Friday, February 23, 2007

Clinton/Carter et al & Religious Pander

The 2008 president-wannabes are gearing up for the long haul now, which means raising money and reaching out to the various constituencies they deem vital to their success. John Edwards was out in Hollywood recently, presiding over a fundraiser, with his apparatchiks refuting a statement allegedly made by him to the “elite” to the effect “that the possibility that Israel would bomb Iran's nuclear facilities is perhaps the greatest short-term threat to world peace,” according to the Associated Press. Is Edwards doing the “Jewish Shuffle?” And then there were those two Christian-baiters, staffers he had to let go.

John McCain was in Orlando, Fla., the other day meeting with religious broadcasters, no doubt repairing the damage he brought upon himself in 2004 when he offended “religious conservatives.” Senator Obama “will deliver the keynote address next month at the annual Bridge Crossing Jubilee that commemorates the 1965 Selma-to-Montgomery voting rights march, organizers said Tuesday,” also according to AP. Predictably, he will also speak in a black church, a la the style of Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton, as well as Bill Clinton, Joe Lieberman, John Kerry, and John Edwards in other days. Senator Clinton is said to have hired a consultant to advise her on religious matters.

It’s no coincidence that these wannabes are after the so-called “religious vote,” actually those cast by the group they consider most ominous, the “religious conservatives.” They understand that rabid religionists in this country make war at the ballot box, rather than engage in various and assorted homicide/suicide bombings of women and children in the grocery store, beheadings, tortures, lynchings, assassinations gangland-style, and other religious rites as practiced in Muslim countries.

The quintessential paradigm for political proselytizing in the name of religion occurred last month as two consummate politicians – acting in their roles as “Baptist laymen” – gathered representatives from 40 Baptist denominations or other groupings in the U.S., Canada, and Mexico at the Carter Center in Georgia and, in concert with other spokespersons, cobbled up something called the New Baptist Covenant. The politicians: former presidents Jimmy Carter and William Jefferson Clinton.

According to Bill Leonard, a Baptist historian who is dean of the Wake Forest Divinity School, "Probably not since 1845 has this kind of effort been made to bring together Baptists black and white … and of diverse theological and regional backgrounds, and that means it is terribly historic," as reported by Associated Baptist Press. Well…hardly. Effort at integrating white and black Baptists has been an ongoing thing for decades, including such methods as pastors exchanging their pulpits and congregants exchanging their worship services. In 1995, Southern Baptists approved a resolution of apology to African Americans for whatever they felt was in order, with black Baptist leaders sort of laughing them to scorn, as Ugandan President Museveni did vis-à-vis former president Clinton’s “apology tour” of Africa shortly before leaving office, calling Clinton’s effort “rubbish.”

Most folks understand that orchestrated attempts at “togetherness” are as successful as mixing oil with water. Integration socially and religiously takes place spontaneously, if at all, as people make it happen naturally. So…what should one think Carter and Clinton have in mind? What should one think about all those religious leaders (some 80 or so, according to reports) being a part of something so transparently political, but ostensibly in the name of religion?

Carter’s denomination, the Southern Baptist Convention, ran afoul of his religious philosophy during the 1980s-90s, when SBC leaders gradually made it far more conservative…some might say fundamentally so. Fundamentalists generally receive poor marks from the more moderate and liberal folks, especially in the field of religion. Most commentators claim that President Bush was elected in 2004 by the “religious right,” of which Southern Baptists are thought to be the main – at least largest – culprit. Anyone for a Carter “New Covenant” motive here? The New Baptist Covenant clambake was a lockout of Southern Baptists (no leaders invited, though the SBC numbers some 16 million in membership), probably the most mission-minded denomination in the country, supporting with both finances and resources more than 10,000 missionaries about evenly divided between foreign and North American countries.

The New Baptist Covenant convocation (20,000 Baptists expected) is scheduled to be held January 31-February 1, 2008, in Atlanta. Not so coincidentally perhaps, the presidential campaign, with four states holding primaries or caucuses just days before the meeting and nearly all the other states soon after, will be in full swing, with the presumptive favorite at this time being Bill Clinton’s wife, the senator. Could this have anything to do with Bill Clinton’s involvement, especially in the Deep South, where Hillary is anything but popular?

If the Baptists who consider themselves moderate had wanted to meet and integrate and inculcate good will, as well as care for the poor and set up ways to heal the sick, wouldn’t they have been expected to respond to their denominational leaders, instead of lay Baptists who are consummate politicians…or vice versa? It would seem so. The New Baptist Covenant may not seem to be such a good idea between now and next January, especially as Baptists wonder if they’ve been had by some wily political operatives. Is the whole thing just a hype of the “religious left” in an attempt to get even with the “religious right,” led by two former presidents whose records at governing were nothing to write home about?

And so it goes.

Jim Clark

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

More Herald-Leader "Domestic-Partner" Nonsense

The Lexington Herald-Leader, Lexington, Ky., had an editorial hissy fit on 21 February over the fact that Kentucky is offering Ford Motors incentives not to close its Louisville operation involving some 8,000 well-paid workers, while the Kentucky Senate has voted to deny “domestic partners” benefits at Kentucky universities, something the newspaper says Ford grants its employees. Predictably, the comparison is between apples and oranges, specifically between privately-owned business and state-regulated institutions – a huge difference.

In any case, the action in the Kentucky Senate would seem unneeded. According to the Kentucky Constitution, as amended by a three-to-one plurality in 2004, marriage is defined as between one man and one woman, and all benefits granted state employees or employees of state-supported and regulated institutions, including family members or those in guardianship status, are determined to be legal only under that provision. This specifically ruled out marriage between homosexuals and specifically ruled out benefits to non-spousal “significant others,” including heterosexual “domestic partners” and whomever they claim as dependents.

The sense of this provision is obvious. Once the door to “domestic partners” is opened with regard to state licensed and regulated universities, whose employees are also regulated and paid by the state, it cannot remain closed to ALL employees throughout the state. The enormity of this potential problem is seen – if nowhere else – just in the size of the bureaucracy needed to operate the “domestic partners” aspect of already complicated personnel matters. Only one document – the marriage agreement as codified in state law – is necessary now to determine eligibility. Under the “domestic partners” arrangement, there is now no document sanctioned by the state to prove eligibility and the law disallows any such arrangement/document to be enacted.

According to the Merriam-Webster Collegiate Dictionary, 11th Edition, a domestic partner is “either one of an unmarried heterosexual or homosexual cohabiting couple especially when considered as to eligibility for spousal benefits.” Eligibility for benefits would never be easily determined, since no binding contract is in force, and since the “partners” may move about freely in engaging other “partners” without there ever being an official document in play. Obviously, under the Kentucky Constitution, no document other than a legal marriage agreement can even be contemplated, much less enacted. Promiscuity among both homosexuals and cohabiting heterosexuals, who have absolutely nothing to bind them together for any legal purpose, such as benefits of any kind, would be a factor that would be both extraordinary and expensive (privacy matters) in the required policing of any agreement, even if one such were possible. The possibilities for corruption are staggering in scope. Without documentation, the perk would depend upon someone’s word…today…or tomorrow…or whenever – ridiculous!

The editorialist made a big – but obviously erroneous – deal out of the fact that the “marriage amendment” could also preclude private institutions from awarding the “domestic partners” benefits. Two private colleges in the state presently offer this perk. Neither is state-regulated or supported by tax monies, so that claim is a red herring. The same applies to Ford, a private business.

Even though Michigan State University and the University of Michigan had already instituted the “domestic partners” perk, a Michigan Appeals Court recently struck down that arrangement on the basis of a Constitutional requirement entirely similar to Kentucky’s. This ruling, which most likely will stand, presents a sizeable problem for personnel at those institutions, as well as the universities, a problem that can easily be avoided in Kentucky by UK and UL, which has just begun that program, through simply the common-sense solution of just letting it go.

The editorialist seemed not to have vision beyond the proverbial “bridge of the nose” in making these remarks. The “domestic partners” arrangement, simply an outgrowth of political correctness carried to the extreme, and nothing more, could mean enormous problems for the state and its mega-thousands of employees, not to mention all the taxpayers. The most egregious claim of the paper and the university honchos is that this perk is absolutely vital in attracting the “brightest and best” to the institutions, the clear implication being that homosexuals and shack-ups are somehow superior to all the humdrum practitioners who value commitment enough to personally codify it and take responsibility legally for spouses and dependents. So much for the mother of all red-herrings! There’s no proof anywhere that these folks are superior to anyone else.

And so it goes.

Jim Clark

Monday, February 19, 2007

Non-binding Resolutions - What a Laugh!

One of the things most folks don’t like is caviling, defined as “raising trivial and frivolous objection.” This is what the good representatives and senators are doing in Washington these days with their ridiculous non-binding resolutions, seen by those with walking-around-sense as the using of convenient platforms to try to make points with their constituencies, especially if they think their records don’t quite square with what they understand the pollsters to be determining currently.

The congress-folks – mostly the democrats, that is – see the president as a severely wounded lame-duck, caught on the horns of a dilemma in Iraq that many of them helped create, but now want to disavow as completely as possible without appearing to be complete fools/hypocrites. Sitting in their plush offices and checking the polls – or having some apparatchik do it each day – they figure ways to “bring the troops home,” having figured that the public demands it. Consequently, they’ve decided to run the war in Congress.

These people screamed for a “new direction” last year, and when the president delivered it they screamed more loudly that they didn’t like his new plan – the absolute pacification of Baghdad through using an enlarged troop presence. The head honcho in Iraq believes in the plan, especially as he understands that his people have to “step up” and meet benchmarks, thus initiating and then accelerating the withdrawal of American GIs. There has been some success already, as the Sunnis and Shiites realize that the sooner Americans are gone the better, since they can settle each other’s hash then, and only then.

On NBC-TV’s Meet the Press (Feb. 18), Republican Senator Lugar and Democrat Senator Biden expressed great hope that the president would call in members of Congress for the hammering-out of “non-partisan” approaches, forgetting apparently that wars are not conducted by committee, and that the term “non-partisan” means absolutely nothing in today’s Congress, where the long knives are out on both sides of the aisle. Indeed, four democrats in the Senate, including Biden, are trying to gain the oval office, and there may be more to come.

Maybe the term “hypocrite” is a bit strong, but one wonders. Senator Biden voted for the Iraqi action, as did Senator Kerry and former senator Edwards, the democrat contenders in 2004 to take over the government. All three have been backpedaling for a long time. Senate Majority Leader Reid voted for the authorization for whatever the president deemed necessary in 2002, and now he spends his time whining about the fact that things haven’t gone to suit him. House Majority Leader Hoyer voted for the Iraqi action in 2002, but now he’s unhappy.

These stalwarts in their offices (Speaker Pelosi “earning” $212,100 per year while an army private eating dust and facing death in Iraq makes just over $14,000) understand war to be as predictable as the calendar, but have no sense of history. There was no warning (intelligence snafu?) about the German buildup in Belgium in December 1944, but in five short weeks (Battle of the Bulge) 19,000 Americans were killed and more than 23,500 captured and sent to German POW hellholes. In February 1945, American forces laid as much bombardment as at any time or place in World War II on the island of Iwo Jima, but never figured how ineffective it was. The result: In 36 days, there were 25, 851 American casualties, with 6,825 killed. War as predictable – what a laugh! No war is predictable, and the wonder is that there haven’t been far more casualties in Iraq. In these battles, 25,825 Americans died in about five weeks, eight times the number in Iraq in five years.

This is not to say even one death is tolerable. It is to say that these congressional whiners, rather than encourage the troops, are so wrapped up in their petty partisan politics that they give the enemy the predictable notion that the GIs’ own lawmakers don’t support them…and the majority of them don’t. The democrats’ worse fears are that the objective will be reached in Iraq and that consequently they might not have a case in 2008. A pox on all of them!

The Iraqis are welcome to settle their sectarian or civil-war problems any way they choose, but the battle there involves this country’s letting the world know that terrorism will not be tolerated by Americans. Almost the entire Middle East is driven and governed by Islamic-oriented despots/religionists bent on world conquest in the name of Allah. This country – practically the only one with any strength, except for England – has drawn a line in the sand, and the congressional crybabies will do well to suck it up, shut up, and let the world see some spine out of its elected leaders.

And so it goes.

Jim Clark

Saturday, February 17, 2007

Hardaway, Amaechi and Homosexuality

The big news throughout the land this week has been made by former National Basketball Association star Tim Hardaway, whose instant notoriety eclipsed the total notoriety of his 14 years in the NBA as a stellar performer for five teams. Hardaway stated on a radio broadcast in Miami, where he once played for the Miami Heat, that he hated homosexuals and that he is a homophobe. Homophobia is defined as “irrational fear of, aversion to, or discrimination against homosexuality or homosexuals.” Another former NBA player, John Amaechi, has recently published a book in which he “came out,” and this triggered the episode. There have been a handful of homosexuals in professional sports but none has ever “come out” publicly until after retiring.

Predictably, Hardaway later apologized for what he said, but, of course, the apology meant nothing. Hardaway went so far as to say that a homosexual shouldn’t be in the locker-room when “other” players are there. There’s no excuse for an expression of hate to be made…at least publicly, though Hardaway probably is not alone in his feeling. Other players have made derogatory statements about playing with homosexuals, but without expressing hate for them…at least publicly. Most athletes probably don’t hate the homosexual, but they hate homosexual behavior, which, notwithstanding all the political-correctness manifestations to the contrary, is aberrant and abhorrent, quite foreign to what’s universally considered normal.

Being in close association with homosexuals bothers most men, whether they’re athletes or practitioners of any other employment, despite what they might say. Homosexuals are routinely discharged from the military when their lifestyle is discovered. On a naval vessel, sailors are confined to very cramped quarters, actually sleeping in tiers of four or five “racks,” with these beds/tiers within arms-reach of each other. It is not unknown for homosexuals to be attacked just because of what they are, so the discharge, besides removing a distraction or derogation of comradeship, is a safety measure for the homosexual. According to the U.S. Dept. of Defense, 653 homosexuals were discharged in 2004, down from 1,227 in 2001. In a recent appearance on NBC-TV’s Meet the Press, presidential candidate John Edwards, who has never been in the military, vowed that homosexuals will be tolerated in the military if he gains the Oval Office.

Lewd conduct is defined as that which is “sexually unchaste or licentious: OBSCENE, VULGAR.” Such conduct permeates the society by both men and women, but is particularly noted when attached to high-profile sports. Earvin “Magic” Johnson, one of the greatest NBA players of all time, retired from a 12-year career with the Los Angeles Lakers in 1991 because he had sustained an HIV infection. He admitted to a prolific promiscuity – at least before his marriage – and probably has no idea where he was infected or as to how many others he infected. Lewdness!

Fourteen-year veteran (1959-73) Wilt Chamberlain, among the greatest players ever to play the game, bragged that he had probably had sex with 20,000 women. Lewdness! Kobe Bryant, a married father and current star with the Los Angeles Lakers, was accused of rape in 2003 and admitted to having consensual sex with a woman not his wife. Lewdness! The NBA is not devoid of lewdness. Neither are the other professional sports leagues. The average salary in the NBA is more than $5 million per year, so the athletes have the wherewithal and perhaps the consequent attitude to do most anything they like.

The NBA brass has been quick to distance itself from Hardaway, even though he’s no longer in the game. He was already in Las Vegas, where he was to make public appearances in connection with All-Star Weekend, but NBA Commissioner David Stern deep-sixed his participation, claiming a disparity between Hardaway’s views and the league’s. Quite an understatement!

Dan Le Batard of the McClatchy Newspaper consortium claimed that Amaechi is the smartest athlete he’s ever met, “uniquely qualified to be an eloquent spokesman for his cause,” but that he is terrified and exhausted while fighting it [hatred] during his book tour, partly because hatred is scary, heavy and unpredictable. One wonders, though, why homosexuals feel compelled to “tell the world.” Actually, who cares?

Hardaway should have kept his opinion to himself, but in any gathering of men worse remarks than his are normal with respect to homosexuals and/or their behavior. Surely knowing this, why would Amaechi publish a book to “out” himself and possibly bring embarrassment to his family? He surely doesn’t consider himself as a mover and shaker of national or international importance or reputation (5 years in the NBA), so his motive could be construed to be the “outing” or, as some might say, the “flaunting” of behavior universally categorized as abhorrent and totally unacceptable.

Hardaway was wrong, even though he was truthful, and it’s a wonder that some politically correct group or other is not demanding criminal charges based on verbal assault, maybe categorized as a “hate crime.” Amaechi, for whatever reason (money, perhaps?), in flaunting what he knows is an unsavory lifestyle – at least to the vast majority – did neither himself nor his cause (whatever that is) any favors. Both are role models of a sort to young men, but one wonders who did the most damage.

And so it goes.

Jim Clark

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

KERA Redux - CBE Loses

Irony of ironies! In a ruling on 13 February, Franklin Circuit Court Judge Thomas D. Wingate ruled against the Council for Better Education, made up of 164 of the 175 Kentucky school districts, in its suit against the Kentucky Legislature claiming the General Assembly had under-funded education by well over a billion dollars. By contrast, a similar suit was held as valid by Circuit Judge Ray Corns in 1989 and later upheld by the Kentucky Supreme Court. The result was the largest tax increase in the state’s history coupled with millions for education and the always-wide-open pork barrel that legislators use to stroke their constituencies. It was called the Kentucky Education Reform Act (KERA) and by any measure has been a total disaster.

In the 1980s and for years before, many, if not most, school districts depended on state allocations for virtually their entire school budgets, meaning that, unlike districts populated by citizens willing to tax themselves locally to enhance educational endeavor, they held the effort to the lowest common denominator. Not only did county property-valuation administrators not do their jobs in appraising property to the proper levels and thereby collecting the proper amount of property taxes but in at least one instance in that matter of the 80s tax bills were not even sent out. The whole thing was a sham and the upshot was that in the allocation of KERA funds the districts that had gone the extra mile in funding their systems were severely penalized through receiving far less in the windfalls than districts that had done little or nothing to see that their systems were adequately funded.

An even more egregious aspect of KERA lay in the fact that the legislators attempted to codify pedagogy, an area it was totally unprepared to “mess with.” Much of its “messing” has been rescinded or grossly overhauled, such as the K-3 integration of 5-year-olds with third-graders and the unbelievable “rewards system” set up ostensibly to reward teachers for just doing what they were already paid to do. The predictable result was widespread cheating, something with which the KERA-era legislators were well acquainted, since a number of their colleagues went to the penitentiary for selling votes, not much different from “fixing test scores” and stealing the “rewards.” The eight expensive resource-centers spread throughout the state and staffed with experts to help failing schools have long since been shut down, and there’s little, if any, evidence that there was ever a need for them.

The 1989 decision was reminiscent of the decision in the mid-70s by a federal judge that neither the Louisville nor Jefferson County school system satisfied the law with respect to black-white quotas in their schools, and he ordered the dissolution of both school boards and a total integration of their systems, with busing to be used to maintain the proper quotas. Dr. James S. Coleman, the renowned University of Chicago sociologist, was the progenitor of school-busing as the means to correct the quota problem. This meant that duly elected officials were displaced by court order. Dr. Coleman later determined that his approach was flawed and that busing was not the way to go, but the damage had been done by a non-elected judge doing what a deliberative body should have done or suffered the consequences legally for not doing.

In his 22-page opinion, Judge Wingate sort of scolded the plaintiffs, making it plain that the legislature had done a good job (opinion not shared in this corner) and that decisions should be determined through testing carried out by the schools and that performance should be judged vis-à-vis that of other states. House Speaker Richards appreciated the verdict but insisted that the schools are under-funded (opinion not shared in this corner).

The answer to the problem lies in rescinding most of what’s left of KERA, principally doing away with the school councils, and ridding the schools of “outcomes-based” pedagogy. Lawmakers generally tend toward throwing money at problems, but it’s worth noting that in the worst school system in the country, Washington, D.C., $12,959 was spent per pupil in 2004, as compared to Kentucky at $6,861 as compared to Utah at $4,991, with Utah easily the best of the three systems. For the 2005-06 school year, Kentucky’s per pupil spending was $7,914 and the average teacher’s salary was $43,275.

And so it goes.

Jim Clark

Monday, February 12, 2007

Bush's "Democrats!" = Lincoln's "Copperheads!"

In the early days of the nation, there were ruptures in its fabric that could have caused its dissolution as well-intentioned but often overly ambitious men (some not so well-intentioned), sometimes even ruthlessly so, vied for position in either government or other enterprise needing for its success the manipulation of government. Almost miraculously – especially since the former colonies were undertaking a virtual first, ie., the initiation of a government from the ground up – the union held for six decades in spite of the machinations of those who saw it only as something to be used…until the presidency of Abraham Lincoln, born on 12 February 1809.

What could have meant the disestablishment of the union under a lesser leader than Lincoln was not allowed to happen. Consider: In the North, the Democrats divided into two factions – the War Democrats and the Peace Democrats. Both groups took issue with the way the Republican administration conducted the war, but the War Democrats at least supported the fight for the Union. The Peace Democrats were called “Copperheads.”

The Copperheads mounted a forceful and sustained protest against the Lincoln administration's policies and conduct. The most popular of the Copperheads was Democratic Congressman Clement L. Vallandigham, who in 1862 introduced a bill in Congress to imprison the President. At the 1864 Democratic convention, he persuaded the party to adopt a platform that declared the war a failure (sound familiar?) and called for negotiations with the Confederacy (sound familiar?).

In the process, Lincoln was caught at a time when an average of 425 of America’s most able men were dying each day of battle and disease, a circumstance that lasted for four long years. To see this in perspective, one needs only to recognize that virtually the same number of soldiers died every week during the Civil War (208 weeks) as have died in the four years of the battle in Iraq (208 weeks). The wonder is that Lincoln was not assassinated in his first year in office. The pressure for Lincoln to “do something” to stop the carnage must have been unbearable, but he held fast…he stayed the course.

Flash forward to this twelfth of February, Lincoln’s birthday, and find another president resolved to stay the course under tremendous pressure, even though in human terms there isn’t the remotest comparison to be made of today’s circumstances with the horrendous problems facing Lincoln and the Union. Indeed, one is reminded of presidents who stayed the course in 1917-18 and 1941-45, when Americans died at the rate of 320 per day for 4.5 years (234 weeks). The nation stood these horrific circumstances because survival depended upon the outcome of wars fought in far-flung places but not touching its shores.

The Democrat Party is similarly divided today as it was in 1861. It has its war faction and its peace-at-any-price faction, its own Copperheads. Its mantra is “dialogue” with the sworn enemy (Islamic governments that have decreed the demise of this nation), as was the case in Lincoln’s day – just sit down and “talk it out,” then with the Confederates, and now with whomever. Democrat Senators Kerry and Dodd, the latter an announced presidential candidate, have “dialogued” with Syrian President Assad in recent days on his turf, each trying to be what he isn’t – the U.S. president – and undermining both this country’s administration and its military. This is little, if any, short of treason, as was Kerry’s lunacy during the Vietnam War when he met with the enemy in Paris – trying to be the president.

Senators Clinton and Obama, both announced presidential aspirants, are spreading their anti-war and anti-their-own-government venom in ways to gladden the heart of any enemy and give him aid and comfort, when they should be encouraging this administration in its worthy effort to stave off Islamic war-activity and the Muslim goal of subjecting the world. They are either too dumb to understand or too ambitious to care. They are the stereotypical Copperheads. Lincoln had Vallandigham and some other Copperheads arrested, but that can’t be done today. Copperheads can’t even abide the Patriot Act, giving rise to one’s wondering why, since if there’s nothing to hide there’s nothing to fear.

Senator Obama chose the Lincolnesque Springfield, Illinois, site to announce his candidacy, but George Bush comes much closer to a Lincoln that Obama could ever hope to. Indeed, Obama’s appearance at a place where his kind of wimpishness is anathema to the aura created by a man who could face difficulty head-on and defeat it is a sort of blasphemy. Meanwhile, Senator Clinton, the presumptive front-runner was cackling in New Hampshire about her vote for the war being prostituted by the president, taking absolutely no responsibility. This is cowardice and posturing on a profound level, indeed.

Lincoln was a “man’s man,” no disrespect for the ladies intended. Just so is Bush. The pretenders are a pathetic bunch of Copperheads, especially, the most notorious – Clinton, Obama, Edwards. Their names should not be uttered in the same room as that of Abraham Lincoln. They may scream “failure,” but they wouldn’t know either failure or success if knocked down by either.

And so it goes.

Jim Clark

Friday, February 09, 2007

Harper & Education...Just an Example

The gubernatorial candidates are talking about the usual things such as education and highways and, of course, promising all kinds of goodies without raising taxes. With respect to education, the notion was presented in 1990 that the Education Reform Act (KERA) of that year augured well for virtually making geniuses of at least 90% of Kentucky public-school students by 2015. The results of the most recent tests indicate that the efforts by students in the grades tested are about average in reading and well below average in math and science as determined on the basis of national norms. Locally, educators and parents recognize that KERA has been an abomination, but “eating crow” is not de rigueur for legislators of that era still in office, and parents just shrug.

Added to the misery is the fact that 53% of first-year students at Kentucky universities in 2004 had to take remedial courses costing $25 million per year, meaning that their high-school diplomas were not worth all that much after nearly 15 KERA-years. If the threshold for entry-level is raised on the math section of the ACT, the number will rise to 63 percent needing remedial math. Put as kindly as possible, KERA is a flat-out failure, notwithstanding all the political propaganda to the contrary.

So…what do the candidates propose? Billy Harper, for instance, proposes funding for full-day kindergarten, never mind the fact that traditional students read as well as “Head-Start” students within about two years or less. Besides its expense, this program (all-day too long for 5-year-olds anyway) will be little more than full-day child-care instead of half-day. This might make the parents happy to be relieved of some child-care expenses, but schools are not designed to be social programs.

This is not a “pick-on-Harper screed,” but it should be noted that he recommends some sort of reward for teacher leaders (whatever they are). Under the KERA reward-system, administrators and teachers (and even students) conspired to rig tests or test results in order to get the financial rewards. It was a scandal sort of like BopTrot/Humana in the 80s-90s, except these folks didn’t go off to the Big House. The legislature, thankfully, did away with the reward system as regarding those financial windfalls awarded teachers/administrators/schools for simply doing what they were paid to do, in the first place. Even at that, probably 90% of teachers never learned how (assuming there was a “how”) to grade those all-important portfolios.

Another Harper idea: “Require school councils to collaborate with superintendents on hiring principals.” Imagine that! The Kentucky Supreme Court made it clear to the Fayette School Board a few years ago that the Councils did NOT have to pay any attention to the elected superintendent in this matter. The truth is that the councils don’t have to pay attention to the superintendent on much of anything – even, or especially, curriculum. Harper should be demanding that the council-mandate of KERA be rescinded and the operation of the schools returned to the elected school board and the elected superintendent. Instead, he comes up with this suggestion indicative of the total inability of multi-school systems to be held accountable or arrive at a semblance of standardization that would give planners a leg up on making the total system homogeneous curriculum-wise and therefore susceptible to some sort of academic order.

Instead of getting rid of the councils, as he should promise, Harper recommends expanding school councils to include two community members and one employer. What on earth for? What Harper is actually suggesting is that there is no need for a school board or a superintendent, just a gaggle of schools reflecting the latest fads, one of which was the KERA engine 17 years ago, known as “outcomes-based-education,” a total disaster and the reason for the mediocrity of today. The site-based-council is made up of a principal, three teachers and two parents, and they are literally on their own, whether or not they have the overall expertise to set up an individual system or operate it.

Harper is probably little different from any other candidate, with regard to education. This is part of the bio on his Web site: He was chairman of the Kentucky Chamber of Commerce in 1989-90. During this time, he traveled the state promoting education reform. Education reform was embodied in KERA. The legislators made the fatal mistake of enacting pedagogy, something entirely beyond their expertise. Harper made the mistake of pushing it. Now, he and probably all the other candidates should be revisiting KERA in order to find the most efficient ways to finish dismantling it, since the legislators have been dismantling it piecemeal for years, after some teachers had already started pooh-poohing it locally, such as in nullifying the silly K-3 section. He will help his campaign not by praising KERA and attempting to turn education into a social activity, but by calling for a thorough reform of the Reform. And that shouldn’t require a tax increase.

And so it goes.

Jim Clark

Thursday, February 08, 2007

DNC Memorandum #23

From the office of Dr. Howard Dean, chair/genius, Democratic National Committee

***Please be advised that the as-yet-unknown staffer/wag who sent out the latest bio of John Edwards printed in lavender will be disciplined – more drastically than the usual forced-listening of tapes of Bush saying “nucular” 5,000 times – and may even be demoted to the “Biden Plagiarism-Watch Department.” A position-paper is being prepared concerning Mr. Edwards’ remark on Meet The Press on 04 February that if elected in 2008 he will absolutely (his word) guarantee that homosexuals will be part of the military. This means that they must be accepted and that the “don’t ask, don’t tell” test will be rescinded. Since Mr. Edwards has not indicated yet that he “misspoke,” and in view of what happened in 1993 when President Clinton initiated his administration by attempting the same thing (and failing), the position-paper is necessary. Mr. Edwards also mentioned twice that he was raised “Southern Baptist” and even baptized “Southern Baptist,” so the paper will set out the party’s position regarding Sodom, Gomorrah, and San Francisco, meaning that a poll will be taken soon (except among Southern Baptists and members of the military, of course). In the meantime, candidates will do well to avoid this subject, especially anywhere south of the Ohio River.

***Please be advised that Senator Biden has, by actual count, publicly apologized 500 times to Senator Obama and 300 times apiece to Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton for his implying that Senator Obama is the first African American in 400 years to become both articulate and clean, thus easing the stress on Senator Obama’s parents and other relatives occasioned by their having preceded Senator Obama and also relieving stress on Jesse and Al for whatever trauma they claim to have suffered. Since one is not in the dictionary, a definition for “fluffernutter,” the term Senator Biden used to describe Mr. Edwards’ remarks about the Iraqi War (and everything else), will be issued soon. The rumor that the wag who combined the terms “fluff” and “nutter” in a recent Web site to create the definition foolishness by a nutcase will be called as a witness if Mr. Edwards sues Senator Biden for Defamation of Character is unfounded and not to be repeated. The rumor that Jesse and Al and the NAACP will join Mr. Edwards, also acting as lead lawyer, in a class action suit against Senator Biden and the Senate (as his employer and thus culpable) is also false.

***Senator Clinton is demanding that Senator Biden distribute an explanation for this statement made by him to a New York Observer reporter recently: “Everyone in the world knows her.” She claims that this statement has damaged her reputation, that she has received lewd e-mails because of it, that reporters are camping out at her front door 24/7 and taking pictures of everyone entering and leaving the house, and that her husband has refused to speak to her since the statement was made. Even her trash-cans have been searched and it is rumored that National Inquirer plans to do an expose on her private life. Senator Biden has said he never made the statement and will not make it again, but that he will issue an explanation.

***Applications are still available for anyone wanting to use the services of the DNC in running for the presidency in 2008. Nine eager candidates are in the picture but more are needed to fill the year between now and primary/caucus elections, since most of the nine have been stating their positions for a long time and have nothing new to offer. Boredom is a lethal enemy, so anyone with new ideas – especially regarding the war, abortion, health-care, and Super Bowl halftime – is welcome to enter the contest. A “New Ideas” form will be sent, so prospects are urged to read the position-papers of the announced and predictable unannounced candidates so as not to appear boring. Example of new idea for Iraqi War: Declare victory and invite all Sunni men to bring a personal homicide/suicide bomb to a Shiite mosque featuring a film of the 72 virgins, after prayer-time, of course.

***A new pamphlet is available concerning effective ways to announce candidacies. Some candidates have already used suggestions. Senator Clinton announced in a “fireside chat a la FDR” on the Internet and thus did not have to answer questions while appearing calm, reasonable, and…well…not her usual self (little joke there). Senator Dodd announced on the morning TV clambake with Imus, thus subjecting himself to ridicule, always a sure-fire technique to get the votes of the little old ladies in sneakers. Mr. Edwards leased a backyard in New Orleans for the entire election season to announce his campaign, with the intention to return there periodically to make speeches and hold press conferences. Staffers who are assigned to Mr. Edwards’ campaign are reminded that porta-johns will be available, since the backyard will not have a sewer-connect in the near future.

***Since President Bush observed right after Senator Biden had already made the observation that Senator Obama is articulate, the “A-word” (articulate, for the dummies) is now forbidden in all DNC printed material, on TV appearances, and on all the ships at sea, since anything upon which Bush and Biden agree must be bad, and especially since Biden implied that Al and Jesse don’t have it. Anything they don’t have, ipso facto, is bad, and allusions to it must not be made. This means that the “A-word” is now DNC code for ignorance and thus may be applied to Southern Baptists and similar political miscreants.

***Finally, impeachment proceedings have not been abandoned but are on hold for now. This is partly due to the fact that Representatives Hastings and Jefferson could be in a tight spot with regard to impeachment if attention is called to malfeasance, misfeasance, or any other feasance, not to mention criminal activity, especially if Representative Murtha’s famous “cash episode” is flashed on the O’Reilly Factor at least once a week.

And so it goes.

Jim Clark

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

The Russert-Edwards Show

Tim Russert of NBC-TV’s Meet The Press devoted the entire hour to presidential candidate John Edwards on 04 January. This interview, one whole year before any caucuses or primaries are to be held (although New Hampshire may be planning to jump the gun and schedule its primary in December) and nearly two years before the election, remarked the tiresome, expensive, years-long campaigns that have become the norm now, notwithstanding that elected office-seekers, such as sitting senators and representatives, are flagrantly derelict in their official duties while in the process.

Edwards, of course, has the luxury of being able to devote full time to his activity. This whole enterprise screams for a national primary, with all states selecting their nominees on the same day, though the champion money-grabbers will always have the advantage.

As is his custom, Russert went back through the archives during the program to display Edwards’ statements in recent years, almost entirely devoted to the Iraq matter. Since he voted for the war in 2002 and still supported it in 2004, when he was running for the veep spot on the ticket with John Kerry (better hair than Bush/Cheney), with his positions quite well documented, Edwards played defense, though not too well. He took a sort of Hillary-approach, i.e., giving the president complete authority to do whatever he deemed necessary but now recognizing how incompetent Bush has been.

Edwards said this: “But the basic foundation for the violence is very clear, which is why I and others, the Baker group, determined that the only solution is not a military solution, but a political resolution, a political reconciliation.” Edwards seems not to understand that political solutions are not possible unless and until either of two warring parties – or both – sees the need for it. The colonists could not effect a rapprochement with England in 1776, so they got a political solution AFTER the English gave up the war they brought upon themselves. Simple.

Edwards said this: “And the president’s plan is we put 20,000-plus more troops into Iraq. I think all that does is enable the continued bad behavior, political bad behavior that we’ve seen over the last few years. What we need to do instead, in my judgment, is to shift this responsibility to them. It is the most likely way to create this political reconciliation.” Surely Edwards knew he was affirming precisely what Bush is doing, i.e., gradually transferring responsibility for security to the Iraqis. The bad behavior to which Edwards referred has not been bad “political behavior” but bad physical behavior – IED’s, beheadings, assassinations, destruction of utilities and oil-fields, etc. When the Iraqis have had enough of this – one side or the other – there will be a political solution, notwithstanding anything this country does.

Edwards said this: “And finally, engage not just our friends in that region of the world—the Saudis, the Jordanians, the Egyptians—but engage directly with Iran and Syria, because both Iran and Syria have an interest in Iraq not going totally chaotic.” Neither Iran nor Syria felt safe during the un-chaotic years of Saddam, so Edwards is blowing smoke if he thinks either country gives a fig about Iraqi chaos. The Iraqis will need decades to even get to the point at which they will again seriously threaten Iran or Syria, if ever. In any case, having a meaningful conversation with Presidents Ahmadinejad of Iran or Assad of Syria, even if such were possible, is a joke. Their word is as good as Kim Jong Il’s word, that of a tyrant who lied through his teeth to Jimmy Carter et al back in the 90s and perpetrated an evil threat to Asia and the world as a result.

Edwards made it plain twice that he was raised as a Southern Baptist, even mentioning that he was baptized in that faith and that his father was a deacon in the church. This was in response to Russert’s broaching of the subject of homosexuality, same-sex marriage, etc., about which Edwards had not arrived at clear-cut opinions, except that he at least wondered if he should impose his opinions upon others. Edwards made it clear – ABSOLUTELY, in his words – that he would, if president, see that homosexuals are accepted in the military. Bill Clinton tried that as practically his first act in office, but was thoroughly reversed by the military, which, though miserably afflicted with political correctness, still may not be ready for that. Edwards must have a death wish in saying this, at least with regard to male voters who have ever been in the military. Perhaps he believes the homosexual vote is much larger than it is.

Boilerplate and posturing for almost two more years – Egad! Russert is to be commended for exposing the hypocrisy (flip-flopping) of his interviewees by simply playing their words back to them and letting them sweat. That they go through this is amazing…but, then, the free exposure and their probable assumption that viewers have elevators that don’t reach the top floor may combine to convince them it’s worth the embarrassment. It isn’t.

And so it goes.

Jim Clark

Saturday, February 03, 2007

"Domestic Partner" Perks Invalidated in Michigan Universities

President Lee Todd and the trustees of the University of Kentucky will do well to look at a recent Appeals Court ruling handed down in Michigan, whose citizens by a large margin approved a “marriage protection” amendment to its state Constitution in 2004. The Court, in overturning an opinion of a lower Court, made it clear that neither the University of Michigan nor Michigan State University may provide benefits for employees’ “domestic partners,” individuals to whom they are not married, and that marriage is established only as between a man and a woman. This means that absent a legal marriage document, upon which eligibility for benefits depends, there are no “family” benefits available, either.

The Michigan amendment is similar to the “marriage amendment” approved by the citizens of Kentucky in a landslide margin (75% in favor), also in 2004. According to the Merriam-Webster Collegiate Dictionary, 11th Edition, a domestic partner is “either one of an unmarried heterosexual or homosexual cohabiting couple especially when considered as to eligibility for spousal benefits.” On 02 November 2004, Amendment 233A was overwhelmingly approved by the voters and made a part of the Kentucky Constitution: “Only a marriage between one man and one woman shall be valid or recognized as a marriage in Kentucky. A legal status identical or substantially similar to that of marriage for unmarried individuals shall not be valid or recognized.”

In Kentucky, homosexuals may not legally be married to each other, thus the “partners” are not accorded standing accruing to spouses for consideration(s) provided by the state or institutions regulated or supported by it. It would appear that no benefits are available for any individual not legally married to an eligible recipient, or a dependent not having family standing, as in the case of children in either homosexual or heterosexual households/arrangements. The law – actually carrying the weight of the Constitution – seems quite clear. The mantra of those favoring “Domestic Perks” has been that the universities can do as they like. In Michigan, that approach didn’t work, and the laws are virtually the same.

The Michigan Appeals Court tendered the third decision on the matter. The initial ruling by a lower-Court judge was upheld unanimously by the Appeals Court (three judges) after it had been overturned on its first appeal, not unusual since judge-hunting is a common practice for those seeking a specific ruling. If UK goes the route of the University of Louisville and awards “Domestic Partner” benefits, as one or both of the Michigan universities had done, it will face a long legal battle, with the upshot being that the matter will have to be set right eventually and those illegally awarded benefits will be faced with losing the benefits and the university might be faced with having to engage in “payback,” an expensive probability.

The ramifications for awarding “Domestic Partner” benefits at UK apply to all areas/employees of state government – every entity from the highway department to the school boards. UK is only one of the many state agencies supported and controlled by the taxpayers, thus, if it can award “Domestic Benefits,” such benefits can be awarded across the board. This, obviously, is what the citizens have said they will not tolerate. UK will do well to let the sleeping dog of “Domestic Benefits” lie and not initiate turmoil that can easily be avoided. The insistence that such perks are necessary to “get the brightest and the best” is an obvious and smelly red herring, there being no evidence that cohabiting heterosexuals or homosexuals are intellectually superior to the run-of-the-mill faculty members.

From a financial standpoint, it hardly behooves the university to even consider these perks, as proven by the fact that two assistant football coaches have just been awarded raises of 61% and 79%, respectively, so they now make $241,245 and $231,245. This kind of outrageous prostituting of the educational process (intolerable waste) is unconscionable. This is not even to mention the tuition increases that cause students to hock themselves for years paying off student loans.

And so it goes.

Jim Clark

Friday, February 02, 2007

Biden Dropkicks Tonsils

One who seeks expert opinion on a subject is wise to consult…well, an expert. Those seeking expertise in judging the democrat presidency-candidates for 2008 could hardly do better than to consult someone owning 34 years in the U.S. Senate, certainly an expert…Senator Joe Biden. Initially, one must erase any bias Biden – himself a candidate – might have by getting Biden’s take on Biden. In a recent interview with the New York Observer, Biden mentioned that an “aggressive advocate with rough edges might be just what the party needs right now.” So…Biden on Biden is that he’s a tough, rough-edged, aggressive hombre, Kemo Sabe! That’s not bias, of course…just the facts, ma’am, though some might say he “dropkicked his tonsils” (euphemism for hoof ’n mouth).

To make the above point as poignantly as possible, Biden referred to the unsuccessful candidates in 2000 and 2004 as “perfect blow-dried,” about as effeminate as it gets, notwithstanding that both Al Gore and John Kerry at least saw Vietnam back in the sixties, while Biden has never worn the uniform. Biden explained that G and K just “couldn’t connect,” whatever that means…maybe the dots everyone’s been talking about since the 9/11 Commission did its duty.

With seven positives and two potentials and no telling how many more, the democrats have sort of formed a circular firing squad of candidates, with Senator Clinton in the middle right now, though the firing is haphazard and candidate mass-murder looms darkly. About Clinton, the prime target, Biden said, “nothing but disaster,” regarding her position on Iraq. He even quoted her: “We’re going to teach the Iraqis a lesson.” What does he expect from someone who insists it takes a village to raise a child? Shouldn’t a big, strong country teach a small, weak country, thereby saving it for all posterity…maybe even grant it minimum wage in the bargain?

Even lowering his voice, according to NYO, Biden said, “Everyone in the world knows her.” What did he mean by that? Other than implying that hubby Bill had all but broken arms to line up support, he didn’t say, but the aura of scandal must have hung heavy in the tete-a-tete with NYO, with bated breath not satisfied, however. Biden didn’t tell all, but the thought has been planted. Is she sending signals perhaps according to code keyed into the color of her pants-suit on a given day…or night? Interesting.

Concerning Senator Obama, Biden opined, “I mean, you got the first mainstream African-American who is articulate and bright and clean and a nice-looking guy.” Well…African-Americans have been around for some 400 years, but Biden was astute enough to recognize that one of them finally “made it.” Biden expressed doubt that anyone who had been in the Senate for only four years could hardly have the gravitas of a Cheney, for instance, famous for it in 2000. Of course, Obama has been in the Senate for only two years, which means he couldn’t have voted for the Iraq War, while Clinton and Edwards did…so four sounds better, even if untrue. The word is that teeth-gnashing was heard all over Chicago and New York by the Reverends Jackson and Sharpton, respectively, when apprised of Biden’s critique of Obama (referred to as Osama by Senator Kennedy about two years ago). At least Biden got his name right.

Biden said this about John Edwards, the veep candidate in 2004: “I don’t think John Edwards knows what the heck he is talking about.” He even said that Edwards speaks “fluffernutter,” which, unfortunately, is not defined in the dictionary. “Fluff” is defined as something inconsequential and “nutter” as British slang for nut. So…fluffernutter – if it were defined – would probably be foolishness by a nutcase, to put it rather indelicately. Since Edwards has made a number of fortunes by using his wits and not using fluffernutter in the courtroom in the process, while Biden has admitted plagiarizing an Irishman’s speech in 1988, apparently for want of anything better in Americanese (everything too inconsequential) in an effort to guard against fluffernutter-speak of his own, one has to give the senator high marks for semantic discernment.

The expert has spoken about some of the candidates, including himself, but, as is often the case for a candidate, Biden spent the next day after offering his selective critiques in “apology mode,” undoing (or un-saying) what he has already said (okay…misspoken, sounds better). Hearing the honing of the long knives of the NAACP, he was especially careful to apologize to Senator Obama, about whom he said: "a superstar, the most exciting candidate this party has had in a long time." Two years of this! Egad!

And so it goes.

Jim Clark…a bit of SuperBowl history: