Friday, November 29, 2013

Reflections On Thanksgiving Messages

Yesterday, most Americans gathered for a meal at some friend or relative's house. If the gathering was under our own roof, we stressed and slaved over trying to make that perfect meal.

The meal isn't the point of the gathering. The meal is the magnet. The gathering is the point.

The first Thanksgiving was a community meal where neighbors and relatives joined with the neighboring Native Americans. Those indigenous tribes had welcomed them, made a treaty with them, and helped them to tame the land. It was the first harvest in the new world. After a year of death, starvation, and sickness, the Pilgrims at that meal survived and thrived. They did so as individuals each seeking individual achievement, accepting the rewards and consequences of each individual action, the the fruits of individual labors.

They didn't pray for more than what they needed. They were thankful for all they had achieved. They were thankful for the help from their neighbors and friends. They were thankful for the opportunities to achieve.

Be thankful for what you have. Be thankful for the opportunities you have had to succeed, even those you decided not to take. Stop blaming others because you do not have all that you want. Instead, be thankful you live in a place where you can still freely work to earn and achieve those things.

Be thankful for family and friends. Be thankful for the true friends who will tell you the truth, allowing your to grow and improve.

Thanksgiving may be a once a year holiday, but giving thanks should be done every day. Be thankful for your life, your breath, the opportunities presented before you each day, and the people in your life who support and celebrate those successes.

Erick Erickson penned a great Thanksgiving message over at Red State. It is a great read, especially the day after.

Rick Perry, Governor of Texas, sent out some words to ponder as well:

"As families across our state come together to celebrate the Thanksgiving holiday, I encourage everyone to take time to reflect upon the ample blessings that have been bestowed upon us as Texans and Americans. As always, please keep the brave men and women of our nation's armed forces, serving their country far from home, in your thoughts and prayers throughout this holiday season."
 Senator Ted Cruz also had some inspirational remarks:

Today, we celebrate the blessings of a people dedicated to liberty.
Our forefathers fled religious prosecution to pursue the freedom of conscience in the New World, a bedrock principle we must continue to protect.
As the pilgrims in their November 1620 Mayflower Compact, their very first governing framework, wrote: “ solemnly and mutually, in the Presence of God and one another, covenant and combine ourselves together into a civil Body Politick, for our better Ordering and Preservation.”
A year later they thanked God for his providence, their first harvest, and a new land of opportunity. It was the nation’s very first Thanksgiving.
Despite the many trials they faced, they expressed gratitude for the opportunity to live freely.
President Calvin Coolidge reminded us nearly a century ago: “We have been a most favored people. We ought to be a most generous people. We have been a most blessed people. We ought to be a most thankful people.”
And, we are.
This Thanksgiving, Heidi and I wish you and your family the very best, and may God continue to bless the Great State of Texas and the United States of America.
All the best,
TC Sig

And gentile readers, be safe and sensible if your venture out into that chaotic mob called "Black Friday". Be thankful for the deals you do get, not the ones they run out of. And, for goodness' sake, have fun. If you aren't enjoying it, go to work or go home. Buying presents should not be stressful. Capitalism is a great thing every day, not just one day each year. You don't have to do all of your shopping in one day. In fact, we're staying home and doing some crafting, painting, etc.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Giving Thanks

Each year, US citizens around the globe gather to share in a meal, sometimes some football, and enjoy the company. Those in military service, stationed outside of the US, as well as those in the US but unable to make a cross-country trek to see their families, gather together as an adoptive family, brothers and sisters in arms. Through these gatherings, many traditional customs from various nuclear families blend. They form new customs and traditions. Similar happens when people marry and families join together. But the military blending occurs annually.

This gives those who have served some special insights into Thanksgiving traditions.

There is usually something fowl, as in a turkey, duck, large chicken, or combination of the three.

There is cranberry something or other. Many times it's a cranberry flavored, can-shaped Jello mold.

There is wine, be it real or non-alcoholic (sparkling grape juice is a holiday staple for deployed soldiers).

There is food. There is family. There is camaraderie. And there is thanks. It's something that is seldom missing from the gatherings, that turn-taking announcements people make of what they are thankful for. It comes as part of the toast and/or blessing.

I'd like to share a small list of things I am grateful for this year. This is not all-inclusive. Like many people, I have much. Any omissions are not due to a lack of gratitude, but a lack of time and space to include them.

First, I am thankful for the garden I planted with my wife and daughter. It provided us with quality time together. It provided us with fun, wonder, and excitement. It also provided us with fresh produce over the past 8 or so months, from herbs, stevia, various peppers, tomatoes, to some lovely flowers on the eggplant.

I am thankful for the meals I have cooked using the fresh items from our garden. I am also thankful for those prepared with store-bought food. I am thankful for those eaten at restaurants. I am thankful for these not only for sustenance but for the time at the tables with my wife and daughter and any other friends and family who have joined us.

I am thankful for my house. My wife, daughter, and I have all worked to make it a home. It is not the best, but it suits us. It's our home, our living room, our home-office, our dining room, our bedrooms, etc.

I am thankful for our dog. He has provided us entertainment, exercise, companionship, and somebody upon whom to blame for the dirt tracked into the house. He plays with and protects my daughter. He playfully helps wake up my wife in the morning, sometimes.

I am thankful for our cat. He also entertains. He comforts my wife at the end of a bad day. He wakes me up before dawn, making sure I am up in time to help my wife and daughter prepare for their days.

I am thankful for our snake. I am sure his mere presence serves as a warding of sorts against rodents.

I am thankful for my parents. Both have done so much to help me become the man I am. My father has always been there, my sage adviser and stern critic. He has also been a boon traveling companion, photography instructor, wood-shop teacher, and moral compass. My mother has been an emotional sounding board and that one person I can count on to help me when I fall just short of making a goal required to help others.

I am thankful for my brother and my step-brother and their families. They keep me grounded in what is important and have set good examples for me to draw upon as I embark on this new life as a husband and father.

I am thankful for my sister and her family. She has grown into an insightful and intelligent woman and a wonderful conversationalist. It's also nice to have a member of my family living in the same state.

I am thankful for my wife for all she has done, does, and aspires to do. Her youth and drive keep me going when I feel like throwing in the towel. I am thankful for the expanded family she gave me, starting with our daughter (my step-daughter), and continuing through my new brother and sister, mother-in-law, and father-in-law. They are all great people with big hearts that opened up to me. All who know me know I can be pretty closed-off, so it means all that much more. Also, my wife puts up with me. I know I am not easy to live with.

I'm thankful for my daughter. She isn't mine by blood, but a gift from the wonderful woman I duped into marrying me. The reasons can go on for pages, just as they could with my wife. Any parent worth their salt understands this.

I am thankful for the Soldiers, Sailors, Marines and even Airmen who guard and protect this great nation. I am thankful for those who served before me, starting with those who fought to bring this country into being. We owe them more than we could ever repay, and can only repay by continuing our traditional respect for the natural individual rights of life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness. I am thankful for those with whom I served. We shared blood, sweat, tears, joy, sorrow, anguish, horror, victory, and laughter. It is because of them that I am still here today.

I am thankful to my ancestors, who continue to live through me. They set the foundation for all I am and all I will become.

I am thankful to the spirits of nature, the warmth of the sun, the flowers in spring, the fruits of autumn, the warmth-bringing wood and fur and feather they provide us for the winter.

I am thankful for the gods and goddesses, the powers that be, g-d and the angels, however you may address them. There have been so many times I barely escaped death. But I wasn't done yet. They were looking out for me and helped me survive and thrive. They guided my decisions, insuring I enjoyed the rewards I earned and felt the weight of the consequences of poor decisions, helping me to learn.

I am thankful I am alive and woke up today and each day before. Each day has been a gift, a blessing, and an opportunity.

And I thank you for taking the time to read this.

Happy Thanksgiving.

Nine New Constitutional Amendments In Texas

On Nov. 5, 2013, Texas citizens voted on nine proposed new constitutional amendments. All nine passed.

For an off-year election, the turn-out was higher than expected. Among several noted reasons, the most prominently stated reason for the turn-out was to test the state's recently enacted Voter Identification laws. Despite the laws, very few had difficulty casting their ballots and there are, so far, fewer allegations of voter fraud. Some went to the polls with small discrepancies between their state-issued photo-IDs and their voter registration cards. They went looking for problems. Most of them were surprised that the laws did not hinder a single lawfully registered voter from casting a ballot.

While there, the voters were asked to ratify or deny nine resolutions for constitutional amendments that were approved by the 83rd Legislature earlier this year. All nine proposed amendments passed the popular ballot and have been adopted.

One of the more controversial amendments was so-called "Prop. 6". Proposition 6 established two new state-level funds directed at the state's water supply and water acquisition systems.

There were two amendments dealing with tax exemptions for disabled military veterans, their surviving spouses (in the event of their deaths), and the surviving family members of Military Service Members killed while on active duty.

In an official proclamation, Governor Rick Perry amended the Texas Constitution accordingly:

WHEREAS, nine proposed amendments to the Constitution of Texas were voted on in the Constitutional Amendment Election held on November 5, 2013; and
WHEREAS, on the 22nd day of November, 2013, I, Rick Perry, Governor of the State of Texas, did certify the tabulation prepared by the Secretary of State; and
WHEREAS, the tabulation and total of the votes cast for and against each proposed amendment established that the voters of the State of Texas adopted the following nine proposed amendments by a majority vote to wit:

PROPOSITION 1 as submitted by House Joint Resolution No. 62 authorizing the legislature to provide for an exemption from ad valorem taxation of all or part of the market value of the residence homestead of the surviving spouse of a member of the armed services of the United States who is killed in action.

PROPOSITION 2 as submitted by House Joint Resolution No. 79 eliminating an obsolete requirement for a State Medical Education Board and a State Medical Education Fund, neither of which is operational.

PROPOSITION 3 as submitted by House Joint Resolution No. 133 authorizing a political subdivision of this state to extend the number of days that aircraft parts that are exempt from ad valorem taxation due to their location in this state for a temporary period may be located in this state for purposes of qualifying for the tax exemption.

PROPOSITION 4 as submitted by House Joint Resolution No. 24 authorizing the legislature to provide for an exemption from ad valorem taxation of part of the market value of the residence homestead of a partially disabled veteran or the surviving spouse of a partially disabled veteran if the residence homestead was donated to the disabled veteran by a charitable organization.

PROPOSITION 5 as submitted by Senate Joint Resolution No. 18 authorizing the making of a reverse mortgage loan for the purchase of homestead property and to amend lender disclosures and other requirements in connection with a reverse mortgage loan.

PROPOSITION 6 as submitted by Senate Joint Resolution No. 1 providing for the creation of the State Water Implementation Fund for Texas and the State Water Implementation Revenue Fund for Texas to assist in the financing of priority projects in the state water plan to ensure the availability of adequate water resources.

PROPOSITION 7 as submitted by House Joint Resolution No. 87 authorizing a home-rule municipality to provide in its charter the procedure to fill a vacancy on its governing body for which the unexpired term is 12 months or less.

PROPOSITION 8 as submitted by House Joint Resolution No. 147 and Senate Joint Resolution No. 54 repealing Section 7, Article IX, Texas Constitution, which relates to the creation of a hospital district in Hidalgo County.

PROPOSITION 9 as submitted by Senate Joint Resolution No. 42 relating to expanding the types of sanctions that may be assessed against a judge or justice following a formal proceeding instituted by the State Commission on Judicial Conduct."

IN TESTIMONY WHEREOF, I have hereunto signed my name and have officially caused the Seal of State to be affixed at my Office in the City of Austin, Texas, this the 22nd day of November, 2013.

Governor of Texas

In July 2011, Governor Perry issued a proclamation declaring several counties in Texas in states of emergency due to drought conditions. Despite rains that resulted in flash floods in some of these counties over the past year, the precipitation has not been enough to offset the drought conditions.

On Nov. 26th, Gov. Perry extended the declaration of emergency drought conditions. The drought has persisted for over 30 months. Some had claimed the previous extensions were political tools intended to help persuade voters to support Prop. 6. Studies of the aquifers and water tables in these counties demonstrate the conditions do persist.

With the adoption of Prop. 6 as a constitutional amendment, hopefully the trend can be slowed or reversed.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Latest Round of Cops Behaving Badly

Police officers have a tough and dangerous job. Often times it is thankless as well. Most police officers in most municipalities and state-level agencies abide by their oaths. Like our loyal and valiant uniformed military service members, police officers put their lives on the line to make sure people are kept safe and necessary laws are enforced.

The majority of police officers are like Mike Fosler. Mike Fosler is a disabled, retired police officer who served in New Jersey. He was on small-town, suburb forces as well as the Camden Police Department. Mike is also a US Army veteran and former counter-intelligence agent. He knows the oath to support and defend the US Constitution very well. He'll be the first to admit that there are times when an officer must make a quick assessment of a situation and may have to take some physical actions in order to preserve both the life of the officer as well as that of the suspect. He will also admit that there are clear lines that emerge that should not be crossed. An officer lacking "good moral judgement" may be better served seeking another profession, one that doesn't involve hasty life and death decisions that must also weigh-in individual natural rights such as those protected by the US Constitution.

Officers like Mike Fosler deserve our gratitude. They do the hard job, choosing the hard right over the easy wrong. 

Nobody can rationally dispute that some laws and regulations are necessary for civilized people to live, civilly, in the modern world. There will always be those who seek to prey upon those perceived as weak, defenseless, or easy targets. There will always be people who seek to harm, steal from, abuse, or destroy the properties of law abiding citizens. Also, nobody is perfect. Humans are beautifully flawed creatures who, while seeking excellence, inevitably falter and make mistakes. Actions have consequences, be they intentional or accidental. The police make sure that when such infractions may bring infringement to the life, liberty, property, or other natural individual rights of another that the perpetrator be brought before a constitutional trial.

Also like our fine military members, there exist those few police officers who overstep their authority. There are those few who have no integrity and do not uphold their oath of office. There are those who betray the public trust. It is not all. It is a scant minority. However, their illicit actions cast deep stains upon all others.

In the latest event of "Cops Behaving Badly" we have one such scumbag caught fraudulently impersonating an upstanding police officer.

40 year old, 11 year veteran San Antonio Police Officer Jackie L. Neal is accused of raping a 19 year old girl. Of course, he denies the charges. At 2am Friday Nov. 22, Neal allegedly pulled the 19 year old over, handcuffed her, and raped her on the hood of his police cruiser. The GPS tracker on Neal's car puts it at the location named in the allegation, at the time the incident allegedly occurred. Miraculously, his dash-cam happened to malfunction, not having a working hard-drive installed at the time.

This wasn't Neal's first sexually-related infraction. Similar allegation happened a few years ago, according to Chief William McManus. However, no evidence was collected, at least not enough to conduct a proper investigation.

Neal also had an affair with an 18 year old member of the "Police Explorer" program. That led to a suspension, then transfer to a night shift on the South Side of San Antonio.

That makes this the third sexually-related allegation against the same officer. In short, he makes his fellow officers look bad. He is disloyal to his oath and a betrayer of public trust. He is dishonorable, even if not guilty of these allegations. Why? Because he puts himself into the situations as a magnet to bring discredit upon the uniform.

Now, in this case, Chief McManus is promising a full investigation. He is even asking the FBI to assist out of concern that civil rights may have been violated. A burning question is if the FBI will investigate potential civil rights violation allegations surrounding McManus while they are in the neighborhood.

McManus is no saint. There is an ongoing case that includes McManus in civil rights violations, including potential 4th Amendment violations against a whistle-blower. McManus allegedly reported an anonymous tip that James Foddrill was acting maniacal. In the middle of the night, McManus's "mental health division" conducted harassment raid. Minutes after arrival, the officer in charge on the scene recognized the call for what it was, harassment, and stated as much in his report.

It would come as no surprise to find that the only reason McManus is so adamant in this case is that it has received so much public attention and cannot be covered up like Neal's previous offenses.

This comes on the heels of Temple, TX police officers being fired for abuse of authority and brutality in the arrest of a teenager suspected of theft. This same department has come under scrutiny for excessive force in two other recent cases including CJ Grisham's arrest and the arrest of Matthew Sibley.

If police are supposed to help the people hold lawbreakers accountable for their illicit actions, they first need to hold each other accountable. As perceived authority figures, they must set an example of "what right looks like". They cannot be considered above the laws they serve. Instead they must hold each other to a higher standard and stricter interpretation than they expect the citizens who employ them to follow. Most do just that. Others attempt to do that but fear repercussions from corrupt officials, politicians, and superiors. Those brave men and women who toe the line, do the hard job, and stand up for what is right deserve our respect and gratitude. Those who don't, people like Neal, deserve the highest sentences appropriate for their crimes and betrayals. 

Scam Artist Guilty of Defrauding Seniors

A self-proclaimed "elder adviser" plead guilty to defrauding senior citizens, court orders restitution.

The Texas State Securities Board continues to investigate and prosecute cases of securities, investment, and banking fraud. In their latest case, Richard Dwayne Hicks plead guilty to the first degree felony of selling fraudulent securities.

On Sept. 26, 2013, Hicks was indicted  by a Grand Jury on 11 possible counts of securities fraud. The total amount stolen from the 11 victims named in the indictment was over $2,854,500.00. The amount scammed ranged from $25k to $500k. Hicks had allegedly sold forged promissory notes for the National Note of Utah, LLC.

The indictment also noted several tax liens against Richard and Rebecca Hicks between 1997 and 2009. In 2001, Richard and Rebecca Hicks allegedly, along with Elder Advisory Services (EAS) had a judgement against them forbidding them from taking any legal status in regards to citizens, including banning them from enjoining into any powers of attorney or advising in any Medicaid, Social Security, or Health and Human Services matters. When doing so, Hicks was practicing law without a license, causing the Texas Supreme Court to ban Hicks from those activities. 

In 2011, Hicks failed to notify his "clients" of the tax liens and previous judgements. He also posed as a currently licensed and certified securities broker. When he collected the funds on promises of guaranteed 12% interest payments on the promissory notes from National Note of Utah, LLC, he committed the first degree felony.

The US Security and Exchange Commission also took administrative actions regarding Richard and Rebecca Hicks and their company, EAS, in Aug. 2013.

The plea agreement granted Hicks a 10 year deferred sentence and to pay restitution of over $240,000 to 10 of his victims. Effectively, Hicks is on 10 years probation during which time any further infractions could lead to incarceration to be determined in that event.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

US Small Biz Admin Issues Flood Loans

The US Small Business Administration (SBA) announced it will grant loans to Texas businesses and residents affected by flooding in late October.

On October 31, 2013, despite continuing drought conditions, 11 Texas counties experienced severe flooding. Caldwell, Hays, Travis, Bastrop, Blanco, Burnet, Comal, Fayette, Gonzales, Guadalupe and Williamson Counties were all affected by the storms that dumped torrential rains, causing flash floods.

Through the SBA, homeowners are eligible for federal loans up to $200,000.00 to repair property damages. Renters and property owners can also apply for loans up to $40,000 to cover damages and loss of personal property items. Businesses and NPOs are eligible for up to $2M in loans for real estate and durable capital (such as machinery) lost or damaged by flooding.

Offices for servicing those loans are scheduled to open in the respective counties between Nov. 25 and the Monday after the Thanksgiving holiday weekend.

Of the SBA's announcement, Governor Rick Perry stated:

"The tragedy of last month's storms weighs heavily on the hearts of all of us in Central Texas. This much needed assistance will help our families and local businesses get back on their feet and on the road to recovery as quickly as possible."
For those needing to apply, here is some information of the outreach centers scheduled to open soon:

Travis CountyDove Springs Recreation Center
5801 Ainez Drive
Austin, TX 78744
Opens Monday, Nov. 25 at 12:00PM

Hays CountyHays County Precinct 2 Office
5458 FM 2770
Kyle, TX 78640
Opens Tuesday, December 3 at 9:00AM
Caldwell County
Caldwell County Scott Annex
Caldwell County Office of Emergency Services
1403 Blackjack Street, Ste. E
Lockhart, TX 78644
Opens Thursday, December 5 at 9:00AM

For more information on SBA disaster loans or to request an application, go to the SBA's disaster relief loan site or call (800) 659-2955. Individuals with impaired hearing may call (800) 877-8339. The SBA can also be reached via email at

Friday, November 22, 2013

Common Core Materials In Texas Public Schools

Texas Section 28.002, Education Code outlaws Common Core in Texas, but Texas Public Schools are still using its materials.

Texas Section 28.002, Education Code was amended by HB 462 during the 83rd Legislative Session. Governor Rick Perry signed HB 462 into effect on June 14, 2013. The law went into effect immediately, banning Common Core and its directly linked materials from Texas public and open-enrollment charter schools.

       SECTION 1.  Section 28.002, Education Code, is amended by adding Subsections (b-1), (b-2), (b-3), and (b-4) to read as follows: 
       (b-1)  In this section, "common core state standards" means the national curriculum standards developed by the Common Core State Standards Initiative. 
       (b-2)  The State Board of Education may not adopt common core state standards to comply with a duty imposed under this chapter. 
       (b-3)  A school district may not use common core state standards to comply with the requirement to provide instruction in the essential knowledge and skills at appropriate grade levels under Subsection (c). 
       (b-4)  Notwithstanding any other provision of this code, a school district or open-enrollment charter school may not be required to offer any aspect of a common core state standards curriculum. 

       SECTION 2.  Section 39.023, Education Code, is amended by adding Subsection (a-3) to read as follows: 
       (a-3)  The agency may not adopt or develop a criterion-referenced assessment instrument under this section based on common core state standards as defined by Section 28.002(b-1).  This subsection does not prohibit the use of college advanced placement tests or international baccalaureate examinations as those terms are defined by Section 28.051.

This includes several web-based, online, and digital educational materials.

One such web-based program is still in use in Texas Public Schools. "Think Through Math" is championed by some teachers in the Judson Independent School District which serves portions of San Antonio and some of the eastern suburbs. In using this program as part of instruction in the schools, JISD is breaking Texas Law.

In fact, when students are asked if their parents had logged them into "Think Through Math" that week, those who had not are forced to do so on the classroom computers. Furthermore, this is being done without parental consent.

If left completely optional for students' use at home with parental supervision and consent, a teacher may recommend the educational site. However, it is illegal to make this program mandatory and it is illegal for use in Texas schools.

"Think Through Math" brags that it is part of Common Core on its website. In fact, one of the pages on their site furthers their boast proclaiming they are "Built For Common Core". On another page on the site, they posted an essay explaining how "Common Core Ready" their program and curriculum is.

Among the key problems with Common Core's approach to math is that it attempts to bypass the key lower levels of Bloom's Taxonomy. For those not familiar with Bloom's, this means that Common Core is designed to skip the definition and fundamental steps required to master any subject. The students are programed straight into relativity, ignoring facts. If they can justify an answer, they get full credit, even if the answer is wrong.

In other words, kids don't learn multiplication tables. They are expected to automatically understand and play with set theory when doing multiplication. If given 3x4, acceptable answers include 7 and 75%, because there is a 3 and a 4 in the problem. They can also justify 36, because they can say they counted 4 sets of 3 bags of 3 marbles. 34 is also justifiable, according to Common Core. However, the laws of mathematics dictate that 3 times 4 MUST equal 12. That fact, that law, is not being taught.

According to Common Core, PEMDAS is no longer a rule. The order of operations in mathematics is : Parentheses, Exponents, Multiplication/Division, Addition/Subtraction. Under the way Common Core materials teach math, the order of operations no longer matters, as long as students can articulate what order they used as justification to why the answer they arrived at is correct. It doesn't matter that, if operations are done out of the proper sequence, they are wrong.

"Think Through Math" sets that very trap for students. It teaches conceptually instead of using an epistemic and empirical  approach that enforces rules, definitions, and fundamentals (like memorizing times tables) before attempting to advance along Bloom's Taxonomy towards the conceptual stages of development.

Another way to look at it is that Common Core, CSCOPE, and materials such as "Think Through Math" took something that already worked, and worked well, and destroyed it completely while fraudulently claiming to have "fixed it".

CSCOPE attempted to slip Common Core materials and curricula into the Texas Public School Systems. CSCOPE came under legislative scrutiny with the investigations headed by Lt. Governor Candidate Senator Dan Patrick. Legislation headed by Sen. Patrick limited CSCOPE, placing its materials under direct review by the Texas Education Agency (TEA) and the state education board. However, the board isn't set to convene again until 2015. So, to the chagrin of concerned parents, some CSCOPE materials are still being used pending review. In the meantime, CSCOPE curricula are not allowed at this time. One key reason is CSCOPE's links to Common Core.

Parents need to be involved and observant. parents need to do their own research. Don't just accept what a teacher is pushing onto your kids to be correct. Look at the materials being used. Hold the schools accountable. They work for us and need to be reminded of that fact.

For the negative psychological effects of jumping the base stages of Bloom's on child development, please consider Dr. Megan Koschnick's lecture:

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Natgasoline Expands, Texas Invests $2.1M

Natgasoline LLC, a subsidiary of OCI NV, announced it plans to expand methane production in Beaumont, TX. The planned plant will have a capacity of 5,000 metric tons per day. The project is expected to involve 3,000 construction jobs over the next three years and generate 240 new permanent job positions at the plant. The capital investment is expected to be approximately $1 billion.

Natgasoline was approved by the EPA under greenhouse gas regulations and is prepared to undertake the expansion of its operations. The plant will be built on a portion of a 514 acre plot owned by OCI and is expected to be fully operational in 2016. The plant will be the largest methane production plant in the US when the expansion is complete.

With the announcement of the EPA approval and expansion plans, Natgasoline LLC was awarded a $2.1 million "investment" through the Texas Enterprise Fund (TEF). The $2.1M is contingent upon other local incentive programs and agreements that have not yet been finalized. They are expected to be completed in the near future.

Nassef Sawiris, CEO of OCI N.V. made the following statement upon the release of the news regarding the approval and the TEF grant:

"Following the success of OCI Partners LP's Beaumont facility, OCI is pleased to have selected the State of Texas once again to expand its North American methanol activities. The effort shown by Gov. Perry and the Beaumont community reaffirms our commitment to Beaumont and the state of Texas."
Governor Rick Perry made the following statement regarding the announcement:

"Texas has created a job-friendly economic environment through our low taxes, smart regulations, fair courts and skilled workforce that welcomes world-class companies looking to expand or relocate their operations.  Natgasoline's commitment to expanding and creating jobs in Texas further strengthens our energy industry and continues the Lone Star State's longstanding role in fueling the nation."

Jefferson County Judge Jeff Branick added these additional remarks:

"I greatly appreciate the cooperative assistance the governor's office has given us through the TEF in bringing this project to Texas. This continues the 10 year legacy of numerous industries choosing to locate in Jefferson County's business friendly environment."

The TEF was created in 2003. I has since undergone several re-appropriations, the latest during the 83rd legislative session, this year. To date, the TEF has invested over $500M in business expansion incentives. These incentives have created approximately 70,000 jobs and generated  over $23B in capital investments within the state of Texas. Proponents of the TEF cite it as among the many reasons the Texas economy is thriving despite dismal economic conditions across the country. Perhaps even economists  Dr. Art Laffer and Stephen Moore would agree? Their study comparing Texas and California appears to suggest so.

Defining Terms - PC Crowds Fail Vocab Lessons

These days, the so-called "politically correct" crowd has fallaciously taken to changing definitions of terms and convincing collectives of sheep that these new definitions are war banners. The problem is that many who are duped into these collective hive-minds are too lazy to bother to actually pay attention to the true meanings of these terms.

It started in school. One manner of teaching vocabulary is to have students reword definitions in terms they understand better. This mutated into allowing them to completely redefining the words. The question of "what is THE definition of...?" has since been replaced with the fraudulent question "what is YOUR definition of...?". Teachers have become too afraid of hurting a student's feelings by flat out telling they are wrong have furthered this brainwashing by allowing a condition of relativism instead of building a foundation of facts and hard data.

What we have today are a bunch of catch-phrases that would lead anybody with access to an unabridged dictionary to start laughing at their incorrect terminology.

One such term is "marriage equality". First, that contains the term "marriage". Look up THE definition. There is only one acceptable set of definitions. If "yours" is not among them, you need some vocabulary lessons.

Here in the US, due to the First Amendment, the only definition is the sociological, legal, cultural, anthropological definition. That is the once concerning that the condition of marriage is defined by the rules, mores, norms, and values of a given society. Each state being a society in its own, by the US Constitution, sets its own rules. So, a marriage is that which is defined by each state's legal code.

This essay is not in contention of same-sex marriage, nor is it in favor of it. It is a means of exposing illogical and ridiculous rhetoric employed by the left, who is using the issue in an unethical and immoral manner. They seek to brainwash an invented collective into believing in a perception of entitlement to non-existent "rights". They aren't even rights, kids, they are privileges. Given the current tax codes in the US, marriage isn't even a privilege, it's a self imposed sentence to increased financial servitude to socialist federal government. That is why they seek to demagogue gay-marriage supporters to the "cause", because they want more slaves. They want you to believe they delivered you to some promised land, they got you some prize, and if you don't keep them in power that the prize will be taken away. Kids, if  it is a right, it cannot be given in the first place. You are born with it. Making you believe it can be given is enslaving you to their bidding, keeping you voting for their tyranny out of fear of losing your special shiny prize. 

For some irony, I know more gay people (including committed gay couples) who oppose same-sex marriage than I know gay people who support it. That includes gay relatives, of which I have one who supports and two who oppose same-sex marriage. Personally, I don't care one way or the other. I'm not gay. Neither is my wife. We support our one gay relative who wants a marriage. But the law is the law and this state's legal definition is THE definition in this state. And it is equal among all legally recognized marriages within the state. (I will contend that states really should have to recognize any legally conducted, recorded, and verified marriage as legally recognized and valid within all US states).  

They also love to toss around, as though it is evil, the term "traditional marriage" (another improperly used "banner" meme). They also refer to it as a "biblical definition" as though only Christians held those rules. First, the concept of a marriage as a contract witnessed by families and societal leaders, then recognized by both, between a man and a woman in order to define terms and conditions for the business of running a household and caring for any progeny produced by that union; is one that predates Christianity by a couple of thousand years. The Hebrews held that same definitions. So did the ancient Egyptians, the ancient Druids, Shinto, Buddhists, the Norse, even the Native Americans held that definition long before white men settled in the New World.  To this day, most recognized world religions still maintain similar rules, thus marking the definitions of marriage for their societies.

Historically, Christianity did sanctify and recognize same-sex unions. They even blessed several in the first millennium AD/CE. Marriage, however, was set between a man and a woman (sometimes several women) for the purposes of progeny and inheritance. it was also necessary to establish noble lineages.

In effect, "traditional marriage" is THE definition in most US States and in most of the world.Most societies, cultures, and legal structures recognize that rule set.

Now, several states have set their legal definitions to allow same-sex unions/civil contracts as "marriage". Should the majority of their citizens agree, that is their right. It fits THE definition.

Some religions allow same-sex marriages and wedding rituals as well, these days. Within their cultures, the religious definitions. These include some pagan religious organizations (including mine) and some Christian sects. However, in our country, religion is not the basis for marriage laws. Common, majority views are. 

But for two marriages to be "equal" they must first be legally (socially, culturally, anthropologically) considered marriages. Second, they must consist of identical units. They must begin with equal parameters and definitions. Otherwise you are comparing apples to pears to oranges to bananas to papayas to iceberg lettuce.

(Trying to debate this using the logic surrounding slavery is a losing battle. Biologically, a human is a human, and not property. To consider one human to be property and less than another is immoral and evil. The facts are not congruous with a same-sex marriage debate.)

Those who disagree who wish to employ the 3rd definition in the set, "an intimate or close union", already have that. It is not a legal status. It is a description of their relationship. For the legal status, you must revert to definition 1, the legal definition. You cannot compare apples to bananas to oranges. The world doesn't work that way. 

However, we can also examine the original definition of the term "marriage equality". In the 1970s, the term was part of the "women's lib" movement. I was meant to recognize a woman's contributions to the home as equal to the husband's. It was also used to recognize the wife's right to work outside the home. However, if you go back a few hundred years (and even more recently in some cultures and religions around the world), it means that each wife must receive equal treatment from their mutual husband. Yes, it comes from polygamous cultures such as exist in the Arab world today. In fact, in Iraq, a man with two wives must make sure each receives an equitable share. Each wife must have a house the same size, etc. etc. etc.

That is "marriage equality". It is not the poorly construed misuse of the term that the same-sex-marriage collective is duped into using.

Another term is "reproductive rights". The pro-abortion collective is duped by the arm of the left that wants them to believe their special invented little demographic is entitled to some non-existent right.

Examine the term. Look up the definition "reproductive". Look at its root - "reproduce" - "produce". Produce = create. Reproduce = create new, or create again. In this case, it refers to pro-generation. It refers to creating life, creating a new life in particular.

Therefore, the proper definition of "reproductive rights" means the right to reproduce. It means the right to create new life. It does not mean the right to end a life created or generated.

In reality, those walking around preaching about "reproductive rights" really mean they believe that all women have the right to produce a child, on demand, if they can acquire the ability to do so. In other words, they mean they have the right to demand access to a man's fallopian swim team at any time they desire for the purposes of becoming pregnant and hopefully giving birth to a child.

In other words, the term means that women feel they have a right to a man or the product of a man's body, against his will. There is a word for that:  rape. Yes, the term goes both ways. 

"Gimme your sperm now, man-child, I demand to reproduce! I have 'reproductive rights'!".

It does not mean a right to an abortion. That would be "abortive rights". Use the correct terms, kids. You look like idiots when you don't. 

Take a look around. There are probably several other memes and banner terms circulating that, upon examination, don't mean what those using them want you to believe them to mean.

Like "gun control". Gun control is controlling a gun you own. It means hitting what you aim at, and not shooting what you do not want to hit.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Civilian Police v. Military Gun Owners?

Most police are upstanding officers who obey their oaths to the US and respective state constitutions. They work a hard and often dangerous job, especially in more urban areas. Like the military, the police deserve our thanks and respect for their service to the community. However, as in the military, there exist those few who do the profession a dishonor. They overstep their authority and make judgement calls that sometimes break constitutional protections afforded to their employers, the citizens of the United States. 

In Texas, many people on both sides of the Second Amendment debate have been following the case of US Army Master Sergeant (E8) C.J. Grisham. Grisham was helping his son earn a Boy Scouts badge by performing a 10 mile hike.

The route for the hike took place near farms owned by members of Grisham's family. In that area, thieves are known to steal farmers' fertilizer intending to use it to manufacture crystal meth, an illegal drug. So, C.J. elected to bring both a pistol he has a license to carry concealed and his AR-15 for protection.

By Texas law, it is perfectly legal to carry an AR-15 or other rifle in public as long as certain conditions are met. C.J. had the rifle slung on his back, on safe, with no rounds chambered. It would require 3-4 actions in order to fire the weapon. Police accosted C.J. in a manner many describe as an abuse of perceived authority. C.J. was arrested. The charges were eventually reduced to a non-gun related charge. The first trial ended in a hung jury. The second returned a guilty verdict. The maximum sentence this Soldier faces, for standing up for his constitutional rights he was exercising in accordance with state law, is $2,000 and 180 days in jail. It is a class B misdemeanor (lower than a 1st offense DUI). The sentence Grisham received was just the fine. No jail, no probation, no court supervision. The crime "interfering with a police officer".

C. J. was arrested again outside of the Texas Capitol in Austin. The police would not declare the charges publicly and did not inform C.J. of any infractions until after they took him into custody. The charge was "trespassing" for legally being in a public place, exercising his 1st Amendment rights to speech and assembly. However, when they cuffed him, they stated the charge was "openly carrying a firearm in a gun-free area". The catch is that C.J. was not carrying a firearm. He had a plastic toy in the holster.

This begs questions on if police in some areas of Texas are targeting US Military personnel who are legally exercising their constitutionally protected rights to own and carry firearms. These men and women took oaths to support and defend those very rights along with the rest of the US Constitution. While off duty, they are allowed to do so within the confines of the local laws, if off-post. C.J. was not on any military installation and was fully within the laws both times he was arrested. Finding no legal reason to charge him with any gun-related charge, the police and prosecutors sought other charges they felt may stick.

C.J's case is not isolated, either.

In San Antonio, Ramin Bertsson claims he faced a similar situation. Ramin claims he is an active duty Sergeant First Class (E7) stationed at Ft. Sam Houston. In a Facebook post that has since been deleted, Ramin claimed he was sitting on his front porch with his privately owned AR-15 semi-automatic .223 caliber rifle laying on his lap. A police officer approached by car. According to Bertsson's story, he stood up, opened his door, and placed the rifle inside when he realized the police were coming to his door.

Bertsson then claims that the police, and an "Officer Bradley", came onto his property without a warrant, searched his person, without a warrant, opened the door to his house, without consent or warrant, then arrested Bertsson for not presenting the office identification.

While the Uniform Code of Military Justice and Army Regulations state that a member of the uniformed services is required to present identification upon the request of any US Military personnel or any recognized civilian law enforcement authority. The identification cards are not to be "surrendered" or handed over to those authorities, for several reasons. But if asked to display or show them, a Soldier must do so.

That is a military charge, one that local law enforcement personnel are not at liberty to enforce.It usually comes with a verbal reprimand, commonly referred to as an "ass-chewing" or a "dress-down", sometimes emphasized by an official counseling statement which informs the Soldier to "if you do it again, you may be actually punished".

Bertsson's story could not be corroborated or verified. The postings may have been fictionalized accounts designed to garner support or sympathy. If true, however, his tale does ring warnings to all law abiding residents of San Antonio. His postings on "Open-Carry Texas" and "Come And Take It - San Antonio" related web-pages have since been removed. Bertsson follows both organizations on Facebook, but his affiliation with either group cannot be determined. Both groups openly advocate in favor of Texas Open-Carry legislation. Both groups also insist on adherence to current laws in effect. 

Perry Remarks On USSC Abortion Reform Decision

The US Supreme Court has issued a ruling on Texas HB 2, the controversial new law reforming abortion policies and procedures in Texas.

In the case of Planned Parenthood et. al. v Abbott, et al., the 5th US District Court ruled certain provisions of the law were unconstitutional, primarily the provision that abortions be performed by licensed surgeons who, like other surgeons performing ambulatory surgical procedures, have admissions contracts with emergency care hospitals within 30 miles of their ambulatory surgical clinic.

The 5th US Court of Appeals granted the law a stay of execution pending its journey through the court system. The Court of Appeals stated that the law stands a reasonable chance of being upheld, with the 5th District's ruling overturned. In that opinion, the 5th Court of Appeals also reminded the District court of precedence in similar cases that ended in rulings in the states' favor.

The decision for the stay was then appealed to the US Supreme Court.

Justice Scalia penned the majority opinion to refuse to act to block the enactment of the bill. They let the 5th Appeals Court's ruling stand. The law will be argued before the 5th US Court of Appeals in January.

Excerpts from Scalia's majority opinion:

When deciding whether to issue a stay, the Fifth Circuit had to consider four factors: (1) whether the State made a strong showing that it was likely to succeed on the merits, (2) whether the State would have been irreparably injured absent a stay, (3) whether issuance of a stay would substantially injure other parties, and (4) where the public interest lay. See Nken v. Holder, 556 U. S. 418, 434 (2009). The first two factors are “the most critical.” Ibid.

The Court of Appeals analyzed the first factor at length and concluded that the State was likely to prevail on the merits of the constitutional question. The dissent does not join issue with that conclusion; it says only that the question is “difficult.” Post, at 4. Standing alone, that observation cuts against vacatur, since the difficulty of a question is inversely proportional to the likelihood that a given answer will be clearly erroneous. With respect to the second factor, the Court of Appeals reasoned that the State faced irreparable harm because “‘[a]ny time a State is enjoined by a court from effectuating statutes enacted by representatives of its people, it suffers a form of irreparable injury.’” Maryland v.King, 567 U. S. __, __ (2012) (ROBERTS, C. J., in chambers) (slip op., at 2–3) (quoting New Motor Vehicle Bd. of Cal. v.Orrin W. Fox Co., 434 U. S. 1345, 1351 (1977) (Rehnquist, J., in chambers)). The dissent does not quarrel with that conclusion either. It thus fails to allege any error, let alone obvious error, in the Court of Appeals’ determination that the two “most critical” factors weighed in favor of the stay.

One might think that would be the end of the matter. Yet the dissent asserts that “the balance of harms tilts in favor of [the] applicants,” post, at 4—presumably referring to the third relevant factor, whether the stay would substantially injure third parties. The Court of Appeals, of course, acknowledged that applicants had “made a strong showing that their interests would be harmed” by a stay, but it concluded that “given the State’s likely success on the merits, this is not enough, standing alone, to outweigh the other factors.” ___ F. 3d ___, ___ 2013 WL 5857853,*9 (CA5, Oct. 31, 2013). The dissent never explains why that conclusion was clearly wrong: In particular, it cites no “ ‘accepted standar[d],’” Western Airlines, supra, at 1305, requiring a court to delay enforcement of a state law that the court has determined is likely to withstand constitutional challenge solely because the law might injure third parties.


Reasonable minds can perhaps disagree about whether the Court of Appeals should have granted a stay in this case. But there is no doubt that the applicants have not carried their heavy burden of showing that doing so was a clear violation of accepted legal standards— which do not include a special “status quo” standard for laws affecting abortion. The Court is correct to deny the application.

Upon hearing the highest court's ruling, Governor Rick Perry issued the following statement:

"This is good news both for the unborn and for the women of Texas, who are now better protected from shoddy abortion providers operating in dangerous conditions. As always, Texas will continue doing everything we can to protect the culture of life in our state."
The US District Court ruled that the portion of the law restricting abortions to the first 20 weeks of gestation was constitutional, lawful, and proper. Despite some rhetoric surrounding supports of Wendy Davis, the law does not ban abortions in Texas. It merely makes them safer for the abortive mothers and makes it more difficult for individuals such as Karpel and Gosnell  to operate unsanitary late-term abortion mills in Texas. Gosnell was convicted of murdering live-born babies as well as willfully neglectful malpractice that led to the death of at least one abortive mother. The conditions of Gosnell's clinic were discovered during an investigation into allegations Gosnell was trafficking controlled substances (opiates, narcotics). Karpel is a Texas surgeon whose clinic near Houston was operating in a manner similar to Kermit Gosnell's.

"Alamo Women's Reproductive Services" still offer services that have little to do with reproduction and everything to do with the opposite. They are still open and performing abortions, in compliance with the new Texas laws, with clinics in San Antonio and Corpus Christi. The San Antonio clinic is less than half a mile from the hospital where they have an admissions contract. They refuse to perform surgical abortions after 16 weeks of gestation, which is less than the law's 20 week limit.

Those who are unsure of the basis for Texas's laws and the 20 week limit may wish to view the educational short film, "Silent Scream" (embedded below). Of note, recent studies indicate that surgical abortions may be linked to breast cancer, endometritis, cervicitis and several other life-threatening medical conditions later in life. Be fully informed before making any decision.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Economist Laffer Explains Texas's Success

Economist Art Laffer released a study comparing and contrasting state-level economic and business policies. His study identified striking differences between states with greater Laissez-Faire, capitalist economic and taxation policies such as Texas to states with more Keynesian-based and socialist policies such as California.

Both Laffer and Gov. Rick Perry attended the Texas Public Policy Foundation's Competition and the States: California vs. Texas luncheon, where both spoke.

About the findings in his study, Laffer stated:

"The differences between California's and Texas' economic policies and performances couldn't be more stark. Texas has a low-tax, business friendly environment. California has punitively high tax rates and seems to put up every possible barrier to entry for business. Texas is welcoming more and more companies, jobs and people each year, while California is desperately trying to build a wall to keep its companies, jobs and people from fleeing to greener pastures. The people have spoken."

Laffer's study demonstrates how the more intrusive and involved in private business a government, be it local, state, or federal, becomes, the more it harms the economy and the prosperity of the individual citizens as a whole. Government intrusions benefit only the smallest sectors at the top and bottom, furthering the divides between income brackets, and hindering upward mobility.

In other words, they may help some of the poorest of the poor. But the most wealthy are left usually unhampered or protected, usually as members of the overseeing oligarchy/oligopoly. The quality of life for those in between drops dramatically. The retardation of growth incurred reduces not only opportunities for upward mobility, but eliminates any incentives.

Governor Perry's remarks from the event included this statement regarding Laffer's findings:

"Texas vs. California is a pivotal contrast in a debate that really speaks to our nation's future. Just as we have in recent years, Texas continues to outperform California in terms of employment rate, growth in output and gross domestic product. We also continue to dominate in terms of population shift, which is about as clear a sign of quality of life as you can find. That's because it's the answer to the most basic question: Where would you rather live?"

Dr. Laffer conducted the study with noted economist Steve Moore, Nicholas Drinkwater, and Chuck DeVore. 

Here is and excerpt one of the more interesting sections of  the study, Section VIII:

"Quite understandably, people, even experts, supposedly knowledgeable experts, in state and local finances, use a type of shorthand when they link tax policy to spending objectives. To them, higher tax rates mean more schools, more highways, more policemen, more firemen, more nurses, and more prison guards. If you extend their logic, higher tax rates lead to equal percentage increases in tax revenues and, therefore, equal percentage increases in dollar expenditures which in turn leads to equal percentage increases in real resources for state and local governments to provide to the people, i.e., an equal percentage increase in the provision of public services.

"Unfortunately, this shorthand is simply wrong. The relationship, as espoused, between tax rates and state and local provision of public services gets carried too far when tax rate changes, tax revenue changes, dollar government spending changes, and increases in the provision of public services (i.e., real spending changes) are treated as synonyms. They are not.

a.) Higher tax rates are not synonymous with higher dollar tax revenues.
b.) Higher dollar tax revenues are not synonymous with higher dollar government spending.
c.) Higher dollar government spending is most definitely not synonymous with the greater provision of public services.
The leakages here are the equivalent of “parasitic loss,” a term used to describe the diminution of measured horsepower of an automobile when measured at the engine itself and then measured again at the back tires. Not surprisingly, the loss in measured horsepower is quite large when moving from the engine to the back tires. So too are the losses in the provision of public services from an increase in tax rates—“parasitic leakages".
Now it is very true that to have any state and local government spending, real or nominal, there have to be tax revenues, which means there have to be tax rates and tax bases. But going from that statement to a statement that higher tax rates mean an equivalent increase in state and local government services for state residents is simply false."

Monday, November 18, 2013

Is LT. Gov. Candidate Linked To City Corruption?

Texas State Senator Leticia Van de Putte has signaled her intention to run for Lt. Governor on the Democratic Party ticket. Her official announcement isn't scheduled to come out until Nov. 23rd. However, the political rumor mill surrounding Wendy Davis's gubernatorial campaign and other left-wing activist PACs in and around San Antonio may have already let that cat out of the bag.

When James Foddrill Sr. worked for the city of San Antonio, he discovered "the variable", a rotating account established originally to consolidate the city's official phone accounts. However, according to several confidential sources, a loophole in the account's design allowed corrupt city officials, such as the mayor, the police chief, and several city council members, to funnel money to no-bid, unannounced contracts to their pet cronies. This has been going on for over 25 years, but has gotten worse since the current mayor won his first election. Foddrill audited "the variable" because it was listed under his department and auspice. But he was told to drop his audit and ignore the account. See this earlier story for more of the background.

During the continued drama surrounding Foddrill, he attempted several avenues to report the suspected corruption for it to be, hopefully, objectively investigated. Among those avenues was Foddrill's state-level Senator, Leticia Van de Putte. She refused to initiate a congressional inquiry. Here was her response:

Van de Putte is known to have endorsed Mayor Castro and his twin brother in their respective elections. This begs the yet unanswered questions concerning Foddrill's whistle-blowing of the allegations regarding "the variable". Did Van de Putte make the claims in this letter as a means of avoiding her duty to conduct a congressional investigation of her political allies? If so, how complicit is she with this and other corruption allegations surrounding her home-town buddies?   

The rumors of de Putte's intentions are most likely part of the media thermometer to gauge public sentiments during a final exploratory while de Putte collects signatures on her petition. Her official announcement is scheduled for Nov. 23rd.

If she is a snowball, the waters are past boiling and have become scalding hot steam. While de Putte may have some pull among left-wing and left-leaning females in more urban areas, Texas contains a wide expanse of those opposed to many of de Putte's core ideology, which she shares with her possible "running mate", Wendy Davis.

Like many other states, the ballots for Governor and Lt. Governor are separate. Should Davis win the election to the Governor's Mansion, either Dan Patrick or Todd Staples, the two strongest Republican candidates for Lt. Governor, could well end up her Lt. Gov. The reverse is also possible. Abbott could win and be saddled with Van de Putte as his Lt. Gov.

As Davis seeks support in order to bolster her campaign, groups such as Unite Blue and Battleground Texas, seek to assist her. Unfortunately, for both Davis and Van de Putte, both groups are connected to cronyism in the so-called "Obamacare Navigators" who are coming under fire for fraud and identity theft, thanks to the investigative reporting by James O'Keefe III's Project Veritas. Furthermore, the atrocious roll-out of Obamacare and the skyrocketing of insurance premiums and deductibles are not going to do either of them any favors. Even the "voter ID is cheating" crowd has lost steam as the Nov. 5th elections proved the allegations unfounded.

As other information is exposed, Van de Putte may prove to be another liability.

Van de Putte, who prides herself on being a pharmacist, supported Davis's filibuster of the Texas Abortion Reform Bills during the 1st Special Session of the Texas 83rd Legislature. The bills passed during the 2nd Special Session without either woman's vote.

Those who have read the bill understand they did not stand against any ban on abortion. They stood against reforms that would guarantee better treatment and facilities for abortive mothers.

One bill prevented the use of an abortive pharmaceutical, used for non-surgical abortions, after a certain deadline. The reasoning is that studies proved use of the drug beyond a certain gestation date stood a reduced result of an abortion and much greater incidence of damage to a surviving child as well as severe side-effects for the mother. The bill also mandated the drugs be taken under direct medical supervision in order to reduce the potential for these dangerous side-effects.

The second bill restricted surgical abortions to within 20 weeks. Some states have had long-standing laws restricting abortions to within 16 weeks, the first trimester. Many other state laws restricting surgical abortions to a period of 20 weeks or less have been upheld by federal courts, to include the US Supreme Court. The recent case against the Texas laws maintained those rulings.

The second bill also reformed policies regarding the licensing of abortion clinics and those who may perform the procedures. It mandates that surgeons performing these elective, ambulatory surgeries comply with the same laws applicable to all other ambulatory surgical procedures at ambulatory surgical clinics in Texas. That means the doctors and staffs must have admissions contracts with emergency care hospitals within 30 miles of  the Ambulatory Surgical Clinic. That measure is designed to save lives.

The measures within the Texas Abortion Reform Acts would prevent monsters such as Douglas Karpen of Houston, TX from killing live-born babies. It would prevent monsters such as Kermit Gosnell from murdering live-born babies birthed into toilets, and killing their mothers through unsanitary operating rooms, drug overdoses, and other forms of willful malpractice.

The acts of monsters such as Karpen and Gosnell are wrong, regardless of which side of the pro-life, pro-abortion debate you stand. Davis and de Putte didn't vote against an abortion ban. They voted against criminalizing the acts of these monsters. They voted in favor of promoting more acts such as these, which deny living humans their choices, their lives, their liberties, and their pursuits of happiness.

In addition, one doesn't have to look far to see Planned Parenthood backing either of these women. Planned Parenthood was established by a racist monster named Margaret Sangster. Her mission was to convince "undesirables" to commit self-inflicted genocide in support of her eugenics ideology. Among those "undesirables" are "blacks, Jews, Asians, Hispanics, and all aliens, legal or illegal". Planned Parenthood continues her mission and grand eugenics experiment even today. They assist in more abortions directed at "minorities" than they do Caucasians. They claim it alleviates poverty and provides "choice".

Before making any choice, adults weigh potential consequences. They weigh the data, pro and con. They think. They collect facts. Human beings are the only creatures granted senses of logic and reason based on empirical evidence. Use them. 

Friday, November 15, 2013

Grading Policies Rewarding Mediocrity

In 2009, the Texas 81st legislature passed SB 2033, in an effort to make grading in public schools more fair. The intent was to require schools publish a clear grading policy prior to the start of each school year, so students and parents would know exactly what was to be expected.

  relating to adoption of a school district grading policy.
         SECTION 1.  Subchapter B, Chapter 28, Education Code, is
  amended by adding Section 28.0216 to read as follows:
         Sec. 28.0216.  DISTRICT GRADING POLICY. A school district
  shall adopt a grading policy, including provisions for the
  assignment of grades on class assignments and examinations, before
  each school year. A district grading policy:
               (1)  must require a classroom teacher to assign a grade
  that reflects the student's relative mastery of an assignment; and
               (2)  may not require a classroom teacher to assign a
  minimum grade for an assignment without regard to the student's
  quality of work.
         SECTION 2.  This Act applies beginning with the 2009-2010
  school year.
         SECTION 3.  This Act takes effect immediately if it receives
  a vote of two-thirds of all the members elected to each house, as
  provided by Section 39, Article III, Texas Constitution.  If this
  Act does not receive the vote necessary for immediate effect, this
  Act takes effect September 1, 2009.

The law also intended to give students who had difficulty "getting it the first time" or who made mistakes misreading test questions a second chance.

The last intention was an attempt to remove some of the subjectivity in grading by including effort and improvement into school grades.

Those all sound like great ideas, on paper. In practice, however, things don't always work as intended.

However, the law has failed students, teachers, and parents as well.

In 1996, I went to a military school to change my career path in the military from Infantry trigger-puller to something in the Military Intelligence field. Before your mind wanders into an array of witticisms about "MI", there are a few things you need to know about the training.

First, to be selected into MI requires some high standards. The candidates must have scored above certain minimums on the ASVAB, usually at or above those which qualify for various commissioning programs such as OCS. The school, and job, requires deep, analytical abilities to be performed quickly, then communicated effectively to the end-users. The end-users are the decision-makers, their staffs, and those on the ground performing the mission. Lives are on the line. So the expectations come with very high standards.

In 1996, the school reflected the realities of real-world requirements. However, in the schoolhouse (as in training environments afterwards) there is some room for error and mistakes. Experience is the best teacher. A good student will learn more from an initial mistake (theirs or the misfortunes of another) than from simple book learning and lectures.

The schoolhouse accomplished this with a simple grading policy. If a student failed a test, the student received some tutoring, then was given a second chance at the test, usually a different version, though. However, the highest grade a student could receive on the retest was "passing". A second failure would mean the student had to repeat the course, effectively allowing two more retests.

Failing two tests, even with subsequent passing retests, would also result in repeating the course.

Back then, a student could repeat the course only once if the repeat were due to academic reasons. Not passing the second time around would result in being dropped from the school. For initial entry soldiers, this would mean that they would be sent to another less academically rigorous course. For those of us who wishing to change career fields, it meant returning to the old one and an assignment "at the needs of the Army".

Academic grades were important. There were standards. Just passing wasn't enough. A GPA below a certain published level required additional "study hall" sessions. Another standard was set to allow students passes on weekends, being allowed to wear civilian clothes when off-duty, phone privileges, etc. Higher GPAs would grant favoritism in selection for highly competitive assignments and additional schools. The higher grades also resulted in scholarships to civilian universities as well as awards and decorations. For some of us, there was just the competition and desire to be the best, the "Distinguished Honor Graduate".

The point is that there still existed those incentives to strive for excellence.

When I was teaching the same course years later, standards had changed. They had dropped. A student could repeat the course as many times as necessary until passing it. There was no longer a "two-strike" rule. One student repeated the course 7 times, remaining on student status for over a year instead of out in the force where he was needed. 3 other students could have been trained and assigned for the costs and time it took to graduate that one. The quality of intelligence professionals also declined as a poor policy of quantity replaced one of quality. It showed out in the real world, in combat.

That is what Texas SB 2033 and policies that derived from it have largely removed -- incentives for excellence.

The most common grading scale is the common Gaussian scale. For those unfamiliar with Gaussian scales, they are sometimes referred to as "the bell curve". The grading scales are as follows:

Symbol JISD Standard
A Grades from 90% to 100%
B Grades from 80% to 89%
C Grades from 75% to 79%
D Grades from 70% to74%
F Grades 69% and below
I Incomplete
NG No grade

However, this is not exactly Gaussian as it allows a larger window to earn an "A" or "B" than a "C" or "D".  Pure Gaussian grading scales would presume an equal number of "A"s and "F"s. Most, however, would agree that requiring 6% of the students fail a given test despite having demonstrated sufficient mastery of a subject is a bit too skewed and subjective, as well. So, we have this "hard scale". Should 25 out of 30 students earn a better than 93% average, there are 25 "A"s. The trouble comes with lowering standards or making tests too easy in order to perpetuate such a "halo effect", also known as "grade inflation".

So, the tests need to challenge without being overly difficult. It is a hard line for teachers and test-writers to accomplish. Thorough and clear performance rubrics make the task easier, though.

But the Texas Education Agency (TEA) sent this letter, in Oct. '09, explaining their policy regarding grades:

SB 2033, passed by the 81st Texas Legislature, requires each school district to adopt a grading policy, including provisions for the assignment of grades on class assignments and examinations, before each school year. A district grading policy:

(1)     must require a classroom teacher to assign a grade that reflects the student’s relative mastery of an assignment;

(2)     may not require a classroom teacher to assign a minimum grade for an assignment without regard to the student’s quality of work; and

(3)     may allow a student a reasonable opportunity to make up or redo a class assignment or examination for which the student received a failing grade.

TEA understands this legislation to also require honest grades for each grading period including six weeks, nine weeks, or semester grades for two reasons. First, if actual grades on assignments are not used in determining a six weeks grade, the purpose of the legislation has been defeated. Second, since 1995, Texas Education Code, §28.021, has required decisions on promotion or course credit to be based on “academic achievement or demonstrated proficiency.” If the six weeks grades do not reflect the actual assignment grades, they would not reflect academic achievement or demonstrated proficiency.

This legislation permits a district, through local policy, to allow a student a reasonable opportunity to make up or redo a class assignment or examination for which the student received a failing grade. By allowing students to make up work, a district would ensure six weeks grades reflect relative mastery of assignments, even if making up a prior deficit, rather than awarding an automatic grade to a student who has received a failing grade.
If you have questions regarding SB 2033, please contact Monica Martinez, Policy Director in the Curriculum Division, at (512) 463-9581 or via e-mail at

Sincerely, Robert Scott
Commissioner of Education
Refer back to paragraph (3). Notice that paragraph is nowhere within SB 2033 itself.

What this amounts to is the creation of inequitable grading and testing policies.

For example, here is the grading policy for one Texas school district (See page 10 of Judson Independent School District's Elementary School Grading & Reporting Handbook ) [Emphasis Added].

Reteaching shall be an integral part of the lesson cycle and may occur in many different situations. Teachers can check for understanding at any point during the lesson cycle. Teachers shall plan for reteaching at the same time they plan initial instruction, thereby ensuring that alternative instructional strategies are immediately available when needed. If initial reteaching efforts are unsuccessful, then the time outside of class may be necessary to reteach. If instructional efforts are unsuccessful, further diagnosis of a student’s needs using universal screens, data history and student work may be needed to intervene (RTI process).

The teacher will provide reteaching and retesting during class time if 25% or more students in a class failto demonstrate mastery of the TEKS on a summative assessment (below 70%). All students will be giventhe opportunity to reteach and retest with the higher of the two grades being recorded. Teachers should use professional judgment to differentiate for students who clearly mastered the content the first time (90% or higher). Reteaching to ensure that students master the material may include but shall not be limited to the following (EIALocal):

1.The student may be required to correct or rework unsatisfactory assignments.The grade earned shall replace the original grade.[Grade Inflation]
2.The teacher may require the student to attend a tutorial program or remedial classes. Co-curricular or extracurricular activities shall not interfere with the requirement to attend these activities.
3.The teacher may work with small groups during class time while other students work independently.

A more specific reteach policy should be designed by each campus. The campus grading policy should be fair, balanced, and support student learning. The campus grading policy will be submitted by the campus principal to the Associate Superintendent of Curriculum and Instruction for approval each year. The district approved campus grading policy will be kept on file at the district office.

Failing Assignments
Senate Bill 2033 states that a district’s grading policy “may allow a student a reasonable opportunity to make up or redo a class assignment or examination for which the student received a failing grade.” Students  receiving a failing grade will be required (at minimum) to meet with the teacher regarding performance and to discuss recommendations for remediation within 3 days of the failing grade, or at the end of the six weeks, whichever is sooner. At this time, the teacher will provide the student a reasonable opportunity to redo a class assignment or examination in accordance with the district approved campus grading policy. Major examinations and projects should be completed no later than five days prior to the end of the six week, thus allowing students a reasonable opportunity to redo or make up failing assignments. The teacher may require the student to participate in tutorials, redo/revise the assignment, complete an alternate assignment or any other reasonable assignment as specified in the district approved grading policy. The teacher will provide at least one opportunity for students to redo a failing class assignment or examination. Additional time will be outlined in the district approved campus grading policy. The teacher is to record the higher of the two grades in the electronic grade book.
Then this note on Page 13 sums up one of the major issues:

NOTE: A JISD student shall not be given the option to choose to fail by not completing work or turning in assignments. It is the expectation that all possible interventions will be done to assist students struggling with these expectations. Campus policy should reflect a specific process for identifying and supporting these students per RTI. Parents/guardians should be a part of this process.

If a student pays attention, studies at home, does all required assignments, and gets an 89% on a test due to misreading a question, the student gets that 89%. That makes sense. The student should learn from the error and pay better attention to the questions the next time through.

Where this becomes inequitable, however, is that a student who earned a 67% gets additional tutoring and a retest. The student obviously needs the additional teaching. Retesting to pass is an acceptable metric. However, should the student get a 91% on the retest, the failing student gets the new grade replacing the failing grade. The student that may have gotten an "A" but received an 89% doesn't get an opportunity to raise his/her score. That is unacceptable. It is an inequality of opportunity. It is wrong.

Failing students who honestly want to work hard, improve, and learn the materials should get those second chances. School is where we are supposed to make mistakes, learn form them, and get those second chances. They are rare in the real world. Getting a product for work done on time and accurate can be the difference between a promotion and the unemployment line. that is real life. Those pressures should not be the same in elementary, middle, junior high, or high schools (though standards and expectations should rise with grade advancement). But the failing students should not be given the "bonus points" to their GPA. That inflates their GPA and makes them competitive with the students who work hard and "get it" the first time.

And students aren't allowed to fail. If they aren't putting in enough effort, the teacher has to make them. If they are putting in the effort but just don't "get it", they are supposedly entitled to retests limited by only the teachers' time and patience.

The only common-sense phrase in that note on Page 13 is the one that directs teachers to get the parents involved.

Teachers do have some amount of lee-way, though. One teacher, speaking on condition of anonymity, explained the law, the grading policy, and the inequities. He did state that he could, in rare exceptions, get away with a retest or redo for a student who normally gets "A"s but gets that unusual "C" on a test. However, he stated he will do so only when the student is willing to do the extra work and the parents are actively involved.

Combine these policies with those incorporated within programs such as CSCOPE and Common Core, with their lower, one-size-fits-all standards, and you have a recipe for disaster. It will become a great impediment to success, prosperity, ingenuity, merit, and achievement.

When time comes for the "honor roll" lists, the retest student's name is announced on the "high honors" or "All-A honor roll". The one who did much better the first time is reduced to the "B-list". The incentive to excel is lying in a shallow grave.

"Fairness is a concept championed by those too lazy to aspire to excellence" ~author unknown