Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Religious Expression in Public Schools

Religion is a significant part of our culture. It is too bad that many have taken the "freedom of religion" clause and contorted it into a "freedom from religion" clause. I support freedom of religious expression in the public--including public schools. But I don't support current legislation in the Utah Senate that wants to protect that freedom. Here's why...

Sometime back I wrote a post stating my preference that prayer be allowed and encouraged in public school settings. I also support freedom of religious expression in public schools. A better cultural exchange I can hardly think of. Wearing of hats and t-shirts with religious emblems, passing out flyers inviting others to religious events, and religious groups using public school facilities during non-school hours are all implementations of this free expression.

The Supreme Court has clearly defined that religious expression is allowed in public schools. It's ironic, then, that there occurs the occasional attempt to ban such expression. I'm sure the ACLU and others in their traveling caravan are not content with the current state of religious liberty in America. But compared to the French, who have banned religious symbols in public schools, the United States is in pretty good shape when it comes to religious expression.

Because of the existing Supreme Court decision, I don't support Senator Chris Buttars' legislation pending in the Utah legislature, which would protect religious freedom in Utah. Interestingly, Section 63-90c-103 of the proposed new law would read (in part):

(1) Free exercise of religion is a fundamental right that applies in this state under the
Utah Constitution Article I, Section 4, even if laws, rules, ordinances, or other government actions are facially neutral.

I'm pretty sure, in the absence of this bill becoming a law, that a 100% majority of the Utah Supreme Court would agree with this statement. So...religious freedom in Utah is already protected.

Where is the motivation for this bill?

I know of a young man who was sent home from school because he had a CTR shirt on," says Buttars. "That's terrible."

I agree that it's terrible. But it's already illegal.

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Hurricane Hugo (Chavez)

It hasn't taken very long, but Venezuela's elected president Hugo Chavez is on the verge of becoming a dictator. He's been able to do it by helping the disadvantaged and poor to lead a life of greater comfort, but also by getting pro-Chavez people to dominate the National Assembly.

[George W. Bush] has just about everything a president could want: popular support, a marginalized opposition, congress firmly on his side and a booming economy as he starts his new [four]-year term.

Now, he's about to become even more powerful — the all-[Bush]ista [Congress] is poised to approve a "mother law" as early as Wednesday enabling him to remake society by presidential decree. In its latest draft, the law would allow [Bush] to dictate measures for 18 months in 11 broad areas, from the "economic and social sphere" to the "transformation of state institutions."

The above were the opening paragraphs to a CBS news article about Venezuela and President Hugo Chavez. We wouldn't approve of it if it were happening to George W. Bush--so do we approve of it--aside from whether we agree with him about George W. Bush--now that it's happening to Chavez? Or do we care? Or should we care, because after all it's not our country?

I wonder where Hugo Chavez would be without burgeoning oil revenues. He's got a booming economy, and a predominant majority loves him, most because they have found a life of greater comfort as he has shared the country's gigantic oil wealth.

It sounds great at first blush, as Chavez has created Community Councils, to which he has given the authority to decide how the money earmarked for their communities will be spent. But how long with this partnership last? What happens if the oil revenue dries up?

"I don't really know what all the coming changes are, but I don't think it's the best idea to give all the power to a single person for him to decide on my behalf," says [Henry] Krakower, the son of a Spanish immigrant and a Polish concentration camp survivor who found a haven in Venezuela after World War II.

I understand some of the historical semantics that have brought Chavez to power. The divide between rich and poor in many places in South America is immense. But to cede that much power to one man is unthinkable in the United States. A great and healthy uproar has originated around the Bush administration's attempt to hornswoggle the public regarding pre-Iraq-war intelligence, and about the President's statement on at least one occasion that the Constitution is "just a [blankety-blank] piece of paper." A similar dialectic does not seem to be occurring in Venezuela.

Wikipedia says the following about the Venezuelan National Assembly (emphasis added):

...Chavez was first elected in December 1998 on a platform calling for a National Constituent Assembly to be convened to draft a new constitution for Venezuela. Chávez's argument was that the existing political system, under the earlier 1961 Constitution, had become isolated from the people. This won broad acceptance, particularly among Venezuela's poorest classes, who had seen a significant decline in their living standards over the previous decade and a half. The National Constituent Assembly (ANC), consisting of 131 elected individuals, convened in August 1999 to begin rewriting the constitution. In free elections, voters gave all but six seats to persons associated with the Chávez movement.

I agree with Mr. Krakower. I feel a hurricane brewing.

I Like the New House Rules, Too

The people decide who represent them in the legislature. When the majority party in the legislature arbitrarily limits what legislation those in the minority party can introduce, this upsets the election balance established by the voters. A recent change in the rules permitting more fairness in the Utah House of Representatives is a welcome turn of events.

What shenanigans did the Utah Democrats pull on the Republicans when Democrats were in the majority? Were the Utah Democrats ever in the majority...?

We've recently seen what the Democrats in the US congress can do to limit the ability of the Republicans to do their jobs--the same thing the Republicans have been doing to the Democrats for the last 13 years. Similarly, current-gerrymanderers-in-power (regardless of party) have taken gerrymandering to a new art in an effort to perpetuate their power.

The kind of animosity and unfairness this engenders makes me glad, even though I'm a Republican, that Republican Representative Steve Urquhart made changes to House Rules to provide more fairness. When the people elect their representatives, they expect them to be able to introduce legislation; often in the past this has not been allowed by the majority party to happen. There are still hurdles for the Democrats; being in the minority, their legislation could still be voted down in committee by the majority Republicans, but at least under the new rules every representative on a committee "gets to pick a certain number of bills to be considered for debate."

Just because we think that something is not right doesn't give us the authority to squelch the voices of those who have been elected who have an opposite point of view. They should be able to fully represent their constituents as well. The bills being considered by the Utah legislature should be more reflective of the makeup of the legislature than they have been--due to Republican conniving--in the past.

Rep Urquhart said of the rules change:

I take some pride in how I've run other committees up here. I like to protect all members' rights — we are all elected, Republicans and Democrats, by constituents.

Democrats in the Utah House are pleased with the changes. So am I. I suspect this will lead to more collegiality, and to an overall better product, in the Utah legislature.

Problems with Legal Immigration? Here's One!

When I've suggested in the past that people immigrate to the US illegally in large part because our legal immigration system is broken, I've had people tell me that our legal system is just fine. The Thorsted family doesn't think so, and I agree.

"The system is broken, in my eyes," [Mr. Thorsted] said.
"It just doesn't make any sense. You've got a family that wants to be together, it's just inevitable we're going to be together."

Johana and Aaron Thorsted were married in 2003. They immediately began the process of applying for her legal immigrant status. As a result of Aaron being called to active duty military to serve in Iraq, they were penalized--the application process had to be put on hold.

Because she had been in an illegal status before they met, she had to return to her native Guatemala to apply for a waiver of a 10-year ban from the United States. There she sits with her two daughters, one of which has lost her English fluency, and the other of which her father has never seen.

It appears that the biggest problem facing the Thorsteds now is the large backlog of cases at the US Embassy in Guatemala.

"It's so hard," [Mrs. Thorsted] said. "It's really hard to be here without my husband. I miss him so much. ... I just want to go back to my house and have a normal life like other people have."

The more difficult a government makes it for anything to be accomplished legally, whether it be driving a car, hiring and paying employees, or applying for legal resident status, the greater the likelihood is that more and more people will attempt to circumvent the bureaucracy. I applaud the patience of the Thorsted family that they have not.

But this is a huge immigration problem. Bureacracy should never stand in the way of a family's attempt to live together, let alone the wishes of the everyday immigrant-to-be.

Whether it's the process that needs to be streamlined, or simply that more immigration personnel need to be placed in the embassy, I don't know. But people are watching. They know how difficult it is to become a citizen legally. And that is very likely why so many people are taking the much less circuitous route to becoming an American.

Friday, January 26, 2007

Thoughts on the Minimum Wage

Some interesting facts and figures have jumped out at me as I've done a study of the poor and how they would be affected by the Minimum Wage. A more efficient way to help the poor is through the Earned Income Tax Credit. Click "Read More" to read about that, plus a few other of my (hopefully coherent) ramblings on the subject.

I know someone whose husband left her, and if she isn't making the minimum wage as the now-sole breadwinner in her family, she's making pretty close to it. She has no phone. She has no car. Her oldest son is in and out of trouble with the law all the time. Would she be better off with more financial means? In every way. And I think there should be a way to help her become financially more well off and on the road to self-sufficiency.

Utah currently pegs its Minimum Wage to the Federal one. This to me is a State not taking care of its responsibilities, and expecting the Federal government to do its business for it.

I'm not sure why we want a Federal Minimum Wage anyway. Considering that the Constitution ensures that the Federal government will promote the "general welfare", how does a federal minimum account for the fact that the cost of living is about twice as high in California (and nearly three times in New York City) as it is in Alabama? This is an issue that should be taken care of on a state-by-state basis.

When the minimum wage is raised from $5.15 to $6.20 and then to $7.25, what happens to those who make just barely above the new minimum thresholds? Do they get raises, too? How does this affect small businesses, who are the least likely to be able to afford to pay higher wages? Do they decide to hire illegal aliens, who are not covered by wage laws?

Nearly all of those making the minimum wage currently will not be making that wage very long. The following comes from the Employment Policies Institute:

Virtually all minimum wage employees will see their incomes rise as they increase their value to employers by gaining skills through experience. Analysis of US Census Bureau data shows the median raise these employees receive is six times higher than that of employees earning above the minimum wage.

Raising the minimum wage prices certain populations out of the market--those who are no longer worth whatever the minimum wage has become. Most often that population contains youth who, in the absence of employment, involve themselves in gangs and other destructive activity.

There are better ways, such as tax credits and eliminating sales tax on food, to help poor families. Nearly 85% of those making the minimum wage live in families that are far above anything considered poor. They may want the help, but they don't need it. It would be better to concentrate on the 15% of minimum wage earners and their families who DO need it.

Earned income tax credits reduce or eliminate the tax burden of low-income families. They can even be structured such that they become a subsidy to low-income workers. Earned income tax credits are a much better way to help those who really are in financial dire straits, while not harming the economy in general, and small businesses and less-skilled workers in particular.

Very few Utahns as a percentage earn the minimum wage. Only 9% of the Utahns who make the minimum wage are sole wage earners in their families. If we really want to help them, and I think we do, an earned-income tax credit seems to be the best way to go.

For several reasons I do not support a Minimum Wage. But the most important reason is that there are better ways to help the people who need our financial help the most.

European Economics in One Lesson

Henry Hazlitt's book, Economics in One Lesson, begins by saying that "Economics is haunted by more fallacies than any other study known to man." European economics is based on perhaps the simplest of those fallacies to avoid: "Bite the hand that feeds you."

There are a lot of electronic music players in the world. One of them is the IPod. I don't own an IPod because it is too expensive and its music will not play on any other player. The Europeans have gotten around to noticing this lately, and rather than buying something else, they want to force Apple Computer's ITunes store to provide their music in other formats. Yes, by all means! I have just created the FSMF (Frank Staheli Music Format) and I am appealing to the European Union to including me in their list of supported formats.

I think it's the same stupid economics that made the Macintosh a second player to the PC market. But the Europeans think it is illegal. And knowing their laws, it probably is.

"When you buy a music CD it doesn't play only on players made by Panasonic. People who download a song from iTunes shouldn't be bound to an iPod for the rest of their lives."

Well, if you don't buy one of the other players from the electronic music playing plethora, I think you should be bound to your IPod. Why should the government rescue you from an obviously stupid decision?

As soon as Europe gets into deciding what kind of music a music provider should provide, they can start deciding a lot of other things for you.

The story from International Herald Tribune goes on to say

In August, France passed a law that giving regulators power to force Apple to license its software or hardware to rivals so they can make compatible music players and stores.

I wish God had loved me enough to make me one of the smartest and elite-est in the world so that I could make everyone's decisions for them.

The only problem for you non-thinking bureaucrats is, what happens when, after you've forced everyone to share their trade secrets that they spent millions or billions researching, and they decide not to create anything anymore. Then there will be nothing left for you to force anyone to share with everyone else.

Atlas continues to shrug. He can't hold up the world for much longer. It's frustrating to me that leading lights in America say that we have a lot to learn from Europe.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Pull Up the Drawbridge! We're Under Attack!

It should have stopped surprising me by now how much of a siege mentality many public school educators and administrators have when it comes to school choice, but it still does surprise me, because I find it so irrational. Currently, a voucher proposal in the Utah Legislature has some public educators making all sorts of exaggerated and erroneous claims.

Vouchers are weapons employed in a strategic attack on our public institutions[!]

In a letter to the Deseret News editorial board on January 24, 2007, Heather Bennett and others challenge the benefits to society of school choice in the form of education vouchers.

Some of the complaints in the letter are that vouchers will:

  • "do nothing to address underfunding of public school programs"
  • not reduce class size
  • "deepen social divides and leave taxpayers without a voice. ...Transportation and tuition costs will continue to discriminate, further dividing our community."
  • "compromise the separation of church and state and violate the Utah State Constitution"
  • Cause "students ...[to] suffer as a result of their plans"

The letter begins by saying

Salt Lake City School District supports both universal excellence and public school choice. We offer a variety of programs, philosophies, and instructional strategies. ... We are proud of our ability to use data to drive instruction, our menu of effective interventions, and the pathways we have built for advanced learners.

Apparently Heather Bennett and the others who signed her letter to the editor are some of the very few who disagree with the statement I just quoted. Those in favor of vouchers have most likely either formed no opinion of particular school districts' ability to provide educational excellence, or don't think that they are providing sub-standard education. They simply want more choice in the education of their children.

The facts are:

  • Voucher programs go a great deal toward providing more money for public education. Every voucher program I've ever heard of does not take the full cost of educating a child out of the public school system. Even if private school students begin using vouchers, the eventual result will be more money to the public school system. There is no better time to move toward a voucher system than in a year of budget surplus which can be allocated to cover the shortfall of students already in private schools beginning to use vouchers.
  • Because fewer students will be in the public schools, but more money will exist there per student, these moneys can be used to reduce class sizes AND increase teacher salaries.
  • Transportation is a concern for less wealthy families, and would likely not be covered with the amount that a voucher provides. To say that this will divide the community is a bogeyman, however. If school choice vouchers divide a community, then there should be no school choice at all.
  • The Utah Constitution says: "No public money or property shall be appropriated for or applied to any religious worship, exercise or instruction." Even though this claim is the most substantial of any claims made against voucher programs, it is a red herring. Several other states with similar religious regulations in their constitutions have very successful and constitutional voucher programs.
  • It is ironic that public educators think so little of themselves that they think those left in the public schools will suffer as a result of having to stay in public schools. I don't think that. I think those left over will actually benefit through smaller class sizes and better teachers.

A current voucher proposal before the Utah Legislature clarifies and answers a lot of concerns and questions. Voucher programs in other states have helped to cause the following improvements:

  • Parents are more satisfied with private schools because private schools exhibit more accountability to students. They also are required to follow numerous health and safety regulations.
  • Vouchers improve student satisfaction with their educational experience, which generally results in improved student educational performance.
  • Voucher programs provide substantial additional money-per-student to the public school system.
  • Public schools increase their ability to educate as they compete with private schools.

So, please put the drawbridge back down. We are not your enemies. We are your friends. We are all working together to build the same community.

I Support a Minimum Wage

Employees should be paid a wage that is worth the work that they provide. Some businesses fail to realize the importance of this principle. Businesses that don't reward their employees with enough compensation to avoid constant employee turnover are losing a lot of money.

The other morning, my wife and I pulled up at the gym that we are members of. The lights were off, and several cars in the parking lot had their engines running. Turns out the girl who was supposed to open the gym didn't hear her alarm.

A couple of days later, we and my wife's friend went to the gym. Her friend had forgotten her membership card, and in the past where any of us had forgotten our cards, they asked us a few demographic questions and let us in. But this time they refused to let her in until I offered to pay the $10 guest fee. "I could lose my job," they said.

I called the gym today, because I commonly see For Hire posters in the window. "We're always hiring," said the girl on the phone. A new front desk employee would start out making between 6 and 7 dollars per hour.

Gold's Gyms in Utah treat their employees like crap. It is no surprise that they have a lot of turnover and are always hiring. I have seen perhaps 20 different front desk workers in the 2 years that I have been a Gold's Gym member. My membership is coming due, but I am looking for exercise alternatives.

Several problems arise when employers under compensate their employees (and find other annoying ways to cut costs, such as canceling cycling classes on days it thinks too few people might show up). Here are the resulting problems I see in the case of the Gold's Gym that I go to:

  • Lack of employee loyalty to the company
  • Lack of employee courteousness to members
  • Lack of employee knowledge
  • Increased vandalism of the premises
  • Increased theft from the premises
  • Increased breakdown of machines
  • Increased employee turnover
  • Members looking for other gyms to go to

Because of the way Gold's treats its employees--by trying to save money in the short term--Gold's loses money in the long term.

I support a minimum wage. People know what they are worth. They should be paid that much. When they are paid what they are worth, it redounds to the ultimate benefit of the company.

But do we need government to tell them that? No. Do we need government to force them to provide a certain minimum wage? No, we need government economists to join forces with private economists to tell them how stupid they are for under compensating their employees.

Thomas Sowell, in his book, Basic Economics, has this to tell government about a forced minimum wage:

...unemployment tends to be higher under minimum wage laws than in a free market. In country after country, ...those whose employment prospects are reduced most by minimum wage laws are those who are younger, less experienced, or less skilled. Those who are idled in their youth are of course prevented from acquiring the job skills and experiences which could make them more productive--and therefore higher earners--later on.

But he also says this about economics in general: a price set below the free market level tends to cause quality a price set above the free market level tends to cause a rise in average quality...

Gold's Gym would do well to learn this maxim when it comes to employee compensation. All businesses should provide worthwhile employee compensation as an investment in their business. They're dumb not to. But they'd be even dumber to ask government how much that compensation should be.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

What Can the Supreme Court Decide On?

Congress can limit the jurisdiction of the Supreme (and other federal) Courts. But what happens if the Supreme Court has already issued a ruling on a particular issue? Is it too late for Congress to remove jurisdiction? Historical precedent--including the Supreme Court's willingness to abide by Congress decision--says it's not too late.

Article III, Section 2 of the United States Constitution says:

In all Cases affecting Ambassadors, other public Ministers and Consuls, and those in which a State shall be Party, the supreme Court shall have original Jurisdiction. In all the other Cases before mentioned, the supreme Court shall have appellate Jurisdiction, both as to Law and Fact, with such Exceptions, and under such Regulations as the Congress shall make.

This means that in certain rare cases, the Supreme Court can hear an 'original case', without it having to have been heard first in a lower court and then appealed to the Supreme Court. Most issues that the Supreme Court hears, though, must have been first appealed from a lower court. This also means that Congress can limit the Court's ability to hear appealed cases. It has done this a handful of times in the past. In the case known as Ex Parte McCardle, Congress had originally created a law

... [in] 1867 that allowed federal judges to issue writs of habeas corpus and hear appeals from circuit courts. After the case was argued but before an opinion was delivered, Congress repealed the statute.

At the time, Chief Justice Salmon P. Chase said of the Congress action

We are not at liberty to inquire into the motives of the legislature. We can only examine into its power under the Constitution, and the power to make exceptions to the appellate jurisdiction of this court is given by express words.

But what about an issue that the Supreme Court has already ruled on? Can the Congress limit jurisdiction over that issue? I have found at least one precedent that says yes.

Congress enacted the Portal to Portal Act of 1947 in an effort to correct what it thought was an egregious decision that the Supreme Court had made, wherein workers were entitled to receive huge amounts of back-pay. The essence of the law was to

...returns the parties to the relative positions they occupied prior to...the decisions of the Supreme Court.

I was recently challenged on my interpretation that Congress could remove jurisdiction from the Supreme Court regarding abortion, effectively returning jurisdiction to the States and overturning Roe v. Wade. These actions by congress (and there are many others) seem to corroborate my point of view.

Garnishing Deadbeat Drivers' Licenses

A bill before the Utah legislature would revoke the driver's license of any non-custodial parent who fails to pay child support. I'm now sure how this wouldn't make the problem worse. If the State's ability to garnish wages is not effective enough, then wage garnishment laws should be strengthened.

gar·nish [gahr-nish] –verb (used with object)
3.Law. attach (as money due or property belonging to a debtor) by garnishment; garnishee.

When I was a kid, I heard my mother say to me on more than one occasion, "If you don't get your chores done, I'll ground you for a month!" I'm sure I've said that to my kids, too. But I knew my mom wasn't serious about the real problem. My kids as well knew I wasn't serious, because the crime they had committed was nothing compared to the punishment they would receive, and they knew I wouldn't/couldn't enforce it.

The Utah legislature is currently considering a bill that would revoke the driver's license of a deadbeat parent who is in arrears in child support payments. Taking away a person's license to drive in nearly all cases would curtail that person's ability to earn the money with which he or she would be able to pay child support costs. And just like my mom's penalty, the state will not be able to keep an unlicensed driver off the road. It will be much less successful in this endeavor than in garnishing wages of the same people.

The Salt Lake Tribune is in favor of the Republican-sponsored measure. Thirty-six other states use driver license revocation as a punishment for failure to pay child support. So? Does it work? I don't know, but I wouldn't think so.

Currently the Utah Office of Recovery Services has some authority to garnish the wages of deadbeat non-custodial parents. It's not working as it should, apparently, because "72,000 people now owe a total of $325 million in unpaid support". But how accurate are these statistics? The Associated Press reported:

"For every story I hear about a custodial parent not receiving funds, I hear a story from a noncustodial parent who has been abused by the system. My concern is we're going to pass this bill and think we have solved a problem," [Representative Ron] Bigelow said.

There are other methods besides garnishment: interception of tax returns and liens on property are two of the more common methods. If we can find them to stop them from driving, we can find out their sources of income.

So let's not make the problem worse. Revoking drivers' licenses will very likely do that.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

I Am Pro-Contemplation

It really is a choice. Every woman ultimately has the freedom to choose whether she will keep her pregnancy. But it’s also a life. No one can dispute that what is in a mother’s womb is a living thing. So why do we so cavalierly stuff ourselves into one of two warring camps--“Pro-Choice” versus “Pro-Life”?

Yesterday was the 34th anniversary of the Supreme Court decision that everyone in the world knows about—Roe v. Wade. The march for life was out in force as well as those who want to keep abortion safe and legal. Neither side had much good to say about the other. But they probably don't really think much about how the other side feels.

I don't like the terms pro-choice and pro-life--because I am both, and I think most people are. What I think we all need to be a lot more of is "pro-contemplation". A pregnant woman should have a choice to abort a child, but it should be done rarely, and only after much contemplation and soul searching.

Not long ago my wife was diagnosed with a blood disorder. It was a very scary time for us until, with medication, the problem was brought under control. With an ongoing but manageable disease, however, she was warned in the strictest of terms by her doctor that getting pregnant would likely be very dangerous for her. At that point, for the first time in our lives, we contemplated that pregnancy would likely cause us to choose something that we would not normally choose. And with that reality, we developed a new-found empathy.

Prior to the Roe decision, abortions were relatively rare, but they were also very dangerous. Because they were illegal in most states, most doctors didn't perform them, and when contemplative women made the ultimate mother's decision, they often suffered severe setbacks to their health. Following Roe, the abortion industry burgeoned. Abortions were no longer unsafe, but neither were they any longer rare. Women became less contemplative that their choice was also the choice to end a life.

Many, perhaps most, women do not approach a pending abortion with a cavalier attitude. But many do. This attitude is incomprehensible to those who focus mainly on the fact that a life is being taken. Many, perhaps most, women and men who consider themselves pro-life do not believe that a mother who chooses to have an abortion will 'burn in hell'. But many do. This attitude is incomprehensible to those who focus mainly on the fact that they are free to make a choice.

I suggest we drop the monikers. They cause far more confusion than they are worth. Together, let's all choose to be "Pro-Contemplation". Instead of focusing on the fact that it's a life, the one opposed to abortion will seek to understand what has brought a mother to the point of choice. And the mother, not pressed into a corner by opposing ideological hatred, will seek to understand the poignancy of the life that is about to be lost.

Next January 22nd, let's have the 1st Annual Contemplation and Reconciliation day.

Monday, January 22, 2007

I Will Celebrate Juneteenth

Juneteenth is the celebration of the ending of slavery, whose official date is June 19th, 1865. If we agree that "all men are created equal" why wouldn't we join together to celebrate the death of one of the most abject institutions ever known to man? I will celebrate Juneteenth, and I hope Utah chooses to as well.

On June 19, 1865, slaves in Galveston, Texas were notified, two years after Abraham Lincoln delivered the Emancipation Proclamation, that they were free. June 19th, quickly became the day to celebrate the ending of slavery. Utah has celebrated Juneteenth formally for 18 years, and informally for much longer than that.

I admit, I hadn't heard much of Juneteenth until recently. But as I've learned what it stands for, I support it as a day of celebration. That's why it surprises me that some would simply dismiss the day that should be a poignant reminder to all of man's ability to be cruel to man, and that the United States was ultimately a leader in the drive to abolish slavery from the world.

This is what I just found out about it on Wikipedia:

Slaves in Galveston rejoiced in the streets with jubilant celebrations. Juneteenth celebrations began in Texas the following year. Across many parts of Texas, freed slaves pooled their funds to purchase land specifically for their communities’ increasingly large Juneteenth gatherings—including Houston’s Emancipation Park, Mexia’s Booker T. Washington Park, and Emancipation Park in Austin. Within a few years, these celebrations spread to other states and have become an annual tradition. Celebrations often open with praying and religious ceremonies, and include a reading of the Emancipation Proclamation. A wide range of festivities entertain participants, from music and dancing to contests of physical strength and intellect. Baseball and other popular American games are played. Food is central to the celebrations, with barbecued meats being especially popular.

A couple of legislators were quoted recently as portraying what seems to me to be very cavalier attitudes regarding the celebration of Juneteenth, to me an indication that they haven't spent much time walking around in shoes other than their own.

"There's just so many of these types of things," said Rep. Curt Oda, R-Clearfield. "Why are we spending time on something like this when we've got some real issues?"
Rep. Paul Ray, R-Clearfield, said too many commemorations or holidays could water down the meaning of existing ones.
"I think we have plenty [of holidays]," Ray said. "The more we put (into code), the less meaning they really have."
My response: This is a real issue. I can think of a handful of holidays that would be as or more important to celebrate, but not many. Christmas indicates our love of life and giving. Thanksgiving shows our devotion to God and man for the blessings of life. Independence Day shows our gratitude for individual freedom of choice. And I don't think it presumptuous to support Juneteenth as an indication that America ultimately recognized that freedom of choice transcends the color of one's skin.

The most controversial issue related to the founding of the United States of America was slavery. Careful compromises ensured that--although it would not be abolished immediately--slavery would eventually be wiped out in the land founded squarely on the premise that all members of mankind are created equal. The first compromise was the limitation of the importation of slaves after the year 1808. The second was the often-misunderstood "Three-fifths clause", which was actually a compromise that had the effect of giving less representation in the US House of Representatives to the slave-holding states.

Ultimately (and perhaps ironically), these Constitutional compromises brought about the end of slavery, in much swifter fashion than otherwise would have occurred. One of the greatest accomplishments of these United States was to reject slavery. It took us a while, but the United States finally made good on the promise of the vision of the Declaration of Independence. That is something to celebrate.

I Hope Ron Runs

Congressman Ron Paul recently announced that he will form a committee to investigage whether he will run for President of the United States. I hope he runs. It would at a very minimum add a fresh voice to the otherwise establishmentarian debate.

I have liked Ron Paul for a long time. He has always voted based on principle, regardless of whether his detractors knew or even cared what those principles were. I'm very glad that he's running for president. As it currently stands, this Mormon would vote for Ron Paul and NOT Mitt Romney.

It is clear that his chances of becoming President are very small. Congressman Paul's exploratory committee chairman says:

"There's no question that it's an uphill battle, and that Dr. Paul is an underdog, but we think it's well worth doing and we'll let the voters decide."

Here's what I like about his potential candidacy--most previous Presidential debates and campaigns have been largely about superficial issues. Congressman Paul will bring important issues to the table of discussion. Imagine a presidential debate that included principled discussion on the following:

  • He opposed the Iraq invasion as early as October 2002.
  • He believes that government exists to protect liberty, not to redistribute wealth or to grant special privileges.
  • He feels amending the Constitution to prohibit flag burning is dangerous.
  • He believes neo-conservatives have essentially enlarged government power, to the detriment of American citizens.
  • He thinks that the "Patriot Act" is about as unpatriotic an act as has ever been enacted.
  • He believes that congress and the Bush administration are not doing nearly enough to prevent illegal immigration
  • With regard to the Bush administration and the current Iraq war, he said "War is never economically beneficial except for those in position to profit from war expenditures."

One thing is for sure: Ron Paul is more uniquely qualified to run for President than any person who has declared his or her candidacy so far. The probability of Ron Paul becoming president is low, but then again it's possible. In any event, Ron Paul as a presidential candidate will bring healthiness, alacrity, and clarity to the United States debate.

The establishment and its media will try to ignore him. I hope you don't.

Saturday, January 20, 2007

The Real Point of Education for Undocumented Students

It's not really about racism. Nor is it really about breaking federal law. The point of whether or not Utah provides "in-state tuition" for the education of undocumented students is that these students meet a tested legal requirement. Current legislation trying to repeal this benefit, as well as cries of racism against those that are trying to do so, simply cast a cloudy pall over the issue.

Those who recently attended a committee meeting of the Utah legislature where the topic was in-state tuition for undocumented students were greeted with signs implying that certain Utah legislators are racist for not wanting undocumented students who meet established legal criteria to receive in-state tuition benefits. There is no need for such licentious pouring of gasoline on the fire of an already passionate debate. Utah legislators are not racists. There are already hundreds of documented minorities who receive in-state tuition in Utah.

The legislators who voted for the repeal of the 2002 in-state tuition law claim that they are simply worried about violating federal law, for which the State could be sued. This fear may be logical and even respectable, but according to the Utah Attorney General, there is no need to have such fear. A similar case in Kansas has been overturned, but is currently in appeal. Not only that, the Attorney General actually says that Utah is in compliance with Federal Law the way the Utah law reads.

Previously, I wrote on this issue: Utah's case, alien students can only be considered for in-state tuition if they have attended a Utah high school for 3 years and have graduated (or equivalent) from a Utah high school.

To tighten up matters even more, the student's family must be in the process of applying for legal US residency to be considered for the in-state tuition benefit.

The United States can absorb a large influx of immigrants. Many of the problems thought to lie at the feet of illegal immigration actually are the blame of government programs. Students who are furthering their education while at the same time attempting to become American citizens should be considered potential Utahns.

I'm with the Democrats on this one, it seems (at least as regards the House Education Committee). I support the continuance of in-state tuition for those undocumented Utahns who are attempting to become American citizens.

I Want to Wear My Seat Belt, Thank You!

I think it's a very good idea for people to wear their seat belts while driving. But I'm not sure how it is the government's business to require me to wear my seat belt. Current Utah law requires those under the age of 19 to do so. Pending legislation would require everyone to wear a seat belt. Why should such a common-sense driving accoutrement be a legal requirement?

Current Utah law requires those aged 18 and younger to wear a seat belt; if a police officer sees someone in this age category not wearing a seat belt, they can issue a citation on the spot. For those older than age 18, another violation must occur before a citation can be issued for failure to wear a seat belt. That may be about to change if Democrat Senator Pat Jones' bill passes the Utah legislature.


Why is government in the business of requiring you to wear your seat belt? In their response to Governor Huntsman's State of the State address, Democrats expressed that their main concern is for the welfare of the individual. I'm not sure how taking away the individual's choice increases his welfare.

Senator Jones' bill seems to have gained more support simply because it was amended to expire in 2010. So now it becomes an experiment not to see whether it constitutes good government, but how many lives it supposedly saves. We'll never really know, and besides, that's not the point. While we're at it, why don't we outlaw skydiving, hang gliding, and motor vehicle racing?

I wear my seat belt almost everywhere I go. The only time I don't is maybe when I'm going across town to run an errand. Ask my kids how many creative ways I have developed to harp on them, especially the younger ones, to put on their seat belts. I agree with the mantra--seat belts save lives. It's just that government doesn't have any business getting into my car with me.

It's pretty obvious that wearing my seat belt is the safer thing to do. I don't need government to tell me that. I don't need them to require me to do it either.

A Little Too Ambitious--"Real"ly?

Mayor Peter Corroon and the Salt Lake County Council can wipe out a fairly big mistake if they act on the study recently conducted regarding building a new soccer stadium. The study indicates that Real Salt Lake's plan is too ambitious, and there will not be enough money to pay for the project even in the best of scenarios.

I once served on a city council, where we had a large development group approach us with plans for a wonderful development of commerce, golf courses, gated communities, and everything else they could think of. But we had to act fast, because if we didn't they would go somewhere else. Against my wishes, we acted fast, and luckily our town didn't get stuck with any of the bill except our city's credit rating has now become suspect. There are a few homes now (6 years later) in the once-promised shangrila.

This is why I see Dave Checketts' and Real Salt Lake's proposal for a new stadium in Sandy as a dangerous undertaking for MOST of those involved. It ain't gonna work. And Dave Checketts WILL NOT be left holding the bag. Can you guess who will?

Here's what they want:
  1. $30 million in hotel tax revenue from the county
  2. $15 million in redevelopment money from Sandy City
  3. $29 ticket prices
  4. 12 packed concerts per year in the new stadium
  5. Dipping into rosily-projected Major League Soccer profit sharing revenues
And after all this, a study by Economics Research Associates projects that there will not be enough revenue to fund the debt. I can only assume that this takes into account the highway robbery that Real allowed DC United to get away with when it acquired Freddy Adu.

Land developers aren't the only ones famed for producing unscrupulous economic projections. Sports franchises do, too.

City and county officials will have their decision as early as Monday (Jan 22, 2007). I certainly hope they decide to be as circumspect with public monies as I'm sure they are with their own.

Friday, January 19, 2007

Banning Alcohol in Church

Utah law makes very few exceptions for underage drinking. Nebraska makes about the same number of exceptions as Utah, but a certain lawmaker wants to change that. He wants to change the liquor laws with regard to religious services. Representatives of some Nebraska religious communities have expressed displeasure.

Seven states prohibit anyone under the age of 21 from drinking alcohol. Twenty-one states have no laws against underage drinking whatsoever. The other 22 states, including Utah, provide some exceptions to their underage drinking laws. Exceptions to Utah liquor laws, according to this site, are:

Utah does make an exception permitting minors to consume alcohol for certain specific medical, religious or educational purposes, such as communion wine. The law also permits minors to purchase liquor for law enforcement purposes.

The state of Nebraska has a religious exception very similar to Utah's. Except Nebraska State Senator Lowen Kruse wants to change that limitation.

It's interesting to note that Senator Kruse's son was paralyzed in an accident caused by a drunk driver. I can see he desire not to let similar problems occur, and I agree that people who drive while intoxicated often get off with a far smaller penalty than they should. But I think Senator Kruse's efforts are misguided.

His current legislation would make it legal for youths to consume up to one half ounce of alcohol in religious services, but no more. Clearly the customary communion would not require more than this amount to be consumed per person, so I'm not sure of the Senator's point. There are very few instances, if any, where youth have emerged from religious services in an inebriated state, let alone causing any kind of ruckus or committing any kind of crime.

There are too many laws on the books as it is. We need to trim the fat from our state and federal codes. The laws we have should be significant, important, understandable, and enforceable. Senator Kruze's bill appears to be none of those.

The Original Attack Ad?

Political liberals claim that conservatives have nearly perfected the art of political attack ads. Attack advertising demonstrates weakness and lack of integrity. Conservatives have unfortunately been very successful with attack ads. But way back near the beginning of television broadcasting, I think the liberals probably had the first attack advertisement. Although untrue, it was very effective.

Attack ads, in my opinion, are political advertisements that are based very little on the substance of of a political candidate's views. They are, rather, an attempt to instill fear into voters in order to get them to vote against a particular candidate's opponent instead of for the candidate himself.

Unfortunately in American society, political attack ads have come to be seen as legitimate entertainment, and thus have become accepted by large segments of society.

Conservative political candidates have been very successful with attack ads. This is unfortunate. Attacks such as these serve no other purpose than to polarize society. It's much more important (and in the long run more effective) for a candidate to simply compare and contrast his or her views with those of his or her opponent. It is correct for liberal politicians and voters to decry such demagoguery.

But liberals use attack ads probably as effectively as conservatives. And I think liberals might have been the first to use the attack advertisement. When I was a young child (not old enough to have remembered the original) I remember seeing a replay the following attack that the Lyndon Johnson campaign perpetrated against Barry Goldwater. The contrasting images of the little girl and the mushroom cloud have had a lasting impression on me. The Daisy Girl ad convinced many Americans that Goldwater's stance against communism would lead to nuclear annihilation, which was untrue.

Attack advertising is inappropriate. It doesn't really matter who started it. Conservatives and liberals alike should demonstrate their integrity by refusing to produce and air attack ads.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Stop Blaming Me for Illegal Immigration

There are a lot of reasons that people immigrate illegally to the United States. But instead of blaming those of us who think it's important to follow the law, let's identify the real problems and fix them.

Yesterday in the Deseret News, John Renteria highlighted the unprofessional way that Federal agents raided the Swift Meat Company in Hyrum Utah recently. I agree that the raid should have been done in a much more civil manner. People weren't even allowed to go back inside and get their coats. Children didn't know where their parents were, etc. Seriously, I think the feds have been watching too many Antonio Banderas movies or something.

But I want to look at it from another point of view--would the Feds have raided Swift if there hadn't been a lot of illegal immigrants there? I know, the question sounds absurd, but please just humor me for a few paragraphs.

I want to discuss a couple of points that Mr. Renteria makes. First, he seems surprised (or sarcastic) when he says:

Not surprising, more than 95 percent of illegal workers snared are Hispanic.
I assume he means that he's not surprised that the Feds would make an exaggerated issue of arresting more Hispanic illegals than are in the population. An NPR report indicates that 57% of illegals come from Mexico, and another 24% come from the rest of Latin America. It's not hard to imagine that a higher percentage than that exists in Utah.

Next, he states

As Americans, we need just to look into our own hearts and ponder, "What would I do in the same situation?"

I think this is an important point. As I mentioned above, peace officers have no business acting like...well almost like the FBI did to the Branch Davidians in Waco, Texas about 10 years ago. But that's not the only problem.

He raises another important issue:

...the conditions and situation that forced these less fortunate families to defy immigration laws has not been remedied by the raid.

I agree with Renteria's sentiment, but since he does not identify what those conditions are, I suspect we disagree at least on some of the conditions (i.e. the problems). The main condition or problem that I think needs to be remedied is the Mexican economy. The problem with the Mexican the corruption endemic to Mexican society that starts clear at the top--the Mexican government.

I'm not sure we can do a whole lot about it other than pointing it out, but it sure would make me feel like people are serious about the immigration problem and that I wasn't getting blamed all the time for Mexico's shortcomings.

I do not agree with one of his solutions, which is to ban federal raids of businesses that hire illegals until congress implements reforms. (I don't support the way the Feds raided Swift.)

But I do agree wholeheartedly with this statement:

A proactive solution that will resolve existing immigration woes cannot be guided by fear, ignorance and maligned feelings of hatred about our inevitable coexistence in the future. The world is a smaller place, especially on this continent.

Whatever the solution is, it must be a solution of integrity. It must be a solution that is both legal and, as Mr. Renteria says, that causes us to "look into our own hearts and ponder, 'What would I do in the same situation?'"

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Tattling on Bad Drivers

I think the current law regarding the reporting of bad drivers in Utah is just fine. Attempts to change that law in the Utah Legislature are a waste of time, and take responsibility away from families who don't want to hurt other family members' feelings.

Currently Utah law requires that your name be released if you report a bad driver. A bill that passed out of a Senate committee yesterday wants to change all that. A Deseret News article published this morning paraphrases the bill's sponsor:

The intent of the bill is to allow people to quietly tattle on a loved one without any fear of hurting a friendship or family ties.

My first reaction to the story was that perhaps there had been instances of violent reprisals by bad drivers against those who had turned them in. This does not appear to be the case.

Such a law, designed to protect family members from hurting each other's feelings would be worse than a waste of time. It is the responsibility of family members to take care of each other, even to the extent that they keep other family members off the road if they are not capable of driving safely.

Just as in a court of law, where a defendant is allowed to know who his accusers are, bad drivers should be allowed to know who reported their bad driving.

Even though those who report bad drivers will have to sign an affidavit, the fact that they can remain anonymous raises the likelihood that erroneous and harrassing reports of bad driving will significantly increase.

Families should not pass the buck to the government on such a simple issue.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

The Secret to Reduced Class Sizes

If the school-aged population in Utah grew at a slower (or flat) rate, it would soon become easy to get a handle on the problem of crowded classrooms in Utah. Since we can't force people with school-aged children to stop moving into the state nor those already here to stop having children, I have a better idea.

Inflation usually outpaces rising incomes. The only way for incomes to catch up with inflation is to stop inflation. In much the same way, increases in the school-aged population outpace the ability to provide for the education of that population. Faster increases mean more difficulty.

If Utah were a state where people stopped having children and where families from other states were not allowed to come, school-aged children would gradually become a smaller proportion of the population. This would result in a larger proportion of the state's population being tax payers, and their tax payments would go farther because they subsidize a smaller proportion of the state's population--i.e. those who don't pay taxes but use the product (education) for which the taxes are paid. In this scenario, we would ultimately have enough tax revenue to reduce class sizes and probably at the same time be able to pay their teachers more.

The reason that we can't 'get on top' of the class size issue is because we have a continually increasing school-age population. And the growth is predicted only to get worse. Since we can't solve the problem by forcing families to stop having children, and since we can't close our state borders, there has to be another solution.

There is.

A few years ago, we held a debate in a political caucus meeting about whether we should support an initiative that would raise the mill levy in our school district. I said I didn't support it, but most everyone else there (many of whom were public educators or their relatives) disagreed with me and was surprised at my stance.

I expressed my concern at that time, which was "If we provide educational choice in Utah (through vouchers or tax credits), we won't have to increase the mill levy, because you will have fewer students in your schools, but you will actually have more money to subsidize the students that remain, because only a portion of the money allocated for the public education of each child would be given to finance the child's alternative educational choice."

Their response was, "But that won't work, because you still have the same number of school buildings, administrators, and school teachers that you have to pay even if you take away a handful of students."

That is true. And that's why we should have been thinking about providing more educational choice (through vouchers or tax credits) for at least the last 10 years. If my school district had successfully encouraged 1,000 children to seek alternative forms of education over that 10-year period, they likely would not have had to request a mill levy increase. Because they wouldn't have had to build any new buildings.

And their class sizes would have been smaller.

If we really want smaller class sizes, an easy way to accomplish it without burdening the Utah taxpayer is to reduce the growth of the public school population. An easy way to reduce the school population growth is to encourage other educational alternatives.

There's no time like the present to begin planning for a brighter future.

Sunday, January 14, 2007

Require Payday Lenders to Post Interest Rates

A lot of discussion has occurred in Utah lately around the subject of Payday Lenders and the onerous interest rates that they charged. I like the simple solution that was given to the problem in a recent letter to the editor.

In 1994, Utah had about 20 paycheck-cashing lenders. Now there are about 400 of these "payday lenders" in Utah. They cater predominantly to poor and Hispanics. Up until 20 years ago, Utah had established upper limits as to what lenders could charge. In the absence of such limits today, average interest rates charged by payday lenders in Utah are 521%, with some as high as 900%.

A recent letter to the editor of the Deseret News suggests that the state should require these lenders, like all others, to post their interest rates for all to see. I agree.

A statement by the Utah Consumer Lending Association blames such high interest rates on strict Utah regulations:

A senior economist with the Federal Reserve in Manhattan has just concluded a report (1.09.07) that states:

1) Payday lending does not meet the definition of a "predatory lending" product and 2) that the fewer payday lenders allowed in an area (a city, county or state) the more it costs consumers. Simply stated, competition limits payday loan prices.

It is a true statement that the lack of competition encourages higher interest rates among lenders. But the Utah CLA's claim that the State of Utah is responsible for the high interest rates charged by payday lenders is phony and dissimulating. I haven't looked into its claim of what the Federal Reserve said about Payday Lenders, but the rates being charged by some payday lenders in Utah are clearly predatory.

It is hard to imagine that a borrower from any economic class--had they known up front that they would be charged an average of 521% interest and as much as 900% annually on their borrowing--would take out a loan at a Payday lender.

Title Loans vs Payday Loans

Title loans require the placement of collateral for the loan, such as an automobile or a house. Because the collateral can be lost if the loan is defaulted by the borrower, they are considered much more risky than Payday Loans.

Utah State Law (7-24-202) currently requires the lender for title loans to "post [its interest rates] in a conspicuous location on its premises" and to "provide a complete schedule of any interest or fees" charged for a title loan.

Payday loans, on the other hand, are loans for items for which no title changes hands, such as next week's groceries. Payday loans are very commonly issued for a term of two weeks. It is common in Utah for a payday lender to charge a $15 fee for a $100 loan in such a two-week period. This amounts to an annual interest rate of 390%. Currently Utah law makes no requirement for payday loan interest rates and fees to be conspicuously posted.

Utah law should close this predatory gap and require payday lenders to to post their rates conspicuously. In addition, sample loan rates and fees should be required to be posted, such as:

If you borrow $100 now, in two weeks you will be required to pay $115. If you wish to pay the loan back in one year, you will be required to pay $490. This amounts to an annual interest rate of $390.

Such requirements would have two positive effects:

1. It would inform the poor, who are simply trying to make ends meet, that their 'ends' are actually becoming farther apart as a result of such usurious lending.

2. It would embarrass payday lenders into becoming much less predatory members of society.

Saturday, January 13, 2007

The Unpopular Side of Global Warming

Scientists and computer simulation scenarios offer up scary possibilities for the future of global warming. It is important to be stewards of our earth and society. But it is also important not to make more out of the earth's warming and cooling cycles than there really is.

A $60,000 climatology study was recently unveiled in Park City, Utah, and the news is not good. According to a computer modeling scenario, the temperature of earth will rise 6 to 15 degrees by the year 2100, and that means next to no snow for Utah's ski industry.

Computers have been known to make mistakes, especially when they are programmed incorrectly, and when they are fed incorrect information. And even more especially when they give man more credit than he deserves and nature less credit than it deserves when it comes to warming and cooling cycles.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change predicts a severe increase in earth's temperature by the year 2100 (1.4 and 5.8 °C increase) based on an increase of less than 1 degree Celsius in the last 150 years. Yet, in reality, not only do media and many politicians overlook that fact that IPCC's predictions are based on computer models, the theory of Global Warming is hotly contested.

Solar flares have had a distinct impact on the rise and fall of earth's temperatures, as has been measured over the last few centuries. The earth's temperature has increased and decreased in the past. Glaciers have covered much more and much less of the earth than they do now.

The IPCC's predictions of Carbon Dioxide increases and contribution to the earth's warming have been contested by reputable scientists as well.

One of the effects of global warming is the melting of the earth's ice fields and the concomitant increase in the level of the earth's oceans. The United Nations Environment Programme has this to say about a rise in ocean level:

Over the last 100 years, the global sea level has risen by about 10 to 25 cm. It is likely that much of the rise in sea level has been related to the concurrent rise in global temperature over the last 100 years.

But then it admits:

Sea level change is difficult to measure.

The end result? It's important to understand our earth and its environment, but it's also important not to exaggerate man's ability to affect it. It might mean a lot less money for James Hansen, Al Gore, and the environmentalists who have a stake in global warming, but it will make a lot of the rest of us sleep a little easier.

I would much rather rely on observation of what has actually happened than on computer models that predict, based on assumptions of what's happened, that the sky is falling.

Other insights into the economics of global warming:

Friday, January 12, 2007

Vouchers Improve Educational Opportunities for All

Utahns are starting to see the benefits of educational choice that vouchers can provide. I think that is a healthy development. As we know we don't have a captive audience, it becomes more important to provide a product that people will want to consume. Education is such a product.

For the first time since such polls have been conducted, there are now more Utahns that favor education vouchers for children than don't. This is a great development. As more people contemplate the importance of a good education and how more choices contribute to that end, I expect these numbers to go up.

I also am pleased with the excellence in education that public charter schools have fostered. My children attend such a charter school campus, where administrators and educators are truly committed to providing both excellence in educational instruction and high expectations when it comes to good citizenship.

School vouchers can only improve this development, giving families across the economic scale better opportunities to educate their children.

It is human nature (for most people) to be kind and courteous. It has always been a mainstay of American society, promulgated from religious and other traditional values, that if I am kind to others, I can expect others to--and they will likely--be kind to me.

It is not human nature, however, to excel in creativity. The greatness of competition (as long as it is not cut-throat or otherwise unethical or illegal) is that it fosters new and improved ways of doing things. Anyone who claims to want more and better education for our children should welcome the improvements that can occur through greater choice in education.

Educational vouchers are one means to promulgate such improvement through choice.

Pelosi Exempts Constituents from Min Wage: Media Doesn't Care

It was reported by some news organizations yesterday that some of Nancy Pelosi's constituents were exempted from recent Minimum Wage legislation that passed the House of Representatives. How many news organizations are reporting it? Not many.

Updated: January 13, 2007 - Loophole intended to be closed.

Update: January 13, 2007. Spencer England provides insightful comments at the bottom of this post. I have also learned that Title 29 of the US Code apparently dictates Minimum Wage Laws in the US Territories. The Democrats have modified the Minimum Wage legislation to remove this loophole.

When I found out that Nancy Pelosi's own constituents were exempted from a Minimum Wage bill recently passed by the House of Representatives, I thought, this will be a good litmus test of the fair and balanced media. So I did a news search on Google. This is what I found (click image to enlarge):

Maybe it's a mistake, and Washington Times is reporting something that didn't really happen, but here's what they're saying:

House Republicans yesterday declared "something fishy" about the major tuna company in House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's San Francisco district being exempted from the minimum-wage increase that Democrats approved this week.

"I am shocked," said Rep. Eric Cantor, Virginia Republican and his party's chief deputy whip, noting that Mrs. Pelosi campaigned heavily on promises of honest government. "Now we find out that she is exempting hometown companies from minimum wage.
I was troubled to learn of this exemption," said Rep. Mark Steven Kirk, Illinois Republican. "My intention was to raise the minimum wage for everyone. We shouldn't permit any special favors or exemptions that are not widely discussed in Congress. This is the problem with rushing legislation through without full debate."

According to the article, Pelosi did not answer the charges. Here's what happened instead:

A spokeswoman for Mrs. Pelosi said Wednesday that the speaker has not been lobbied in any way by StarKist or Del Monte.

I decided to try my search on a different site. It didn't get any better at Yahoo (click on image to enlarge):

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Immigration Affected by Education

One of the main reasons so many Central and South Americans come to the United States is for the definite improvement in opportunity that the United States provides. A chief cause of greater economic achievement in America is greater educational achievement.

Many homes in Mexico have no books or magazines. Education has never been a societal priority in Mexico. It is not surprising, then, that many Mexicans languish in poverty. Mexican President Vicente Fox placed a greater emphasis on education, but the great corruption of previous Mexican governments meant that Mexican education had languished.

Herman Badillo was born in Puerto Rico and grew up in New York. He claims that the crisis in Hispanic education drives the crisis in Hispanic economies. It's a siesta mentality that Hispanics got from their Spanish colonizers.

Mexicans in particular do not read very much. In 2005, the Christian Science Monitor reported that many Mexican book stores and publishers have shut down due to lack of demand. What once seemed a lucrative market has turned largely to disillusionment:

Competitive pressures in a country where 3,000 copies sold makes a bestseller have pushed 4 out of every 10 bookstores in Mexico out of business over the past 10 years, according to the Mexican Booksellers Association.

Meanwhile, from 2001 to 2004, roughly 10 percent of all publishers have shut down.

Very often, Hispanic parents don't take the lead in their children's educations, likely because they don't speak English. More often than another other demographic group, Hispanic immigrants to America do not finish high school. Perhaps this is the reason so many Hispanic youth join gains, and why gangs in many areas are predominantly of Hispanic membership.

How do we encourage more seriousness in education among Hispanics? Education makes anyone more valuable to their society. Even more important than Hispanics coming to America for educational and material benefits would be to foster education in their home countries so that they can be more valuable to their indigenous societies.

The genius of America is not secret. That's why everyone comes here. Somehow, we just need to do a better job of communicating that genius, so it can take root in countries around the globe. That genius begins with a desire to gain a good education.

Monday, January 08, 2007

The Wonder of Adult Stem Cells

So far nothing has been accomplished with embryonic stem cells. But adult stem cells are effecting more cures all the time. Just today another means of collecting adult stem cells was discovered.

So far, research into embryonic stem cells has resulted in controversy. Embryonic stem cell research is not far enough along to have yielded any beneficial treatments, but adult stems cells are providing all sorts of cures. The National Institutes of Health recently said:

Research on adult stem cells has recently generated a great deal of excitement. Scientists have found adult stem cells in many more tissues than they once thought possible. This finding has led scientists to ask whether adult stem cells could be used for transplants. In fact, adult blood forming stem cells from bone marrow have been used in transplants for 30 years. Certain kinds of adult stem cells seem to have the ability to differentiate into a number of different cell types, given the right conditions. If this differentiation of adult stem cells can be controlled in the laboratory, these cells may become the basis of therapies for many serious common diseases.
In today's press, it was announced that another means of collecting adult stem cells has been found:

Researchers at Wake Forest University and Harvard University reported the stem cells they drew from amniotic fluid donated by pregnant women hold much the same promise as embryonic stem cells. They reported they were able to extract the stem cells without harm to mother or fetus and turn their discovery into several different tissue cell types, including brain, liver and bone.

In a Utah story today, the Deseret News reports that an adult stem cell therapy will be tried to improve awareness and motor skills in a young lady who was in an accident and was deprived of oxygen for several minutes:

What the Schmanski trip to China may bring is well worth the trip, they say. Tori and her parents will fly to Washington, D.C., then Paris, then Shanghai, China, afterward driving to Hangzhou, where a Beike Biotechnology clinic and research facility is located. Throughout their 32-day stay, doctors will inject Tori's spine with 10 million stem cells every five or six days — 50 million in all — that will hopefully become new brain cells.

Stem cells can be used to replenish many different cell types within the body...

In early 2006, they began talking to other families whose family members have had the same procedure and have seen some positive results — the kind the Schmanskis hope to see in Tori: more awareness, better control of her body, more effective communication and improvements in eating and swaddling.

"There's even people who have been paralyzed for 20 years that are moving and feeling their feet," Tim Schmanski said. "There's no guarantee, but the vast majority have seen results."

Tori will receive adult stem cells taken from an umbilical cord instead of embryonic stem cells...

As embryonic stem cells come from aborted or miscarried embryos, adult stem cells can be harvested without the harming or taking of life.