Saturday, December 24, 2011

Christmas Day Scandal!

Well, it's official.  Santa's star player, Rudolph, will not be able to guide the sleigh this Christmas.  Apparently, Rudy has tested positive for RGH, reindeer growth hormone, and has received a holiday-season suspension.

This is the latest in a series of scandals to have rocked the reindeer pen at the North Pole.  From Blitzen's public struggles with alcohol abuse to Prancer's admitted cocaine addiction, it seems like the days when reindeer were all about innocence during Christmas are over.  All eight of the females in the original team (and this is an interesting bit of trivia: female reindeer have antlers, and all Santa's reindeer, save Rudolph, are female -- which is part of why you put him in the very front; if you put him anywhere else, there could be a problem!) have come forward with tales of personal or emotional struggles that have made a simple thing like pulling a sleigh through the air at Mach 3 seem overtly complicated.  Donner, who came out of the closet as gay three years ago, and still maintaining she's in love with Dancer, who refuses to speak with her, is not bowing to pressure from the American Family Association to recant her statement.  Comet, a long-time opponent of global warming, who had her paddock fall through the ice last year, is still maintaining that was due to a fluke warm-water current.

And here we thought nothing would be more annoying to Santa than Cupid being diagnosed with Crohn's disease in 1987.

It's hard to fault Rudolph.  He's even older than Brett Favre, and has to find some way to keep going year after year.  And with all the young reindeer who have been showing up with the characteristic bright, shiny nose (which is a scandal in and of itself), there seems to be no shortage of potential replacements.  Word is that with Rudolph out, Santa has turned to the Russian Caribou, Alexi Akhnigoyovich, to temporarily take point on the sleigh.  There should be no language barrier with the new acquisition, as Santa himself, who wears a red suit and makes lists of people who are naughty and nice, is of course as fluent in Russian as any other Marxist-Leninist.

So here's  hoping the best for Santa's reindeer.  Hopefully, Vixen's gonorrhea won't attract a cruise missile over Afghanistan.


Wednesday, December 21, 2011

The Shroud of Turin? Seriously?

Well, it's just been reported in the news that a team of "researchers" (I will not dignify them by calling them scientists) have come forward with the claim that the Shroud of Turin is authentic.  The incredible part isn't that a bunch of religiously motivated people have attempted to twist science into confirming their faith.  That nonsense has been going on ever since before Darwin turned the cannon of science against religion 151 years ago.  What's incredible is that so many reporters would report it as though it were at all credible!

Now, everyone knows that radiocarbon dating put the shroud's age at between 1260 and 1390 C.E., thus making it a medieval forgery.  But these researchers say that the sample of the cloth used to make this measurement was likely taken from a piece that was likely repaired with newer material after a fire burned parts of the shroud.

If the PolitiFact meter were put on that one, it would say, "Pants On Fire!"

Shown above, is the shroud itself.  It's not as large as I would have liked, but it will do.  That white rectangle in the lower left is where scientists clipped a 2" by 8" section which could be atomized for the Carbon-14 test.  It's pretty obvious that this section is contiguous with the rest of the cloth.  And if that's not enough, there's a PBS documentary that filmed the section being scissored out, and anyone can see bloody well that it's not a "repaired section."

But just for the sheer hell of it, let's play along.  Let's say the shroud breaks with every Jewish tradition in folding the body up in a single piece of cloth (not done) folded the long way (also not done) and leaving a narrow, two-dimensional imprint pattern, as if the ultraviolet rays emitted from Jesus upon resurrection only went in a single parallel, straight up or straight down, rather than in a dispersed, outwardly-radiating pattern (as you might expect) which would have created an unrecognizably darkened smear instead of a photograph.  You then have a scriptural problem.

The Book of John, chapter 20, verses 6 and 7 clearly state that Jesus' burial cloth was in strips, not a single piece, and that a separate burial cloth had been around Jesus' head.  So, logically, we have only three choices:  1.) This passage from The Book of John is fake, 2.) The Shroud of Turin is fake, 3.) They are both fake!  The only option we do not have is that either of these things support Christianity!

So go on, you stupid reporters, and uncritically pass along this story without one, single guffaw.  Oh, how I miss Christopher Hitchens at this moment.  Hell, I miss H.L. Mencken!

Meanwhile, most high school graduates in America can't find Italy on a map, much less Turin.  Now you tell ME which is the more important story!


Friday, December 16, 2011

Brrring!!! Here's Your Wake-Up Call!

Lots of stuff to talk about, but they all revolve around one, basic theme:

It's time for a wake-up call!

Brrrrring!  Here's your wake-up call regarding education in America.  Iran has captured a billion-dollar spy drone.  And why?  Was it shot down?  Lucky grenade-launcher shot?  NO!  It was captured because the Iranians, these backwater, third-world, religious hacks with nothing to offer but oil, out-thought us in computer software technology!  They hacked US? Yes, THEY HACKED US!  And not only did they hack us, they hacked the most cutting-edge piece of expensive-assed technology in our military arsenal!  Imagine!  On the eve of the era of robotic warfare, Iran, fucking IRAN, mind you, has up-ended us!

This happened because we have been lax in our education standards.  Not enough boarding schools in the inner city, poor education quality, cutting of funding at critical junctures, teachers unions having incompetent leaders, and bringing down slash-and-burn Republicans down upon all of us as a direct result.  Hell-LO!  We'd better start thinking of high school as middle school and college as high school, or we're in big trouble!  We'll end up getting more third-world hackers upending us!  And when the inevitable day arrives when we have robotic drones defending our freedom, we'll find some Islamic terrorist hacking our own robots and turning them upon our own cities.  Or worse, Israel.

Brrrring!  This is your wake-up call regarding so-called American supremacy!  The United States can no longer sit back on its haunches and assume that we are leaders in world technology.  Hell, we're not even leaders in world economy anymore!  And unless we want our military weapons built in China, with software designed in India, we'd better get off our asses and quit playing around!  That means we're ALL going back to school.  Not just me!  It doesn't matter how old or young you are.  We're all re-taking technology 101.  Because right now, we're still believing that desk-top computers are cool.  Hell, Bill Gates built his company when everybody else was still ga-ga over digital watches!  No, our smart phones and iPads are going to take over, and that means any terrorist hacker will have immediate access to everyone's belt-clip and waistline!  Unless we wake up!

Brrrring!  No more playing around with science and technology!  If we're going to survive, as a nation, as a people, if democracy is going to have even a snowball's chance in hell, then we've got to stop pretending that science isn't science, and learn what's really true.  No more creationism being taught to kids in high school and hoping our colleges and universities eventually clean up the mess!  No more failure to recognize the brain as defining the being by fooling ourselves into thinking that conception is the place to draw the line regarding new life.  No more wishing, hoping, and yes, even praying, that global warming is a hoax.  Science, people!  Not politics!

And speaking of which...  Brrrring!  Here's your wake-up call regarding the general scientific ignorance surrounding steroids in sports.  Oh, yes!  There's a connection, here.  We're all stunned over the Ryan Braun  allegedly positive test for (it's assumed) anabolic steroids.  But as I dealt with in a previous post, false positives for drug tests are a real danger in any profession.  Especially with sports, because what makes a great athlete great is a naturally high level of testosterone, above and beyond what the normal person has.  That means a false positive for testosterone is just one fluke chemical imbalance or incompetent lab tech away.  And the best athletes will always be at the greatest risk.

Am I calling Ryan Braun innocent?  He's innocent until proven guilty, yes!  But what I'm really trying to say is, the same general scientific ignorance that let one of our billion-dollar drones get hacked is quite possibly the same thing that let our million-dollar athlete get jacked!  One incompetent fool in the wrong place at the wrong time can cost us big!  Having too few science professionals and too many incompetent technicians virtually guarantees it!  And if having terrorists gain control of our military doesn't scare the piss out of you, then maybe losing our star sports hero for 1/3rd of an entire baseball season will.

Brrrring!  Here's your wake-up call regarding how silly it is to put sports above the stuff that really matters!

Enough with the scientific ignorance already!

Finally, let's all say a non-prayer for a hero of fighting scientific ignorance, who came forward to shake up our culture at exactly the right time.  Christopher Hitchens, the landmark journalist and unabashed atheist, just passed away at the age of 62.  Let's face it, 62 is young, these days.  If you haven't read Hitch-22, please do so.  He gave us all a wake-up call.


Thursday, December 8, 2011

The Christmas Card Conundrum

It's that time of year again.  (I don't really need to describe it, do I?)  And with all the shopping for presents and hubbub, there's the inevitable barrage of (ugh!) Christmas cards.

The problem with holiday cards can best be summed up this way:  Suppose I want to send people cards.  I make out a list of people to send cards to, and send them out, thinking that I'm doing something nice.  But, without fail, there are always a few inconsiderate boobs who end up sending me a card when I didn't send them a card, making me look callous and insensitive to those nice people.  Meanwhile, all those who received a card from me who didn't send me a card in return feel guilty due to the fact that I sent them a card, but didn't get one in return.  It seems like the number of people who got cards from me but didn't reciprocate, and who sent me cards when I didn't send them one, always outnumbers the people who got cards from me and sent one in return!  So, to those few friends of mine who were nice enough to NOT send me a Christmas card this year when I didn't send them one either, I decide to reward by sending a card next year!

You know what? Screw that.  Now you all know why I don't bother with Christmas cards.

I don't much bother with cards in general, either.  The people who send them mean well, I know they do.  It's just that they think they're sending me a little piece of paper to let me know that they're thinking of me, when in reality they're sending a piece of paper to convince themselves they're doing something nice to a person they probably don't know very well and to whom they can't think of anything to say in a meaningful letter or e-mail.  So, I get this sappy little message which I didn't ask for, and don't particularly want, which is supposed to make me all warm-and-fuzzy, when all it really does is put me in an ethical dilemma over whether or not I keep this useless item in permanent storage in a shoe-box, there to be toted by me from apartment to apartment and residence to residence for all eternity, or whether I have to subject myself to permanent guilt by throwing it in the trash.  This is doing something nice for me?  I didn't ask for this huge responsibility to be thrown upon my shoulders!

For this reason, I dispensed with the feeling of guilt over cards a long time ago.  They go out with the sale ads, un-clippped coupons, and overdue tuition notices.  If I get one, I smile, then throw it away without a second thought.  The nice person who sent me one isn't really going to police what I do with it by stopping over and asking where on the mantle her card is being displayed (unless she's a Jewish grandmother), so why should I mind getting rid of it?  For that matter, why should anyone else, especially the sender?

Not that I don't, at some level, appreciate getting a card.  As I say, there is some genuine good feeling behind the act of sending one.  But if it's going to make my friend feel guilty about eventually throwing it out, why send it in the first place?  My more rational friends realize this.  They never send me cards, and I gratefully show my appreciation of this by never sending them cards either.  Not for birthdays, not for graduations, not for holidays.  It's quite a relief, actually, to have such understanding friends who are so good as to be pleasant enough to spend time with, but who will never stuff my mailbox with clutter.  Life is good.

Sometimes I rather like getting a card.  For example, I got one recently from the National Center for Science Education, signed by Dr. Eugenie Scott and her wonderful staff.  Now THAT'S a card I intend to keep in my files for all eternity, not just because such a prestigious organization would bother with me, but because those are all people I really love over there.  And if some future biographers feel that I actually merit attention, and want to go through my things, they'll find that card, and know how genuinely close I felt to all those kindred souls.  Beautiful!  A card, when given in the right way, and given for the right reason, at the right time, can be a good thing!

Nevertheless, there are always people who think that giving a card is some ubiquitous thing that is to be done whenever one wants to give the appearance of being nice, and that's hardly being nice at all, in my estimation.  Just yesterday I received a card from the office staff at work, most of whom go about their business in a different building from me, and who haven't seen me in a little over three years.  They all signed it.  I know that this was meant as a gesture to make me feel welcomed, part of the team, one of the family, etc.  But really it's just a corporate gimmick designed to make me feel happier in a job that is far beneath my talents and abilities, and pays me according to that standard.  I'm certainly not the only employee to receive such a card.  Everyone, from the janitorial staff to the cafeteria cooks, got one.  So how really special is it then?  I honestly don't know which is worse: that this supposedly nice gesture came about as a result of corporate edict inflicted upon everyone by the boss from on-high, or that a percentage of resources, which at least included purchasing costs and the five or ten minutes (at least) of each staff member's hourly wage that everyone had to sacrifice in order to sign all these cards together.  I could think of far better uses for their time, and considerably far better uses for the money!  I'm thinking, just to get back at them, that I should send them a huge glossy saying "Merry Christmas!" with an overtly flamboyant flower bouquet.  That would certainly serve them right, wouldn't it!

On second thought, nah.  They wouldn't understand.  They'd probably just send me an even bigger card next year.


Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Computers and Economics

In this wonderful age of technology we live in, computers can do amazing things.  They can bring characters like Golum to life so realistically that we can believe he can actually exist (or that a creature can be that anorexic and still kick a hobbit's ass).  They can connect people together in a mass social network that requires terabytes of memory and gigawatts of power.  They can bring us smart phones, teach us a foreign language in several weeks, or make a killing in the stock market based on a two-tenths of a millisecond faster processing speed than a competitor.

So why the hell can't all this computer power make us smarter in economics?

With the competing ideas of economics in our ridiculously hyper-divided political "system," in full scale war, what we, the people, need more than ever, is a game-like computer model that shows us just how economics works, whereby we can see how a nation like the U.S. does using various economic approaches.  In other words, you can play the computer game as the United States, tweak government-controllable factors like money spent on education, raising or lowering of taxes, raising or lowering of interest rates, raising or lowering of social programs, and then hit "fast forward" to see how the nation will look in the future.

What a great idea!  Every citizen could simply plug in Mitt Romney's ideas vs. Barack Obama's ideas to see which one produces the better future!  And with a tool like that, all the rhetoric becomes meaningless!  What an essential tool!  Every voter should have one!

Unfortunately, all we have is Simcountry.

Why is it that games that involve money and economics always need some sort of war going on?  You harvest crystals, gather spice, tap lands, or do some other inane thing for money which has nothing to do with the real world.  What a waste!

Such computer models exist.  We know they're out there.  Ben Bernanke, our current Fed Reserve Chairman, developed such a computer model back in the 1980's.  The University of Chicago has one.  M.I.T. has one.  The University of Wisconsin, I hope, has one.

What I don't get is why we all don't have one.

All it takes is one, JUST ONE  economist who has access to such a computer model to releasee it into the general public, maybe even make it into a game, and all this political bullshit we're enduring will go away.  Even if a model which is slanted to one side or the other is released, it won't matter, because the opposition will respond in kind, and people will be able to evaluate for themselves.

JUST ONE ECONOMIST!  Is that too much to ask?  Anyone out there?  Anyone?

When economic information is so very critical to our survival, both as a nation, and to ourselves personally, I guess I can no longer fathom why we all clamor with "angry birds" or internet cats.


Thursday, October 13, 2011

Your Designated Driver

I'm sometimes given to quiet musings which are of little importance to anyone else but me.  It is, in fact, my favorite way to spend my free time.  But periodically I stumble upon a thought which the world must know about because it has world-changing and life-saving consequences.  This blog post shares such a thought with you.  Pay attention.

I see how our culture sometimes uses designated drivers on assigned party nights during the weekend.  Good thing, there, but not nearly enough of that's happening.  And I was watching our Brewers win over the Cardinals last night (Har, har!) when I saw a commercial for Captain Morgan, where a single rower was towing the party barge back to the Captain's ship.  The caption read, "Designate a driver.  Captain's orders."  But how lonely that one rowboat guy looked!

That's when it occurred to me:  Most designated drivers happen to be male, and they're missing out on some of the party to be the driver.  So here's my big thought, and remember, it could save lives!  If you are part of a party with a male designated driver...

Make sure that driver gets laid!

Just imagine how many more guys will be willing to be the designated driver if our culture insists that we repay their invaluable service with some well-earned nookie!  With more designated drivers lining up to get behind the wheel and get lucky, drunk driving will decrease dramatically, and lives will be saved!

So there you have it!  Call it the "tushy for taxi" rule!

Oh, and female designated drivers get their feet rubbed by a tan, muscular athlete!


Thursday, October 6, 2011

More Applications of Poe's Law

The more I contemplate Poe's Law (see previous blog post), the more applications I find for it.  It was initially meant for fundamentalism, true, but there are so many other areas where something is so ridiculous that it can't be parodied without someone mistaking it as genuine.  Specifically, I've identified several other areas where Poe's law fits:
Commercial advertising
Television and film production
Sports fans
Modern art
Hip-hop culture
Country/Western music

Now, at first glance, none of these things appear to have anything in common, other than they are so ridiculous that doing a parody would result in people mistaking them for the real thing.  But why?  Could there be some common element that links these seemingly disparate subjects together?  Certainly hip-hop culture and country/western music are linked by low-brow, simplistic styles of music, and commercial advertising, politics and entertainment production all have the distinction of trying to sell sub-standard products to the masses.  But what about the others?  How do simple music styles and selling products relate?  How do they both relate to fundamentalism?  Or modern art?  How to they relate to sports fans?

I believe the answer has to do with one thing.  These ridiculous behaviors all come into play whenever there happens to be a large group of people following a trend or charismatic leader blindly.

It makes sense.  When people follow blindly, rationality goes out the window, and with it, the sense of "Oh, my god, I'm really making an ass out of myself!"  There's something about getting swept up in the mob mentality which appeals to our primal, animal brain, the core of which is, essentially, that of a rodent.  Yes, there's a little bit of lemming in each of us.

Perhaps we might wake up to certain things in our lives as a result.  We might say of hip hop culture, "You know, the music's only good because the Motown greats it raps over were originally good.  These clowns have no musical talent."  Or, "You call THAT art?  My five-year-old could do that!"  And it begs the question, just what OTHER areas are there in my life where I'm following blindly?  Do I really have to tolerate commercials which announce "Omnaris, To The Nose!" by spending my money on their product?  Indeed, can't we all just not buy any shit which REPEATS the same nonsense over and over again?

Homework assignment:  Look yourself in the mirror and ask, "What am I doing in my life where I'm following stupid stuff blindly?  And what can I do to change it?"  We ALL have such areas in our lives, so no fair trying to insist that you've got no such areas.  Go on, explore your life.  Find that area where you're being led about by the nose.

And then eliminate it.  Liberate yourself!


Monday, September 19, 2011

Class Warfare?

It seems that Our Trophy President is making a big push for job creation, and is using tough language to get it through congress.  He's even used the v-word (gasp!), which he hasn't used in the three and a half years we've been watching him.  He says he'll veto any bill which balances the budgets solely on the backs of ordinary people, without ending the loopholes which allow the rich to be taxed at a much lower rate.

Bully for you, Barry.  We knew you had a bit of fighter in you there, somewhere.

John Boehner, in response, said that he didn't feel "class warfare" was showing good leadership.

And with that "class warfare" comment, both Fox News and MSNBC have proceeded to fall all over each other in a comical effort to see who can miss the point the most.  This is hardly unusual - we've come to expect this kind of partisan myopia from these sound-byte generators.  And seemingly as always, I appear to be the only one in the Dairy State cursed with realizing what's going on.

The heads on the Right are insisting it's class warfare, while those on the Left are assuring us that it's not class warfare at all.  Naturally, this is all an irrelevant tangent that both sides have gone off on.  Even if it is somehow "class warfare," it does not follow that it would automatically be bad legislation as a result.  Class warfare has often produced good legislation, such as the liberation of slaves, or the sufferage of women.  So class warfare, if it is such, is entirely moot.  The question we should be asking is whether or not it is fair legislation to ensure Warren Buffet's secretary gets taxed at the same percentage rate he does.  So far, the public agrees that when Buffet highlights the discrepancy in taxation rates between low income and high income people, he's got a valid point.

That having been said, I wish to do something very rare.  For once, I'm going to agree with John Boehner!  That's right, I agree with him!  This IS class warfare.  And the Left is absolutely wrong in denying that.  But it's not class warfare of the poor against the rich.

No, it's class warfare of the rich against the poor!

And those waging the war are the ones bent on denying anything remotely close to fair opportunity to the masses, and keeping the playing field as tilted as possible in favor of the super-rich at all costs.  (Three guesses who.)  In other words, it's not the poor waging class warfare against the rich, but rather it's the poor trying to get the rich to stop waging class warfare upon them!

And to those who insist "government spending has not created one job," I assign this homework assignment: Walk up to any police officer, fireman, teacher, highway-construction laborer or groundskeeper, and ask him/her if more government money has helped create his/her job.  Yes, private industry creates most jobs, but some jobs are, in fact, government-paid, and we'd be very foolish to deny that.

It seems Our Trophy President's opponents are bent on a two-part plan: First, to keep Obama from being effective, and second, to then attack him for his ineffectiveness. (Brilliant, that!) Oh, and hope that no one fingers them as the cause of the ineptitude!

Here's a thought: How about for once, instead of making everybody suffer just to deny Obama one little victory, we let the President win one, and put people to work for once?  We need jobs now! Not after 2012!  I don't know about you, but I'm sick and damned tired of the scorched-earth mentality which is willing to sacrifice us all to the false idol of talk radio.  Someone needs to come down from the mountain and put that particular golden calf out of its misery.

Come to think of it, I wonder if maybe the golden calf of the Biblical book of Exodus was not a cow's calf, but rather an elephant's calf?


Sunday, September 18, 2011

Laws Of Human Behavior

About four days ago, Penn Jillette was a guest on the Lawrence O'Donnell show.  After the two of them watched a video clip from Michelle Bachmann's pre-political Fundamentalist days, where she ridiculously preaches that "God wants you to be a fox" (meaning sexy, although she tried to spin it into a spiritual context), they both laughed, and Penn reacted by quoting Poe's Law.  Poe's Law (for those who don't know about it) was invented by the internet debater and blogger, Nathan Poe (no relation to Edgar Allen), and goes something like this:

"Unless it is blatantly labeled as humor, no one can create a parody of Fundamentalism without someone mistaking it for the real thing."

What a brilliant thought! It illustrates so economically how religion makes one so incredibly blind to the ridiculousness of itself.  At a stroke, it describes how wild-eyed religion is a joke that its followers don't get!

It is precisely Poe's Law which explains the success of shows like The Colbert Report.  Stephen Colbert simply acts like a Fundamentalist Conservative, and it's automatically a joke! It also explains the view that some conservatives have regarding the hyper-homophobic preacher, Fred Phelps, who is seen by them as being a "deep undercover" liberal, out to discredit the fight against homosexuality by parodying it.

This leads to my corollary of Poe's Law, which goes like this:  "Unless it is blatantly labeled the real thing, no one can display Fundamentalism without someone mistaking it for a joke."

Classic example of this: Bibleman! The battle-armor-wearing superhero, portrayed by actor Willie Ames (formerly of Eight is Enough and Charles in Charge), is so face-slappingly insulting to Christians that one can't help but wonder if it wasn't invented by a bunch of atheists who were simply trying to make fun of Evangelicals.

So here's where my pondering of Poe's Law has me at a loss: It seems that one can come to the realization that certain beliefs one was raised on are silly, but it's a difficult process. It requires effort, courage, and enough receptiveness to new ideas to be able to change. In other words, you might finally get the joke, but when you do, you won't be laughing! I, for one, broke free of Fundamentalism, even when being so firmly committed to it as to want to enter the ministry and "save the world for God." But I managed to wiggle out of it when it stopped making sense. I broke my chains.

Why do I seem to be the only one?

I suppose I could try to pat myself on the back, assert to everyone that I'm of exceptional intelligence, and take all the credit. But while it's true that I happen to be a Mensa member, and probably am a little bit above average in the I.Q. department as a result, I refuse to be so narcissistic as to pass off my own liberation as "being gifted." No, I'm not a Mensa member because I'm especially gifted. I'm a member of this elite class of smart-cookies only because I kept pounding on the door of educational establishments until they finally let me in. I never declared my education "done." (And I never will.) If intelligence were likened to speed, I'm not a hare, I'm a tortoise. But I won the race, only because I refused to give up!

But even with that firm commitment to self-improvement, I still could very easily have remained a Fundamentalist.  Suppose I'd married some nice, Christian girl, and become a father? I would have found myself in a situation where leaving the faith would have meant a messy divorce, or worse. And even if I'd done so, I would still have needed to put in extra work to pay for child support, and watch the kids on alternating weeks. It would have been so much easier for me to simply remain inside the faith, even if I felt it were stupid, just for the sake of the kids, and to avoid a bad situation.

The extra time I would have been able to devote to learning, would have been gone.

And here's where I sadly realize why I seem to be one of the lucky few to have escaped the confines of my childhood indoctrination: With no spousal ties to religion, I was free to explore, and to change my mind with few consequences. With no children, I was free to spend my free time furthering my education, both in college and in private study. I avoided the "two kids and a mortgage pitfall," and so was able to dig myself out of the hole that tradition and religious upbringing threw me down into at birth.

Okay, technically, I'm not the "only one." And there are plenty of people who, with kids and mortgage both, have freed themselves of their religious limitations to be able to think freely. To them, I'll grant the title of "gifted," for gifted they indeed are. But how insufficient their numbers are to make a difference! What a small percentage they make of the overall population! This leads me to another of my own new laws, somewhat a corollary of Poe's Law, but mutually exclusive of it.  I call it the law of general stupidity.  It goes like this:

"Humanity will always be doomed to general stupidity, because the most important years of cognitive exploration, one's 20's and 30's, are wasted on child-rearing."

By the time one has sufficient time to explore the complex issue of this world, one typically is in one's mid-40's or 50's, and by that time, the limitations of the human brain simply make it un-receptive to new ideas or radical changes in thinking.  Any cognitive talents such a person has would then be spent, not embracing new truths, but defending old falsehoods. What a sad state to be in with this modern world, so full of science, and yet so populated with people ignorant of science.  We are all trapped in a tomb of our own making, committed to populating a world already overpopulated, and consigning ourselves to ignorance as we do so.

It is a testament to the evolutionary power of the sex-drive.

To those reading this with kids and mortgage, let me not leave you depressed. My "law" is not necessarily a law at all. I strongly feel that by realizing this state more fully, we can likely circumvent it. The more we realize we are the prisoners of our own upbringing, the better prepared we are to break free.  Explore the issues freely with your children! You will set the example of free inquiry to those who need it most.  And when, in your 40's and 50's, you find yourself with free time to explore again, be willing to abandon your old ideas. Never mind about pissing off mom & dad, grandma or grandpa, your friends at work, at church, Father Mokehe, or whomever. Your mind is your own.

Commit yourself to truth, no matter what conclusions you must reach.


Tuesday, August 30, 2011

The Truth Behind Conservative Vs. Liberal

What is the difference between liberal and conservative? Why is it that we tend to polarize into one or the other? Why, when this dichotomy so handicaps us, do we insist on lobotomizing ourselves and our culture in this way? These fundamental questions are ones I’ve obsessed over as I’ve watched, with increasingly nauseous horror, the transformation of our media from one where both sides were at least prone to giving token attempts at balance to one in which one-sided media remains entrenched on one channel, or the other – Fox news and talk radio on the right, and MSNBC and Comedy Central on the left. (And isn’t it odd that there is no comedy channel devoted to making fun of liberalism!)

What it boils down to is two of our very dearest values clashing together, not because they are incompatible, but because they tend to diverge among different personality types, and our naturally handicapped, tribal, hunter/gatherer brain takes over from there. On the one side is Freedom, compassion, and fairness. In short, a desire for a utopian condition. On the other side is purity, loyalty and security, a recognition of a tragic condition. I think, at heart, both sides recognize that both utopian desire and tragic recognition are necessary for the best possible society, but because our differing personalities prefer one over the other, we polarize, and then fight with each other about shit which is ultimately about as important as a mosquito, and equally as annoying.

As such, we wrongly demonize our opponents: With liberals being a bunch of latte-drinking, hybrid-driving, granola-crunching bleeding-hearted, atheistic Marxists, and conservatives being a bunch of coffee-chugging, SUV-driving, Wall-Street-hogging, heartless, Bible-thumping Rockerfellers. But, of course, neither of these caricatures is even remotely accurate. We both want the best possible world. We just disagree on the finer points of how to get there.

Take religion vs. government, for example. Both sides agree that some form of reciprocity needs to be in place to prevent criminals and freeloaders from spoiling society. Historically, there have been two forms of this (and not always separate): religion, and government. Those who favor the liberal side favor freedom, and so want maximum opportunity while young in life. As such, they favor large-scale solutions which benefit them, and so favor government. Those who favor the conservative side favor security, and prefer small, community-based solutions which benefit them while elder in life. As such, they prefer religion, and would rather government stayed out of it, except in matters of keeping everyone safe. This explains so many dispositions between the two sides that it’s mind-boggling. It explains why conservatives prefer small government, but will nevertheless spend ridiculous amounts of money on police, the military, and prisons. It explains why liberals, desiring to maximize freedom for all sentient beings, will be vegetarian to protect the rights of fellow sentient mammals, while being pro-choice, since an early-term fetus is not yet sentient. It explains why conservatives oppose abortion and euthanasia, but are typically in favor of the death penalty. It explains why conservatives want lower taxes to better enjoy their golden years while liberals would rather have more taxes and programs to benefit them right away before old age sets in. It explains why liberals want a strong separation between religion and government, and why conservatives prefer or pretend that the wall of separation between church and state doesn’t exist. It explains why colleges and universities are rife with liberals – because science requires the questioning of one’s elders as a major tenet, and so freedom to explore is the order of the day for scientists, engineers, philosophers and sociologists. The language arts must, of necessity, be populated by cultural explorers and this sieves out all but the most ardent of moral relativists. (And this would be true even if universities didn’t receive loads of tax-dollars.) The one exception is the obligatory business school, where one department preaches VonMises, and loathes and despises the sea of liberal thought it finds itself floating in.

It also explains why liberals want big government and conservatives small government, UNLESS the subject of sex comes up, in which case conservatives want drastic, government-imposed restrictions, and liberals would prefer big government to stay out of it! This would seem like a hypocritical shift, until one sees the underlying cause. Freedom of business vs. freedom of gonads. Fascinating!

Telling is how these two sides tend to divide among the values shared by young and old. The young want to strike out, explore, be sexual, live life to the fullest. As such, they prefer the freedom aspect of the ideal society. The old prefer safety, sanctity, the recognition that life can be cruel if you’re not careful. As such, they prefer the security aspect of the ideal society. But as the young grow old, they grow increasingly more like their elders, preferring to nurse their arthritis quietly and live the stress-free lifestyle as their hormones go into remission. This is perhaps why the once biggest liberal juggernaut ever – the Baby Boomers – have gone from being pot-smoking, anti-war hippies at Woodstock who elected Bill Clinton, to being grey-haired, Tea-Party, anti-drug activists irrationally afraid of the same sort of black president they would have begged for in their youth. The only similarity between the two is their staunch willingness to get out and march in protest. How have the mighty fallen!

Young and old divide among their planning perspectives as well. The old prefer a long-term solution strategy, having lived a long time themselves, and knowing that they will not be around to see it through. The young, by contrast, see no point in waiting until the next generation or two (or three) before real solutions to injustices manifest, and so desire intervention right away to make justice more immediate. This explains why conservatives would rather minorities strive for wealth on their own, while liberals tend to prefer affirmative action programs minorities so that opportunity isn’t something only enjoyed by their grandchildren. In reality, long term solutions are always better than short-term ones, as long as there’s no racial favoritism involved.

It’s the ancient battle between constrained vs. unconstrained, change-embracing vs. change-averse. Desire for utopia clashes with the acceptance of tragic reality. Science fiction author, Nick Sagan (son of my hero, Carl Sagan), phrases it this way: It’s the battle between the primal forces of delicious and nutritious. Delicious wants to enjoy. Nutritious wants to survive. And fittingly, just as our modern world has glutted us with foods which are artificially sweet and savory, with added sugars and highly-salted poly-saturated fats, as well as artificially nutrient-bearing vitamin supplements, so also has our media given us excessively sweet, salty, or bitter content. Right now, it seems as if liberals are gorging themselves upon Oreo-cookie soft-serve, while conservatives are turning their urine blue choking down all their vitamin pills. What ever happened to meat and potatoes?

You see, in the battle for delicious vs. nutritious, it isn’t impossible to have both. Ice cream for dessert is a good thing, and a vitamin pill in the morning is healthy. In between, a balanced meal with the occasional salad is just fine. In like manner, a little bit of Bill O’Reilly and Rachel Maddow is fine, but let’s not go overboard! Let’s get the bulk of our data from unbiased sources, shall we? How about eating foreign food once in a while (BBC or Canadian news services)? The variety does a body good.

And this balance begins with the ability to abandon the irrational hatred of our obviously bipartisan President.


Wednesday, August 3, 2011

How To Change The Things That Matter

When I look at the things that matter the most to the quality of our lives, and the key issues that most directly effect whose side I prefer politically, I'm amazed that two things always repeatedly come up: economics and education. Economics comes up obviously because we all want better jobs, and want to punish those politicians who aren't doing a good enough job at helping us get them. Education comes up because everything about our society ties in to it, whether it be crime, money, stability, security... Nothing doesn't go south without good, quality education. And since education affects the economy, education is the more important of the two.

Yet what do we really know about these two key factors? If we want to change the things that matter, we must be more competent about these two things than anything else. But are we? Ask yourself: what's needed to give a child a quality education. No, I mean REALLY needed. Be specific. Phonics in grades K through 4? Algebra in grade 5 instead of 6? What is the ideal class size? 15? 20? 30? Is a central teacher-in-classroom model even effective? Or is perhaps a direct-tutoring model more efficient? Perhaps a more multi-faceted model is needed, where two or three teachers handle three levels of learning, depending upon a child's needs? Perhaps boarding schools, the one form of school which has proven effective for inner-city children, should be assigned across the board?

And how about economics? Will tax cuts for the rich really work? What kind of tax cuts? How big should a corporation get? At least some regulation is necessary - as we learned the hard way - but how far should rules of regulation go? What kinds of reforms would work? Why would they work? What measures would make it fail, and why would the failure take place?

When it comes down to it, we don't know jack. ALL of us! Even the smartest people know very little about the fundamentals of both education and economics. And yet poor quality, as well as poor quality of understanding, of both these topics is a sure-fire recipe for disaster for any civilization.

And where are the most radical changes happening right now? Yeah, you follow me. And you understand why we should be concerned. We're blind, at the helm, and have no clue where to steer clear of the rocks.

I certainly don't have all the answers. I don't know how exactly education should be reformed, nor have I yet worked all the kinks out of my synthesized economic model. But I know this much, and it's a reform that both political parties can agree to, and can be implemented right away. I hope everyone writes their legislators in support of this idea. And it is simply this:

Teach economics as a required course in high school!


Monday, August 1, 2011

Debt Ceiling Bill... Compromise?

So, it seems the dual pilots of our National Airplane, Capt. Democrat and Vice-Capt. Republican, have finally decided to put their fisticuffs in the cockpit on hold long enough to jointly pull up on the joystick before the death-spiral tailspin crashes us, and everyone's globally-networked personal incomes too. And while it's refreshing to see that partisan politics can be put aside when the need is dire, it's equally disheartening to note that it took everyone's nuts being held in a vice, plus the loss of at least one testicle per legislator, before anyone finally compromised on anything. It seems that Our Trophy President, ever the Superman strategist I kept telling you fair-weather-fans he was, has hammered out a compromise with the most uncompromising of S.O.B.'s in order to literally save the whole world's ass. That's our man!

But what did we get? While Democrats are bitching that they get nothing out of this deal, pointing out how Republicans are getting everything that they demanded, some are wondering what the "compromise" actually was. And in spite of this, some in the GOP are actually complaining that it doesn't go far enough because it doesn't include a balanced budget amendment to the Constitution. Well, it's nice to see that there's something to piss off everyone, because that's usually the sign of a good bill. But seriously, what did Democrats get out of it at all? Taxes levied on the topmost who have most effectively taken the money supply out of circulation? No. Serious military cutbacks? Not right away. Shit, did the Dems get anything?

The answer is yes. I'll tell you what they got: They got President Obama a "Get out of jail free" card regarding our nation's economy.

You see, the two economic models at war with each other play on fundamental mechanisms of how money works. On the one hand is the idea that the money supply is kept in balance with a system of carefully levied taxes upon the uppermost, and a responsible methodology of spending upon infrastructure, medicine and education, which benefits all businesses and citizens. On the other hand is the idea that business flourishes better when it is "unfettered" (by which it is usually meant, "untaxed"), and allowed the freedom to grow. Both ideas have merit, and both are obviously incomplete - which is why a synthesis of the two is so badly needed. Unfortunately, polarized thinking has blinded many to this reality, and this debt-ceiling bill illustrates this fully.

What will likely happen as a result of this bill, I'm saddened to say, is an economic downturn - the last thing we need. Already, economists are warning of it, and the Republicans who just don't give a damn are refusing to believe it. Now, this bill has passed, and whatever happens negatively in our economy, the Republicans now have full responsibility, thanks to their sticking resolutely to their vaulted principles. Obama will no longer bear any blame, thanks to this bill - which is essentially a Republican victory. Republicans succeeded in blocking taxation upon the wealthiest in exchange for another four years of Obama. (I hope they're finally happy.)

Now, this is a test of my understanding of economics. All you who read my blog may judge my analysis with me. I've made my prediction, and put my balls out there. And while the scientist in me looks forward to the results of this real-life extro-laboratory experiment, my hypothesis can only be correct if people suffer. This is NOT the way I wish to win an argument! Such is never the preferred path to victory for people of conscience. Nevertheless, if I'm right, don't say I didn't warn you.

You know, however, this could be interesting. I've been right about a lot of things. For example, I predicted Barack Obama's victory. But I've also been wrong on this blog. In the interest of equal time: I was wrong about selling gold right away. I was wrong about Herman Cain being a serious candidate. I was also wrong about legalizing marijuana solving all our budgetary woes. (My own later analysis showed that it would make a dent, but wouldn't come close to solving everything.) So I'm certainly fallible. On the other hand, if I happen to be wrong this time, then everyone is benefiting from a healthy economy, and I'll gladly wear egg on my face for that. If so, our good economy will ensure incumbent victories, and Obama will win. If the economy goes south, Obama has a devil to blame for it in this Republican-led compromise bill. Either way, it's all Obama until 2016.

It's the oldest maxim in the world: People vote with their pocketbook. And when it feels the pinch - as I regrettably expect it will - people will simply have to put the blame at the most obvious cause. This budget fight was so big, and so well-covered by the media, that everyone, for once, knew the issues behind it. They will not forget come 2012.

Then again, experience has shown us that they just might.


Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Want More Jobs? Then RAISE Taxes. Really!

The more I educate myself regarding how economics works, the more I realize how the Hayek model (named after Austrian economist, Friedrich August Hayek), also known as the "Chicago school of economics," which is currently championed by disciples of Ayn Rand and most Republicans, fails in many regards. It refuses to acknowledge the obvious factor of luck, inevitably the source of nearly all the success of the wealthiest 1%. Through their lenses, an undeserved dollar simply does not exist. An unearned buck is seen as having been gotten by the sweat of their own brow rather than by the winds of fate. Any tax system which compensates for this is seen therefore not as a counterweight for fairness' sake, but as theft of what's theirs. No wonder they scream so loudly about taxation!

But in our current budget fight, one thing outweighs the national debt crisis, and that's jobs. Currently, we have competing views on how to create jobs, and there's two main schools of thought. On one side, the idea is that if the wealthy are taxed, they'll cut jobs in order to hang on to more of their money. On the other side, the idea is that more taxes will ensure more government programs which strengthen social guarantees and the building of infrastructure -- both of which help create jobs, though not right away. The fight between these two sides has gotten rather heated as of late.

I've come to realize both sides are wrong.

Here's how it really works. Suppose you're wealthy (which is a very easy thing to both wish for, and imagine). You've just been given a big tax break. What do you do with the money? According to Republicans, you'll hire more workers. But that model assumes you're content with what you have, and primarily desire to build more business. This is hopelessly naive. You could just as easily want to take that extra money and do something else with it. Like party. Or travel abroad. Or finally open that Swiss bank account you've been pondering (which sometimes costs a premium to open, especially these days). Maybe a sailboat, or a winter home? Maybe buy gold. Maybe buy a mistress. All kinds of things besides hiring another worker to do with that money, and you know as well as I do that the chances are far, far better that those other things will come first.

You see, the wealthy will hire more workers, but only when it's in their interest to do so. If it isn't, then cutting taxes on the rich is as helpful to the "trickle down" system as filling the cistern, and then failing to turn the spigot! What good is all that liquidity going to do way up there if none of it "trickles down" to here because the rich didn't turn the damned faucet on? Oh, sure, there will be a few philanthropists, but most won't be. (There are too few Herb Kohls and Chris Abeles.) So, the trick is to make sure that it's in the best interest of the wealthy to hire more workers, of course. How on earth do we do that?

Let's imagine that you're wealthy again. (Fun fantasy.) This time, let's say that you've enjoyed the benefits of a large tax break for some time. Say, since the Bush II years. But now, that cushion's about to disappear, and you'll be returned to Clinton-era tax rates. Now what? It's the opposite scenario of the above, isn't it? Obviously, you'll want to restore that extra income, if you can. But how? Do you cut your business, slash workers' salaries and fire people? Well, you can't, because in this shaky economy, you've likely already done that. Your business has been waiting for the economic recovery, but the recovery has been sputtering, and you've been reluctant to hire. Now you're income is about to take a hit. You can't pare down. What can you do?

You have only one choice: Build your business and gain greater market share. In other words, because your taxes got hiked, your best bet at restoring your lost income will be to HIRE MORE!

Holy shit! REALLY?

Really. The way to make it in the best interests of the wealthy to hire more is to restore the balance between too much, and too little taxation. We've had an imbalance of too little taxation for a long time now, and so there's been too little hiring. Raise taxes on the wealthiest just a bit more, and more hiring takes place as they struggle to continue keeping up with the Joneses the way they have been. Isn't that what we want?

The current hue and cry is that raising taxes will be bad for the economy. Indeed! Okay, it's going to make those who have it made have to make a little bit more, but so what? Aren't these the clydesdales we want to harness to pull our economy out of the dumps? Why leave them in the barn?

Make no mistake, the "raise no taxes" line in the sand is exactly the same as a "hire no workers"
line in the sand.

Atlas has shrugged long enough. It's time for him to punch back in and go to work!


Sunday, July 10, 2011

Marijuana Laws.

The Huffington Post recently reported that "the federal government" (the article did not specify what office or branch) ruled that cannabis had no accepted medical purpose. This, from people who've likely never smoked it and/or experienced its nausea-reducing effects on themselves or observed it in other people. No, these bureaucrats, most of whom I'm certain have no medical or even science degrees, have taken it upon themselves to declare what should or should not be prescribed.

You know, when between 70% and 80% of every state in the union approves of medical marijuana being made legal, you'd think that there might be politicians everywhere clamoring all over themselves to be the first one to endorse legalization. Aside from Ron Paul, I don't know of any prominent Republicans who are even bothering to address the issue. For the most part, major Republican players remain firmly opposed to marijuana for medical, recreational, or spiritual use. Could there be a deeper reason?

Here's a thought: In 1972, Richard M. Nixon declared his "war on drugs." At the time, he was firmly opposed in the war on Vietnam, and one thing every unpopular president loves to do is throw up a war and drum up national crisis in order to bolster bad polling numbers. But in Nixon's case, I believe it went deeper. Many of Nixon's opponents were hippies - long-haired bead-wearing young people who were smoking cannabis on a regular basis. How to go after these pot-headed peaceniks? Why, by taking away their weed, that's how! And in 20 years' time, who knows? The lack of marijuana could spark a war-mongering right-wing revival.

What happened? 22 years later, 1994, Bill Clinton watched his Democratic majorities in both the house and Senate disappear, as Republicans took control with their "Contract with America." The Republican revival was on!


We should be cautious before drawing any conclusions, here. Correlation does not imply causation. It could entirely be just happenstance. But it doesn't necessarily need to be true, does it? What needs to be true, is that certain Republican party leaders believe it. If they think that legalizing pot will cause the hippies to come back, and result in more recreational-use-inspired liberalism to boot them from office, it would explain their stubborn refusal to bow to the overwhelming majority of their constituents.

Now, obviously smoking pot doesn't make you a liberal, any more than taking oxy contin makes you a conservative. But if politicians believe that such mind-altering drugs can indeed alter the mind in just this way, it would explain a great many things, wouldn't it?

Especially not legalizing and taxing, and thus boosting the economy, and jobs, and treasury revenues, at a time when our government is so desperately in need of a balanced budget, and a thriving economy.

To help end the Great Depression, prohibition of alcohol was ended. It worked. Yes, a war helped, too, but the recovery began before the war did. So isn't it time our government woke up and legalized cannabis? Like now, when it's so bloody obviously the right thing to do?


Saturday, July 2, 2011

Some Brewer Observations

A break from my usual stuff, even as the political right is trying so desperately to keep the fat cats from going on a much-needed diet while simultaneously playing chicken with the debt ceiling and the global economy which depends upon it. No, this time I'm bringing my number-crunching powers of observation to bear on our Milwaukee Brewers, and why they can't seem to win a road game against any team other than the Florida Marlins.

First, let's recognize that the problem is offense. Par-value offense or defense is 3 runs. The Brewers meet or exceed par offense in Milwaukee, but not in other cities. At home at Miller Park, our offense is unbeatable. Six of our regular starters are batting over .300 (Lucroy, Braun, Rivera, Fielder, Morgan, Weeks) while two more are batting over .290 (Betancourt and Hart). Even most of our starting pitchers are batting over .300 at home (Narveson, Greinke, Gallardo). At home, the Crew hits the damn ball.

But something happens when the team goes on the road. Apparently, aliens come down and kidnap the regular team and replace them with mannequins that resemble them somewhat. Away, only two players bat over .300 (Nyger Morgan, and, of course, Ryan Braun). Even Prince Fielder's average drops to .272 on the road (down from .326 at Miller Park). But the biggest disappointment when the team travels is Jonathan Lucroy. That man bats a whopping .364 at home, and an appalling .216 on the road! Next up on the disappointment list would have to be Yuniesky Betancourt, who bats .295 at home, and flirts with the Mendoza line at .191 when travelling. Corey Hart, who bats .293 in the home court bats a disgusting .230 when away. We might be tempted to brand Braun as the only player who can hit on the road, and even he takes a slight dip, batting .338 at home, and .306 on the road.

Jesus, that fucking sucks!

But amidst these foul-smelling numbers, one shining star does emerge. Nyger Morgan! At home, he bats a very nice .316. But when away, he does even better! A .333 average on the road!

I say, Nyger starts every road game.

What about pitching? So far as I can tell, it's worse on the road as well, but not markedly so. Each pitcher gains one ERA point when travelling. Randy Wolf has the lowest downside, with an ERA of 2.78 at home and 3.75 away. Gallardo pitches 3.47 at home, and 4.39 in alien ballparks. Narveson does 3.91 at home and 4.93 on a road trip. But Zack Greinke is the biggest disappointment, showing 4.26 at home, and 7.77 while away. Granted, that's only because of a couple of bad outings, but they were road outings.

Inexplicably, the bullpen seems affected as well. Kameron Loe, the apparent go-to guy in the eighth inning, has an ERA of 4.22 at home, and 5.19 away. John Axford has a sparkling ERA of 0.82 at home, but 5.02 on the road (Most of that thanks to the Yankees debacle.)

But again, there are some nice exceptions. Sean Marcum pitches 4.13 at Miller Park, and 2.26 everywhere else! (If only he could start every road game!) Tim Dillard pitches 7.36 at home, and 3.38 when sleeping in hotels. But the biggest difference, making me wonder why the hell he doesn't get more time on the mound, is La Troy Hawkins. At home, his ERA is a fantastic 0.75. And on the road? His ERA is 0.00!!!

Okay, La Troy Hawkins is definitely our set up man on the road!

So what's going on here? Could it be that when these guys are away from their wives and kids and not getting laid that they do worse? It's certainly possible, and if so, plane tickets for player's families might be a relatively cheap investment in road wins, especially down the stretch. The other thing (and I don't have solid numbers to back me up on this, but it seems true) is that hitters seem to swing outside the strike zone on the road. The number of walks the team gets isn't significantly higher at home than on the road, but there are sure a lot more strikeouts when the Crew takes a road trip! Almost double, in fact! How to correct this? Well, chiding from coaches has never worked. In 30 years of watching baseball, I've learned you can never coach a player into being more disciplined at the plate if that S.O.B. is determined to swing at shitty pitches. But what a coach CAN do (which is entirely within Brewer tradition) is put a game within a game. On the road, any player who strikes out by swinging at a pitch outside the strike zone scores a "shitlist point." The three players with the most shitlist points after a road trip have to pay for the next team party.

The Brewers win when they play with good ol' fashioned Milwaukee gemutlichkeit. Let's add some of that to the game by making a game out of doing the right thing at the plate, and winning on the road, especially for the hitters.


Friday, June 17, 2011

Law & Order: L.A.

Law & Order Los Angeles. What a great idea! A perfect continuation of a winning franchise guaranteed to win viewers.

Except now, NBC has announced that after only one season, it's cancelling the show. The reason? Poor ratings.

Only a board of network executives could be that stupid.

Nielsen ratings, the real governing body of all things viewed on television, is conducted by installing ratings boxes in various homes around the country, and monitoring what it hopes is a representative sampling of television viewers throughout the nation.

It isn't, of course.

You see, Nielsen ratings are a dinosaur -- a sad, holdover remnant of a bygone entertainment era, every bit as irrelevant today as radio dramas were yesterday. How outdated are they? Put it this way: They didn't begin incorporating numbers including new video technology such as TiVo until 2005, five years after it became widely used. And these new figures aren't even used in the ratings system. Why? Because advertising firms have pressured Nielsen into not using them! They know that if corporations see just how much people are dodging their commercials, they'll insist on paying a lot less, television stations profits will drop through the floor, and every ad agency will get dropped like a hot coal.

But what about even newer technology? What about Hulu? Or Netflix? The Free TV Project? Program streaming on every other network website? More people watch television this way inside coffee houses on their I-Pads than ever before, and these are the ones with the kind of free time to be able to watch television. But Nielsen doesn't include these figures either. If they did, they'd see that networks could charge way more for internet ads, and make up the potential difference in lost revenue. But, no, Nielsen insists on only monitoring people who sit in front of their living room big-box, and for this reason, Jerry Springer will always have artificially higher numbers than Law & Order: L.A.!

Meanwhile, a bunch of grey-haired executives in NBC, who probably grew up watching Happy Days and I Love Lucy, are making the mistake of presuming that their biggest television hit is actually a loss -- because the old, outdated system of tracking is saying that the numbers are low.

Meanwhile, an entire segment of internet-streaming viewers are screaming "What the fuck?!" over the news that their favorite show is getting cancelled. What a travesty!

This is dumber than Dr. House driving a car through his girlfriend's bay window!

Now, there's an even bigger point to be made here. These are the kinds of corporate execs who, thanks to the Citizens' United ruling, can donate massive amounts of funds to whatever political campaign they want. Yet they make billions screwing up so badly, they can't even keep Law & Order L.A. on the air! I guess it's true what they say: In the entertainment industry, one fails upward.

Are these the kind of people you want to see having the biggest say-so in our political process?

I say, rip that power away from those fuckheads and give it back to the people where it belongs!

(They'll just have more money to spend on luxury yachts, that's all.)


Sunday, May 29, 2011

Sell Your Gold - NOW!

I've been taking a brief hiatus from blogging, as it does take up a lot of time, and leading up to a final exam, I wanted to make sure I passed it (which I did). But oh, the things that did transpire during that time. I'd like to take a look at Paul Ryan's spiel on healthcare reform. I'd also like to examine the ruling of Wisconsin court justice Maryann Sumi. But for now, let me simply issue a recommendation to all investors out there:

Sell your gold now!

Why? It's simple, really. Since Obama's election, conservative media outlets have been touting the buying of gold, mostly on the grounds that they think Obama will destroy the dollar, and that gold will be the safest investment for the future. It's a version of the golden rule -- whoever has the gold makes the rules -- but in truth, the conservatives who push gold were likely heavily invested in gold to begin with before they started pushing it as an investment strategy.

Historically, precious metals investing has been a good hedge against inflation. Buy gold or silver, and as the dollar devalues and prices go up, you end up retaining the same spending power safely. Then, when the economy stables, you sell the gold or silver at a nice profit, though in fact you are not really making a literal profit, but are only breaking even in terms of buying ability.

But this latest spike in gold and silver prices is caused by something else. It's not inflation, because we don't really have a big problem with that (except with gasoline prices). And it's not an unstable economy, because it's been showing signs of recovery for quite some time now. No, this spike in precious metals prices has been caused solely due to the Tea Party movement. Convicned that Obama is about to ruin everything, or that Obama is the Antichrist, or some other disaster involving Obama is impending, they buy up all the gold and silver they can, preparing for the cataclysm to come. Demand goes up, supply stays the same, so the price jumps. Basic economics.

Problem is, the feared chaos will never get here. The economy is stabilizing. The disaster predicted with healthcare reform did not happen. Transitions to hybrid and electric vehicles will soon make higher gasoline prices less relevant. And best of all...

Obama is the president that got Osama Bin Laden!

That marks the end of the big push for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Our troops will begin to come home. The biggest budget-buster of all time, initiated by George W. Bush, will finally cease to drain the lifeblood out of the nation's pocketbook. We will have a balanced budget before Obama's second term is over, with a budget surplus, just as it was under Clinton.

In other words, there is no more reason to panic.

That means the wise investors are selling their gold -- while the price is still high. With the panic over, and the storm clouds of impending disasters having blown by, we see sunny skies. The price of gold is about to DROP. FAST!!!

Oh, maybe gold will continue to climb just a bit more over the very short term. The pan-Arab revolt to democracy still has a lot of people worried, particularly in how it will play out in Egypt and Syria. And the brouha with Netanyahu over the Israeli borders will rattle a few nerves. But the fact remains that America is stabilizing, China's never going to take over, the national budget will cease to be upside-down, and the dollar will be secure.

So clear is this future that Republicans can't find a decent candidate to challenge Obama. Many Republicans don't want to. They don't dare! Face off against an incumbent who saved the economy and killed Bin Laden? No way! Who'd want to run into THAT buzz-saw?

So if you've invested in gold, now's the time to sell. Take your profits while you still can!

And watch while all the tea-partiers, who will refuse to sell in their anti-Obama delusions, take a huge loss when the price tumbles.


Friday, May 6, 2011

Herman Cain: Your Next Republican Presidential Candidate

Since before 2008, Republicans have lacked something they desperately need: A candidate. Now, they've got one.

Meet Herman Cain. He's smart, articulate, a successful businessman, an absolute conservative. Former CEO of Godfather's Pizza. Chairman of the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City. Radio talk show host. Bachelors degree in mathematics and Masters degree in computer science. He's also a Southern Baptist, and an opponent of abortion in all cases, including rape and incest. The religious Right loves him. The Tea Party loves him!

Best of all, he's black.

We've seen it happen before: A party desperate to unhorse a sitting president will pick a candidate who contrasts well against that president's primary strength. Thus, in 2004, when the "war on terror" was the overriding issue, General Wesley Clark, who didn't really want to run, was a serious candidate, and the nomination eventually went to John Kerry, a military veteran.

Now we'll see this sort of thing happen with the political parties turned around.

He's the ideal candidate, except for one, teensy, little thing. He's picked a fight with the IRS. He wants something called the Fair Tax, which is a kind of national sales tax. He wants to return to the Gold Standard. Were it up to him, all estate taxes, capital gains taxes, and income taxes would be abolished.

Yeah. Good luck with that.

Every charity that receives donations from the wealthy who are motivated by write-offs will oppose the guy. Every big-time banking and accounting firm that builds its industry upon our current tax system will oppose him. Subchapter S corporations, which already pay no taxes, will have no real reason to support him. A lot of people with a lot of money will oppose the guy.

He's the African Steve Forbes.

But the disenfranchised with Obama will flock to him. He can easily eclipse other novelties, like Michelle Bachman and Sarah Palin. He will win nomination. If somehow he flummoxes the nomination, he'll be the ideal Veep. He holds the promise of unifying the Republican front, of winning over some moderates, and splitting the black vote.

This hope is likely misplaced. Obama has faced this sort of candidate before. When running for the U.S. Senate, Republicans put their trust in another black conservative, named Alan Keyes. A former ambassador, Alan Keys was smart, eloquent, handsome, and a darker shade than Obama. But the black voters of Illinois weren't taken in. Obama not only beat him, he crushed him.

You see, contrary to popular conservative myth, black people are not stupid. They know when they're being pandered to, and they feel insulted when conservative special interests put forth a black candidate, as if they would all simultaneously abandon Dr. King's dream and vote on the color of skin rather than the content of character. There could only be one Jackie Robinson. There could only be one Rosa Parks. There is only one Barack Obama. African Americans already have their champion.

But the Tea Party doesn't know this, nor shall they. The entire movement is all salt and almost no pepper, all cream and no coffee. They'll look to Herman Cain as their savior.

Well, ya better hold on to that dream, people.


Wednesday, May 4, 2011

New Pro Life Commercial

I have a lot to say about many things. Like, for example, how everybody should stop jumping to conclusions about whether Bush-era-style water-boarding was used to kill Bin Laden. But for now, I've got something more important to grouse about. Yes, more important than whether Obama used torture.

This past week, I've noticed on NBC's Nightly News and other outlets a brand new pro-life commercial, and it really has me pissed off. I've included the video of the commercial here, so that you can see what I'm talking about.

Basically, the video says nothing I disagree with, until they come to the all important point about brain activity being present at seven weeks. Then, the motherly voice says, "Who knows? Maybe he's even thinking."

Oh, it's ON now!

I've posted before about how the brain defines the being in my online book, "It's The Brain, Stupid!" So I'm perfectly prepared to deal with the issue of brain development as it pertains to the abortion debate. You can read my full argument here. In it, I repeated the claim about the earliest brain activity of any kind being present at seven weeks, but I point out how that early brain activity means very little. The cerebral cortex, which governs movement, doesn't form until the 10th week, resulting in sudden and dramatic fetal movement. The cerebellum, the all-important area of thinking, cognition, reasoning, and experience, doesn't form until the 20th week, or 4.5 months in. The half-way point.

So for this commercial to come along and say, "Maybe he's even thinking," is just flat-out misleading. And it's a deliberately calculated attempt at misleading to boot. Lying is one thing. "Obfuscation of the truth" is even worse. The morons who made this commercial knew they were occulting the facts, and didn't care. What hubris!

In particular, I want you to focus in on the blunt admission of how 7 weeks is the earliest brain-wave activity point. Do the math. That's almost two months. Meaning that very early term abortion can still be done upon a fetus with ZERO brain activity whatsoever.

By thy own lips do I condemn thee!

This means not only that it is irrefutable that early-term abortion should remain LEGAL and PROTECTED, but that any objections to morning-after pills have no scientific basis. Those who deny morning-after pills to teenagers are therefore monsters, those who deny such pills to rape victims are rapists themselves.

And there's REALLY no damned excuse for opposing embryonic stem cell research! I, for one, am sick of scientists being forced to dump billions of dollars down the primrose path of regressing adult stem cells down to an undifferentiated state, as if that technology were anything other than setting any treatment back ten to twenty years!

Conceptionism is dead! Long live neural-developism!

As the woman says in the commercial, "What was I thinking?"

Hell, I don't know, lady. What were you thinking?!


Monday, May 2, 2011

Give The Pres. Some LOVE!

Osama Bin Laden is dead. Sweet, isn't it? The heart and soul of Al Quaeda is extinguished, terrorists can forever mourn their loss, and Americans can celebrate their victory. For that matter, Afghanistan has a real shot at a lasting government, and may well experience the first permanent steps towards liberation of women in... well, ever!

So now I'm waiting for the other shoe to drop. For all the brave talk about Americans being united, and this victory being a bipartisan one, I'm still waiting to hear it. Just one compliment for President Obama.

Come on! Just one, teensey, weensey, little compliment? Can any so-called "conservatives" say it? Come on, say it with me, "President Obama did good." It's not hard! You can say it! Really! "The President did good!" Each time it gets a little easier. "President Barack Hussein Obama did a good thing in killing Osama Bin Laden."

Better yet, I'd like just one tea-party member to say, "You know, maybe I was wrong about Obama."

Hell, I'll say it: I was wrong! Yes, I was wrong about Bin Laden being already dead. I claimed that he was long ago killed, and that we would forever be fighting a ghost. Now, in light of new evidence, I'm forced to recant, and admit my mistake. And I'd made a second mistake with it: I thought the troop surge in Afghanistan was probably a mistake. I thought maybe it was a desperate gamble on Obama's part to try and get Bin Laden, and likely wouldn't work. Well, lo and behold, it DID! And I'm forced to admit that Obama's gamble paid off, and that the troop surge, which Obama did in defiance of his own party, was a good idea. I was wrong.

You know, it's a rather healthy thing. "I was wrong." It feels good to say! Maybe that's because those three little words are what makes science possible. Because in science, oneself being right or wrong doesn't matter. One's ego doesn't matter. All that matters is Truth. (And notice, I say Truth with a capital letter "T"!) So in saying "I was wrong," I'm really doing the most important thing that anybody can do in the pursuit of truth, and that's bow to the evidence.

Some people don't want to bow to the evidence. Already they're saying that Bin Laden isn't really dead. People also say that Elvis isn't dead. Or that we didn't land on the moon. Or that Obama is the Antichrist. Or that global warming is a hoax. Or that evolution didn't really happen.

Our culture really hasn't emphasized enough how important being wrong is. It's good to be wrong now and then! The ability to admit that you're wrong is the heart and soul of all Truth-seeking. It is the Alpha and Omega of maturity. It is the one trait absolutely essential for true intelligence.

Strange that so many people don't have it.

Even stranger that so many people go out of their way not to have it, and violently throw it away if it happens to fall right into their lap. Rather than admit they're wrong, they'll ignore birth certificates, become activists, proffer conspiracies or even build massive fake museums in Northern Kentucky, all to insulate themselves against the Truth, and having to say those three, small, all-important words: "I was wrong."

Why not just wear a dunce cap and save yourself the trouble?

So yes, everybody, I was wrong! And I say it proud!

Now, to all you Obama-haters: Your turn.


Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Our Critical Tech Schools

Wisconsin's budgetary outlays are interesting to read about. A few percent here, several percent there, but nothing breaks into double-digits. Wisconsin just doesn't allocate much in any one particular area...

Except education.

Education support is the one item which not only breaks double-digits, but consumes the vast bulk of the State's expenses. How much? A whopping 38% of the State's money goes to some form of educational support, whether it be public schools, state-funded colleges, or tech schools. Education spending is to Wisconsin what Barbara Streisand's nose is to the rest of her face. It's what Donald Trump's hairpiece is to the top of his head. It's comparable to the percentage of Rush Limbaugh's body fat, or the percentage of Scott Walker's brain-cells devoted to his own ego.

In other words, if one is going to balance the Wisconsin State Budget, one simply has no choice but to cut education support somewhere. There's no way around it. We have to cut.

But may I make an impassioned plea that the one place we mustn't cut is our tech schools.

Our inner-city public schools have been failing. Our businesses are starved for skilled workers. That means that there are hundreds of thousands of under-qualified Milwaukee residents, and thousands of businesses forced to hire outside the State, or leave outright. Bridging this horrendous gap is Milwaukee Area Technical College. With a dual-pronged approach of making up for the lost learning from high school and giving excellent collegiate educational quality for the dollar, MATC is the one, lone bridge allowing those in the realm poverty to cross over the troubled waters of education to reach the promised shore of decent wages. It's the one beacon of hope that desperate education-seekers have.

Oh, don't get me wrong, MATC has its problems! It has its own teachers union which has basically decided to protect its full-time personnel in favor of screwing over the part-time instructors. And it seems to have the habit of looking after its own members Ph.D. aspirations more than is healthy. But it really is a remarkable institution otherwise. Its bathrooms have no mirrors and barely any tissue paper (because it can't afford these creature-comforts), its downtown buildings are old and dilapidated, and its facilities are stripped so bare that its teachers are forced to bring in their own white-board markers because none of the ones the school provides are ever anything but bone-dry. But it gets the job done. As teacher pay gets cut, and need for skilled workers becomes even greater, the gulf MATC bridges is more important than ever.

Cutting funding to tech schools like MATC now is the stupidest possible move. Why shut the front door on a burning building full of people?

Unlike MPS, MATC is doing awesome. It, along with two other Wisconsin tech schools, namely, Northeastern Technical College and Moraine Park technical college, are ranked in the upper 10% of technical schools in the nation in terms of demonstrating high levels of student success.

In other words, MATC is succeeding where MPS is failing.

Cut everywhere else if you must, but cut MATC last of all! It's an institution that's desperately needed, desperately wanted, and best of all...'s working!


Friday, April 22, 2011

I Want A Chevy Volt!

The Chevy Volt is out, and I want one!

It's the 2011 Motortrend car of the year, and for good reason. All the benefits of a pure electric, with a small gasoline motor to act as a safety-net for longer drives. Nice! And with gasoline prices blowing the ceiling right off of gasoline station rooftops, we could all use one, couldn't we? Looks like the Volt has arrived just in time to save America's economy from yet another gasoline-induced economic recession.

Well, guess again. GM has produced, for 2011, 10,000 models of the new Volt. Ten thousand! That's it! To put that in perspective, the village of Greendale has a population of 14,400. The Bradley Center seats 18,000. You could fit the entire run of Chevy Volts for 2011 in the parking lot of Miller Park, and it wouldn't come close to occupying half of it!

It'll be easier to buy a ticket for the Superbowl than it will be to buy a Chevy Volt.
So much for the rescue.

Why are we, who are so starving for this needed product being tossed these few, paltry crumbs? Why is the free market not rising to the challenge?

The answer is simple supply and demand. GM has produced one hell of a car, but it cost them one hell of an investment. The price tag for this new vehicle would have been equivalent to that of a gas-guzzling sports car, without all the traditional flash. So GM pledged to hold the price down below $35,000. As it turns out, the car has smashed through that ceiling, and is going for something like $44,000. Worth it? You bet. IF you can find one!

You see, if left to the free market, GM would be rolling Volts off by the hundreds of thousands, for the initial price of around $60,000. But because they made a pledge to hold the price down, they simply cannot make money if they produce high volume. So they produce low volume, take a small gain, or possibly even a calculated small loss, and make plans to ratchet up the production gradually. It makes good business sense, but hurts the rest of us, for whom this technology is sorely overdue.

It's 'Tickle Me Elmo' all over again. Remember 'Tickle Me Elmo?' Christmas of 1995, I believe. The manufacturer of that toy pledged to only sell at a set, low price. But then demand went through the roof as everyone's kid wanted one. To meet demand, the price should have been raised to pay for the cost of increased production. But no, the price had to stay the same -- they promised. The result? No Elmos on the store shelves. And when they did materialize, parents stampeeded for them like herds of wild buffalo, at times getting into fisticuffs with other parents who dared get to the toy first.

It's the effect of price-fixing. You can't force the market. If the price is forced to stay low, manufacturers cannot make money unless they produce far less. The Soviet Union learned this lesson the hard way. If one forces prices of bread to be low by law, then prices will be low -- but the bakery shelves will usually be empty. The "invisible hand" fights back against attempts to force prices lower than what the free market demands.

The manufacturers of 'Tickle Me Elmo' lost out on the opportunity to make billions. Likewise, GM is going to lose billions. Oh, it won't be operating under red ink. In fact, the Volt sales will likely show a small profit. But that's because they didn't have to break the bank on producing very many. What SHOULD have happened is for prices on 'Tickle Me Elmo' to have been raised, production lines increased, and vastly more money made, to say nothing of there being lots stress-relieved parents as a result. The following year, demand would come down, and the price would have dropped dramatically. Investments in production for the company would have been made, and the cost of production would be dramatically less. Lots more parents could get Elmos for a reasonable price. And GM? It should be selling Volts at $60K or more, making money hand over fist, then, next year, the 2012 models can come down in cost. The manufacturing infrastructure will have been expanded and improved. People will finally be able to flip the bird to the overpriced gas stations forever.

And GM will be rolling, rolling, rolling in cash. But nah, that would mean the corporate executives would have to be smart!

And in case you're wondering where else I'm going with all this, it's very similar to the situation with collective bargaining and teachers' salaries. Give legislators the ability to fix the price of hiring an inner-city school teacher to what they THINK it should be, and the salary will be affordable to the taxpayer -- but good luck finding anyone to teach science or math!

In the meantime, we'll have to make do with what other options are out there. A Toyota Prius is still an affordable option, with the power of a wet noodle and the mileage of a Harley Fat-Boy. Nissan has a nice all-electric car, the Leaf, if you're willing to never drive out of the city. Most don't. In fact, Nissan may be poised to run away with this thing! Or how about a Ford? Ford now has hybrid Fusions, Fiestas and Focuses (Foci?). If you want a hybrid, that's the most affordable way to get one, with prices under $20K. (NOW you're talking!) Nissan may have the best all-electric, but Ford has gone hybrid-crazy, and is now the leading car manufacturer again. Or, maybe one could go extra fancy and buy a Tesla. Those sports cars are not only all-electric and could take you from Milwaukee to the Twin Cities, they're SWEET! But they cost the equivalent of a luxury yacht.

Meanwhile, BMW is producing the electric crossover model, the Megacity, Mercedes Benz is producing the Blue Zero, and even Minicoops are now coming out with a "Mini-E" version. But look out! China's car-company, BYD, is producing the E6! The Panda has seen the future!

All this is happening because the demand for electrics and hybrids is so high. Ford saw it, and is currently #1 again. GM could have seen it, but stubbornly stayed married to the idea of too little, too late.

Just think of how wonderful GM's stock would be, and how stable our economy would have been, had GM not been stupid enough to kill the EV-1 model back in the early 90's!

Oh, the folly of it all!


Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Waiting for Superman

I've got a lot to blog about, but there's just too much to summarize, so let me start with the one that's most on my mind.

I've just seen the documentary film, 'Waiting for Superman.' It's about the plight of the failings of our public school system, and what can be done to fix it. As someone working to become a teacher, I knew this was a film I probably wanted to see. So I put it in my Netflix cue and finally got around to viewing it.

Twenty minutes in, I was furiously taking notes.

I knew things were bad, but I had no idea that they were this bad. And the film illustrated the problem in the best possible way, by following the lives of a few kids, and their caring parents. One kid, an adorable Hispanic girl who said she wanted to be a doctor, broke my (and indeed, everyone's) heart when she didn't get into the school she wanted.

The interviews were enlightening, and the facts, staggering. I've long heard Charlie Sykes rant about the situation in public schools in Milwaukee, but one of the interviewees was none other than Howard Fuller, former Superintendent of Milwaukee Public Schools. In an event which took place many years ago (apparently, while I was paying attention to something else), a kid walked into an MPS school with a hidden camera, taking pictures of teachers who were doing nothing, reading newspapers, with whole classrooms full of kids doing absolutely nothing. Fuller, when shown the video, yelled, "I'm gonna fire these people!"

The teacher's union stopped him. After he'd fired them, he was later forced to hire them back, with one year's back-pay.

Realizing he wasn't in charge, he resigned.

This acute Milwaukee connection got my attention. And there were plenty of other figures which blew me away. Here's just a small sample of what I wrote down in the notes I took from the film:

In Pennsylvania, 67% of all prison inmates are high school dropouts.
There, it costs $33,000 per year to incarcerate one inmate. Over the average period of incarceration, four years, that's $132,000 dollars.
A private school in PA costs $8,300 per year. So for K through 12th grade, the state could have put the same inmate through a quality school for 13 years. 13 times 83K is $107,000.
If they did, they'd still have $24,000 left over for that person to go to college.

Where is all the money going?

Here's another stunning fact: There are 14,000 separate, autonomous school boards in the U.S. That's a lot of cooks to spoil the broth! Any reform efforts must face fourteen thousand individual bureaucracies!

(This same multiplicity of school boards is also what allows creationism to thrive in science classrooms below the radar.)

This one really blew me away: A bad teacher retards a student's development by 50% of an entire year. By contrast, a good teacher can bring students up by 150% or more! And here's a juicy tidbit: If we were to eliminate only the bottom 10% of bad teachers, and replace them with only average teachers, our overall school performance would jump to the level of Finland, which has the best academic measurements in the world!

We've got to get rid of those bad teachers! But firing a teacher is harder than curing herpes these days.

In Illinois, for example, there are 876 school districts. Only 61 of them even tried to fire a teacher. Only 38 were successful. Ever.

Compare this with other professions. On average, 1 in 57 doctors will lose their license. One lawyer in 97 will be disbarred. But among teachers, only 1 out of every 2,500 will lose their teaching license.

Why is this? Well, Howard Fuller found that teachers had something called "Tenure." Interesting, that. Tenure was originally meant for college professors, and was designed to prevent them from being fired for arbitrary or political reasons. Even today, professors can teach college classes for years before they qualify, and many never even get tenure.

Tenure for high school teachers? And it's automatic after only two years? When the hell did that happen?

I've always held the opinion that you can't pay a good teacher enough, while you can't fire a bad teacher fast enough.

Sadly, teacher's unions have stood in the way of both these things.

This brings me to the subject of the unions, and the power they've had. I've recently put my good name on the line defending these unions, while simultaneously hedging my defense by advocating that these unions be reformed. I now know just how deep that reform needs to run. Unions need reform, and not just for public sector unions. The whole thing needs to be reworked.

A few blog posts ago, I detailed some needed overall union reforms. I errantly left out one BIG one, and for that, I apologize. The one I left out, the most important one of all, is this:


I don't think I can overemphasize this enough. The survival of unions depends upon this more than anything else. Over and over again, those who oppose unions cite the inevitable lazy son-of-a-bitch who doesn't produce, gets over-paid, and who can't be fired. Why is it that union leadership doesn't realize that if they could just change that one thing, and then change the perception of it, if they could just get that damned pro-laziness albatross off from around their collective necks, they could have complete political acceptance? Why do unions not realize they need to fire lazy jerk-offs more than they need oxygen?

The answer, I fear, is poor leadership within unions. A good union, with wise leadership, can be a sound system which benefits all. A bad union is worse than no union at all.

Which might explain why Walker went after the unions.

The secret-camera episode is what Walker should have cited when attacking the teachers unions, instead of listing all of the bullshit union "offenses" which I debunked in my blog post from March 13 of this year (yet another example of his overall incompetence). He probably didn't because it was an episode from back in the early 90's. But so what? The need to be able to fire bad teachers is still essential.

(Where was Howard Fuller during this whole Madison budget-battle, by the way?)

The film cited Michelle Rhee, who was given broad powers to reform schools in Washington, D.C., which has the worst performing public schools in the nation. She started to make progress, but she knew she needed to make sure the bad teachers were gotten rid of. Her proposal to the teachers union during a collective bargaining session was brilliant: Either teachers could accept "tenure" with modest pay increases, or they could relinquish tenure and potentially receive massive pay increases based on performance. It was a brilliant masterstroke! I must say, I think this Michelle Rhee is one hell of a woman!

The union didn't even let her measure come up for a vote, fearing it would pass.

Meanwhile, enterprising charter schools, such as the Kipp academy, and boarding schools such as SEED in New York, are working -- operating outside the sphere of influence of the teachers unions.

David Guggenheim, the director of the film, told it like it is, and really targeted the fact that most political contributions from teachers unions go to Democrats. He wasn't being political, he was merely telling the truth. As such, we're greatly indebted to him. This is the same guy who directed the film, An Inconvenient Truth! He's certainly no raging conservative nut-job!

So here's my new position, and I don't think it's too radically different from my old one: I intend to really pound hard upon the leadership of the Milwaukee teachers union to push for the firing of poor teachers, and to drop any attempts to defend residency rules. Those unions should be defending the quality of education just as much, if not more, than the teachers themselves. I'll watch them like a hawk! After that, it depends on what the union itself does or has to say. If they do the right thing, all's well. If they don't...

Well, then I'll be forced to eat my slice of humble pie, and admit that, in his sheer incompetence, and primarily out of political malice, Scott Walker may just have accidentally done the right thing in breaking the teachers' union.

And I'll be there afterwards to help with the work of putting the union back together again, only better this time.