Saturday, 2 March 2013

Bama Education

Alabama had an interesting week in the legislation.

They had a bill that they were discussing...over school education....with a total of nine pages.  It went into a committee situation, where all of sudden....they added text onto it, and it was close to twenty-seven pages.  Shockingly enough....they then tossed onto the floor of the House....where it immediately passed with mostly all Republicans in the state legislation supporting it. Note, not a single Democrat supported at that point.

So it quickly moved to the Alabama Senate....where it immediately was passed.  The governor says he will sign next week.

The meat of this bill?  Well....it's an interesting thing. All throughout Bama.....folks have complained about failing schools....mostly all in urban areas (Birmingham, Montgomery, Huntsville, Mobile, etc).  Local folks have voted in local boards of education, and loudly complained.....but nothing ever changes. You'd literally have to fire an entire school....to get your point across at this point.

So the bill says.....you as a parent....if this school is deemed a failed-school.....to a non-failing public school, private school, or church-run school.  The state will even create a scholarship fund to help pay for this business.  They will give tax credits to individuals or companies....that donate to such a scholorship fund.

The House passed 51-26....all on party-lines.  The senate passed it 22-11....all on party-lines.

The pointed end of this stick?  It gets pretty interesting here.  You can accurately say....without any racial intent....that almost all of these failed urban schools are in heavily black populated areas of Bama.  These are parents who've continually complained, and the usual answer is that you need to pump more money into the school or the district to fix the problem.

Now?  Well....if you live in the Birmingham county area.....you could up and take your kid across the county line to a successful school operation, and no one can stop you.  The new county can't really refuse you (the standard rules always kept this from happening).

The old school?  For the time being, they'd still have property or special taxes to help....but if you had a school that suddenly went from 1,500 students to 900 students....you'd have to lay off teachers, and there'd be a number of empty rooms around the school.

Then you'd slip into the second year of this mess, and find the new student count around 600....where you'd lay off more teachers, and likely start discussing the closure of your school.

Private schools popping up, and supported by church organizations?  Yes.  Black communities might suddenly discover that their local minister and their church organization would take up the cause.  They might run a school operation where the kid would attend school three days a week, and have a ton of homework for the other two days.

How does the state teachers union feel about this?  Oh, they hate it.  Black political members (mostly all Democrat)?  Well.....they hate it too.

My humble guess is that in five brief years.....this failed school program is going to a thing of the past. A bunch of parents are going to be shocked how easy it was to fix their education problems.

Court involvement?  I'm thinking a bunch of Democratic operatives and teacher union folks will make up a case real quick.  The question is....why wouldn't the state legislature have the opportunity to fix what is broke?

The curious thing to this bill?  Well....no one is sure how you'd define a failed school.  Even the state education folks....can't say for sure when you have a failed school.  It's kinda like having a pick-up truck that has been to the garage six times over the past year.  When do you say....this truck is finished?  You can continually fix a failed transmission....every forty thousand miles.  You can continually put new tires every twenty thousand miles because some axle issue.  But where is this mythical point of admitting absolute failure.

I'm guessing this winds up at the Supreme Court, and that Roberts-guy will stand up and ask when and how you declare a failure?  And the Bama lawyer will just grin and say it was open to interpretation.

You might have the greatest solution of all time to Bama's education problems.....or you might have the worst solution of all time to the problem.....you just can't tell.

The Last Good Snack

This week, McDonalds make a decision....pulling down their fruit and walnut snack pack.

I started out about a year ago....snacking on these. I'd stop at the McDonalds in the Pentagon...order up a regular burger, and the fruit and walnut pack instead of the fries.  Less sodium, and I have to admit....it was very tasty.  Couple of chunks of apple, five grapes, and some pudding, along with a few pieces of walnut.  Right price, and healthy to eat.

The logic for cancellation?  I imagine that it simply didn't sell in the quantity to make it profitable.  The sad thing here....is that this was the last good snack that any of the fast food guys had....that was healthy for you to eat.

The Dictator Comment

The President came out yesterday....kinda upset about Sequestration, and the comment was tossed to him....why not just force Congress and the Senate to sit and discuss the matter (instead of jumping on a plane and leaving for their home districts for the weekend)?

The President was pretty cool at this point, and just said that "I'm not a dictator".  Some journalists just took the comment and moved on.  Some sat there....scratching their head.

I sat and pondered over the comment.

There are several myths about dictators.

First, almost all dictators....are elected to office.  I know this sounds shocking, but you can go down the list: Hitler, Stalin, Mussolini, Castro, Franco, Ho Chi Minh, Barre, Saddam, etc.....but they all were placed into office via an election of sorts.  It might have been a rigged election, but generally....an election is an election.

Good dictators?  Well.....yeah, there were a couple.   There's Mustafa Kemal Atatürk of Turkey.....from the 1920s.  Most all Turks will swear up and down....he was a pretty resonable guy and no one will say much negative over him (unless you live outside of Turkey, of course).  Murbarak of Egypt would called a good dictator for the most part, up until the end point where he was taken prisoner.  Most Egyptians are divided today....with some remarking over the positive economy during the Murbarak years.

Dictators being generally incompetent?  Well....Hitler would have proven that point over and over.  Most folks would admit that Hitler's speeches in the early 1930s were five-star moments, and really stirred up a crowd.  Beyond that....Hitler knew nothing about military strategy, economic theory, or international law.

Dictators being generally stupid?  Saddam proved himself to be a genius at times....by putting a heavy hand on various Iraqi religious groups and forcing them to quietly exist.  Most Iraqis today would admit it was a pretty smart strategy.  Castro would admit that keeping the US out of Cuba's business....might have been a good idea over the past fifty years.

The President and his "I'm not a dictator" moment?  It's hard to say what was on his mind.  It's an odd comment to make.  Eisenhower and Clinton....would have never made a comment like that.  Lincoln might have stood there for five minutes....commenting on a lack of conviction by both crowds but never aiming entirely at the Republicans, or the Democrats.  Johnson would have invited the boys all over for a bar-b-q and beer.....spent six hours working out the details, and the next day had a laugh with the Washington Post that his methods are odd....but they work.

There's something wrong with DC....but you just can't say what it is.

Simply Observations

We moved an inch closer to the Keystone pipeline deal this week.  Between the State Department, the President, and a dozen other delay devices....I'd say the soonest that any decision is made final....is summer of 2014, before the November elections.  With unemployment high by spring of 2014 and gas prices up around $5 a gallon....it'd just make sense then....to "release the Keystone" (like release the Kracken, but better).  The President would have used up all the help from his environmental folks and just dumped them to the side by that point.  Considering the fact that there are literally thousands of pipelines around the US, it's the most comical soap opera ever developed for a national audience.  All you need is four Texas Troubadours, a fat Italian opera-singing lady, and a fake Amish Mafia guy to make this into a great movie script.

Around a hundred ammo, gun, and SWAT-gear companies.....have put cities and states with gun-control legislation on the bad-customer list.  Yeah, they just plain said that they wouldn't sell to them, under any circumstances.  Every other day....a couple of more companies put themselves on the list.  It makes things tougher but not impossible.  The other side of the coin here....because of regular customer business....most companies are making acceptable profit to do something like this.   You may see these cities have to go beyond the US border....buying Chinese-made ammo.....to operate.  You could actually have a bunch of cops arrive at a mass-shooting event, and then discover half their ammo won't fire correctly, and then have a major Congressional investigation over how such an event could possibly happen.

The Equal Voting Rights law ended up at the Supreme Court this week.  There will be a long discussion, and by July.....they will make a decision.  This is the law that came out of 1965....basically allowing the federal government to monitor election changes in nine states (with various exceptions), and the federal government can stop changes or modifications to any part of the state's voting apparatus.  The states?  All southern, and includes Arizona strangely enough.  It also includes a dozen counties outside of the "zone"....like the Bronx, and even two counties in South Dakota.  So if you wanted to redraw your voting districts in these affected areas....the feds get all involved.  If you were Nevada.....the feds can't say anything.  It makes sense in 1965, but then you ask this stupid question....exactly how long will this last?  You get the impression that some political folks and some journalists believe eternity generally fits for the length of this deal.  Personally, there's issues across the entire United States....so either this applies to all fifty states, or it ought to come to an end.

Finally, this is the weekend where the History Channel premiers it's first ever scripted show (well....yeah....the Amish Mafia is scripted, but it's different)....when the Vikings show up.  History Channel's input?  Forty million dollars.  It's a fair sum for a TV series.  My humble guess....they are finally taking on the big three networks and putting up shows that people WANT to actually watch.  So yeah, I will be sitting there on Sunday evening to watch the Vikings.