Thursday, May 29, 2008

Grade Fixing

This isn't the first time that a prime athlete from a championship level high school team has had the path made smooth for them and it probably won't be the last. What I find troubling is how many administrators allow coaches to bully teachers into changing grades for star athletes. Many of these students are recognized for the athletic ability early in middle school. From that point on, it is a struggle between the easy life of allowing the system to cover or the real educational experience where you win and lose on the field and in the classroom. What is more problematic still is that the teacher who made this public had taken reasonable action to allow the student to bring up his grade, but the student seldom attended class. After the teacher returned the grade to a failing level, the student was moved to another, probably more amenable, teacher. A former English teacher from this same school confirmed this complaint and a petition of twenty teachers have met with the Dallas ISD officials for quite awhile to make this situation change. But in the end, due to site based management, administrators have a great deal of power in saying who will stay and who will go. The teacher that made this story public is going to see his job eliminated by, you guessed it, the administrator-Mrs. Dixon-who supported and instigated much of the grade changing. I know it seems like I am beating the same old drum, but people at some point we have got to stop glorifying athletics over academics. We aren't doing these students any favors by passing them up the line because at some point, their eligibility runs out. And without job skills, they will end up the walking wounded that haunt crack houses and show up on "Cops". I kid you not, I can see the writing on the wall with some of these students. It's pretty scary.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Educating Homeless Children

There is no question that our poorest children are not well served by our society. If their parents are well enough to have a job, the children often end up cycling through schools, relatives and addresses and the result is there is no continuity in their educational experience. It used to be that parents would try to stay in one place for most of their children's school years because of the old addage "Give your children roots, and wings!". These days, we have parents who think nothing of burdening very young children with the adult responsibilities of feeding, clothing and housing the family. This is the reason so many children drop out of school, to work. But in doing so, they also leave behind huge opportunities to learn life and professional skills which will help them avoid the pitfalls of homelessness. So in the linked story, Chicago schools are proposing to create boarding schools for children from homeless families. Right now there's a great deal of outcry regarding putting a wedge between parents and children. That is a concern. But what bothers me much more is that schools are already in the position of feeding, providing health services and providing after school care, so how much more can we provide or should we provide? I can see that there are economic concerns about providing housing and services for children, but on the other hand, aren't we practically doing that now?

Let's look at the positive side. Without having to strive to provide housing, meals and clothing for their children, homeless adults can get on with the business of healing and finding meaningful, sustaining work. And without having to shift schools on a whim, our poorest children will have the educational opportunities afforded by having a stable living situation. While this is definitely a solution that must have the bugs worked out, with the sword of AYP and NCLB, our schools have to demonstrate that ALL populations are improving. Sadly, that simply will not happen if children are relegated to homeless shelters with parents who cannot or will not take the necessary steps to improve their lives.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Our Demanding Society

The basic laws of economics centers around the
concept known as "supply and demand".

For example, let's say you really like Chocolate donuts, and in fact everyone you know likes Chocolate donuts. If there is only one donut shop in town (which in fact would be a local monopoly) they could charge five bucks a donut if they wanted, because there was no other way to get scrumptious, delicious, warm chocolate donuts. Now let's imagine if in this same town, a SECOND donut shop opened up. They could set their price at four dollars, which would still be high, but lower than the existing shop. The other shop would lose business and be forced to LOWER their prices in order to stay competitive.

Later on down the road, a corporate bakery makes donuts by the dozen, lowering prices because now chocolate donuts were plentiful and even though the local donuts were more expensive and probably tasted better, people were willing to take a lower quality product to save a few bucks, just so long as they had the appearance of being people who could afford chocolate donuts. The local stores would downsize or close due to the overabundance of donuts, allowing the corporate bakery to make ALL the donuts for the area. But with rising costs of retirement, insurance and disability, the corporation found itself top-heavy with overpaid management and overpaid line employees. So to save the brand at all costs, the company would fire domestic employees and move the entire factory overseas-where the managers would still get hefty incomes, but the line works were paid in dollars per week instead of dollars per day. The citizens still wanted to have those desirable chocolate donuts, but now in order to keep a profit for stockholders, the company has eliminated jobs that allow money to return to the economy.

On top of that, let's assume that Congress, concerned about the increasing girth of its citizens, decides to limit the number of yummy chocolate donuts that can be made in this country. Now imagine that a factory in Indonesia makes really cheap chocolate donuts. They could sell them for a dollar a DOZEN. That would drive out the local shops and corner the business with lower grade, cheaper quality chocolate donuts. Add that the dollars would only flow OUT of the country, creating an economic vacuum. They would outsell the American corporation, buy them out and before you know it, the only thing Americans have to show for their trouble is way too much of a belly from gorging on chocolate donuts. The only solution to save the economy is to permit chocolate donut shops to open and produce the SUPPLY that the public DEMANDS.

Now let's talk about gasoline. It comes from oil. A barrel of oil yields just about 17 gallons of gas. And that's before the spa style additives demanded by certain states. Believe it or not, we have oil resources in our national territory, but we can't access it. We can't even think about accessing it. And furthermore, if you read the web, we should feel virtuous for not allowing American countries to access American resources for the benefit of the American public. Who is running this show anyway and who is in their back pocket?

While I do think that corporate honchos are getting far too much compensation for what they actually do, and while there are probably layers of management that could disappear tomorrow without ill effects, the key issue to gas prices is SUPPLY AND DEMAND. Corporate profits have remained steady. You hear the astronomical numbers of gross income, but not the facts regarding the increased cost of everything from exploration to transport. Our economy demands oil and gas. And whether you like it or not, that's not going to change very soon. For all of the pie in the sky promises, there are few meaningful alternatives right now. You can talk electric hybrids, but there are still questions about the environmental impact of the batteries, and you can talk electric cars, but if you charge a car using conventional power sources, you are using coal or natural gas-both questionable sources in terms of the environment. We can't build nuclear, we can't harness enough wind or water power, we simply don't have a viable delivery system for biodiesel or other sources. In short, we are left stranded by the same Congressional do-gooders who claim to have our best interests at heart. Our Congress has patted themselves on the back for limiting exploration off of Florida, off of the West Coast, the East Coast and Alaska. Never mind that Castro and his friends are there pumping away to have oil that will be refined in Venezuela. There comes a point in time where you have to put aside your petty bickering to look at the greater good. What good comes of $4.00 per gallon gasoline? What good does it do other than make those who struggle even less able to survive. If you answer that it makes people use mass transit, then you are a self-centered boob. While it may allow some to consider those options, how many more will it limit in terms of their ability to hold a job, go to school or get medical services? It's time to be big boys and girls and allow limited drilling in ANWR, and on the coasts. And it's time to remind those folks in Washington, who's boss.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

The Danger of the "Over-Promise"

Most businesses, especially sales, will say that in order to keep customers happy, you don't over-promise. You don't promise things sooner than you reasonably think they can get there or you run the risk of making the customer mad. I am betting there's not a single person out there who went to a one hour photo booth and didn't expect their photos in sixty minutes. One of the biggest gripes people have regarding businesses these days is the lack of customer service, and disappointment over delivery, specs and such play into that.

Witness the Democratic National party line where they are promising virtually everything to virtually everyone. Because of the image of the DNC as the Big Umbrella party, their party platform must address every single demographic minority's view in order to maintain the perilous status quo. Be they gay or straight, atheist or fundamentalist, regardless of religion, union, job or gender, every single person's needs MUST be addressed, even when they conflict (as in the current primary race between a woman and an ethnic minority) or when they fly in the face of common sense. Take just one example-energy. The environmentalists have been violently opposed to nuclear power for decades even when their European counterparts embraced this source.
So that leaves
solar-which doesn't have the battery or generating ability to date,
wind-which has the same problems,
hydraulic-which is also being fought by environmentalists who want to do things like get rid of Glen Lakes Dam,
coal-which they don't like even though it is our most abundant naturally occurring source of energy
natural gas-no ability exists for average folks to access this for cars at this time.
biodiesel-which is being scuttled by higher source material costs
or oil-which Cuba and China are taking from right under our noses off the coast of Florida because the Congress and DNC are so much in the back pockets of environmental groups.

And this is just one issue. Pick another-single payer healthcare, the war in Iraq and Afghanistan, taxation, states rights, eminent domain, drugs, illegal immigration, voter ID-pick any issue and they have promised to any and all that their dreams will be fulfilled. Just as if the Magic Fairy showed up or a Genie in a bottle granted three wishes. But when you read such stories as those, there's always a catch or a moral attached. The moral to this story is that if you promise everything to everyone, somebody is going to be disappointed. And with the fervor and anger that has driven the last four years of media hype, if all that is on the winner's plate cannot be delivered in record time, there is going to be serious implications for the mid-terms. Lincoln said it best,
"You can fool some of the people all of the time,
and all of the people some of the time,
but you can't fool all of the people, all of the time"

Let's me add to that: "And payback is a *****"

Saturday, May 03, 2008

Israel: The Real History

It has been a constant puzzle why leftists and liberals, including some prominent members of the Jewish community, continue to support politicians that espouse the elimination of Israel. This has been a cornerstone of much of the foreign policy of the liberal side of the aisle and it continues to be a cause celebre for those who are either ignorant of the goals of Hammas and their ilk, or ignorant of their own status in the world. In short, why would someone like Barbara Striesand support the militant governments that would shoot her on sight simply for her heritage, whether she practiced her faith or not? Read this commentary, which is a very thoughtful and thorough analysis of the history of the creation of Israel and the history of its oppression by neighboring Arab states.
Commentary here

Who Is Making Money On High Fuel Costs?

It would seem that Hillary Clinton let the cat out of the bag by trying to get Congress to pass a fuel tax holiday. While the margin of profit that oil companies make has been pretty consistent at around 8%. Granted that's better than some companies, but much less than say, Google, which had a 25% profit. To quote from CNN-which is not usually an apologist for big oil companies-

"...Even though many oil companies are reporting record profits, many people forget just how expensive it is for energy companies to engage in the oil business.

The average net profit margin for the S&P Energy sector, according to figures from Thomson Baseline, is 9.7%. The average for the S&P 500 is 8.5%. So yes, energy companies are more profitable than many others...but not by an inordinate amount.

Google, for example, reported a net profit margin of 25% in its most recent quarter. Should we have an online advertising windfall profit tax?..."

CNN Money April 29, 2008

So exactly which entities have the most to lose if gas taxes are cut? Not the oil companies, their taxes are paid before it hits the pump. But local taxing umbrellas such as counties, states and even the federal government have a great deal to lose if such a tax holiday were passed. The Obama camp is trying to rally union opposition by citing the possibility of losing construction jobs. But then again, is this real shrinkage of the domestic job market, or will it give construction companies the incentive to stop hiring people who are not here legally? And when it comes to tax dollars going into Washington D.C. , Texans are only getting about seventy five cents or so for every dollar we send. So where's the rest of the money? We could go into the scenario from "It's a Wonderful Life" where the function of the savings and loan is explained, but the simply matter is that the money Texans don't get back in the form of projects is political payola for things like ethanol support subsidies, pet projects and celebrity endorsed programs which due to their cost only help the already wealthy. In short, while there's a noticeable reluctance to address the issue, the federal government, state governments and local towns and cities are reaping a bountiful harvest of sales taxes that become exponentially higher when they are based on per dollar sales. Everyone wins, except the consumer. Maybe someone should read them the story about the Goose that Laid the Golden Egg before all of our gooses are cooked.