Friday, March 19, 2010

Letter From Tennessee Governor to Senator Bob Corker and Representative Bart Gordon

States need to lead a standard of legislative rebellion against a rapacious Congress. Nullify anything that violates the Constitution. As published in Washington Times:

Bob and Bart, the problem we are facing is simple: by 2013,we expect to have returned to our 2008 levels of revenue and will have already cut our programs dramatically – over a billion dollars. At that point, we have to start digging out — we will have not given raises to state employees or teachers for five years, our pension fund will need shoring up, our cash reserves (“rainy day fund”) will have been considerably depleted and in need of restoration, and we will have not made any substantial new investments for years. There will have been major cuts to areas such as Childrens Services that we really need to restore. On top of these, there are all the usual obligations to be met — Medicaid, for example, will continue to grow in excess of the economy and our tax revenues. It’s going to take at least a full decade to dig our way out and back to where we were prior to this recession.
In this environment, for Congress to also send along a mandatory bill for three-quarters of a billion dollars for the health reform they’ve designed is very difficult. These are hard dollars – we can’t borrow them – and make the management of our finances post-recession even more daunting than it already is. …
I very much want to support the President, and Lord knows we have plenty of people in Tennessee who need help with health insurance. But this is an extraordinary time for us (and we are better off than many states) and I will appreciate any way in which you can help us manage through this.

Rally in Washington DC on Saturday With Jon Voigt and Michele Bachman

Conservatives and Libertarians once again have decided to abandon their weekend plans for a trek to Washington DC this Saturday. Several congressmen and women have scheduled a last minute rally to demonstrate to Congress how upset Americans are over their latest insanity. Yesterday the House of Representatives voted to create a rule that allows that institution to pass a bill without actually having to vote upon it. This somehow keeps individual House members from having to claim a vote on the toxic health bill and prevents recourse to the highly unpopular reconciliation technique in the Senate.

Here's the question. If this bill makes you so afraid of your constituents that you create a rule to keep you from having to vote on it, then maybe the bill is bad. Every congressmen and woman should be able to defend every vote they make with pride. If they cannot do that, they need to either vote differently or get out of the way and allow a different face to take their place.

In the past few years I have seen Republicans go from "we don't protest" to organizing carpools. I have seen state governments actively pass legislation to nullify acts of Congress, something that I do not believe has been directly done since the 1830s. I have seen our country return to the days when one group looks at the other and cannot believe that we are countrymen. For all this I blame the Left. They want to impose something upon us that is burdensome and destructive to our economy and our future. They want to create a plan that destroys wealth. Why? They want power. They want to steal the wealth of this country from people who earned it. Look at how their plans have worked so far? Unemployment well beyond their predictions and no end in sight.

Why are Democrats trying to commit political suicide while taking the rest of us with them?

Below is the statement from Jon Voigt:

by Jon Voight
I am calling to all of you freedom-loving Americans to come once again to Washington D.C. to gather at upper Senate Park, across from the Capitol on Saturday, at 12 o’clock noon.
We must come by the thousands.
Speaker Pelosi will stop at nothing to fulfill her corrupt conquests. She will bring all of the corrupt ACORN liars to try to bully all the Democrats that may be having pangs of guilt knowing quite surely what their votes can and will do. If they’re bullied into saying “yes,” it will destroy America.
Join me and Rep. Michele Bachmann in Washington DC at 12 noon EST so we can give all the Democrats who know what the end result will be the courage to say: “No, do not pass this destructive bill.”
I’ll see you there.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Manchin's Mission on Education

Governor Joe Manchin has decided to launch a full scale assault against the status quo in the West Virginia school system. West Virginia ranks 16th in the nation in spending per pupil, $1,000 more than the national average. It also ranks high in other spending indicators as well.

Okay we get it. West Virginia spends a lot of money. We and Governor Manchin ask, where are the results?

We could blame the teachers, but we will not. We could blame the parents, but that makes less sense. The fact is that, and I am speaking as a person who was an education major as an undergraduate, spent a few years as a substitute teacher, and has seen two children grow up in West Virginia schools, the entire system is, as the military men call it, FUBAR. You can ask a vet to translate that for you.

Our biggest mistake lay in moving away from community based schools. You can still see the buildings from that era on roadsides everywhere. Some were one room schools, others a little larger. They are usually square, whitewashed wooden buildings that do not look expensive to build or maintain. I asked someone once why we stopped building those schools, at least for elementary and junior high students. I was told that they represented a fire hazard. This is interesting because I have never heard of a rash of fires buring down schools in the old days. Additionally, the fact that so many of those buildings still exist is a testament to their original design and construction. Some remain standing even when vacant for decades. Certainly such structures required much less investment in resources, resulting in a larger percentage of money actually used for teachers and students.

At some point the state embraced the concept of giant consolidated schools as the wave of the future. We uprooted students from their towns and made them ride buses sometimes for an hour and a half to get to school. Fewer teachers had direct community connections with the students they taught. You have more incentive to put a little more into time with a student if you see the parent in church on Sunday or at little league pratice. We need deconsolidation. Smaller community based shcools with less travel burdens on children will give them more time to study and more time to do the things they want to do, as opposed to communting up to three hours per day. Smaller classrooms in those schools allow for more instructional attention. We don't need schools with all the latest technological bells and whistles. We need smaller schools with less students. If this means less computers, less televisions, and less gizmos, so be it. Too many of them cannot write a paragraph, but they are very Facebook literate. Which is the more important skill?

Get rid of block scheduling and go back to Carnegie units. Block scheduling requires students to spend two hours on each subject at a time. I can tell you as an adult college student, two hours was more than I could stand for subjects that I loved. You force a student to endure two hours of a subject they hate and you will get worse results. I remember the arguments made for it, more time for creative teachers, teachers will just have to work harder to make it more interesting, etc. The fact is that you make policy to incorporate the less optimistic scenarios. You account for the fact that some kids hate math and some kids hate history and they can only force themselves to pay attention for an hour at the most.

Eliminate the Department of Eduation and any federal legislation concerning schools. States and localities ought to make education policy, not the federal government. Obama's administration made federal education policy a scandal by appointing a guy to run safe schools who included anecdotes in his book about encouraging underage boys to go to bus stations to have sex with older men. No Child Left Behind has destroyed the confidence of many teachers because it tries to force communities into a set of standards determined by numbers. Standardized tests have never taught anyone to read and actually discourage teaching that results in thinking.

Eliminate educational psychology courses in favor of more content classes for teaching students. I took three ed psych classes and they essentially all taught me the same thing. Teachers need to know a lot more about the subjects they teach. Twenty years ago the content education required of teachers was not enough to create a full understanding of their subject and they are required to know even less now. Of course this creates more reliance on materials provided by others, which may be the idea.

Most importantly we need competition for the school system. It is a classic example of why socialism does not work. In Belgium school funds follow a student to their choice of accredited school or pays for homseschooling materials. If Catholic, Protestant, and home based schooling had the same chance at education funds, this would create competition and force schools to perform better. Already parents opt out of traditional schools at higher levels than we have seen in a long time even with the added financial burden. They sense that things are not right at some level.

Finally, I would encourage our school system to create the position of "master teacher." This would be a certified teacher who went on to earn a masters and/or a doctoral degree in their subject. They would naturally receive more pay. I would also include in teacher education a mandatory semester of substitute teaching. This is where one learns the classroom management skills that educational psychology classes leave out. How do you deal with the 7th grade shop class where the school dumped all the problem kids and the teacher left ten minutes of busy work? You have to really develop some skills to handle a day like that. You find out really fast whether or not you want to be a public school teacher. You also watch the regular teachers at work and hear their complaints. I changed my major in my junior year of college after a year of substitute teaching on the side. I had little trouble managing classes, but I saw right away that I did not want the headaches of dealing with educational bureaucracy or the increasing numbers of problem children forced into regular classes. Weeding out people who just are not right for the job by tossing them into the deep end of the pool is a good idea.

We must also step back from the idea that education is a right. It is not. It is a privilege to be educated. Calling education a "right" creates a culture of entitlement. Children who create problems on a consistent basis should not be in classrooms with children who are there to better themselves. No one is entitled to sit in a classroom and wreck havoc and remain in regular school. No one is entitled to remain in a regular school and mercilessly bully other children. No one is entitled to assault a teacher who dared to discipline them (as has happened in Mineral and probably nearly every county) and remain in regular school. Calling education a "right" hamstrings teacher and school efforts to maintain an environment conducive to learning. Trying to make seventeen the dropout year is backwards thinking. If they want out of school and are only causing problems while there, by all means let them go and allow students who want to learn to gain the advantage of the absence of troublesome peers.

Fact is that these are deeply based systemic problems that demoralize students, teachers, and parents. They feel trapped in a system that believes in numbers, not individuals. I can definitely understand why a public school teacher would have their confidence crushed by the things they must deal with and would never encourage my children to go into that field.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

If Only We Could Get More People to Follow This Example and Stand Up to Government

The Department of Education thinks almost none of us are fit. We need to stand up and remind them that we set the standards for our community schools, not them. When the president hires an encourager of child molestors to be head of safe schools programs, it's time to get rid of federal education policy entirely.

Surely you remember this tune:

I wanna tell you all the story bout the Harper Valley widow wife
Who had a teenage daughter who attended Harper Valley Junior High
Well her daughter came home one afternoon and didn't even stop to play
And she said mom I got a note here from the Harper Valley PTA
Well the note said Mrs Johnson you're wearin' your dresses way too high
It's reported you've been drinkin' and a runnin' round with men and goin' wild
And we don't believe you oughta be a bringin' up your little girl this way
And it was signed by the secretary Harper Valley PTA
Well it happened that the PTA was gonna meet that very afternoon
And they were sure surprised when Mrs Johnson wore her miniskirt into the room
And as she walked up to the blackboard I can still recall the words she had to say
She said I'd like to address this meeting of the Harper Valley PTA
Well there's Bobby Taylor sittin' there and seven times he asked me for a date
And Mrs Taylor sure seems to use a lotta ice whenever he's away
And Mr Baker can you tell us why your secretary had to leave this town
And shouldn't widow Jones be told to keepHer window shades all pulled completely down
Well Mr Harper couldn't be here cause he stayed too long at Kelly's Bar again
And if you smell Shirley Thompson's breath you'll find she's had a little nip of gin
And THEN you have the nerve to tell me you think that as a mother I'm not fit
Well this is just a little Peyton Place and you're all Harper Valley hypocrites
No I wouldn't put you on because it really did it happened just this way
The day my mama socket it to the Harper Valley PTA
The day my mama socket it to the Harper Valley PTA

Remember the Federalists

In the 1790s the Federalist Party had a secure grip on power. People associated them with the Constitution, George Washington, security, and prosperity. As late as 1796 they dominated elections to the presidency and Congress. How did they lose power by 1800?

Much of the reason lies in the passage of the Sedition Act. Sedition is the criminalization of attacks on the government. If the government decides that the origin is either satirical or untrue (in the 1798 version anyway) it can move towards prosecuting the writer, cartoonist, or speaker. Many Federalists enthusiastically backed this act despite its blatant violation of the Constitution. John Marshall, a Virginia Federalist, argued against it and it shocked, scared, and angered the opposition Democratic-Republican Party.

Thomas Jefferson and James Madison from Virginia feared that the anger stirred up by this act could cause a civil war. Perhaps many Federalists, publicly or privately, supported this as a way to finally get a virulent press off their backs. However the people saw it as an attack on liberty and the natural right to speak freely, even in dissent, about government. Jefferson and Madison tried to assuage the people by penning the Virginia and Kentucky Resolutions that asserted the right of state courts to declare federal laws unconstitutional.

Voters punished the Federalists by expelling them from power in 1800. They found themselves loathed as aspiring tyrants and their party disintegrated by 1815. Its most promising leaders, such as John Quincy Adams, left to join the Democratic-Republicans to escape the tarnish.

Democrats need to look very hard at history before they vote for unpopular expenditures and expansion of federal power. It might not mean simply their loss of power, but perhaps the destruction of a venerable institution that has contributed much to the national discussion over the centuries. Kowtowing to an authoritarian left wing element just because it currently has authority will not help moderate Democrats in the long run. Tyrants never last. Remember the motto of Madison and Jefferson's home commonwealth: Sic Semper Tyrannis

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

March Madness

Capito Works to Shore Up Housing While Preventing More Waste of Taxpayer Dollars

Capito Introduces Legislation to Reform Federal Housing Administration, Prevent Taxpayer Bailout
Reps. Bachus, Neugebauer, Garrett, Biggert Co-Sponsor Bill
WASHINGTON-Rep. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., Ranking Member of the Subcommittee on Housing and Community Opportunity, today introduced legislation to prevent risky lending and borrowing practices at the Federal Housing Administration (FHA). Capito's bill, "FHA Safety and Soundness and Taxpayer Protection Act of 2010" is co-sponsored by Financial Services Ranking Member Spencer Bachus (R-AL), Deputy Ranking Member Randy Neugebauer (R-TX), Capital Markets Subcommittee Ranking Member Scott Garrett (R-NJ) and Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee Ranking Member Judy Biggert (R-IL).
The FHA reform bill seeks to shore up revenue for the FHA, which is nearing insolvency, and prevent an impending taxpayer bailout by increasing examination of borrowers and lenders, giving the FHA the ability to increase premiums, implementing a risk-based pilot program and using outside credit risk experts.
"While the FHA's economic state is troubling, I am confident that our legislation will provide the necessary reforms to ensure the viability of the program," said Capito. "A taxpayer bailout of the FHA is simply not acceptable. With swift implementation of our proposed risk management safeguards and revenue enhancements, we can restore the FHA's proper role in the market."
"Thanks to Rep. Capito's leadership, Republicans have a strong plan to address the FHA's deteriorating financial position and avoid the potential for another taxpayer bailout of a government mortgage financing agency," said Bachus. "Her legislation mandates much-needed improvements in FHA's risk management practices, shores up its dwindling capital reserves, and prevents unscrupulous lenders from dumping risky loans into the FHA portfolio."
"We need to put the taxpayers first and make needed reforms to FHA," said Neugebauer. "I appreciate Representative Capito's leadership on a comprehensive bill that will help rebuild FHA's stability and protect the taxpayers. This can be a bipartisan bill, and I hope our colleagues on the Financial Services Committee will join us in this effort to improve the soundness of FHA."
"The government's involvement in the housing market and its negative ramifications for taxpayers has been a great concern to me ever since I came to Congress. Rep. Capito's legislation is an important first step into the broader conversation on risk management and the FHA. I look forward to exploring additional steps we can take to reduce risk to the taxpayer, including increasing the down payment requirement for FHA loans," said Garrett.
"Private lenders have learned a lesson from the real estate bubble, and they are moving to properly account for risk and protect their own investments," said Biggert. "It's past time for the FHA to learn that same lesson, and ensure that taxpayers will not be unfairly left on the hook for risky loans. These reforms will put FHA on a sustainable path, help homeowners into loans they can actually afford, and spare taxpayers from yet another bailout."
# # #

Monday, March 15, 2010

White House Wrong to Slam Israel

Last week Israel announced that 1,600 new housing units would be constructed for Jewish residents in Arab dominated East Jerusalem. Obama and Biden claimed that this derailed the fragile peace process.

What peace process? When has there been one, apart from Obama apologizing on behalf of Western Civilization for all the wrongs it has ever committed, some real, mostly imagined.

Criticizing Israel's decision to construct the units reflects something basic and wrongheaded about Obama's approach. He seems to see East Jerusalem as negotiable. Israel made a strong and necessary concession to peace when they agreed in principle to allow the Palestinians to control Gaza and the West Bank. Those people have the basis to create not just a state, but a prosperous territory based upon the Christian tourist trade, if they would ever just act right and abandon their claims to the rest of Israel. Palestinian leaders refuse to give up the concept of "right of return." This is the idea that they should be allowed to migrate back to homes in Israel, homes they were forced out of three generations ago. If allowed to return, they would soon outnumber Jews and be able to vote the state out of existence.

Obama is unrealistic to think that East Jerusalem will ever return to Arab rule. Jewish people see Jerusalem as their historic capital, as the City of David. Despite that king's personal foibles, he is seen as their greatest king and an important symbol. Israel will never give up any part of Jerusalem unless you pry it from their cold, dead hands.

Again the world sees Obama out of his element. Foreign policy matters overwhelm this administration because they fail to understand what makes diplomacy work. Also, most other countries do not believe that their policies are the root of international violence. It's tough to convince them to take a submissive and apologetic stance as Obama has done for the United States.

He needs to stop trying to organize the world's community and deal with realities.