Friday, August 30, 2013

A TARDIS for a week

For the uninitiated, TARDIS is an acronym from the television show Doctor Who. The show started in December 1963 and is still on the air, minus a couple of years here and there where they took some breaks. TARDIS stands for Time And Relative Dimensions In Space. The craft can travel pretty much anywhere in time and space.

With the premise put forth in the title, there are countless possibilities. However, the one I would choose probably seems more aligned with Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure.

If I had a TARDIS for a week, I would use it to host a conference. Why? There are some great people in history, mostly Americans, whom I would love to hear speak about our country today.

So many take quotes from these people and try to apply them to today's situations as a means of gaining wisdom. Wouldn't it be cool if we could collect them together for a weekend and hear them speak?

Here is what I would do. I would scoop up those on my list. I would then give them a crash course in the current US Constitution, key SCOTUS decisions, key bits of legislation, and key social issues we face today. I would also let them learn about other cornerstone events such as the proliferation of the internet, smartphones, twerking, the space program, etc. That would take a couple of days.

I would gather the following people, with my reasons:

John Jay, Alexander Hamilton and James Madison. These men were the predominant authors of the US Constitution as well as its "owners' manual" known as The Federalist Papers. John Jay was the first US Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. His insight in several landmark decisions such as Roe v Wade, Heller v DC, Gore v Bush, etc. would be great. The other two men are more well known, by most, and their inclusion should be more than self-explanatory.

George Washington. He was our first and probably greatest president.

Thomas Jefferson. Not only was he the President of the United States as well as the primary author of the Declaration of Independence, but his views on religion and separation of church and state are key to many of today's issues.

Frederick Douglas. The man had Abraham Lincoln's ear. He probably did more for abolition and civil rights than anybody else prior to (or since) Martin Luther King.

Martin Luther King. Nothing more needs to be said to justify Dr. King's inclusion. Any objections? If so, you're not invited.

John Locke. His political philosophies set the foundation of our Constitutional Republic. His views on how we are today would provide great insight.

Benjamin Franklin. Many would love to hear his commentary on the news media of today.

Thomas Paine. His pamphlet, Common Sense, sparked the revolution. What advice would he give to peacefully place us back on track? Are we on track already?

Susan B. Anthony. She was both a suffragette and an abolitionist. He views on civil rights and women's issues are much needed today.

Milton Friedman and Adam Smith. We need some economic advice. I'm sure that most of the others listed would agree with them that step one is to cut wasteful government spending and balance the budget. However, I'd love to hear it direct from their mouths.

The conference would last about three days. Each would get 35 minutes to speak on their chosen topic within their realm of expertise. Then they would have 15 minutes of Q & A.

The last day would be panel one-hour discussions. The panels would be:

Jay, Hamilton, Madison -- The State of the US Constitution

Jefferson & Washington -- Leadership and the Executive Branch

Jefferson, Paine, Franklin, Locke -- The Blessings of Liberty and Individual Rights

Anthony, King, Douglas -- Civil Liberties, the Way Forward

Friedman & Smith -- Taxation and Economic Prosperity

This would prove to be a great event. If somebody runs into a blue police box with a flashing light on top, please tell the driver that I need to borrow it for a few days. Heck, he can come along. It would be fun.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Obama's Watusi Around 2nd Amendment

Obama's office released two new executive orders regarding further infringements upon the Second Amendment. These are in addition to the 23 executive orders he announced in January.

"Trust loophole"

The first one is an attempt to close a loophole regarding fully-automatic "machine" guns. Current laws require detailed background checks, including fingerprinting, as part of the process to attain a Class III weapons permit. This measure allegedly prevents organized criminals from attaining these weapons.

Nobody should have any issue with a convicted, violent felon having certain constitutional rights revoked. They committed some act that deserves such a punishment. That punishment is given by a judge, through due process, with a system of appeals.

However, should the "sins of the father" be thrust upon the son?

Obama's new executive order mandates that all members of a trust or corporation to whom any Class III weapons (machine guns) are transferred be subjected to the same check. The executive order mandates that the ATF enact regulations that execute this policy.

Many trusts are set up as a means to insure inheritance. Should the owner commit a violent felony (or even felonious manslaughter while driving intoxicated), he may transfer his weapons to such a trust. Should his restriction  or prohibition ever be lifted, his rightful property can then come back into his control. Should it not, he can still will the items to his children should they be able to pass such background checks once they come of age. This is an individual right.

Many corporations have charitable foundations within them. Some of these include museums. Should a corporation be denied a lawfully purchased or donated museum piece just because some stockholder broke the law? Do we judge an entire group of people based upon the acts of a single individual? Moreover, corporations are owned by many people. What if the corporation to which the property is transferred is one whose shares span into thousands of mutual fund investors such as you, with the 401k? Should you be held guilty by association, then?

Military Surplus "Loophole"

Obama's second executive order is to close the "military surplus loophole". The US Military as well as US-based arms manufacturers who supply them have had a long-time practice of selling surplus arms as well as those "decommissioned" due to upgrades and improvements. They normally sell them to allies as approved by the United States, normally brokered through the US State Department. The executive order will, without congressional approval, make it illegal for those weapons to be resold to US importers.

This would make historical collectors' pieces such as the M-1 even more rare and unavailable for purchase except by government-approved museums.

This "loophole" ignores the fact that the most widely proliferated military-style rifle is the former Soviet Union's AK-47 series, not any US made or fielded weapon of issue.

This executive order also turns a blind eye to a US Supreme Court decision that gun-control advocates love to misrepresent.

Historically, the US Supreme Court has decided in favor of individual rights in Second Amendment cases more often than in favor of infringements of it. Three key cases: Gonzales v Castle Rock, Heller v DC, and McDonald v Illinois/Chicago all ruled in favor of the individual rights of self defense. They have also supported the notion that it is an individual's responsibility to defend his home, family, and property, not that of a militia (police force).

However, gun-control advocates claim this recent trend is counter to some of the historic decisions that seemed to lean in favor of the Second Amendment being for militia purposes only. That is a grand misinterpretation when taken out of context. Historically, every able bodied male is considered to be part of a state or municipal militia. That tradition dates back to the French And Indian War, continuing through the War for Independence and to the Civil War. In fact, most able-bodied males were expected to show to musters with their privately owned rifles, if they had one. They were tasked to protect their own families and properties should a threat emerge. They were also urged to aid their neighbor in the same. This legacy links directly to that individual right of self-defense and the intrinsic right to own and carry arms.

In many municipalities, there are still ordinances that state citizens can be deputized to act as auxiliary police and law enforcement forces. Police and law enforcement are considered paramilitary organizations, also known as militia. Many active law enforcement officers must provide their own service weapons. They are owned by the officers, not by the city/county. That is why you see some with Sig-Sauer, some with Taurus, and some with Glocks. There may be guidelines or restrictions on caliber. These officers are part of the active militia.

The inactive or irregular militia is comprised of each person enrolled in "selective service". 

From the Miller v The US decision:

"These show plainly enough that the Militia comprised all males physically capable of acting in concert for the common defense. 'A body of citizens enrolled for military discipline.' And further, that ordinarily when called for service these men were expected to appear bearing arms supplied by themselves and of the kind in common use at the time."

This leads to that "key case" gun-control advocates misrepresent. In Miller v The US, The Supreme Court upheld the indictment of Miller. It was not because he transported a weapon across state lines. It was because the weapon was a sawed-off shotgun. It was modified in a way to make it no longer a military-style weapon. The court opined that a sawed-off shotgun was NOT a weapon that Miller could justify or prove  the US Military, any local or state militia (police force, national guard, state guard) would issue or consider for service. So, because it was not a military-style weapon, it was not protected.

"In the absence of any evidence tending to show that possession or use of a 'shotgun having a barrel of less than eighteen inches in length' at this time has some reasonable relationship to the preservation or efficiency of a well regulated militia, we cannot say that the Second Amendment guarantees the right to keep and bear such an instrument. Certainly it is not within judicial notice that this weapon is any part of the ordinary military equipment or that its use could contribute to the common defense."

This latest executive order seems to be in contradiction to their own argument for the constitutionality of gun control. Based upon the "Miller" argument that gun-control advocates propagate, shouldn't these "military-style surplus weapons" be first sold to US Citizens? Isn't that what Miller v US prefers?

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

50 Years Ago, A Dream

Dr. Martin Luther King is one of the great thinkers who built this nation. His name joins other great thinkers such as Benjamin Franklin, James Madison, John Jay, Alexander Hamilton, George Washington, Thomas Paine, John Locke, Alexandre De Tocqueville, Adam Smith, Milton Friedman, Thomas Jefferson and Fredrick Douglas. 

On Aug. 28, 1963, Dr. Martin Luther King gave his famous "I Have A Dream" speech. The speech highlighted a "promised land" of equal opportunities. This speech, along with most of his others, spoke of this great nation taking the final steps towards true liberty. It promoted the freedom to pursue happiness, as defined by great philosophers such as John Locke. John Locke referred to "happiness" as "property".

That "property" is not ownership of another human. It is not ownership of what another human has rightfully worked for and earned. It is each individual, regardless of "race", religious creed, or circumstances of birth, to create, own, keep, or lawfully trade what each individual decides to create, own, keep, or lawfully trade (or the fruits of such actions).

It applies to owning your own thoughts. It applies to owning one's own ideas. It applies to owning one's own efforts. It applies to owning your own responsibilities, decisions, actions, and consequences thereof. The forced government redistribution of this wealth or lawful acquisition/creation/property is opposed to Dr. King's ideology.

His words strongly indicate he wanted each individual to be free to earn without having the fruits of the labors taken away. He opposed artificial barriers and obstacles placed in a person's way because of some collectivist demographic category. Being born poor is not an excuse to not work hard. It is not an excuse to expect somebody else to take care of you. It should be a motivator to work hard, spend wisely, and build a life.

There are enough challenges and obstacles built into life. No, life itself is "not fair". Though, yes, it really is. We all face hardships and challenges, though not necessarily the same ones. It is what you choose to do about them that changes how you achieve. Do you save during the "fat years" in order to maintain your quality of life during the "lean years"? When work is available, do you do the extra effort, now, so you have something banked for the "slow times"? Do you make sure you save enough to afford recreation and comfort for those breaks everybody needs?

Artificial barriers are ones based upon bigotry, prejudice, racism, and collectivist perceptions. Others may try to create those obstacles or place them in our way. You cannot control them. Is this wrong? Yes, especially if it is intentional. Your job is to go around those obstacles or break through them, not to stagnate yourself. Where we get the greatest artificial barriers is when we create them for ourselves.

We create barriers for ourselves. "I'll never get that job because [insert obstacle:  I'm black, My parents were immigrants and I speak with an accent, I'm Jewish, I'm female, I'm male, I'm gay, I'm a cat lover]". If some jackass is going to try to toss those in front of you, you blow past them. But when you do it to yourself, you cannot blame anybody but yourself. Now, an obstacle such as "I don't have the experience", then work to overcome it. Get the experience. "It requires a degree". Do you have experience that can equal the degree? Maybe take a job a step down, if they offer, and get your butt in school to get the piece of paper. Those obstacles are up to you to overcome. If you choose not to, it is your own fault. Don't blame anybody else.

21 years ago, in the spring of 1992, there was a five-day massive riot. The riot was allegedly started over race. The beating Rodney King sustained was wrong regardless what Rodney's race was. He could have been purple, the beating was wrong. The verdict was the verdict. People were outraged. Rioting was an extreme escalation of the "two wrongs" rule. The riots also turned from a rather violent protest to chaos and a seeming license for larceny and assault. However, the whole mass criminal mob action was blamed on race. The cops could have been racist, yes. But the riots themselves had little to do with real racism. People of all races behaved criminally. People of all races also acted morally, trying to protect not only their lives and property, but those of others.

"Race relations" took a hit those days. But, at their worst, they really were better than in 1962.

In the book I am writing, I talk about my involvement during the race riots after Dr. King's murder. I was an infant, still in my mother's womb. So, I didn't experience the riots in any way that I'd recall. But I interviewed people in my life who did live through it. The riots happened across the country, with the greatest flares being in places such as Washington, DC (where I lived at the time) and Chicago (where we moved two years later to be closer to my father's family).

Here is an excerpt:

On April 4, 1968 a great American was assassinated. Martin Luther King, Jr. was killed. Dr. King firmly believed in non-violent protests to raise awareness and bring individual rights to those Americans who were ideologically denied their Natural Rights. The initial results of his assassination played out over the next five days as Chicago, Washington, DC and nine other cities erupted in racially motivated riots and violence. The reaction was as contrary to Dr. King’s message as eating prime rib is contrary to devout Hinduism. Ordinary people took the assassination as an act of “race war” and took to the streets in violent protest. Mob mentality took over.
A little study into the tactics and organizational demagoguery done by Marxist and Frankfort School ideologues, it is easy to draw a logical conclusion that the riots were more motivated by left-wing extremists.  Somebody took advantage of the extreme emotional state of King’s followers in the Civil Rights Movement and incited them towards violence.
Despite not yet being born, I was there, in a Washington, DC suburb, in my mother’s womb as rioters looted and burned the city. She was at her job in a dentist’s office. The security guard locked and barricaded the door to protect the personnel inside. Hearing of the riots, my father left his place of employment and sped toward the office. He arrived and escorted my mother to his car, a Dodge Charger. From there, they sped to their suburban DC apartment, attempting to get there before law enforcement sealed off the rioting neighborhoods.
The police sealed off bridges, tunnels, and streets that led into the neighborhoods. The majority of the damage done by the riots was people idiotically destroying the places where they lived. My father told my mother “You’re done there. You’re quitting. You’re pregnant. Those neighborhoods aren’t safe. Find a new office to work in, closer to home”.  She never returned. It took months to repair the massive amount of damage.
The riots didn’t bring Martin Luther King Jr. back to life. All they accomplished was a self-destruction of some predominantly black communities. If this were meant as an Alinsky Tactic to push a negative through to a positive, it failed, leaving it stuck as a great negative and blight against civil rights. It gave people who were ignorant or apathetic about racism a chance to see things differently. That illusionary perspective was the very one MLK worked so long and hard to dispel. The rioters just enforced that illusion, obfuscating Dr. King’s message.

Looking back, our country has come a long way. Do people still discriminate? Yes. It is a fact of human nature. There will always be small-minded people who wish to lump you into a pigeonhole. That is their problem. Don't fit into any hole -- square, round,star-shaped... . Be you. Work hard. Let the small-minded suffer their own mental illness. When you surpass them and their expectations, it will be their own jealousy and envy that will undo them. You can let it affect your life or you can decide to do what you know you can do, regardless of it. Now, it is up to you. Things have changed dramatically in the past 50 years.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Grading Education Finances

The Cato Institute published a study that grades states on their fiscal responsibility and accountability in regards to education spending. States like New Mexico received an "A" for transparency and accountability. Texas received a "B" citing some minor lack of transparency. In addition, Texas had a few  points docked due to not having the 2012-13 real expenditures calculated and adjudicated against the budget.

A great feature of Cato's report is you can click on your state and get the specifics. Further, they link directly to the published reports. This gives you the ability to see for yourself where the money is going, or at least part of it, depending upon the amount of disclosure.

For example, if you go through the Texas link, it brings you to the Texas Education Agency's (TEA) financial reports page. Within the reports page, you can look at your specific district (ISD) or charter school. Delving deeper, you can look at your specific school(s) your children attend.

Over the past year, we've reported on Judson Independent School District and two schools in the district. Let's take a look at their records.

Judson ISD budgeted for roughly $190 million in revenues to include over $9 million in federal funds. Per Capita (per student) income was $8,423 per student. Their listed overall expenditures and disbursements (outflow) was just shy of $194.5 million. The amount spent per student was $8,612.

What this translates to is deficit spending of about $4,000,000.00 or a spending deficit of $189 per student.

Picking one of the schools in the district, Woodlake Elementary, we can see different numbers.

The revenue or allotment amounts is not yet available, and won't be until May 2014. However, the expenditures were just over $3.5 million, or $5,062 per student.

That leaves quite a disparity. One school's expenditures were $3,550 less than the district's average. Understandably, high schools require a bit more funding for supplies, especially in the science field. But should that lead to that sort of disparity between the average and what is spent in one school?

That is a great question for a school board meeting. The report also raises others. For example, with a $189 per capita deficit, can the district account for why some schools are doing better on lower per capita expenditures?

Of note, roughly 95% of the school's expenditures went to payroll and benefits, 81% of the per capita costs were teachers' salaries.

The school spent $0.00 on school security. Many of the faculty are confident what they can do in case of an emergency situation, such as an active shooter incident. It is unknown if any of the teachers have acquired the special CCL Texas now offers/authorizes.

Other topics in education reform are bolstered by this report. One such example is the school-choice issue. With a district's expenditures per student at over $8,000 and a school's reported per capita costs at near $5,000, then a school-choice voucher program that grants $4,500 per student in vouchers would be rather cost-effective. The districts and schools keep the difference, which benefits the schools. The parents get more choice. You can run a very good homeschooling program on $4,000 a year.

Thanks to Cato's report and the hyper-linked data, #WeTheParents have some good tools for use in making our kids' lives better, with greater opportunities.

Monday, August 26, 2013

THE School Supply List

Today is "Back To School" day in most of Texas as well as several places around the country. Some states, municipalities, and private or parochial schools are already back. A few have another week or so, sticking to the "old" school year of the Tuesday after Labor Day through the Friday before Memorial Day.

Those who home school may have eased up classes and directed learning over the summer.

However, for most of the country, including many colleges and universities, today marks the first day of the new academic year. With the new school year comes shopping. We end up buying paper, folders, book covers, crayons, pencils, pens, hand sanitizer, facial tissues, etc. We go through the wardrobes checking the fit (and sometimes fashion) of clothes. New attire is purchased, many times to fit a dress code. There are a few things that students need that aren't on those published lists. There are also things the teachers need.

Some Lessons Learned

Before we delve into enumerating those important things that rarely seem to make the lists, I'd like to share an experiment we ran this summer. This is what the US Army may call a partial "hot wash" or "After Action Review". See, it can be only partial because we won't know the results for a few months.

Based upon her end of year scores last June, our daughter demonstrated some amount of advanced proficiency in some subjects. Others she struggled with throughout the year. Still, other topics and subjects #WeTheParents felt important seemed to not be covered to the extent we had hoped.

So, at my wife's urging, I developed a little curriculum for some summer home-learning. My wife looked over the subjects I intended to cover. She let me go with it. Now, since this was our first real foray into homeschooling, we tried a few different things. Other things we wished to try, we just didn't get around to.

One of my shortcomings as a homeschooling parent of an elementary age student is that most of my experience has been at the collegiate and graduate level. I taught classes to high school and college grads. There is a reason that advanced critical thinking and the adult learning model pedagogy should be reserved for high school graduates. My experience still drags me back towards Socratic Method and facilitation. I found some of that works. Mostly, though, it really doesn't, not for elementary aged kids.

I found our daughter loves to learn. We already knew that. We just didn't know the extent, or at least I didn't. We just needed to nudge her to doing research. Give her a topic, even one she claims no interest in, and give her a couple of search strings. She'll read articles online. She will learn things. She will question things that don't "seem true". She will take out books from the library and read more, on her own. Where it gets difficult is in getting her to perform some task with a metric or rubric to gauge her comprehension. Ugh!

She loves to write. She hates to write on a topic. Ugh! To top it off, she tries so hard to write well above her grade level. Trying to keep it sane and sensible devolved into a few confrontations. In the real world, spelling and grammar count. So, those were both "graded". That lead any topic to also segue into language arts/skills lessons. It came to a point that she resisted writing anything. She would spend eight academic hours trying to get a paper perfect. It would still have mistakes, of course. However, the time spent was due to striving towards a goal that was too high. Perhaps the one smart thing I did was to never tell her not to aspire to that goal. Instead, I would comment on improvement and let her know that, while there were mistakes, they were mistakes at a higher level. She learned something. She surpassed the expectations of her level. So, she should be proud. Of course, that didn't satisfy our little perfectionist. Ugh!

The "classes" and projects were never supposed to take more than 4 hours a day. They started taking from breakfast to dinner, with breaks just for lunch, snack, and chores. Now, some of the classes were entertaining. We watched documentaries on history or other educational shows. They sparked questions which led to directed research, and then a project. To keep it from being boring, other projects were suggested:  a diorama, some pictures, write a poem, act out a play, make up a song... anything to demonstrate what she learned. Half of the time, though, she preferred the dreaded papers.

We also went over math. I found some podcasts that helped with several subjects. She did fractions, for example. However, some of the things she wanted to learn were difficult. I eventually found the problem. She had not yet been taught the times-tables. She had been taught the concept of multiplication. However, she did not know the times tables. I was told that they are not taught anymore. GASP! Ugh!

So, we went back a step. She started practicing times tables. She had learned the concepts of short division and long division. But, as you may recall, those concepts require quick recall of times tables. That took a few weeks, but she got them down. On her last quizz, she got 98 out of 100 correct in 15 minutes. That isn't too bad at her level.

But it almost felt as though the summer was wasted. She learned history. She advanced her math. Her language skills improved greatly. But did she have any fun? Not really. Not like the summers I remembered as a kid, anyway. The incentive of "get this done by lunch so you can go play with..." failed. Most of the neighborhood kids were in day camp or some such. Those who weren't tended to hide from the hot Texas sun after lunch. Perhaps next year, if we try this again, we'll start the "home learning" (we tried not to use the word "school") after lunch.

We also lacked assets to do some of the "field trips" we had wanted. The ideas we had, but never got to do, involved going someplace fun and educational. Even a trip to Six Flags could be used. Whatever we did had to come with some project, though. It meant writing or more research or some art project. We did get to go to one place. However, we decided to leave that for "real school" assignments.

If we had any success, it will show in performance throughout the school year. One of the problems we identified last year was her performance dropped when she was bored. When they reviewed what she already felt she knew, her mind wandered and she would rush through assignments in class. Many times that meant not reading all of the directions or missing entire pages on multiple-page worksheets. So, also over the summer, we worked on repetition to improve. Getting a 96% might be an "A". But, while doing review or reinforcement work, strive to get that other 4%. With some things, like math, if you don't use it, you lose it.

11 Things Not On School Supply Lists:

 Here are the things I haven't seen on any school supply list that your kid needs to bring to class every day. Many of these must be provided by the parents.

1. Curiosity. Even those subjects that seem boring have something new to learn. Make it a challenge to learn that new thing. Ask questions and pay attention. Look for answers through research.

2. An open mind. First of all, an open mind isn't a naive one. It is not a mind that just accepts everything it is told. It is one that listens and pays attention, collecting the data. But it is also one that questions the data. it is one that seeks more data that will corroborate, confirm, or contradict the rest. That mind needs to be open to all of it. It needs to analyze and decide. Then it needs to be open to more, willing to revise as new data comes in. To get new data, they have to seek it. Teachers will not always present it. They do not always have it to present. They are not perfect and do not know everything. As parents, you need to encourage a little extracurricular research and exploration. The stuff in school is a basis, a starting point. So, teach the kids to question everything!

3. Respect. Sometimes questioning everything can seem as a challenge to authority. Many times it is just that. Kids need be shown how to question without challenging that authority in a way that crosses lines. This can be taught only through demonstration and practical exercise. Also, teachers are a form of authority figure. The kids need to show them, and their fellow students, respect. Now respect should be earned. However, the right thing to do is to loan it until it is earned, or proven to not be earned. In either case, others need the opportunity to do so. You cannot succeed unless given the chance to fail.

4. Failure is not an end. It is a beginning. It is an opportunity. The only real failure is one to not take that opportunity. Now, standards are standards. A grade is a grade. No kid should get an "A" for effort alone. But it is a goal. It is a way-point, not a destination.

5. Manners. Some kids are good with manners outside the home, but leave them at the doorstep. However, manners will get you pretty far in this world. They need to be brought to the classroom.

6. Self-confidence. Kids need to understand that messing up is part of life. Get a little upset, sure. But then get back at it. They need to know that they can, they just may not have, yet. Yet. Try again. Each success should build that confidence that the next goal is attainable with effort and work. They also need to be confident in their self, because there are those who will have a different opinion. Somebody may not like the color green and will make fun of a green shirt. You know, that's their problem... .

7. Time Management. With many homes having both parents working (or in single-parent households...), time management is key. The students need tome for fun and to blow off steam. However, they also need to prioritize work and play. Chores still need to be done. Homework needs to be done. Fun needs to be had. That means sticking to a schedule. If in an after-school program, the students should be encouraged to get their homework done during that time. That will leave more time for family fun afterwards. Parents need to schedule in time to review homework and review grades. Time management is a skill many adults struggle with. It is never too early to set the kids up for success.

8. Good nutrition. Some school lunch programs are healthy and tasty. Most probably lack one or both of those qualities. Inspect and ask your kids. We make our kid lunch. She gets some input. We also know what she gets is healthy, most of the time. Yes, there are "treat days" here and there. (We make up for those at dinner). Our local schools also have a snack time. The school requests healthy snacks. (I've seen what some parents consider healthy. Sorry, but fruit flavored gummy snacks are not all that healthy!). So, she brings fruit or nuts or something tasty and healthy.

9. Patience. Yes, this is very important. The student needs to be patient with himself. Not everything comes automatically. It takes effort. They need to be patient with their own progress as they work. They also need some amount of patience with those who don't "get it" as quick as they do. Everybody learns different things at different rates through different means. Some people learn audibly. Others learn visually. Some learn from reading. Others learn from hands-on (probably the most effective way for most people). So, good teachers go through all of these in order to get the teaching points across. The student needs to be patient if they understood the first way.

10. Trust and faith. On a religious basis, these are important for families "of faith". The trust and faith here are in the family, though. They need to trust that Mom and Dad will call them out when they are slacking. They need to trust that Mom and Dad will push them to try, try, try again, try harder when they are having difficulties. Mom and Dad will be involved. Mom and Dad will sick up for them if there is a bully. Mom and Dad will stick up for them if the school decides to challenge or deny beliefs or morals or values. Mom and Dad will not stop loving them because they didn't get an "A". Mom and Dad will be there to talk to about things, be them pleas for help, celebrating successes, or just showing interest in what the kids are excited about. The kids need to have trust and faith that they can tell Mom and Dad anything.

11. Morals and Values. These are most important. The kids need to understand right and wrong, good and evil, correct and incorrect. They need to know the differences. They need to know they will make choices and will live with the consequences. They need to know to stick up for the weak, not to bully. Morals and values are not issued at school. Seldom are they taught. If a school claims to teach them, many times they are not the same morals and values the parents wish taught. Guess what! Morals and Values are a parent's responsibility, not a school's. Teach them. Praise your kids when they employ them. Discipline (corrective training, not punitive) when they don't, and do so in a manner that they learn them. Never punish them for making good moral and value judgements.

A Little Information On Classroom Supplies

Last year, our school supply list contained twice what our daughter needed for class. We dug around a little and found that the school had a policy of redistributing from the haves to the have-nots. While the Utopian idea sounds all nice, it really isn't. Parents were expected to supply two kids for every one they sent to school.

This year, the list was a lot better. It contained reasonable lists for one student. The letters sent to the school board must have made an impact.

School teachers are not as poorly paid as they were 20 years ago. Don't be fooled. This applies to public school teachers. I know some parochial and private school teachers who make substantially less (like $11 an hour).

Regardless, teachers should not be made to supply their own classrooms, at least not to the extent that some claim to be.

Most public and charter schools are considered 501c organizations. Many parochial and private schools are as well. Keep that in mind.

That leads to donations! Guess what, they can often-times be tax-deductible!

Talk with your child's teachers and principal. Find out what the donation program is. Some may have one. Others may suddenly wake-up and start one.

It may be difficult for your kids' teacher to do their job if the classroom (or school) runs out of chalk or dry erase markers, for one example. That should not be an excuse to not teach the subject matter. So, making sure your kids' classes have them for the teacher benefits your kid.

Something that surprised me is printer paper. Speaking with a couple of teachers in regards to CSCOPE, I found out about this problem. Many educational materials out there are online. The teachers need to print the worksheets. CSCOPE was notorious for this. However, it and Common Core are not the only resource that brings this problem. In fact, many materials you would want a teacher to use in place of these require printer paper even more. Many times the teachers have to provide their own paper. In many instances, they have to use their own printers and ink at home, as well. The resources in the schools just cannot accommodate 24 teachers printing out 24 worksheets for 3 subjects each day. There isn't enough time to use the resources at school. They break down. They run out of paper. So, ask your kids' teachers if they need any.

[Of note, the teachers I interviewed hated CSCOPE for multiple reasons.]

You, as parents, are responsible for your kids' school supplies. Yes, there are some parents who cannot afford all the items on the list. So, donations for this purpose are a good thing. This is something else to talk to the teacher about. However, do not let the school dictate what you will "donate" through some socialist redistribution program. Forced redistribution is not sharing. Sharing must be done freely, of one's own will. Sharing is good. Donating and charity are good.

However, the parents of all the students are responsible for helping stock the classrooms. we do so through taxes. But we all know that taxes, even those allocated for education, get redirected. Those funds allocated to education get plugged into maintenance, professional development, retirement funds, etc. Those are fights for the school board meetings. The classrooms should not suffer in the meantime. It means your kid suffers, and is cut short because a teacher runs out.

So, if you can, donate. When you do so, ask the school for the 501c number. Most teachers have it because they can buy school supplies "tax free". If you make the donation, get a receipt with that number on it. You can claim the donation on your tax returns.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Bullies, Parents, Teachers, Self-Defense

Cynthia Ambrose was convicted of "official oppression" in a bizarre bullying/anti-bullying case. Judge Sid Harle sentenced Ambrose to two years' probation plus 30 days incarceration. According to a report by the San Antonio Express's Guillermo Contreras, Ambrose will serve her sentence on weekends at the Bexar County Jail. In addition, the Texas Education Administration (TEA) suspended Ambrose for one year.

Ms. Ambrose's crime was to become frustrated and fed up with a classroom bully. After having seen too much of it and having perceived a lack of effectiveness in corrective or punitive action, she tried something different. She decided to have the bullied students teach the bully by reversing the roles. She lined the students up and ordered them to put the bully through a gauntlet. Her intent was to let the bully "know how it feels".

The incident took place in Salinas Elementary School. SES is part of the Judson Independent School District that covers part of San Antonio and neighboring East and Northeast Suburbs in Bexar County, TX. The same school district saw other disturbing behavior by educators at the Woodlake Elementary School at the end of the 2012-13 school year.

In the Woodlake incident, a "discipline student" was tied down to a chair. The student was in a special classroom reserved for chronically misbehaving students who were segregated from regular classes. The special "discipline classrooms" are staffed with teachers with backgrounds in special education. The incident shocked the school principal and the rest of the faculty and staff. The teachers involved were dealt with swiftly and removed from the classrooms. 

Ambrose's sentence sparked a short, candid conversation with a young elementary school student from the same district. The student stated that Ambrose was wrong because "two wrongs don't make a right". When asked to explain how Ambrose was wrong, the student stated "because the bully was bullied and the teacher didn't let him defend himself". That sums up the issue up rather succinctly. When it is that obvious to an eight year old, it should have been obvious to Ambrose.

Bullies have been around since the dawn of time. There is always somebody who feels the only way they can feel good about their own existence is by making others feel inferior. Usually, the bullies are victims to begin with. So, they believe the way to regain their self-image is to do onto others what was done onto them, by somebody else.

That is not all bullies, though. There are others who believe that the only way they can succeed or achieve or gain something is to take it, by force, from one who earned it, made it, lawfully acquired it. Sometimes they believe they are denied good grades because of race or skin color. They don't believe it has anything to do with the other kid spending 3 hours a day, after school, doing homework, practicing math, and reading. With others, it is because their parents told them that was the way it is. Regardless of where the idea came from, it is invalid and incorrect. Also regardless of the origin of the false belief, they believe it and act on it.

Also, regardless of the origin of the bullies' desire to bully, bullying is wrong. It is assault.

#WeTheParents place our children into the hands of educators and school administrators with an understanding that they will do their best to protect our kids. We hope that the educators will support the morals that we instill in our children. However, some parents go too far and expect the teachers to do that job for them.

Teachers are expected to keep the peace and enforce the rules of the schools. They are expected to maintain order during recess on the playgrounds. That is part of their job, yes. But they can only work with the resources and raw materials they are given.

Those raw materials are the kids and their moral codes. From where do kids acquire their moral codes and ethics? From their parents, primarily.

Let's get a little personal.

I was bullied several times as a kid. I was small. I was born premature and was a bit of a "late bloomer" physically. I sucked at baseball. I did well in wrestling because I wrestled my weight class, not my age. I also did well in soccer. Throughout grade school and junior high, I was among the shorter and smaller kids. I did well academically and tended to be not afraid to open my yap, though. I was quick witted and didn't hesitate to "burn" somebody when they said something "dumb".

In first or second grade, one of my bullies, Lyle, decided to accost me just off school property. I had a brand new button down shirt that I liked a lot. Lyle pushed me down, ripping all of the buttons off of my shirt. His intent was to ridicule me and embarrass me in front of other classmates. They laughed when I fell. They laughed harder when I stood up and landed a nice jab to the bridge of Lyle's nose. Yes, I broke his nose. Worse, I broke his rather expensive prescription glasses. Their frame cracked. They fell from his face. The lenses hit the sidewalk and got quite scratched up.

Our parents went to war over this for what seemed like years. It was probably only a week or two. Looking back, it could not have been too long. Lyle's father was a fireman. He also performed in local theater and sang the tenor solo parts in Handel's Messiah each winter. We always managed to get tickets, even when they were scarce. They were compliments of Lyle's father.

However, though our parents fought over who was going to pay what portion of what bills from our little fight, Lyle and I went from being bully and victim to friends. Though other bullies came around, most of them backed away when Lyle stood next to me, sort of imitating Adam Baldwin's character from "My Bodyguard". The real irony was whenever somebody said "aw, you need him to fight your battles for you?" Lyle returned with "Nope, I'm here to make sure it's one on one when Paul kicks his butt".

See, despite having a big mouth, I was rather tolerant. I put up with being bullied or picked on, most of the time. It took actually being hurt for me to fight back. When I fought back, I didn't do so to teach a lesson. I didn't do so to embarrass. I didn't do it for revenge.  I fought for my life. I defended myself with everything I had until the bully stopped. So, until it warranted such an action, I largely tolerated or ignored bullying attempts.

One of the main reasons was that I did know how to fight. My father, however, taught me to do so only when I had no other option. So, I didn't. I reserved my physical fighting to some intense sparring matches with my brother. Those of you with two (or more) sons know exactly what that sparring looks like. It is wrestling, and slapping, and wet-willies, and pink bellies, and over-the-couch flying ambushes. It sounds like World War III. Conversely, my brother was not bullied anywhere near as much as I was. Probably because he was more willing to deck the potential bully outright rather than put up with it. 

The morals of that story are well interlaced. First, bullies don't stick to just the school grounds. Most will actually wait until they are off school property and can get away with it. So, you cannot expect school officials to do anything about it. It is outside of their jurisdiction many times.

Teachers need to be firm and objective. They need to discipline and perform corrective action in accordance with the law. If the infraction requires law enforcement involvement, then so be it. However, the parents NEED to be included.

The punishments and corrective actions should not stop at school. In fact, parents need to take their own actions on top of the school's. Grounding works if the parent is home to enforce it. The list goes on. Corporal punishment is usually not the best choice and should not be the first. However, it is sometimes an unfortunate necessity. But it is a last resort. Still, the parents need to set the lines on what it acceptable and what is not.

Bullying is not to be tolerated. But it will still happen. That is a fact of life.

Prevention can go only so far. Murder is against the law. People still murder. Theft is against the law. People still steal. Rape is against the law. Rapists still rape. The best way to avoid being a victim is to be prepared to fight for your life, liberty and property. Most of the criminals who commit these acts look for "soft targets", ones that appear to have little to no means of defense. A lady in an open-carry state walking around with a Glock on her hip is far less likely to be targeted by a rapist than a college student wearing a "ban guns" T-shirt.

Parents need to be role-models. They need to tell their kids to not pick on others or tolerate it. They need to be taught non-violent means of dealing with bullies, and to try those if possible. Those are the best solutions. They need to know they can talk to a teacher, a principal, a school counselor. Most importantly, they need to know that they should tell their parents. Parents need to listen, observe, question, be involved.

Parents also need to teach their children self-defense.

Self-defense isn't just fighting. It involves resilience. It involves an indomitable spirit. It involves a positive self-image.

Indomitable spirit is the one that does not accept failure as defeat. It takes failure, or a failed attempt, as a learning experience. It makes it positive. It motivates to try harder and not give up. It is the catalyst for achievement and prosperity. Look, very few people start martial arts being able to break a board. Practice leads to the success. That success leads to trying to break two until successful. The same with a proper block, a math problem, reading, or standing up for yourself against a bully. It does not eliminate fear. It changes fear into opportunity.

Resilience is better than tolerance. Tolerance is just plain accepting and allowing bad things to go on. Resilience is being able to succeed despite them. It goes beyond the limits of tolerance. It allows the kid to know how much they can take, and where they need to stop taking it. There does come a point where it is not only understandable to fight back, but necessary. Nobody has a right to harm you unless you are trying to harm them. However, there is still a lot to be said of the old adage "sticks and stone may break my bones, but names will never hurt me". The names only hurt you if your let them. Resilience keeps them from hurting you.

That plays to self-image. Honesty goes a long way. If your child has problems with math, or a speech impediment or they are short for their age, it is fine to acknowledge it. It identifies things to work on or work around. In addition, though, make sure you let the child know their good qualities. Don't make a huge issue of the "negative" ones. Be honest but be kind. The kid has a stutter? Well, that is something to work on. In the meantime, can the kid write well? Accentuate their writing ability. Praise their efforts to work through the speech. Each step needs to be praised as they make progress. They need to be comfortable with not being perfect. Nobody is perfect. They also need to be ready to work a little harder. It is worth it and it should draw praise when they overcome, not ridicule as they are still striving.

A child will not be as willing to defend itself if he or she doesn't feel he or she is worth defending. A parent willing to stand up against the bully (or the bully's parents) sets a good role model. It tells the child (s)he is worth fighting for.

The fight doesn't need to be physical. However, it needs to be defense, not retribution or vengeance. Retribution and vengeance just escalate the conflict into a quid pro quo of abuse. The best defense is to not be there. That means walk, not run, away. If it is name calling only, then look at the bully as though they don't mean anything, and walk away. Their words should not mean anything. When it turns to harassment, inform the authorities and parents. Parents, address the situation rationally. Defend your child.

Bullying becomes physical the moment the bully puts up that barrier to trap the victim. It is the moment the confrontation has turned to violence. If somebody tries to trap you, you feel threatened. If they don't back off, you have a right to fight, to escape, to defend. Do so.

I'd rather a child come home safe, unscathed, and unharmed. However, if a child comes home bruised, bleeding, crying, with hair snipped off and gum stuck to her, I hope the other kids are explaining where the black eyes and broken noses they are sporting came from. The answer should be "we bullied the wrong kid and she kicked our butts".

This is not lining up kids to inflict retribution upon a bully in order to teach him a lesson. It is also not within the authority or responsibility of a teacher. This is the parents' lane.

This is advocating a person's right to defense, in the moment, for self-protection. If a school has to take actions due to its own policies, that is fine. All actions have consequences. However, no kid should have to stand there and be bullied while waiting for some "authority" to do something. Self-reliance is a far better solution. It breeds self-confidence, self-assurance, prosperity and success.

Friday, August 23, 2013

Hasan Guilty 14 Murders + 32 Attempted

Nidal Hasan was found guilty on all counts by his military court martial. He is convicted of 13 counts of premeditated murder in the first degree, plus one aggravated by the unborn child murdered along with the victim. He was also convicted of 32 counts of attempted premeditated murder.

His sentencing phase will begin next week. The US Army will seek the death penalty, just as they achieved with Hasan Akbar, the traitor who murdered CPT Chris Seifert and others in early 2003. Akbar's sentence was confirmed, again, in 2012 and he will likely face execution.

Both men claimed some form of conscientious objection to the wars against the terrorists that attacked the US multiple times. Both men were Muslims that sided with the terrorist extremist organization, Al-Q'aeda.

Neither men deserve to ever be referred to by a US military rank. Both are dishonorable men and disgraces to the uniform.

This news comes on the heels of the completion of another key court martial. Bradley "Chelsea" Manning was convicted of espionage and leaking classified information. He was not convicted of "aiding the enemy" though some of the information he compromised did end up in the hands of enemies of the US.

Though some of the antics surrounding the court martial made it appear Hasan was attempting to turn the proceedings into a circus, the later days of the trial left him more muted. Hasan's legal assistance, granted due to his per se defense, wished to be released from that duty. Hasan had declared that he wished to lose the case and be given the death penalty. The fact Hasan rested without calling a single witness in his defense strongly indicates that to still be his wish. Had he plead guilty, he may not have received a death sentence.

Some believe Hasan will be more animated during sentencing in some attempt to avoid execution. Most likely, though, he will not. He seeks to be seen as a martyr for Al Q'aeda. That alone should be reason enough to imprison him for 13 lifetimes of hard labor instead of death. The death penalty is too good for him.

The Obama Administration and many of his supporters in the news media have refused to acknowledge Hasan's act as one of terrorism. The truth, as we know it, is that it was. It was an attack by an enemy infiltrator. However, there is benefit to denying Hasan's terrorist affiliation. It is an attempt to diminish Hasan's bid for martyrdom. Should he receive the death penalty, the denials of the terrorism will not diminish the label within the Al Q'aeda network. Worse, the heroes from that day will be denied the wartime medals they earned. The wounded survivors will be denied the war veteran benefits they earned and deserve. The families of the slain will be denied certain benefits that should be bestowed upon their widows and children.

So, deny him the death penalty and the mantel of martyr. If that is not the endgame, then openly admit this act for what it was -- an act of war. Grant the victims and their families that for which so much blood has already paid.

As the panel decides Hasan's sentence, we can hope that justice will prevail.

National Socialization Of Higher Education

Obama's latest bully-pulpit activism is receiving some amount of praise. His plan is to have the government help reduce the costs of higher education. It is propagated as a means of bolstering the so-called "middle class" and helping to increase opportunities in the job market.

The plan makes sense, to a degree. The plan is to back schools that switch from credit-hour programs to those who award based upon examination performance. In other words, a student self-studies and tests out of a class, they get credit for completion. That is something that has already been used with CLEP  and AP testing as well as some real-world experience credits that many colleges award to military veterans based upon their training and work in the actual fields. Most of those credits tend to reside in the lower, introductory-level course.

The plan is labeled a Public-Private Partnership (P3) model. It also seeks to choose favorites. If a school does what Obama says, it gets tax breaks. That, however, fails to acknowledge that the office of the President does not have the power to levy taxes or grant tax breaks. So, it will, instead, reallocate federal education funds to grant greater funding to the schools who obey. That is not a P3 program. A P3 program is where a government function is contracted out to a private industry. The government facilities are leased out to the company, who must comply with the government's standards and the details in the contract. The idea is that the companies can better and more efficiently administrate the function and turn a profit rather than flush away taxpayer money. Mitch Daniels' administration (yes, that included the legislature) was very successful with P3 projects on toll roads as well as with charter schools in Indiana.

Obama's proposals seem more to seek a federal takeover of higher education institutions. That leans more towards national socialization than towards a private-sector growing P3 program. In addition, the federal government cannot offer P3 contracts for state universities, only those universities owned by the federal government (which would include the military academies such as West Point and Annapolis).

Most who laud Obama's proposal fail to see a few key facts. First, most universities are already P3 institutions if not private businesses. Harvard is private. Princeton is private. Texas A&M University is a P3 institution, part funded by the state of Texas, and part funded by taking monies in exchange for goods and services (trade and capitalism). Texas A&M is rather successful. The Texas legislature recently approved a means of helping fund greater expansion. That expansion (new facilities and campuses) would likely have happened without the bill. However, since A&M is considered a "State University", the state has a stake in its growth.

Another issue that proposal fails to recognize is the Tenth Amendment. If one reviews the Constitution, they will find enumerations of authorities and responsibilities of each branch. Article 1 Section 8 enumerates what the legislature can govern. Section 2 enumerates what the president is allowed to do. Funding, directing, mandating, or interfering in education is not among those enumerated powers or authorities. The Tenth Amendment, therefore, applies. It dictates that education is a responsibility left to the states or individual citizens. The federal government has no authority to get involved. It needs to butt-out.

Almost admitting he doesn't have the constitutional authority, while speaking at Knox College, Obama stated that he will circumvent the supreme law of the land and do what he wants.

Two issues facing college students are the rising costs of higher education and the ability to repay student loans. The federal government has long been involved in student loans. They used to guarantee them, acting as a form of cosignatory. Then federally guaranteed student loans were taken out of privately owned banks and put directly under the auspices of the federal government. That was a violation of the tenth amendment. After they did so, however, tuition rates began to rise exponentially. Schools could change more because the government could pay them, even though students are finding it more and more difficult to repay the government. The defaulted loans become public debt. That hurts the economy.

Another key fallacy involved in this proposal is the one of "middle class". Again, every proper citizen should read and understand the US Constitution. That supreme law of the land explicitly states that there are no classes and no titles (or stations) of nobility in this country. Nobody is born into any "class". People are born. They work. They pursue opportunities. They take risks. With hard work and determination, people can become high-income-earners. Those less industrious or frugal may "get by" (rather comfortably on global standards) as middle-income earners. Then there are those who stick themselves in lower or impoverished income brackets. There are some who rise high, make bad choices, risk more than they can afford, and fall. Whatever income bracket you achieve is up to you. Do not fall for the "middle class" fallacy. There is no such thing, despite what despots wish you to believe.

As for increasing job opportunities, those positions need first to be available. Many employers are transitioning full-time positions to part-time ones in order to avoid over-taxation due to the PPACA. Others are facing federal over-regulation that decreases their profit margins to less than 5%. That means they cannot afford to expand or conduct R&D in order to increase their business. That means they cannot afford to create more job openings. In addition, the current economic policies in effect deter would-be entrepreneurs from starting small businesses. Despite the U3 unemployment edging down, very slowly, over the past few months, U6 figures are rising. In addition, the workforce participation rate is at its lowest since before the days of Jimmy Carter.

Jobs that used to require baccalaureate degrees are now taking those with masters degrees, who are working positions far lower than their capabilities. This may falsely lead many to draw the conclusion that higher degrees are more necessary. That is not the case. What is the case is those higher degrees are more marketable in poor and stagnant economic conditions where there is one job position (that requires an associates degree) and 50 people competing for it. The two with experience (some at higher positions) and the masters degree that are willing to take that job to feed their families will be the two considered for the position. They will hate it. It will be beneath their abilities. They will take the jobs because, well, it is better than being unemployed. Many are still paying off student loans, as well.

So, in reality, this program will not generate more jobs. It will just increase competition for those few jobs available. However, by the time the students most affected by the program graduate, the PPACA will be repealed and a more conservative administration will have fixed the economy. The jobs will be available again. Obama will get credit for somebody else having fixed the problems he created or aggravated.

Mr. Obama, since you evidently failed economics by studying only Keynes's failed system, get some education. The best way to reduce the costs of higher education is for the federal government to get out of it. Guaranteeing student loans is one thing. Taking the business out of the private sector was bad. More involvement is not only illegal, it will drive costs up further. Just stop before you aggravate the damage. 

If you have the half-hour to spend listening to the demagogue, here is one of his more recent speeches unveiling the plan:

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Selling Obamacare To Illegals?

Self-described "blue dog Democrat" Rep. Henry Cuellar is promoting the "Border Health Conference" on Friday Aug. 23. Here is a copy of the invitation:

Dear Friends,

I would like to remind you that the 8th Annual Border Health Conference will be held this Friday, August 23rd in Laredo, TX.  Though in its eighth year, this is the first time the Border Health Conference will be held in Texas and on the border.   This conference will provide an opportunity to discuss the unique challenges and opportunities to providing quality healthcare across the border region.

What:          8th Annual Border Health Conference
Where:        La Posada Hotel
                     1000 Zaragoza St 
                     Laredo, TX 78040
When:         Friday, August 23, 2013
Who:           Doctors, healthcare professionals, interested and concerned  citizens
To RSVP:    Please email Mary Hinojosa at or call 202-225-1640

We will be joined by representatives from the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, the Mexican Department of Health, US-Mexico Border Health Commission, City of Laredo Health Department, US Customs and Border Protection, the Texas Health and Human Services Commission, Enroll America, Texas Medical Association, and others on panels that include:
  • 11am - SGR (Adequate Provider Reimbursement) and Fraud, Myths, and Reality
  • 12:30pm - Graduate Medical Education: The Importance of Recruiting,Training, and Retaining Physicians Along the Border
  • 1:45pm - Public Health Collaboration between the US and Mexico 
  • 3pm - Immigration, Border Security and the Impact on Health Care
  • 4:15pm - Affordable Care Act - Implementation & Impact on Healthcare  
I look forward to seeing you on this Friday in Laredo! 


Congressman Henry Cuellar
Normally, the conference takes place in Washington, DC. They decided to move it to Laredo, TX this year. Cuellar and Vela seek to have next year's conference in Texas again. Perhaps they should look at holding the conference closer to Douglas, Arizona next year. Naco, AZ could use the economic shot in the arm. Or they could hold the conference in the area of Cochise County, AZ that was burned by human traffickers along the border.

That agenda stirs up many probing questions. Anybody able to attend should pop-in and ask the "experts" the "hard questions" and see if they will give honest answers.

Let's ask about recruiting physicians. Many are retiring early or closing their doors because of the PPACA. With doctors leaving practice, medical school costs increasing, expected decreased salaries, higher student loans to repay, what possible incentives are there to counteract the damage the ACA is causing? How can they expect to recruit satisfactory (or better) physicians?

One probing question concerns illegal immigrants' eligibility for "Obamacare". The program already costs Americans too much. It has driven up insurance costs. It has reduced work hours. It has placed undo burdens upon employers. It will cost Delta Airlines, alone, $100 Million. Now take that figure and compute it into airfares.

So, why should a law-abiding, hard-working, US Citizen be forced to pay the healthcare costs of a foreign criminal?

Since they want to talk border security, it is time to ask what any of them plan to do about securing the borders, mitigating the illicit drug trade, and stopping sex-slave trafficking.

What do those have to do with healthcare? Drug overdoses will cost taxpayers under the PPACA. Other diseases such as HIV that are transmitted through illicit drug use will cost taxpayers through the PPACA. The drug smugglers also communicate diseases that may infect US Citizens or our food supply (farms and ranches along the borders and ratlines).

Many sex-slaves are drugged or forced into addiction. That brings along the same health issues as the trug trade. In addition, the slaves can communicate other diseases, including sexually transmitted ones. Many lack immunization and may fall victim to diseases US Citizens are resistant to. All of this will impact tax-payers' wallets under the ACA.

Then there are the other illegals. They bring diseases. They also steal identities and conduct fraud. That will impact the health and welfare of both US Citizens and legitimate legal resident aliens as well as immigrant workers on visas.

That is all in addition to the numerous other problems with the PPACA. Perhaps the most important question to ask is "when will this immoral tax bill be repealed and its provisions defunded?"

As Senator Ted Cruz would say... #DontBlink

Meanwhile, let's listen to a couple of Obamacare advocates in their own words as they promote this conference:

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Manning -- Justice or Just Desserts?

At approximately 10:15 EDT Bradley Manning was sentenced. The entire court martial process, including discovery, investigations, depositions, motions, and other delays took about 3 years.

The sentence took less than two minutes to recite. Manning was quickly cuffed and remanded into custody.

Manning was eligible for a sentence of 90 years. The prosecution aimed for 60 of those years. The defense plead for 25.

What Manning received was 35 years, pre-trial confinement credited towards time served, eligible for parole in approximately 11 years. However, the sentence doesn't end there.

Manning was also reduced to the lowest enlisted grade:  "prisoner". Technically, he is a Private/E-1. However, there are riders on that rank when incarcerated. He is denied many of the courtesies, honors, benefits, and other things true Soldiers value rather highly. He is not allowed to salute or be saluted, for example. A salute is considered a "respectful wave 'hello' between honorable warriors". Manning has lost the privilege. He also will face conditions and discipline far more stringent than his Basic Combat Training experience. In short, Manning is about to spend at least 10 years in hell.

[Here is an annecdotal side-note for new Lieutenants in the US Army. If a senior NCO salutes you -- RETURN IT! It means he is extending you respect that you may not yet have had the opportunity to earn. That senior NCO HAS EARNED that returned salute. Render it. There are a few officers out there who can relate horror stories about what happened when they failed to return a CSM's salute.]

Manning also forfeit all pay and allowances for a time. He'll eventually get "prisoner pay" which is far less than a PVT/E-1 makes. However, his supporters will be able to buy his work, from UNICOR.

Other than the incarceration, Manning will receive a DISHONORABLE DISCHARGE. That is the lowest classification of discharge. It means his record is branded. Most employment opportunities have been barred to him. Even some food service (part-time, minimum wage, unskilled labor) employers won't hire individuals with dishonorable discharges. They are not necessarily an automatic disqualifier for employment. However, they do tend to lead employers to file applications in the special bin (that makes confetti out of sheets of paper). A "Big Chicken Dinner" (Bad Conduct Discharge) is higher in rank than a Dishonorable. Even a BCD results in loss of many/most Veterans' Benefits.

Many may not be happy with the prison sentence. On one side, those who do not understand the dangers that revealing certain information could present to our national security and the lives and welfare of our military members, ambassadors, and independent citizens are screaming that Manning should not serve any time. Perhaps they need a better education on how the world works.

Conversely, many people, including those from the military intelligence community, think the sentence too lenient. In the proper perspective, it isn't. This article compares Manning to others who leaked or sold information in the past. 35 years, eligible for parole in 11 (after credit for time served) is reasonable. His name is ruined. He's proven he cannot be trusted. All of the remaining portions of the sentence see to a punishment that may end up lasting a lifetime.

The remaining question, however, that the court martial did not satisfactorily answer, is why did Manning join the military and the military intelligence corps in the first place. If he so greatly opposed the classification of information and securing of certain elements for national security, then he should not have applied for the clearance. That is, he should not have unless he did so with the intent of eventually leaking it and damaging our national security. If he truly were a "conscientious objector" of military intelligence operation (and other military operations), he should never have joined. The fact he did join and did freely enter the USA MI Corps indicates that he was more than a "conscientious objector". He was an infiltrator.

He didn't get off as easy as some may perceive. However, he may have gotten off a little easier than he deserves. Only after his time is served and he is released will time and circumstances tell how just the sentence is.