Monday, November 29, 2010

Dave Bliss and Allen Academy: Lack of institutional control and....wisdom

/sigh.  Wonder if anyone with a brain did not see this one coming.

In The Eagle today:
District 7-2A athletics directors met last month in Conroe and questioned [Dave] Bliss over issues related to student transfer forms for Allen Academy basketball players. Rather than rule on the players' eligibility, the district committee sent the issue to the state level.

"There was uncertainty among the athletic directors on how those student-athletes ended up at Allen Academy and how they are attending Allen Academy," Brazos Christian athletics director Marko Hahn said. "Because we didn't feel we had the power to investigate the matter properly, we just turned it in to TAPPS at the state level. We were in agreement that if TAPPS said everything was clear, we were OK with it. If TAPPS found something wrong, we trusted that TAPPS would handle it."
I wrote about Dave Bliss in a previous post.  Yeah, I am no fan of a guy who would make up a story about one of his students - especially one that had just been murdered - just to save himself from NCAA rule violations.  A real class act.

But Allen Academy thought otherwise:
"He's a great coach and a great Christian" says Former Allen Trustee Dennis Goehiring.
Lets see what TAPPS - Texas Association of Private and Parochial Schools - had to say about ol' Dave 'throw the kid under the bus' Bliss' actions:

Seems the issue is over two students who transferred to the school after the former Baylor University head men's basketball coach - Dave Bliss - was hired in May of this year.  You know, that's why they have the NCAA, UIL, and TAPPS, to keep students from being recruited to play for one particular high school. 

And what does Allen Academy have to say about Dave Bliss - their athletics director, dean of students and head boys basketball coach - and his "lack of institutional control in establishing the eligibility of student athletes?"
"Some of the students that were attending the boarding school were going to play basketball, and they ruled those kids ineligible," Rouse said. "We challenged that because that's not what we were told when we applied to be a boarding school. It's their organization, and they set the rules. They didn't match what we think is appropriate for a boarding school, so we just pulled out."
So.....what part of TAPPS' 2010-2011 rule did they have trouble with?  Maybe it was over the word ineligible - you know - as in can't play.
Students not Living with Parents who live with someone other than immediate family members (The Host family and the Guardian must be the same person) are ineligible to participate in Varsity athletic competition for one calendar year from the first day of attendance at the TAPPS member high school.
This means - and I am doing complex math here - that if the two kids were convinced by their parents to put them up in a boarding school so they could play for Coach Bliss in May of  2010, they would not be eligible (the opposite of ineligible) to play until May 2011.  Why would anyone think a boarding school is any different than sending them to Uncle Pete who lives in a winning school district?

That's the rule.  Rules are necessary for order and fairness.  Allen Academy was part of TAPPS and them's the rules you play by - just like all the other schools they competed against who did play by the rules.  But ol' Coach Bliss has a thing for ignoring rules, that and smearing the name of a dead kid - so those rules shouldn't apply - not if they can get a good basketball team together!

But dangit all anyways - someone called the "Coach and Great Christian man" on this issue.  Guilty!  Probation! Public Reprimand! Suspension!

And what does Allen Academy do?  They are withdrawing from TAPPS.  "They didn't match what we think is appropriate for a boarding school, so we just pulled out."  That's right, if you can't cheat, lie, steal, deceive, ignore, mislead, or hire a coach that does all those things to get a winning sports team - pick up your ball and go play somewhere else.

Really Allen Academy?  After all you knew about this guy and his past behavior you hire him to teach and mentor high school kids?  And now your participation in athletics is severely jeopardized because of this guy.  And you still support him?  If you see a decrease in enrollment don't blame the economy, blame the idiots who thought Dave Bliss was a good hire.

/sigh.  As if anyone with even half a brain could not have seen this coming.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

He's was on a mission from God.

In our paper, The Eagle, there was a condensed and edited question and answer session with President George W. Bush by William McKenzie at the Dallas Morning News.

I was a bit taken back by one of his answers, mainly because its ramifications are so apparent and obvious that I am worried.  Here is what Bush said:
Q: When you say it may take a while, how long do you think it's going to take in Afghanistan? How long in Iraq?
Bush: "That's hard for me to predict. I do know that the speech I gave in South Korea recently, in front of a stadium full of religious people, an American president would not have given such a speech in 1954."
"I also believe that if people are given a chance to be free, they will see, they will take the risk necessary. I believe in the universality of freedom. This is a controversial doctrine, believe it or not. The controversy is best manifested when people say, "Bush is imposing his values." Well, if they're universal values, they are not my values."
"Now what made this even more controversial in some places around the world is I believe they are a gift of the Almighty. Just recognition of the Almighty Himself is controversial, believe it or not. I am optimistic that these freedom movements will flourish if the United States does not abandon them."
So there really is a Bush doctrine - or at least one he subscribes to.  So why me worry?  Look what he said, and carry it through...
"[w]hen people say, "Bush is imposing his values." Well, if they're universal values, they are not my values."
In other words, I am imposing something not of my doing or development.  It is something bigger than me and, well, I have no real choice but to impose them, besides, I agree with them!

And who imposes these universal values?
"I believe they are a gift of the Almighty."
I am not taking this out of context.  He even alludes to the difficulty in imposing these universal values, because they - as he believes- come from God.
"Just recognition of the Almighty Himself is controversial, believe it or not."
Now it is difficult to argue that freedom is not a universal value, nor can one make a good argument against life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness as not being a divine right (if you believe in God) or a basic human right (if you don't believe in God).

What can be argued is exactly what 'freedom' is and just what that risk imposed to obtain it should be.  Today as I write this - as there have been for over 40 years - there are soldiers sitting in underground bunkers with the duty and obligation to press a button that could destroy all of humanity, or at the very least, make the world uninhabitable.

The assumption that "they will take the risk necessary" is forced on me by those who have decided that to live without some 'freedom' they value is a fate worse than death.  You know, a 'better dead than red' way of thinking.  My point here is that no one asked me if I wanted to take this risk.  It was not my choice to live with or without these universal values when the decision for mutual total annihilation was made.

Now I understand fully that the guys at these buttons are there really to stop the other guy from using them.  That is, we need these bombs so that these bombs will not be used.  Strange logic, but man is a strange thinker, especially when fear, protection, and God come into play.

So lets look at the price of freedom through the use of war.  When Bush said:
"I do know that the speech I gave in South Korea recently, in front of a stadium full of religious people, an American president would not have given such a speech in 1954."
...he was saying that the ability to talk about God was worth the cost of the Korean war.

In other words, the cost of 373,599 South Korean civilians killed and 26,516 American soldiers killed, let alone all the hundreds of thousands from North Korea and other participants, was worth it so that Bush could give a speech to a bunch of religious people in South Korea.

Now it's not the fact that is was God that makes it troubling, it could also be Winston's desire to say "1 + 1 = 2"  The issue is how one defines 'freedom'.  Would I want to be killed so that these two events could take place?  Maybe.  But did anyone ask the 373,599 South Korean civilians killed in the Korean war if they thought a 'freedom' like this was worth their life?

And that is what I find troubling about those who believe that there are universal values.  Values are beliefs.  Beliefs are based on a lot of different things  And when you throw God in there, well there is no telling where you will end up and what you would be willing to do or who you would be willing to sacrifice for it.

So when you talk about freedom, I understand what you mean, but let me decide if I want to take the risk so that you can have this freedom you think is so precious that it is worth killing for.  Freedom is not free but its cost should not be imposed on those who neither have a dog nor hunt.

So yeah, I worry about these" freedom movements" that are unleashed and supported by us.  If there is a universal truth or value it is to do unto others as they would want done unto them.  One man's dictator is sometimes another man's leader.  Just ask 9 out of 10 Ukrainians.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Apparently she missed that memo

On my public radio station KAMU this morning, I hear a segment on Marketplace called "The Senate looks at a bill to update the Equal Pay Act of 1963" in which the U.S. Labor Secretary, Hilda Solis, makes the following statement regarding the upcoming Senate Bill called the Paycheck Fairness Act:
What's really important to understand here is that women still earn only $.70 on the dollar compared to men. And for African American women, it's $.69, for Latinas it is $.60.
Now before you go calling me a woman hater, chauvinist pig, or - God forbid - a Republican, you gotta remember I am a scientist (or at least I try to be one, plus I stay at Holiday Inn Express a lot).  I use data to help me decide what to 'believe' about something.

Those numbers just did not sound right to me.  They sounded too 1970's.  Plus, to my way of thinking, there were other factors involved that could contribute to this disparity.  I am here now writing this Blog because I looked it up.

Seems that difference, $0.70  on the dollar gets passed around a bit.  I found it similarly quoted here, and - nicely I might add - they quoted the source.  Seems this data is obtained from a document with the easy to say title of:
NWLC calculations from U.S. Census Bureau, Current Population Survey, 2009 Annual Social and Economic Supplement, Table PINC-05: Work Experience in 2008—People 15 Years Old and Over by Total Money Earnings in 2008, Age, Race, Hispanic Origin, and Sex,
Now before you say "it's from the Government so it has to be true" or "it's from the Government you can't trust it" - let me state: that does not make the use of the data correct or incorrect.  Assuming it is correct, accurate and precise, the use of this data to determine a wage disparity is wrong.

What this data looks at is the total wages of one group and compares it to the total wages of another group.  It looks at the whole without taking in relevant and real factors that affect it but have nothing to do with discrimination.  What they are doing is comparing apples with oranges using data from Florida and Washington.  Is Florida anti apples because more of their citizens eat oranges?  No.

Now when I heard her use those figures I was pretty sure there was more to the story than that.  But that 'sureness' was based on a feeling - that - because I hate woman - may have biased my thinking.  Do woman make that much less then men?  Yes - her numbers are correct based on census data.

Do we need a Paycheck Fairness Act?  Maybe...but not based of this idea that their is a disparity in pay because employers treat woman differently.  Do some of them?  Yes - probably - most likely.  Companies are run by humans and we humans have very strange belief systems on what is right and what is fair.

But is the pay difference a result of unfair policies and attitudes of business that must be addressed by a new law?  No.  And Ms. Solis should know that.  But, for reasons that are either due to an agenda, ignorance, or lack of intellectual curiosity, she supports this Law on the premise that the work place is still unfair to woman:
So what we're looking at here is really trying to create a level playing field, and actually having the government help provide support -- data collection -- so that we could really look across the board to see where these inequities exist.
What is disappointing about this - which if I know it, she should too - is that  when she was confirmed as the Labor Secretary on January 9th 2009, a report titled:
An Analysis of Reasons for the Disparity in Wages Between Men and Women
...had been prepared for the Department of Labor dated January 12, 2009.

In the report's forward, Charles E. James, Sr. Deputy Assistant Secretary for Federal Contract Compliance with the U.S. Department of Labor, summarizes the findings as follows:
Although additional research in this area is clearly needed, this study leads to the unambiguous conclusion that the differences in the compensation of men and women are the result of a multitude of factors and that the raw wage gap should not be used as the basis to justify corrective action. Indeed, there may be nothing to correct. The differences in raw wages may be almost entirely the result of the individual choices being made by both male and female workers. 
That's kind of what I was thinking, but you gotta go where the data takes you.  Apparently Ms. Solis was never given this report?  More likely, though, and disappointingly so, she knows of its findings and instead choose to go with the numbers that best fit her agenda.

Do we need a Paycheck Fairness law?  Maybe...maybe not.  What I do know - or at least feel comfortable in stating - is that we do not need it because woman make $0.70 on the dollar when compared to men due to workplace discrimination.

What part of "unambiguous" did she not comprehend?

Monday, November 15, 2010

Eat the Rich! Fun with math.

Big debate on what to do about the expiring Bush tax cuts.  What to do...what to do.

If you listen to those who want it extended, you would think that it will be the end of the world for growth and investment should we make the 'rich' pay what they used to pay.

NPR had a pretty good story on what could be expected if the Obama plan for the Bush Tax cuts were to go into affect.

I will need to assume what I heard is true.  I base this off of the source they used - Clint Stretch - who is Managing Principal, Tax Policy, at a company called Deloitte.

First off, I am not making an argument that it is OK to get more money out of 'rich' people.  I think I could make that argument, but that will be for a different post.

Secondly, no one wants to pay more money for something they don't want to pay money for in the first place.  So it is understandable that people - looking at these tax cuts ending - may get a little on edge.

Thirdly, we got ourselves a crisis here people!  If you don't want a deficit you need more income to pay for the things budgeted for.  Cut! you say.  Cut what? I shout back.  Well cut all them entitlements, all that money that goes to the non-productive members of society.  Cut!  Don't take money from the job makers!

What to do...what to do.

Well, I think looking at the actual burden - in lost dollars for the family - might help with making an argument on who should have the Bush tax cuts extended, and who should maybe...just maybe...stop whining and suck it up for their country.

According to Mr. Stretch - if the Bush tax cuts expired - on an adjusted gross income of:

  • $75,350.00 the increase in taxes would be $2,600.00
  • $325,000.00 the increase in taxes would be $5,400.00

In other words the guy making more than four times the salary will pay twice the taxes.  Now that alone sounds a bit unfair, but lets look at it in relative terms.

A family of four living on $75,350.00 is considered to be in the median, that is, they are the average family in the good ol' USA.  Mom, Dad, Bubba, and Maryjo live on $6279 per month .  From that they buy gas, food, electric, water, healthcare, clothing, lodging, and entertainment.

A family of four living on $325,000,00 is considered 'rich.'  They make up only about 3% of the families in the USA.  Mom, Dad, Geoffry, and Buffy live on $27,083 per month.  From that they buy gas, food, electric, water, healthcare, clothing, lodging, and entertainment. which basically - all things considered - will be the same amount of money spent as was spent by the medium family.  That is, it does not cost 'rich' people more money for the basics, unless they choose to pay more.

This means that the 'rich' family has  $27,083 - $6279 = $20,804 extra dollars to spend on other stuff or to upgrade their standard of living (gold plated shower curtains, 200 pairs of shoes)

The tax burden proposed by Obama for this 'rich' family will be $450.00 per month.  This leaves them with $20,804 - $450.00 = $20,354 extra dollars to spend on other stuff or to upgrade their standard of living. (Buffy could use a Sequined Tie-Waist Gown)

Yes, they just lost $450.00 of income because of Obama.  But they still have three times the amount available to spend than the median family had in total!.  And this amount 'to spend' is AFTER they have purchased all the basic living essentials (this assumes that "basic" is what would be considered "normal" living - as it done by all of us median families).

Another way to look at this, if the Bush tax cuts expired:

  • ($450.00 / $27,083.00) * 100 = 1.66% actual 'tax' on their monthly income.
  • ($216.00 / $6279.00) * 100 = 3.44% actual 'tax' on their monthly income.

Doesn't sound like much, or much of a gap, until you remember that the $216.00 is taken away from what is being used to provide a "basic" standard of living.  The $450.00 for the rich comes out of what really can be called excess money they have available to them.

There is a difference between the median and the 'rich' in terms of money available to spend on 'needs and wants.'  'Needs' cost $6279.00 (and even in that, a lot of it is 'wants').

And the argument that the rich create jobs with that money?  Yeah....maybe, but not as much as the median family who can spend more on 'wants.'

But what about extending them and cutting government services?  Guess who pays the price for that?  Even if government services are cut, the 'rich' family still has $20,354 extra dollars to make up for this, while the median family has had to dig into the $6279 to pay for what they no longer receive.

Wait, so by cutting entitlements and services to keep the Bush tax cuts we are technically passing on additional costs to those who depend on those government services?  And the result of that is an extra cost to these median families?  And that extra cost means less money for them to spend on what they have previously been spending it on?

Wait...isn't that like putting a tax on the middle class?

A small price to pay to stop the $325,000.00 family from having to pay an additional $450.00 per month to bring down the deficit.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Was "dolt" the proper metaphor to use for Christine O’Donnell?

OK, so Christine "I'm not a witch" O’Donnell lost her bid to become a tea party patriot.  Good for us.  Unfortunately I was on vacation and could not write my thoughts here in this blog for nobody to read.  I do feel the need to add another dimension to what she said that was picked up and used to reinforce her stupidity and make her look like a dolt.

Now don't get me wrong, I think the woman is another Sarah Palin empty suit and terribly misinformed and ignorant.  But to call her a dolt (not a name chosen by Leonard Pitts by the way) for her comment:
"Where in the Constitution is separation of church and state?" really not fair.  Even, in my opinion, Leonard Pitts got it wrong in his analysis of what was behind that statement:
"It was a bizarre exchange that permits but two conclusions. One, O’Donnell is frighteningly ignorant, particularly for a woman who claims constitutional expertise and aspires to the Senate. Or, two, assuming you buy her after-the-fact explanation (she was merely observing that the phrase "separation of church and state’’ is not in the First Amendment), she is terribly disingenuous."
So there are only two conclusions?  Ignorance or being disingenuous?  Like I said, I think she is ignorant, but was that statement - "Where in the Constitution is separation of church and state" - said out of ignorance?  Or was she being terribly disingenuous, that is, "not straightforward or candid; giving a false appearance of frankness"?

Oh, how I hate to defend people I do not respect as a whole, but there are many shades of gray, and in this case, there is more than just "two conclusions" as to what motivated her to say what she did.

First of all, I think one must understand the psyche of people who unabashedly align themselves as a tea party patriot.  They are fundamentally ideological in their thinking.  This means they are not analytical or logical in how they look at the world and most often lack the ability to comprehend things that do not align with their ideology.  The ability to comprehend is a necessary component of intelligence.

So if my conclusion is that Christine O’Donnell is not very smart, was her statement that the term "separation of church and state" does not appear in the Constitution made out of ignorance?  I contend that it was not.

I believe that she fully understands what she said as being true.  You need to understand the reasoning behind it to be able to give her some credit and come to her defense.  What you need to understand is that she most likely believes that Jefferson's Danbury Baptist letter where he writes: 
"I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should "make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof," thus building a wall of separation between Church & State."
...has been incorrectly used as a sword to sever religion from public life.  This, along with the fact that it is used as a metaphor for the First Amendment to the Constitution - Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion - puts her in a quandary.  If she was intellectually competent she would understand that accepting the metaphor does not mean one accepts severing religion from public life.  But such is the trap ideologues always fall into.

But she is not alone in making this type of 'doltish' sounding statement:
"In 1962, Justice Potter Stewart complained that jurisprudence was not "aided by the uncritical invocation of metaphors like the 'wall of separation,' a phrase nowhere to be found in the Constitution." Addressing the issue in 1985, Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist lamented that "unfortunately the Establishment Clause has been expressly freighted with Jefferson's misleading metaphor for nearly 40 years."
But in the end, first and foremost, Jefferson's wall of separation phrase was intended to mean just that.  For most of us, we understand it as a metaphor - a concept of understanding one thing in terms of another. It succinctly sums up the wording in the actual Constitution into something that can - or should - be easily understood.

The problem for people like Christine O’Donnell is that Jefferson's words have been used to justify Supreme Court cases she and others find intolerable.  And because it is often used as the justification for severing religion from public life it cannot be accepted as meaning the same as the actual words written in the Constitution.

If she was a critical thinker she would never had made that statement, not that it is wrong, but because it must be seen as a metaphor and not as a defense of one particular way of defining just what is meant by "shale make no law respecting an establishment of religion."

So sometimes a cigar is just a cigar, and sometimes wall of separation means making a law respecting the establishment of religion.  It's just a metaphor, you know, like "Jesus is the son of God."  Oh, you didn't know that statement isn't in the Bible?  Yeah, go ask Christine O’Donnell to stop using that statement of truth.

Ten bucks says she will defend it as being implied.  You know, like that wall of separation thingy Jefferson wrote about.  It ain't in there but it sure as heck explains it well.