically admit he wants to create a Theocracy, but, isn't that what we basically expected from him?

Rather than comment on my own, I will just point you to Vim and Vinegar and The Raw Story articles linked above.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

I don't like the Clinton campaign

There are plenty of reasons why. First off, I don't buy it. I don't buy her. I think she's a political opportunist who is for whatever will get her the most support. She didn't waver once in voting for the invasion of Iraq, and didn't say a word until it was politically convenient to start criticizing the President. Her tears may well have been genuine, but it's hard to take it seriously when it was so well timed. Her campaign's antics (such as the staffer who brought up the attacks the Republicans would use against Barack - basically attacking him by proxy) are not what I want from a presidential candidate.

Attacking Barack Obama's campaign for keeping her comments regarding the Civil Rights Act (she first said that MLK worked for it, but it took a president to make it happen, then rephrased after she realized how it could be interpreted) are apparently better attributed to the Press (according to this Moderate Voice Article). President Clinton's attacking the credibility of Barack Obama's opposition to the war, particularly in light of Senator Clinton's clear vote for the invasion just throws gasoline on the situation (also read on The Moderate Voice here).

Perhaps all this would be acceptable, if it weren't for the fact that Hillary is no less polarizing than the current Executive, if not more so. What this country needs right now, more than anything else, is a President who knows how to listen, how to work with BOTH political parties, and how to get America to get along again, with ourselves and with other nations. Ron Paul might be able to do that; Barack Obama, perhaps, but I'm pretty certain Hillary cannot.

Rattle those sabres!

President Bush said that the United States and its allies must confront Iran, as it is "threatening the security of the world." The leader of the nation that has invaded two countries said in the same speech that Iran intimidates its Arab neighbors with alarming rhetoric and that they must be stopped "before it is too late."

It would be a shame if we let a nation's leader use its rhetoric to destabilize the Middle East and potentially lead to World War III.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

According to my trivia books,

The energy-creating ingredient in drinks such as Rockstar is not caffeine, but rather something called taurine. It reportedly has something like twice the boost as caffeine, and is all natural. In fact, it can only be found in the bile of oxen.



The Boy was given a science project this week. He was told about it on Monday, and was told he'd be given instructions on how to do it later in the week. Needless to say, today is Saturday, and we still have been given no direction on how to build his volcano.

So we rolled up our sleeves and drove to Michael's. Fortunately, they have a Quik-sculpting kit that we can use to build the volcano with and mesh to help hold it in shape until the clay dries.

While there, I took advantage of my recent swearing-in by bringing my degree and license in for framing. It wasn't cheap. But I do think I'm going to like the way they look when I get them back 2 weeks from now.

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

"The Vast Majority Already Comply"

That was part of the argument in favor of Indiana's Voter ID law, oral arguments on which were heard by the Court today.

I presume the argument is that it's ok to let the minority not be heard, because the vast majority can be. I understood America to be a land where citizens got a vote, not those citizens with the means to get a picture ID, or those citizens without an ID who can afford to take a day off within 10 days of the election to affirm their vote.

I understand the fear of voter fraud. But I find it wrong to deny American People a vote in a Free Country because of restrictions placed upon them by the Government. When the Government can determine who may or may not vote by passing legislation, then we cease to become a democracy or a democratic republic. I fear the Court will find differently than I, but I have difficulty swallowing the argument that it's OK to deny a right reserved for all based on their inability to obey a legislative act.

The Appearance of Impropriety

Congress is apparently going to actually hold hearings on the destruction of the CIA tapes that were ordered not to be destroyed. Jose Rodriguez, a former CIA official, has insisted that he won't testify unless he's offered immunity, on the premise that anything he says can be used against him.

Well, yeah. That's kind of the point. The hearings are to determine if there was any impropriety going on, and not just stupidity. The Executive Branch, of course, wants the Courts and Congress to not do anything and let the Justice Department (an Executive Branch department) do its own investigating.

Here's the problem. It might just be that the destruction of the tapes was inadvertent, and nothing improper actually occurred. But with the credibility issues this administration has based on its past actions, statements, backtracks, misstatements, hemming and hawing over issues, any conclusions that the Justice Department might come to (a justice department that had several of its attorneys fired for not prosecuting Democrats hard enough or for daring to prosecute Republicans) that are not "the Executive Branch Committed High Crimes or Misdemeanors" will not suffice. And the Executive Branch knows that the Justice Department will drag its heels until it's too late to effect any actual punishment on any malfeasance that may have occurred.

Jose Rodriguez wants immunity. Again, this could be merely a statement that he wants to ensure that he's safe to speak freely. But the perception is different. The perception is that he wants immunity because he has something to hide. It's ironic that he states he's going to refuse to testify because anything he says can be used against him (the fear being that he might end up in prison for breaking the law) can result in his being imprisoned for contempt for failing to testify before Congress.

Again, the actions of the Executive Branch officials are not necessarily improper. However, the repeated insistence that everything be covered up and kept from the other coequal branches of government, free from oversight, creates the appearance of impropriety. And that appearance weighs on the credit the People are willing to lend to the Government; and part of the reason why this Administration is thought of so poorly.

Monday, January 07, 2008

The Eve of New Hampshire

I like New Hampshire. I only spent a weekend there, but I could really find my way to loving it. It's quiet, woodsy, and the folks know their politics and American History.

I look forward to the primaries tomorrow; to see how comes out ahead - Obama strengthening his front-runner status over a potentially imploding Hillary, or McCain staging a stupendous comeback from the brink of irrelevance after his stroll through Baghdad with an armed guard of some 100 soldiers...

I don't like Hillary. I think she's more of the same; and I didn't like her much the first time around. I don't like that she moved to New York simply to run for Congress, and used that as a platform from which to launch into Presidential Candidacy after insisting she had no plans on running for President (which I'm aware she had to say in order to ensure she got re-elected and thus remained relevant). I find it interesting what a commenter on a recent post at Dick Polman's blog said. He noted that Hillary stated she's got a track record of 35 years of change; but what is one thing that she can point to and say "I did that. It was all on me?" She's been near change, and probably has been involved in helping make a lot of change happen (which seems to be a political buzzword again), but she's not been the catalyst for change. I think that's part of Obama's charm. He's not just well spoken, articulate, and seems to demonstrate some real class; but he says "we can do different and be better" and seems to believe it himself.

I've always thought of Hillary as a bit of a political opportunist - a woman who will support whatever cause will help her in the polls. And I think her pandering to the change bandwagon is, ironically, more of the same.

I think if Obama wins the Democratic nomination, he's got a very real shot at winning the election. I don't see any Republicans who can really get him. McCain might be the best bet. Romney is for everything, and against everything, and for everything he was against and against everything he was for. Huckabee is a little too theocracy-minded, though he's careful about the way he speaks to keep it from really getting out (this is my take on him; I could be completely wrong). Giuliani and Thompson both jumped the shark.

I think an Obama-Biden ticket could work well; though I would want a Republican-majority Congress to work with/against them.

Sunday, January 06, 2008

Eine Kleine Malaise

I'm worn out. I have a bit of a cold; sore throat that keeps me from properly enjoying food (it scratches painfully when I swallow). The Apple is overtired and refusing to sleep. The housing market is turning towards a good buyer's market, but I don't have anything saved to capitalize on it.

I'll be back to normal soon enough.

Saturday, January 05, 2008

Overheard just now

The Boy: "Who gave Mommy her DS?"
The Princess: "Santa Claus"
The Boy: "No, Santa only gives DSes to children."

Friday, January 04, 2008

In the Race for President,

Apparently experience is not quite as big a factor for potential voters as negative campaigners would have you think. Two Democratic Senators, Christopher Dodd and Joe Biden dropped out of the campaign based on poor performances in the Iowa caucuses yesterday.

The front runner? Barack Obama. Obama is a good speaker which plenty of charisma, and his platform of standing for change seems to resonate, particularly with the young voters. This seems familiar to President Clinton's campaign in 1992.

While the Iowa Caucuses rarely are correct with predicting who will win the Presidency, it looks like experience is not going to be a factor, just like in 2000, when President Bush was criticized for not having enough experience... go figure.

Thursday, January 03, 2008

Card Carrying Member

I got my bar card and license yesterday. The license is huge. I need a frame, and a wall in an office upon which to hang it.

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Truth is Relative

I have said more than once on this blog that I oppose the teaching of Creationism in public schools. I think that as an inherently religious belief, it is one that needs to stay in the realm of one's religion of choice.

However, just because I disagree with the argument that Creationism even resembles science does not mean that I automatically accept the scientific theory as fact. I would suspect that I'm not alone in that belief, even among those who are not Creationists.

And that is why I'm annoyed that Dr. Gerald Weissmann, editor in chief of the FASEB Journal would say "this survey (conducted of 1000 voters, not exactly a failsafe cross-section) is a wake-up call for anyone who supports teaching information based on evidence rather than speculation or hope; people want to hear the truth, and they want to hear it from scientists."

One needs to accept for a moment that majority rule does NOT equal "truth." And when it comes to something as unprovable as how the Universe came to be, it's more a matter of faith, whether that faith be based on a Deity, or on Science, or whatever else you might believe in.

How do you put it on your Resume?

Purdue University (home of the fastest barbeque charcoal preparation on the planet) has an interesting job available out there.

Art Heber, an agriculture and biological engineering professor at the university, has been employing students to smell animal excrement.

From the article:
The students' work provides Heber with data for his ongoing research on ways to improve methods for estimating a given livestock farming operation's odor emissions.... Using an olfactometer they place their noses inside, they sniff diluted samples of air that are taken from different locations on farms and diluted to represent the odors that air would have at various distances from the barn.
The students earn $30 per session, which isn't bad for running around sniffing. But what career does this translate into? Political journalist?

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

Happy New Year

It's 2008. And I'm not heading to school to carpool my way to New Orleans. And I successfully made it to midnight, which was a bit of a struggle after watching the kids enjoy the Zoo.

Should old acquaintance be forgot and never brought to mind
Should old acquaintance be forgot in days of auld lang syne.