Thursday, August 18, 2005

Political Goofups

I was checking on InstaPundit and he referenced one of his own articles about the Department of Homeland Security. He makes a very good case that the concept is a joke and will do nothing to improve Security.

While there, I noticed another story that was even more interesting. It was an article talking about how Democrats need to recapture the religious voter. It said Democrats can't just change the subject and try to get religious and moral voters to vote Democrat for some other reason then morals. I totally agree. There is no reason why Democrats can't capture the religious vote. Personally, I don't see how anyone that considers themselves a moral or religious person could vote Republican. This line pretty much sums it up: Democrats believe in God and lead moral lives every bit as much as Republicans do. To suggest the contrary is simply a lie.

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Bush's Instability

I found this post interesting. I have no way of knowing how accurate it is, but it appears to be credible.

Quotes I found particularly intriguing and plausible:

Dr. Frank diagnosed the President as a “paranoid meglomaniac” and “untreated alcoholic” whose “lifelong streak of sadism, ranging from childhood pranks (using firecrackers to explode frogs) to insulting journalists, gloating over state executions and pumping his hand gleefully before the bombing of Baghdad” showcase Bush’s instabilities. ... “He fits the profile of a former drinker whose alcoholism has been arrested but not treated.”

Friday, August 12, 2005

Iraq Constitution

I agree with everything in this New York Time Opinion.

I don't have a problem with arbitrary deadlines. Sometimes it's required to get something accomplished. But if the deadline is truly arbitrary, there should be the ability to delay it if progress is being made. I think that applies here. Besides, I think the deadline may have been set too early to begin with. We are talking about writing a document that needs to last a long time and can form a stable government in a volatile region. Something like that should take a while to draft. However, this is apparently just a first draft, not the final product. So sticking to the deadline at the expense of a weak document might be acceptable or even desirable.

Federal Government with autonomous regions in Iraq would be a recipe for disaster and would lead to civil war. They should produce a document that only contains things agreed upon so far and continue to make changes later. That's basically what the Framers of our Constitution did. Of course, them failing to resolve the issues of slavery and state's rights did lead to a Civil War. But they were doing something that had never been done before. They had no successful examples to draw from and democracy at the time was considered a form of government doomed to failure. Iraq has plenty of examples to emulate or avoid. It's crucial that Iraq form a stable government. We can't bring our troops home until they do. If they create a government that is on the edge of civil war or too heavily influenced by Americans, we'll never be able to get our troops out of there.

I Never understand why people object to elections by refusing to participate, as the Sunnis did in the Iraq election. That makes no sense whatsoever. It's a way to guarantee your interests will not be represented. I think the Sunnis are realizing that and will participate in the next election. Therefore, no permanent constitution should be formed until a new election can be held.

On another note, Bush is being placed under pressure to withdraw from Iraq. Although I strongly feel we do not belong there, we can't withdraw. We took down a working government for no good reason, so now we have to stick around until a new one is on it's feet. If anything, we should increase our troops there to get the job done. Except I'm not sure if more troops would help much. Not to mention that you have to get these troops from somewhere, something that's not likely to happen until you create some sort of draft. Pretty tough to get volunteers willing to die for a war that a majority of Americans and vast majority of world believes should have never been started and does nothing to improve our security at home.

Thursday, August 11, 2005

Bush and Pork

Does Bush ever do anything right? If he does, I haven't seen it. He signed the biggest spending bill ever, despite it being at least 36 Billion dollars above the cap at which he promised to veto. He has never vetoed anything - why should he start now?

Twenty Five Billion of the total 295 billion is pork barrel spending, according to Newsweek. That means at least 8% of the total cost is money spent on pet projects that benefit individual states or even smaller regions and don't benefit the federal tax payer at all. This is why most people want the line item veto, so that the President can remove crap like that from a bill without dumping the whole thing. They passed a bill during Clinton's term that gave the president this power, but it needs to be a Constitutional Amendment. I don't know if it should be a Presidental power, however. It should be some sort of Constitutional Committee that reviews bills to make sure they are constitutional and that all of the bill is consistent with the intent of the bill. Of couse, ideally, the legislators should actually Read the bills and vote down pork amendments and create internal rules to prevent pork. That doesn't even require Constitutional Amendment. But apparently that's not possible.

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

Bush's War

The American public is finally starting to realize/admit that the Iraq War was a mistake. A USA Today poll showed the following:
An unprecedented 57% majority say the war has made the USA more vulnerable
to terrorism. A new low, 34%, say it has made the country safer. The question is
critical because the Bush administration has long argued that the invasion of
Iraq was undertaken to make the USA safer from terrorism.

I knew right from the beginning that invading Iraq was a Bush/Cheney/Rumsfeld personal war that had nothing to do with fighting terrorism. The sanctions and UN restrictions worked, Hussein was a powerless ruler of a destitute country. He was all talk with no ability to carry out any action against it's own neighbors, yet alone the United States. This is not hindsight, I could tell that from my armchair since after the 1991 war. By invading Iraq, all Bush managed to do was create more enemies. More enemies equal greater threat to our safety. Not to mention thousands of US soldiers and Iraqi civilians killed to satisfy an American Administration's agenda.

The thing I'm curious about: How long before the generally accepted consensus is that George W Bush was one of the worst presidents in American history. I think he's even worse then Buchanan or others like him that usually are considered the worst presidents. They were merely unable to stop a tragic course of events. They were unable to solve the problems of their day. GW Bush is not only incapable of solving the problems of his day - he has a long track record of creating new ones.


On National Public Radio, I heard a former New York School principal call the No Child Left Behind Act "All Children Left Behind". I like that, I've always felt that that is a deeply flawed law. Mandatory standardized tests have no place in the public school system. The guest left the public school system to be principal in a town where they are trying to do things differently and better. He said one of the flaws in the public school system is the compartmentalizing of the school system. His example was a student in biology class doing something that was more related to chemistry and being told to stop because that would be taught in a different class. Our school system has many flaws. I think we should do away with grade levels as well as compartmentalization. There should be three levels:

The first level (roughly equivalent to K - 5) is your basic skills that everyone needs to know - reading,writing, arithmetic,basic science,physical fitness,etc. The emphasis is on teaching the knowledge, skills, and behaviors that are the foundation of a successful member of society. A child would be assigned a primary teacher when they enter school and would spend entire time at that level with same primary teacher. My son has ADHD and qualifies for Special Education. In his case, that means he has a social worker that creates an individual development plan and monitors his progress. He also has access to a separate room when his behavior becomes an issue or his class work falls behind. In my system, this would not be special education. It would be the treatment every student receives from their primary teacher. (Sidenote: Separate Education would still be required for students with mental or physical disabilities that make it impossible to succeed in normal classroom.) Each classroom would have kids of all ages within the age limits of the level. They would change to meet the needs of the students. For example, if there is a group of kids having a hard time with multiplication, a group would be created to help them. Another group might be created for students ready to read chapter books. The child's readiness for the next level would probably be evaluated by a combination of standard tests and at least two teacher evaluations, with the personal evaluations being given greater weight. The child could move on to the next level as early as ten or as late as 13. If the child has reached the age of 13 and is still not ready for next level, some sort of separate education would probably be required, just because having a teenager being taught alongside younger kids is not very practical.

The second level is mostly keeping an eye on the kids as they go through the turbulence of puberty. The emphasis at this level is inspiring individual spirits to function effectively within a structured society. Some knowledge would be taught, particularly things that would help the students as they try to figure out who they are. Things like philosophy, history, literature, logic, ethics and psychology. Sex and Religion would also have to be covered, subjects that are avoided in current public school system. This is probably one of the reasons our public schools are less then what they should be. As long as all of the major religions are introduced and given equal treatment, no violation of the separation of Church and State exists. This is an important part of learning who you are - finding what you believe in. They would also need to have the opportunity to learn things like anger management, meditation, physical fitness, the role of health and its effects on mental well being. The role of violence in their lives would have to be covered appropriate to the environment of the school. In an inner city school or other high crime area, this would be a very important part of this level. In less violent areas, this might be more focused on the separation of violence in fiction (TV,Movies, videogames) and violence in real life. Drug education would also be important at this level, although it needs to be covered at all levels, even the first level. Of course not every student has a turbulent puberty. Some students adjust to the society around them without much difficulty and wouldn't need a lot of extra support. So resources would need to be available to students of this nature as well. Upon entering this level, the student would be assigned a primary counselor instead of a primary teacher. If implemented right now, this role would probably be filled by people educated in social work. Eventually, a whole new education degree would probably have to be created. This level would basically be a collaboration between counselor and student that allows the student to grow and learn by whatever path the student chooses to take. The counselor's job is to provide the resources necessary and redirect from a destructive path if necessary. There would be very few hard and fast requirements at this level. Some things like social studies or physical fitness would be required and reading, writing,math and science skills would be maintained at the very least. The student would be encouraged to learn as much as they can, but only required to learn a bare minimum set of skills and knowledge. They would also be encouraged to begin exploring a career path. Standardized tests would be used when possible, but success at this level would mostly be determined by evaluations completed by counselor, teachers, student and parents.

The third level would be the equivalent of high school. I think the current high school system would work within my system. For instance, most high schools already place less emphasis on grade level and have classes of mixed ages. The emphasis at the third level is on preparing the students for their careers, and I think this is already the emphasis of most high schools. I think failure at the high school level (if it exists) is a result of the poor primary school system. That and improper funding and availability of resources, for which there is no excuse. Education funding should be a top priority for any government. If you have a good primary school system and proper funding, there is no reason that I can think of that would prevent the current high school system from being successful. The only changes I can think of is the removing of grade levels completely and placing less emphasis on grades and grade point average in favor of more realistic measures of success (whenever possible). To be consistent with my first two levels, age of student has nothing to do with graduation. A student could start the third level as early as 14 and leave as late as 21. Unlike the first two levels, the student would probably not be assigned to a specific person that guides them through the level. They would be expected to make their own decisions, with resources available to help them when they need it.

While I'm complaining about the school system, I have another beef. When is the school system gonna wake up to the fact that parents work? And that they work year round, usually until 5PM or later? The system seems to think that every house has a parent at home that can watch the kids when school decides to call a snow day or in service day or half day or summer vacation. Even on a normal day, it expects someone to watch the kids starting as early as 3PM. This is just plain stupid and needs to be changed. Every school should be open until at least 5PM and should have breaks no longer than four or five weeks. This is a win win schedule. The parents don't have to come up with ridiculous day care solutions, the teachers and administrators can teach more effectively with more days to teach and shorter breaks to recover from. If changes are made at the same time to make school more productive for the students, even the kids probably won't have serious objections. (Even if they do, too bad, it's for their own good). The only drawback that occurs to me is things like air conditioning. In places like Michigan where schools don't normally operate in the relatively short period of time where air conditioning is required, air conditioning is often not installed. Even if it is, running it year round is an expense they don't currently have to address.

Monday, August 08, 2005

Democrats, Liberals, Conservatives

Here's an article offering observations about the Democrats:
The only way that democrats can regain a majority

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

Death and Burial

The King of Saudi Arabia was buried today. They wrapped him a robe, carried him on a board and buried him in an unmarked location in the desert. That's the way to treat the dead. This is how they treat a king even.

American funeral traditions are silly. We spend thousands of dollars to bury our dead. First we replace body fluids with chemicals so we can morbidly look at the body for a few days. Then we put the cadaver in a fancy box that costs thousands of dollars and will only be seen for a week at most. We buy a spot in a cemetery beside hundreds or thousands of other dead people. We place a stone, sometimes a very fancy one, to mark the location. What an incredible waste of money, time and resources. When I die, harvest me for whatever organs someone else might find useful, toss me in a fire naked and do whatever you please with the ashes, as long it's not a landfill or something weird. (You can skip the fire if there is a desert or other unpopulated area available.) Don't pump my body full of chemicals, don't waste money on a box that's never going to be seen again, and don't bother with wasting valuable real estate to bury my body. I would say don't bother with a funeral and parade either, but that's more for the living so I guess that's OK. Assuming anyone actually cares about my passing and needs closure or something.

By the way, everyone should donate their organs. It's an atrocity that anyone should die because they had to wait too long for an organ when thousands of perfectly good organs get buried in fancy caskets every day. Besides, it's the best gift you could ever give.