Monthly Archives: April 2012

President Obama, College Kids and Phad Thai

I love my wife and Phad Thai.

So, every Tuesday I drive to the local Thai restaurant, order Phad Thai pork, Thai Hot, to go and then run next door to buy 2 gluten free cupcakes.  I take every effort to ensure that I park, order, run and pay as efficient as I can; Phad Thai, Thai hot, is best eaten hot.

So you can imagine my immense frustration when I was blocked by a dozen of North Carolina’s finest for 30+ minutes until a certain President Obama could pass through safely on his way to UNC.

In all honesty, seeing the Presidential escort was very cool.  I gladly ate my cold Phad Thai knowing that I was within 50 yards of the most powerful man in all the world.

The Evils Of Oil Speculation

The price of oil, and perhaps more accurately, gas, has been steadily rising during  the last several months.  All kinds of people have all kinds of reasons for this but one of the common themes has been the impact that oil speculators have on the market.  Many on the left are calling for legislation that would limit the ability of people to speculate on oil:

Experts have been clear: Wall Street speculators are artificially driving up the price at the pump and causing pain to millions of American consumers.

Now others have a different view of the impact that oil speculators play:

But economists and traders cautioned that pushing smaller investors out of markets would only hand greater influence to the largest hedge funds and Wall Street banks. Ultimately, there may not be enough traders left to do business with oil producers and consumers looking to hedge their needs.

“Reduced liquidity often means greater volatility,” said broker Jay Levine at Enerjay LLC in Maine.

So let’s compare.  Let’s take a look at an example of a commodity that prevents speculation and compare it to oil.

Continue reading

The Bell Curve

 

I’ve started another book.  I’m now reading “The Bell Curve” by the boys listed above.

Stats that struck me tonight:

Think of your twelve closest friends or colleagues.  For most readers of this book, a large majority of them will be college graduates.  Does it surprise you to learn that the odds of having even half of them be college graduates are only six in a thousand, if people are randomly paired off?  Many of you will not think it odd half or more of the dozen have advanced degrees.  But the odds against finding such a result among a randomly chosen group of twelve Americans are actually more than a million to one.

I am going to love this book!

Public Education: Getting Closer

Recently I’ve been on the North Carolina General Assembly.  For the first time in over a century republicans control both the state house and the state senate.  And in that time they’ve made two pretty big mistakes:

  1. Trying to overturn the Racial Justice Act
  2. Trying to pass Amendment One – Making a constitutional amendment that bars gay marriage.

Now, however, they have announced a new plan that would dramatically impact public education in North Carolina:

Raleigh, N.C. — North Carolina’s public school teachers would see employment tenure eliminated, but become eligible for performance bonuses under an education reform package rolled out Monday by Senate Republicans.

This is AWESOME!

The ability to fire under performing employees is critical in maintaining a productive and highly achieving staff.  By keeping archaic tenure laws on the books schools are forced to lose young and innovative teachers at the expense of retaining old potentially poor performing teachers when they are forced to make staffing decisions.  Rather than keeping, promoting and handing out bonuses based on performance, schools are forced to pay older teachers more for no other reason than the calendar turned.

“We’ve said for a long time that the policy needs to be right in order for us to expect the kinds of results the people of North Carolina and our kids deserve,” Berger, R-Rockingham, said.

The proposal would do away with tenure to veteran public schools teachers who now receive their permanent teaching license after a four-year probationary period. The current policy makes it difficult to fire the tenured teachers when administrators determine they are ineffective, Berger’s office said. Instead, the changes would allow local school boards to employ all teachers on an annual contract that doesn’t have to be renewed each fall.

“If a system determines presently that a teacher is an ineffective teacher, it is very difficult if not impossible for them to discharge that teacher,’ Berger said. “This would provide systems with tools that would allow a superintendent or a local school board to make decisions about hiring the best teachers for their kids.”

Mr. Berger is correct.  By allowing superintendents and school boards greater latitude in staffing decisions resulting in the very best teachers staying in the profession and the poor performing teachers would be let go.

This is long past due.

I Made A Mistake

In the debate on global warming and it’s impact on climate change, the left has successfully framed the position such that you are either a believer in catastrophic climate change that requires dramatic and immediate economic damage in order to save the world from literal existence or you are a denier who believes man walked with the dinosaur.

I happen to take the very real and legitimate position that :

  1. CO2 is a green house gas.
  2. Green house gases cause temperatures to rise.
  3. Man contributes to an increase in CO2.
  4. The world is warmer than it might otherwise be.

I do NOT ascribe to the belief in the positive feedback models that are necessary to create the catastrophe that the alarmists envision.

And now there is one more of me in the world.

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Obamacare’s Legacy

With the end of their careers near, several Democrats are opening up about the truths of Obamacare, what it cost them, the party and possibly Obama.

The elections are right around the corner and the campaign season is right on top of us.  Lot’s of people are gonna be out front and talking about the issues that might impact this season.  And Obamacare certainly will get it’s chance to shine.

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Friendship, Morality and Brotherly Love

The tenants of a Master Mason.

In a world so eager to differentiate one from another based on politics or faith is it any wonder that we see war and conflict all around the globe?  Where we see walls rather than bridges?

It is with no small amount of honor and satisfaction that in a region dominated by the differences of Arab and Jew we see the peaceful association and love and admiration from one to another in a Free Mason’s lodge:

A Greek Orthodox Palestinian Arab, Nadim Mansour, has been installed in Tel Aviv as Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of the State of Israel, a position he will hold until 2013.
Israel has had two previous Palestinian Arab Grand Masters – Yakob Nazee (1933-1940) and Jamil Shalhoub (1981-1982).
Nadim Mansour, who was born in Haifa but moved to Acre aged five, was initiated – as a Lewis – into Lodge Akko in 1971, of which his father Elias was a founder, and in 1980 became its Master. He also has the rank of 33rd Degree in the Ancient and Accepted Rite.
Currently, the Grand Lodge has about 1,200 members in 56 lodges, working in ten languages – Hebrew, Arabic, English, French, Hungarian, Rumanian, Turkish, Russian, German and Spanish – and five different religions.

As the governments of the region prepare for war, Free Masons continue to do what they always do, rejoice in the sublime existence of a love between one brother and another.

It will not be until the world can follow the example f the gentle Mason and leave the differences of the profane world outside the door of the temple and agree that all man can find reason TO agree.

Feeding The Birds

 

I have grown up to be my father.  I enjoy, hell, I LOVE to enjoy, feeding my birds and watching ’em play around the feeders, trees, shrubs and nesting boxes.  I love this.

And in the true economic spirit, I take much glee in pointing out to my birds there is no such thing as a free lunch.

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I labor for the money that I use to buy the food the birds eat.  For them, this represents  free lunch.  However, the birds live in a world that’s not always so nice.  See, the birds are subject to the predators that feed on them.  And in several cases I’ve been resting on my deck when all of a sudden there’s a horrible racket in the bushes off to the side.  I look over and see Mr. Hawk fly away with a very sad little bird in his mouth.

The other morning I came down stairs to find ‘ol Mr. Hawk resting ON MY DECK!  I ran to get the camera and I was actually able to get a pair of shots as he was waiting around for his next breakfast meal.

Now, I am conflicted.  I like my birds and when the hawk is around they fly away and hide.  On the other hand, if what I’m doing is faatening up hawk food so that I am able to enjoy my pet hawk….well, that’s pretty cool too.

North Carolina Racial Justice Act

The world is a bad and ugly place.

We are living among thieves and murderers.  To be sure, this has been the sad state since Cain And Able and represents no new change in the nature of man.  Brutality seems to be an inherent aspect of who we are.

Equally true is our desire for for justice and revenge; some say “a reckoning.”  And this is why we have laws that allow us to impose death on people who commit the most horrible and unthinkable crimes.  The idea is that society can remove from itself the most violent members in order to keep the rest safe.

All of this has been with us since time immemorial.

By itself this combination of brutality and justice can cast an interesting debate.  A debate I suspect that can rage just as long as man is brutal.  But this isn’t about THAT debate.  This is about the “serving of justice” on an equitable basis.

Some time ago North Carolina identified that the death penalty was disproportionately being used on the basis of race.  Not that more black guys were being sentenced to death than white.  But that of defendants found guilty, blacks were sentenced to death more often.

And THAT is intolerable.

However, in order to begin to remedy this situation, North Carolina pass the Racial Justice Act:

The North Carolina Racial Justice Act of 2009 prohibits seeking or imposing the death penalty on the basis of race. The act identifies types of evidence that may be considered by the court when considering whether race was a basis for seeking or imposing the death penalty, and establishes a process by which relevant evidence may be used to establish that race was a significant factor in seeking or imposing the death penalty. The defendant has the burden of proving that race was a significant factor in seeking or imposing the death penalty, and the state may offer evidence to rebut the claims or evidence of the defendant. If race is found to be a significant factor in the imposition of the death penalty, the death sentence will automatically be commuted to life imprisonment without the possibility of parole.

Sadly, Republicans repealed the law in 2011 but it was saved as our Governor vetoed the repeal.  Happily Republicans didn’t have the votes to override the veto.

And yesterday the first case to win under the law was decided:

Fayetteville, N.C. — A Cumberland County Superior Court judge made history Friday morning when he commuted a death row inmate’s sentence in the first test of North Carolina’s fledgling Racial Justice Act.

Superior Court Judge Greg Weeks ruled that race significantly influenced jury selection in Marcus Robinson’s 1994 trial in the 1991 shooting death of a white 17-year-old, Erik Tornblom.

The ruling means Robinson, a 38-year-old black man, will be taken off death row and will serve life in prison without the possibility of parole.

Weeks said Robinson’s attorneys “presented a wealth of evidence showing the persistent, persuasive and distorting role of race in jury selection in North Carolina.”

“When the government’s choice of jurors is tainted with racial bias, that overt wall casts down over the parties, the jury and the court to adhere to the law throughout the trial,” Weeks said. “The very integrity of the court is jeopardized when a prosecutors discrimination invites cynicism respecting the jury’s neutrality and undermines public confidence.”

I have no idea if Mr. Robinson really took the life of that kids all those years ago [though the Racial Justice Act did not show that race was a factor in verdicts].  If he really did commit that act, I have little issue with him being sentenced to death.  However, when guilty criminals benefit from sentencing based on race, I DO begin to have an issue with that.

Well done North Carolina.

 

Arizona Wins Voter ID Appeal

Arizona passed legislation in 2004 that would require individual present photo ID when they want to vote.  In fact, Arizona went so far as to require proof of citizenship in order to vote.  I’m trying to understand how that whole proof of citizenship thing would work.  But clearly I’m in favor of demonstrating you are who you say you are.

At the heart of the case, apparently, is whether or not this requirement presents an undo burden on Latinos.  And the court ruled it didn’t:

 

Arizona is entitled to demand that people present identification before being allowed to cast a ballot, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled Tuesday.

In a split decision, the judges rejected arguments that mandating would-be voters show a driver’s license or other identification unfairly discriminates against Latino voters.

I can’t think of a circumstance where anyone, Latino or not Latino, would find difficulty in obtaining identification that had a picture on it.

I suspect we’ll see more of this in the near future.