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Archive for February, 2010

Fethullah Gulen is major sponsor of charter schools all over the USA. Now they have applied to open one in DE.

A quick web search reveals them to be either a great institution or a terrorist outpost which uses the school’s constant stream of money to support activities.

Just an FYI.

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In 2008, Congress passed the Passenger Rail Investment and Improvement Act (PRIIA) which, among other things, established a high-speed rail  corridor development program.   To be eligible for federal funding under the program, projects must be located in designated high-speed rail corridors. 

Nationally, there are 11 designated high-speed rail corridors. Amazingly, the Northeast Corridor (NEC) is not one of them and states located along the NEC cannot compete for project funding under the PRIIA. As a result, the NEC is missing out on money for badly needed infrastructural improvements and upgrades.

This state of affairs is amazing for several reasons. First, the NEC is the location where intercity passenger rail has been most successful since the creation of Amtrak in the early 1970’s. This isn’t surprising- to be successful, intercity rail service depends on high population densities. Unlike many locations in America, the area through which NEC passes has population density, urbanization, and congestion, at many points akin to European levels. As such, it is probably the best location for a true high-speed rail line in the entire country. Second, the NEC is the location of America’s sole existing “higher speed” passenger rail service- the Acela. Third, improvements to the NEC would benefit rail passengers now, not in some speculative future because more passengers travel on the NEC annually than on all other passenger rail lines in America combined!

There is a very old military axiom- reinforce success. The NEC is our most successful, and most utilized, passenger rail corridor, located in the region most suitable for high-speed rail. Let’s reinforce that success through equitable funding for rail improvement projects that will improve service on this route. Let’s invest in that success, and make the NEC the flagship high-speed rail corridor project in the nation. Designated high-speed rail corridor status for the NEC is the only sensible course of action here, and one which will benefit rail passengers in Delaware, and throughout the region.

Thankfully, Congressman Mike Castle is taking action to remedy this situation and to ensure equitable treatment for America’s premier passenger rail route. Congressman Castle is proposing legislation to amend the PRIIA and designate the NEC as a “high-speed rail corridor.” This would permit NEC projects to compete for funding on an equal footing with projects in other designated corridors across the nation, and would ensure that our region received an appropriate share of federal transportation funding.

Congressman Castle is holding a press conference at the Wilmington Amtrak station on Monday, March 1 at 11:15 a.m. to discuss the proposed legislation. I highly encourage readers interested in this issue to attend.

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The Italians are right.

For those of you who are 1st Amendment right lovers beware you will not like this.

But’s that’s ok because my stance makes sense and best of all it protects’ kids.

In Italy this week a Judge sentenced executives of YOU TUBE founder, Google to jail for allowing a video to be displayed of a disabled kid being attacked by classmates.

Yea it seems draconian but it reinforces the need for some freaking limits on what people can post about other people without any authority let alone responsibility for their actions.

You tube and facebook have made running a school an impossibility. Johnny puts something up at midnight and there’s a brawl the next day in the cafeteria.

This isn’t free speech, it’s free gossip mongering. An adult company like Google needs to be able to monitor what is posted on their site.

Good for the Italian Judge!

Ask any American school principal and they will tell you online bs has further crippled their ability to maintain a safe and orderly school environment.

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“I have never seen [Congress] as unified as we are now.”  Those were the words of Senator Bill Nelson describing the reaction to President Obama’s proposal to effectively cede our nation’s dominance in space by axing critical pieces of our manned spaceflight program.  

Bipartisanship in this Congress?  In this bitter, partisan climate on the eve of an election? It must take a really bad idea to produce that sort of unanimity.   Actually, that is probably understating things… so let me put it this way…  President Obama’s plan to cut NASA’s Constellation project, and in so doing, end our ability to conduct manned spaceflight missions on our own.. is not just a really bad idea,  it’s an awful one. 

As reported by Spaceflight:

White House plans to axe NASA‘s return-to-the-Moon Constellation programme and ground the Space Shuttle have sparked unified opposition from Congress, which looks determined to preserve a full spectrum of US manned spaceflight activities.

A draft Congressional bill leaked to Flight International sets out the politicians’ alternate plan. It involves possibly extending Shuttle life to 2015, running competitive commercial crew and cargo programmes and continuing development of Constellation’s vehicles including a heavylift rocket designed to get astronauts to the Moon in the 2020s and then Mars.

In a heated hearing on Capitol Hill, President Obama’s NASA administrator Charles Bolden, a former astronaut and Shuttle commander, had to defend his deputy Lori Beth Garver and the president’s plan to shift NASA’s focus from missions to capabilities under the fiscal year 2011 budget request.

In the 24 February hearing of the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation committee’s science and space subcommittee one senator criticised Garver as the alleged author of the plan and budget, which the subcommittee’s members described as ending all US human spaceflight efforts with its retirement of the Shuttle fleet this year and cancellation of the Constellation.

Referring to the space programme as bipartisan, subcommittee chairman senator Bill Nelson of Florida says of the opposition to the Obama plan: “I have never seen [Congress] as unified as we are now.”

Much of the Congressional opposition to Obama’s plan stems from estimates pegging direct job losses from cutting Constellation, Shuttle and other programmes at 30,000, including 7,000 at the Kennedy Space Center.

Bolden told the hearing that the Obama exploration goal was Mars, but during the early February budget roll-out he said that the plan’s destinations would be decided by a “national conversation”.

President Obama’s chief advisor for science and technology, the infamous Dr. John Holdren, also faced tough questioning on the Administration’s space plans.   At the conclusion of Dr. Holdren’s February 24th testimony, Rep.  Robert Aderholt (R-AL)  put it this way:  “The President’s decision to end the Constellation program is reckless and could cripple U.S. human spaceflight for an unknown number of years. Relying on commercial companies that in some cases have little experience with building manned space systems will severely weaken our standing as the world’s leader in human space flight.”

Mr. President, there is your national conversation.   Our nation will not  simply cede its preeminence in space to foreign powers.  We will not merely walk away from the new frontier.  We recognize that Russia is, perhaps, not the most reliable taxi service; regardless, a dependency on her, or any other country, to launch our astronauts into space is a national humiliation….  Most of all, we remain a nation of optimists and the longer you govern, the more we realize that you do not share our positive vision of the dream that is America and her place in the world.

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Charlie’s Soulmate.

Aha there is another Charlie Copeland type guy out there. This guy has cut taxes, created jobs and supported public education.

He also got re-elected by 18% last time, earned 27% of young voters and 20% of African Americans.

He also cut taxes. hired social workers and likes you-tube.

He also brought in a Nestle plant, 2 Honda plants – that’s right 2 – and got BP to open up shop whereas here in DE, Valero has closed. These plants – what an old fashioned word that means high school graduates can have a stable career where they can buy a 3 bedroom rancher, get married and coach Litttle League – prove America can still compete.

His name is Mitch Daniels – Governor of Indiana and he may just be our Ronald Reagan for Barack is surely their Jimmy Carter. 

Copeland in 12 – we’ll love our Guv!

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More Boondoggles

Boondoggle 3

Last week I heard that Governor Markell planned to purchase hybrid cars to save money given our dire financial straits. Who has ever saved a dime by buying a hybrid?!!!  Apparently there is a doofus in DE state government thinks that we will be the first.  Every analysis of these little gems that I have read prove that they will be in the scrap yard polluting the groundwater with their lithium batteries years before you save enough gas to pay for their higher cost.  I think that I see a cloud of Smug (obscure South Park reference) forming over Dover.  It may be a combination of this and the one being generated by the Dover city council with their solar installation, which I wrote about previously, that is set to fleece their poor citizens.

Boondoggle 4

Wilmington is installing 2,300 solar panels at one of the city’s water filtration plants.  They will save $60,000 per year.  They will also be selling Delmarva Power $120,000 per year in renewable energy credits, so they claim to be “saving or creating” (obscure Obama reference) $180,000 per year.  Let’s set aside for the moment that the only way Delmarva gets the money to buy the credits is by raising their rates to the taxpayers; so while the taxpayer is not paying the $120,000 to the city, it is just being collected in higher utility bills.

These solar panels are costing the taxpayer $8.9 million!!!  That means that even counting the phony credits, it would be 49 years before any money would be saved!  (There was a good letter about this in the NJ yesterday.  He beat me to publication.)  But these things will have been hauled away to the dump 20 years before that.  The city says that most of this will be paid for with federal money.  No one seems to quite get that it is all the same source.  It is a lousy deal for the taxpayer no matter who extracts the money from them.

I really hope that someone is getting a big kickback for selling the taxpayers down the river with all of this nonsense because the alternative is that the people making these decisions are  really stupid.  I would much prefer that they were crooks than idiots.  At least crooks can be entertaining while the tax money disappears, you might even end up with a good movie or maybe a miniseries and it makes for great conversation.  Plus, crooks can be thrown out of office, into jail and you are rid of them (except in DC of course).  Idiots are forever or at least until retirement.

I do not have any objection to people selling these phony energy saving gadgets nor do I have an objection to people voluntarily buying them with all of their own money.  It is when the money being wasted is taken from people under the threat of prison and death that I object.  Look at the jerk governor of Maryland.  Broke like the rest of the states, but he signs up to pay double or triple for windmill electricity.  Stupid, yes but no evidence of crookedness.

Thanks to JJ1234 for reminding me of  “boondoggle” in his/her comment to a previous posting about solar panels.  It is the perfect word.

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Austerity in Greece versus DE

The Greek government is in disarray. Spending must be cut. Taxes raised. Public employee unions must learn to live with less.

In Greece the unions strike because the elected officials give them the big middle …… whereas in Delaware Mike Begatto goes boo and 3/4’s of the General Assembly runs to grovel to him promisig that the “working men and women of this state will never shoulder the burden of a budget that makes lard look healthy.”

So in Greece the elected officials do what is necessary for tough times yet in Delaware many of our elected officials just duck.

Kind of embarassing isn’t it?

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“When I use a word,” Humpty Dumpty said, in rather a scornful tone, “it means just what I choose it to mean — neither more nor less.”

Speaking with precision matters; words have meanings. Today, there is a great deal of discussion within the GOP about what it means to be conservative. We have seen various forms of purity tests, and we have seen national figures declaim others for just not being conservative enough. But what is conservatism? And by what rubric do we, or can we, purport to measure an individuals’ “conservatism”?  When we use that word, do we mean a set of shared policy preferences in today’s political environment (outcomes), do we mean a mode or method of thinking about issues and society (inputs or a process), or do we mean some combination of the two?

The American conservative thinker Russell Kirk best defined the term “conservative” in his seminal essay “Ten Conservative Principles.” Unlike some today, Kirk recognized that conservative thought is broad enough to embrace a wide variety of opinions. In fact, he welcomed this diversity and saw it as a sign of strength and intellectual vitality. As Kirk put it “it is not possible to draw up a neat catalogue of conservatives’ convictions; nevertheless, I offer you, summarily, ten general principles; it seems safe to say that most conservatives would subscribe to most of these maxims…. the diversity of ways in which conservative views may find expression is itself proof that conservatism is no fixed ideology. What particular principles conservatives emphasize during any given time will vary with the circumstances and necessities of that era. The following ten articles of belief reflect the emphases of conservatives in America nowadays.”

Kirk’s ten principles continue to provide a useful frame of reference for defining conservatism in America today.

First, the conservative believes that there exists an enduring moral order.” In other words, conservatives recognize the existence or behavioral norms, some of which may, or must, be codified in law. As Kirk noted, “[t]here are two aspects or types of order: the inner order of the soul, and the outer order of the commonwealth… A society in which men and women are governed by belief in an enduring moral order, by a strong sense of right and wrong, by personal convictions about justice and honor, will be a good societywhatever political machinery it may utilize; while a society in which men and women are morally adrift, ignorant of norms, and intent chiefly upon gratification of appetites, will be a bad societyno matter how many people vote and no matter how liberal its formal constitution may be.” Parchment barriers to tyranny are no substitute for a virtuous citizenry, nor are the mere mechanics of majority rule as expressed through free elections, in the final analysis, standing alone, an adequate safeguard to liberty- instead, liberty’s true foundation is the morality of the people.

Second, the conservative adheres to custom, convention, and continuity.” Conservatives recognize that legitimacy is a fragile, but necessary, component of both the social, the economic, and the political orders. Custom, and convention, are often one of the primary sources of legitimacy. To quote Kirk again, “Conservatives are champions of custom, convention, and continuity because they prefer the devil they know to the devil they don’t know. Order and justice and freedom, they believe, are the artificial products of a long social experience, the result of centuries of trial and reflection and sacrifice. Thus the body social is a kind of spiritual corporation, comparable to the church; it may even be called a community of souls. Human society is no machine, to be treated mechanically. The continuity, the life-blood, of a society must not be interrupted. Burke’s reminder of the necessity for prudent change is in the mind of the conservative. But necessary change, conservatives argue, ought to he gradual and discriminatory, never unfixing old interests at once.”

Here, Kirk touches on a fundamental tension always present in conservative thought- we recognize the importance of custom and tradition, and yet, we recognize that change is a universal constant in a world where all things are forever in motion. In this regard, I think what conservatives recognize is that change is not beneficial merely for its own sake. The new is not necessarily better than the old merely because it is new. Instead, we must focus upon what is being changed, and why.

Third, conservatives believe in what may be called the principle of prescription.” As Burke noted, “[t]he individual is foolish, but the species is wise.”

Fourth, conservatives are guided by their principle of prudence.” As Kirk explains, “Burke agrees with Plato that in the statesman, prudence is chief among virtues. Any public measure ought to be judged by its probable long-run consequences, not merely by temporary advantage or popularity. Liberals and radicals, the conservative says, are imprudent: for they dash at their objectives without giving much heed to the risk of new abuses worse than the evils they hope to sweep away. As John Randolph of Roanoke put it, Providence moves slowly, but the devil always hurries. Human society being complex, remedies cannot be simple if they are to be efficacious. The conservative declares that he acts only after sufficient reflection, having weighed the consequences. Sudden and slashing reforms are as perilous as sudden and slashing surgery.”

Fifth, conservatives pay attention to the principle of variety.” Conservatives, “feel affection for the proliferating intricacy of long-established social institutions and modes of life, as distinguished from the narrowing uniformity and deadening egalitarianism of radical systems.”

Sixth, conservatives are chastened by their principle of imperfectability.” Here, I think Kirk goes to the very heart of the matter- conservatives see human beings as being exactly that- human. We are imperfect, we are fallible, we are all given to prejudices and passions. No matter how sweeping our own conceits, we are all limited in our thinking, to a certain degree, by the social context and the times and place in which we live. Moreover, human nature may be the one fixed point in the universe, for it is unchanging. In this regard, conservative though echoes back to that of Madison in Federalist #10- “As long as the reason of man continues fallible, and he is at liberty to exercise it, different opinions will be formed. As long as the connection subsists between his reason and his self-love, his opinions and his passions will have a reciprocal influence on each other; and the former will be objects to which the latter will attach themselves…. The latent causes of faction are thus sown in the nature of man; and we see them everywhere brought into different degrees of activity, according to the different circumstances of civil society. A zeal for different opinions concerning religion, concerning government, and many other points, as well of speculation as of practice; an attachment to different leaders ambitiously contending for pre-eminence and power; or to persons of other descriptions whose fortunes have been interesting to the human passions, have, in turn, divided mankind into parties, inflamed them with mutual animosity, and rendered them much more disposed to vex and oppress each other than to co-operate for their common good.”

Our Founders, in other words, recognized that the system of government they were creating would be run by imperfect human beings and structured it accordingly.

We have also seen, in modern history, the terrible consequences of utopian projects to, politically, remake the social order, and create a “new man.” To quote Kirk, “Man being imperfect, no perfect social order ever can be created… The ideologues who promise the perfection of man and society have converted a great part of the twentieth-century world into a terrestrial hell.” Communism, for example, set out to level social and class distinctions in the name of equality and create a “new man” and a utopian world for him to live in- the project ended in bloodshed, boorish tyranny, and both moral and economic poverty.

Seventh, conservatives are persuaded that freedom and property are closely linked. “Separate property from private possession, and Leviathan becomes master of all. Upon the foundation of private property, great civilizations are built. The more widespread is the possession of private property, the more stable and productive is a commonwealth. Economic leveling, conservatives maintain, is not economic progress.” However, at the same time “[t]he conservative acknowledges that the possession of property fixes certain duties upon the possessor; he accepts those moral and legal obligations cheerfully.” Again, this willingness to recognize duty and obligation, in my view, is one of the main basis that serves to distinguish properly conservative from libertarian thought.

Eighth, conservatives uphold voluntary community, quite as they oppose involuntary collectivism.”  Here, although Kirk was writing with the totalitarian communist regimes in mind, I think he also touches on the principal of subsidiarity- a main stream running through much of conservative thought that is echoed in the concept of Federalism and in the Tenth Amendment. In a nutshell, the principle of subsidiarity holds that decision-making authority ought (a very conservative word, yes, implying as it does the existence of fixed reference points to guide our choices?) to be fixed at the lowest level of authority competent to address a problem. As Pope Pius XI put it, “[i]t is a fundamental principle of social philosophy, fixed and unchangeable, that one should not withdraw from individuals and commit to the community what they can accomplish by their own enterprise and industry.” Properly applied, the principle of subsidiarity fosters localism and empowers individuals, families, and private businesses and associations.

At the same time though, many of my conservative friends today miss, or neglect, a second aspect of subsidiarity more further developed in Catholic social doctrine, namely, the existence of a positive duty on the part of government to create, foster, or defend (as the case, and the times, may be) a social order/environment which is conducive to the full development of the individual- in which human beings have the possibility of reaching their full potential. In our times, this positive aspect of subsidiarity might manifest itself in a commitment to fostering conditions creating a real equality of opportunity for all Americans- through reform of our education system, or policies fostering the integrity of the family. It would also include the recognition that the full development of the individual requires an economic system in which work, housing, and adequate healthcare, are available. We are all familiar with this concept, but under a different name- what we are talking about here is the common good. This should not be surprising, for by now I hope the reader can see that in conservative thought, rights and duties, freedom and obligation, are always paired together.

Again, to quote Kirk: “[A] nation is no stronger than the numerous little communities of which it is composed. A central administration, or a corps of select managers and civil servants, however well intentioned and well trained, cannot confer justice and prosperity and tranquility upon a mass of men and women deprived of their old responsibilities. That experiment has been made before; and it has been disastrous. It is the performance of our duties in community that teaches us prudence and efficiency and charity.” 

Ninth, the conservative perceives the need for prudent restraints upon power and upon human passions.” Again, this principle finds an echo in Federalist #10… as Kirk puts it “When every person claims to be a power unto himself, then society falls into anarchy. Anarchy never lasts long, being intolerable for everyone, and contrary to the ineluctable fact that some persons are more strong and more clever than their neighbors. To anarchy there succeeds tyranny or oligarchy, in which power is monopolized by a very few.”

More important, for our own times, is Kirk’s next observation: “It is characteristic of the radical that he thinks of power as a force for goodso long as the power falls into his hands.” One sees, I think, a manifestation of this in the Obama administration today. Now, by saying this, I do not mean to say that the President is a communist. The fevered imaginings of the fringe are exactly that- fevered imaginings. I do mean to say, however, that he is a product of currents in American liberalism that are profoundly radical particularly as they relate to the state as a vehicle for creating social justice. He is surrounded by many similar thinking individuals.

Tenth, the thinking conservative understands that permanence and change must be recognized and reconciled in a vigorous society.” “The intelligent conservative endeavors to reconcile the claims of Permanence and the claims of Progression. He thinks that the liberal and the radical, blind to the just claims of Permanence, would endanger the heritage bequeathed to us, in an endeavor to hurry us into some dubious Terrestrial Paradise. The conservative, in short, favors reasoned and temperate progress; he is opposed to the cult of Progress, whose votaries believe that everything new necessarily is superior to everything old.”

Conclusion
Reasonable men and woman will often differ on how to translate these principles into public policy, or how to prioritize among them to shape an agenda for action. Good. Only the weak fear discussion and debate. Only the weak crave a false unity in which dissent is trampled down. Those are the hallmarks of totalitarian regimes precisely for this reason- because totalitarianism is always weak, and always afraid.

Traditional conservatism is not solely focused on the rights and freedoms of the individual- on the contrary, it reflects and recognizes a duality- right is always paired to duty; individual liberty, to communal obligation. Traditional conservatism has always recognized, and indeed emphasized, our duties to society, and our shared obligation to advance the common good.

None of us is the vessel of any special dispensation; we are all alike blinded, in one way or another, by our own conceits and self-love. I hope this discussion of conservatism will help foster an openness of spirit among us and lead to a real debate about how best to translate these principles into effective public policy here in Delaware today.

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President Obama delivers!

A friend whose an union pipefitter has worked 3 weeks in 15 months. His wife a nurse has kept things afloat; barely.

He’s a PROUD union Democrat who went to private school. She’s one of 14 who went to public school and is a committed Republican.

Well last week the money juggling crashed. He called the mortgage company and explained they were out of money and Valero may soon be opening back up and things were tough and they wanted to become part of the President’s mortgage plan where struggling families got a break like Goldman Sachs did.  The company took information and listened and wanted to work with him and then told him….NO.

Get current now or foreclosure would start.

He asked and asked about the “programs” the President had promised to help people like him. He asked about Tarp and he asked about the commitment the President had made to people like him.

The answer remained no. Those programs are only for people who are employed and in over their head.

They are not for the unemployed.

They are not for those who really need it.

They are not for those who are at for risk of forclosure because such a person is a “high risk to the Treasury”. 

They borrowed this am from a friend to keep things afloat, but he will never again vote for a Democrat because the change he believed in – screwed him when it mattered. 

He is demoralized and disgusted. Dismayed and disheartened because he told his wife this am that, “Barack is gonna help us, you’ll see.”

Barack sure did deliver.

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The Three Solutions

I attended the New Castle County Chamber of Commerce Economic Forum for lunch yesterday. I had to leave just as Finance Secretary Tom Cook began his remarks and missed New Castle County Executive Chris Coons’ remarks. However, I did hear former St. Louis Fed President, and U of D economist professor in residence Dr. William Poole speak.

My takeaway from Dr. Poole was that there are 3 solutions to our government fiscal mess — raise taxes, cut spending, or inflate our way out. His position seemed to be that we will raise taxes, cut spending, or some of both. He didn’t think that the Fed would start to print money to inflate our way out of our mess. He is an economist which is why I think that he is wrong. I spent 6 years with politicians. Politicians do not think like economists. As a matter of fact, one of the fundamental problems with Keynes was that he expected politicians to act in an economically rational way which, of course, they don’t. That is why a Keynsian governmental stimulus does not work as theorized. (Maybe there should be a whole new area of behavioral economics called political economic behavior).

For the record, we should and can cut spending without cutting bone, and we should start now. You can check previous posts of mine to see how this would be accomplished. This type of productivity improvement has been made across the private sector for at least the last 3 decades. However, the liberals in Congress really don’t mind destroying the economy through tax hikes so they will be raising taxes on everyone. However, the ultimate solution that will be imposed will be inflation. The market understands this which is why the yield curve is getting steeper.

Taxes and inflation. A recipe for further disaster.

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