Friday, November 30, 2007

Medicare is Digging a Big Hole for America

With the economic shape that Medicare and Medicaid are in, how can anyone expect that the federal government can provide universal health care?

Yesterday on The Right Balance with Greg Allen, Pete Sepp of the National Taxpayers Union made the statement that for the first time, this year, Medicare depends more on the federal government's general fund for its funding than it does on payroll taxes.

Stated differently, Medicare payroll taxes as now constituted pay for less than half of the costs of Medicare.

Should we raise Medicare payroll taxes? I don't think so.

With this news, how can the government possibly think it can provide an effective service in the arena of universal health care?

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

BYU Cougars Beat the Utes and Down Comes the Cellophane

It's a yearly ritual-BYU vs. Utah rivalry week. Yes, the football game, but more importantly, the protecting of signs, statues, and other objects from defacement by the opponent during game week.

I'm not sure how bad the BYU trash talkers are, but I listened for a few minutes to one of the local sports stations last week, and there are some Utah fans that make me sick. Only some. I don't mean to generalize.

My daughter's favorite password hint question is "Which team would you like to see always lose?" The answer is "The Utes". Actually, I'm a bit different. I only want to see them lose when they're playing BYU or when it affects BYU's chances of winning the MWC championship.

Worse, though, was the BYU fan who gave the Utah fan a broken nose. Even if BYU had lost, such behavior is inexcusable.

But no matter what side you came out on, you have to admit that this year's BYU/Utah football game in Provo was one of the more exciting in the history of the meeting of the two teams.

I'm glad that BYU won--I've been a lifelong fan, except for when I temporarily contemplated attending school at the U, and I work here. It's too bad that two costly penalties on Utah helped BYU score their final touchdown, but after further review (mine), both calls were correct.

I hate it that the media and others call the game "The Holy War". There are other so-called Holy Wars that are much more serious (and problematic) than this one. Maybe we could call it the Wasatch Front War, or something else. Anyone have any ideas?

BYU wide receiver Austin Collie had a bit too much grape juice after the game as he claimed in essence that God had ordained the BYU win. Hmmmm.... Actually, the quote wasn't that bad.

The yearly ritual that has me the most intrigued, even more than the 24-hour guard posted at Y Mountain (do they do the same thing with the block U in Salt Lake?) is the BYU wrapping of welcome signs and statues in cellophane so that they can't be damaged by red paint or whatever else our friendly neighbors to the north can think of as a means of sabotage.

Last week, the cellophane started going up on about Tuesday. I just noticed this morning that the BYU administration (grounds crew?) thinks the coast is clear enough that they have begun to remove the protective wrapping from our priceless objects. Does the U do something like this, too, or are BYU fans not seen by Ute fans as being daring or wreckless enough to commit such mayhem?

Monday, November 26, 2007

Trent Lott Decides that K Street Pays Better than Congress

What'll you bet that within just about 12 months from his resignation from the United States Senate that Trent Lott will be the recipient of a lucrative lobbying job? It's hard not to think that these 'Republicans' are plotting the downfall of the Republican party. At any rate, it's working.

Some people have speculated that he's gay. He says that he needs to go in a different direction, and that he doesn't like the increasing rancor in the Senate. So Senator Trent Lott is resigning.

It took a lot of people by surprise. But just follow the money. It didn't take much for the New York Times to come across something highly interesting:
By resigning before the end of the year, Mr. Lott would beat the effective date for new ethics rules that double to two years the amount of time former Senators must wait before they can join a firm to lobby former colleagues. The new rule applies to those who leave office “on or after” Dec. 31.

Mr. Lott is the sixth Senate Republican to announce his retirement this year, according to The A.P., and it is expected that at least some of those leaving office will take lucrative jobs with the lobbying firms clustered along Washington’s K Street once the waiting period has passed.
Politico reports that
A Lott friend said part of the reason, and a factor in the timing, is a new lobbying regulation...
Hmmm...which regulation might that be?

I'm going to make a prediction. Trent Lott will be spending a lot more time with fellow 'patriots' Haley Barbour and Tom Delay. With Republicans like these...

America: A Nation Among Equals

America is the most powerful nation in the world. The problem is that we act like other nations in history who have achieved this status—and those nations are long gone. Our emotional capital with the other nations of the world is at an all-time low and declining. Our economic standing is not far ahead. The American hegemon, rather than showing respect the rest of the nations of the world, has for decades dictated to the rest of the world how the game should be played. With the United States’ moral and economic capital at an all-time low, it seems that our “piper” is warming up his pipe and preparing to call in our loans.

Shortly after September 11, 2001, the French newspaper Le Monde carried the front page banner headline, “We are All Americans”. George W. Bush and the United States received at that time a great deal of emotional capital from the nations. It didn’t take long, though, for us to squander nearly all of it. Instead of realizing that America is a nation among equals, not only did we not attempt to understand the moral motives of our 9/11 enemy, we discounted the feelings and opinions of every other nation in the world—except for those that agreed with us (which were few and which have become fewer).

The Constitution of the United States was established to protect the rights of all Americans, as well as to be an example of how the rights of all mankind should be protected. The American establishment no longer stands for such protection. Rather, it now stands for the political and economic domination of the world.

Despite the inadequacies and vile corruption at the United Nations, the United States can no longer afford, as it once could have, to leave the corrupt body and form a healthy separate alliance with the nations of the world. Very few nations would want to enter such an alliance with the United States now. As a party to the United Nations, the US has thwarted or ignored UN policy so often under the Bush administration that leaving the UN would be tantamount to national suicide.

With the faux logic of protecting America against terrorism, our morally contradictory actions have actually made Americans much less safe than we were before. For no good reason, we have stated that the Geneva Conventions do not apply to some enemy combatants. With great cynicism, we have turned some of these combatants over to countries that have traditionally had no compunction against outright torture, in a veneer of an effort to pretend that we don’t subscribe to torture. Then we practice, ourselves, the torture of waterboarding (not to mention other documented forms of torture in places such as Abu Ghraib), and allow—by a vote of 2/3 of the Senate—a man who thinks that waterboarding is not torture to occupy the office of Attorney General.

Because of the go-it-alone mentality of the current Bush administration, corrupt oligarchs the likes of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Hugo Chavez have as much (or more) respect around the world as George W Bush.

Approximately half of America’s debt is held by foreign entities, the largest holders of which are China and Japan. There has been talk for some time that this debt may be called in favor of investment in more healthy currencies, such as the Euro. For the first time in decades, the Canadian dollar is worth more than the US dollar. The rumored diversification of investments away from the US dollar may be close upon us. America, the overstretched hegemon, bereft of moral and economic capital around the world, will have little ability to stem the tide of the dollar flight should it occur. If it does occur, the declining American standard of living (except, perhaps, for the advantaged upper crust) will become precipitous. At that point, our IPods, high-definition TVs, and GPS navigation systems probably won’t mean much to us.

Americans cannot continue to prosper unless we remember that, rather than being a self-absorbed colossus, we should consider ourselves equals among nations. If we do not soon decide the importance of this fact by learning to elect leaders who understand this vital concept, the rest of the world will decide it for us.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

When Will They Apologize to Clarence Thomas?

As we pulled back into town from a wonderful Thanksgiving holiday in Southern Utah, I turned the last page of My Grandfather's Son by Clarence Thomas. Before I go to sleep, I want to jot down some of the feelings that Justice Thomas' recounting of his life's path have engendered in me. Foremost in my thoughts is this--a confirmation that Clarence Thomas is one of the greatest men ever to serve on the United States Supreme Court.

As a newlywed nearly 17 years ago, I remember being awed by the commanding presence of Clarence Thomas as he was pilloried by the media during his Supreme Court confirmation and nearly lynched by most of the liberal members of the Senate Judiciary Committee. The committee chambers became an abysmal three-ring sacrifice, complete with leaks (likely by members of that very committee) of allegations about Clarence Thomas as sordid as they were false. My only regret these years later is that I didn't join in with the thousands of Americans who thanked Justice Thomas for enduring a vile and thankless confirmation process. Justice Thomas, thank you for enduring. It was worth it to America.

After reading Justice Thomas' autobiography, my respect for him has grown immensely. It is beyond me to fathom how anyone can read the same book and come to a different conclusion.

It was very clear that the allegations of Anita Hill against Clarence Thomas were disgraceful fabrication. I cheered then as Clarence Thomas reminded the liberal members of the Senate Judiciary Committee in 1991 that they were participating in a high-tech lynching. I cheered again as I read those same words spoken in noble defiance nearly two decades ago. The anti-Thomas committee members knew then that they were involved in the most racist of acts, yet they bore on. They knew that they could not afford to allow an "uppity black" to take his rightful place as a member of the Supreme Court. And they nearly succeeded.

Nearly two decades later, truth has vindicated Clarence Thomas, and he has served with great distinction on the United States Supreme Court. Those who dragged his reputation through the refuse have, as far as I know, never apologized to Clarence Thomas. Howard Metzenbaum, Edward Kennedy, Patrick Leahy, and Joseph Biden are, due to their collusion in the process, unfit to be representatives of the high trust of the United States. Yet several of them are still there. And none of them have ever apologized. As I look through the forgiving eyes of Clarence Thomas, I would expect Anita Hill to issue a tearful apology for becoming a pawn in a most dangerous game. If she could only understand that it would not be embarrassing to make such an admission--it would be a relief, not only to the nation, but to herself.

In retrospect of the confirmation hearings, Justice Thomas stated:
I wasn't [their] kind of judge, or [their] kind of person. I had sworn to administer justice "faithfully and impartially." To do otherwise would be to violate my oath. That meant I had no business imposing my personal views on the country. Nor did I have the slightest intention of doing so.
To this day, Clarence Thomas has done his best to keep that promise. In my opinion, he has succeeded, which is rather different from some other justices whom he served or is serving with on the Supreme Court.

Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas has become a man of immense grace and wisdom. He has shown the pattern for forgiveness in the face of the vilest of calumnies, something that I would likely not have been man enough to do. Will those whose unjust opprobrium was heaped like refuse upon his head ever apologize to Clarence Thomas? Not likely. But no matter. It is enough for him that those who have studied the issue from the perspective of fairness know what the true story is.

Truth always ultimately prevails. As it has in the case of Clarence Thomas.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Who's More Important, Teachers or Prison Guards?

It's important for Utah that we continue to raise the salaries of our public school teachers across the board. But another issue has come up that seems to be more important. A far higher percentage of prison guard positions remain unfilled in Utah than do school teachers. Which group is more important? Which group do we fund first? Can we fund them both in the next legislative session?

Both the Salt Lake Tribune and the Deseret Morning News reported yesterday that the Utah State Prison is terribly understaffed. The Trib said
More than 25 percent of jobs at the Utah State Prison are unfilled, putting loads of overtime on employees and even forcing the warden to wear a uniform to keep watch on inmates.
DesNews reported
"We're on the verge of crisis," says Tom Patterson, state Department of Corrections executive director. "We have to fill those spots. I worry about how long we can go at this rate. It frightens me."

"This is temporary life support for heaven's sake, what we're doing here," said Capt. Matthew Huber, who oversees scheduling and deployment.
Teachers are important, and we need to pay them more than they're getting.

But I think public safety is more important, in the short run, than increasing teachers' salaries. Teachers help to decrease the population of the next generation of criminals, but the current generation has me more worried right now.

I think that as a state we could probably afford to do both, but the first priority seems to me to be increasing the wages of Utah prison guards.

How does $10/hour for everyone sound?

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Shunning the "Steroid Nation"

I've always hated the World Wrestling Federation, because nothing about the WWF is authentic, right down to the musculature of its performers. More and more, though, professional sports are becoming fake as well. Let's fix the problems with the real sports before the damage becomes irreparable.

Color me naive. A year or two ago, I became friends with someone at the local gym. He was the same age as me, but he was making dramatic improvements in his musculature and his weight-lifting ability, while my improvements were moderate and uninspiring compared to his. A short time later, between lifting sets, I overhead my friend admitting to someone else that he was on steroids.

Americans used to be incensed when East German or Chinese Olympic athletes were found to have used performance-enhancing drugs. We expressed a collective "I told you so" when Canadian sprinter Ben Johnson was stripped of his gold medal and sent packing from the 1988 Olympics. But suddenly it's okay when Americans do it? I don't think so.

Major League Baseball is currently beset with what some think is a quandary; it's really not. Hank Aaron and Babe Ruth did not use steroids. Barry Bonds did--for a lot of years. Therefore, Barry Bonds should not be inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame, and Henry Aaron should still be considered the man with the MLB home run record.

I respect that fact that Marion Jones came clean, but it doesn't change the reality that she did not earn her Olympic and other medals in a fair manner. Likewise, Barry Bonds should admit to his drug use. He'll garner a lot more respect from former teammates and fans than he has now.

It seemed last summer and fall that baseball aficionados--especially the San Francisco Giants--were hoping that Barry Bonds would just hurry and hit home run #756, so the rat race could be over and done with. Now that he accomplished the drug-induced feat, and now that the season is over, the Giants have unceremoniously told Mr. Bonds not to let the door hit him on the butt on his way out of San Francisco.

It seems as though the fans can talk about it freely now. It's too bad that they couldn't have sooner.

There are several other players who should be disqualified from further play in the major leagues. Unfortunately, it won't happen, because of America's penchant to be entertained by WWF-style phoniness. Likewise, there are several current and former players who should be disqualified from being considered from Hall of Fame status.

It's not just baseball, though. Football and other sports have become just as tainted as baseball. We have become, embarrassingly enough, a "Steroid Nation". Baseball is simply in the "limelight" because of the less than noble "accomplishment" by Barry Bonds.

That's why I like college sports (and the Olympics) better than the pros. Because, for the most part, the players are clean.

People who are currently using steroids should be banned from major-league sports. If someone wants to make a steroid league, such as a World Baseball Federation, and let all the steroid goofballs play there, that would be fine. I won't watch it, but I'm sure a lot of WWF junkies would.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Yes, Mr. Mukasey, Waterboarding is Torture

In his Senate confirmation hearings, Attorney General nominee Michael Mukasey called a memo advocating torture in certain situations "worse than a sin". But, subsequently, he said that he could not decide whether to classify waterboarding as torture. George W. Bush should have nominated someone else at that point.

A recent letter to the editor of the Deseret News implied that in wartime anything is permissible--including waterboarding--to protect ourselves. The letter writer said
We are at war. We have to win, whatever it takes. You sit in your safe, little ivory towers and postulate about the ethics of waterboarding and how we will be viewed by others. If I have to protect my children, my grandchildren or my great-grandchild by waterboarding the enemy, bring me the garden hose.
I disagree. All wars are ultimately based in morality. In other words, immoral acts from one party to the war are the impetus for the other party to justify suicide bombings and other terrorist acts as moral. Which is where the United States largely finds itself today.

During the Senate confirmation hearings for Michael Mukasey, Senator Patrick Leahy and Mukasey had a conversation about torture
The panel's chairman, Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., asked Mukasey about the use of torture tactics in his first round of questions. Leahy called a 2002 Justice Department memo that allowed torture in some circumstances "one of the greatest stains on the history of this country."
Later in the conversation, Mukasey stated
"we don't torture, not simply because it's against this or that law, or against this or that treaty. It is not what this country is about. It is not what this country stands for. It's antithetical to everything this country stands for."
Yet, later in the hearings, he said that he was not sure whether waterboarding is torture.
In a letter to senators last week, Mr. Mukasey said the practice of waterboarding was “repugnant” but added that he could not judge its legality until he had been given access to classified information about interrogation techniques.
But the Senate Judiciary Committee approved him anyway! Charles Schumer and Diane Feinstein voted in favor, and the committee vote was 11-8.

How can a nominee to become attorney general not know whether waterboarding is torture? That, in and of itself, should disqualify Michael Mukasey for the office. The ACLU found that
The federal Anti-Torture Act; the federal War Crimes Act which, even as amended by the Military Commissions Act, bans acts such as waterboarding;


"While we support legislation to put the entire government, rather that just the Defense Department, under the Army Field Manual on Interrogations, waterboarding has long been a crime," said Christopher Anders, senior legislative counsel for the ACLU Washington Legislative Office. "Other than administering electric shocks or using the rack, it is hard to find a more clear-cut form of torture than waterboarding."
I often disagree with the ACLU, but I don't in this case. Michael Mukasey is not qualified to be Attorney General of the United States.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Post-Referendum 1: Toward an Improved Education System in Utah

With vouchers defeated in the recent election, and having been a supporter of Referendum 1, I am not nearly as discouraged as I thought I would be. Probably it's a lot because we on the losing side did not get neener-neenered nearly as badly as I had expected, and I appreciate that. I've been pleased by the mostly very mature discussions that have proceeded since the referendum on Tuesday.

The biggest takeaway that everyone on both sides can enjoy is that we are all sincerely interested in improving the education that we provide for our children. Emily, on Utah Amicus, said
As citizens of Utah and more importantly as human beings, we know that education of our children is the most important thing we can do for our country. I believe more than ever that crusaders on both sides of this debate have one common goal: to provide the best possible education for our children. I hope the voucher debate has brought us together, instead of pull us apart.
Jesse, over at Coolest Family Ever, had a very magnanimous (except for correctly lambasting Parents for Choice in Education) way of looking at the issue from the perspective of the 38% who voted for Referendum 1:.
We lost. You know what makes it worse? We deserved it. We deserve the gloating and victory dancing from the opponents. Why? Because we let PCE run a filthy low-brow campaign and we didn't do anything to stop it. So now what?

Let's put this legislation to the side for a while. I know, it's really tempting to touch up the defeated bill and wheel it on out again, but we have some real work to do between now and then. We need to spend the next five years addressing all of the criticisms we faced this year.
I completely agree.

Jesse continues:
Lastly, we just can't talk our way past valid concerns. The switch rate and break even point are valid concerns. The price of tuition is a valid concern. Giving vouchers to upper-income families is a valid concern. Yes, this bill is the result of almost a decade of compromise, but I don't think the Republican-dominated legislature compromised enough.
Steve Urquhart represented the legislature very well with his comments, and we can only hope that the rest of the legislature exhibits such grace and aplomb.
Along with some silliness on both sides, we had some of the best public dialogue we’ve had on education in a very long time. Though over-the-top commentary frequently gets reported and facile or fictional talking points find legs, I enjoyed many tremendous conversations with (often tremendously informed) individuals, both favoring and opposing vouchers. Those conversations involved people earnestly trying to figure out how to best educate our children.

I’ve received many calls and emails. Surprisingly few suggest that I throw myself off a cliff. Most (from both sides of the issue) said they enjoyed the debate and hope that we can use the increased attention to further improve education in Utah. My sincere appreciation goes out to everyone who gave their time to engage in the political process.
Although I can see and in a small measure understand Jen's concern at Jen's Green Journal that some others in the legislature might try to be vindictive in this case as it has appeared to be in others.

I'll admit that I voted for vouchers despite the warts I saw. I hoped that we could enact the law and later fix the problems that I saw, such as:
  • Creating an income cutoff at which families no longer qualify for the voucher.
  • Making it so that more children on the lower end of the scale would actually be able to use vouchers.
  • Ensuring that public education doesn't get stiffed out of all the money saved by the state when a student leaves the public schools.
  • Ensuring that voucher savings really can reduce class sizes and increase teacher salaries instead of just hoping that they might.
Some people, such as Don, Craig, and Jeremy, took an opposite approach from me, and they voted against Referendum 1 because, although they support vouchers in principle, they saw many of the same problems I saw, and perhaps more.

When it comes right down to it, we should remember that we are Utah. We are the best state in the Union. We enjoy living here, and we enjoy improving our quality of life in all areas.

Just because we don't agree on a particular solution for something doesn't make us enemies. I have been worried that it would. For the most part, though, I think we showed that even in the greatest of controversies, Utahns can be gracious and respectful of opposing viewpoints.

So let's move onward and upward--together. The dialog has just begun.

The Amero: Coming Soon to a Region Near You!!!

Have you ever wondered why the Bush Administration not only doesn't seem to care about our illegal immigration problem, but is actively thwarting it? It's because they're actively supporting the North American Union. Have you ever wondered why the Bush Administration and Congress seem to be uncaring about our out-of-control national debt? Could it be that there are some people in high places who want America to fail, so we can be joined together in a North-American Union with one regional currency? Yes.

Shortly after Congress approved several hundred miles of border fencing last year, machinations allowed the Bush Administration to allocate the funds in essentially whatever way it saw fit. Not surprisingly, pretty much none of the fence has been built.

The United States debt exceeded the 9 trillion dollar mark yesterday. It wasn't but a year and a half ago that Congress set 9 trillion as the Federal Debt Limit. they get arrested now? Do they care that it's higher than 9 trillion? Do they even know?

One trillion seconds makes 31,546 years. I wonder how high 9 trillion one-dollar bills would be if they were stacked on top of each other.

Did you ever wonder why the price of a barrel of oil is now approaching $100? Things currently are actually going relatively well in the Middle East. The reason for the exploding cost of oil is that the dollar is sucking hind teat these days. The cost has not exploded for those who buy oil with Euros, because the Euro is strong. Especially when compared with the dollar. Some people tell you it's not a big deal. I got B's in my economics classes, so I'm not an expert, but I think it is a big deal. Maybe this will be the impetus for America to become more energy independent? Nope. If only there were no ulterior motives agitating against such a simple solution.

China is losing confidence in the dollar, at a time when a lot of other people and entities are as well.
The latest catalyst was comments by Cheng Siwei, vice chairman of the standing committee of China’s National People’s Congress.

He said the country’s $1,430bn foreign exchange reserves should be diversified away from the dollar into strong currencies such as the euro.

It doesn't appear that the Bush administration cares. Well, actually they care, I think, in a certain way, and that's why they aren't doing anything about it, except for pontificating on the lie that there's nothing wrong.

In 2005, Bush met with the leaders of Canada and Mexico to begin the formation of the Security and Prosperity Partnership (SPP). You probably didn't know that this supra-national governmental entity is in full swing, did you? I wonder if SPP executives are worried about the collapse of the dollar. Probably not, but others are for the first time in their lives.
Stephen Jen has seen more than a few bouts of negative sentiment towards the US dollar but none as severe as today.

“This is the first time in my career that I am really worried about the dollar,” says the head of currency research at Morgan Stanley.

“I didn’t know it was going to go so far. The dollar is in trouble..."
I wonder if it is being planned that way.

In 2005, before a committee of the US House of Representatives, Robert Pastor a member of the Council on Foreign Relations, and one who has been very involved in the creation and establishment of SPP, had this to say:
...incremental steps will no longer solve the security problem, or allow us to grasp economic opportunities. What we need to do now is forge a North American Community, based on the premise that each member benefits from its neighbor’s success and is diminished by its problems.

The subject of this hearing today – whether passports should be required to cross our two borders – is symptomatic of the problem. We are thinking too small. We need to find ways to making trade and travel easier while we define and defend a continental security perimeter.
The establishment moguls have already sniffed their noses at congressionally-mandated border security measures. What better way to get us the rest of the way into the SPP than by bringing America and its dollar to their knees economically, so that we will beg for a new currency?

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Slave Labor: China is Karl Marx's Britain of Our Day

Karl Marx's solutions to the problems that he saw were not very effective or correct. But he was correct in his observations of slave-type labor in Britain, as noted in his book Capital. If he were alive today, I wonder if China would be the object of his opprobrium. It would deserve to be.

Yesterday on The Right Balance, Greg Allen made a keen observation. He said, to wit, that China gets away with both the excesses of Capitalism and the excesses of Communism.

China in 2007 is very similar to Britain of the 1800's. In his book, Capital, Marx refers to the business owners as having "the were-wolf's hunger for surplus labor". The Chinese government is today's 'were-wolf' business owner.

Capitalism to excess is bad. Communism is just plain excessive, and therefore always bad. We complain--and rightly so--when American capitalists use capitalism to the point of extortion. But we are strangely silent when the Chinese Communo-capitalists do the same thing.

In Capital, Marx shares anecdote after anecdote of forced labor in Britain, where employees, including youth and children, were compelled to work 12-hour days, and sometimes more. Similarly such frequent anecdotes exist in China today. Here's one:
China's government is forcibly moving young women of the ethnic Uighur minority from their homes in Xinjiang to factories in eastern China, a Uighur activist told the U.S. Congress on Wednesday.

Rebiya Kadeer, jailed for more than five years for championing the rights of the Muslim Uighurs before being sent into exile in the United States in 2005, called for U.S. help in stopping a program she said had already removed more than 240,000 people, mostly women, from Xinjiang.

Kadeer, nominated for the 2006 Nobel Peace Prize, told the Congressional Human Rights Caucus the women being transferred under the guise of "employment opportunities" were single and ranged in age from 16 to 25.

The women faced harsh treatment with 12-hour work days and often saw wages withheld for months, Kadeer said, describing the women as "cheap slave labor and potential sex workers."
Marx writes that
The same blind eagerness for plunder that in the one case exhausted the soil, had, in the other, torn up by the roots the living force of the nation.
China can't live forever like this. Unfortunately, the world largely turns a blind eye to the atrocities being committed there, effectively encouraging them to go on for longer than they need to.

But what can we do? After all, we still haven't finished most of our Christmas shopping.

Monday, November 05, 2007

Clarence Thomas Must Have Had a Wonderful Grandfather

I have been impressed with Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas from the first day I found out who he was. In the 16 years he has been on the US Supreme Court, I have never been disappointed. He is a class act. Justice Thomas says that everything he has become he owes to his grandfather. My grandfather was a lot like his, I think--stern, but he taught me a lot. I'd like to meet Justice Thomas's grandfather someday.

When the smoke clears, Clarence Thomas will be revered as one of the most integral Supreme Court Justices in American history. This little glimpse into his life tells us why:
Centralized governments always love grand theories and five-year-plans. But no government program could have done what my grandfather did for me and for others who needed help. It’s the golden rule—do unto others as you would have them do unto you. The golden rule can’t operate through a government program, it can only work between people.
The FDR generation is wrong, no matter how intense the shrillness of their cries. Clarence Thomas is right. That's why so many liberally-oriented people hate Justice Thomas to this day. He's also black. That makes them hate him even worse.

President George Bush 41 didn't make a lot of correct decisions. He did, however, make at least one good one--Clarence Thomas has been an exemplary Justice. He says
We should always start, when we read the Constitution, by reading the Declaration, because it gives us the reasons why the structure of the Constitution was designed the way it was. And with the Constitution, it was the structure of the government that was supposed to protect our liberty.

...There is our problem: We think we know a lot about our rights, but we know nothing about our country and about the principles that our liberty is based on and depends on.
To the hedonist, who thinks that life is all about rights with no responsibilities, he reminds us that
The common idea that you can do whatever you want to do, because truth and morality are relative, leads to the idea that if you are powerful enough you can kill people because of their race or faith. So ask your relativist friends sometime: What is to keep me from getting a gang of people together and beating the hell out of you because I think you deserve to be beaten? Too many people think that life and liberty are about their frivolous pleasures. There is more to life. And again, largely what relativism reflects is simply a lack of learning.
Clarence Thomas went through a phase in his life where he became an angry young man. Because of his rebelliousness, his grandfather threw him out of the house at age 19. After sinking further, Justice Thomas realized that hatred kills.
...then suddenly I realized that I was full of hate. I remember going in front of the chapel and saying, “Lord, if you take this anger out of my heart, I’ll never hate again.” I hadn’t prayed in years, and that was the beginning of my process back. I went from anger and hatred to cynicism, and then to trying to figure things out. And over the years I came to see cynicism as a disease.
Justice Thomas does not hire women law clerks. Rather,
[He] hire[s] the best law clerks. And it turns out that 30 percent of them happen to be women. If a woman graduates from law school and I say I’m going to hire her because I need a woman, that seems to me dehumanizing, and the job would be tainted.
The following anecdote attests to the strength of Clarence Thomas' character.
it was in February of 1983—and my grandmother was ill. And I saw my grandfather at the hospital and we embraced for the only time in our entire lives. And he looked at me and said that he had recognized that part of the conflict I had been through with him was that I was just like him, independent and strong-willed. I was his son, and it was as though you could see it in his eyes. And then a month later he was dead. And it was at that time—the spring and summer of 1983—that I re-embraced all that he had taught me. I had come full circle. And it was that summer that I decided I would live my life as a memorial to my grandparents’ lives. That’s why I was so upset during my confirmation hearings, because I saw what was being done to me as a desecration of that memorial.
He learned from his grandfather that being right was much better than being popular.
When people used to criticize my grandfather, he’d say: “Well then, dammit, they’ve got a lifetime to get pleased.” That was it. He never spent any more time on it. I never set out to be unpopular, but popularity isn’t of high value to me. I set out to do my best to be right. I am who I am.
When asked where he finds the courage to take unpopular stands, he replies:
In recent years I’ve had some wounded vets here in my office, young kids who have come back from Iraq missing limbs, blinded, in wheelchairs. And people say that I take hits? Do I look wounded to you? These kids have given a lot more. What a price people have paid for us to be right here. I think of them like I think of my grandparents. One of the things I’m always trying to do is to make sure that everything they did was worth it—that if they were to appear right now they would say, “You’ve made our sacrifices worth it.” That’s all I want.
That's all America needs--a few more good men and women to stand up for the truth, no matter how unpopular it may at times seem. Clarence Thomas is an excellent example for us all. So then, must have been his grandfather.

Should Cell Phone Jamming Devices Be Legal?

Have you ever been in the presence of someone talking obnoxiously on their cell phone? Sorry, dumb question. Have you ever asked them to tone it down a bit? What if you had the ability to kill the cell phone call without them even knowing what happened?

Should something like that be legal?

My initial reaction is no, it shouldn't be legal. But the idea is very tempting. And we have the technology. Currently such technology is illegal in the United States. Should it remain that way?

The International Herald Tribune had this interesting report yesterday:
One afternoon in early September, an architect boarded his commuter train and became a cellphone vigilante. He sat down next to a 20-something woman who he said was "blabbing away" into her phone.

"She was using the word 'like' all the time," said the architect, Andrew, who declined to give his last name because what he did next was illegal.

Andrew reached into his shirt pocket and pushed a button on a black device the size of a cigarette pack. It sent out a powerful radio signal that cut off the chatterer's cellphone transmission - and any others in a 30-foot, or 9-meter, radius.

"She kept talking into her phone for about 30 seconds before she realized there was no one listening on the other end," he said. His reaction when he first discovered he could wield such power? "Oh, holy moley! Deliverance."
Here's part of why it's illegal.
Using the jammers is illegal in the United States. The radio frequencies used by cellphone carriers are protected, just like those used by television and radio broadcasters.
What do you think? Was the guy vindicated? Even if it's illegal? What if somebody did it to you? Come to think of my case I wonder if they already have...

Sunday, November 04, 2007

Salute to Utah Public Schools: No "Dropout Factories"

During this time of controversy and mudslinging between those who support and those who oppose private school vouchers, I thought it appropriate to give praise where praise is due. The Utah public school system is one of the best in the country. Utah is the only state where there are no high schools that are classified as "Dropout Factories". This reflects positively on Utah teachers, educators, and lawmakers working together to provide an excellent education product.

A dropout factory is
a high school where no more than 60 percent of the students who start as freshmen make it to their senior year.
Some feel that Utah is the only state with no such schools because we have a lower rate of minority students, who tend to drop out at much higher rates. This may be a small factor. However, I think the real answer lies in the emphasis that Utah public teachers and administrators place on seeing Utah children succeed. This statistic is a great credit to Utah's public educators.

There are excellent people who subscribe to both sides of the school voucher debate. Many of those who oppose vouchers are public school teachers and administrators. Some of those who are in favor of vouchers are public school teachers and administrators, although I suppose they get a lot of pressure from some to be in the opposition camp.

At any rate, this is why I think vouchers can succeed in Utah, and NOT at the expense of public schools. I have a lot of public school teachers and administrators in my immediate and extended families. I also have a lot of friends who teach and administrate in the public schools as well. These are high-caliber people, who will continue to be high-caliber professionals even if vouchers become legal in Utah. With their being perennially underpaid, the fact that friends and family members are public educators says a lot about their dedication in the first place.

I support vouchers. But I do not do so as a slight to the public school system. Utah is one of the greatest states in the Union--with one of the greatest education systems as well. It's largely because of the dedicated men and women to teach our children in the public schools.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Environmental(ist) Catastrophe in Southern California?

Were the fires in Southern California preventable? It's beginning to look a lot like the answer is yes. Most importantly, it's been indicated that several arsonists have been at work. And global warming (not man-made, I don't think, but a natural increase in temperatures) and drought have had their significant effects. But nearly as importantly, environmental policy has caused the destruction to be much greater than it otherwise would have been.

Update: 12:01 PM - First-hand evidence of environmental restrictions leading to an increase in damage.

A post a few days ago by Connor Boyack noted an LA Times story quoting economists who said that the fires in San Diego will turn out to be a good thing for the economy. They must be environmental economists trying to cover up the real problem--radical environmentalism and radical advocacy of an untenable claim that man is to blame for the warming of the globe.

Steve Urquhart posted a few months back on his blog about the fires in the west, and how better management would save several million metric tons of carbon dioxide from going into the atmosphere. In the instance of the southern California fires of 2007, he is vindicated.

Before being embarrassed by and recanting his comments, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said that the fires in Southern California were caused by global warming. The implication clearly was that he and others must be empowered to do something about it by taking away some of our freedoms. Well, and then I guess I spoke too soon. The House Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming is now holding hearings on Reid's thesis.

It turns out that the likely greatest cause of the southern California fires has been arson--not global warming after all. I await very interestedly the results as to who the arsonists were. But we'll probably hear a lot of ranting, raving, and kowtowing about the claim that man-made global warming caused it.

Ironically, some of the freedoms that have already been taken away from Southern California residents--in the name of protecting the environment--have likely caused an increase in the destruction over what otherwise would have occurred. Lowell Ponte writes

A typical example of such government mismanagement came in a Southern California beach community a few years ago where residents were prohibited from clearing brush near their homes, lest they harm an “endangered species” of rat that lived there.

When fire, a natural part of the region’s ecology, recurred it burned the homes, the brush, and the legally-privileged rats.

Now we have become fire-burned experimental animals for left-wing firebrands.

Much like people who cheer setbacks in the war in Iraq because they are opposed to George W. Bush and his war, global warming advocates take a "see I told you so stance" every time a fire ravages the west. They feel vindicated in their lust for power over the minds of men.

There is no question that the earth is warming to a small degree. Droughts have made the west more susceptible to fires. But this series of fires was so destructive largely because of opportunism in the name of destruction. Arsonical and environmentalistical.

Will the arsonists be determined to have been members of terrorist groups? Will they have been environmentalists who sabotaged in much the same way animal rights activists and tree spikers have in the past? I don't have any inside information, but I would not ultimately be surprised if at least some of the fires were arsono-environmentalist caused.

It doesn't matter, whether they are directly to blame. Indirectly, many environmentalists exult and propagandize over the furthering of their purposes caused by the recent spate of fires. And the environmentalists' activities and advocacies have made the southern California fires of 2007 much worse than they would have been.

Investor's Business Daily opines:

The Santa Ana winds that fanned the flames didn't come out of the exhaust pipe of anyone's SUV.

We would suggest that the extent of the tragedy has been enhanced by the anti-logging and anti-thinning agenda of the greenies — an agenda that encourages overgrowth and prohibits sensible forest management, including the removal of dead trees as well as underbrush that is said to be the habitat of endangered species who ironically become crispy critters.

The same naturally warm and dry conditions in which these fires occur are the same conditions that bring people to Southern California to build their homes in fire-prone areas in the first place.

But I shouldn't include such statements in my public writings. After all, that is heresy against the Church of the Warming Globe.

Update: 1 Nov 2007, 12:01 PM - I appreciate Connor's comment (#6) of a few minutes ago. His mother is the deputy mayor of Poway, California. Here is an excerpt from a story of a press conference that Ms. Boyack was involved in (which Connor linked to in his comment):
As the smoke cleared and relief efforts accelerated, some leaders were thinking ahead to the next Southern California firestorm.

"We're going to have more Santa Anas," said El Cajon Councilman Bob McClellan, during the meeting of 30 officials. "What are we doing for the future so that we don't have more disasters?"

No one had an immediate answer, though several agreed something has to change.

Merilee Boyack, Poway deputy mayor, was among those suggesting change has to follow the fires of 2003 and 2007.

"This is twice," Boyack said. "I hope we don't have to have this happen a third time."

She said 14,000 of Poway's 25,000 acres have burned -- half in the 2003 Cedar fire and half in this month's Witch Creek fire -- and the people living in the remaining 11,000 acres are terrified.

Boyack, in an interview following the meeting, said she drove through the Poway burn areas Monday. And she said it was obvious that the homes with vegetation cut back around them survived, and that the ones that didn't survive were in subdivisions where native plants cannot be touched by a blade.

There needs to be a compromise between the needs of wildlife and the need to protect people, Boyack said.

"I think the balance has been tipped too far in favor of the environment," she said.