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Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Cattle grazing standoff in Nevada ends peacefully with BLM retreat

Thankfully, the standoff at the Bundy ranch in Nevada ended fairly peacefully. Bureau of Land Management (BLM) Director Neil Kornze made a good decision, and the correct decision, when he pulled his officers out after returning some 400 head of seized cattle to the land on which they had been grazing. He took the action “because of our serious concern about the safety of [BLM] employees and members of the public.”

The Internet is rife with stories about this incident from national and local news outlets including ABC, the local CBS channel KLAS-TV, Newsmax.com, the Los Angeles Times, the Las Vegas Review-Journal, the Associated Press, and others.

Some will say that rancher Cliven Bundy was at fault in this incident. Mr. Bundy raises cattle on the ranch his grandfather started in the1870s, and he and his ancestors and neighbors have been grazing their herds on this land for well over a hundred years.

The federal government, through the BLM, took control of a huge area in Nevada when a tortoise that makes its home there was labeled “threatened” many years ago. In order to graze their cattle there, ranchers had to pay a fee. The new paradigm engendered the shutting down of several ranches, Mr. Bundy asserts, and he refused to be one of them. He continued to graze his cattle there and has refused to pay the fee on the basis that the federal government had no right to take control of the land that belonged to the State of Nevada.

He and others dispute the stated reason for the federal encroachment, the “threatened” tortoise. They say that the tortoise is not endangered at all, and that even if it was, cattle do not harm the habitat or the tortoises. Thus, the federal government had no basis for the take-over, and the court actions against him are therefore moot.

After losing court actions, Mr. Bundy still grazed his cattle on the land for years without paying. In response to a court order, the BLM recently sent an estimated 200 heavily armed officers and police dogs to the area and began rounding up the cattle.

And that’s when the revolt against what protesters viewed as over-reaching on the part of the BLM/federal government starting building steam. The protestors began rolling in from across the country. Some were armed and some were on horseback, reportedly attempting to free cattle seized by the BLM.

Tensions grew and were aggravated when Mr. Bundy’s son was shot twice with a stun gun, and a BLM officer tackled Mr. Bundy’s 57-year-old sister to the ground.

As tensions grew among the protestors, and the potential for violence grew, Director Kornze made the decision to return the captured cattle and withdraw the BLM personnel.

Some believe the federal retreat signals a victory for Mr. Bundy and his supporters. Others believe the federal intervention was a test to determine whether, and to what extent, the American people will stand up against federal over-reaching. Whatever the case, it has gotten the attention of millions of Americans.

Now it’s time for answers to some important questions about the BLM and its actions, and the basis for the court decisions. The most important of these questions is: Where does the federal government find the authority for the BLM to take control of land belonging to a sovereign state?

Some legal authorities say that the Bureau of Land Management action is a direct violation of Article 1, Section 8, Clause 17 of the US Constitution. That clause, the Enclave Clause, authorizes Congress to purchase, own and control land in a state only under specific and limited conditions, such as “for the erection of forts, magazines, arsenals, dockyards, and other needful buildings.” It does not mention uses such as to protect endangered animals.

Legal scholar Mark Levin said that the BLM negotiated agreements with Mr. Bundy and other ranchers many years ago for water rights, grazing rights, and for building roads and irrigation. The BLM then changed the rules in what Mr. Levin called a “systematic and deliberate campaign to drive ranchers out of Southern Nevada.” The fact that Mr. Bundy is the lone remaining rancher in the area adds credence to this charge.

And why swoop in with heavily armed federal agents and forcibly take Mr. Bundy’s cattle? This action is not only uncalled for, but is dangerous and irresponsible. There are other methods for the federal government to get what it is due in fees without armed force.

It is an encouraging sign that so many Americans from so many states felt strongly enough about this issue to travel to Nevada and stand beside Mr. Bundy and his family in the face of federal tyranny.

Each time the government oversteps its bounds, the people complain, but usually to no avail. Let us hope that this time the message that the government that exists only to serve the best interests of Americans will not be allowed to endlessly abuse them.

People are more important than animals, and the American people are more important than their government. Our government and our leaders need to be reminded of their proper place.

Tuesday, April 08, 2014

The evidence is mounting: Idiocy is taking control of America

With her parents’ approval, 9-year-old Kamryn shaved her head in support of her friend, 11-year-old Delaney, who is battling neuroblastoma, a childhood cancer, and recently started chemotherapy.

“It felt like the right thing to do,” Kamryn told the local TV station news reporter.

Officials at Caprock Academy in Grand Junction, Colorado, however, told Kamryn she couldn’t come back to class without a wig or until her natural hair grew back because her shaved head violates the school’s dress code.

Wonder if they told Delaney the same thing? 

*****

Schools seem to have a magnetic attraction for idiotic rules:

Several schools have banned students who have applied for admission to colleges from sharing their good news with fellow students because doing so might hurt the feelings of other students.

Another school bans the use of hand sanitizer without written permission. Perhaps a doctor’s note should be required.

And other schools have banned playing tag on the playground at recess. You remember tag? Where kids chase each other around and touch them with their hand when they catch them, saying, “You’re it?” Too dangerous, principals say. 

Josh, a second grader at Park Elementary School in Baltimore, Maryland, was suspended for two days because his teacher said he shaped a strawberry prebaked toaster pastry into something resembling a gun.

A similar fate befell Nathan, a 10-year-old student at Devonshire Alternative Elementary School in the Columbus, Ohio school system. For his crime of making a gun out of his index finger and thumb, and saying, “boom,” Nathan was suspended for three days. Apparently no one saw or heard what Nathan did, except a teacher. At a meeting with the school principal, his father learned that if it happened again, the punishment could be a longer suspension, or perhaps permanent suspension.

Fortunately, the SWAT team was not called and no one was injured or died from these hideous crimes, and the criminals have been duly punished.

***** 

Did you know that in the land of the free warming your car on a cold day is illegal in some states? Ohio, Texas, West Virginia, Maryland, Colorado, Wisconsin, South Carolina, and some cities in Minnesota forbid it.

In Ohio, if the public servants Ohioans pay to protect them from the criminal element find a resident trying to warm up their icy vehicle, they can be fined $150. In Texas it’s a Class C misdemeanor with a fine of up to $500.

And in West Virginia, the fine for the first offense is $100, but if you are dumb enough to get caught trying to make your car comfortable a second time, the cost is $500.

The reason for these laws is to protect the drivers warming up their cars from their own stupidity, and also to protect others of weak will from becoming car thieves. Apparently, a running but unoccupied vehicle is just too great a temptation for some folks to resist, and these laws punish vehicle owners in order to discourage this selfish behavior, which forces otherwise law-abiding citizens to steal cars.

By that reasoning, banks, retail stores and other business should be fined for deliberately providing strong temptation for people to commit robberies. 

***** 

From Listverse.com’s 10 Ridiculous Cases of Political Correctness: 

“Xbox Live recently banned Josh Moore for violating its gamers’ code of conduct.  His offense?  Filling out his Xbox Live profile.  You see, Mr. Moore lives in West Virginia. More specifically, in FORT GAY, West Virginia. As Microsoft says, the word ‘gay’ is always offensive. Never mind that several US townships incorporate the word into their name, many people have ‘Gay’ as a first or last name, and some homosexuals do identify themselves as ‘gay.’  No, Microsoft obviously had a wise guy in their midst, and he had to go. So, despite a total lack of customer complaints, Microsoft froze Moore’s account and warned him that he could lose his prepaid subscription if he badgered Customer Service further. Fort Gay Mayor, David Thompson, tried to intervene, but was told that the city’s name didn’t matter; the word ‘gay’ was inappropriate in any context. As a result, Moore missed a Search and Destroy competition and his team lost. Microsoft has since carefully reviewed the matter and reinstated Moore with full Xbox Live privileges (translation: the story hit the web).”

*****

The parents of players on the boys baseball team at a Michigan high school took the initiative to raise private money and do the work themselves to make improvements to the field on which their sons play. But the federal government, which really should have nothing to say about a high school baseball field in Michigan, has intervened, citing federal civil rights law, and noting that the boys facility is now much nicer than the girls softball field. The Department of Justice has threatened fines for Plymouth Canton Community Schools, so the school system will remove the new scoreboard and bleachers put in by the parents.

It would obviously be unfair to simply tell the girls’ parents to get busy and take care of their own improvements, like the boys’ parents did. Better yet, the feds should just keep quiet.

Tuesday, April 01, 2014

Common Core State Standards Initiative has uncommonly bad problems



I attended a lecture by former Florida Governor Jeb Bush last year at which he spoke positively about the Common Core State Standards Initiative (CCSS), explaining that governors and state commissioners or secretaries of education developed the program. It is entirely voluntary, and is designed to set uniform high education standards in the states that participate.

The idea seems potentially beneficial, given that the states control it and not the federal government. In support, Mr. Bush cites the fact that the U.S. has fallen behind many other countries in educational attainment, and that CCSS can reverse this trend.

“Let me tell you something,” Mr. Bush said recently at the Broward Workshop business breakfast, as reported by The Miami Herald. “In Asia today, they don’t care about children’s self esteem. They care about math, whether they can read – in English – whether they understand why science is important, whether they have the grit and determination to be successful.”

Appearing on the Hugh Hewitt radio program the host breached the idea that CCSS would be a national curriculum. “In fact, standards are different than curriculum,” Mr. Bush responded, “and that’s where I think the biggest misnomer is where people legitimately get concerned. I would be concerned if we had a national curriculum influenced by the federal government. My God, I’d break out in a rash.” The curriculum, he said, “should be driven by state and local school districts and by policy makers at the state level.”

So, CCSS sounds pretty good. Ideas often fail to reach their expectations, however, and where Common Core is concerned there are numerous examples of how its implementation fails to match up with the high ideals Mr. Bush believes in.

To say that the Common Core approach to basic mathematics is different takes understatement to a new level. If the problem is to find the sum of 26 and 17, we would normally put the addends one above the other, add 7 and 6 to get 13, put the 3 down and carry the 1, then add the 1, the 2 and the other 1 to get 43.

Not so with Common Core math. Here’s how CCSS does it:

Add 26 + 17 by breaking apart numbers to make a ten. Use a number that adds with the 6 in 26 to make a 10. Since 6 + 4 = 10, use 4. Think: 17 = 4 + 13. Add 26 + 4 = 30. Add 30 + 13 = 43. So, 26 + 17 = 43.

Does the CCSS method work? Well, yes, it works. And perhaps some beneficial learning takes place. However it is somewhat like when trying to fly from Washington, DC to New York City, you first fly to Nashville, TN, then to Atlanta, GA, then to Boston, MA then to NYC.

Most important in education, however, is the content presented in the classroom. The most high-minded goals are meaningless if what students actually experience ignores them.

Testifying before the Alabama Senate Education Committee, Becky Gerritson focused primarily on an 11th grade literature textbook called The American Experience: 1900-Present by Prentice Hall, with the words “Common Core Edition” on the cover. She explained that it contains anti-American themes and misrepresents our nation’s founding, and she supports a bill to allow local school districts to opt out of Common Core.

But where she really got the Committee’s attention was when she began reading six sentences of Toni Morrison’s book The Bluest Eye, which she said is recommended reading for 11th graders.

What she read produced gasps from the audience, and the chairman stopped her, and did not allowed her to finish. You see, this book recommended for 11th graders is the story of an 8-year old black girl. The six sentences she chose to read were a graphic depiction of a sex act between a pedophile and the 8-year-old, and contained, among several pornographic phrases that are inappropriate for this column, the F-word that brought the testimony to a close.

Defenders of Common Core might argue that most 11th graders are familiar with such language and concepts, but that is totally beside the point. It is completely inappropriate for a high school classroom.

And political pressure is also present.

According to Susan Kimball, a kindergarten teacher of 20 years in the Sikeston, Missouri Public School District, her opposition to Common Core resulted in bullying and intimidation from administrators and fellow teachers.

Ms. Kimball related that she was told at an in-service meeting to “be careful about what you post on Facebook, or talk about in the public regarding Common Core.  Don’t say anything negative.  It could affect your job.” But she continued to speak out.

“When I turned in a personal day request to come support the rally for House Bill 1490,” she said, “I was asked by my principal, ‘Do you really want that in your personnel file?’ And then I was bullied and ostracized by my administration, a few other teachers and the president of the school board.  And that continues today,” she said.

Common Core must be carefully investigated and cleaned up before being adopted. Or maybe just scrap it.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Climate change: What 150 years of global warming has done to Earth


As we celebrated the beginning of spring last week, then had our hopes for an end to winter weather dashed by forecasts of snow this week, a new report on global warming/climate change came out.

This report tells us that while the last 16 years where no additional warming of the climate were recorded, the previous 150 years where warming did occur are more important. It also explained what that century and a half of warming has meant for life on the Earth.

Since 1970 environment watchers have made quite a few predictions of dire consequences to the planet caused by the activities of humans that have thrown the environment into chaos, among which are:

  • By 1980 all of the important animal life in the sea will be extinct. 
  • By the year 2000 the United Kingdom will be simply a small group of impoverished islands, inhabited by some 70 million hungry people.
  • The world will be eleven degrees colder by the year 2000.
  • By 1985, air pollution will have reduced the amount of sunlight reaching Earth by half.
  • A general warming trend over the North Pole is melting the polar ice cap and may produce an ice-free Arctic Ocean by the year 2000.
  • Within a few years children just aren't going to know what snow is. Snowfall will be a very rare and exciting event.

Fortunately, none of those predictions has come true, but what has 150 years of warming done to the humans whose dangerous activities are said to be causing it?

Well, according to a report from the National Center for Policy Analysis (NCPA) by H. Sterling Burnett, this warming has been beneficial, not dangerous.

Over the last 150 years the Earth has warmed an average of 0.8 degrees Celsius, according to economist Richard Tol, an increase that has had a positive impact on the world’s economy. Dr. Tol, who holds doctorates in economics and environmental economics, and teaches at the University of Sussex and Vrije Universiteit in Amsterdam, says further that an additional rise of 2.2 degrees in temperature would continue to yield substantial benefits until at least 2080.

Mr. Burnett cites data from Dr. Tol showing that climate change has added 1.4 percent to global economic output over the last century, a figure that should rise to 1.5 percent by 2025. The increase in CO2 added 0.8 percent to GDP due to the boost it produced in agricultural production, and the warmer temperatures reduced the demand for heating, adding another 0.4 percent to GDP.

“With higher CO2 levels, plants thrive and become more efficient in their use of water,” the NCPA report states. “And because most of the warming has reduced low nighttime temperatures, the globe has seen fewer growth-stunting frost events, as well as longer growing seasons.”

Citing information from agronomist and geographer Craig Idso, the Stuart report asserts that improved plant growth over a 50-year period starting in 1961 totaled $3.2 trillion, and from today through 2050 increased CO2 will add $9.8 trillion to crop production.

And the greatest benefits in improved agricultural production have occurred in Africa, with one-third of that continent’s countries growing at 6 percent, and the poverty line dropping from 51 percent to 39 percent.

At the same time as this very positive information materializes, an assistant philosophy professor at Rochester Institute of Technology has advocated putting some of those who oppose the manmade climate change theory in jail.

Lawrence Torcello’s stepping-off point came after an earthquake in Italy where six Italian scientists and a defense minister were subsequently sentenced to six years in prison because the official didn’t adequately warn the public following several minor tremors of the possibility, or likelihood, of a full-scale quake, which did occur, and the scientists failed to correct the official’s error.

“When it comes to global warming, much of the public remains in denial about a set of facts that the majority of scientists clearly agree on,” says the philosophy professor. “With such high stakes, an organized campaign funding misinformation ought to be considered criminally negligent.”

It’s quite a stretch to equate people failing to provide information about a likely imminent event with people who financially support the contrarian view of a popular but unproven scientific theory, the contrarian view of which is itself strongly supported by scientists.

Further thwarting the Torcello plan is the indisputable fact that the time between tremors and the earthquake they foreshadowed was a matter of hours, where any harm that might come to humans from opposing the radical prescriptions to combat climate change is years or decades in the future.

Applying the professor’s goofy idea to those who financially supported opposition to the dire predictions listed previously, we might have dozens in prison for being correct.

Liberals seem always to prefer shutting down dissent rather than having civil and productive discussions about the different ideas. This happens for two reasons. First, they are unable to disprove the opposing position with actual facts, and second, their arrogance compels in them the belief that they are always right, and that justifies them using any means necessary to implement their radical and dangerous agenda.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Is being “bossy” really a serious societal problem in America?


A new crisis threatens the nation. Some women are upset at having been called “bossy” when they were young. This term is so offensive to them that they want the word banned. Yes, that’s right, they want to banish the word “bossy” from the lexicon, never again to be used in any context, even to describe a male, as so many did to Mitt Romney during the 2012 presidential campaign.

 “Bossy” is now the “B-word,” but must not be confused with another B-word, which arguably is a more serious insult to women.

In junior high, Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg recounts, a teacher stopped her best friend and told her: "Nobody likes a bossy girl. You should find a new friend who will be a better influence on you."

"This is a very negative experience for girls,” she said. “If you look at my childhood, if you look at the childhood of most of the leaders we talked to, they lived through being told they were bossy," Sandberg said. "And it has such a strongly female, and such a strongly negative connotation, that we thought the best way to raise awareness was to say, 'This isn't a word we should use.’”

Okay, so young girls were often referred to as “bossy” because they told others what to do. But isn’t the term “bossy” really just the reaction to a particular type of behavior?

If someone is “bossy,” doesn’t that imply that the person thinks they know better than everyone else how things should be done? Maybe they’re right, or maybe they’re wrong, but their behavior sends that message.

I have worked for and with women who were good leaders, but were not “bossy,” and I’ve worked along side both men and women who weren’t in a leadership position, but were plenty “bossy.” Being “bossy” is gender-neutral, and is not a requirement for being a good leader. Having been called “bossy” does not seem to have hurt Ms. Sandberg’s career.

So that begs the question: why would anyone be offended at having the behavior they willingly exhibit being accurately identified? Wouldn’t the offended person’s proper response be to modify their behavior so as to no longer impress others as being bossy? Or, just grin and bear it?

Ms. Sandberg and Girl Scouts CEO Anna Maria Chavez expressed the idea in a Wall Street Journal op-ed that using “bossy” to describe girls is at the center of the problem of unequal treatment of girls and boys, noting that girls who lead are more often described as "bossy" and "overly ambitious" while boys who lead are described as "strong" and "determined."

Perhaps men and women are perceived differently and receive different treatment because men and women are inherently different creatures. We know this because Time Magazine told us so after it had an epiphany back in 1992, and thought the discovery warranted a cover story. “Why Are Men and Women Different? It isn’t just upbringing. New studies show they are born that way,” the cover announced.

Since the women’s movement in the 60s there has been a strong effort for equality between men and women, particularly in the workplace.

There certainly is no reason women cannot be doctors, lawyers, accountants, CEOs, politicians, financial advisers, etc. And there is no reason that if women want to perform those traditionally male jobs, like construction, carpentry, welding, truck driving, mining, or be police officers and firefighters, etc., they certainly can.

But while women may want to have careers, just as men do, nature has placed restrictions on them. Nature has deemed that women are the only gender that can bear children and nurture them in the earliest part of their lives, and the mother’s role is a critical and important duty in our world.

Men cannot be mothers; they are not built for the job, either physically or emotionally. Which is not to say men cannot play a stronger role in parenting and taking care of the home. But they cannot be mothers, and mothers will always have a different role than fathers.

And for that reason, mothers and fathers can never be totally equal, either in the workplace, or in the home.

In Ms. Sandberg’s book Women, Work, and the Will to Lead, which she called "sort of a feminist manifesto," she encouraged women to "lean in" to their careers, yield to their sense of ambition and don’t shrink when they incur challenges in their work-life balance.

Ms. Sandberg’s efforts seem designed to show women as victims who are discriminated against in the workplace.

But when you look at the studies, they show that women frequently choose lower paying careers than men, tend to prefer a better lifestyle to working the longer hours required by many better paying jobs, and they take off blocks of time from their jobs, often due to childbearing, more frequently than men, which affects moving up.

Some of us try to equalize things that are inherently unequal, due to situations that those on the short end actually have helped to create.