Friday, June 25, 2010

They Walk Among Us!!!

Jeff Foxworthy’s show, “Are You Smarter Than a Fifth Grader” has a typical contestant pool in the Milwaukee city council. The premier candidate is Peggy West, the Democrat County Supervisor. Her grasp of geography was called into dispute during debate over a proposed boycott of Arizona because of their recently enacted SB 1070. Her exact quote follows:

“If this was Texas, which is a state that is directly on the border with Mexico, and they were calling for a measure like this saying that they had a major issue with undocumented people flooding their borders, I would have to look twice at this. But this is a state that is a ways removed from the border,”

To verify that these were the exact words which spewed from the mouth of this geographic genius, check on either this link or the other for a video confirmation.

When questioned about the accuracy of her remarks, she immediately fled to that universal refuge of the ignorant—“mis-spoke.” Give me a break!

Granny and I discussed this at length and she suggested that due to the proximity of the two states in any alphabetical list, West obviously confused Arizona with Alaska which also shares international borders with Russia and Canada. Shucks, anyone could easily make that error. They do indeed have so much in common: a substantial indigenous population, offshore oil reserves (not!), weather (not!), mutual agricultural interests (not!), size (not!), a huge fishing industry (not!), desert flora (not!), constant earthquakes (not!) and both are among the newest entries into the family of sovereign states. In each case, they should have a reasonable expectation of federal support in the defense of their population against a foreign invasion.

Peggy West has a degree from Milwaukee Area Technical College in Human Services. It is certain that this is a proud moment for that institution. One would surmise that in sixteen years of formal “education” she might have blundered upon a US map somewhere. Or not! In the future, we shall hold her up as the poster child for the current American educational system.

If you watched the video, you may have noted that the unidentified fellow supervisor in response to her outrageous comments refrained (unlike your host) from snark and derision in his remarks. My congratulations go to him in his restraint. It must have been difficult to refrain from laughing out loud.

In His abiding love,

Cecil Moon

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Public Education – A Continuing Debacle

The Cato Institute has compiled an extremely instructive chart which compares escalating educational costs with resultant “achievement.” It covers the period from 1970 to 2009 showing the soaring per-pupil costs compared to the flat line results of student mastery of the core curricula—reading, math, and science. It deserves your careful examination.

(Ed. – We have had serious difficulty posting this graph, go to this link for an expandable copy.  )

If you choose to disregard this table, and ignore its importance to you and your children, you will join the millions of others who have allowed it to take place. This represents fiscal irresponsibility in its premier hour. “It’s for the children” is a lofty phrase used to raise funds for ever increasing allotments for school district’s infrastructure and burgeoning staff. Among the items which have exacerbated the cost figures are those which have little to do with increasing knowledge: facilities, pensions, unions, layers of administration, student transportation, sophisticated equipment, etc... Bringing the student population up to a level to cope in today’s world is obviously not the goal of school districts. Feathering the nest of the school bureaucracy is the modern centerpiece of education.

The Department of Education (DE) was created during the Carter administration and began operations in mid-1980. Thirty years later, with 5000 employees, and a current annual budget of $68,600,000,000.00, (68.6 billion) there is little evidence to support that the federal agency has accomplished anything to enhance the learning capacity of those it was advertised to aid. For the 55,203,000 K-12 students, this represents $1242 each annually from the federal government to prepare them for life as an adult. According to the chart above, it would have been a better investment to have sent each one a check. Keep in mind this represents only 8.5% of the total educational outlay. The balance is supplied by states, local entities and private sources.

Our total annual educational budget is in excess of half a trillion dollars. Is it unreasonable to expect, for that sum, that student achievement might increase by an insignificant 1% per year? How about, we settle for a mere .5% per year? What sort of fiscal fool would make any investment over forty years with no return (0-zip!-nada!-zilch!) on those monies? In reality, the achievement level has actually dropped! Worse than getting no return, we are actually losing day by day.

Even though DE is the poster child for useless government agencies with their wasteful and inappropriate priorities, attempts to eliminate it have proven extremely difficult. Even more difficult and more dangerous as well, is the affect of unions on the education of our youth. Their dedication is to the enhancement of the lives of the teachers and the union hierarchy. Dismissal of deadwood in a K-12 faculty has proven nearly impossible as a result. If you doubt the presence of “deadwood”, return for one more visit to the above chart.

This waste and inefficiency lies comfortably beside most of the other problems which occupy an inflated government. Obviously, the solution is to minimize the federal influence and return to state sovereignty. No more logical or necessary activity needs be accomplished than to get the fed out of the ed business along with many others where there is equivalent inefficiency. If one cannot understand this attempt to tear down America through the destruction of our most valuable asset, our youngsters, then there is no hope for the republic.

In His abiding love,

Cecil Moon

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

The Lieberman-Collins Cybersecurity Bill

Stewart Baker is busy wearing himself out pushing the bill through to law. In the process, he assures us that we may dispense with calling it a “kill-switch.” Previously, many thought there was to be a giant master-switch lurking in a closet in the White House which could be pulled to disable the entirety of the internet. This, he assures us, is definitely not the case. No such device is either operative or planned. You may now relax and continue playing video poker or checking on the latest utterance from Glen Reynolds and Instapundit without fear of interruption.

Well, almost; there is in the bill, a provision to terminate—as necessary of course—that portion of the internet system which demonstrates special vulnerability to attack. This contingency would present you with the “blue screen of death” indicating the cessation of your service. Since you will be reasonably certain that you paid your bill with the provider you may then assume that the nation is under some sort of cyber attack. Therefore, for safety concerns, the net has shut down to protect it from the intrusion of all the nastiness to which, the cyber world is host. Do not even think of calling this a “kill switch.”

This invaluable legislation would, by enabling the cessation of cyber traffic, probably efficiently enable commerce, entertainment, information sharing, messaging, to all come to a sudden halt. Tens of thousands of geeks, cooped up in their mom’s basement, upon this occurrence, would likely immediately soil their jammies in despair. This would not be a pretty sight.

If your idea of security is turning everything over to the government for efficient management then you will love this legislation. As a mish-mash of loosely defined terms and indistinct wording with executive discretion being the controlling factor, this is a prime example. It is clear that an ambiguously identified threat exists. It would appear to make more sense to turn the solution over to a bunch of IT geeks who really do know what their doing and keep the congress out of it. It does remain though, that if one were able to pull the plug on the internet, it would cut down on a great deal of criticism.

In His abiding love,

Cecil Moon

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Monday Morning Rant 151

Well Dad, did they let you sleep late on Father’s Day? Did the kids call from far-away places to fulfill a perfunctory obligation? Did you hear that plaintive apology; “I thought you really liked rice pilaf.” Do you really have room enough left in the closet for one more cardigan? Who got stuck with the check for the after church dinner at the local buffet?

What I truly hope you got was a crudely drawn and carelessly colored picture of a tiny person clinging to the hand of a giant person leading through a dangerous wood. If you got that—or a similar facsimile—then, my fellow father, you are a success. That perception is really all that matters and will last another 364 days until the next go-round. Don’t put it on the refrigerator with magnets; fold it and carry it next to your heart.

“…the times which try men’s souls”

Yes, these are indeed, those times. I seriously doubt that as we read the quotes of the many brave and enduring founders of this nation from two and a third centuries ago in our history classes that we envisioned that we would have to endure those times. The naiveté of our youth, the frantic energy of our early adulthood and concerns for our closing years have blocked us from realizing that the maintenance of liberty needs constant attention. We are absorbed by our individual concerns and often fail to recognize our civic responsibilities. This is a failing which we can ill afford.

My first real encounter with an assault on my country and its form of government was in 1948 with the United World Federalists. It was an organization formed to carry the fledgling United Nations a step further and into a “new world order.” For those who had, through their relative youth, been unable to contribute measurably to the recent war, it held the appeal of a “united” world with a single federated government which they implied, could ban war. I attended several recruitment drives until I figured out exactly what they were trying to accomplish. As soon as it dawned on me that our national identity, history and character would be abolished in favor of a universal one-world government, I said thanks--but, no thanks. I had learned the concept of sovereignty too well. They have essentially disappeared as an organization, but the concept lingers on.

In the interval since, although my interest in national politics has grown, it has not been in step with cataclysmic changes which have taken place in the halls of governance. The creeping advance of intrusion, regulation, interference, and subsequent annoyance has outpaced any reasonable effort to keep up. Even though the UWF is no longer functional, the basic ideas continue to rear their ugly head. I have come to view each and every cockamamie plan for reorganization of our way of life through the same prism. Once reduced to a simple question; we find backing or not to be a simple matter. Is this marvelous new way of life dependent upon citizen input and control or is it relying upon top down governance?

We now fast-forward to 2008 and the advent of our new “Hope and Change” masters. Shall we conclude that now everything has really changed? All indications put the lie to that thought through simple observation of nearly every action of the current administration. Much of what is offered as a stunning new development is merely a rehash of the old World Federalist talking points. The modus operendi is unchanged and calls for the dissolution of the United States as we have come to know and love it. However, it’s the same old witch dressed up in tighter fitting, more attractive clothes. She’s still riding a broomstick and uses more Botox to cope with the ravages of a deteriorating surface.

The remarkable success of the United States has long been the fly in the ointment for those who would reshape the world. By our constant example of free enterprise, hard work and individual initiative and the rewards offered to those who adhere to that precept and example, we have managed to thwart most of the efforts to change our basic structure. By placing their own agent of change in the White House, those who seek our downfall are buoyed by his constant efforts to effect that end. It is therefore that each citizen must become familiar with those principles which have led to the point which we occupy today and attempt to understand each and every move which the administration takes.

These are indeed, “trying times” and require more from each one of us. The immensity of the issues facing the country requires knowledge of where we have been, what we have done, and not least an understanding of where we are headed. Most important, they require a citizen involvement of major importance. It is our country and if we are to preserve it for our progeny, we must extend an effort to retain it. If you choose to go AWOL on this most important assignment, we shall all suffer the consequences. As a father, grandfather, and great grandfather I cannot contemplate the thought of bequeathing my progeny anything other than the blessed country of my birth to have and to enjoy as I have. To defend it is the least we can all do.

A Deep Lie in a Shallow Speech

Last week, the president (“Yes we can, Mmmm, Mmmm, Mmmm”) stated without hesitation: “Part of the reason oil companies are drilling a mile beneath the surface of the ocean, is because we’re running out of places to drill on land and in shallow water.”

That is probably the biggest whopper he has told to date. Any company who seeks to recover oil must have prior permission to proceed with drilling. If the easy sites are taken or prohibited, then they must drill where a permit can be issued. Charles Krauthammer discussed this in an article posted in National Review by saying the following:

Running out of places on land? What about the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge or the less-known National Petroleum Reserve — 23 million acres of Alaska’s North Slope, near the existing pipeline and designated nearly a century ago for petroleum development — that have been shut down by the federal government?

Running out of shallow-water sources? How about the Pacific Ocean, a not-inconsiderable body of water, and its vast U.S. coastline? That’s been off-limits to new drilling for three decades.

We haven’t run out of safer and more easily accessible sources of oil. We’ve been run off them by environmentalists. They prefer to dream green instead.” (For the rest of this article, click here for the National Review website.)

Dr. Krauthammer speaks only to the offshore possibilities. When the possibility of extracting petroleum from shale oil is finally nailed down the size of our continental reserves is recognized as sufficient for centuries of domestic demand. Even barring that technology, the availability of drilling sites on dry ground are mammoth if one can get the EPA and other agencies out of the way.

Just a reminder to the president, when oil first came into the public eye it was discovered in Pennsylvania, drilled from dry ground and the thought of an offshore rig was an unheard of pipe dream. Even then, folks were subject to rank ignorance and I had relatives who insisted that one should never use any oil on any machine except that extracted from Pennsylvania. Oil extraction from PA today probably wouldn’t be sufficient to lube our collective pencil sharpeners.

I shall never allow myself to become accustomed to blatant falsehood coming from the oval office. God help us all.

And finally,

Little has changed here on the ridge. It’s still running in excess of 90° daily, with sufficient night time rumblings to keep Maggie on edge. Granny filled the hummingbird feeder the first of the week and the little devils have sucked up nearly a liter in less than a week. They are now hitting the feeder in groups of two and three. I’m sure glad I bought two bags of sugar on my last trip to the store. Two separate grape plants have reached the roof and we have several mini-tomatoes coming on—and flowers everywhere. God is good!

In His abiding love,

Cecil Moon