February 25, 2011

Lucid Links (022511, Morning)

Filed under: Lucid Links — Tom @ 8:46 am

From Politico (HT Michelle Malkin), we see how snakes slither around their “transparency” promises:

White House meets lobbyists off campus

Caught between their boss’ anti-lobbyist rhetoric and the reality of governing, President Barack Obama’s aides often steer meetings with lobbyists to a complex just off the White House grounds — and several of the lobbyists involved say they believe the choice of venue is no accident.

It allows the Obama administration to keep these lobbyist meetings shielded from public view — and out of Secret Service logs kept on visitors to the White House and later released to the public.

… The White House scoffs at the notion of an ulterior motive for scheduling meetings in what are, after all, meeting rooms. But at least four lobbyists who’ve been to the conference rooms just off Lafayette Square tell POLITICO they had the distinct impression they were being shunted off to Jackson Place — and off the books — so their visits wouldn’t later be made public.

Obama’s administration has touted its release of White House visitors logs as a breakthrough in transparency, as the first White House team to reveal the comings and goings around the West Wing and the Old Executive Office Building.

The Jackson Place townhouses are a different story.

Is this the hope? Or the change?

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When he runs out of anything else bad to say in his report about an election fraud bill just passed in Kansas, the Associated Press’s John Hanna hauls out what he appears to think is his ultimate criticism:

Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach’s legislation to require voters to show photo identification at the polls won first-round approval Thursday in the state House.

… The bill also would require people registering to vote for the first time in Kansas to provide proof that they’re citizens. It increases the penalties for election crimes and gives the secretary of state’s office the power to file and prosecute election fraud cases in state courts, along with county prosecutors and the attorney general’s office.

… Opponents, mostly Democrats, argued that Kobach’s proposals would seriously hamper efforts to register voters door-to-door or at sites such as libraries and grocery stores. They also contend thousands of Kansans either won’t be able to vote or will have their votes not counted because of the requirements.

Kobach’s proposals also drew criticism because of his conservative Republican politics. He’s a Kansas City-area law professor on leave, known nationally for advising city officials and legislators in other states about cracking down on illegal immigration. He also helped draft the immigration law Arizona enacted last year.

This is pathetic, “this bill has to be bad because of who wrote it” bias.

Hey John, the bill stands or falls on its merits, not because of who wrote it.

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Incivility watch:

  • Video: Rhode Island union supporter to cameraman – “I’ll f**k you in the a**, you faggot”
  • Video: Union protester grabs FreedomWorks staffer’s camera, hits her with sign
  • You Are a Bad Jew!“: Union Protester Loudly Scolds Conservative Activist
  • SEIU Protester Harasses Black Tea Partier: “Do You Have Any Children… That You Claim?”

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Then there’s this:

Columbia University students heckled a war hero during a town-hall meeting on whether ROTC should be allowed back on campus.

“Racist!” some students yelled at Anthony Maschek, a Columbia freshman and former Army staff sergeant awarded the Purple Heart after being shot 11 times in a firefight in northern Iraq in February 2008. Others hissed and booed the veteran.

Maschek, 28, had bravely stepped up to the mike Tuesday at the meeting to issue an impassioned challenge to fellow students on their perceptions of the military.

“It doesn’t matter how you feel about the war. It doesn’t matter how you feel about fighting,” said Maschek. “There are bad men out there plotting to kill you.”

Several students laughed and jeered the Idaho native, a 10th Mountain Division infantryman who spent two years at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington recovering from grievous wounds.

Maschek, who is studying economics, miraculously survived the insurgent attack in Kirkuk. In the hail of gunfire, he broke both legs and suffered wounds to his abdomen, arm and chest.

Mr. Maschek lost a limb and became wheelchair-bound for life so he could come back to America and NOT be able to exercise his freedom of speech rights without harassment at one of America’s allegedly great universities, because a bunch of privileged punks — who are only able to exercise THEIR rights because of millions of people like him who laid their personal safety and sometimes their lives on the line when it mattered — couldn’t stand the thought of anyone else at their university following in his heroic footsteps.

The university should be ashamed, and should discipline those who were involved. This limp response — from the ROTC task force, not the higher-ups in the administration, who appear to be AWOL — and a search on Maschek’s name at the university’s web site finding nothing else relevant indicate that they aren’t even thinking about it.

Positivity: ‘She was worth it’ — UK mom delayed leukemia treatment to save life of unborn daughter

Filed under: Life-Based News,Positivity — Tom @ 6:00 am

VictoriaWebsterProlifeFamily2011From Birmingham, UK:

February 17, 2011

One British cancer patient has sent a powerful message about the value of life after she refused aggressive treatment for her leukemia in an effort to save the life of her unborn daughter – who was, in fact, born perfectly healthy last April.

“My doctor told me I needed to make a choice and decide whether I should keep my baby. To me, there was no decision to make,” Victoria Webster, 33, told the UK’s Daily Mail. “I had already bonded with my baby while she was growing inside me and as her mum, I had to protect her.

“Doctors kept telling me I should have a termination – but I had made up my mind, and my husband Martyn supported me.”

Webster had discovered that she suffered from chronic myeloid leukaemia, or cancer of the blood, during a routine blood test when she was 21 weeks pregnant. Doctors, who said her prognosis was good because they caught the disease so early, begged her to begin chemotherapy immediately, a treatment that would have killed her unborn daughter Jessica.

Webster instead opted for a less aggressive treatment, and waited until Jessica was born in April 2010 by Cesarean section before taking the powerful drugs. She is now reportedly responding well to treatment, and she hopes that she will soon be in full remission.

“It’s the best decision I have ever made. I can’t imagine my life without my daughter,” said Webster. …

Go here for the rest of the story.

February 24, 2011

AP Fails to Note That Jan. 2011 Was Worst Single-Month New Home Sales Total on Record

Although it would be unfair to characterize Derek Kravitz’s report at the Associated Press this morning on the Census Bureau’s new home sales report as anything but bleak, the AP reporter missed what should have been the most obvious stat: The 19,000 new homes actually sold nationwide in January 2011 (i.e., not seasonally adjusted, real number) is the lowest for any single month on record in the 48 years the Bureau has been reporting this information.

Kravitz also demonstrated that he has picked up a couple of bad habits the AP’s Martin Crutsinger displayed when reporting on news home sales during several previous months. First, he set the bar which would represent a legitimate industry recovery artificially low. Second, he gave readers the impression that the current housing market is better than it was a “nearly half-century” ago, which of course it isn’t.

Here are several paragraphs from Kravitz’s creation:

New-home sales in January drop 12.6 pct

Sales of new homes fell significantly in January, a dismal sign after the worst year for that sector in nearly a half-century. [1]

New-home sales dropped to a seasonally adjusted rate of 284,000 homes last month, the Commerce Department said Thursday. That’s down from 325,000 in December and less than half the 600,000-a-year pace that economists view as healthy. [2]

Bad winter weather likely hampered some sales, although the industry has been struggling since the housing bubble burst in 2006.

Last year was the fifth consecutive year that new-home sales have declined after hitting record highs during the housing boom. Buyers purchased 322,000 new homes last year, the fewest annual total on records going back 47 years. Economists say it could take years before sales return to a healthy pace.

… Mortgage applications are now near their lowest levels in 15 years.

Notes:

  • [1] — A reasonable reader would take “the worst year for that sector in nearly a half-century” to mean that some year during the early 1960s was worse. It’s not even close, even before adjusting for population growth. Census Bureau reporting began in 1963, when 560,000 units were sold. Total sales during the next two years were slightly higher. Given that economic growth was positive during every year from 1960-1965, it’s inconceivable that sales fell below the 322,000 annual total seen in 2010 during the three earliest years of the decade. I demonstrated late last year that 2010 was really the worst year in the new home market since World War II.
  • [2] — Kravitz’s assertion that a pace of 600,000 new homes sold per year would represent a “healthy pace” flies in the face of history. Only two years since 1983 (1990 and 1991) have come in with lower totals — and the nation’s population was about 19% lower than it is today. The recovery bar is really an annual pace of 750,000 – 800,000.

Finally, as would be expected, Kravitz fails to broach the possibility that Obama administration policies and programs or government-sponsored entities like Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac have had anything to do with why the homebuilding industry remains in the pits. That would seem to be a more important factor than January’s bad weather in parts of the country.

It will be interesting to see how cheerleaders like Julie Schmit at USA Today, who composed a comic column on how “Optimism for home sales adds up” in late December, react to January 2011′s all time single-month record low. A reasonable guess: Silence.

Cross-posted at NewsBusters.org.

30-Minute Drill: Quick Hit Headlines and Highlights (022411, Morning)

Filed under: Lucid Links — Tom @ 8:06 am

30 minutes, no timeouts:

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Dubious assertion, via Bloomberg:

While violent unrest has also spread to Bahrain, Iran and Yemen, none of those regimes has used as much force to quell protesters as Libya.

I suspect that this is more of a function of what news gets out than the actual level of force actually being applied, and that Iranian dissidents might strongly disagree.

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Accurate assertion, via a teacher who wrote to Michelle Malkin:

The truth is that any teacher who does not hold down the talking points of the unions, DNC or Obama White House needs to keep quiet to keep their job.

This is true, even in some areas of the country where you wouldn’t expect it to be the case.

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Pathetic assertion, via President Obama:

“It is imperative that the nations and peoples of the world speak with one voice,” he said.

It would be progress if Obama and his administration would “spoke with one voice.” Not even close, as exhaustively illustrated here in the case of Egypt.

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Uninformed assertion, via Michael Gormley at the Associated Press (“Catholic blogger: No Communion for NY Gov. Cuomo”):

Bishops and priests have allowed the Catholic Democrat to receive Communion for years, including at Christmas last year and at a Mass last month marking his inauguration. The practice appears to conform to church law.

Matt Hadro at NewsBusters points out the obvious (internal link added by me):

The Catholic Church’s Code of Canon Law 915 explicitly states that those “who obstinately persist in manifest grave sin, are not to be admitted to holy Communion.”

… Cuomo, who himself is divorced and lives with his divorced girlfriend, is living in a state of “public concubinage” and adultery – gravely sinful and a state that excludes someone from receiving Communion. In addition, Cuomo supports abortion and gay marriage – both serious issues that are in direct opposition with Church teaching.

In the current circumstances, any priest or bishop who chooses to deny Communion to Cuomo not only has the discretion to do so, but arguably is duty-bound to do so.

The two real issues here are:

  • First, that alleged “Catholic” Democrats want the political benefits of religious affiliation without having to actually adhere to the strictures of that religion. They’re treating receiving Communion as an entitlement. It’s not.
  • Second, that bishops and priests have been taking the easy way out with pretend-Catholic politicians for way too long.

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Hypocritical assertions –These come from via Bill Clinton, the ARIFPOTUS (Accused Rapist and Impeached Former President Of The United States), after he and Bush 41 were named honorary chairs of — I’m not kidding — the University of Arizona’s National Institute for Civil Discourse.

First, this:

Meeting them (our challenges) requires an honest dialogue celebrating both a clarification of our differences and a genuine stand for principled comparisons.

Clinton also said this:

“… I believe that the National Institute for Civil Discourse can elevate the tone of dialogue in our country, and in so doing, help us to keep moving toward ‘a more perfect union.’”

You have to wipe your eyes to make sure that the quotes above really came from the Hill and CNN and not the Onion.

These statement come from the guy who viciously trashed Ken Starr, Linda Tripp, Kathleen Willey, and others who had the goods on his clearly uncivil conduct, while he, his administration and his party uncivilly and dishonestly demonized any and all Republicans and conservatives who wished to rein in the entitlement state and spending as wanting to starve children, throw seniors on the streets, and make the air and water dirtier. Spare me.

Positivity: Boy Without a Cerebellum Baffles Doctors

Filed under: Health Care,Positivity — Tom @ 5:59 am

From New York (video at link):

Feb 12, 2011 – 1:42 PM

Heather and David Britton want everyone to understand a few things about their giggling, bespectacled 3-year-old son, Chase.

“He’s happy. We call him the Little Gremlin. He loves to play tricks on people. He loves to sing. His goal in life is to make people smile,” Heather Britton told AOL News.

“He’s got so much love around him. We’re an extremely happy family. His story is not tragic.”

But to an outsider, the Brittons’ story might seem heartbreaking.

Another son, Trey, was born 11 weeks early and only expected to live moments. Instead, he died six weeks after his birth in 2008, on the same day he was scheduled to receive a liver transplant. Cleared to get pregnant again, the couple was thrilled when Chase was conceived, Britton said. They were eager to give older son Alex, 13, a sibling.

Chase was also born prematurely, and he was legally blind. When he was 1 year old, doctors did an MRI, expecting to find he had a mild case of cerebral palsy. Instead, they discovered he was completely missing his cerebellum — the part of the brain that controls motor skills, balance and emotions.

“That’s when the doctor called and didn’t know what to say to us,” Britton said in a telephone interview. “No one had ever seen it before. And then we’d go to the neurologists and they’d say, ‘That’s impossible.’ ‘He has the MRI of a vegetable,’ one of the doctors said to us.”

Chase is not a vegetable, leaving doctors bewildered and experts rethinking what they thought they knew about the human brain.

“There are some very bright, specialized people across the country and in Europe that have put their minds to this dilemma and are continuing to do so, and we haven’t come up with an answer,” Dr. Adre du Plessis, chief of Fetal and Transitional Medicine at Children’s National Medical Center in Washington, D.C., told Fox News affiliate WGRZ.

“So it is a mystery.”

Chase also is missing his pons, the part of the brain stem that controls basic functions, such as sleeping and breathing. There is only fluid where the cerebellum and pons should be, Britton said.

Britton’s pregnancy was complicated, so doctors closely monitored her. Deepening the mystery, she has detailed ultrasound pictures of Chase’s brain during various stages of fetal development and the images clearly show he once had a cerebellum.

“That is actually a fundamental part of the dilemma,” du Plessis told WGRZ. “If there was a cerebellum, what happened to it?”

Doctors found no signs of a brain bleed, hemorrhage or stroke, and no damage to any other part of his brain, Britton said. Technically, his diagnosis is cerebellar hypoplasia, which normally means a small cerebellum rather than a missing one.

Chase’s case, du Plessis said, challenges “fundamental principles.” And its impact is certain to reach far beyond one little boy and his family.

“It is cases like this that rally the support of the medical community, that harness the interest of other investigators, that stimulate people to try and find solutions,” he told WGRZ, “and those repercussions will have an impact on a much broader population of kids.” …

Go here for the rest of the story.

February 23, 2011

Bill Whittle: Obama’s Friends and Enemies

After two years of craven diplomatic and substantive betrayal of allies and cozying up to philosophical and declared enemies, Bill Whittle “goes there” — and reaches the inescapable conclusion:

Y’know, there comes a point where no matter how hard you try to offer the benefit of the doubt, evidence builds up to such a degree that you can no longer deny that the evidence is telling you something.

Halfway into his first term, the foreign-policy decisions made by Barack Obama and his administration are so appalling, so destructive in the long-term, (that) they can no longer be credited to inexperience or even incompetence. They’re so consistent, they must be due to ideology.

… (conclusion, addressing the President) And the kind of evidence (I see) lifts me almost daily to the disgraceful conclusion that while they (America’s enemies) don’t share America’s core values, perhaps they share some of yours.

Watch the whole thing:

Select gems:

… President Obama cancelled a working missile defense that was to have been based in Poland. He did it to appease the country which divided Poland with the Nazis in 1939 — that would be Russia — and he did it on the 70th anniversary, to the day, of the German invasion of that country. That is a mortal insult to a brave people and a stalwart ally.

… Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, being officially received at the White House, was not allowed to enter through the front door, but rather, had to come in through the rear, like a house servant. The President of the United States dictated his conditions to one of our closest allies, and when the Israeli Prime Minister began to discuss these ultimatums, President Obama told him to work it out with his low-level advisers, as he was off to have dinner with Mrs. Obama. Now that is astonishing in the degree of studied, intentional diplomatic insult and humiliation. That’s not an accident, inexperience, or even incompetence. Wars have been fought over less than that.

… At a session of the United Nations in New York, the British Prime Minister pursued the President of the United States on a matter of pressing urgency, and the President hustled from room to room, like a rock star avoiding an annoying autograph request.

A spokesman for Obama’s State Department told a collection of British diplomats, quote: “There’s nothing special about Britain. You’re just the same as the other 190 countries of the world. You shouldn’t expect special treatment.” Well:

  • We didn’t get the example of the Magna Carta from Ecuador.
  • We didn’t learn respect for the rule of law from Uzbekistan.
  • We didn’t get the idea of the presumption of innocence from Thailand, or any of the other bedrock institutions and values that built America.
  • We didn’t get them from Luxembourg, or Chad, or Portugal, or Korea. We got them from Great Britain.

… The President of the United States of America gave to the Russians, over strenuous and almost incredulous protests, the actual serial numbers of the U.S. Trident missiles sold to Great Britain. KGB spies were presumably prepared to die to get this information, but Barack Obama, President of the United States of America, handed these secrets to the Russians over the protests of our closest ally so that he could get a START treaty with Russia to help his sagging poll numbers at home.

That’s just how he treats “friends.” Watch the rest so you can see how he treats our “enemies.”

Mostly Suppressed in AP Pirate Hostage/Murder Stories: Leader’s Threat, Couple’s Faith

USA Today’s Wednesday cover story (“Killings Escalate Piracy Crisis”), has this reference to a quote obtained by the Associated Press:

Killing hostages “has now become part of our rules,” said a pirate who identified himself as Muse Abdi in a statement to the Associated Press. “From now on, anyone who tries to rescue the hostages in our hands will only collect dead bodies,” Abdi said. “It will never, ever happen that hostages are rescued and we are hauled to prison.”

Pretty provocative, right? In fact, it resembles a declaration of war without the rules of war. You might even call it a declaration of t-t-t-t … terrorism.

The problem is, Abdi’s quote is no longer in any story at the Associated Press’s home web site, and is rarely present in other Internet news reports.

A search at the AP’s home site on “Muse Abdi” (in quotes) returns no results.

An AP home site search on “Abdi” returns one relevant item that relates to Abdiwali Abdiqadir Muse, a pirate who was sentenced to 33 years in prison last week. Muse’s sentencing is cited as being a possible motivation for the hostage-taking of Scott Adam, wife Jean Adam, Bob Riggle, and Phyllis Macay, who were killed by their captors on Tuesday.

As of 10:30 ET, six of the seven relevant stories found searching the AP’s home site on “pirates” (here, here, here, here, here, and here) have any reference to Abdi’s specific threat or any more generalized threats made by the pirates. The seventh does:

Pirates reacted angrily to the sentencing and have since vowed that they will kill hostages before being captured during military raids and being sent to face trial.

I believe that most readers will find the quote at the beginning of the post much more provocative than the just-excerpted sentence. The Buffalo News thought that the wording of Abdi’s threat was so significant that it included it in its “Quotations of the Day.” So why water it down?

If the wire service’s goal is to keep Muse Abdi’s inflammatory direct quote out of the news (in an attempt, in my opinion, to minimize the chances that public outrage will force the Obama administration and world leaders to actually do something comprehensive about the deadly pirate/terror menace), it has largely succeeded. A Google News search (sorted by date) on “anyone who tries to rescue the hostages in our hands” (in quote) returns only 26 items. A general Google News search on “pirates kill” (not in quotes) returns over 3,900.

The AP also seems to be going out of its way to avoid tying religion into the killings. Of course, there is frequent reference to the couple’s mission to distribute Bibles. But only one of the cited stories mentions that Scott and Jean Adam were member of St. Monica’s Catholic church in Santa Monica, California. An AP home site search on “Adam Christian” (not in quotes) comes up empty.

There’s also this odd quote from one of the earlier AP items that appeared before the hostage killings were committed:

The pirates from Puntland in northern Somalia are not hardline Islamists and the fact the Adams carry Bibles is not likely to be a problem. Pirates in Puntland are known to spend their ransom spoils on alcohol, drugs and prostitutes.

Given that the text of the Bible is not exactly approving of “drugs and prostitutes,” that seems to be a pretty naive assumption. Sinners are often less than thrilled at the idea of being confronted about their sins.

Cross-posted at NewsBusters.org.

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BizzyBlog Update: Comment at the Detroit Free Press’s coverage of reaction to the murder of Phyllis Macay (“Former Southfield resident, MSU grad is 1 of 4 killed by pirates”):

if killing hostages is their standard protocol now all pirates should be killed on sight no questions asked. They set the bar let them die from it.

As long as the identification is certain, I don’t see a strong counter-argument to that.

30-Minute Drill: Quick-Hit Headlines and Highlights (022311, Morning)

Filed under: Lucid Links — Tom @ 8:39 am

30 Minutes, No Timeouts:

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The Associated Press’s Hope Yen and John Raby want you to think that it’s partially the government’s supposedly insufficient largesse that has caused one-quarter of the nation’s counties to be “dying” — i.e., losing population — ” In America’s once-thriving coal country, 87-year-old Ed Shepard laments a prosperous era gone by, when shoppers lined the streets and government lent a helping hand. Now, here as in one-fourth of all U.S. counties, West Virginia’s graying residents are slowly dying off.”

They get closer to the right answer later in the story, quoting a sociology prof: “”The downturn in the U.S. economy is only exacerbating the problem.” In other words, the AP writers are giving us another example of what 32 months or so of the POR (Pelosi-Obama-Reid) Economy has done to the country.

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At the Associated Press (“US has modest goals for S. Africa climate talks”), Donna Bryson os still treating global warming and its alleged dangers as an established fact — “… poorer nations complain that the industrialized world that grew rich off polluting industries should make legally binding commitments to deeper cuts in the emissions of the greenhouse gases blamed for global warming.”

Geez Donna, meet Phil Jones. Yeah, THE Phil Jones — “Climategate U-turn as scientist at centre of row admits: There has been no global warming since 1995.”

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Politifact, which often blows it, didn’t blow this one — “George Will says Wisconsin governor’s benefits proposal would still leave workers better off than those in private sector.” That’s true.

At Big Gov: “Judicial Watch Gets Hillarycare Docs…After 5-Year Legal Battle”

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CNBC’s Patti Domm (“$4 Gasoline? Definitely in California, but Maybe Not for Everyone Else”) is downplaying the significance and future direction of gas price rises. Hope she’s right, but the guy referenced here thinks there’s a good chance she’s wrong.

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Hewlett Packard stock was down 12% at the close of after-hours trading. Zero Hedge notes that the company’s revenue and earnings per share guidance are both lower for future quarters and the full year, but not by a level that would appear to justify this kind of sell-off. Bigger implication, per ZH, which I hope is wrong: “… the new paradigm of economic growth, may be just slightly problematic.”

Positivity: ‘World’s finest’ Catholic school principal awarded with cash, chocolate

Filed under: Education,Positivity — Tom @ 5:58 am

From Chicago, IL and Beckley, WV:

Feb 17, 2011 / 05:47 am

A Catholic school principal from West Virginia was chosen out of 400 nationwide contestants to win a cash prize and 60 cases of chocolate for being titled the “World’s Finest” principal.

A competition sponsored by World’s Finest Chocolate and Today’s Catholic Teacher magazine recognized Karen Wynne – principal of St. Francis de Sales School in Beckley, West Virginia – after she was nominated by her staff and 150 students.

At a Feb. 15 ceremony at the school, Wynne received her title as World’s Finest principal and a check for $1,000. The school will receive 60 cases of personalized chocolate bars to use in fundraising.

“Unbeknownst to me, my student body and staff nominated me to be the World’s Finest Principal,” Wynne told the local Register-Herald Feb. 16. “In December, they asked me to come to the gym and surprised me by showing me all the things they had done to nominate me for the position.

“It was a national contest, and I never dreamt that we had a chance of winning,” she said.

St. Francis de Sales School’s assistant principal and third-grade teacher, Mary Grace Peck, lead the initiative to nominate Wynne for the award. Throughout the last several months, the staff and student body worked to prepare posters, essays, videos, and pictures for Wynne’s nomination.

Wynne noted that students at St. Francis came up with creative entries, including a song written by the second grade, a picture collage of Wynne’s daily activities by the third grade, and a newsletter on Wynne’s accomplishments created by the seventh grade. …

Go here for the rest of the story.

February 22, 2011

Indiana Democrats Join the ‘Flee Party’

Filed under: Taxes & Government — Tom @ 2:17 pm

(HT to an e-mailer for the term “Flee Party”)

From the Indy Star (HT Cubachi via Dan Riehl):

Indiana Democrats trigger Statehouse showdown over anti-union legislation

House Democrats are leaving the state rather than vote on anti-union legislation, The Indianapolis Star has learned.

A source said Democrats are headed to Illinois, though it was possible some also might go to Kentucky. They need to go to a state with a Democratic governor to avoid being taken into police custody and returned to Indiana.

The House came into session this morning, with only two of the 40 Democrats present. Those two were needed to make a motion, and a seconding motion, for any procedural steps Democrats would want to take to ensure Republicans don’t do anything official without quorum.

With only 58 legislators present, there was no quorum present to do business. The House needs 67 of its members to be present.

… Today’s fight was triggered by Republicans pushing a bill that would bar unions and companies from negotiating a contract that requires non-union members to kick-in fees for representation. It’s become the latest in what is becoming a national fight over Republican attempts to eliminate or limit collective bargaining.

It’s interesting how the President’s home state of Illinois is such a popular Flee Party hangout, seeing how it’s a Blue State stronghold, just raised taxes to “solve” a budget problem, yet still won’t fund a service most Dems would consider sacrosanct.

With time on their hands, maybe Badger State and Hoosier State Dems on the lam can do some drug and addiction counseling on the side.

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UPDATE: From a commenter at Dan Riehl’s place — “So, I take it that Illinois is a ‘Sanctuary State’ for ‘undocumented legislators’ …”

If You’re a Wisconsin Eighth-Grader, Chances Are You Either Can’t Read or Can’t Comprehend This — Or Both

Filed under: Education,Taxes & Government — Tom @ 1:56 pm

I had a feeling this was coming, because if Wisconsin public schools on the whole were stellar, we would have heard about it many days ago.

From CNS News:

Two-Thirds of Wisconsin Public-School 8th Graders Can’t Read Proficiently—Despite Highest Per Pupil Spending in Midwest

… In the National Assessment of Educational Progress tests administered by the U.S. Department of Education in 2009—the latest year available—only 32 percent of Wisconsin public-school eighth graders earned a “proficient” rating while another 2 percent earned an “advanced” rating. The other 66 percent of Wisconsin public-school eighth graders earned ratings below “proficient,” including 44 percent who earned a rating of “basic” and 22 percent who earned a rating of “below basic.”

The test also showed that the reading abilities of Wisconsin public-school eighth graders had not improved at all between 1998 and 2009 despite a significant inflation-adjusted increase in the amount of money Wisconsin public schools spent per pupil each year.

In 1998, according to the U.S. Department of Education, Wisconsin public school eighth graders scored an average of 266 out of 500 on the NAEP reading test. In 2009, Wisconsin public school eighth graders once again scored an average of 266 out of 500 on the NAEP reading test. Meanwhile, Wisconsin public schools increased their per pupil expenditures from $4,956 per pupil in 1998 to 10,791 per pupil in 2008. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics inflation calculator the $4,956 Wisconsin spent per pupil in 1998 dollars equaled $6,546 in 2008 dollars. That means that from 1998 to 2008, Wisconsin public schools increased their per pupil spending by $4,245 in real terms yet did not add a single point to the reading scores of their eighth graders and still could lift only one-third of their eighth graders to at least a “proficient” level in reading.

The $10,791 that Wisconsin spent per pupil in its public elementary and secondary schools in fiscal year 2008 was more than any other state in the Midwest.

Look, I know there are plenty of reasons besides the teachers themselves why kids can’t, don’t, or won’t learn. But this is a disgrace, and it should be obvious that paying teachers much higher salaries and providing gilded benefits packages hasn’t changed things for the better.

My memory may be foggy, and maybe a Badger State reader or someone knowledgable about these things can help me — but I vaguely recall a time when Wisconsin’s public schools were considered the envy of the land. Obviously, that’s not true now.

Lickety-Split Links (022211, Morning)

Filed under: Lucid Links — Tom @ 7:58 am

At NewsBusters“(Chris) Matthews Visibly Angered By Poll Finding Americans Think Reagan Was Greatest President.” The result is at this Gallup poll. Well Chris, I suspect that this is partially because the current Punk President’s PR peeps are trying to pretend that their guy is somehow like Reagan. Their campaign has instead reminded many Americans of the greatness of the real Gipper, especially compared to the Oval Office’s current pathetic occupant.

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Ann Althouse (“Neutrality — cruel and kind — from Wisconsin — where everything’s happening”) reports receiving a death threat (I suppose lefty excuse-makers will call it a “death suggestion”) for videotaping a Madison salt truck driver not doing his job.

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Madison back story: So it appears that President’s Day is not a holiday at Madison, Wisconsin schools. The guess here is that Martin Luther King Day is. If so, I have a problem with that.

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At the UK Daily Mail, via Drudge — “Illinois slashes ALL state funding for drug and alcohol abuse treatment in massive cuts programme.” Google News as of about 7:30 a.m. shows pretty light coverage for what seems to be a pretty big story — and Drudge apparently feels he has to go to a UK newspaper for good coverage.

This is happening because the state has lived way beyond its means for years. It has attempted to solve its problems with tax increases, and yet it STILL has to cut to the core.

If a Republican governor did this, it would lead the evening newscasts.

Party of compassion my a**.

Update: Well, the St. Louis Post Dispatch’s cartoonist noticed.

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Only the naive will be surprised by this“Cables show China used debt holdings to press US.” The referenced item goes back almost 2-1/2 years. Over $4 trillion in additional debt later (Feb. 17, 2011 – $14.124 trillion; September 30, 2008 – $10.025 trillion), only the naive would think that this isn’t a nearly routine occurrence.

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At the Wisconsin State Journal (HT Gateway Pundit) — “UW Health is investigating reports of doctors writing sick notes last weekend to excuse Capitol protesters from work, and the Wisconsin Medical Society has criticized the doctors’ actions.” I suspect “Now get off our backs, will ya?” window-dressing, but we’ll see.

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A bad sign from Egypt:

Egypt protest hero Wael Ghonim barred from stage

Google executive Wael Ghonim, who emerged as a leading voice in Egypt’s uprising, was barred from the stage in Tahrir Square on Friday by security guards, an AFP photographer said. Ghonim tried to take the stage in Tahrir, the epicentre of anti-regime protests that toppled President Hosni Mubarak, but men who appeared to be guarding influential Muslim cleric Yusuf al-Qaradawi barred him from doing so.

Ghonim, who was angered by the episode, then left the square with his face hidden by an Egyptian flag.

Qaradawi gave a Friday sermon in the square, where hundreds of thousands of people gathered a week after Mubarak’s fall, in which he called for Arab leaders to listen to their people.

Via MEMRI, January 9, 2009:

Sheikh Yousef Al-Qaradhawi on Al-Jazeera Incites Against Jews, Arab Regimes, and the U.S.; Calls on Muslims to Boycott Starbucks and Others; Says ‘Oh Allah, Take This Oppressive, Jewish, Zionist Band of People… And Kill Them, Down to the Very Last One’

The potential for a repeat of Iran’s Ayatollah Khomeni in the late-1970s would appear to be very real.

Update: Never mind the spelling difference in the last name. It is the same guy.

Positivity: George Washington and a Little-Known Turning Point in American History

Filed under: Positivity,Taxes & Government,US & Allied Military — Tom @ 5:57 am

georgewashingtonThis post is a Washington’s Birthday BizzyBlog tradition.

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Few know that George Washington singlehandedly prevented a soldiers’ revolt in 1783.

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(from historyplace.com)

At the close of the Revolutionary War in America, a perilous moment in the life of the fledgling American democracy occurred as officers of the Continental Army met in Newburgh, New York, to discuss grievances and consider a possible insurrection against the rule of Congress.

They were angry over the failure of Congress to honor its promises to the army regarding salary, bounties and life pensions. The officers had heard from Philadelphia that the American government was going broke and that they might not be compensated at all.

On March 10, 1783, an anonymous letter was circulated among the officers of General Washington’s main camp at Newburgh. It addressed those complaints and called for an unauthorized meeting of officers to be held the next day to consider possible military solutions to the problems of the civilian government and its financial woes.

General Washington stopped that meeting from happening by forbidding the officers to meet at the unauthorized meeting. Instead, he suggested they meet a few days later, on March 15th, at the regular meeting of his officers.

Meanwhile, another anonymous letter was circulated, this time suggesting Washington himself was sympathetic to the claims of the malcontent officers.

And so on March 15, 1783, Washington’s officers gathered in a church building in Newburgh, effectively holding the fate of democracy in America in their hands.

Unexpectedly, General Washington himself showed up. He was not entirely welcomed by his men, but nevertheless, personally addressed them…

Gentlemen:
By an anonymous summons, an attempt has been made to convene you together; how inconsistent with the rules of propriety, how unmilitary, and how subversive of all order and discipline, let the good sense of the army decide…

Thus much, gentlemen, I have thought it incumbent on me to observe to you, to show upon what principles I opposed the irregular and hasty meeting which was proposed to have been held on Tuesday last – and not because I wanted a disposition to give you every opportunity consistent with your own honor, and the dignity of the army, to make known your grievances. If my conduct heretofore has not evinced to you that I have been a faithful friend to the army, my declaration of it at this time would be equally unavailing and improper. But as I was among the first who embarked in the cause of our common country. As I have never left your side one moment, but when called from you on public duty. As I have been the constant companion and witness of your distresses, and not among the last to feel and acknowledge your merits. As I have ever considered my own military reputation as inseparably connected with that of the army. As my heart has ever expanded with joy, when I have heard its praises, and my indignation has arisen, when the mouth of detraction has been opened against it, it can scarcely be supposed, at this late stage of the war, that I am indifferent to its interests.

But how are they to be promoted? The way is plain, says the anonymous addresser. If war continues, remove into the unsettled country, there establish yourselves, and leave an ungrateful country to defend itself. But who are they to defend? Our wives, our children, our farms, and other property which we leave behind us. Or, in this state of hostile separation, are we to take the two first (the latter cannot be removed) to perish in a wilderness, with hunger, cold, and nakedness? If peace takes place, never sheathe your swords, says he, until you have obtained full and ample justice; this dreadful alternative, of either deserting our country in the extremest hour of her distress or turning our arms against it (which is the apparent object, unless Congress can be compelled into instant compliance), has something so shocking in it that humanity revolts at the idea. My God! What can this writer have in view, by recommending such measures? Can he be a friend to the army? Can he be a friend to this country? Rather, is he not an insidious foe? Some emissary, perhaps, from New York, plotting the ruin of both, by sowing the seeds of discord and separation between the civil and military powers of the continent? And what a compliment does he pay to our understandings when he recommends measures in either alternative, impracticable in their nature?

I cannot, in justice to my own belief, and what I have great reason to conceive is the intention of Congress, conclude this address, without giving it as my decided opinion, that that honorable body entertain exalted sentiments of the services of the army; and, from a full conviction of its merits and sufferings, will do it complete justice. That their endeavors to discover and establish funds for this purpose have been unwearied, and will not cease till they have succeeded, I have not a doubt. But, like all other large bodies, where there is a variety of different interests to reconcile, their deliberations are slow. Why, then, should we distrust them? And, in consequence of that distrust, adopt measures which may cast a shade over that glory which has been so justly acquired; and tarnish the reputation of an army which is celebrated through all Europe, for its fortitude and patriotism? And for what is this done? To bring the object we seek nearer? No! most certainly, in my opinion, it will cast it at a greater distance.

For myself (and I take no merit in giving the assurance, being induced to it from principles of gratitude, veracity, and justice), a grateful sense of the confidence you have ever placed in me, a recollection of the cheerful assistance and prompt obedience I have experienced from you, under every vicissitude of fortune, and the sincere affection I feel for an army I have so long had the honor to command will oblige me to declare, in this public and solemn manner, that, in the attainment of complete justice for all your toils and dangers, and in the gratification of every wish, so far as may be done consistently with the great duty I owe my country and those powers we are bound to respect, you may freely command my services to the utmost of my abilities.

While I give you these assurances, and pledge myself in the most unequivocal manner to exert whatever ability I am possessed of in your favor, let me entreat you, gentlemen, on your part, not to take any measures which, viewed in the calm light of reason, will lessen the dignity and sully the glory you have hitherto maintained; let me request you to rely on the plighted faith of your country, and place a full confidence in the purity of the intentions of Congress; that, previous to your dissolution as an army, they will cause all your accounts to be fairly liquidated, as directed in their resolutions, which were published to you two days ago, and that they will adopt the most effectual measures in their power to render ample justice to you, for your faithful and meritorious services. And let me conjure you, in the name of our common country, as you value your own sacred honor, as you respect the rights of humanity, and as you regard the military and national character of America, to express your utmost horror and detestation of the man who wishes, under any specious pretenses, to overturn the liberties of our country, and who wickedly attempts to open the floodgates of civil discord and deluge our rising empire in blood.

By thus determining and thus acting, you will pursue the plain and direct road to the attainment of your wishes. You will defeat the insidious designs of our enemies, who are compelled to resort from open force to secret artifice. You will give one more distinguished proof of unexampled patriotism and patient virtue, rising superior to the pressure of the most complicated sufferings. And you will, by the dignity of your conduct, afford occasion for posterity to say, when speaking of the glorious example you have exhibited to mankind, “Had this day been wanting, the world had never seen the last stage of perfection to which human nature is capable of attaining.”

This speech was not very well received by his men. Washington then took out a letter from a member of Congress explaining the financial difficulties of the government.

After reading a portion of the letter with his eyes squinting at the small writing, Washington suddenly stopped. His officers stared at him, wondering. Washington then reached into his coat pocket and took out a pair of reading glasses. Few of them knew he wore glasses, and were surprised.

“Gentlemen,” said Washington, “you will permit me to put on my spectacles, for I have not only grown gray but almost blind in the service of my country.”

In that moment of utter vulnerability, Washington’s men were deeply moved, even shamed, and many were quickly in tears, now looking with great affection at this aging man who had led them through so much. Washington read the remainder of the letter, then left without saying another word, realizing their sentiments.

His officers then cast a unanimous vote, essentially agreeing to the rule of Congress. Thus, the civilian government was preserved and the young experiment of democracy in America continued.

February 21, 2011

This Unserious Administration

Filed under: Economy,Quotes, Etc. of the Day,Taxes & Government — Tom @ 6:30 am

That is, unserious about dealing with the country’s problems and challenges.

From a column in today’s Wall Street Journal by Paul Gigot, who interviewed Paul Ryan:

Has the president ever called him to talk? “Never once,” he says, notwithstanding Mr. Obama’s many public statements that he wants “aggressive” conversations with Republicans, especially Mr. Ryan. “He keeps saying that,” says the Wisconsin native, but “they don’t talk to us. It just doesn’t really happen. I don’t know what else to say.”

So goes the reality of today’s Washington, especially after Mr. Obama dropped his budget this week that does almost nothing about everything. To call it a punt is unfair to the game of football. That abdication makes Mr. Ryan, by dint of his expertise and his influence with other Republicans, the most important fiscal voice in Washington. As supply-siders used to say—and Mr. Ryan came of political age as a protege of Jack Kemp—Mr. Ryan is now the man on the margin. He says he’s determined not to waste the opportunity, notwithstanding the huge political risks.

What’s the White House political calculation behind its budget? “The fiscal strategy is to hang on to all the government we’ve grown, and hopefully rhetoric will get us through the moment. It strikes me as a posture or position to keep the gains of the last two years in place—the bump up in discretionary spending, the creation of these new entitlements—to lock in their gains, bank their wins, and then hang on through the rest of this year. And they believe they have the flourishing rhetorical skills to navigate the politics in the meantime,” Mr. Ryan says.

He adds he was hoping for more, counting on at least some leadership on Social Security, but “we’ve seen triangulation in rhetoric, not in substance.”

But they’re quite serious about holding on to power. The case that they’re really serious about making the problems worse gets more convincing with each passing day.

If Obama is reelected, they have four more years of essentially unaccountable power. If you think the damage done thus far is severe, just wait.

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Related, at NewsBusters — “Newsweek’s Evan Thomas: Obama’s Budget a ‘Profile in Cowardice’” —

Only the President, only the President can break the logjam. His State of the Union was a profile in cowardice. His budget is a profile in cowardice. I hope there’s a secret plan he has here to come forward to lead us, but he hasn’t shown it yet.

Thomas asserted in 2004 that establishment press bias in favor of John Kerry and John Edwards “would be worth maybe 15 points” in that year’s presidential election. Bush won by 2.4%. So if you believe the press was as successful as Thomas predicted, Bush would have won by 17 in a fair fight.

When you’ve lost Evan Thomas ….

Lucid and Lickety-Split Links (022111, Morning)

Filed under: Lucid Links — Tom @ 6:05 am

Lucid Links:

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From an Investors Business Daily editorial (“Obama And The Unions: A Lawless Alliance?”):

Last month the president called for civility in politics. Yet now he supports the Democratic lawmakers in Wisconsin who unlawfully refuse to do their elected jobs — and the union mobs backing them.

Democratic state politicians in Wisconsin are on the run. State troopers are searching from Bayfield to Kenosha for 14 Democratic state senators who in effect are fugitives.

But the state legislators promise they’ll stay outside the boundaries of the state, in hiding, for weeks — even if it means government paralysis.

This is the vicious way the left plays. They lose an election after spending a state into oblivion, then instead of submitting to the will of the people they collect their marbles, refuse to continue playing, and go home in a huff — or in this case go off to points unknown.

… In what dictionary is “civility” defined as “having your political machine bus in union mobs”?

There really is no need for the question mark at the end of the editorial’s title.

At the Washington Post, Jennifer Rubin has related thoughts on who is really guilty of “overreach.”

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In Venezuela, some students are on a hunger strike:

Venezuela Student Hunger Strike Gains Momentum …

What started off as a small hunger strike of Venezuelan students, is now growing as dozens of people have joined the protest demanding that the government let the Organization of American States investigate alleged human rights abuses under President Hugo Chávez.

The activists vow to press on with the protest until OAS Secretary-General José Miguel Insulza or the OAS’s Inter-American Human Rights Commission are authorized to visit Venezuela. Protesters say Chávez uses judges and prosecutors to persecute his political adversaries.

According to El Nacional, the students have specifically referenced and asked for the release of 27 people they say are political prisoners.

While mentioning the hunger strike, the Associated Press does not mention the alleged political political prisoners, and frames the situation quite differently:

Venezuela’s allies tell OAS chief not to meddle

Latin American allies came to the defense of President Hugo Chavez’s government on Saturday, telling the head of the Organization of American States not to meddle in Venezuela’s domestic affairs.

Nations belonging to a left-leaning bloc led by Venezuela and Cuba accused OAS chief Jose Miguel Insulza of being a pawn of the U.S. government, which has urged Chavez’s administration to allow an international investigation into alleged human rights abuses.

Left-”leaning”?

Fausta wonders if we might be seeing another Egypt. Maybe, but in this case the sympathies of the world press will remain with authoritarian Chavez unless he really, really, really screws up, and even then it might not matter.

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John Kasich has his hands full right now, but the needs to get the following outrage on his team’s radar:

The Center for Equal Opportunity (CEO) released a study earlier this week that analyzed undergrad admissions data we had obtained from Ohio State and Miami University and concluded that heavy preferences are given to African American and, to a lesser extent, Latino applicants over white and, again to a lesser extent, Asian applicants. …

The universities’ response is that, while we considered test scores, grades, residency, and other variables in addition to race, we did not consider all the variables they consider. In other words, they are apparently claiming that the severe disparities we found can be explained away by the fact that African Americans write much, much more persuasive admission essays than do whites, for example, and that Latinos get much, much better letters of recommendation than do Asians. To which our response is … be serious.

From the Center’s web site (bolds are mine):

CEO Chairman Linda Chavez said Miami and Ohio State lower academic standards to admit students from diverse racial backgrounds.

… The study found at Miami median SAT scores differ between back and white students by between 110 to 166 points in what it calls the “black-white gap.”

… Chavez said in addition to accepting students with lower test scores, Miami accepts students with lower high school grades to amplify its racial diversity.

Claire Wagner, director of news and public information at Miami, said while Miami is dedicated to promoting diversity, both racial and otherwise, the university evaluates each student individually.

“(The study) is skewed because Miami has a very holistic and comprehensive review process,” Wagner said. “We use a set of 25 criteria that can be found on the admissions website, and of course racial and socioeconomic diversity falls into that.”

If Miami were a private university, it could do what it wants (though you could still make a case, since it relies on federal student loan funds, that it would have a social responsibility to maximize total educational value delivered). But it’s not. Taxpayers have a right to expect and should demand that their state-supported universities will accept the best and brightest, and not discriminate against more qualified students simply because they’re white.

The governor and his peeps should get on this quickly. The justification would probably be pretty easy. I’ll betcha, as has been found elsewhere, that underqualified kids who get admitted flunk out at a much higher rate. If so, this result would show that the named universities did them no favors by admitting them in the first place. Meanwhile, the university is unfairly shafting others who shoud have been accepted and would have had a much better chance of graduating.

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Lickety-Split Links:

  • The public-sector unions have deep pockets. Investors Business Daily cartoonist Michael Ramirez shows us (HT Hot Air) that a certain U.S. president is inside one of them.
  • Every once in a while I catch a glimpse of a New York Times print edition front page, and marvel at the paper’s grim determination to make propaganda points with its layout and photo decisions. Gerard Van der leun at American Digest (HT Instapundit) details Sunday’s particularly odious example.
  • A wishful-thinking headline (“Republican House votes to defund Environmental Protection Agency”). We can’t possibly get that lucky.
  • Press reports would seem to indicate that the new “Badger 14″ blog may be busy for a while.