November 26, 2006

Let’s See: There’s John Kerry, Ted Strickland …. and Now Charlie Rangel

Filed under: Taxes & Government,US & Allied Military — Tom @ 9:24 pm

From Allah at Hot Air, who has the Fox News video at his site — New York Congressman Charlie Rangel spouts off (HT LGF) on why soldiers in our all-volunteer army sign up:

I want to make it abundantly clear: if there’s anyone who believes that these youngsters want to fight, as the Pentagon and some generals have said, you can just forget about it. No young, bright individual wants to fight just because of a bonus and just because of educational benefits. And most all of them come from communities of very, very high unemployment. If a young fella has an option of having a decent career or joining the army to fight in Iraq, you can bet your life that he would not be in Iraq.

This follows John Kerry’s “botched joke” (horse manure — we know what he meant, and he hasn’t really apologized for anything) and Ohio Governor-elect Ted Strickland’s long, painful dissertation on the economic reasons why soldiers enlist and why sons and daughters of official Washington don’t (which has the unfortunate characteristic, like so much of what Ted says, of not being true — also noted as such by fellow blogger NixGuy here).

At what point does one conclude that the demeaning “uneducated soldier with no other choices” myth is a core belief of the party these three men belong to? And when are these people going to be challenged about false statements such as these?

Cross-posted at NewsBusters.org.

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UPDATE: Just wondering — Based on the bolded part of the quote, does Rangel even know there are women in the military these days? What conservative would escape criticism if he or she failed to mention our “men and women” in the military?

UPDATE 2: Others chiming in –

  • Sister Toldjah: “This guy can’t stop sticking his foot in his mouth, can he?”
  • Dan Riehl: “The Democrat leadership just can’t help but insult our men and women in uniform.”
  • Jawa Report: “To think of them as anything other than fully competent adults is an insult to our men and women in uniform.”
  • Macs Mind: “More Rangel Hoof in Mouth Disease.”
  • A Blog for All: “As for Rangel’s comments, it would appear that Rangel hasn’t talked to too many folks serving in the current US Armed Services, for if he did, he’d find more than a few very dedicated soldiers who believe in the mission in Iraq.”
  • Blackfive: “Another Condescending Jackass.”
  • Stop the ACLU: “I’m sure it might surprise Mr. Rangel but most of the military folks I know joined out of patriotic duty, did have an education, and were not poor.”
  • Yet Another Conservative Right Wing Blog: “They need to work this into a new party slogan or something.”

UPDATE 3: More –

  • Media Lies: “You could pass off what John Kerry said as a joke, but you can’t spin this.”
  • Slublog: “Nancy Pelosi must be missing clumps of hair by now.” Only because Rangel is saying what he believes, but NOT because she disagrees with him.
  • Say Anything: “If they can make the troops appear to be nothing more than a bunch of simpletons who were manipulated into fighting a ‘war for profit’ or ‘war for oil’ by the evil Bush/Cheney/Rove cabal they’ve won.” Heaven help us all if enough of us are that gullible.
  • Hegemonic Discourse: “Charlie Rangel and John Kerry believe in the same things about those who join our military.”
  • Instapundit (HT Hedgehog Blog): “Karl Rove’s prayer — Get this guy on TV as much as possible!”
  • Blue Crab Boulevard: “To continue to malign the troops in this way shows a complete contempt for the very people who you must count on when this country needs protection.

Young People Leave College with a Mostly Undeserved Handicap

Filed under: Consumer Outrage,Education,Taxes & Government — Tom @ 4:38 pm

That would be their student loan balances:

This generation of twentysomethings is straining under the weight of college loans and other debt, a crushing load that separates it from every previous generation.

Nearly two-thirds carry some debt, and those with debt have taken on more in the past five years, according to an analysis of the credit records of 3 million twentysomethings that Experian, the credit-reporting agency, did for USA TODAY. Their late payments are rising, and they’re more likely to be late than other Americans are.

Nearly half of twentysomethings have stopped paying a debt, forcing lenders to “charge off” the debt and sell it to a collection agency, or had cars repossessed or sought bankruptcy protection.

High debt loads are causing anxiety, too. A poll of twentysomethings by USA TODAY and the National Endowment for Financial Education (NEFE) found 60% feel they’re facing tougher financial pressures than young people did in previous generations. And 30% say they worry frequently about their debt.

….. Student-loan balances rose 16% to an average of $14,379; revolving debt, including credit cards, surged 24% to $5,781; and total installment debt, including student and personal loans, rose 4% to $17,208. (Comparisons are adjusted for inflation.)

….. Debt has forced some young people to change their career plans. Of those surveyed, 22% say they’ve taken a job they otherwise wouldn’t have because they needed more money to pay off student-loan debt. Twenty-nine percent say they’ve put off or chosen not to pursue more education because they have so much debt already.

I said in the title that all of this is “mostly undeserved.”

Stay with me on this. I know that student loans have low rates, I know that they don’t require any repayments while in school. I know that many of them don’t even accrue interest while the student is in school. I realize that kids should know better than to charge up their cards. Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah.

But all of that doesn’t change the fact that the amounts they have to borrow to get through college are outrageous. Yes, it’s to the point that many MUST borrow, or decide to take a ridiculously long time to get through school. In fact, the financial aid system is so screwed up that once a student’s earnings are above a certain minimal level (about $2,700, last time I checked), 50% of any additional earnings is assumed to be available to pay for college and reduces the supposed “need” for financal aid. That’s nice in theory, but the practical effect is to convince students to borrow more instead of to work more.

But I digress. As any economist would have predicted, once the federal financial-aid system went into high gear in the early 1970s, college costs began rising at twice the rate of inflation. They’ve never stopped doing so. Cost increases have been further aided and abetted by the scheme of income-tax credits and deductions that went into effect in the late 1990s. Four tuition-only years at the University of Freaking Cincinnati now costs over $37,000. The school, like almost every other, simply ratchets up its spending and its tuition by 5% or more every year (two years ago the increase was about 9%), with no apparent interest in cost control, rationalization of underused deparments, and any number of other measures that private-sector companies have to wrestle with constantly.

And then ….. (here is where the steam rises out of the ears) the Baby-Boom generation that is pushing these costs onto the Twentysomethings pats itself on the back for making “affordable” loans available, does nothing but shrug its shoulders about a product whose cost in real terms is more than double what is was 25 years ago (with lower quality, many would credibly argue; data source is The College Board’s 2006-2007 “Trends in College Pricing” [large PDF, go to Section 2, Page 7]), and then has the nerve to call today’s grads “The Entitlement Generation.” Oh, and it’s the same Boomer generation now running the credit-card companies who are passing out cards like candy to kids who have never been taught basic personal finance (because the elementary- and secondary-education system, also run by Boomers, doesn’t think it’s as important as _________________ [you fill in the blank]) to people whose income ranges and ability to repay on their own ranges from “zero” to “very little.”

I do believe that in the case of financing education, today’s younger people have been given a raw deal by “The Real Entitlement Generation.” Solutions? Here are some to consider, for starters — Forget about residential universities; have specialties that don’t require four years but lead to a legitimate degree; more distance learning; more school choice and more rigor at the el-ed and secondary levels. I’m open to others.

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A SHAMELESS PLUG: Unfortunately, I can’t solve the inequities today’s Twentysomethings face. But I can offer them an affordable way to see where they stand and to figure out what they can do about it. If you’re in a bind or know someone who is, please consider signing up for CYMnow.com.

Weekend Question 3: Got Any Nationalized Health Care Stories?

Filed under: Economy,Taxes & Government,TWUQs — Tom @ 1:11 pm

ANSWER: It’s been a while, hasn’t it? This one will make you wish the wait had been longer.

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What sadistic person came up with the idea of mixed wards, even for seriously hurt members of the military?

Why the UK’s National Health Service, of course (WARNING: much of the content at the link is R-Rated and disturbing; HT Interested-Participant):

Being in hospital is bad enough, but being treated in a mixed sex ward is the medical pits, the final humiliation for the weak and the stricken.

….. According to the Patients’ Association, the number of complaints from women being treated on mixed sex wards in hospitals has doubled in the last 12 months, although I would argue that it’s not just the females who suffer. We’re all in this terrible mess together, even if officials deny that the number of patients being treated on mixed wards is on the rise. As the Patients’ Association says, a curtain whisked between two beds does not count as separate accommodation.

Tony Blair has been promising to do something about mixed wards for years, but, predictably, nothing much has happened. He originally pledged his good and true intentions in a Labour manifesto back in the mists of time when mandrake was still used as a medical anaesthetic and Mandelson was still sizing up his first property deal. Following this initial pledge, as Leader of the Opposition in 1996, Blair went on to thunder mightily: “Is it beyond the collective wits of the Government and health administrators to deal with this problem?”

Sadly, the answer seems to be yes, yes and yes again, Tony. The only progression our great leader has made on mixed wards is by craftily adding a piquant new variant into the healthcare system; allowing wounded soldiers to be treated alongside civilian patients in NHS hospitals. As most specialist military hospitals have now been closed down, Servicemen and women who have killed and seen colleagues killed in Iraq and Afghanistan are having their wounds and injuries treated in mixed civilian wards – those very same wards which, at times, seem barely able to cope with hip fractures and the occasional case of acute advanced dandruff, let alone traumatised troops fresh off the battlefield.

Following a public outcry, the Prime Minister has agreed that it is important that our soldiers get specialist healthcare and hopes to introduce military-managed wards within the NHS. While we are all keeping our fingers crossed on that one, it seems that mixed-sex civilian wards of the type I was in show no sign of going away, even if Labour promised to close them down a decade ago. Perhaps they think we should all be grateful for receiving any healthcare at all.

Two commenters at the Telegraph article said it best:

If all MPs and members of their families had to be in a mixed ward whenever they were hospitalised, mixed wards would very rapidly be abolished! – They find the suffering of ‘ordinary people’ easy to bear.
Posted by Margarete on November 22, 2006 10:28 AM

Mixed sex wards are a total disgrace. The NHS has turned into a vile, wayward entity that lumbers along from disaster to disaster. The nursing staff I have encountered are badly trained and not sympathetic. The doctors are in short supply. Sounds like a scene from one of Florence Nightingale’s wards. It is all very well having money thrown at the NHS, but there is no one who knows how to spend it. Shambolic,dirty wards with nurses who really have lost the will to nurse are becoming commonplace.
Posted by Carol Collier on November 22, 2006 7:08 AM

Ah yes, the wonders of nationalized health care. Why would anybody wish it on anyone else?

What Time of Year Is It? (Year 2 Follow-up, Part 1)

Filed under: Economy,MSM Biz/Other Bias — Tom @ 10:27 am

Last year, I sensed that journalists in general prefer to call this time of the year in commerce that of “holiday shopping” instead of “Christmas shopping,” but that when it came to people losing their jobs, they preferred to describe layoffs as relating to “Christmas.”

My instincts were proven correct, as you can see below from the results of three different sets of Google News searches in November and December (links to last year’s related posts are here, here, and here):

ChristmasSearch2005Results

I’ve decided to track the same items this year to see if there is any noticeable change or trend.

Based on the first set of Google News searches during this Christmas season, I would say there is:

ChristmasSearchTerms1_06v05

Wal-Mart, Macy’s, and others may be embracing “Christmas” as a permissible word again, but reporting about shopping during the 2006 Christmas season is leaning more towards “holiday shopping” than it did at about the same time last year. But the inclination to associate layoffs with Christmas has increased significantly this year compared to last.

I will do identicial searches roughly two and four weeks from now, and report on the results.

So far, what I concluded at the end of last year (with minor editing) is proving true again this year:

It seems beyond dispute that there is a strong bias against using the word “Christmas” to describe not only the shopping season, as noted above, but also events, parades, and festivals that happen during the Christmas season. There is, however, a bit of an exception — “Christmas” is a word that is much more acceptable to use when “Scrooge” employers are letting people go.

Cross-posted at NewsBusters.org.

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Previous Posts:
Nov. 11, 2006 — Will Christmas Be a Four-Letter Word This Year?
Dec. 22, 2005 — When You Can Say What at This Time of Year (UPDATE 2)
Dec. 7, 2005 — When You Can Say What at This Time of Year (UPDATE)
Nov. 29, 2005 — What Time of Year Is It?
Nov. 23, 2005 — When You Can Say What at This Time of Year

Positivity: Thanksgiving’s Biggest Rivalry

Filed under: Positivity — Tom @ 7:02 am

Until 1978, the annual Thanksgiving football game between Elder and Western Hills, the Catholic and public schools on the west side of town, was a Cincinnati tradition. It was a great community event that included a parade (which is still held) and other festivities, but the game unfortunately gave way to the onset of Ohio’s high school football playoffs.

So it warmed my heart on Wednesday when I saw this front-page story in USA Today about a Thanksgiving rivalry that hasn’t gone away, even though the schools involved are in different states, and in spite of the fact that the game occurs smack dab in the middle of both states’ high school playoffs:

Every year fields the game of the century
Updated 11/22/2006 3:51 PM ET
By Erik Brady, USA TODAY

EASTON, Pa. — The Easton Red Rovers and Phillipsburg (N.J.) Stateliners will play football for the 100th time Thanksgiving morning. The outcome will determine the mood for turkey dinner — and bragging rights for the rest of the seniors’ lives.

The high schools represent old mill towns separated by a river and a rivalry. One is spanned by bridges, the other by generations.

“We’re blue-collar cities with the same values and traditions,” Easton coach Steve Shiffert says. “If not for the Delaware River, we’d be the same place.”

“We’re like one big city in two separate states,” Phillipsburg coach Bob Stem says. “You want to win so bad because you have to live with these people.”And, in many cases, sleep with them. Stem is P-burg ’58. His wife, Janice, is Easton ’56. “Bob is the reason we lost my senior year,” she says of the 1955 game, when Stem blocked an extra point in a 7-6 Phillipsburg win. “He made me cry.”

The centenary game is making news beyond the Lehigh Valley: It airs on ESPN2 at 9 a.m. ET Thursday, one of hundreds of traditional high school games played across the USA on Thanksgiving, mainly in the Northeast. There are fewer of these turkey bowls played than years ago. Many rivalries have been moved off the day so as not to interfere with state playoffs, according to Bob Kanaby, executive director of the National Association of State High School Associations.

Easton and Phillipsburg officials say they’ll never move their game. “It’s who we are,” Shiffert says. The game interrupts playoffs for both — and it’s worse for Easton:

•Phillipsburg (10-0) is shooting for consecutive undefeated seasons and New Jersey sectional championships. The Liners beat Union 42-20 on Friday and will play Elizabeth in a sectional final Dec. 1 at Rutgers. “Don’t get me wrong, it’s a nice title to have,” Stem says. “But (beating) Easton is more important by far.”

•Easton (11-1) beat Parkland 17-15 on Friday on a 36-yard field goal with 2.7 seconds left in the Pennsylvania playoffs. On Saturday, the Rovers play Liberty, the only team to beat them this season; the winner advances to a state quarterfinal.

That means Easton will play twice in three days. Other coaches “think I’m crazy,” Shiffert says. “We make no excuses. We chose this path.”

….. As always, Thursday’s game will be played in Easton at Lafayette College, credited as the first team at any level to use a football huddle, in 1924. By that time the Easton-Phillipsburg rivalry was a generation old. More than 15,000 fans will cram sold-out Fisher Stadium. Tickets are $10, but auctions on eBay this week are fetching $50.

Phillipsburg fans will walk across bridges early Thursday and join Easton fans for tailgating and rivalry revelry at Begley’s Pub, a couple of blocks from the stadium. “We open at 7, and they’ll already be lined up,” says pub manager Karen Bolcar, P-burg ’75.

Her cousin, Ned Bolcar, P-burg ’85, captained Notre Dame’s last national champion in 1988. He says beating Easton four times was a comparable thrill to winning the national title. Bolcar does commentary for the local TV broadcast of the big game each year. “Coming home for Thanksgiving,” he says, makes this a giant homecoming for both schools.

….. Harrison Fisher, 93, Easton ’32, will watch his 83rd consecutive Easton-Phillipsburg game Thursday. His son, Tom, Easton ’67, is P-burg’s athletics director. That doesn’t sway the elder Fisher. He’ll root for Easton. “When Tom coached basketball at P-burg, I rooted for P-burg in basketball,” he says. “Blood is thicker than water. But I’m all Easton now.”

The game, like all good rivalries, is animated by the visceral tingle of a good, clean, once-a-year hate. Except Fisher thinks hate is too strong a word. “You don’t see any fights,” he says. “We dislike them only when we play them.”

Fisher played center in the 1931 game with an inch-thick beefsteak taped to his shoulder. “And that was the Depression,” he says. “We never ate steak.”

His dislocated shoulder meant he played only about three minutes. Easton won 7-6. “The trainer cut the steak off” after the game, Fisher says. “We tossed it around the shower room.”

Thomas Iacone, 86, Easton ’38, watched that game from a hill behind the west end zone. He was 12: “I didn’t have the quarter to go in.”

Iacone will watch his 72nd Easton-Phillipsburg game Thursday. He missed four while he was in the Army during World War II. “This game is something that’s deep in my heart,” Iacone says. “I get palpitations just thinking about it.”

Tom Fisher thinks his father has seen more of these games than anyone else. “My father was 10 when he started going, and he’s never missed. This will be his 83rd. He (will have) seen all but 14.”

Stem guffaws and interrupts. “No, all but 17 of them,” he says. “Hey, Tom’s an Easton grad. He can’t count.”