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Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Can Iron Man help us in Syria?

Watching Iron Man 2 shed some new light on the Syrian problem of deciding how to respond to reports of Syria using chemical weapons on their own people.

See if you can follow my logic here; I'm sitting on my duff last evening watching Iron Man 2, and a discussion with those present breaks out about Terrance Howard versus Don Cheadle as Col. Rhodes. My argument was that I like both of them, but preference goes to Terrance, since I consider Don more less of a shoot 'em up action star. The point I make for my argument is that Don was great in 'Hotel Rwanda'. From here the conversation about what happened in Rwanda during the era that the movie was based in broke out.

The Rwanda genocide began in April 1994; within a few weeks, nongovernmental organizations there were estimating that 100,000 Tutsis and moderate Hutus had been massacred. In the film, the main character portrayed by Don must over come international indifference, a single scene where a UN Colonial played by Nick Nolte, tells our protagonist that he should spit in his face cause the world, and I'm paraphrasing here, "Just doesn't care about them."

In the real life narrative, the US refused to acknowledge what was staring them in the face, that genocide to the tune of hundreds of thousands was occurring. Namely because of the U.S. signing onto the Genocide Convention that occurred in the wake of the horrors of World War II. Had the US decided that what was happening in Rwanda was in fact genocide, they would have been legally obligated to intervene. Terms like "Acts of Genocide" where substituted instead.

Fast forward to today, the real reason the Obama administration does not want to recognize that chemical weapons are being used in Syria is because Obama warned the Syrian regime clearly and sharply in August against using such weapons. “There would be enormous consequences if we start seeing movement on the chemical-weapons front or the use of chemical weapons,” he said. “That would change my calculations significantly.” Terms like "appearnce of..." and "Exists the possibility." are being used to through doubt on the certainty expressed by the UK, France, and Israel's intelligence services.

The President doesn't want to say it with an absolute, he can't comprehend that someone over there would be so stupid and foolish as to provoke him in this way, and in most ways of looking at it, this action that appears to have been taken by Syrian President Bashar al-Assad makes very little sense. Unless he is trying to send this message to the rebels in his country. "The world sees what is happening here and they are doing nothing." They are trying to make another Rwanda, to show that there is no hope for their cause and that the rebels could be squashed at any time.

One of the real issues that will become more apparent as the U.S. decides what they are going to do in Syria, if anything, is consideration for who are these two sides. There is the relatively secular regime of President Assad, who is not winning any friendship or humanitarian awards for the way hew rules, and then there is the rebel force, far from being led by Luke Skywalker and Han Solo, the New York Times wrote about the opposition; "Nowhere in rebel-controlled Syria is there a secular fighting force to speak of," the paper reported. It went on to explain that the so-called rebels or freedom fighters seeking to overthrow the brutal (but secular) Assad regime are all radical Islamists. All of them. These would be the same rebels we're giving hundreds of millions of dollars in nonmilitary aid to. This includes factions of al Qaeda. Yup, those guys...

What is the President to do, well, it's a little late, but I'd stop making ultimatums for starters. We've successfully worked our way into either potentially allowing another Genocide to occur, or to help a group that is supported by our sworn enemies.

But, the White House must recognize that the game has already changed. U.S. credibility is on the line. For all the temptation to hide behind the decision to invade Iraq based on faulty intelligence about weapons of mass destruction, Obama must realize the tremendous damage he will do to the United States and to his legacy if he fails to act. He should understand the deep and lasting damage done when the gap between words and deeds becomes too great to ignore, when those who wield power are exposed as not saying what they mean or meaning what they say.

"You loose!" Was the line that Whiplash used in Iron Man 2. He was talking about how, even though Iron Man could beat up any single opponent in a straight up fight, that the hero was not infallible, that people would see the 'blood in the water' and learn how to exploit his weaknesses. It would seem that the U.S. is getting close to reveling one of our big weaknesses.

Monday, April 29, 2013

War in Syria?

Please refer to the following flowchart on determining whether the US will intervene in Syria or not.


That is all, thank you.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

2013 Mock NFL Draft

I don't know the first thing about coaching or scouting in the NFL, but I am a pretty good number cruncher guy, combining several draft boards, developing an evaluation equation to give them a rating, and cross matching needs based on those ratings from Madden 12 player ratings (trying my best to account for trades, retirements, injuries, etc.) I then read up on some of the politicking going on with several teams that have several larges holes to fill. As a result, I present to you, my Mock NFL 2013 draft.

1. Kansas City Chiefs - Luke Joeckel - OT - Texas A&M: Winston is gone and Albert is on a one year deal, the Chiefs need to protect their new fall guy, I mean franchise quarterback.

2. Jacksonville Jaguars - Geno Smith - QB - West Virginia: A mistake in my book, numbers say Ansah, this is one where the Jags had several holes to fill on both ends of the ball, but word is the entire management staff took a field trip to West Virginia's Pro day makes me think the Jags are going to once again 'start anew' at the QB position.

3. Oakland Raiders - Shariff Floyd - DT - Florida: Trying to keep up with the roster purge that has been going on at Oakland is giving me a headache. But is looks like a high rated DT would improve their over all defensive numbers best.

4. Philadelphia Eagles - Dion Jordan - OLB - Oregon : An interesting scenario, since on paper this team is very good and very well rounded. Secondary is strong up front but lacks depth, but there are no real big numbers on the top of te draft board to fill that position. If Geno is still available, he's a big possibility.

5. Detroit Lions - Eric Fisher - OT - Central Michigan : Cherilus is gone and Stafford will need time in the pocket if the Lions are going to do anything this season.

6. Cleveland Browns - Dee Millener - CB - Alabama : Needs abound, a good Offensive Lineman would be good numbers wise, but the top 2 are already off my board, a QB pick may be in the works, but not many strong options there either. A strong CB to go with their off season pick up Kruger at the pass rush can make the Browns strong against a pass heavy team.

7. Arizona Cardinals - Ezekial Ansah - DB - BYU: Not a great collection of big numbers ratings wise on the offensive side, but the single best pick up at this point is another pass rusher to assist Acho.

8. Buffalo Bills - Chance Warmack - OG - Alabama: I could see this pick getting traded because I think the best player to improve the Bills will still be available outside the top 12 picks, perhaps Miami wants to slide up. That withstanding, the Bills seem to eyeing Manuel from FSU, but he's almost guaranteed to be around in round 2. Using their first round to bolster the O-Line makes sense.

9. New York Jets - Star Lotulelei - DT - Utah: Among others, Nose Tackle Pouha needs replacing, and their stop gap Garay isn't going to cut it. Lotulrlei did have a scare with a heart issue that appears to have been resolved.

10. Tennessee Titans - Xavier Rhodes - CB - FSU: A Rush heavy team that needs lineman, they may be willing to move up a few spots if they feel they are being left our of one of the better OL draft classes. If they can't their passing defense game is very sub-par.

11. San Diego Chargers - Lane Johnson - OT - Oklahoma: Going out on my own here, Gaiter's rating is falling but more glaring are stories that the Chargers want to dump him and his $18 million owed all together. Leaving a huge hole in the O-Line of the Chargers. With so many lineman going early it may be hard to move him though.

12. Miami Dolphins - Desmond Trufant - CB - Washington: Big potential to jump up the board to grab Rhodes or Millener from a top 10 pick team. They also have a big need at the O-Line (haven't heard that one, right?) Truth is Miami's biggest needs are close match to where some of the highest rated players are in this draft.

13. New York Jets (From Buccaneers) - Barkevious Mingo, OLB - LSU: Jets just gave up a top shelf Secondary coverage guy and need to bolster their defense.

14. Panthers - Sheldon Richardson - DT - Alabama: All around strong defensive player can assist Pantehers line in several ways.

15. New Orleans Saints - Jarvis Jones - OLB - Georgia: Rumor is Saints are changing to a 3-4 defense and will need to pick up a solid OLB to make it work.

16. St. Louis Rams - Tavon Austin - WR - West Virginia: Funny how a team like West Virginia is able to produce two top tier players. But loosing Jackson is going to put a lot of pressure on Bradford. Either try and replace him or go for a play maker at Receiver, and Austin is the best player available at those two spots. Adding Long to the O-Line seems to say they are trying to give Bradford what he needs to succeed.

17. Pittsburg Steelers - Tyler Eifert - TE - Notre Dame : Spurred by the two previous picks eating up their best options, Steelers will go for another pass option to compliment Brown.

18. Dallas Cowboys - Kenny Vaccaro - S - Texas: Cowboys love their Cornerbacks  but right now they have a hole at either Safety position.

19. New York Giants - D.J. Fluker - OT - Alabama: Giants are going to have some big needs in the next year or two with some big contracts expiring, but their biggest need for this year is some top tier Linemen, Fluker is best still on board.

20. Chicago Bears - Alec Ogletree - OLB - Georgia: A controversial pick to be sure, but the Bears have no shyed away from players with off field issues before. Ogletree has the ability to be a premiere Linebacker that the Bears need, even if they have to shuffle some guys around to put him on the outside. A solid OL like North Carolins's Cooper could be a safer choice.

21. Cincinnati Bengals - Matt Elam - SS - Florida: The Bengals had modest pick ups in Linebacker and Runningback positions the past couple of weeks, leaving a Safety their biggest need by far. 

22. St. Louis Rams (from Redskins) - Eric Reid - FS: Having bolstered their big play offense, now it's time to address a defensive need.

23. Minnesota Vikings - Cordarrelle Patterson - WR - Tennessee: With the Colt's needs not matching up much with Minnesota's and another pick in two slots, this one is interchangeable with #25, Two biggest needs for Minnesota, a Middle Linebacker and something to replace Harvey with.

24. Indianapolis Colts - Eddie Lacy - RB - Alabama: If a top lineman makes it through this far they may try to improve that, but a runningback who doesn't need a lot of touches to be effective could be priceless to the Colts. 

25. Minnesota Vikings (from Seahawks) - Manti Te'o - MLB - Notre Dame: Filling the biggest need of the Vikings.

26. Green Bay Packers - Jonathan Cypriun - S - Florida International: Cursing the Bengals for snagging their Woodson replacement, the Packers will look for this plus defender to upgrade their D.

27. Houston Texans - DeAndre Hopkins - WR - Clemson: Houstons Offensive weapons are starting to get ripe, time to pluck some new talent.

28. Denver Broncos - Cornellius Carradine - DE - Florida State: Opps, Denver suddenly has a huge need for a defensive superstar, their specific need for a linebacker isn't enough to pass up on a potential star in Carradine.

29. New England Patriots - Johnthan Banks - CB - Mississippi State: One of the best Offenses in the league still gives up too many big plays down field.

30. Atlanta Falcons - D.J. Hayden - CB - Houston: Dodging a bullet with Gonzalez coming back makes this Atlanta's biggest 'now' need.

31. San Francisco 49ers - Jesse Williams - DT - Alabama: All Star linebacker core need a little help up front.

32. Baltamore Ravens - Kevin Minter - ILB - LSU: Lots of holes on defense now, this is the best player on boards to replace Ray Lewis.

There ya go, as with any mock draft, one of the top three picks will probably be a surprise that throws the entire board into disarray, but I'm pretty confident that about 3/4'ths of this board is accurate to the position at least. I'm just hoping someone takes a chance with A.J. Klein, Go Cyclones!

 I swear I'll get back to ranting about politics soon.


Monday, April 22, 2013

Feel Good News Stories

Who world is going crazy, bombs and explosions,

terrorists, the media, politicians, 

lairs and hypocrites... 

We need a quick breather and some good news, so I searched the web and found a few so we can all take a break from this messed up world we seem to find ourselves in. Enjoy!

BOSTON, MA: A Story about runners who finished their 26 mile run just as the blasts went off, then continued to run to the hospital and began donating blood.

TANGELO PARK, FL: A man has built up a foundation in a low income community that has turned the local schools around from 25% to 100% graduation rates, also hands out scholarships to anyone who needs it.

JEFFERSON CO., MO: A Student working on their Eagle Scout Project starts a program that gives backpacks of free food to children to take home so they have something to eat over the weekend.

ETHIOPIA: A twelve year old girl who was kidnapped and beaten escapes, later found by a pack of lions who where protecting her.

CHICAGO, IL: An amputee uses mind controlled bionic legs to climb over 100 stories in a Chicago skyscraper.

And my personal favorite...

SKYWALKER RANCH, CA: Famous film maker makes billions selling franchise to Disney, then turns around and gives bulk of money to education.


Thursday, April 18, 2013

Hipocrisy

I recently received my newsletter from Senator Chuck Grassley (R-IA) and am fuming. On almost any other day I would have read these updates and not given them a second thought, but being as he (by which of course I mean his staff) would have written a particular piece within a couple of days of voting to repeal the best parts of the STOCK act, I can't help but feel the hypocrisy dripping of these words like acid from a snarling alien.

The article in question was a boasting of Grassley's co-sponsored "Sunshine Law", written to help 'shed light' on how money gets moved around between pharmaceutical drug makers and doctors, to help ensure that citizens life altering medical decisions be swayed because of money in the pocket from the wallets of large medical companies. This is to help ensure that one citizen receives the same care that someone free of outside sway would receive. Sound familiar? The STOCK act was meant to combat "...the notion that the powerful get to set one set of rules for themselves, and another set of rules for everybody else."

My Senator, and the senator of every American reading this, allowed just that to happen.

When the bill was introduced, Grassley wanted even more officials to fall under it's doctrine. My how the times have changed. Back to my original point, here is an excerpt from why Grassely is so proud of the Sunshine Law;

"The goal of my reform effort is to help inform consumers and patients in all medical fields about financial relationships between drug makers and doctors with uniform disclosure. The public deserves a much better picture of the drug industry’s financial presence in medicine than it has today."

"The legislative reform was driven by my investigative and oversight work that exposed a number of questionable financial relationships between pharmaceutical companies and leading medical research doctors."

The following is a point made to show the seedy underbelly of what happens when people are vested in the success of a federal program. How easily you could swipe out a defense contractor, or any corporate interest that a member of congress owns some stock in with this point.

"The chairman of psychiatry at Stanford University received a federal grant to study a drug, while partially owning as much as $6 million in stock in a company that was seeking federal approval of that drug. After exposure, the federal government removed the individual from the grant."

Let us review the standards here; patients need to know what financial incentives are motivating their doctors, but knowing what financial incentives are motivating your politicians requires a written request that can take months to be responded to and will require significant details and red tape before completion. No blanket public disclosure for congress, that's none of our business apparently. And they seemed so gung-ho about this a little more then a year ago. I say this a lot when talking about my representatives, but I'm just, yet again, disappointed.

Monday, April 15, 2013

Meanwhile, back at the White House

The Boston Marathon Bombing is a tragedy, the person(s) responsible for this will undoubtedly be found.

However, there is another news story that broke today that will get zero coverage now. President Obama has just signed a rollback of key transparency provisions of the STOCK Act. Late Thursday night, the Senate gutted the disclosure requirements by approving S.716, an act amending the requirements of the 2011 law. The House followed suit the next day, and the president signed the bill minutes ago. Back in 2011, congress passed this bill into law by a net vote of 513-5.

With no hearings or notice to the public or to most members of the body, the Senate voted by unanimous consent to remove both the online disclosure requirement for staff members on the Hill and in executive branch agencies and the creation of a public database containing the information within the reports.

The bill doesn't just eliminate a controversial requirement that personal financial disclosures of tens of thousands of high level federal employees be made publicly accessible online. It also reverses two critical components of the original STOCK act: mandatory electronic filing of PFDs by the president, his cabinet and members of Congress, and the creation of a publicly accessible database. The signature of the man who said his administration "...is committed to creating an unprecedented level of openness in Government." is now on this law.

Required electronic filing for Congress, the president, vice president, the president’s cabinet and congressional candidates, as well as high-level executive and congressional branch employees. Even images of the staffers' filings will not be available for viewing on the web. Paper copies can still be made available to the public, and using information that is not available to the public for personal gain is still banned in the law, but the ability for the general public to act as watchdogs to hold congress honest. 

Find the bastards who think some pipe bombs can make a political point, but don't forget to ask what the heck happened here as well.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

What Studying A College Can Teach Us

Bowdoin College, an elite university located in Maine that has an acceptance rate of only 16% of it's applicants, has recently found itself the nexus of a massive influx of controversy.

…And it’s all because its president talked down the wrong person.

The pre-bought face off came in the form of a friendly game of golf between Bowdoin's President Barry Mills and a philanthropist/investor named Thomas Klingenstein, though it is unclear precisely how heated the driver wielding dialogue got, it evidently distressed Mills enough that he delivered the first real swing when he decided to mention a particularly unpleasant golfing partner who’d interrupted his back swing to spout racist platitudes.

Shockingly, Klingenstein found this response galling. As part of his repose and counter punch Klingenstein decided to commission researchers to do an academic report on Bowdoin’s culture, both academically and on campus, to see just what the college was teaching its students. The result was a 355 page report by the group National Association of Scholars that systematically broke down Bowdoin’s entire culture and worldview with extreme candor.

Plenty of information and insight can be gleamed from this reports, from bizarre and horribly slanted seminars to op eds written by the school presidents suggesting how students should vote in elections. Reading though the report makes one thing pretty apparent. Academics at this school is about lecturing, not engaging.

Shock and horror about this report will be on display in the conservative circles, and plenty of dismissal will occur on the opposing side. The irony that some people will undoubtedly use this as a reason to attack their political foes is not lost on me. Also, the fact that I'm writting an opinion piece on this whole topic makes me chuckle a little. But, what is the typical person who didn't go to this school, or, such as myself, someone who went to a different school that had some, but not overwhelming biases, take from this story? My take is that discourse in school is threatened.

Society is becoming polarized, duh, so it only makes sense that some of that spill over into our education system. Perhaps even that is the source or some of our public discourse. I'm sure a great essay could be written about the man who learned everything about life from school having a conversation about the man who learned everything about life from church, perhaps another day. For now I'm stating that the education is becoming defined as the imparting of knowledge. That sounds reasonable right? Keep reading.

Take a moment, close your eyes, and picture the perfect college lecture setting. Is the professor behind a podium going on and on about a topic, fielding few if any questions, laughing at his own jokes about dissenters and how foolish they are. I hope not, I've had classes that that, I referred to them as snooze times. Or, do you see a professor walking out in front of their podium, asking an open ended question, waiting for a response, then engaging and challenging a student. playing the eternal protagonist to whatever position is brought up first, until another student assumes that role and the professor becomes little more then a moderator, infusing facts into the conversation and making sure it stays on topic and civil. I've had classes like that as well, luckily I was well rested for them.

In a time where opinions are everywhere and facts fall to the wayside, the true charge of a college isn't to spill knowledge into ones brain, we have Google for that, it's not to make a student to absorb an abundance of perspective, we have Fox News and MSNBC for that. The challenge for our colleges, and our education system as a whole, is to get our young people to think for themselves. The definition of education is, and should always be, learning how to learn.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Audit the Fed

This type of legislation has garnered support of Democrats and Republicans in the past, it's been as close to a litmus test for me if I where to consider voting for a person for federal office. It is a spotlight law intended to give everyone a better understanding of just how jacked up our monetary policy has become. For all the talk in Washington of wanting to get a handle on our finances, it's a bit embarrassing that such a simple law, in the era of 1000+ page reform bills, can't get passed.

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A BILL

To require a full audit of the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System and the Federal reserve banks by the Comptroller General of the United States, and for other purposes.

Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled,

SECTION 1. SHORT TITLE.

This Act may be cited as the ‘Federal Reserve Transparency Act of 2013’.

SEC. 2. AUDIT REFORM AND TRANSPARENCY FOR THE BOARD OF GOVERNORS OF THE FEDERAL RESERVE SYSTEM.

(a) In General- Notwithstanding section 714 of title 31, United States Code, or any other provision of law, an audit of the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System and the Federal reserve banks under subsection (b) of such section 714 shall be completed within 12 months after the date of the enactment of this Act.

(b) Report-

(1) IN GENERAL- A report on the audit required under subsection (a) shall be submitted by the Comptroller General to the Congress before the end of the 90-day period beginning on the date on which such audit is completed and made available to the Speaker of the House, the majority and minority leaders of the House of Representatives, the majority and minority leaders of the Senate, the Chairman and Ranking Member of the committee and each subcommittee of jurisdiction in the House of Representatives and the Senate, and any other Member of Congress who requests the report.

(2) CONTENTS- The report under paragraph (1) shall include a detailed description of the findings and conclusion of the Comptroller General with respect to the audit that is the subject of the report, together with such recommendations for legislative or administrative action as the Comptroller General may determine to be appropriate.

(c) Repeal of Certain Limitations- Subsection (b) of section 714 of title 31, United States Code, is amended by striking all after ‘in writing.’.

(d) Technical and Conforming Amendment- Section 714 of title 31, United States Code, is amended by striking subsection (f).

SEC. 3. AUDIT OF LOAN FILE REVIEWS REQUIRED BY ENFORCEMENT ACTIONS.

(a) In General- The Comptroller General of the United States shall conduct an audit of the review of loan files of homeowners in foreclosure in 2009 or 2010, required as part of the enforcement actions taken by the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System against supervised financial institutions.

(b) Content of Audit- The audit carried out pursuant to subsection (a) shall consider, at a minimum--

(1) the guidance given by the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System to independent consultants retained by the supervised financial institutions regarding the procedures to be followed in conducting the file reviews;

(2) the factors considered by independent consultants when evaluating loan files;

(3) the results obtained by the independent consultants pursuant to those reviews;

(4) the determinations made by the independent consultants regarding the nature and extent of financial injury sustained by each homeowner as well as the level and type of remediation offered to each homeowner; and

(5) the specific measures taken by the independent consultants to verify, confirm, or rebut the assertions and representations made by supervised financial institutions regarding the contents of loan files and the extent of financial injury to homeowners.

(c) Report- Not later than the end of the 6-month period beginning on the date of the enactment of this Act, the Comptroller General shall issue a report to the Congress containing all findings and determinations made in carrying out the audit required under subsection (a).

-----------------------------------

I would encourage everyone to write their senators and house representatives and ask where they stand on this bill, and to encourage them to pass it. Again, this bill simple provides more information on how the Federal Banking system conducts it's business. 

Friday, April 5, 2013

Diversity Dilemma in Iowa Schools

There are few areas in Iowa where race is becoming as diverse as it is in Iowa City. Be it the attraction of the neighborhoods to a diverse graduating class from the University of Iowa, the convenience of travel from the overcrowded Chicago area, or perhaps something as simple as a City just being inviting to a broad spectrum of people. However, there is an issue bubbling under the surface as these people start to see less of a beautiful mosaic and more of clearly defined collection of bordered colors that make up the canvas of Iowa City, prompting action from the cities School Board to draft a policy that attempts to address the disparity of diversity. This policy doesn't define diversity through race. Rather its aim is to even out the number of kids based on achievement, to this end, the correlation of who receive federal assistance known as free and reduced lunch across the district was cited as a more politically correct method of trying to bridge that achievement gap. As it is right now, critics say a handful of the schools are shouldering the majority of the burden.

The community chimes in on the new policy
I start off by saying that I did not live in Iowa City during my elementary school years, though I have several friends that did and I attended Southeast Junior High and City High School, so I take an interest in the happenings of the district as a whole, but have no real 'skin in the game'. I do have some old acquaintances from the Mark Twain Elementary neighborhood where almost eighty percent of students are eligible for the federal assistance programs free lunch and reduced lunch. That makes this the school with the highest rate of kids in poverty in the Iowa City school district.

The Iowa City School District is trying to buck this trend by passing a diversity policy that takes the schools with the highest concentration of students participating in the free/reduced lunch programs and shipping them to other schools with lower participation. This seems to fly in the face of neighborhood elementary schools and creates a mess when attempting to set bus routes so that all students are safely getting to their assigned school. There is also a concern of separating students from their neighborhood peers, and immediately labeling these kids as poor in their new classrooms, concurrent with many instances of being taken from a largely minority school to a largely white school. All of which has led to a large public outcry and a loud dissent on the school board itself.

Is there a clear answer to address the issue of diversity in a school district? School board member Jeff McGinness says 'no', and that Iowa City has hidden its changing population by 'squirreling them away' in certain neighborhoods

McGinness, who voted against the diversity policy, says the school board can only do so much. In order to get at the root causes of the achievement gap in Iowa City schools the towns that make up the district needs to act, "what we need them to agree on is a housing development plan, because that’s the only way it can work. There’s got to be some balance on how we are going manage growth in our district. Without that, everything that we do, every two three years we could have to redistrict as a result."

My critical observation is this; we are talking about schools under the same leadership, in the same district, sometimes only a couple miles apart, and achievement, by whatever metrics they have established to measure that, is suffering from such a large disparity that we are prying kids out of their neighborhoods to try and correct it. This issue appears to supersede any concern about how much money we are dumping into schools, or what teachers they have, or what tests we are giving them. The case is made once again with this story that income and pedigree seem to be the best indicators for educational success.

Is there an admission in this story that poor education is contagious? Is this the hump that kids are all but doomed to fail to get over when they are born into communities that are already behind? Obviously no one wants to believe that your geographical location should be the primary indicator for if you are successful or not in life, but that is the elephant in the room that appears to be weighing us down. The question then becomes what are we going to do to fix it.

Here are some of my suggestions;

Break up low income housing, making sure to keep the net number that we need available, but have the program focus on subsidizing units rather then entire developments. This could help avoid such high concentrations of low income students. Also consider putting term limits on each unit or some form of incentive to try to encourage families to better their situation and potentially stay in the units even if a subsidy is lessened over time.

District wide talented and gifted programs. If we have the next Mozart or Einstein in the district, we need to encourage that individual, regardless of their location.

Good old fashioned involvement. I can understand and appreciate that technology makes it easier then ever to keep parents up to date on what's going on in their children's education, however, technology can be turned off. Programs that build relationships between educator and parents in person need to be encouraged and parents need to be persuaded to take an active part in a child's education. Perhaps opening a tutor shop in these neighborhoods that kids can go and work on their homework with a certified teacher ready to assist would help.

I don't feel that these neighborhoods are so far gone that we need to turn a blind eye or run away from them in fear. 

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

The Real Problem: Geese

As I descend the stairs in City Hall. I am privy to a view of the large conference room that hosts several sub-committee and board meetings. Last night I caught a glimpse of the fire chief and police chief of our fair City at the lead table of such a gathering, not a sight I've never seen before, but there was a significantly larger number of people gathered to hear what they had to say. A typical meeting would have 6-8 people, this one hosted about 20.

Today, I learn what may have drawn so much attention. The City of Cedar Rapids is considering fining people for feeding the geese. A three tier fining structure that could cost up to $300 per offense.

Geese are messy, they "get mess" all over our parks, our roads, our City of Five Seasons statue. And many people don't like it. Yet people still feed the geese. Why? because Geese are also adorable, of course!

There have also been signs posting "Hey, don't feed the freakin' Geese!" in several areas downtown that a goose would frequent, and it hasn't discouraged a single goose from taking a free meal. Now the plan is to add an "Or else..." tag to each of these signs in an effort to really discourage people from feeding the fortuitous fowl.

City Purchased Lots after 2008 Flood
There is quite the irony that the same people who are enjoying these scenic areas are also the ones being blamed for this apparent slight in sanitation to our beloved green ways. The same way that the most outspoken people against a sales tax that would have built a west side flood levy, lived on the west side of the river. It's also worth noting that such fines are only subject to people when it happens on City Property. Which, thanks to the buy outs following the 2008 flood, include pretty much everywhere the geese are found.

Thus the theory goes, stop the literal practice of handing out food to the birds, and maybe some of them will fly off and not return, or die, or at least make less "mess". Catch the perpetrators bread handed and at least make a little money off the problem. I look at this issue as a fantastic news since we now live in a community where we are spending our valued time dealing with goose mess. Making the top five concerns of Cedar Rapids now;

1. How does one get rid of that smell?
2. Where can we make a casino without it smelling funny?
3. What can we do to free up money in the budget for air fresheners?
4. How can we get Quaker to make only Crunch Berries Cereal?
5. How do we stop all the grey "mess" left behind by all the geese?

Meanwhile I'll be off spending my time doing more useful things like staring at the sun with my eyes open and eating Cheerios. Check us out next week as we review ways to eat cereal with our retinas burnt out.

Monday, April 1, 2013

Happy Financial Capability Month!

A Proclamation from the President

And my eye rolling responses.


All Americans deserve the chance to turn their hard work into a decent living for their families and a bright future for their children. Seizing that opportunity takes more than drive and initiative -- it also requires smart financial planning. During National Financial Capability Month, we recommit to empowering individuals and families with the knowledge and tools they need to get ahead in today's economy... 

Perhaps it's time the government shore up some of those tools and knowledge for themselves. I can think of no one entity worse then the government to educate the American People on matters of fiscal capability.

...My Administration is dedicated to helping people make sound decisions in the marketplace...

HAH!

...Last year, we partnered with businesses and community leaders to roll out new public and private commitments to increasing financial literacy. We released a new financial capability toolkit to help schools and employers as they launch their own initiatives. And with our College Scorecard and Financial Aid Shopping Sheet, we are working to give families clear, transparent information on college costs so they can make good choices when they invest in higher education. Together, we can prepare young people to tackle financial challenges -- from learning how to budget responsibly to saving for college, starting a business, or opening a retirement account. 

Or, like many Americans, you can give up because you see how much health care is going to cost and realize you can't retire.

Financial capability also means helping people avoid scams and demand fair treatment when they take out a mortgage, use a credit card, or apply for a student loan. My Administration continues to encourage responsibility at all levels of our financial system by cracking down on deceptive practices and ensuring that consumers are informed of their rights... 

How many Bankers went to jail after the Great Recession?

...We also know that too many families are living paycheck-to-paycheck, unable to take advantage of tools that would help them plan for a middle class life. That is why we must build ladders of opportunity for everyone willing to climb them -- from a fair minimum wage that lifts working Americans out of poverty...

Climb up to a higher minimum wage? How do you like that motivational speech. "Work a little harder, and you'll make as much as the government will make sure you get paid anyway!"

...to high-quality preschool and early education that gets every child on the right track early. These reforms would encourage the kind of broad-based economic growth that gives everyone a better chance to secure their financial future...

The latest plan to fix public education, get them into the system sooner, and for longer!

Our history shows that there is no economic engine more powerful than a thriving middle class. Reigniting that engine means giving ordinary citizens the tools to find prosperity, including strong financial capability. To learn more about managing money and navigating the 21st-century marketplace, visit www.MyMoney.gov and www.ConsumerFinance.gov, or call 1-888-MyMoney. 

Anyone else vomit a little bit at a website called "MyMoney.gov"?

NOW, THEREFORE, I, BARACK OBAMA, President of the United States of America, by virtue of the authority vested in me by the Constitution and the laws of the United States, do hereby proclaim April 2013 as National Financial Capability Month. I call upon all Americans to observe this month with programs and activities to improve their understanding of financial principles and practices.

Make room National Autism Awareness Month, National Jazz Appreciation Month, National Poetry Month, Confederate History Month (observed only in southern United States), National Arab American Heritage Month, and National Child Abuse Prevention Month!

IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand this
twenty-ninth day of March, in the year of our Lord two thousand thirteen, and of the Independence of the United States of America the two hundred and thirty-seventh.

BARACK OBAMA

Of course we are all having a good chuckle with this on April's fools day, but who does the President think he is fooling? He's late with his budget by either a few weeks or a few years depending on how you look at it. We are beyond our eyebrows in debt, this President winces at a spending cut that doesn't even reduce spending, I could go on and on, but suffice to say, this proclamation offends me.