You can’t help but come away energized after listening to Ben Carson. Energized, not necessarily empowered. His clear and convincing proposal to provide an alternative to Obama’s healthcare plan starts with Health Care Savings Accounts, HSA’s, and makes us realize that the viewer can control his or her medical care to a much greater extent than many think possible. By providing that crucial supplement to a High-Deductible Health Plan, or HDHP, an HSA gives the taxpayer control. Not big government, not big insurance. How much to set side, how and where to spend it: you decide that. You take it from job to job and you roll over any unused amounts at year end. Yes, health is unpredictable and serious illness can be very costly. That’s why HDHP plans exist to essentially provide catastrophic insurance and there are still government and other options to cover any expenses left over. We have accepted the change from defined benefit to defined contributions when it comes to pension plans. And despite a financial crisis and a long recession, that process continues. The problem of making an informed choice applies both in pension plans and HSA’s and likely overwhelms many. But ask yourself; do you want an insurance bureaucrat or government employee limiting your choices or do you want to educate yourself about the options and make a reasonably informed choice? That is taking charge, and that is energizing.

But not necessarily empowering. Where does the term empowering come from? It seems to have its birth in social activism of a century ago, and that means the hard left in most cases. The term was coined in a book by Barbara H (not Barbara Probst Solomon) Solomon, Black Empowerment, published in 1976. In other words, the term empowerment comes from various applications of marxist liberation theory and how it was applied to gender and race and sexual orientation and other groups by left wing radicals trying to find their place in the 70’s. The term appears here to stay as it is adopted in a wider variety of settings, among corporate stakeholders, to use one example. Dr. Ben Carson does not need reminding of any of this; he will surely use the term empowerment. When he does, it means something very different from radical sociologists trying to gain converts. Few of us can match the talents of a brilliant mind like his. But we can share his faith that each of us can work towards solving the challenges in our lives. Reading up a little on his site, SaveOurHealthcare.org is one good one way to start. Dr. Ben Carson, take back empowerment! For all of us.

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau,(CFPB), is not even 3 years old, but it, or at least some of its employees, are getting quite a raise. Authorized by Dodd-Frank in 2010 and formed in July of 2011, its jurisdiction covers everything from banks and credit unions to mortgage-servicing operations, payday lenders and securities firms. Until recently, its employee ratings system used a 1 to 5 scale to rate workers and pay raises were based, in part at least, on this merit scale. The problems began when a survey revealed by American Banker showed that the 4’s and 5’s went to white employees in a higher proportion than black or hispanic employees. 75% versus 58% and 65%.

While perhaps statistically significant, these are not overwhelming differences but in the CFPB, alarm bells went off and audits were done to root out the supposed discrimination. A “systematic disadvantage to various categories of employees” was denounced by CFPB Director Richard Cordray. The solution? Give a 5 to all who earned a 3 or more in their ratings in 2012 and 2013. And that will mean about $5 million more in pay raises at the Bureau. More than just another retreat from merit and towards political correctness, it’s a pre-emptive pork barrel. How do you ensure a diverse collection of perspectives that embrace a multiplicity of viewpoints and engage committed stakeholders? You spread lots of cash around! Because if you don’t the steady drum beats will sound in various corners of the media and your newly minted Bureau will be sullied before it has even reached its third birthday. At least, that seems to have been Director Cordray’s fears. So the CFPB made sure that merit was more about who you are than what you achieve. And in doing so, cultural and ethnic identity were pushed to the front of the organization, rather than how well they are achieving what they were mandated to do. Protect Consumers in the financial sector … or perhaps from the financial sector. It is interesting to note that one of the early promoters of the Bureau was then Harvard professor Elizabeth Warren. Her long journey from free market adherent to prime supporter of a strictly regulated financial industry has already borne fruit; a government agency that spends most of its recent time and energy making sure pay raises are spread carefully around the office. Sounds a little like Wall Street with one small difference; in the latter if your work is just a 3 out of 5, you rarely last long.

The Anti-Defamation League’s recent survey on antisemitism around the globe throws up some interesting and disturbing data; over a billion people display a clear antisemitic bias in their responses. And the survey was unable to include Afghanistan, Iran and Pakistan for understandable reasons. In the Americas some countries surprise by the percentge of hostile views: 52% of Panamanians display antisemitic views for example. Argentina and Mexico come in at 24% and Chile is a disturbing 37%. Brazil is better, 16% are hostile, worse than peace loving Norway by … 1%. That’s right, 15 out of every 100 Norwegians display antisemitic views, far more than their neighbours in Sweden, at 4% one of the lowest in the world. The U.S. comes in at 9% while Canada — Australia and New Zealand display identical results — disappoints at 14%.

Why is Norway four times as anti-semitic as Sweden? It wouldn’t have to do with their status as dispensers of the coveted Nobel Peace Prize? Alfred Nobel, who died in 1896 after amassing a fortune in Oil and Armaments — dynamite and ballistite were his inventions, decreed in his will that a peace prize be part of his legacy and be awarded by a commitee of 5 individuals chosen by the Norwegian Parliament. Over its 100 year plus history, the award has been decided by the Norwegian Parliament, the Oslo University Faculty of Law and the Norwegian Nobel Institue. Since 1990, the Parliament has again taken control of the selection process. Why did Nobel choose Norway? It seems to have been political; the union between Sweden and Norway was being dissolved at the time and Sweden was seen to have a more militaristic tradition.

The prize has remained political, to say the least. So perhaps Norway feels it can cast a critical eye at the State of Israel for actually defending themselves in one the world’s most explicitly and ideologically hostile regions. Would Norwegians consider themselvs anti semitic? As prosperous, peaceful, well educated citizens of the world, they couldn’t possibly feel that they are biased or prejudiced, could they? Maybe Norwegians should spend more time in Sweden or Holland, (5%), and understand why Israel’s defence is a daily matter of survival.

The Senate’s quality of equal representation is a problem for President Obama. All the voters in New York and California, presumed liberal and Democrats in the majority by the frustrated Commander In Chief, only get two senators each. Just like Alaska or Wyoming, the latter state being the example Obama used at a fundraiser in Chicago this past week. Does the President feel that all that gridlock would magically unwind if Senate seats were apportioned by population, making the upper chamber more like the House of Representatives? One hopes his frustrations wouldn’t lead him that far, but it is clear that he is certainly not beyond criticising the Founding Fathers, and especially Roger Sherman, the man most responsible for the Connecticut or Great Compromise of 1787.

To resolve the split among states between the Virginia plan, which favored delegates based on a state’s population, and the New Jersey plan, which favored an equal number of delegates, the idea was arrived at to split what was to have been a single chamber into two houses. The lower chamber would have proportional representation and the upper, equal representation. The authors of this compromise were Roger Sherman and Oliver Ellsworth. Roger Sherman’s life is not merely inspriing, it is astonishing. A self-taught man who established himself at a young age in commerce and local politics in Connecticut, he was asked to read for the bar exam and ended up as justice of the Superior Court of Connecticut from which he departed to join Congress. He is the only person to sign The Declaration of Independence, The Articles of Association, The Articles of Confederation and The United States Constitution. He is,of course, a Founding Father and the internal checks and balances between the House of Representatives and the Senate are, in part, the work of his practicality and genius. The Constitution stands over two centuries later as a shimmering example of men like Roger Sherman and their genius, while other attempts at forging Democratic Representative Governments around the world have risen and fallen or collapsed before they could even get a good start.

Roger Sherman’s father, a parish minister whose personal library was the intellectual food for his son’s journey and who died long before he could witness his achievements, was educated at Harvard. Obama had to read some history while at Harvard we can presume. While complaining at that fundraiser in Chicago, perhaps he forgot Thomas Jeffreson’s famous words of introduction, ” This is Roger Sherman, of Connectict, a man who never said a foolish thing in his life.”

I have a confession: I graduated college a bright-eyed, optimistic liberal, who considered conservative views cruel and downright viscious. Ten years later, I now count myself among conservatives in many issues, and one, by far, is in dealing with teenagers.

Want a conservative educators advice on teenagers? Here you go: Don’t worry so much about students’ self-esteem. Yes, I can hear the protests of bleeding hearts right now, but have been in the trenches first-hand and dealt with thousands of students. A firm hand is far more effective than a limp one in the classroom. That’s not advice, that’s just common sense.

In fact, and I tell this to my students, this liberal overprotectiveness is a bit insulting for them. Quite literally, policy-makers in academia and educational theorists believe children are stupid, like a bunch of Pavlovian zombies. They are not. Children are much tougher and smarter than most people think, and underestimating their abilities to perceive and manipulate the system has led to most of our problems. Our current education system isn’t preparing them for life. It’s preparing them for Candyland.

Parents, teachers and those dealing with kids: When you talk to kids, don’t worry so much about saying things that might hurt their feelings. If they are doing something ridiculous, tell them to “Stop being stupid” (but don’t call them stupid…a big difference). If they cranked out in an essay in minutes, don’t tout the positives of it. Tell them “This is terrible.” That doesn’t mean been cruel to them, but don’t be afraid to teach them a lesson.

Their fragile minds aren’t as fragile as you think and honesty, for good or bad, goes a long way to earning their respect. Just like adults, kids respect an adult that is honest and tells them the truth. They like a straight-shooter.

On winning

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Filed Under General on May 21 

It’s taken me longer than times past to recover my willingness to engage in political discourse after the 2012 Presidential Election Cycle. I was honestly hopeful reason would prevail upon the American electorate and the collective would realize the fact the current administration had become an abject, unmitigated failure in every sense of the word. It was patently obvious to anyone who cared to look past the thin veneer of Team Obama that the President and everyone associated with him simply wasn’t up to the job of leading – let alone managing – the nation.

Election Day came and went and I was proven wrong. Americans, by and large, get the government they deserve. I don’t know what America did to deserve Team Obama, but it must’ve been some gigantic karmic cluster.

But I digress.

There are many reasons why Mitt Romney does not today occupy the Big Chair. Running against The One was always going to be an uphill battle even under the best of circumstances. Mitt needed a lot of help, and indeed a lot of luck, to run the table and send Obama back to Chicago, Hawaii, or wherever his Presidential Library is going to be. It was going to be hard enough fighting the liberal, left leaning Democratic Party and its publicity machine commonly known as the Main Stream Media.

What Mitt didn’t need, but got far too much of, was friendly fire. It came from all corners. Principal among the culprits were those hard-line, hard-right “conservatives” who constantly sniped at Mitt for not leaning far enough right for their liking. Yeah, I’m talking to the Paul-pods (both Ron and Rand) out there. You’re not helping the nation by publicly fighting an intra-party civil war while the rest of us are trying to win an election.

Right there with the friendly-fire people are the Tea-Party fueled whack-jobs who insist on drawing attention to themselves with asinine comments that give the MSM ammunition with which to attack the party’s standard bearer. Yes, I’m talking to you, Todd Akin. You took what was an eminently winnable Missouri senate race and pried defeat from the jaws of victory by introducing the concept of “legitimate rape” into a presidential campaign. Ditto Richard Mourdock in Indiana. Now we’re stuck with two hard left Democrats for six years. Thanks a lot guys. Please find your way to the political wilderness and don’t come back.

Now I realize the Tea Party comes from all sorts of pissed off Republicans and Libertarians who feel betrayed by the “establishment”. I also realize the vast majority of Tea Party people are not insane. That said, I have to look at the Tea Party track record. Tea Party candidates are the main reason why Dusty Harry Reid still controls the US Senate. Had the Republican party put forth more palatable candidates than Sharron Angle or Christine O’Donnell, we’d be looking at a dramatically different political landscape in DC.

Those, Dear Reader, are facts. Facts are stubborn things.

My point, and I do have one, is this: I’m tired of losing. I’m tired of seeing an incompetent President auger this nation into the ground with the help of a willing Senate and lapdog media. What’s more – I’m tired of my party shooting itself in the foot before the race even starts by a vocal minority demanding intellectual and political “purity” from candidates that make them unpalatable in a general election.

The Republican party needs to put forth candidates with the ability to win elections. If we don’t win elections we can’t govern. If the Tea Party is content to snipe from the sidelines as yet another  generation of left leaning progressives take the reins of power than it should continue to put forth the same caliber of candidates that it did in 2010 and 2012.

I’m heartened by the results of this week’s primaries in Kentucky and Georgia. Michael Barone – who has forgotten more about ground level politics than I will ever learn, looked at the results and said:

I think these Republican voters concluded that voting for candidates who stand up on chairs and yell, “Hell no!” would produce election results in which Republicans would lack the votes to do anything other than stand up on chairs and yell, “Hell no!”

Republican primary voters are casting their ballots in a way that suggests they’re trying to produce policy outcomes — in particular, repeal of Obamacare — and not just choosing the candidate who most colorfully articulates their anger and frustration: candidates who will sit down in their chairs and vote to repeal and replace Obamacare.

Winning elections is where the rubber meets the road. I’m all about winning now – mostly because the view from the mezzanine is getting pretty old.

Here endeth the lesson.

Net neutrality is causing a fuss lately. A recent FCC ruling would allow the large internet service providers like Comcast and Verizon to charge more for a faster lane. To those opposing the ruling, it’s the end of the internet as we know it and all consumers and smaller content providers face life in the slow lane, bumping along a tired little dirt track while those with deep pockets zoom by on the freeway. Large content providers like Google, Microsoft, and Facebook are also against the ruling. The trouble is, those opposing the recent ruling — the FCC split along party lines with Democrats for and Republicans against — is they fall into two very distinct camps: those who want less regulation and those who want to turn the internet into a utility to ensure equal access for all. The Republicans on the commision felt it had overstepped it’s jurisdictional limits, intruding into what should be the prerogative of Congress and that regulations should be kept to a minimum. The tech utopians, on the other hand, want all sorts of regulation to ensure that we all get treated fairly by that enormous, diverse, sprawling tangle of networks.

So will most of us users get “pushed onto the internet dirt road” in the words of Craig Aaron, president of Free Press? In the first place, one wonders if it will be more a case of the telcos building those fast lanes right to your front door, when perhaps you just want a one laner to browse on bird watching in the Gulf Coast for example. Another compelling argument is raised by Timothy Lee in a paper he wrote a few years ago and is available at the Cato Institute’s website. He states that the intelligence and the functionality of the internet resides in it’s end users. The hubs and fiber-optic lines owned by a Comcast or Verizon are just not able to control decisions made by millions of their customers with their laptops or tablets or PC’s. They call it the end to end principle and the internet’s short and explosive history is full of examples of how powerful it is. So maybe Comcast and Verizon should go ahead and build those fast lanes, (assuming the FCC ruling is not overturned in court), and see just who ends up benefiting. Remember, the internet has never been a stagnant, zero-sum game, and after they build those expensive new lanes, you never know who will show up to play, or even enjoy a free ride.

On Friday, the opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) routed the ruling Indian National Congress (INC) to gain an outright majority, the first time a single party has won a majority in 30 years and the greatest electoral defeat ever experienced by the INC. This is seen as a response to increasing corruption scandals in India as well as anemic economic growth and with this victory, opposition leader Narendra Modi will soon become the new Indian prime minister. This presents an opportunity for both the U.S. and India. The relationship between the U.S. and India can best be described as at times ambiguous and at others an afterthought. Now though, with the growing importance of Asia, our “Asian Pivot” and with a new government in India, Washington must take advantage of this situation and approach the world’s most populous democracy with arms open.

Historically, Indias relations with other countries have been all over the map. During the Cold War India was a founding member of the Non-Alignment Pact but developed a close relationship with the Soviet Union, a relationship that continues with Russia today. Yet India maintained relationships with the U.S., European states and others; it can be said India is a prime example of a country that eschews the idea of entering into entangling alliances. In recent years, India has sought greater connections with disparate nations owing to a changing regional environment. The rise of China has led India to seek a balancing coalition against it, while the deterioration of U.S. -Pakistan relations over the years has created an open window for greater engagement with the U.S.

The Bush administration made several advances towards India including reversing the U.S. opposition to India’s nuclear program, assisting in tsunami search and rescue efforts, and promoting easier trade. A variety of factors helped to further this relationship and many felt positive by President Obamas trip to India in late 2010 when he backed India’s bid for a permanent seat on the UN Security Council. But little has been done since then to bolster the relationship. Despite the numerous shared concerns held by both nations, and the “Asian Pivot,” India has been practically ignored while certain events have served to set back the relationship. Furthermore, PM-elect Modi has been essentially blacklisted by the U.S. since the early 2000s due to charges of his involvement, or lack of in violent sectarian riots that killed more than 1,000.

Regardless of these problems, the U.S. must act now and embrace India. We can’t ignore its leadership which has been provided an overwhelming mandate by the people. India is the second-most populous country in the world, the most populous of any democracy; it is an emerging power with an economy that is currently eleventh in the world by nominal GDP. There is no reason why the U.S. shouldn’t make enhanced engagement with India a top priority. In a time when the Asia-Pacific region is growing in importance and what some may say has already overshadowed Europe in economic importance, it is vital that the U.S. engage countries such as India. To fail to do so will only serve to set this country back.

Boko Haram may be our fault according to Richard Dowden, Executive Director of the Royal African Society and a British journalist with years of experience covering the continent. He doesn’t say it outright, but in his opinion piece at CNN’s site he lists the inequality and pitiful lack of development as vital factors in radicalizing what was, according to him, a relatively peaceful Islamic movement a decade or so ago. After pointing fingers at the Nigerian government for it’s corruption and lack of interest in the north of the country, one can feel the very visible hand of liberal guilt waving an angry finger in our general direction. His thesis that development needs to accompany any military mission to impoverished corners of the world is more than reasonable, taking into account the purely advisory role of U.S. officials in this case. One must ask, however, what are the possibilities of sustained, orderly development when armed Islamic groups are roaming the land imposing sharia law by terrorism? If previous Nigerian governments had only invested more, much more, of their oil wealth in hospitals, schools and other infrastructure, would a group that emerged in 1995 and seemed dedicated from the get go to jihad have melted away in the glow of social entitlements? Had Nigeria constructed schools and hospitals and more on a scale similar to say, Saudi Arabia, would Christian girls now be studying peacefully and happily at schools across the north?

Nigeria is now Africa’s largest economy and with a population north of 170 million, also its largest. “Sixty percent live in poverty” in Dowden’s words. That’s about 100 million people living in poverty. Let’s assume that Boko Haram have several thousand active members. Double up and suppose it’s 10 thousand. That would mean that 99.99& of those who struggle on a daily basis to survive and dream of advancing do not engage in radical Islamic terrorism. And Christian charities who operate on the ground in Nigeria providing everything from clean drinking water to schools, where young Nigerians can better themselves, and yes build their faith, sometimes seem like the only bulwark against the rampaging thugs of Boko Haram. Pope Francis, in a recent meeting with UN officials, called for ” the legitimate redistribution of economic benefits by the state.” Does the former Peronista, perhaps a bout of youthful enthusiasm, have a fondness for large, state run programs funded by your tax dollars? Pope Francis has shown a certain sympathy for the hard left who he seems to want to guide rather than confront the way John Paul II did. Would Francis have the UN solve Nigeria’s problems and pacify Boko Haram? Imagine your tax dollars flowing from Washington to the UN’s maze of fiefdoms and then overseas and into the waiting coffers of Nigeria’s government. Is that the way to stop Boko Haram? Where would you put your money? That is, aside from those tax dollars paying for U.S. officials and security forces already over there, desperately trying to help find the missing girls.

The Congregation of the People of Tradition for Proselytism and Jihad, more commonly known as Boko Haram has thrust itself into the media spotlight as of late with its kidnapping of over 230 schoolgirls. This group seeks to end Westernization (while using weapons that are products of the west) in a region encompassing parts of Nigeria, Cameroon, and Niger while working towards installing a “pure” Islamic state ruled by sharia. I’m the type that believes in respecting the ideals of any group, even those that I’m opposed to because who am I to judge the beliefs of others; in this case though, I see this as a particularly despicable group of animals. As a sign of solidarity with the girls, First Lady Michelle Obama tweeted a photo of her holding a sign saying “#BringBackOurGirls.” You tell them First Lady!

So why were these girls captured by this ever so noble group? Well its leader, Abubakar Shekau believes that girls should be denied an education and should instead be married even as young as nine. Since these poor girls defied that, they should now be sold into slavery as Shekau states “slavery is allowed in my religion.” Even sadder, most of these girls are not Muslim but Christian and one must fear ultimately what their fate will be. And this violence isn’t new for them. Driven by fanatics, they’ve killed over 10,000 Muslims and Christians in the past decade in their quest to create a state that contributes nothing to society as a whole.

What should be done? The options at least for the United States are limited. We are providing assistance in finding the abducted girls while military assistance is off the table unless requested by the Nigerian government, a government which mind you had advanced warning of the attack but was unable to respond. Furthermore, morale in the Nigerian army is low; just recently, Nigerian troops fired on a Major General who was blamed for a Boko Haram ambush that killed several Nigerian soldiers. The international community, in the west has been increasing its support against Boko Haram while several high profile Muslim groups and leaders have condemned the group as misguided and acting in contradiction to Islam. Indeed, it has been reported that this group operates with relatively little external support or connections to other Islamic terrorist groups.

So what we have are a group of absolutely crazed fanatics, operating in contradiction to Islam who are either driven by blood lust or borderline intelligence or both. Absolutely disgusting. Now as for the First Lady, her tweet is part of a global campaign for the group to let these girls go. I’m sorry, but a tweet doesn’t cut it in this case. Despite our options being limited, I believe the First Lady can do far more than a simple tweet. Bear in mind, she is the mother of two young girls who are currently in school. I’m tired of this Administration screaming about how we must be respectful to others and that we must be more diplomatic; what we need to do is stop mincing our words. This is a group that deserves neither; what it deserves is to be liquidated. A tweet more along those lines I believe is what this situation calls for.

My thoughts and prayers are with these poor girls and their families. A truly heinous event.

For Tiffani Eaton, the sweeping reforms that Common Core standards are imposing were less of a concern to her than a more immediate and non-metaphorical use of a broom. The Detroit teacher was recently fired for using a broomstick to break up a violent fight between two students in her classroom. The event was captured on a cellphone camera and that video resulted in the Pershing High teacher being fired. The good news is the immediate outpouring of support for Tiffani Eaton. The principal of Pershing High School, Gregory King, criticized the lack of a proper investigation and stated “our teachers are called upon to the impossible every day: counselor, security guard, teacher and more.” So who fired Eaton if her own principal defends her actions?

The Education Achievement Authority, or the EAA, is the governing body of the Education Achievement System, a Michigan statewide school system for failing schools. It was created by Republican Governor Rick Snyder to basically take command of failing schools in the Detroit Public School System. Now, Gov. Snyder is a very smart man; he had three degrees by the time he was 23 and has had great success in the business world as well. Something had and has to be done about schools that fail to produce competent graduates. But it seems to come hand in hand with something of a war zone mentality, and a top down approach. Especially in Tiffani Eaton’s classroom where a fight broke out over an article of clothing apparently and, as the video shows, got rough quickly. What is the official policy regarding such a situation? Call security and stand back. If this sounds a little like the code of conduct for an official at a maximum security prison, might that be because some — and only some and right across the economic and social spectrum — of students have bought in to a convict mentality? It’s not your fight, don’t get involved, she had it coming to her … The language and the behavior of a convict is something some kids mimic intentionally if, thank goodness, imperfectly. Now, we can argue endlessly about the why and the how this happens, but happen it does. A teacher swinging a broomstick becomes a lot more understandable in such an environment, especially when she’s trying to break up the fight before someone gets badly hurt. She did call security by the way, and they took their time coming, perhaps due to faulty walkie talkies.

Officials at the EAA have reinstated Eaton, perhaps being painfully aware themselves of how tough it is for a teacher in a violent classroom,or perhaps because the firing, aside from being patently unjust, was not preceded by due process. Let’s hope the EAA shows some flexibility in setting standards for the teachers under their care and realize that step one for the EAA should be getting some students to stop behaving like violent thugs.

My son can’t take his eyes off my smartphone or my tablet or the television, and he’s only four months old. It terrifies me, since I make my living writing for the Internet. I know exactly what’s out there and while a lot of it’s good, a lot of is very, very bad. And I’m not the only parent that should worry.

New research conducted by Family Kids and Youth, an education research company, shows that 4 out of 10 children consider themselves “addicted to the Internet.” The trend is only increasing, as well as expanding into younger generations. Online bullying has become a buzz word, but for many kids, it’s a reality. Adults say horrible things to one another online, and to a child’s fragile ego, this virtual torture is real. They haven’t learned to “shut it off.” Teaching that is a parent’s responsibility. There’s no great trick to it.

Don’t allow your child to use Facebook or social media until you know, beyond a doubt, they are ready for it. Don’t give them a device until you know they can handle it. Maintain total access to their devices, including phones, tablets and computers. If your son or daughter insists their privacy is important, give them a diary and pen and tell them you’ll stay out of that. That might seem intrusive to some parents, but there’s such a thing as too much freedom for children, something many of today’s parents don’t realize. Kids are kids. They are not adults. You need to realize this as much as your child does. They have as many rights as you let them and no more.

To be honest, I almost feel like a hypocrite writing this article, considering I spend hours upon hours on the Internet, researching, writing, communicating and, yes, wasting time. That’s my job. Ironically, I almost never socialize online and prefer communications through texts or good old-fashioned phones calls. It strikes a good balance, I think, and has situated the Internet as a tool in my mind and not a world.

I can only hope my son makes the same distinction. In the mean time, his hands stay off. Maybe when he’s 18.

Common Core, Quo Vadis?

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Filed Under Latest News on May 12 

Attacks on the Common Core (CC) curriculum are coming fast and furious from a variety of directions. Several states like Missouri and Indiana, and many more, are deciding whether to opt out and parents around the country are angry and students are frustrated. The criticisms are many but can be grouped around several focus points: Botched implementation, inadequate methods and standards in math, and the forced introduction of a radical social justice agenda that nationalizes the education system and tramples state and local rights. From Mexican American comedian Louis C.K. to Michelle Malkin, commentators have come out against CC and it’s problematic introduction.

Who actually put together CC? According to Dean Kalahar that honor goes to Achieve, a group that worked with the National Governor’s Association and was funded by The Gates Foundation. The goal was to promote “college and career readiness for all students.” Several decades of studies showing underperformance by American students compared with peers in other countries, like Japan and Taiwan, created a building anxiety amongst educators and academics, and some in the business community, that the country was falling behind. George W. Bush introduced standards testing with No Child Left Behind and now we have Common Core. What went wrong? All the criticisms are worth listening to but beyond the sometimes disturbing details of how CC is changing the classroom is a basic contradiction in CC itself. What purports to raise Elementary and High School standards is also a vehicle for progressive, even radical, reshaping of how children are educated. From apparently encourgaging children to express anger as a first step to social action, to allowing wrong answers in math as long as the student can explain his or her logic, we have a clear attempt to encourage the type of thinking that contradicts the goal of graduating students able to compete successfully in the global economy. Education Secretary Arne Duncan’s jab at “white mothers” is hardly reassuring in this matter. Diversity mandated from an elitist core is not the type of diversity that made the nation the cradle of innovation and creativity for the entire world. If it’s left standing, CC advocates have to decide if they want to raise standards in a flexible manner that recognizes local needs or impose federally mandated political correctness on students across the country. In either case, voters may decide, governor by governor, if they agree.

Could you apply to become a DEA agent? Nearly one in two wouldn’t even pass the admissions process, unless your youthful experiments with marijuana were deemed limited and experimental by the DEA. Over one in ten Americans who have or will consume cocaine would be better advised to not even bother. As Congress and the Controlled Substances Act face off against local State laws that allow medical marijuana use, we are faced with a medical, a law enforcement, and a public policy conflict. It used to be, and still is for some, a moral conflict as well, but this view is far less prevalent as measured by recent polls. Nearly half even favor decriminalizing recreational use of cannibis. Within the libertarian community there is support for the relaxing of restraints on this type of drug use, both for fiscal reasons, (the costly war on drugs), and under the banner of individual freedom as well.

Is the right of any individual, according to this view, to put what they wish into their bodies unconditional? Clearly not; even leaving aside the problem of minors consuming drugs, and not just cannabis, we place limits on drug use as a matter of social norms. Try coming to work at an air traffic control center high on crack, even in the insane case that it were legal. It may have happened, but one hopes any such event resulted in immediate dismisal. Try coming to any job high on any drug or drunk. Try consuming alcohol openly if you are pregnant. Beyond the debate over legality, society places conditions on drug and alchohol use as a natural reaction to the powerful effect they produce on those who consume them. Your landlord might evict you if you consume or grow marijana, for example. This is relevant to the battle between those states that have decriminalized cannabis use for medical purposes, (for now), and Congress and Federal law enforcement authorities. In a paper available at the Cato Institute’s site, Professor Robert Mikos of Vanderbilt University outlines in detail a legal way forward for liberalizing states. It deals with the anti-commandeering limitation on federal supremacy over state laws when the two are in conflict. By linking private, medical use of marijuana to possible, even likely, use of cannabis originally for medical use in interstate commerce — in other words for drug trafficking — the Supreme Court in Gonzales v. Raich deemed that medical marijuana use was “hopelessly intertwined” in the professor’s words with drug trafficking. This would seem to mean that the Controlled Substances Act preempts state attempts to decriminalize cannabis.

Not so fast says Professor Mikos. He introduces, or reminds us of, the anticommandeering constraint on the ability of Congress to preempt state laws. “Congress may neither dislodge states from nor keep states out of the state of nature” according to the professor. The state of nature defined as those private and societal forces which shape behavior and where “government has no distinct influence on behavior.” And guess what? In the state of nature, marijuana use would be “rampant.” In other words, Congress or Federal law officials are guilty of unconstitutionally overturning or disregarding state laws allowing for the decriminalization of cannabis, according to this view. If at some point in the future, the Supreme Court rules according to the principles outlined by Professor Mikos, it may mean that as a landlord you may have to tolerate a grow op in your building. And we may have another enormous medical problem that will saddle society with costs similar, if not quite as deep or widespread, to those that tobacco and alchohol cause. And maybe at that point, society will deem cannabis, whose smoke may contain over 50 carcinogens, almost as evil as say, tobacco.

The Man With MERS

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Filed Under Healthcare, Latest News on May 8 

The first case of MERS, or Middle East Respiratory Syndrome, has arrived in the U.S.;more specifically, a clinic in the Chicago Area where a health care worker has been hospitalized after a trip to Saudi Arabia. Officials won’t release too many details about the man, but an invited expert on FOX described him as a doctor who had travelled to the peninsula with the express purpose of treating MERS patients. Dr. Ian Lipkiin, a Columbia University MERS expert, stated that it was impossible to isolate the virus over in Saudi Arabia “given the interconnectedness of our world.” So far the virus, which may come from camels or bats, has killed over 100 of the 400 or so patients who have become infected. That’s a very high rate of fatalities, around 30%. The good news is that it appears not to be easily transmitted from patient to patient, requiring close contact, although it does seem to be airborne.

Does Dr. Lipkin know the Indiana man who is in isolation in a clinic in that state? The community of doctors who are experts in the disease and/or have treated MERS patients cannot be a very large one; not yet at least. Is the spread of a new virus always inevitable as Dr. Lipkin suggests? Or is something else at play? Do experts in a pathology have a right to go to the source of a new disease to study it asap despite the fact that they may become transmitters themselves? How does society, or more precisely any given nation, respond to such new viruses? On the one hand, we want to gather as much information as possible on the disease, and who better than a health care professional, usually a doctor, to undertake such a tricky task? The data they may gather and relay to places like the CDC can and usually does save lives, sometimes many lives. But do we have to passively assume that any new disease that emerges anywhere on the planet will end up in the U.S. and there is little one can do? It seems that on occasion scientific curiosity, both noble and useful, conflicts with public health. In the case of our anonymous health care worker, it may have been wise to have required him to undergo a period of isolation before allowing him back in order to ensure that he hadn’t picked up the virus. Better to have such a requirement in the early stages before it becomes logistically impossible and a constraint on people’s freedoms.

I am no fan of my representative, Michael Grimm (NY-11). I have seen him as a man motivated more by photo ops and television appearances and stroking his own ego than for the task at hand. Additionally, he has been marred by scandals and unanswered questions dating back to his first primary campaign. Recently he was indicted after a two-plus year investigation by the DoJ on 20 federal charges. Unfortunately, I must question the charges against him by the federal government.

Originally, Rep. Grimm was accused of campaign finance impropriety linked to a scandal-scarred Rabbi who himself has just been offered a plea deal in Israel for a bribery case involving a top Israeli police official. For over two years the federal government has investigated Rep. Grimm on campaign charges all the while additional accusations appeared about other acts of questionable behavior, dealings, and associations.

Finally, in late April after all this time, Rep. Grimm was indicted on 20 counts including perjury, obstruction of justice, and tax evasion revolving around a health food restaurant he had prior to his congressional career. Essentially he is accused of paying workers in cash to circumvent several taxes, of actually planning this and using managers to assist him, of hiring undocumented workers, and of lying to federal agents when questioned. I must ask though, where are the charges in connection to the accusations that were originally levied against him?

I’m sorry, but as much as I dislike him, I feel unsatisfied with these charges and actually begin to feel that certain figures decided to launch a quest to destroy Rep. Grimm no matter what. If he is found guilty which I personally would not doubt for a second, then he must pay the price. But what he is accused of can probably be charged against a great many of restaurant owners in New York City; hiring undocumented workers, paying off the books to avoid taxes. That in no way makes it right but over 2 years were spent and who knows what sums of money spent in investigating something that leads to this. Furthermore, Rep. Grimm was indicted just after the deadline for replacing him on the ballot, greatly limiting the chances to replace him if his reelection campaign spirals out of control or he is found guilty.

Rep. Grimm is the only GOP representative in New York City, is an incredible fundraiser, and in his last election, faced an impotent Democratic challenger. The left wants this seat and in so much, there is the chance that certain prosecutors and investigators may’ve been overzealous in going after Grimm. There is also the chance that the feds know Grimm is guilty of what he was originally accused of and have more than enough evidence but dug so deep so as to indict him on something that wouldn’t come back to them. Rep. Grimm is a former FBI agent who had an interesting and storied career but who also left before retirement, some say “escorted out.”

Whatever the case, Rep. Grimm has been accused of campaign finance scandals, indecent sexual acts, mob ties, blackmail, embezzlement, and was taped verbally threatening the physical well being of a reporter. After over two years of investigation he is indicted on charges that are in no way rare in New York City and not connected to campaign finance. I’m sorry, there is more to this story and if Rep. Grimm is to go down, I hope it is not due to these charges but what his opponents originally levied against him.

Iran, Iraq, Sudan, Pakistan, Afghanistan…and (as of May 1st) Brunei, a small country in Southeast Asia–These countries are all dominated by sharia law, a legal system based on the Quran and scholarly interpretations of Muslim leaders. For Westerners, this system of laws can seem harsh if not downright barbaric. Now sharia law is being established in Brunei. For those not in the know, its oil fields make Brunei the fifth-richest nation in the world and the only country other than Libya to have no national debt. In this particular case, size really doesn’t matter.

Delving into sharia law could take a college semester, so I’ll run through an example of ‘due process’ under this Draconian law, which is most often enforced by religious policemen, or mutaween. First, a crime is reported by two to four eyewitnesses or by a confession. The eyewitnesses, of course, can only be adult Muslim men. Even if these criteria aren’t met, a judge can still impose sentencing without enough evidence. The range of crimes range from adultery to theft, but the crimes most shocking to Westerners are the subtle ones. For example, a male doctor cannot examine a female patient, under any circumstances, without a family member present. In 2013, a Afghan doctor forgot this law, and both he and his female patient were brutally stoned by a mob. The fate of two is unknown, but many suspect the doctor either died or fled the country after recovering.

To be fair, there are many levels of sharia law, and countries don’t adopt ALL aspects of it. Some allow citizens to choose sharia law’s application, and some only use it in regard to civil instances.

However, the question is how far should the U.S. go to understand and appreciate a foreign country’s religious customs, even when those customs are downright barbaric? We’re not talking a different idol or different language. We’re talking actions that are so distasteful to Americans that, if committed in the U.S., would result in a life sentence or even death for the instigator. How can we tolerate a country that holds these same individuals up as models of righteousness?

Simple. We can’t.

By no means do I agree with what Donald Sterling said. He encouraged his narcissistic girlfriend to avoid African-Americans and that’s a deplorable thing for anyone to say. But for the longest-running owner of an NBA team, you’d think they at least wait a few days before running him out of town on a rail. They didn’t.
They labeled him, then promptly cut him off from the NBA. It’s only a matter of time before he’s forced to sell his team. I am not saying those steps are excessive. In light of his position, they are most likely entirely necessary. But the speed with which they were enacted hints that accusers were almost waiting in the shadows. To me, it’s like everyone is trying to show how racist they AREN’T by imposing harsher and harsher words on Sterling. The only level-headed comment I heard on Sterling was by basketball legend Charles Barkley: “…you can’t have this guy making statements like that … (if it’s Sterling on the recording), (Silver) has to suspend and fine him immediately.”

Notice Barkley first wanted to ensure it was Sterling that made the comments and then suggested a fine or suspension. Not crucifiction.

Everyone has someone in the family that has a racist streak. A grandfather that slips out a racist joke during Christmas, or some uncle that makes a crack about homosexuals. We roll our eyes or frown with disapproval and say “He comes from a different time.” We don’t like it, and we don’t really tolerate it, but we don’t immediately tar and feather them for saying it.

Sterling didn’t even get a day in court. Within days, his thirty-year career comes to a half and people are lining up to discuss what a horrible man he is. No one mentioned getting him sensitivity training, rehabilitation or therapy. They just want to see the man burn and light the candle of their self-righteousness off the flames. A little melodramatic, I know, but that’s nothing compared to the way he’s being lambasted on the airwaves.

Flip Flops in Florida

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Filed Under Latest News, Policy on May 5 

As the Florida Legislature winds up its session by passing legislation giving in-state tuition for DREAMers, students who were brought into the country illegally as children, Republican Governor Rick Scott and his Democratic opponent Charlie Crist have been accusing each other of letting down Florida’s Hispanic voters, who make up nearly 15% of the population. After campaigning on tough immigration laws in 2010 and then vetoing a bill to give DREAMers driver’s licences in 2013, Gov. Scott changed his tune in the last year or so. First he decided that children of illegal immigrants born in the state deserve tuition breaks and then in February of this year he admitted he would “certainly consider” giving DREAMers tuition breaks. By the middle of April, he was standing shoulder to shoulder with Jeb Bush and Bob Martinez, or at least issuing a joint statement with the two former Republican Governors, fully approving in-state tuition for students who had “spent their childhood here in Florida.” Democratic opponent Charlie Crist, who was running as a Republican at the time, opposed the in-state tuition for illegal immigrants back in 2006. He now supports the legislation.

The reduced tuition fees in question are less than a third of those paid by out of state students, like someone born in Georgia who would like to attend college in Florida, for example. Is this charity, or an investment in Florida’s future, or is this just vote buying? The flip flops that Crist and Scott engaged in indicate that votes are what counts in every sense. Inside the Hispanic community, how much does this issue matter to Cuban Americans as opposed to immigrants from Central or South America who arrived without following the law? As the Hispanic vote gains clout, and it is, what added entitlements will be demanded by them? Florida declared English as its official language in 1988 while a Miami-Dade county ordinance declaring itself bilingual has been passed, overturned and then reinstated. Doral’s mayor, who is from Venezuela, attempted to make Spanish the city’s second language. He was rebuffed by fellow council members; all women, all Latinas from Cuba and Mexico. Maybe they understand that coming to America means learning to work and study in English, and maybe those who came illegally with their parents will someday understand that in-state tuition is a substantial gift that they are receiving at the expense of other deserving students.

Christian missionaries have never had an easy time in China. Since the first Christians arrived around 635 AD, they have been occasionally tolerated and mostly persecuted by various emperors who feared their effect on the general population. So perhaps the destruction of a Christian church in Wenzhou is not just a Communist government crackdown on freedom of worship. Sanjiang church was a government approved project, a state sponsored Protestant place of worship under the so-called “Three Self Patriotic Movement.” It seems, however, after a tour by Zhejiang Party Secretary Xia Baolong, who declared the temples “too conspicuous”, a campaign to demolish them is underway. The method, as a spokesman for the proganda department of the relevant county stated, is of course to accuse them of code violations. And what better way to assure that they comply with building standards regarding size and height than to bring out the bulldozers?

Why should we care as long as China keeps producing cheap manufactured goods for the rest of the world? Beyond the fact that there are estimated to be over 60 million Christians in the country — this should not be about numbers but the fact they could easily populate a country in Europe shows the dimension of the repression — this is clearly about freedom. The freedom to worship is at the heart of American society, in the absurd case that anyone needed reminding, and what is happening in China is symptomatic of the controls the communist government in Beijing uses to keep itself firmly in charge of the population. When America opened up it’s economy to the Chinese several decades ago it did so in the hope that it would lead to greater freedom in the Asian giant, as well as providing, (let’s be honest), the opportunity for enormous profits for American firms. Not everyone has profited in their dealings with the Chinese regime but a lot of wealth has been created, some of it even in the West. Let us hope, and pray, that a signal of clear support for the beleaguered Christian community in Wenzhou comes not just from Christians but from the government as well. Would that put some short term profits at risk? Likely, but over the longer term, freedom of worship is the only way forward for China – morally and economically by the way. Let’s help them understand that.