Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Oration & Consternation!

The president’s speech concerning economics might better have been left unspoken. This is not to speak disparagingly of an effort to somehow rev up the atmosphere in the country since he had spent weeks proclaiming enough doom and gloom for a couple of centuries, let alone what will most likely be a fairly normal, though perhaps much lengthier than usual, recovery.

The Anointed One spoke too rapidly, giving the impression that he didn't believe a lot of the speech – maybe most of it – and this made his passion (quite a lot of that) less believable. He promised the moon, universal health-care, and lowered taxes for 95% of the population, meaning, one supposes, that the whole deal will be done on the backs of those who make too much money. He also promised to halve the deficit in four years, in the bargain. Considering that the nation is collectively bankrupt now and wallowing in the "stimulus" package, how all that will be done...except through printing money...seems problematic. If that happens, a wheelbarrow will be needed to carry the cash to the store for a loaf of bread.

Speaker Pelosi was sitting right behind the messiah and jumped to her feet constantly, as if on cue, so that everyone in the chamber had to do the same, loudly clapping. A lot of folks, especially old codgers, probably got tired of this but...hey, cheerleaders her age are hard to find. Biden, also sitting behind him, tended toward sleep, so Pelosi had another reason for stirring up the noise. It’s a wonder that, after he said his “God bless America” at the end of the too-long oration, she didn’t somersault over the railing and give Obama either a hug-and-kiss combination or just kneel and genuflect.

The speech was political theater fit to make Berlin look like small bananas...the usual ear-tickling "three cars in every garage" thing, with the caveat, of course, that EVERYONE must do his/her part. He made it very personal – in-your-face personal – that HE would see to it that everyone stayed in line, though he mentioned that Biden would be the great overseer, notwithstanding his new position of Chief Performance Officer just established by executive order to do the same thing. Apparently, the prez didn’t spend enough time in the Senate to learn how it actually WILL be. Just keeping his own party halfway in line will be nearly impossible, let alone getting any non-partisan help.

The speech was not billed as a state-of-the-union oration probably because neither Obama nor anyone else actually knows the state of the union, notwithstanding that he has spent since at least 2007 talking about the sad state of the union. The average “Joe Blow” has a fairly good idea of the state of the union in his household but Obama’s declaiming about that would put a damper on the let-the-good-times-roll atmosphere of the occasion.

So...$1.6 trillion has been voted up in the last four months to provide a “stimulus” to the economy. This was the backdrop for the speech, in which was mentioned again the millions of jobs it would create. Nobody believes this if for no other reason the fact that a multitude of the people who have lost jobs will eventually return to them – just filling jobs already in place...but they’ll be counted as new jobs, of course.

Now...Congress is set to consider the budget for 2009. The latest statistic is that government spending (added to the “stimulus”) will be $3.66 trillion, while federal tax revenue is expected to be $2.29 trillion, or a shortfall of $1.37 trillion. The shortfall, then, is a hefty $2.97 trillion when the “stimulus” is added to it. How the nation digs out from under this while at the same time installing universal health care, making it possible for everyone to go to college, build new schoolhouses, and come forth for some $7.7 billion in earmarks, of which the messiah said there would be none approved by him, is yet to be determined.

Henry Morgenthau was Treasury Secretary 1934-45 during the Great Depression of the 1930s and said this in 1939: “We have tried spending money. We are spending more than we have ever spent before and it does not work. And I have just one interest, and if I am wrong…somebody else can have my job. I want to see this country prosperous. I want to see people get a job. I want to see people get enough to eat. We have never made good on our promises…I say after eight years of this administration we have just as much unemployment as when we started…And an enormous debt to boot!”

Morgenthau didn’t lose his job. He passed judgment in advance on the “stimulus” plan of President Obama, as presented in his speech on economics. He has a democrat-controlled Congress to do his bidding. It’s doubtful that his constituency will have the gumption to face up to what Morgenthau laid out back in 1939, when conditions were immeasurably worse. The alternative then was to let nature take its course – free market economics – but World War II came along, and the rest is history. Disallowing nature to take its course in the housing market and during the last few years otherwise has caused this crisis, and the president’s method will prolong it. Bush warned many years ago and Congress didn’t listen. Now, it’s too late.

And so it goes.

Jim Clark

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

One Crazy Month!

This has been a crazy month – the first – for the new administration. In some ways, there have been happenings unlike those of any other time in the memory of the perpetrator of this corner. There was nothing new about the attempts to make inappropriate appointments to the bureaucracy – people like tax-cheats Geithner, Daschle, and Killefer to Treasury, HHS, and the new one, something about policing all the bureaucrats, respectively, as well as Richardson, now under investigation for...well, name it. Only Geithner slipped through but the whole enterprise reminded of the first days of Bill Clinton and, to a lesser extent, George Bush.

Actually, some craziness began to crop up early last year when the democrat-controlled Congress decided to dole out $300 per qualified citizen and/or children. This was supposed to help the economy but didn’t make a dent. The mortgage improprieties were at the root of the slipping economy and all the solons knew this, so instead of correcting the problems, they handed out cash to everybody – much easier, just help everyone pursue happiness, as the Declaration would have it.

The craziness continued into October, when the democrat-controlled Congress, with little help from republicans, decided to give away $700 billion to the misbehaving miscreants and their lending/banking institutions in order to save the nation, as the Anointed One might have it. The objective: help people borrow money to buy houses or anything else. Problem: No one knows exactly where the $350 billion already allocated is right now, but it’s well known that neither borrowing nor buying has been enhanced. Result: unemployment standing at 7.6% and rising, as people listen to the Anointed One constantly warn that the nation is in free fall and don’t dare turn loose of what little they have left, the Stock market (and their savings) having tanked and consequently been wiped out, respectively.

In the mix has been the strange wanderings of the elite officials. Holbrooke and Mitchell have gone to the Middle East to settle all the problems there, as if any mortal could do that...but it’s great theater. Speaker Pelosi has been to see the Pope and who knows where/who else. Senator Kerry has wandered around Syria and Gaza lately making the usual sounds and, of course, upstaging Holbrooke and Mitchell, when and where possible. State Secretary Clinton has been doing the Far East tour – smiles all around – with no armed attacks on her such as those she repeatedly said she suffered in Bosnia in 1996, when she was met by the little girl carrying flowers, not an AK-47. The Orientals are still laughing, like everyone else.

Pelosi had to meet her schedule to lecture the Pope on abortion, so there was no time for lawmakers to read the 1,100-page “stimulus bill,” recently passed by the democrat Congress with no help from republicans. Counting interest, it amounts to $1 trillion worth of earmarks and handouts in the vein – at least as propagandized – of FDR back in the 1930s. Lately, though, the president has sounded more like JFK in the early 1960s, as he begins to understand nationalization of this and that, such as the banks, lending agencies, auto companies. Maybe the railroads will be next as per HST of the 1940s. Those pesky unions are about gone, though. crazy can it get? The prexy invited the known “brains” in for some breakout sessions this week to figure a way to save the country, especially since the banks and auto companies are screaming for more money to save the country. Since Treasury Secretary Geithner doesn’t seem to know what to do with the money he has – that other $350 billion – and since hundreds of billions more seem to be the asking price of most anyone and everyone – especially those with lucrative golden parachutes – to save the nation, what’s a president to do?

Maybe the Chinese will make some more loans, although they’re well aware that in just four months the democrat-controlled Congress has spent twice as much on domestic issues as has been spent since 2001 on the Afghanistan- and Iraq-actions...with, of course, nothing to show for the outlay...but, not to worry, since most of that spending will someday pay off...all those new bridges that take a few years to build. If the Chinese won’t lend – and they already hate the U.S. for the deflating dollars they already own – well, just print money and let the Chinese eat cake.

In this corner, it has been hard to accept the fact that the government is now reduced to handing out money to its citizens and nationalizing entire industries. This is the opposite of the free enterprise that has made the nation what it is – the envy of the world, but no more perhaps, as other countries see the blatant dishonesty, governmental and private, that has made the U.S. a laughingstock. The average citizens are paying a heavy price now, not to mention the one passed on to the coming generations. Printing money has unutterably bad consequences.

And so it goes.

Jim Clark

Monday, February 23, 2009

Obama, Holder & the Race Card

Attorney General Eric Holder said in a speech last week that citizens don’t talk enough about race and that the reason is that they’re cowards. Since he would not think of blacks as being racist, he was talking about whites, of course, notwithstanding that whites elected a black president who then gave a black man the AG job, never mind that that man (Holder) pushed the pardon of Marc Rich whose thievery of public funds certainly dwarfed that of Treasury Secretary Geithner and Commerce-Sec wannabe Daschle. The following seems appropriate and is essentially the same as it was when it was first used in this corner in March of last year, when the Anointed One was spending an eventual $708 million to get anointed.

“For his speech in Philadelphia on 18 March, Barack Obama chose the subject of race, a high-decibel noise-maker that most people, white and black, have had quite enough of for decades. If he was trying to neutralize the well-documented anti-American remarks of his pastor, Jeremiah Wright, recently resigned from Trinity United Church of Christ in Chicago, he chose the wrong approach. His speech should have been about hate, the quite obvious motivation behind Wright's outrageous charges, such as that this country is ruled by rich white folk and that the U.S. government invented HIV/AIDS in order spread it around in order to arrange a holocaust of people of color.

Speaking of a "stained Constitution," he went to some pain to dredge up the existence of slavery, as if anything more needs to be said about something studied by every schoolchild for scores of years, but which black preachers of the ilk of Wright, Jesse Jackson, and Al Sharpton insist upon using to try to lay a guilt trip on white people for something more than 140 years in the past and for which no living American for scores of years has borne any responsibility. In other words, Obama played the race-card, thinking he was somehow unifying the electorate when actually he was making it more divided than ever.

Amazingly, he attempted to explain why Wright and other older African Americans might feel the animosity which drives some of them, never mind that Wright, as well as Obama, has had all the best of what can be achieved in this country by those who work for it. One remembers the time when Bill Moyers allowed Mansour Farhang, a California professor, to use two entire programs in his PBS series in 1979 to help Americans "understand" why the Iranian government kidnapped the hostages, 52 of whom they held for 14 months.

Both efforts wallowed in irrelevance, especially Obama's, since these "old guys" have been around long enough to see actual CHANGE, Obama's slogan, and get over it. Anything Moyers, also a member of a United Church of Christ congregation, does or did is not surprising, no matter how far out.

For two entire generations plus, this government has tried to redress grievances, real or imagined, of African Americans. Presidents Eisenhower and Kennedy used troops to enforce integration in education in 1957 at Little Rock and in 1963 at Tuscaloosa and other Alabama school districts, respectively. Wide-ranging civil-rights laws were passed in the early 60s, and rights for everything from voting to affirmative action (quotas) were enacted so that blacks would have an even chance to be successful in the society. Today's white population, whose ancestors died by the tens of thousands erasing slavery, is fed-up with this claptrap, and Obama jerked all the wrong chains with this speech.

His religion angle took the form of the cliché that the most segregated hour in the week is at 11:00 a.m. on Sunday morning. He also described the services in most African American churches as full of shouting, screaming, clapping, physical activity, and bawdy humor in the pulpit, but seems not to understand that most white people would be repelled by that sort of "worship," not to mention the extended length of the services. People tend to congregate in like-minded groups, and race has nothing to do with it. Expecting white people to go to Trinity at 11:00 a.m. to listen to Jeremiah Wright screech over and over that God should damn America, as he is well-documented doing, is a bit much, anyway.

Obama reached his nadir when he dragged his grandmother, who is white and a successful businesswoman, into his speech, literally calling her a racist because of some things she had said, when she, at age 84, is part of the generation whose motivations he tried to ameliorate in the case of old-timer Wright, who is only 66. Rather than trying to explain her background, he used her whiteness in this intimate way to further play the race card…inexcusable and profoundly insensitive. [The lady has since died.]

Obama's speech was a definite plus for Senator McCain, compared to whom he came off as merely whining. He didn't explain McCain's background, either, in condemning the Iraq War, which McCain has supported. After all, McCain should be explained since he belongs to that "old" crowd at age 71, and underwent torture for more than five years at the hands of ruthless communists (now exemplified in the Muslim jihad-crowd) and surely should be given some slack for daring to suggest that fire must be met with fire. Obama is on another planet with respect to the world situation and the dangers this country faces.

Too bad! Obama would have been better served to have at least picked another subject, since he felt he had to say something. Actually, he should have held just another press conference and let the chips fall where they may. That would have been tough, though, even with the mainstream media solidly in his corner. It's much easier to speak with no debate and use the usual bromides and shibboleths about "togetherness" and other such warm/cozies. He's a good speaker, but at least the average John Doe's, when they think it over, will see it for just what it was…mush.

Ironically, while highly respected black leaders like Bill Cosby, Thomas Sowell, Walter Williams, and Shelby Steele are relentlessly calling for an attitude of self-reliance in the black community, Obama is pandering to the "victimhood" crowd. A divider instead of unifier, he just doesn't get it, and certainly is not ready to be president, but he plays well with the university crowd…the intellectual know-it-alls, [like Bill Ayers, Obama’s buddy who hates Americans harder than anyone].”

The problem: Entirely too much talk about race! This subject is a sure divider, not a unifier, and those who constantly push it do so with, whether innocently or otherwise, an ulterior motive designed to establish white guilt-trips. It doesn’t actually work, so they would do well to think of other “hate America” speeches.

And so it goes.

Jim Clark

Monday, February 16, 2009

Domestic Shock & Awe

It has been a staple of the democrats for years that the costs of the fight against terrorism in Afghanistan and especially Iraq would lead to the ultimate bankrupting of the nation. There was much wailing and moaning about this during the presidential campaigns last year. President Obama made much of the fact that he was against the Iraq action, as opposed to the voting of then senators Clinton and Biden, even though he wasn’t even in the Senate in October 2002 and actually had and still has no idea of how he would have voted, given the circumstances as considered by them in real time.

While the war on terrorism has been in progress, the social engineers in this country and in the Congress have been demanding that the government see to it that everyone who wants to own a house must have one. This is mostly a democrat idea – couched in utter stupidity – but the republicans, basking in the glory of taking over Congress in the 90s, nodded off to sleep and, despite the advantage of being in the majority, just let the good times roll. Why knock a good thing? Besides, they were taking enough heat concerning the Iraq War anyway.

In January 2007, the democrats got control of the Congress at a time when the housing debacle probably could have been at least softened. Instead, they also let the good times roll...the unemployment rate was only at 4.6% then and people by the tens of thousands were buying houses they couldn’t afford, not that it mattered...they were ENTITLED, the watchword of the social engineers. The inevitable day of reckoning would come, of course, but couldn’t money always be printed? In the meantime, they could hammer the cost of the “needless” war. The Anointed One was in the Senate then, but he made no waves – actually, he was in the Senate only a comparatively few days before setting out to become the messiah.

This report was prepared recently by the Congressional Research Service:

“With enactment of the FY2008 Supplemental and FY2009 Bridge Fund (H.R. 2642/P.L. 110-252) on June 30, 2008, Congress has approved a total of about $864 billion for military operations, base security, reconstruction, foreign aid, embassy costs, and veterans’ health care for the three operations initiated since the 9/11 attacks: Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF) Afghanistan and other counter terror operations; Operation Noble Eagle (ONE), providing enhanced security at military bases; and Operation ItaqiFreedom (OIF). This $864 billion total covers all war-related appropriations from FY2001 through part of FY2009 in supplementals, regular appropriations, and continuing resolutions.”

In eight years of all-out war requiring transportation nearly halfway around the world and involving hundreds of thousands of GIs and mega-mega tons of materiel, the government has spent $864 billion, a matter railed against by the “loyal opposition” during those years. The result: No further attacks since 9/11 on this country by terrorists or anyone else, as well as the dissolution of the influence/actions of Saddam Hussein, the most dangerous man in the world. There has been a toll in American lives, of course, involving both dead and wounded, but that toll must be measured against the lives that have been saved, especially in light of the fact that further plots against this nation have been both discovered and foiled.

Last fall, the Congress appropriated $700 billion to the financial institutions with the canard that at least some of it will be repaid, a claim no one believes. Last week, the ostensible borrowing of $1 trillion (counting interest, cost-overruns, bureaucratic theft) was enacted by Congress, so in four months the Congress has spent twice as much of the people’s money domestically (with the canard that this expenditure will save the nation) as has been spent in nearly eight years since 2001 in the interest of preserving freedom. It seems to be the consensus among those who are supposed to know about these things that about another $450 billion will have to be approved before the end of the year to continue saving the nation. In the meantime, during the majority tenure of the democrats in Congress, the unemployment rate has jumped to 7.6%, an increase of a whopping 65% in just two years.

The resulting deflation of the dollar, already in process, will soon be realized. A senior Chinese banking regulator said last week: “We hate you guys. Once you start issuing $1 trillion-$2 trillion [$1,000bn-$2,000bn] . . .we know the dollar is going to depreciate, so we hate you guys but there is nothing much we can do.” Indeed, they can’t and they’ll keep lending, knowing full well that if they called now, they’d lose their shirts. They probably will anyway, just as the coming generation in this country will pay through the nose. This nation is virtually without leadership. Through neglecting its oversight responsibilities, the Congress caused this mess but has no idea of how to handle it. The Anointed One, who must fly Air Force One 2,000 miles to Denver to sign the bill (streaming green-house-gas all the way and causing the Pacific Ocean to rise and threaten California), seems just as clueless,

George Bush and the regulators warned as far back as 2004 (information easily found by this corner on the Internet) that the housing crisis had better be checked. Congress (both republicans and democrats) discovered all this from the regulators in its hearings and did nothing. Now, the piper has to be paid...if it’s possible. No one seems to know how to do it at this point, except to borrow and throw money everywhere, and the average head-of-household knows how dumb that is.

And so it goes.

Jim Clark

Friday, February 13, 2009

Washington & Lincoln Today

This is the anniversary period of the two greatest Americans in the nation’s relatively short history – Washington, the main mover and shaker in establishing the United States, and Lincoln, his counterpart in preserving it. Since 12 February 2009 is the bicentennial of Lincoln’s birth, all stops have been pulled out in remarking the extraordinary accomplishments of this man, and justifiably so. One shudders to think about how this part of the world would look today had not Lincoln, in the face of overwhelming odds, persevered in preserving the Union. Would what is now the U.S. consist of two nations, perhaps three...or perhaps none, just a colony(ies) of some other power? The latter is more likely the answer.

But there’s a sadness connected with the observance. Republican Lincoln insisted upon the optimism that – even though at great cost – the nation would not be torn apart. In the 1930s, Democrat President Roosevelt insisted during the nation’s most disastrous economic times that “happy days would be here again.” Contrarily today, Democrat Obama is boarding the plush presidential airplane to travel about the country (anything to get out of Washington, where leadership is sorely needed) to deliver the message of gloom and doom, attempting to scare the populace into being in favor of whatever he suggests, notwithstanding whether or not it makes any sense.

Sadder still is the fact that the currently bad economic times have been brought about not by the people but by the government, presumably the people’s protector. In 1930, there were not the tools to contend with the financial downturn eventuating in the Great Depression. The tools have been available for years to contend with the current one. Government regulators have been warning for years, as has President Bush, that something had to be done about the foolishness of lending money for house-purchases to people who could not repay the loans, often overseen or accepted by the quasi-governmental Freddie and Fanny. Political correctness kept the Congress – assuming maybe mistakenly that it had collective good sense – from acting before the housing crisis cast the entire economy into a tailspin.

Now, the government, both administrative and Congressional, seems to be absolutely clueless as to how to rectify mistakes brought about through sheer negligence, being asleep at the switch. According to Rasmussen, only 9% of citizens thought Congress was doing a good job last July. That figure is bound to be much lower now. When citizens lose faith in the people they elect, as is obviously the case, there is reason for deep concern, but the president ill-serves the citizens by his fear-mongering. He should be challenging the citizenry to hold fast instead of telling them the nation can buy/spend itself out of a recession caused by government, taking note not just of the unemployment figures but also noting that retail sales increased by one percent in January.

The public has always considered politicians as suspect, and with good reason. The media is filled with accounts of their peccadilloes every day. The president has added to the problem. He insisted on a self-confessed tax-cheat to head Treasury, and he was confirmed by fellow-traveling democrats. He nominated a pol being investigated for corruption to be Commerce Secretary. He had to withdraw (forced out, most likely). He nominated another tax-cheat to head up his new office to guarantee efficiency. She withdrew, as she should have. He nominated a big-time tax-cheat ($146,000 worth) to be Commerce Secretary, and he was forced to withdraw. He and his lobbyist wife had used Washington as a cash cow.

The president nominated a sitting senator to be Commerce Secretary and he accepted but withdrew later because of policy problems, the largest being, no doubt, that by executive order the president has transferred the Census Arm from Commerce to – of all places – the White House, the clear implication being that now, instead of gerrymandering on only state levels, there will be gerrymandering on a national level. A move this crass and brazen probably convinced the republican nominee – and might even convince a democrat – that skullduggery is alive and well in government, thus further eroding public confidence.

It’s worth noting that during the Great Depression of the 1930s (unemployment at 25% in 1933 and still at 19% in 1938) there was a huge effort made among workers to turn the country communist. Even the down-and-outers wouldn’t go for that. Now, in a period of recession nowhere near as bad as that depression, the president and his party are making a conscious effort to turn the country socialist. The difference lies in the fact that they are successful among the up-and-inners, especially located in the stringently partisan Congress, where a power-grab of huge proportions is possible and hard to turn around when the ball gets to rolling well.

What would Washington and Lincoln think of the country to which they dedicated their lives and substance in a manner beyond any current politician’s comprehension? If alive, they would see a soft generation governed by opportunists, at best, or know-nothings, at worst. They would see a president inordinately concerned with water-boarding terrorists (involving an interrogation technique that neither injures nor kills). They would see a House approve a trillion-dollar bill that not one member had read all the way through, indeed was cobbled together only hours before its was considered. Sad!

And so it goes.

Jim Clark

Thursday, February 12, 2009

KERA Revisited...Again

The Kentucky legislature, trying desperately to see improvements in student test-scores is again revisiting the Kentucky Education Reform Act of 1990 (KERA), which, besides involving the largest tax increase in the state’s history (a huge portion of it in pork), mandated the “outcomes-based” concept, having as its centerpiece the element of self-esteem. KERA was the perfect example of a legislature mandating something in a field in which it possessed nearly total non-expertise. Its aim was/is to have all students becoming proficient in all subjects by 2014.

KERA has been an abject failure. It came about because some school districts depended entirely or almost entirely on state per-pupil allocations for their financing...and naturally, wasted much of that, especially since nepotism was virtually a hallowed concept. Other districts, either by the allowed tax increases or those approved by vote, supplemented education-financing in order to improve facilities and instruction. Indeed, property-values in the complaining districts were not appropriately/legally-assessed for tax purposes because property-valuation-assessors (PVAs), who are locally elected, not appointed, failed to do their jobs.

As a result, the better districts got short shrift financially from KERA, while the complaining districts reaped millions in windfalls all out of proportion to those whose citizens had tried to do right by their young people. Statewide, however, the results of KERA have been abysmal, though some districts have done quite well. In other words, KERA was a huge mistake, the bad results of much of which have been alleviated through corrective legislation. For example, KERA mandated the mixture of kindergarteners with third-graders. Some teachers/administrators knew this wouldn’t work (reading scores in fourth-grade the proof) and simply ignored the law, which was eventually changed.

KERA also mandated “rewards” for schools/districts that attained a proper score on the tests. The rewards could be used any way the local districts decided, meaning that teachers in a given district could get well, especially if they happened to be in a system already doing well, while teachers/administrators in an adjacent district, especially if it was already doing terribly, got nothing. The entirely predictable results: (1) Students were bribed (trips, goodies, time-off) to do well on the tests; and (2) Teachers/administrators simply cheated...stole the money...and why not, since the whole thing was so crass and unfair, in the first place?

Perhaps the worst feature of KERA was in the establishment of school-based councils, mandated to be made-up usually of a principal, three teachers and two parents. The councils were given complete control of the school, even to the extent of choosing their own principals, no matter what the district superintendent recommended. This matter was settled by the state Supreme Court in a Fayette County case in which the school council rejected all the superintendent’s recommendations.

The worst feature of the school-based council lay in its authority to establish its own curriculum. Once the K-3 matter was corrected, fourth-graders improved and couldn’t be necessarily harmed through curriculum decisions. The same was true for all grades 1-5. The individual school curriculums meant that students would arrive in middle school (grades 6-8) from different backgrounds. The problem thus created is perfectly obvious.

It gets worse. Middle schools, on the whole and being impacted by the multi-curriculum problem, have done poorly. Scores have been and are terrible. The middle schools had their own school-based councils, of course, meaning that they set their own curricula. So...the students entering ninth-grade came from very different backgrounds, having been taught under different curricula. The high school test-scores, collectively, have been abominable. There has been no standardization in the system, in other words, and without standardization teachers are up against it. There should at least be enough standardization (and there may be in some districts) to require that the same textbooks be used at least in a given system, perhaps, even, in the entire state.

The ACT is a national college admission and placement examination. It has structured benchmarks indicating whether a student is likely to earn a C grade or higher in first-year college courses. Last year, less than half of the Kentucky juniors taking the test met English benchmarks. One in five met math benchmarks; one in three in reading standards, and only one in seven in science goals. By any standard, this circumstance is intolerable. Not all juniors are going to college, but these scores indicate a system that has gone badly wrong in a country that historically has been a world leader in education.

The legislature will do well to wipe out what remains of KERA, then leave it to the educators to establish a system – along with an enforcement arm – that features reasonable standardization and realistic requirements of its teachers/administrators, especially concerning their academic achievements and abilities.

And so it goes.

Jim Clark

Saturday, February 07, 2009


It’s sad to see the national situation today, especially in light of the stature this country has achieved not only in its own estimation but in that of other populations. To think that the only nation to have placed men on the moon and routinely operate flights of people through outer space, whose technicians have accomplished wonders in medicine, food-production and weaponry allowing for benefits throughout the world, has devolved into the governmental/societal mess now operative is to experience profound disappointment, if not disgust. There’s plenty of blame to go around but the major onus is on the hapless Congress directly and on the people indirectly since they put the Congress members in place.

When utter panic overcame the legislative bodies that are supposedly comprised of thoughtful, careful, prudent lawmakers and leaders, they passed a few months ago a bailout of some $700 billion without even conducting hearings in order to determine what to do and how to do it. Result: $350 billion has been expended and no one seems to know where it is precisely and/or how it’s being used. What they do know is that whatever they had in mind – the curing of the ailments of the financial institutions – has not happened. What the citizens know by just paying attention is that the fat cats have figured a way to steal the money. They also know that the Bush administration was complicit in the legislation, and that was shameful.

Apparently the lesson regarding that circumstance is now too late for the learning. The president has indicated how much he wants spent to buy the country out of what former president Carter might have called its malaise, but has left it up to the party hacks to figure out how, namely the likes of House Speaker Pelosi, Senate Majority Leader Reid, and the respective finance/banking committee chairmen Franks and Dodd, as well as Senate Assistant Majority Leader Durbin and House Majority Leader Hoyer. Just like the Keystone Kops, they have attacked in all directions at once or simply made a circle and formed a firing squad. Result: gridlock.

Laughable was the remark by Pelosi that 500 million people are losing their jobs, since the there aren’t but 300 million in the country. Besides making one wonder if she knows where she is, this is fear-mongering. Disgusting were the remarks of Rhode Island Senator Reed on the Senate floor (C-Span a blessing) when he chose to use much of his time to castigate the Bush administration as the reason for the whole thing and even mentioned the rise in unemployment. The unemployment rate in January 2007, when his party took over Congress, was 4.6%, while it is now 7.6%, meaning that the Democrat Party has presided over the intolerable increase of 65% in just two years. Reed didn’t mention this. Nor did he mention that the president signed budgets made up in CONGRESS, not in the Oval Office, or that the president has had to deal with an attack on the country and has conducted military operations authorized by...yep...CONGRESS.

Karl Marx is said to have said this: “We are convinced that in no social order will freedom be assured as in a society based upon communal ownership.” As per actions of Congress in the recent past and those involving much larger “investments” to be effected right away, the state has taken part ownership of the nation’s financial establishment, as well as its auto industry. Through its creeping control of the financial institutions, especially as they determine who does and does not get money for whatever purpose, it gains control of the population while establishing a new hierarchy (there will always be the fat cats) that calls the shots. This is different from the entrepreneurial model that has made the nation what it is.

To “put the people back to work,” the president and Congress are mistakenly stuck in the 1930s model in constantly screaming “money for infrastructure” in that a thousand people using picks and shovels then amount to “one man and a machine” now. Just a look at strip-mining proves the point. The manufacturing base that undergirded this country through the 1980s has gone overseas not just through the sheer greed of management and labor but also through the insistence of citizens that they not settle for just a living wage, health-care, and substantive retirement, preferring to live much “higher on the hog.” They priced themselves out of the world market. More than anything else, the two-earner family, besides eviscerating the blue-collar unions (whether one thinks for good or ill), has brought this about.

As the government takes control of everything, especially including manufacturing, it will set wages, price-controls, and eventually place people at the “lowest common denominator” level, stifling incentive and, therefore, the inventiveness that has made inordinate progress possible. A look at the old Soviet system and at Russia and China now is all that’s needed, the state even making birth decisions, in Russia begging women to have children while in China prohibiting the same.

The “blame game” is no good now. Bush, for all his administration’s economic shortcomings (combined with that of republican Congresses) had two wars to fight and warned years ago of the coming housing debacle that precipitated the current crisis. This debacle was fueled by the democrat model that insisted that people who couldn’t afford houses should nevertheless buy them before they could afford them. The greedy crooks managing the mortgage business, especially the quasi-governmental Fannie and Freddy, saw the opening for big bucks and golden parachutes, the devil take the losers and the citizenry.

Now, the most powerful nation on earth, with GIs everywhere trying to stave off the ominous Islamic jihad, is on its financial knees, with millions of workers walking the streets...and all mainly because its elected representatives – driven by special-interests and lobbyists – have been either too dumb, too weak, or too self-serving to watch the store. What a letdown!

And so it goes.

Jim Clark

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Washington - Crazy Place!

Washington is a crazy place these days, what with the swinging door in operation as nominees for various jobs waltz in and then do the Fox Trot out. Take the case of Nancy Killefer, for whom the president invented a brand-new job, that of Chief Performance Officer, whatever in the world that is. Perhaps she was supposed to see that the government did as it was supposed to do. Problem: Did she have an enforcement tool for use against anyone who wasn’t performing...maybe a custodian who didn’t mop the floor every night? If she did, there’s no knowledge of it in this corner. The question is moot, of course, since she backed out account not paying all of her taxes. Sound familiar? waits with bated breath to find out who the next person to keep the custodians in line will be.

Actually, the Senate and House committees are supposed to keep the government in line, so the Anointed One clearly meant to give them the runaround. It’s either that or the fact that he spent so little time in the Senate that he never actually discovered what he was supposed to be doing. He knew politics well enough, though, to understand that he could appoint a popular former democrat senator to any post in the land with no fear of a turn-the-rascal-down in the Senate. So...enter Tom Daschle to take over HHS. Daschle was so well thought of by fellow democrats that he was Majority Leader of the Senate in 2001-03.

Problem: Daschle, knowing full well that he hadn’t come clean with the transition vetting gang about his cheating on his taxes, accepted the post with not a doubt that his nomination would zoom through the Senate like a dog dropped in a bucket of turpentine leaves the planet at mach speed. And it would have, even after Daschle allowed as how he actually owed the government a cool $140,000 and paid up. Then, the Senate Finance Committee, adding insult to injury, demanded that he cough up another $6,000 in unpaid taxes, which he did. Armageddon! The Killefer withdrawal (maybe at the “suggestion” of Obamessiah) put the quietus on Daschle, since her turpitude was nowhere near the extent of his. Daschle went under the bus to join the Rev. Dr. Jeremiah Wright and Obama buddy Bill Ayers of domestic-terrorism bombing fame.

Daschle, of course, just withdrew, the honest thing to do. After all, the distraction to be caused even in the august Senate by mean and recalcitrant republicans would simply impede the progress of the Stimulus Package, already in trouble as citizens found out what the government was trying to do to them. Withdrew? What a laugh!

The killer, though, lies in the fact that Daschle could have been better off by $146,000 if he had just either been truthful with the transition guys or – better – turned down the job. He obviously had no intention of settling up honestly with the government, else he would have already done so...or, actually, he wouldn’t have tried to steal the taxes, in the first place. He was making millions. To think that he was so arrogant that he could just “get away with it” brings on the gagging reflex. Having fed at the public trough all those years and profiting greatly by it, he tried to cheat. The IRS should put a horse-head in his bed...or, at the least, Rahm Emanuel should arm-wrestle him to the floor.

So...what to do? The Anointed One figured out the answer, i.e., call in all news anchors from ABC, NBC, CBS, CNN, and Fox News for an afternoon tete-a-tete at the White House on 03 February, the better to explain how the world was mistreating him. After all, republican malcontents were still loudly proclaiming the unworthiness of Tim Geightner regarding his being Secretary of Treasury. He only had to pay something like $48,000 in back taxes and he eased through the Senate like a greased pig slides through a whole platoon. He had the good fortune of missing the bus oil-pan by being in the vanguard facing those Senate committees. His little peccadillo was not worth noting, seeing as how it was only worse than Killefer’s by about $47,000. Chump change. And, after all, as Obama knew, he was the only democrat in the entire country who was smart enough to save it, assuming that the IRS doesn’t count.

Ah...the anchors (not the usual White House reporters – too dumb)...those multimillionaire readers of the evening news. They can understand Obama’s predicament and at least four of them, already serving as his propaganda machine in the campaign during 2007-08 (at last it’s over!), will come forth with righteous rhetoric to crown him anew, as he was in Berlin, Denver (the Athenian columns), and on inauguration day. The presumptive antagonist/mean-guy from Fox News will be drowned-out, and the newspaper biggies on the coasts will – if there are enough employees left – proclaim this administration to be the best in history, even though its history hasn’t happened yet. One wonders what it must be like to be suckered into the White House. Laughter abounds.

And so it goes.

Jim Clark