Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Employer Mandate Delay Cost $12 Billion, Or Not

The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) released a study that claims delaying the "employer mandate" portion of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA), also known as "Obamacare", will cost the federal government up to $12 billion ($12,000,000,000) in revenues.

The majority of this "lost revenue" or "increased deficit", according to the CBO study, stems from the anticipated collection of fines levied against those employers who don't comply. The PPACA forces any employer with over 50 full-time employees (over 30 hours a week) to provide health insurance for its employees.

[T]he net cost is now estimated to be $1,375 billion—$12 billion more than previously estimated. The largest change is a $10 billion reduction in penalty payments by employers that would have been collected in 2015. (Penalties assessed for 2014 would have been collected in 20< 15.) Costs for exchange subsidies are expected to increase by $3 billion.

Many companies conducted the cost-benefit analysis and determined that the fines are significantly less than the increased costs of human capital (labor). The CBO takes those studies into consideration. The law's implementation plan included an estimated amount into its calculations of the costs to the federal government.

Without the "employer mandate", the CBO also estimates that many lower-income full-time employees won't be able to afford private, individual healthcare plans. They will likely end up using Medicaid, CHIP, and other taxpayer-funded subsidies to fill the gap. That will add to the deficit as well.

Should the individual mandate also be delayed, much of the taxpayer-funded costs will reduce, though. Citizens who cannot afford their healthcare programs but make just over the Medicaid and CHIP thresholds will not scramble to attempt to pay for a plan they cannot afford. While this will also reduce fines, it will leave some disposable income that will be spent on goods and services. That will keep the individual mandate frm harming the economy. That will keep private industry revenues up. That keeps payroll taxes up. That keeps capital gains revenues up. That keeps sales, excise, and other tax revenues up.

Of those who would otherwise have obtained employment-based coverage, roughly half will be uninsured and the others will obtain coverage through the exchanges or will enroll in Medicaid or the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), CBO and JCT estimate. In particular, fewer than half a million additional people are expected to be uninsured in 2014 than the number projected in the May baseline.

The other considerations the CBO report did not appear to calculate (or estimate) were the potential losses from enacting the employer mandate. Our economy is already seeing the effects. The U3 unemployment rate has dropped, slightly. The Workforce Participation Rate has edged up slightly. It has not been good news, though. It is the labor market adjusting to changes due, in part, to the PPACA. Employers are converting two full-time positions to three part-time jobs, restricting employees to approximately 25 hours a week. While this employs more people, it does so in a way that reduces the number of employees a company or employer must provide healthcare.

For example, a large, independent restaurant normally runs two shifts (lunch and dinner) six days a week. It amounts to 65 or so employees, 55 of them at full-time (8 hours by 4 days a week -- 32 hours). Now they reduce hours, increase overall jobs to 80, and restrict all but 5 of them to 4 six-hour shifts a week. The employer mandate does not apply. They pay no fine or fee. The workers see a decrease in income.

Decreased income means less money spent on goods and services. It means lower profits. It means lower tax revenues from income taxes, excise taxes, payroll taxes, capital gains taxes, and sales taxes. Apply this to all food service and retail companies.

The tax base decreases. Increasing any other tax rates, such as income taxes in higher brackets, will further decrease the tax base. That will drastically decrease revenues. The cost is likely to be well beyond the $12 Billion the CBO estimated the delay would cost.

Perhaps the CBO (and some really smart economists) should do a few studies on this effect and amend this latest CBO report accordingly.

Manning Not "Not Guilty"

The hooplah celebration, and spin is on over Bradley Manning's acquittal.

Bradley Manning was acquitted of the highest offense he was tried for allegedly committing. However, out of the 21 total charges, he was found guilty of 19.

Of those 19 charges, Manning entered a plea deal on a significant number of them. That deal was to avoid the death penalty, among other concessions. He is facing 20 years in prison for those offenses alone.

Of the other charges involved in his court martial, Manning was found guilty of five counts of espionage. That means he intentionally leaked US classified information to those the information from whom the information was meant to be kept.

Manning's supporters claim that those it was meant to be secreted from happened to be US Citizens. That is not true. It was meant to be kept from several foreign powers.

The charge of which Manning was acquitted was intentionally providing that documentation to the enemy, Al Q'aeda. The prosecution had to stretch a little to make that case, and fell short, rightfully so. Manning may have known there was a high probability that the documentation posted at WikiLeaks would end up in terrorist's hands. However, he did not provide the documentation to Julian Assange with the intent of funneling it to terrorist groups. That was his saving grace on that charge.

However, he did commit espionage against the US. He is as guilty of that crime (five times over) as Robert Hanseen and Aldrich Ames.  Hanssen and Ames both served in much higher level posts within the FBI and CIA than Manning did in the US Army. Both, deservedly, received sentences of life in prison without eligibility of parole.

Assange claims that the verdict sets a "dangerous precedent". It is not a precedent, though.  Christopher "The Falcon" Boyce and his co-conspirator Andrew "Snowman" Lee committed similar offenses. Boyce allegedly committed his espionage for "altruistic", "social justice" reasons. Boyce was sentenced to 40 years, paroled at 25 years. He will remain on parole until 2046, unless he violates and is re-incarcerated. Andrew Daulton "Snowman" Lee was sentenced to life in prison for his role in the espionage as well as drug trafficking (notably that of cocaine and heroin). He was paroled in 1998.

For the combined 19 charges Manning is guilty of committing, he faces a possible 136 years. Though not a "life sentence", it aggregates to approximately 80 years more than his average life expectancy. The chance of parole is still an option. However, Manning is likely to be an old man, in his 50s at the earliest, should he ever receive parole.

The military judge may order some of the sentences to run concurrent. Even then, Manning faces a very long sentence. The young man threw his life away. He violated his oath of enlistment and the public trust of the citizens of the US. While time may lead to forgiveness, his sins are likely to not be forgotten anytime soon.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Sex Slavers Busted, Drop in the Bucket

The FBI together with several other local and state agencies conducted Operation Cross-Country VII. The operation targeted predators who make their livings selling and trading humans for use as sex slaves. They have reportedly liberated over 105 young girls, across the country, who were being sold as sex slaves or used as under-aged prostitutes. Most of the girls were under 16, with the youngest reported slavery victim allegedly 9 years old.

This latest round of Operation Cross-Country led to the capture of over 150 pimps and sex-slavers. The estimated totals from all seven of these operations include over 2,700 child sex slaves liberated and over 1,350 convictions of child-exploiting sex slavers.

From the FBI's press release:
The operation included enforcement actions in 76 cities across 47 FBI divisions nationwide and led to the recovery of more than 105 children who were being victimized through prostitution. Additionally, 159 pimps were arrested on state and federal charges.
Operation Cross Country is part of the Innocence Lost National Initiative that was established in 2003 by the FBI’s Criminal Investigative Division, in partnership with the Department of Justice and NCMEC, to address the growing problem of child prostitution.

“Operation Cross Country demonstrates just how many of America’s children are being sold for sex every day, many on the Internet,” said John Ryan, CEO of NCMEC. “We’re honored and proud to partner with the FBI, which has taken the lead in tackling this escalating problem.”

Human trafficking and sex slavery are problems in the USA. Mostly this is because too many people turn a blind eye to the problems.

Too many people assume that the sex slaves are comprised of mostly illegal immigrants or drug addicts.

Too many people assume that children are not trafficked out of the country, thinking that the stuff of movies such as "Spartan" and "Taken".

Yet women such as the three that Ariel Castro abducted (as minors) and kept as sex slaves don't bring as much attention to the issue. Sure, this case has media attention. So did the Elisabeth Smart case. But those are but two in thousands.

Up to 80% of runaway or missing children who are not abducted as part of a parental custody dispute are potentially victims of sex slavery. This is why, if there is not body, parents need to keep looking.

Minor boys and girls are sold as slaves or used as prostitutes in the US. They are duped or abducted, indoctrinated, abused, and often forced to take highly addictive substances to help enslave them.

Some are taken outside of the US. They are treated the same or worse. Once out of the local area, the chances of catching the slavers greatly decreases. Once outside of the country, the chances of catching them approaches zero.

The problem isn't just a European problem. It isn't just in Asia. The Middle East is not the only place engaging in "white" ("brown", "black", "green", "red" or "orange) slavery. Mexico and South America aren't the only danger areas in the Western Hemisphere. It's right here at home.

Monday, July 29, 2013

TX 2nd Special Considers Backing College Bonds

The Texas House considers issuing bonds to fund state colleges and universities. HB 5 would permit several universities to issue "revenue bonds" for improvements and expansion of those universities. The bill is scheduled for floor action in the Texas House as early as the afternoon on July 29th.

The bonds would be secured by the state's general fund and would be scheduled to start issuing repayment or dividends starting in 2015. Should the universities not have the revenue available to pay the amounts promised, the deficit (difference) would be covered from the state's general fund. Each university system and institution named contains this wording, specifically targeting each system as applicable:

       (b)  The board may pledge irrevocably to the payment of bonds authorized by this section all or any part of the revenue funds of an institution, branch, or entity of [insert university system name] System, including student tuition charges. The amount of a pledge made under this subsection may not be reduced or abrogated while the bonds for which the pledge is made, or bonds issued to refund those bonds, are outstanding.
       (c)  If sufficient funds are not available to the board to meet its obligations under this section, the board may transfer funds among institutions, branches, and entities of [insert university system name] System to ensure the most equitable and efficient allocation of available resources for each institution, branch, or entity to carry out its duties and purposes.
The bill directs the state to set aside $175 million for 2015 in order to be prepared to cover possible shortfalls in the first round of interest, dividends, and repayments:

H.B. 5 appropriates $175 million out of the general revenue fund to the comptroller of public accounts for the state fiscal year ending August 31, 2015, for distribution to institutions of higher education and university systems for debt service on revenue bonds authorized by the bill.

Unlike private universities, public (state) universities such as Texas A&M and the University of Texas must seek approval from the legislature to sell bonds, a type of security similar to a US Savings Bond, in order to fund expansions or improvements. These proposed bonds would fund various things for several universities. The projects are enumerate in the bill itself, which can be read in its entirety at this link.

For example, Texas A&M seeks expansion or improvement to over 10 of their facilities across the state:

             (1)  Texas A&M University--Commerce, $40 million for a library and technology center;
             (2)  Texas A&M University--Corpus Christi, $60 million for a life sciences research building; 
             (3)  Texas A&M University--Kingsville, $33.6 million for music building expansion and renovation of Jones Auditorium;
             (4)  Texas A&M University--Texarkana, $36.8 million for an academic and laboratory learning center;
             (5)  West Texas A&M University, $12 million for the Amarillo Center;

to include the San Antonio and Galveston campuses:

             (10)  Texas A&M University, $64 million for a biocontainment research facility; 
             (11)  Texas A&M University at Galveston, $36.8 million for an academic building; 
             (12)  Texas A&M University--Central Texas, $50 million for a science, health science, and wellness building; and 
             (13)  Texas A&M University--San Antonio, $70 million for a science and technology building.

HB 5 specifically names the following institutions: Texas A&M, University of Texas, University of Houston, Texas State University, University of North Texas, Texas Women's University, Midwestern State University, Texas Southern University, Texas State Tech University and Texas Tech University.

The Texas A&M bond request aggregates to a sum of $628.8 million dollars. University of Texas is looking to borrow $928.7 million. The remainder of the university systems' planned bond issue totals per project are available in the House's analysis of the bill, available here.

True Public Funding Of Higher Education?

A few months ago, we did our own cursory analysis of a bond issue for an Independent School District. In that analysis, the proposed bond was to borrow money in order to expand the school district to include building two more schools. The bond didn't take into account additional costs such as the payrolls and benefits of the increased human resources. It was basically an effort to borrow from Peter to pay Paul, to whom it already owed a significant sum. The new issue was partially a refinancing deal to "gain money" from paying off the already issued bonds and selling new ones at a lower interest rate. It wasn't saving any money. It was paying less interest in the short run. It was also contingent on selling low-yield municipal bonds in a depressed market when the borrower has almost hit its available credit limit. That proposed bond was in a city with one of the highest per capita public debts in the nation.

The university bond proposal is quite different. The most glaring difference is that the universities charge students tuition and usage fees. They can raise those tuition rates in order to meet their payroll and operating costs. They can market and produce a better product, gaining them more customers. In short, they operate in a more competitive and capitalist market system.

The investment in university bonds can be much more lucrative than ISD bonds. Universities have a greater propensity for revenue (profit) than ISDs, who have none. So, there is a greater chance of a return on the risk/investment. There payout from the ISD bonds is a low return (less than the inflation rate, so the net is a loss, not gain) for a promise of (maybe) better educational opportunities for the students.

With college, there is a great amount of "school choice". Look at billboards, internet, and television advertisements. Do you ever see any for your local public school seeking your business? How about colleges and universities? The latter are competing for business all around. There is an implicit necessity to provide the clients the best product a university can. If they fail, they lose students and risk going out of business.

The only drawback comes with the state guaranteeing the loans. The government used to "cosign" student loans that were issued by private lending institutions. That is what bond purchasers amount to, private lenders. Now, the federal government has nationally socialized the student loan market, directly controlling and issuing the loans. The loans are more available to students, with much lower standards of qualification. That leads to a greater number of defaulted loans. It also led to a drastic inflation of school tuition, including state universities.

While the guarantees from Texas's general fund may secure the bonds, making them a lower risk investment, the risk is to the taxpayers of the state who could get stuck with the bill. Overall, though, these bonds may prove to be rather stable investments for your portfolio.

Friday, July 26, 2013

Even Heroes Get Bullied

Regardless of how some may attempt to distort perceptions and deny it, the majority of our nation's military service members are heroes. Those who have deployed to combat, served honorably under those nightmare conditions are even more so. Those who were physically injured or disfigured are even higher on the totem pole.

If you research many of their stories, you find inspiring stories of valor. Chris Kyle spoke (and wrote) of one of his SEAL buddies who lost his sight in a battle. If you read his tale, after being shot, the SEAL refused to be carried to the corpsmen (medical personnel), despite the fact it may have saved his sight. Choosing to walk, he further risked his life. But he did so in order to keep more SEALs in the fight. He did so in order to prevent other SEALs from exposing themselves, which would have increased their risk. Regardless of that SEAL's other acts of valor or bravery, this one alone makes him a hero.

Well, sometimes these heroes get bullied.

They get bullied by the increased bureaucracy in the Veterans' Administration. Care, benefits, and compensation are backlogged. Many times these delays aggravate the conditions, making them worse, and increasing the damage as well as the cost of the care.

They get bullied by those who use them as pawns to push their causes. There are several NPOs that claim to support wounded veterans. They keep most of the donated funds, using just enough for their purported cause to legally justify remaining as a viable charity organization.

They get bullied by those who spit on them and call them "baby-killer".

They get bullied by those who look at them as less than what they are -- heroes.

It's tough not to look. Having served in multiple combat tours, I admit I find it hard to not look. Seeing them is tough because I see what could have been. I see that I was lucky.

I also see my friends, brothers, and sisters that are no more. The injuries change people. Sometimes it is for the good. Sometimes it isn't. I know Soldiers who are lucky to not have died due to their injuries who are still serving. One is a US Army Ranger who lost a leg. He fought the system and returned to duty, as a Ranger, despite a prosthetic leg. I see him and the word "can't" becomes an excuse meaning "too lazy or scared to...".

I look at my friend Chris Edwards. Chris was blown-up and badly burned. It has been a few years since I last spoke with him. However, last I spoke to him, he was still on active duty, working long hours, as the leader I have always known. He adapted and changed. His motivation and determination were not just renewed, they were emboldened. Still, my brain gives a little short when I see pictures of how he looks now. It doesn't match "the Chris" I knew. Still, inside, he is much the same, just more, well, Chris.

They gave up parts of their body. But are not less of a man or woman. They are MORE. 

Not all can return to duty. That doesn't matter. What matters is that they have the drive to live. They have the drive to do. They have the drive to make the most out of the life they have. They plan to win the game with the hand they have been dealt. They go "all in".

Such a hero uses the same gym I do.

My wife should tell this story in her own words. This is her story as much as it is his.

I do not know the circumstances of what happened. I did not see the extent of his injuries. My wife went to the gym alone this morning. She relayed the tale when she got home.

Three over-grown boys were staring at this hero, whispering about him. The term "over-grown boys" refers to the fact they were biologically adult men, but socially immature. The hero was there, at the gym, getting fit and getting back to some aspect of "normalcy". Yet here were three bullies shining a spotlight of ridicule onto the man.

My wife had enough. A disabled veteran herself, my wife could stay silent no more. She walked up to the boys and told them off. She gave them a piece of her mind about the sacrifices, valor, and bravery of this young hero. Just the fact he was wounded as he was and still managed, despite the stares and ridicule to which he'd become accustomed, to walk into a public place and workout. My wife hit the boys with hard questions. "Did you serve? What have you done with your life? What have you been willing to sacrifice? This man here has already given more than any of you have the balls to risk. You owe him an apology and your eternal gratitude."

So, here's to another hero, who stands up to those who bully heroes. Here's to my wife.

Thank you.

Story Should Have National Attention, Doesn't

There is a tragic story that should be national news but isn't. There are several, in fact, that are somehow ignored by mainstream media outlets such as nationally syndicated newspapers, broadcast television news outlets, and other "credible" news outlets.

Near Austin Texas, a girl was gang raped for hours. She was later dumped on the street, needing medical attention, and left to fend for herself.

The story is almost as horrific as that of Elisabeth Smart, who was abducted and used as a sex slave. It is almost as horrific as the tale of the three young women in Ohio who were, allegedly, abducted by accused kidnapper, pervert, and sex slaver Ariel Castro.

Of note, Ariel Castro plead guilty, entering a deal to avoid the death penalty. His sentence is reported to be life in prison, without parole, plus 1,000 years. 

These received international attention, with the stories being syndicated to news outlets in Europe and Canada.

Yet, as Glen Beck points out, this story isn't getting anywhere near the attention. Like Mr. Beck or not, when he is correct, he is right.

According to Associated Press reporting, 10 illegal immigrants abducted and gang raped a 13 year-old girl in Austin, TX. The girl was an alleged runaway. She was in a group foster home. The girl was already an "at-risk" youth due to whatever circumstances led to her residency in a foster home. Whatever transpired to urge her to run away must have been circumstances aggravating her already disadvantageous situation. Then she is abducted and gang-raped by 10 adult male illegal immigrants.

Why Isn't This News?

Does anybody recall the assassination of Robert Krentz? Residents of Cochise County, Arizona, remember the tale. It is a bit of a horror story and real-life fable. There are a few morals to that story. The first one is that giving aid to criminals and terrorists will earn you nothing less than undue pain. The second is that no law enforcement agency is capable of defending your land, livelihood, family or life for you. The third is that monsters really do exist and only proportionate force can repel them.

How about Adria Sauceda? She was another Texas girl who was abducted, raped, and eventually murdered. Her murderer, Humberto Leal, was an illegal immigrant. The Obama Administration intervened, attempting to stay his execution in 2011, 15 years after he stalked, raped, and murdered Adria. Obama wanted the stay because of "pending legislation" that he thought would have bearing on the case. The problem is that Obama and Holder believe that ex post facto laws are constitutional. Leal had already been tried, convicted, and gone through his appeal process. The US Supreme Court denied the stay of execution and upheld the death sentence.

These and other cases are not getting the national attention they deserve because they oppose the political agendas of Obama's supporters in the mainstream press. The above mentioned incidents highlight the need for immigration reform and better security of our borders.

The case of Robert Krentz supports one of the main purposes for the Second Amendment. The biased, liberal media wants to repeal the Second Amendment. They avoid any real news story that contradicts their political agenda.

In contrast, the trial of George Zimmerman sparked attacks against Second Amendment supporting laws such as Florida's "Stand Your Ground" law. Neither the case nor the defense included the  "Stand Your Ground" clause. Zimmerman was pinned under Martin's body. There was no available avenue to retreat. Yet, the media propagates against a law that had nothing to do with the case or the actual story. The media even edited Zimmerman's 9-1-1 call to make him appear racist in order to inflame racial tensions among the citizens. Doing so supports their false narratives and pushes their agenda.

The other cases highlight the criminal mindset of many illegal immigrants. They have no respect for our nation's laws. First, they break our laws by intentionally entering our country illegally. During their trek, they criminally trespass on privately owned land. While doing so, they vandalize it. They steal. They assault the landowners. Then they seek paperwork and documentation that will make them appear legitimate. They steal identification and use forged and fraudulent documentation. They steal people's hard-earned money. They many register to vote, illegally. They apply for, and receive, housing and sustenance subsidies, stealing from US taxpayers and defrauding our state and federal governments.

These stories propose real and clear reasons to oppose amnesty legislation as part of immigration reform or border security reform. The media supports amnesty. They support open borders. They support drug cartels and sex slavers. They oppose national security and national defense for the ordinary individual US citizen. 

How far will they go? 

Many are content to have "what is necessary" to survive and build a fraudulent life here in the states. However, a significant number don't stop at those crimes.

They help smuggle drugs and firearms for the cartels.

They help traffic indentured workers, to include sex slaves into the US.

They help traffic children and young women out of the US to be used as sex slaves.

They abduct and enslave children and teenagers to serve as sex slaves.

They extort. They rape. They murder. They join organized crime organizations sometimes referred to as "street gangs", and conspire with others to more of the above.

They enable people like Ariel Castro in Ohio. These activities are not restricted to the border areas. Those living in the border states are just less deluded and more aware of these types of activities. So they tend to recognize them better. 

That is why these news stories are so important on the national level. Don't let the media dictate what facts and stories are important. Be among the awakened and look at the world around you. Collect the facts. make up your mind. Share those facts and the insights. Speak up.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Cruz Takes Voter ID National

Voter ID laws have hit the national stage with Ted Cruz's S. 1336.

Senate Bill S. 1336 amends the 1993 "Motor Voter" act to allow states to require identification in order to register to vote. The bill has 9 additional co-sponsors joining Senator Ted Cruz. The bill has been read twice and is already on the Senate Calender for hearings, debate, and voting. The pleasantly short bill can be read in its entirety at this link. It is also available at this link.

   To amend the National Voter Registration Act of 1993 to permit States to require proof of citizenship for registration to vote in elections for Federal office.
   Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled,
   Section 6 of the National Voter Registration Act of 1993 (42 U.S.C. 1973gg-4) is amended by adding at the end the following new subsection:
       `(e) Proof of Citizenship- Nothing in subsection (a) shall be construed to preempt any State law requiring evidence of citizenship in order to complete any requirement to register to vote in elections for Federal office.'.

 The Advent of Cruz's Voter ID Bill

Several states have enacted or attempted to enact Voter-ID and other voter integrity laws over the past several years. Federal coourts have struck some of these down in their entirety. Others have had clauses or sections struck down through federal preemption cases.

For example, Arizona's voter-ID law required proof of citizenship be verified through documentation presented at the time of registration. Federal courts upheld that Arizona could enforce such a requirement on their state-level registration forms. However, federal laws and policies preempted (took higher precedence) any such requirements on the federal registration forms. The Voter Registration Act of 1993 allows for voters to register when applying for a state driver's license or state photo identification card. That registration was deemed to be a federal registration, on a federal form. Therefore, the registration requires only an individual affidavit under a possible charge of perjury if caught.

With the US Supreme Court lifting the requirement for states to have to gain federal permission before altering their US Constitutionally protected voter registration policies. That portion of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 has since been stricken. This has led many states, such as Texas, to seek to improve their voter integrity laws and reform their election laws to make them more honest and fair.

Several states, including Texas and Arizona, have felt as though the current administration has intentionally fought any form of reform that increased the integrity of the electoral process, to include voter ID laws. Governor Rick Perry of Texas issued this statement regarding the Obama Administration's policies towards voter ID and voter integrity legislation:

"Once again, the Obama Administration is demonstrating utter contempt for our country's system of checks and balances, not to mention the U.S. Constitution. This end-run around the Supreme Court undermines the will of the people of Texas, and casts unfair aspersions on our state's common-sense efforts to preserve the integrity of our elections process."

Senator Ted Cruz of Texas filed the new legislation in hopes of removing the federal preemption and restore some sovereignty to the individual states that wish to better insure law-abiding, living citizens can vote (once per election). Furthermore, to protect their votes, this bill would allow states to pass legislation to keep the deceased, felons, and non-citizens from illegally voting and perverting the electoral process.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Defending Our Kids

Murdered former SEAL Chris Kyle had been working on setting up a program to help educate and train Texas teachers. The famed sniper sought to assist teachers in acquiring Concealed Handgun Licenses (CHLs) as well as offer them special training that would help them offer students the best protection possible in the case of an "active shooter" scenario.

Since his death, several such classes have been conducted. They started small, but some of the latest classes neared 1,000 teachers.

The Texas 83rd Legislature passed a law that would allow teachers to carry concealed handguns in schools. There are several key provisions that must be met. First and foremost, a candidate for the special license must already have a valid CHL. The CHL application process includes criminal background checks and a course that covers the "Section H" laws, safety, and marksmanship.

To use the special license, the teacher must work in an Independent School District (ISD) or school that does not have a full-time armed security professional or police officer on site whenever children are present. Currently, only a handful of ISDs in Texas have applied for and met that criterion. However, many ISDs and schools have a listed position or a program in place, but do not, in reality, have that full-time position actively manned. In many ISDs, the enforcement officers assigned that duty are also doing truancy investigations and other duties.

The special license also requires some additional training that is just common sense. Teachers need to know how to best protect the children, first. In many cases, that would preclude the teacher from using the firearm without endangering the students. They need to know and practice possible scenarios so they can make that hard choice, should the situation warrant such. They need to know how to insure they have a clear shot. They need to know how to control the students to keep them out of harm's way. Sometimes, guiding the students to a safe location will take precedence. The safety of the kids is the paramount goal. Playing "Dirty Harry" or "John McClane" should be avoided. This requires training and practice.

In the late Chris Kyle's name, associates of Craft International and the Chris Kyle Memorial Fund have started rolling that ball. Dalworthington Gardens Police Chief Bill Waybourn worked with Chris to develop the program. Now it is an active course offered through Firearms Training Fort Worth.

The program and course need not be limited to teachers in those ISDs that qualify. It is a good class for every teacher, teacher's aid, school counselor, and principal in Texas. The course isn't just about guns and shooting guns. It's first priority is the protection of the students, keeping them from being harmed. Even if a teacher isn't armed in the classroom, the class will grant important insight.

Take a scenario in which there is an armed guard at the school. Say an active shooter still manages to gain entry and terrorize the school. The course will enable teachers to keep the children safe(r) and out of the way so the armed guard can do his job in reducing the threat. The class teaches basic ballistics and tactics that will give teachers advantages in avoiding such a gunman (or other terrorist criminal). Knowing basic tactics will aid counselors in dealing with the potential fallout, particularly in regards to "at risk" youth. In addition, the courses will assist teachers in gaining their CHLs for off duty time. The course creates options.

The class costs $500 per student. That includes range fees, administrative fees, and other costs. The course has been offered for free in the past. This is a cause worthy of support.

It's for the kids.

Monday, July 22, 2013

Student Success Act 2013

The US House of Representatives recently passed the Student Success Act of 2013. HR 5 is, essentially, another "No Child Left Behind" bill.

The program seeks to place certain educational programs under federal auspices while granting funding towards high achieving or improving learning institutions.

The bill addresses charter, private, and magnet school programs.

     `(a) In General- From the amount reserved under section 3102(b)(3), the Secretary shall award grants to State entities having applications approved pursuant to subsection (f) to enable such entities to--
            `(1) award subgrants to eligible applicants for--
                   `(A) opening new charter schools;
                   `(B) opening replicable, high-quality charter school models; or
                   `(C) expanding high-quality charter schools; and
            `(2) provide technical assistance to eligible applicants and authorized public chartering agencies in carrying out the activities described in paragraph (1) and work with authorized public chartering agencies in the State to improve authorizing quality.
It outlines teacher and program accreditation.

It continues collecting attendance information as one of the criteria for funding:

     `(a) Census Determination- Each local educational agency desiring a grant under section 1231 and each local educational agency or specially qualified agency desiring a grant under chapter B shall--
          `(1) not later than December 1 of each year, conduct a census to determine the number of students in average daily attendance in kindergarten through grade 12 at the schools served by the agency; and
          `(2) not later than March 1 of each year, submit the number described in paragraph (1) to the Secretary (and to the State educational agency, in the case of a local educational agency seeking a grant under subpart 2).
     `(b) Penalty- If the Secretary determines that a local educational agency or specially qualified agency has knowingly submitted false information under subsection (a) for the purpose of gaining additional funds under section 1231 or chapter B, then the agency shall be fined an amount equal to twice the difference between the amount the agency received under this section and the correct amount the agency would have received under section 1231 or chapter B if the agency had submitted accurate information under subsection (a).

It even grants provisions for greater parental rights and flexibility:

     `Subpart 1--Charter School Program
          `SEC. 3101. PURPOSE.
`It is the purpose of this subpart to--
     `(1) improve the United States education system and educational opportunities for all Americans by supporting innovation in public education in public school settings that prepare students to compete and contribute to the global economy;
     `(2) provide financial assistance for the planning, program design, and initial implementation of charter schools;
     `(3) expand the number of high-quality charter schools available to students across the Nation;
     `(4) evaluate the impact of such schools on student achievement, families, and communities, and share best practices between charter schools and other public schools;
     `(5) encourage States to provide support to charter schools for facilities financing in an amount more nearly commensurate to the amount the States have typically provided for traditional public schools;
     `(6) improve student services to increase opportunities for students with disabilities, English learners, and other traditionally under-served students to attend charter schools and meet challenging State academic achievement standards; and
     `(7) support efforts to strengthen the charter school authorizing process to improve performance management, including transparency, monitoring, and evaluation of such schools.
 The full bill is available at this link.

Is The Student Success Act of 2013 Unconstitutional?

However, the bill does not appear to support the 10th Amendment to the US Constitution.

The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the states, are reserved to the states respectively, or to the people.

Governing education or indoctrination of the youth, education standards, education certification, and establishing any standardized testing are not enumerated powers listed in Article 1 Section 8 of the US Constitution or in any part of Article 2 (executive powers).

The 10th Amendment already guarantees parental rights as well as state, local, and parental authorities and responsibilities in regards to education. The only portions of the bill that pertain to any federal authority are those sections relating to schools on Native American reservations and those that pertain to Department of Defense child development and education programs.

Of all the potential unconstitutional uses of taxpayer money, education is, perhaps, the least offensive. It is still not an authorized use of federal money. Dictating education standards also surpasses federal authority, demonstrating yet another gross overreach.

Given the recent parent and education reform activists' outcries against the Common Core State Standards Initiative and Texas's controversial CSCOPE program, perhaps a better bill from the House would repeal all federal education programs.

Contact your Senators and let them know how you feel about the federal government telling you what your child should learn. 

Friday, July 19, 2013

Coming to A City Near You -- Detroit's Fall

In the 1960s, Detroit, "Mo-Town", "Motor City" was one of the most prosperous cities in the US.

Then came "social welfare programs" and union corruption and greed.

Today, Detroit filed for bankruptcy, with a $20 billion dollar debt, 18% unemployment, 60% of the population living below the poverty line, and an approximated 50% functional illiteracy rate.

50% illiteracy is a job-growth killer. The illiteracy can be tied directly to unions, specifically teachers' unions. Teachers' unions are notorious for attempting to quash competition in the education market and lobbying against school-choice programs. Then again, school choice programs such as vouchers and rebates are difficult to enact when the city is broke. People are left unable to learn new skills that would attract businesses to a lucrative labor market.

There is little that Detroit offers the labor market. It is not a "right to work" municipality. It is a labor oligopoly that places potential workers at the whims of unions. Better qualified workers are deterred from moving there because the unions will decide what their market value is, rather than their resume and skills. In addition, the city needed money to do things like repair roads and provide water and sewer services. So, they employed Keynesian policies and taxed those who do earn a paycheck more. That deters people from wanting to work there, especially when states such as Arizona have low income tax rates and better weather. Texas offers better with no income taxes. Both are "right to work" states, as is Michigan's southern neighbor, Indiana.

With nearly 2/3 of the population living under the poverty level, the city (and state) enacted "social welfare" programs, attempting to boost the quality of life for lower-income earners. The problem is the city didn't have the money to give them.

They enacted revenue policies that shrank the tax base, then raised the rates on those that would remain. Many among that remaining base moved elsewhere further shrinking the base.

Then we come back to those unions. Municipal workers joined unions and had pension contracts. Those pensions are part of the public debt. Now, due to bankruptcy, those workers who believe they earned those pensions (and budget their expenditures accordingly) are facing potentially a potential 90% drop in their checks. Those who were wise enough to invest some of their own money in IRAs and other securities won't feel the hit as hard as those who falsely believed their pensions were secured.

Detroit failed to diversify. Anybody with a bachelor's level business degree knows that diversification is one key to long-term success. Detroit counted too much on automotive manufacturing. They put all of their eggs into one basket. Now, the US has moved into higher-tech industries that include more service-type workers. The financial and economic policies of the city did little to invite those employment sectors to the city. Higher taxes and poor infrastructure are deterrents, not incentives.

Many pundits and economic analysts will attempt to blame federal free-trade and market policies for Detroit's problems. In reality, those were not to blame. Detroit failed to adapt to the changing market and seek prosperity.

Detroit's downfall is that they chose to remain a single-ring circus that starred a one-trick pony. Any other acts that would have joined and boosted the draw were deterred or chased away.

Detroit is a union city. The UAW, among others, runs that city. You can bet, and the data would be wonderful to view as proof one way or the other, that the city government is so deep in bed with the unions that divorce is impossible. In fact, it is probably so incestuous and entrenched in nepotism and corruption that it is beyond dysfunctional. Try to find any elected city official or appointed bureaucrat who is not directly tied to a union as either a current or former member (or union official, administrator). Those few who may not be are probably the immediate family member of somebody who is. Any remaining after those filters are applied most likely have taken union dues in the form of campaign contributions.

The unions run the city services. They run the government. The unions are Detroit. That is why the GM-UAW bailout that unconstitutionally used federal taxpayer funding was referred to as "bailing out Detroit" during the 2012 elections.

The unions may have made the city unattractive to business developments. However, it is poor budgeting, Keynesian economics, and "social welfare" that bankrupted Detroit. They promised payouts. They planned for infrastructure maintenance that they could not afford. It is left unfinished and unfunded with bills for services rendered still unpaid. They promised government relief efforts in housing, subsistence, education, and health care that they couldn't afford. They projected greater revenues through forcing a small segment to "pay their fair share" (meaning pay for everything), without incorporating the Laffer Curve in their policies.

Look, if you put a 1 cent tax on all fruit, nobody will really notice. If you put a 20 cent tax on each orange, instead, people will start opting for apples, grapes, lemons, limes, or grapefruits. The oranges will rot or be shipped elsewhere to be sold. You won't collect that 20 cents.

Since 2010, several US municipalities filed for bankruptcy. Among them are San Bernadino, Mammoth Lakes and Stockton, California. Those cities are also notorious for socialist programs and using Keynesian economics. Other "progressive" cities in the same boat are Central Falls, RI and Harrisburg, PA.

Other Cities Could Face Detroit's Fate

Texas is one of the most prosperous states in the union today. There are opportunities in diverse areas. Those opportunities range from agriculture to textiles (linked back to Texas's cotton crops) to tech to aerospace (X-Cor for example). Texas took advantage of some states', such as Colorado, decisions to infringe upon Second Amendment protections and limit firearms related businesses. They courted those businesses to move to Texas. Texas also offers opportunities in fuel and energy. The state harvests, refines, and produces fossil fuels such as petroleum and natural gas. The state also looks towards the future in developing "renewable" or "green" energy sources.

The state is doing well. Cities such as Houston and San Antonio are, in contrast, in debt. San Antonio holds one of the highest public debts for a municipality in the country. Most of this is the result of Keynesian policies and fiscal irresponsibility.

Unions are not a huge problems for San Antonio. Texas is a "right to work" state. In and around the city, many businesses are booming. Medical facilities are hiring, for now.

Though the city (like the state) has not really embraced school-choice, the city and suburbs house several successful and challenging charter schools, including two Harmony Charter Schools (which magnet Science - Technology - Engineering - Mathematics gifted students). So, there are good options for education. Higher education is also a big business in San Antonio. Two universities of high merit that serve as examples are the University of Texas - San Antonio (UTSA) and Texas A&M - San Antonio (UTAMSA). There are many others, though, to include the "Alamo" colleges.

So why might San Antonio potentially face Detroit's fate? The city has so much going for it.

Four words form the base of the problem:  "tax", "borrow", "spend" and "handout". The false term the propaganda uses to spin these poor choices is "investment".

While it seems small compared to Detroit's $20 billion debt, San Antonio is $9.5 billion in the hole (up $100 million from 2012). Houston, TX is $13.2 Billion in debt. San Antonio's per capita debt is over $7,000 per resident (including kids). Houston's, despite the higher public debt, is lower at about $6,200 per person. The city faces another $50 million deficit for FY13. That deficit means it is promised to pay out $50 million more than the amount of revenues it will accrue. In short, they are spending more than they are making. This screams of a necessity to balance the budget. That is something they need to do without shrinking their tax base or chasing businesses away by raising tax rates. Spending cuts may be their first order of business. There are a few "investments" they should start with. 

An investment is risking capital, now, for a share in dividends of prosperity in the future. There may or may not be a payout. But that risk is made when there is a reasonable, logical, tangible propensity for a payout. Spending money with little to no chance of that return is consuming it. Consuming it with nothing to show for it is wasting it. Borrowing money to do so is just plain stupid.

San Antonio used taxes, then borrowed money, to waste millions in developing a "light rail system" to add to its public transportation infrastructure. No prospectus or study returned any analysis the would demonstrate any form or return. Running and maintaining the system will cost millions more. In order to break even (much less garner any revenue), the price per ride would have to be well beyond the means of those who would allegedly benefit from the system. They couldn't afford to ride it. So, the city proposed charging a lot less. Trains that run do so with empty seats. Even with every seat full, the costs and overhead are greater than the combined fare receipts. It is not an investment. It is a waste of money that did nothing but increase the public debt. The city cannot afford to complete the project, to top it off. Millions were wasted with more and more falling into the fire behind it.

Not helping San Antonio's rising fiscal problems, Moody's recently gave the city's municipal bonds a negative rating. San Antonio has a AAA rating in one aspect, and an AA2 in another. But Moody's recommends not investing in the city's municipal bonds. 

Citizens were duped into barely passing a referendum to increase the city's sales taxes. The increase was intended to help fund Mayor Castro's "indoctrinate them while they're young" plan called "Pre-K-SA". The plan was to increase the availability of full-time pre-kindergarten child-care programs at public schools in the San Antonio Independent School District. Not all public schools in San Antonio are part of SAISD. Yet, all citizens of the city and tourists will pay more for their purchases made in the city in order to pay for this program.

However, the program won't service all those the paperwork propagated. Many parents will still avoid the Pre-K programs, opting to either keep their kids at home or to use private childcare/daycare facilities. But those increased tax revenues along with other funding will be dumped into these little-used programs. The "teachers" will earn an average of nearly $70k a year (including benefits). All of this will fall down a sinkhole.

Those are but two examples of poor choices. The list continues, if you dig deeper into the various projects. Instead of bolstering ESL programs in local schools, they spend money busing Spanish speaking students to schools that teach most classes in Spanish. 

The city spends money supporting and securing a parade that Julian Castro is supposed to participate in. Instead, his twin brother impersonated him while he went to a campaign fundraiser. Meanwhile, Castro campaigns and promotes many of the same failed socio-economic policies that ruined his ancestral home -- Cuba.

San Antonio serves as a case study. Detroit serves as a giant "danger" sign. The model and policies are not unique. Neither are the problems. The road is one that is currently too often taken. It is full of potholes and leads to a bridge to nowhere that drops off into an abyss of ruin, debauchery and despair. To top it off, nobody can afford to fix it, if they even wanted to. It may be time for many cities to take an alternate route, now, while they still can.

On the other hand, at this rate, the progressive pundits and politicians who boasted government intervention, socialist policies then propagated against GOP Presidential Candidate Mitt Romney's statement "we should have let Detroit go bankrupt" will have plenty of crow to eat.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Wish 'For Not' List

Around certain times of the year, many of us get flooded with people asking us "What do you want for...?".

The question comes around certain holidays like Christmas and Yule. It comes as anniversaries approach. We get the question in regards to weddings and graduations. Some people have gone so far as registering wish-lists for birthdays at places such as or Williams-Sonoma.

I prefer to be both easy and difficult. If somebody feels compelled to purchase a gift for me, I like it to be from the heart. I prefer something that represents a level of effort. That effort can be in the search. It can also be in maintaining how well they pay attention to who I am. I like things that are hand-made and unique. Any of the above more than suffice. I also like to be surprised. If I give people a list, I can usually expect to get that list. That is boring. It equates to asking for gift cards so I can just shop for my own gift.

If you know me, you know that cash gifts (or checks) don't fall into the same category as gift cards, in my perspective. those gifts go into one account or other. They amount to a gift of part of a large purchase, like a house. In the meantime, the money is invested and grows. So, it continues to give. I'd also graciously accept bonds, stocks, T-bills, and shares in mutual finds.

Gift cards do not accrue interest or dividends. With inflation, they actually decrease in value.

Those who give gift cards, don't be disparaged or think me unappreciative. I understand that some people send them because they intend me to use it towards a specific gift that cannot be easily mailed  at a reasonable cost. However, those few cases are usually coordinated with a phone call or a card with the intended gift stated. Besides, if my mother wanted to buy me a sweater or a sports jacket, she'd have some difficulty getting it fitted or knowing my size. (Guys, keep this in mind when buying clothing for your gals. In those cases, it may be a lot wiser to buy the gift card that will cover the item. Put the card in with a picture of the item. Make the note flattering. Then let her try it on, buy it, or buy something she might be more comfortable wearing.)

Also, do not get me wrong. The gift cards will be used. There is an amount of though behind them, many times. For example, one for Williams-Sonoma is a good choice. I love to cook. but keeping up with my growing collection of cooking utensils can be difficult. So, if somebody sends one with a picture of a gelato maker, I'll gleefully thank them and buy something else (I already have one, and love it.)

So, don't worry. Gift cards may not be my favorite form of gift. They, however, are NOT on the "don't get" list.

So, I am not a "wish-list" guy.

I am a "wish for not" guy. I can give you a list of things I'd rather you stayed away from. Those who know me fairly well probably don't need that list. Even as a "gag gift" items on that list can become painful for anybody around.

Don't buy me undergarments. Period.

Don't buy me sport-team fan apparel, unless you are confident what teams (or athletes in non-team sports) I like. Here is a huge hint:  if it isn't a Chicago team, you can expect to have it epoxied to your body and set on fire. (Really, I won't set people on fire. I will set effigies of people on fire, though.)

Don't buy me DVDs or Blu-Ray Disks. My wife will greatly attest why this is a very bad idea. I may already have it. I may have it in HD digital. I may not want it. I may have already owned it and dumped it in the "ready to sell as used" pile.

Don't buy me expendables or consumables. The exception is scotch. If you buy me scotch, it says you love me. The older and finer the scotch, the more you love me. I like scotch old enough to order itself at the bar. If it is old enough to run for president (but can't because it was born in Scotland), it is probably perfect. Then again, it won't be gone in a week, either.

The other exception to the consumables is really fine spices. I cook. Fellow foodies out there appreciate my meaning here.

I can go on with the list, but I really am not a "negatives" guy. If I list too many negatives, people may get the idea that I'm overly picky. That is not the case. I really am easy to buy for. The thought and effort mean more to me than monetary value. The gifts themselves take on sentimental value that far exceeds the price-tag.

As an example, friends of mine bought me an 18 year old bottle of scotch one year. Later, when asked about it, I may have given off an air of "meh, thanks, not a big deal". About a week later I made sure they understood that I meant "No! That was an 18 year old [brand redacted]! Dude, that was kick ass! Thank You!". Sometimes my "emotional responses" come out a bit too "deadpan".

All of this is background towards the rest of the article.

One year, I was inundated with "what do you want..." requests. So, I wrote an essay intended  to be somewhat humorous. Unfortunately, the satire was not immediately recognized.

My writing style sometimes tends to take on one perspective, then flip it around. So, the hook can infuriate people once in a while. This article was one of those times.

I had friends who knew me well erupt in anger, preparing to rip my head off. I had one who got halfway through the essay and was floored in disbelief. She was appalled believing I actually meant the things said in the hook.

I received  loads of hate-mail and threatening comments from regular readers. Most of them swore they'd not only never read my writings again, but would close me down.

I found that hilarious. So did those who read the full article instead of stopping at the jump and composing a hateful response. After a little urging, most went back and finished reading the article. They got the joke.

I wrote this years ago, in 2007. That was before I met the woman who would actually marry me. I was "single and not looking" at the time.

Without further ado, I present a reprint of the following:

All I want for my Birthday is a Stepford Wife

My birthday is still a few days away. Every year I have friends going nuts over what to get me. I have a rather expansive DVD collection. Usually a movie or TV season I want comes out and I have it on release day, ordered on Netflix, or downloading on iTunes. It’s the same with books. I love books. I have a huge catalogue of them. I have a list of about 50 that are still on my shelf waiting to be cracked open. To top it off, I recently bought a Kindle and can download many books and periodical subscriptions straight to it.

Music is just as difficult. My tastes vary with my mood. I have a few thousand CDs, a couple of hundred vinyl records, and an MP3 collection that makes most people faint (I have two external hard drives filled and a third started).

I own a PS3. I have games for it. I am picky about the games I play. I also am not addicted to the damned thing. Basically, occasionally, I will play one of the games I have. Usually, this includes having multiple days off in a row, something I rarely get these days. Hell, I am happy with just two days off from work. It means I can rest one day and clean house the second (or vice versa). Lately, I get only one full day off a week. I have games that I have not even opened yet.

Time off would be a great present.

Guitar stuff would be great. I can always use strings, picks, a new 6-string acoustic (full size, not a “starter”). But you’d have to know me well enough to know what brands I prefer. Like many musicians, I’m picky.

Nah, the best gift would be a wife, a perfect wife. People want to see me happy, that could make me happy. Yes, a perfect wife.

Let’s take an inventory of the features of a Stepford wife.

1. A Stepford wife is in great shape, is in her physical prime, and won’t age.
2. A Stepford wife is a perfect homemaker, keeps the house clean and neat.
3. A Stepford wife is ready for sex whenever I want it, and is always good… never protests anything kinky.
4. A Stepford wife is loyal.
5. A Stepford wife requires very little maintenance.
6. A Stepford wife doesn’t nag or complain.
7. A Stepford wife always makes her husband look good. It is her role.
8. A Stepford wife is content staying at home. She doesn’t need to work. She has no aspirations or dreams that have to be catered to.
9. A Stepford wife doesn’t argue, complain, or try to exert her point of view.
10. A Stepford wife doesn’t get overly emotional, doesn’t cry, doesn’t get insecure, and doesn’t overreact.

It all seems pretty appealing, doesn’t it? I mean, the list can go on for a few more bullets. However, this covers some of the biggest draws for a perfect home appliance for a guy.

Yes, I said it, “a home appliance”.

A Super-toaster

A full-service Molly Maid

Best Buy, Lowe’s, and Home Depot would make a mint selling them.

I’m sure by now most of my female readers are already writing their flaming comments about how much of a closet misogynist I am. I assure you that I am not being chauvinistic. These are actually qualities that some guys look for. Before your fingers of hellfire start tapping in words of sulfur and brimstone in an effort to raise cover, posse, or cabal in a crusade to destroy me; read on. By now you all know that I leave a punch-line for the end.

While this would be a great help around the house, I would probably return this gift before the 90 day limit ended. The free trial period would probably find me going nuts by day 30.

Now let’s take a look at why:

1. A Stepford wife is in great shape, is in her physical prime, and won’t age.

While physical prime is a great thing, half the fun of being with somebody is having somebody to keep in shape with, and keep in shape for (other than yourself and your personal quality of life). I am an outdoors person a good portion of the time. While I want somebody who can keep up with me on a hike, I want somebody who enjoys hiking, for the sights, for the fresh air, and for the exercise. As far as the aging thing goes… the thought of growing old with somebody actually turns me on. I want that lifelong relationship. I want to grow with somebody. I don’t want somebody who is stagnant. That is part of having a life with somebody, aging is part of life. It is essential to it. Fuck stagnation. Stagnation equals death. Fuck death.

2. A Stepford wife is a perfect homemaker, keeps the house clean and neat.

Ok, I have a certain amount of OCD. I think everybody has their quirks. I must admit that I drive myself nuts when I get too busy at work and have not the energy to clean my place the way I like it. But you know what? I have a buddy who was married to an OCD queen. The house was immaculate, sure. But it was like a museum! I don’t mean a place like the Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago with all the hands-on exhibits. I mean, shoes came off while you were still outside! You felt guilty about sitting ANYWHERE! There were no signs of anybody living there. There were no indications of any form of fun or relaxation in the house. A home should be neat and sanitary. But it should also be lived in and homey. It should be someplace to relax, enjoy time off, and enjoy private/personal time with the people you love. It should be a place you are not ashamed to have friends come to, but should also be a place where friends feel welcome.

3. A Stepford wife is ready for sex whenever I want it, and is always good… never protests anything kinky.

First of all… seduction is a great game between couples. It is part of foreplay. The occasional playing “hard to get” spices up a relationship. Also, if you read parts of my earlier blogs about my ideas on sex, there has to be that emotional bond. Sex is great if it is part of making love. You can make love without having sex. You can have sex without making love. I prefer to make love. If sex is part of it, that’s great. But it is all about that mutual sharing of self. It is all about giving your being over to another, and accepting the other into you. Kinky stuff once in a while can spark up the physical or psychological aspects of passion. But it is also important to have somebody there to help draw lines between physical love and debauchery.

4. A Stepford wife is loyal.

Yeah, loyal with no free will. The Stepford wife doesn’t choose loyalty or fidelity. You know, if somebody doesn’t want to be with me, she should have the freedom to choose so. I want somebody with free will. I want somebody who makes that decision to give herself to only me every day, by her own desire, her own choice. I am a huge advocate of the power of choice. I am a huge advocate of free will. I can’t be with somebody who doesn’t have either. Sorry, that is a HUGE turn-off. So is being cheated on. But you don’t have love and trust if one or the other is incapable of making that conscious choice.

5. A Stepford wife requires very little maintenance.

I like to be pampered from time to time. On the flipside, I LOVE to pamper. I like to treat somebody I feel is special with a little special treatment. I like going and shopping for a new dress with somebody. (I’m not too big on the shoes thing, though. I own my combat boots, a pair of black dress shoes that go with everything, a pair of Doc Marten’s, a pair of running shoes, and my Birkenstock sandals. I don’t get the whole shoes thing. I mean, find one or two COMFORTABLE pairs that go with most of your wardrobe. Owning 50 pairs of low-mid priced shoes that you may only wear once or twice is a galactic waste of money AND storage space.) I enjoy going to the spa. Ok, before you go all “he’s a metro-sexual” on me, let me tell you why. During my second tour in Iraq, I went on a pass to Qatar. They had a spa down there. One of my fellow NCOs made us an appointment for “the works”. I got a manicure. I keep my nails shaped and clean. But I couldn’t believe the gunk they pulled off my hands. I got a pedicure. Guys, trust me… they are worth it. After years of abusing my feet and especially 15 months, at that time, of pounding sand, it was awesome! No, I didn’t get polish put on either my hands or feet. I got a facial done. The amount of dead skin and crap pulled out of my pores left me feeling a LOT cleaner and looking younger. The massage, well, show me one guy who doesn’t like a massage. So girls, you got a straight guy here that would love to take you to a spa to get you all pampered and feeling great… and yes, I will do the same. I also like bathing my partners. I like to wash their hair. I like to scrub their backs. On occasion, I like to wash more than just their backs… but that usually involves more than just bathing them. I also like to be the one that somebody gets all dolled-up for, on occasion. But I also like a gal who has no problems putting on jeans, grabbing a gun and a backpack with food and water in it (plus maybe a nice picnic set) and heading up into the mountains. I like somebody who, once in a while, needs or wants to put her head on my lap or just be held. I like somebody with some needs and desires.

6. A Stepford wife doesn’t nag or complain.

Ok, this is a tough one to deliberate. Nagging will get you tuned-out very quickly. So will needless complaining. On the other hand, though, if somebody doesn’t identify a problem or something that can be improved, things don’t get improved. I want somebody who can encourage me to be a better person and will help me continue to grow. Sometimes, a small amount of nagging is part of that. Also, this goes back to the whole free will thing. Somebody who never complains is probably somebody who doesn’t have a brain.

7. A Stepford wife always makes her husband look good. It is her role.

This is another one that is difficult to contend. But once again, it goes back to free will. Fuck roles. Somebody should help their partner look good because it makes BOTH look good. It should never be about one or the other person. It should be about both partners. In addition, it isn’t a competition between the partners. It is the partners competing with the world, or parts of the world that conflict against them. When one or the other wins, both win. A relationship is about partners. It is about a team. A true team has no superstars. The Bulls didn’t win by having MJ take every shot. The Bulls won by making sure whoever could make the shot took it… be it Pippin, the Worm, or whoever. We didn’t win the World Cup because of Mia Hamm alone. Brandi Chastain, Lilley, and the rest of the TEAM did it through teamwork. (mmmm… Brandi Chastain taking off her jersey and doing that back-flip in celebration… mmmm… Sorry, fond memories. Brandi and I were born on the same day and in the same hospital, BTW. So, Happy Birthday Brandi!). Sorry for the sports analogies. But sports are usually the best analogies for teamwork.

8. A Stepford wife is content staying at home. She doesn’t need to work, has no aspirations or dreams that have to be catered to.

Again, a relationship is all about partnership. While I am not against having a housewife, if I am making more than enough to support the household, I sure as hell believe in equity. People need to work. They need to do something that makes them feel like they are accomplishing something. A home requires money. It is logical that a wife works. She’ll be a happier person and the bills will get paid. It is best for all involved. Now, if she makes enough to finance the household and wants me to stay at home, do the chores, etc… I’m comfortable with that as well. But she better not complain if I go out and get a job. Again, it is not about competition. It is a partnership. Also, a person without dreams and aspirations is stagnant. As I already said, fuck stagnation. The partnership of a relationship is about helping each other’s dreams come true. Yes, you may need to balance them. Yes, one may have to sacrifice for the other, now. But tomorrow should be the reciprocation. Damn it, if you love somebody, bolster them! Help them FLY! Be a coach, cheerleader, prop-monkey. Her success is your success, and vice versa. And one last little thought… it’s cool to cater to HER sexual fantasies.

9. A Stepford wife doesn’t argue, or try to exert her point of view.

This means that the Stepford wife has no fucking mind of her own. It means she has no opinions. It means she doesn’t read. It means she doesn’t think. While I don’t want to have to argue over every silly little thing, a good debate is good for the mind and soul. Also, a certain amount of arguing IS a way of showing you care. Believe it or not, half the arguments in a relationship are because they care. If I’m being stupid, call me on it. Yeah, I’ll fight back, at first. So what? I’m human! But fight fair! Give me a chance to cool down and discuss it… but the initial fight is a door for communication being kicked open. Sometimes that door NEEDS to be kicked open. The idea is not to immediately slam it shut. Also, debate can be mental foreplay… Now that’s sexy.

10. A Stepford wife doesn’t get overly emotional, doesn’t cry, doesn’t get insecure, and doesn’t overreact.

Overreaction is a sign of giving a fuck. It is also a sign of miscommunication. It is that door being kicked open. If you are joyous and happy and celebrating, let me celebrate with you. If you are laughing, let me laugh with you. Let me share all your joys and pains. Share mine. Damn it, if you are sad, cry. Cry on my shoulder. Bite my chest if you are frustrated. Lean on me if you are weary. Be yourself around me. Let me do the same. Don’t make me a crutch. But let me be a handhold. Don’t hide your insecurities. Let me allay them. Allay mine. Use me as a sparring partner, but not a punching bag. Don’t be afraid to reciprocate. I take martial arts. A good sparring partner is all about trust. You trust each other to give it your all. But you trust each other not to hurt one another. It is partnership. It is about making each other better. It is about pushing each other’s limits without stepping over the line. Yes, once in a while a strike or block gets away from you. But trust me, the sting of that slip-up hurts the one who threw it more than the one it impacted. The same goes with an emotional sparring partner. It is about making each other stronger. In doing so, you make the partnership stronger. You make the team stronger. It is not combat. It is about love, not war. When he or she lets her defenses down, don’t take advantage. It means the sparring is over and it is time for a rub-down, not a cheap-shot. In martial arts, that marks the time to bow and thank your partner… show the mutual respect. In love, it is time to hold each other. It is time to kiss. It is time to thank the other for being in your life.

Yeah… a Stepford wife is definitely OFF the list.

However, I could use a massage and six months of service from “Molly Maid”.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

TX House Nominates Audie Murphy for MoH

Courtesy of "The Full Wiki", image falls under creative commons attribution-share alike license.

The Texas 83rd Legislature is set to consider a bill proposing that Audie Murphy receive the Medal of Honor. The Texas House of Representatives is scheduled for floor action on HCR 3 on July 18th.

Audie Murphy led a distinguished career during World War II, earning the Medal of Honor and being among the most decorated heroes in our country's history. His example is considered in such high regard, the US Army has a special club for Non-Commissioned Officers of exceptional leadership that is named "The Audie Murphy Club".

However, the Republic of Texas seeks to posthumously award him with the highest honor the state can bestow:  The Texas Legislative Medal of Honor.

The full narrative for the award recommendation, registered as HCR 3, can be read at this link. Below are a few choice excerpts that demonstrate why Audie Murphy deserves the Texas medal.

Audie was a son of Texas:

       WHEREAS, The Texas Legislative Medal of Honor was established to recognize gallant and intrepid service by a member of the state or federal military forces, and Audie Murphy, the most highly decorated American soldier of World War II, would be a fitting recipient of this prestigious award; and 
       WHEREAS, Born in Kingston, Hunt County, on June 20, 1925, Audie Leon Murphy was one of 12 children; he received several years of formal education before leaving school to help support his family; in addition to working a variety of jobs, he hunted small game for food and became a crack shot;

Many of his awards and exploits during World War II are well publicized to include the auto-biographical "To Hell and Back" in which Murphy acted, portraying himself. But his service didn't end there.

       WHEREAS, Lieutenant Murphy received his discharge from the Army in September 1945; he joined the Texas National Guard in 1950, after the outbreak of the Korean War, and eventually attained the rank of major; assigned to inactive status in 1957, he transferred to the United States Army Reserve in 1966 and continued as a member of the reserve until his death in 1971; and 
       WHEREAS, Though his extraordinary record in the war brought him widespread fame, Audie Murphy remained profoundly humble, highlighting his comrades' courage, rather than his own, in his autobiography and requesting a plain government headstone for his grave, instead of one adorned with the gold gilt that typically signifies a Medal of Honor recipient;

Of the deluge of bills and resolutions that don't pertain to the three enumerated considerations that have flooded  the second special session, this is one that deserves to be passed, promptly, unanimously and with bipartisan applause.

It Was A Different Time -- 2nd Amendment

On CNN's Piers Morgan's show, actor Jeff Daniels opined on the Second Amendment to the US Constitution. He exhibited the false notion that the US Constitution's meanings somehow change due to moral relevance and whims. He stated:

 "I'm one of the guys that goes back to the Second Amendment and just goes, you know what, it was a different time..."

His understanding and knowledge of the US Constitution rivals that of fellow actor, Adam Baldwin, at least in Daniel's own mind. Adam Baldwin has been known to quote portions of the Federalist Papers from memory. Those who have had the honor to discuss the history of our government with Mr. Baldwin know he is a bit of a history buff.

With his statement quoted above, Mr. Daniels is correct -- it was a different time.

However, Mr. Daniels is incorrect in assuming that the Second Amendment is out of date and new infringements are necessary. It was a different time. The necessity for the Second Amendment was not as great as it is today.

The founders had fought a long 6-plus year war against a tyrant six years before the Constitution was drafted. It was still fresh in their minds. Being history scholars themselves, the framers understood that history has a habit of repeating itself. It is only through knowing what  happened the previous time that people can prepare for a better outcome the next time.

The war's historic first "shot heard 'round the world" was over, you guessed it, guns. The Redcoats were sent to disarm the citizens of Lexington and Concord. The colonists replied with "Molon Labe" (not their exact words). Some jackass fired. A battle ensued. Six years and six months later, Cornwallis surrendered at Yorktown.

"It was a different time... ," yes, because the tyrants were gone. There was less of a need for them to protect against their current government. However, they saw that even the best-intentioned system of government can be corrupted and overreach its power beyond its lawfully ascribed limits. Remember, the UK under King George was not an absolute monarchy. The Magna Carta was in effect. It was a "constitutional monarchy" where the king's authority was limited. It didn't stop him from overstepping his bounds and being a tyrant.

"It was a different time... ". Yes it was, Mr. Daniels. Violent crime was, per capita, much much lower then. Theft was also much lower then. Though crime statistics were not well tracked and reported, history shows that there wasn't as much violence. Constables were fewer, per capita. So it was expected, then, that private citizens were free to protect their land and their families. Gonzales v Castle Rock affirms, in modern times, the same premise. It is the constable's job to respond to crime, investigate, and apprehend the accused perpetrator. Then that suspect could be tried in a court by a jury of peers. However, during the commission of the crime, the private citizen had the right to protect himself and stop the crime in progress, using his own gun.

It was the prevalence of firearms in the "wild west" that actually kept crime down. People tend to mind their manners more, and keep their hands to themselves, when 60% of the people around them are armed. In modern times, areas with constitutional concealed carry add the increased deterrent that every non-felon over 21 could be carrying, legally. A potential criminal would not know who or how many are actively carrying. If he has a brain, he could assume that all of them are. His likelihood of attempting his crime approaches 0%. He moves on to find a "soft target".

It was a different time, Mr. Daniels. Under the shiny-new US Constitution, the federal government wasn't threatening to forcibly disarm the people. They weren't kicking in people's doors, conducting illegal and immoral searches and seizures while claiming to be looking for a criminal who may have hopped their fence while fleeing.

It was a different time, oh yes. The framers feared invasion by a foreign power. Our military was relatively small, counting on private citizens to rise and protect their lands should we be invaded. Today, our military is strung around the globe. We still face foreign invaders coming up from the south. Contrary to false narratives, not all of them are from Mexico. There are far too many from Asian lands who ascribe to religious extremism. They hate our freedoms and what we believe in to a degree they want to die killing as many Americans as they can. They fly planes into buildings in Manhattan. They drive car-bombs into Times Square. They murder peaceful ranchers in Arizona. They kidnap and extort ranchers and their families in Texas. They abduct our children, taking them to foreign lands to serve as sex slaves.

And our federal government has proven incapable of providing adequate national defense on its own. They even look for excuses to provide fewer assets and capabilities dedicated to securing our country and our blessings of liberty. Then they sue the states when they are left to plug the gaping holes in the defensive lines.

So yes, Mr. Daniels, it is a different time. Now is one of the times that Madison, Hamilton, and Jay prepared us for. Now is a time of challenge such as Benjamin Franklin issued "...If you can keep it".

NOW is when the Second Amendment is not a preparatory luxury born of caution and distrust, but a necessity of self and national preservation. Now is why all Americans need to recognize that our right to own and carry arms, and self-defense "shall not be infringed".

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Texas 2nd Special's Remaining Issue

In a move that sparked much controversy, Governor Rick Perry called a second special session of Texas's 83rd Legislature. The controversy revolved around one of the three issues the congress was to address.

The recall was propagated as though it were called solely to debate and consider the abortion regulation reform that a mob prevented from being enrolled, though passed, before the final seconds ticked to the deadline of the first special session.

However, the media tends to ignore the other two issues up for consideration. The first of these issues passed quietly. It changed mandatory sentencing regulations regarding minors (citizens under 18 years of age) found guilty of capital crimes.

That legislation was necessary in order to get the state of Texas in line with a US Supreme Court ruling concerning death sentences and life without parole sentences for minors. Minors can still be "tried as adults" in capital cases. However, they are to be given a chance for parole in sentencing.

No "social justice" activists received any media attention of note regarding the important legislation. Yet Governor Perry and conservatives in the Texas congress were vilified for calling a special session "unfairly" because they couldn't get an abortion reform bill passed.

Both the abortion reform law and the change in the sentencing of minors law have passed, been enrolled, and are awaiting the Governor's review and signature.

The Texas Senate will reconvene on July 17th and the House will return on the 18th.

One issue remains.

The legislature was also called to consider transferring tax revenue from certain funds to the highway fund. The highway fund is a potential job creator. It would allow for needed repairs and maintenance. It will allow for new road construction. It may lead to P3 (private-public-partnership) contracts that would make newer and better toll roads that would be, in part, maintained by private companies.

P3 toll roads are not a new idea. They are not that revolutionary. They are, however, a common sense boost to the state's economy. Indiana, under Mitch Daniels, enacted such a program. The state's highways improved greatly. People went to work. Tax money was saved, reallocated to much needed areas. The state balanced its budget. A private company made money (and hired people). Everybody (except extreme socialists) won.

In order to transfer any public funds, the Texas Constitution may need to be amended.

HJR 2 proposes such an amendment. It allows the transfer of funds. It restructures the fuel-taxes in an effort to achieve a better "bang for the bucks".

The joint resolution passed the house on July 15th, with a single amendment. The amendment will allow up to 25% of fuel-tax revenues to be transferred into the state education fund.

       (c)  Not later than the 90th day of each fiscal year, the comptroller of public accounts shall transfer from general revenue to the economic stabilization fund and to the available school fund the amounts prescribed by Subsections (d) and (e) of this section. However, if necessary, the comptroller shall reduce proportionately the amounts to be transferred to the economic stabilization fund to prevent the amount in the fund from exceeding the limit in effect for that biennium under Subsection (g) of this section.
       (d)  If in the preceding year the state received from oil production taxes a net amount greater than the net amount of oil production taxes received by the state in the fiscal year ending August 31, 1987, the comptroller shall retain [transfer to the economic stabilization fund] an amount equal to 25 [75] percent of the difference between those amounts as general revenue. The comptroller shall transfer the remaining 75 percent of the difference between those amounts to the economic stabilization fund and the available school fund, as allocated in accordance with Subsection (e-1) of this section [retain the remaining 25 percent of the difference as general revenue]. In computing the net amount of oil production taxes received, the comptroller may not consider refunds paid as a result of oil overcharge litigation. [Read the full resolution here.]

HB 16 is the enabling bill that accompanies the resolution. It is, essentially, the first law that will use the amendment, should it pass the Senate and be ratified. The bill creates legislation to start the transfer of funds from the general fund and economic stability fund to other needed areas. 75% of the fuel-tax revenues will then go towards the highway fund. The remaining 25% will be allocated to other funds.

 Sec. 162.503.  ALLOCATION OF GASOLINE TAX.  (a)  On or before the fifth workday after the end of each month, the comptroller, after making all deductions for refund purposes and for the amounts allocated under Sections 162.502 and 162.5025, shall allocate the net remainder of the taxes collected under Subchapter B as follows:
             (1)  three-fourths [one-fourth of the tax shall be deposited to the credit of the available school fund;  [(2) one-half] of the tax shall be deposited to the credit of the state highway fund [for the struction and maintenance of the state road system under existing law]; 
[Full Bill Text Available Here]


The bill, resolution, an amendments appear rather complicated. Some may claim they appear as a complex "robbing Peter to pay Paul" situation. It may even appear so complex it more resembles a different scenario. It robs Peter to repay Mary 75% of what was borrowed to pay Paul who will use 50% of that payment to loan George enough to pay 25% of what he owes to Peter.

It is hard to decipher the bills to determine if they are common sense legislation or good ideas. It is rather complicated. for the common layman to understand. The problem with such bills is that the more complex they tend to seem, the worse they tend to be when enacted. The federal Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act as well as other federal tax codes are prime examples. 

The media and protest circus over the abortion reform bill may have been, in part, inflamed in order to obfuscate this particular issue. When dealing with taxing fuel, citizens need to understand the implications on food costs, retail costs, farming costs, public transportation costs, school busing costs, and increased costs in commuting to the workplace. This issue is one that just may have much greater effects on all citizens than the much debated abortion regulation reform law, which directly affected a much smaller segment of the population.