Friday, November 30, 2007

Power to the People

This week, I read Laura Ingraham's new book Power to the People. Some people really love to listen to her on her national morning talk show out of Washington, DC. I have listened. I concur with her points. but I don't find her program all that engaging.

I like talk show hosts that provide true insight into the issues. She does not do that for me. Nor do some of the other popular conservative hosts like Sean Hannity and Glen Beck. Nevertheless, I try to keep up on their activities including reading their books.

Power to the People addresses typical conservative issues: family, immigration, homeland security, judges, pornography, education, old media and abortion/cloning/science. Not a whole lot of creative thinking displayed. However, there is one chapter -- Keeping It Local -- that is pretty good. Her commentary on local and state politics is not bad.

The federal government is too big and powerful. Less control is required at the national level. More power should be delegated to the states and local communities.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Get Ahead, Speak English

Do we really want the government to create laws that will disallow businesses to hire the people that they feel can best do the job they were hired to do? Sounds ridiculous doesn't it? But that's what Nancy Pelosi and the Hispanic Caucus are saying with their goal to create a law that will force businesses to not mandate their employees speak English?

The Salvation Army Thrift Store is now a target of the Equal Opportunities Commission (EEOC) who is suing them for clearly posting and enforcing its "speak English" requirements, giving employees one year to comply. The EEOC says this is a civil rights violation. Holy cow...the federal government is suing the Salvation Army!

This terrible legislation (H.R. 3093) passed 218 to 186 earlier this month. This is one law that hopefully will not make it through the Senate and if it does should get vetoed by the President.

Senator Lamar Alexander is trying a different tactic to counter the lawsuit of the EEOC. He wants to make it clear that it is not against federal law for an employer to require employees to speak English on the job. As a provision to the CJS Appropriations Bill (H.R. 3093), he wants to prohibit the use of federal funds by the EEOC for the purposes of suing employers for requiring English on the job.
SEC. 527. LIMITATION. (a) In General- None of the funds made available in this Act shall be used to initiate or participate in a civil action by or on the behalf of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission against an entity on the grounds that the entity requires an employee to speak English while engaged in work.
Liberals want as many non-English speakers in America as they can get. Lacking this ability will keep them down and more dependent on the government for traditional services. Non-english speakers will only be able to perform society's lowliest of jobs. These liberal politicians no interest in seeing immigrants succeed.

The best way for an immigrant to stay poor is to not learn the native language. When in France, speak French; when in Japan, speak Japaneses; but when you are in America, speak whatever the heck you want and let the taxpayer cover your "handicap." Yea, real solid leadership from the Democrats.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Family and Medical Leave Act

A few weeks ago during an MBA strategy class I was teaching, one of the students who was born and raised in a Scandinavian country expressed her opinion (during a human capital discussion) about how wonderful her motherland was to new parents. The mother is excused from her job and provided 80 percent salary for three years; for the the father is was around 12-18 months.

The general opinion was that if the Scandinavian society is willing to pay someone for not working and to share the work load (or hire a temporary replacement) in their absence, then fine. But that has not been the American way. The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) from 1993 has introduced a European-like change the harsh American labor system.

Summarized, the FMLA law states:
Covered employers must grant an eligible employee up to a total of 12 workweeks of unpaid leave during any 12-month period for one or more of the following reasons:

- for the birth and care of the newborn child of the employee;
- for placement with the employee of a son or daughter for adoption or foster care;
- to care for an immediate family member (spouse, child, or parent) with a serious health condition; or
- to take medical leave when the employee is unable to work because of a serious health condition.

An employer covered by FMLA is any person engaged in commerce or in any industry or activity affecting commerce, who employs 50 or more employees [within a 75-mile radius of the work site] for each working day during each of 20 or more calendar workweeks [at least 1,250 hours of service] in the current or preceding calendar year.
It does not cover the common cold, flu, earaches, stomach ailment, minor ulcers, headaches (less migraines), and routine dental or orthodontia problems.

The spirit of the law has good intent; but the execution has some problems. For some workers with irregular schedules; e.g., airlines, qualification issues exist. On the other hand, abuse of the law is becoming an issue with some employers. According to a 11/21/07 Wall Street Journal article, "more workers are using it to take time off for vague and chronic maladies and doing so intermittently, rather than in blocks of time, which makes scheduling and staffing difficult."

Anytime you give people the ability to get paid or to get a position held for an extended period of time, people will attempt to exploit it. You create added bureaucracy to uncover cheaters and abusers. It is too bad we need a federal law for this. Let's just eliminate or downsize drastically the Department of Labor (along with a number of other federal departments like Commerce, Education, Energy and Agriculture). It would be better if employers addressed it on an individual basis (they won't) or if it was left up to the states instead of the feds.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

A National Leadership Crisis


According to a Fall 07 poll conducted by the Center for Public Leadership and U.S. News and World Report, two thirds say that today's leaders pale in comparison with those of 20 years ago.

Most believe we have a national leadership crisis, are heading in a negative direction, are falling behind other nations and that our best leaders are in the military.

President Bush's approval rating is around 19 percent. Nancy Pelosi's and Harry Reid's Congress comes in around 9 percent.

Since 911, we have experienced Hurricane Katrina, an on-going war in Afghanistan and Iraq, and a handful of political scandals from Plame and Libby to Jefferson and Craig, and economic woes from sub-prime and mortgage issues to rising enery prices.

Interestingly, nearly 60 percent believe we will have better leaders in 20 years.

Things were always better in the past, will be better in the future. I might be doing okay but I know of or have heard others who are not.

Sure there are negative issues, but on the whole, America has never had it so good.

Monday, November 26, 2007

IT Workers Backing Democrats

In the 12 Nov issue of eWeek, an article entitled IT Workers Back Democrats caught my eye.
More than 70 percent of the $929,829 contributed by the companies' employees to presidential candidates through the first three quarters of 2007 went to Democrats.
The contribution information is based on public records filed with the Federal Election Commission of contribution by all individuals totaling more than $200 for the 2008 election cycle.

The top ten companies were the regular list of techies, ranging in order of total contributions to the three leading Democrat and Republican candidates: Google, Microsoft, IBM, AT&T, Verizon, Accenture, Qwest, Oracle, Cisco and EDS. Democrat contributions from employees from these companies are much greater than their contributions to Republican candidates, in some cases 5x higher.
Of the 23 companies surveyed, only two—Dell and Qualcomm—contributed more money to Republicans than to Democrats.
Pacific northwest from San Jose to Seattle is a more liberal area than Southern California/San Diego (Qualcomm) and Texas (Dell).

I do not consider employees in these companies traditional IT workers. They work for companies that produce IT products. I have always considered IT workers those that work for a company in a IT role -- providing tech services to other workers.

Regardless, the numbers are what they are: employees producing tech products tend to financially support liberal over conservative principles and political candidates. Thankfully, I am not one of them.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Backlash Against Tithing

Last Friday's (11/23/07) Wall Street Journal ran an article entitled The Backlash Against Tithing. As far as I can remember, from my days in college and as a full-time missionary, tithing was (and is) one of the hardest commandments for most to keep.

I have heard people say, just like the article states, that "people should feel free to donate what they choose." Or "no, that's not the way God works."

Churches of all denomination have their methods of financial support. Those of the Judeo/Christian mindset have tithing.

From Mormon.org, tithing is briefly explained:
Tithing is an ancient, divine law wherein the Lord has commanded us to give a tenth of our increase—which is understood to mean income—so we may build up His kingdom on the earth and be blessed. When you pay an honest tithe, the Lord promises that He will “open . . . the windows of heaven, and pour . . . out a blessing, that there shall not be room enough to receive it” (Malachi 3:10). These blessings may be temporal or spiritual, and they will come to you as you obey this divine law.

Paying tithing is an expression of your faith and an outward sign of your belief in God and His work. Those who do not pay tithing, those who keep for themselves something that rightfully belongs to Him, rob God (Malachi 3:8).

The law of tithing is the means by which the Lord's work is funded. Today, all faithful members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints contribute one tenth of their income as tithing to contribute to the growth of the kingdom of God.
Those people who have paid an honest tithe and have done so faithfully, know of its truthfulness and blessings in their lives. I see it again and again in my life and the lives of our children.

It is not easy to pay a tithe. For some, 10 percent is a great deal of money. But it you consider that everything you have, including you ability and opportunity to earn an income, replaying the Lord is the most honest thing a person can do...and you only asks 10 percent.

The big question for most is 10 percent of what? For most people, they receive a pay check. Do they pay on the gross or the net? The Lord's law of tithing states that you pay 10 percent of your increase. I am not saying you should pay on the gross or net, rather, figure out what you feel is your increase and pay accordingly.

Paying tithing does not mean you will be blessed with financial wealth. It does mean you will be blessed. Many of the blessings may be traced to financial blessings, regardless, there will be blessings.

The articles states Mormons must give 10 percent. Well I can tell you that many do but I doubt most do. The articles states that if you don't pay tithing, you may be barred from temples. Actually you will be barred. Obtaining a temple recommend requires you to answer in the affirmative that you are a full tithe payer. If you are not, you cannot obtain a temple recommend and enter into the temple.

The law of tithing is one that no one can understand until they practice it. The law applies to any religion, not just Christians. The blessings are the same: pay a full tithe and you will be blessed.

People who make excuses for not paying are doing just that. They often feel the money is not managed properly or that are better things they can do with that 10 percent. As an LDS man, mis-use of funds has never entered my mind. The Lord's anointed are as prudent and careful as possible with those funds. They know they are sacred, and manage accordingly.

It is a privilege to pay tithing. It is one of the greatest commandments we have and it is easy to obey.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

College Football Rivalries

There's nothing better in sports, IMHO, about college football rivalries. Most games have no national impact. But regionally, it ranges from annual bragging rights to outright war.

Last week it was the end of the Big Ten when most teams played their rivals: Minnesota-Wisconsin, Northwestern-Illinois, Purdue-Indiana, and Ohio State-Michigan.

This week's matches comprised the bulk of the rivalries: Utah-BYU, Clemson-South Carolina, Virginia Tech-Virginia, Georgia-Georgia Tech, Florida State-Florida, Tennessee-Kentucky, Alabama-Auburn, Mississippi-Mississippi State, Oklahoma State-Oklahoma, Texas-Texas A&M, Nebraska-Colorado, Washington State-Washington, and #4 Missouri - #2 Kansas.

Next week will have a few more like the final Pac 10 matches including Arizona-Arizona State, Oregon-Oregon State, UCLA-USC, plus the greatest rivalry of all time: Army-Navy.

The conference championships, though interesting, established for money purposes only. The bowl games will be finalized next week. We'll find out if it is West Virginia-Missouri or Ohio State vs some unlucky team.

Love that college football!

Monday, November 19, 2007

TV -- 2007

I have little time for evening TV. If I do find a hour or two, I'll usually watch sports, anything but basketball (can't stand the NBA; do like March Madness though). Consider the programming on the major four networks:

CBS
The Amazing Race, The Big Bang Theory, Big Brother 8, Cane, Cold Case, Courier 2.0, Criminal Minds, CSI: Crime Scene Investigation, CSI: Miami, CSI: NY, Do You Trust Me?, Ghost Whisperer, How I Met Your Mother, Jericho, Kid Nation, Million Dollar Password, Moonlight, NCIS, The New Adventures of Old Christine, Numb3rs, Power of 10, Rules of Engagement, Shark, Survivor: China, Swingtown, Two and a Half Men, The Unit, Without a Trace.

ABC
According to Jim, AFV - America's Funniest Home Videos, The Bachelor, Big Shots, Boston Legal, Brothers & Sisters, Carpoolers, Cashmere Mafia, Cavemen, Dancing With The Stars, Desperate Housewives, Dirty Sexy Money, Duel, Eli Stone, Extreme Makeover: Home Edition, Grey's Anatomy, Lost Men In Trees, Miss Guided, Notes From The Underbelly, October Road, Private Practice, Pushing Daisies, Samantha Who?, Supernanny, Ugly Betty, Wife Swap, Women's Murder Club.

NBC
1 vs. 100, 30 Rock, America's Got Talent, The Apprentice, The Biggest Loser, Bionic Woman, Chuck, Clash of the Choirs, Coastal Dreams, Dateline, Deal or No Deal, ER, Friday Night, Lights, Green is Universal, Heroes, Journeyman, Las Vegas, Last Comic Standing, Law & Order, Law & Order: CI, Law & Order: SVU, Life, Lipstick Jungle, Medium, My Name Is Earl, The Office, Pale Force, Passions, Phenomenon, Poker After Dark, Scrubs, The Singing Bee.

Fox
24, American Dad, American Idol, America's Most Wanted, Are You Smarter than A 5th Grader, Back To You, Bones, Cops, Don't Forget the Lyrics, Family Guy, Hell's Kitchen, House, King of the Hill, Kitchen Nightmares, K-Ville, Nashville, New Amsterdam, The Next Great Band, Prison Break, The Simpsons, So You Think You Can Dance, Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles, 'Til Death.

Off all these shows, I have watched a handful. I probably know the premises of half of them from their commercials during sporting events. Most do not interest me. Here's my short list. If you have yours or you think mine are poor choices, please share...

Criminal Minds, Ghost Whisperer, Numb3rs, Pushing Daisies, 24, K-Ville and Prison Break. (I watch most of them online, if they are available.)

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Buckeyes to Pasadena


It was not pretty but the Bucks got the job done beating Michigan 14-3 on a cold, rainy day in Ann Arbor.

Henne did not have a good game; Manningham could not hold onto the ball; Hart was contained. Boeckman was not on but luckily for him Wells was (39 rushes for 222 yards). And the Buckeye defense rebounded after last week's let-down allowing Michigan only 91 yards in offense.

I watched the game in Scottsdale, forgoing an overprice round of golf. It turned out to be the right decision.

Onward to Pasadena for the Rose Bowl. I think I'll try to get some tickets to that game...never been to a Rose Bowl game on New Years Day.

OH...IO. Way to Go Bucks!

Friday, November 16, 2007

Outsourcing in latin America

"Thank you for calling 'company x.' This is Bob. How may I help you?" Bob's really Sanji and he's handling tech support from somewhere in India. Bob is extremely nice. You can yell at him and blame him personally for all your product's problems and he will gladly respond with a "thank you sir, may I have another."

Bob is beginning to be replaced by Jose. Jose is his real name. He is based somewhere in Latin America.

Thanks to NAFTA, CAFTA and whichever FTA agreement our elected representatives are working on, "many of the [Latin] countries are developing strong associations of IT companies, and are trying to lobby for flexible regulation, tax exemptions, funding and support on education and infrastructure (source: Global Services Media -- "Say Si for ITO," Imrana Khan, Global Services magazine, November 2007.)

Brazil, Chile, Argintina, Mexico and Costa Rica are among the destinations for call service centers as well as software development, testing and various IT functions. They are graduating students with technology skills at an increasingly high rate:

-- Brazil - 25,000 tech grads
-- Chile - 5,000
-- Argentina - 17,000
-- Mexico - 58,000

Their technical abilities are said to be on par or superior than eastern European countries. Unlike India, they have stable wages (~40 percent of U.S. standards for similar jobs). Their attrition rate is less than five percent (not the case in India). For most nations in Latin America, U.S. citizens (business personnel) traveling there for work do not require a visa (Brazil being one exception to the lengthy and costly process).

According to Datamonitor, by 2008, the number of contact centers in Latin America will touch 12,000 and the number of agents will reach 633,000.

Not all services lend themselves to outsourcing. For those that do, it provides an affordable way to deliver necessary services for less cost. Everyone benefits. Despite the many issues I have with free trade agreements, here's one benefit for America.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Why Are Oil Prices So High?


The Department of Energy's Energy Information Administration (tax dollars at work) has released a document entitled Short-Term Energy Outlook Supplement:
Why Are Oil Prices So High?
The six-page EIA document believes that the following supply and demand fundamentals are the main drivers behind recent oil price movements:

1) Strong world economic growth supports growth in global oil consumption despite higher price levels.
2) A key factor contributing to high prices has been the inability of non-OPEC
production growth to keep pace with global oil consumption growth.
3) OPEC members’ production decisions have played a critical role in determining price trends.
4) Fairly low OPEC surplus production capacity (concentrated in Saudi Arabia) leaves the market with little flexibility to respond to surprises in supply and demand.
5) Total OECD commercial inventories are declining.
6) Excess capacity in the refining industry has been shrinking as refined product demand has grown.
7) Geopolitical risks raise supply concerns.

This is a solid, albeit brief assessment of the basic issues associated with the price of oil and how it impacts the costs we pay to drive our cars and heat our homes.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

The Mormon Way - M. Russell Ballard

In last week's US News and World Report, Jay Tolson interviewed Elder M. Russell Ballard. The questions asked and answered dealt with the typical issues that people either confuse or love to pile on:

-- Misconceptions about our Christian base and cult lore
-- Bible and Book of Mormon
-- Heretical
-- Trinity/Godhead
-- Secrecy vs sacred
-- Mitt Romney and his "Kennedy speech"

It is amazing how the Christian world continues to find issues with Mormonism. In the lasts General conference, Elder Ballard laid out some clear truths in his Faith, Family, Facts, and Fruits discourse.

I guess we keep at it, try to explain our religion and hope the understanding makes its way into society's vernacular.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Employment Nondiscrimination Act

Yesterday, the House passed Employment Nondiscrimination Act (ENDA).
The bill would make it illegal for an employer “to fail or refuse to hire or to discharge any individual, or otherwise discriminate against any individual with respect to the compensation, terms, conditions or privileges of employment of the individual, because of such individual’s actual or perceived sexual orientation.”

While 19 states and Washington, D.C., have laws barring discrimination based on sexual orientation, and many cities offer similar protections, federal law offers no such shield, though it does bar discrimination based on race, religion, ethnicity, sex, age, disability and pregnancy.
Federal government is again trying to get into the lives of every person in the country.

Arguments for and against ENDA have been made by American Psychological Association (APA):

Arguments against ENDA include:
-- The bill treats a group of people as special and deserving of protected status.
-- The bill forces people to accept behavior they find objectionable.

Arguments for ENDA include:
-- It is a fundamental value in the U.S. that all working people have a right to be judged by the quality of their work performance and not by completely unrelated factors.
-- Employment discrimination based on sexual orientation violates the central principle of fairness.
-- Ending employment discrimination is good social and business policy.

The biggest problem with this bill is that the federal government is taking a pro-gay stance instead of a hands-off stance. This issue should be left up to the states, not the federal government. President Bush should veto this bill and defer the issue to the states.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Pakistan...From Bad to Worse

This past weekend, Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf declared emergency rule, suspending the constitution, saying he had been forced to act by rising extremism and judicial interference in his efforts to protect the country. His critics see it as a smoke screen to justify the quashing of the opposition. Dozens of lawyers, judges and opponents were jailed.

Consider the conditions:

-- Musharraf assumed power via a coup (Oct 1999)
-- Musharraf is a military man through and though
-- Staffs all key positions with military cronies
-- Hosts some of the most radical Islamic hate schools in the world and some of the worlds most deadliest terrorists
-- Islamic at it core
-- Limited natural resources
-- Impoverished and underdeveloped ($2600 per capita income)
-- Treats from a dozen or so opposing political parties including Benazir Bhutto's Pakistan People's Party Parliamentarians
-- Major recipient of foreign aid ($2.4 billion); i.e, USA.

Despite his faults, is it better Musharraf remain in power for regional stability or is it better he leave office and push for democratic reforms including imminent elections?

The methodology to control radicalism is not pretty. But if you have a group of people who want to take the country 100 percent under Sharia Law and another group that does not, there is bound to be bloodshed.

Given the conditions, it is only going to go from bad to worse.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Men on a Mission

In the 18 Oct 2007 issue of Rolling Stone, there was a small story entitled "Mormons Exposed." Chad Hardy founded a company in which he has recruited twelve return missionaries to pose bare-chested for a calendar.

His company and Web site, Mormon Exposed and the Men on a Mission calendar is intended
to be a light-hearted and fun spin on a social taboo. Far too much fear, hatred, anger and violence is committed in (and against) the name of religion. By showing these missionaries as regular people, we hope to build a common thread that can break down some of the barriers that have been built up. Driven by the desire to serve as an advocate for change, Mormons Exposed created a national product that consumers everywhere can find humorous and enjoyable. The calendar project and surrounding buzz serves as a platform to encourage many different groups of people to look beyond the stereotypes of race, religion or political affiliation to achieve a greater understanding of one another.
He's doing this for financial gain. There will be a girl calendar and who knows what to come in the future. Nothing shocks me any more, but I really question the "missionary value" of his business' mission. Seems more along the lines of HBO's Big Love than Mitt Romney.

Monday, November 05, 2007

NBC Going Green (For A Week)

Last night, as I watched the Cowboys blow out a dead Eagles team, NBC Universal announced its plans to "go green." It would attempt to emphasize environmental theme in what they hope promotes awareness.

As the studio went "dark," the lights on NYC were blasting in the background and some guy named Matt Laurer was somewhere in northern Canada blasting his global warming message. Hypocricy comes to mind every time a global warmer opens his/her mouth.

As I tell my Marketing and MBA students, if the environment sells, then go for it. People purchase things for all sorts of reasons. If the psychpgraphical and demographic research say that green sells, then businesses should exploit that.

Consider this: We have a group of companies that compete in a market known as nutraceutical industry. They sell modern-day snake oil. Those that sell it make all sorts of claims including curing cancer. There is no scientific proof it does anything they claim. However, it is obvious that there are lots of people that believe it and buy it.

Global warming is similar. If people believe they can make a difference buy buying florescent light bulbs, buying hybrid cars, and mulch their garbage, then fine. Whether it is backed by science or not. There will be people there to sell you supporting products and services.

The sad thing is that many that promote green are also promoting the liberal agenda. That agenda has failed every time it is followed because it is based on false premises.

Right or wrong, based on truths or falsehoods, green sells for business and for politics.

Go green. Vote Democratic. Go Socialistic.

Sunday, November 04, 2007

Democrats, Terror and Mukasey

This past week, the Democrats within the Senate Judicial Committee have shown their true colors. The nomination procedure was going just fine until until they introduced the waterboarding/torture question.

Michael Mukasey was nominated by President Bush to be the next Attorney General. But during the Senators' questioning of him they did not like his statement that he refused to declare "illegal" a single interrogation technique the CIA has used on rare occasions against mass murders.

On rare occasions, the Wall Street Journal will write something that pokes at liberals. Friday's opinion was one of those exceptions.
Their immediate political figleaf is that the judge won't pre-emptively declare "waterboarding," or simulated drowning, to be illegal. Mr. Mukasey has declared that torture "violates the law and the Constitution, and the President may not authorize it as he is no less bound by constitutional restrictions than any other government official." But he refuses to say whether waterboarding meets the statutory definition of torture based only on "hypothetical facts and circumstances."

This seems fair enough given that he has not been briefed on any of the classified interrogation details (as top Congressional Democrats have been). It also seems wise given that, if confirmed, he will have to read and consider legal memoranda already approved by Justice Department officials on the same subject. How can he declare himself before he's read them?

Most important, his discretion serves the American people by helping to keep our enemies in some doubt about what they will face if they are captured. The reason that CIA interrogation methods are kept highly classified is so that enemy combatants can't use them as a resistance manual. If terrorists know what's coming, they can prepare for it beforehand and better resist.

Democrats want to pander to the antiwar war base of their party that doubts we are even in a war, and in any case wants to treat terrorist detainees no differently than a common street felon. Yet they don't want to be responsible for passing a statute that blocks CIA attempts to gain information that could prevent an imminent terrorist attack. So they dodge and employ ambiguous language that the Justice Department must then interpret. And then they try to run Judge Mukasey out of town because he won't do their political work for them.
It appears that they have come to their senses and will approve the nomination with Senators Feinstein (CA) and Schumer (NY) saying they'd give him the nod.

In their political posturing and their love affair with the left-wing wackos, it is clear they lack the fortitude to wage war against terrorism. The continue to show their colors day after day.

Friday, November 02, 2007

Vouchers vs Educators Monopoly

Next week, Utahans will have the opportunity to vote on CITIZEN’S STATE REFERENDUM NUMBER 1. The text on the ballot reads:

In February 2007, the Utah Legislature passed H.B. 148, Education Vouchers. This bill will take effect only if approved by voters. The bill:

Establishes a scholarship program for:
-- qualifying school-age children who newly enroll in eligible private schools; and
-- lower income school-age children who continue their enrollment in eligible private schools;

Provides for scholarships within that program of $500 to $3,000, depending on family size and income, increasing those scholarship amounts in future years; and

Allows school districts to retain some per-student funding for scholarship students who transfer to private schools.

Are you for or against H.B. 148 taking effect?
There are arguments for and against the Referendum. I am for the measure.

I have read and heard many of the argument for and against. Whether it be anti-agruments from the National Education Association, arguments from the Utah Education Association or the Anti-Defamation League, they are weak and designed to protect their monopoly on K-12 education.

Their anti-voucher arguments include:

-- Taxpayers can’t fund every school choice (not designed to do that).
-- Voucher laws authorize schools with too little oversight, no real coursework or attendance requirements, lax standards for teachers and minimal accountability to taxpayers (have you looked at the state of our public school and the oversight going on there?).
-- Only the wealthy, who "don't need the subsidy" will use vouchers, not the disadvantaged (wealth will take advantage but new opportunities for the less-wealthy will arise).
-- Public school funding would be cut to reflect lost enrollment. (When has education ever been cut; taxes for the schools go up every year -- just a question of how much; 80% of my property tax is for the school and it has doubled over the past ten years).
-- Taxes will increase to cover a public education deficit (only if people vote NO).
-- The real “bureaucrats and liberals” are the subsidy advocates and out-of-state voucher pushers looking for Utah to save their faltering national movement (national interests is coming from both sides).

The NEA and UEA have the corner on education: they approve the teachers (I teach at two well-know and established universities but cannot teach high school), they approve the curriculum (a surfeit of the material has a liberal bias), and they demand union membership (their federal union perpetuates the monopoly concept). They are against Referendum 1 not because of the children but to protect their control over education. They feel they are smarter than parents -- the collective body.

A market-based, choice-based education system that couple public education with private education serves everyone.
-- Freedom of education choice: put control in the hands of parents (at least those that care)
-- Financially, vouchers are sound: the per pupil allocation will increase given the fixed costs.
-- More families will opt for private education: the subsidy will help ease the pain for, not cover the entire expense. (Three percent attend private schools in Utah vs 13 percent nationally)
-- More private school options will emerge that will appeal to the less-wealthy.

According to many business and industry leaders:
The Governor's Office has projected a massive influx of new students entering our public schools over the next 10 years. Enrollment in public schools will increase by nearly 160,000 students as compared to 39,000 over the past 10 years, a 400% increase. Each of these new students will cost taxpayers over $7,500 per year to educate, resulting in over $1.2 Billion in new ongoing costs associated with this unprecedented growth. That's roughly equivalent to all the property taxes collected for education in Utah last year.

If Utahans vote FOR Referendum #1, participating parents will be provided, on average, an estimated $2,000 of the $7,500 it currently costs to educate their children as an incentive to move their children into a private school. This will shift some of the projected growth burden away from our public schools and taxpayers. For the first five years all schools will be held harmless; no money leaves the school. Even after five years, the unused funds ($5,500) will stay in our public schools providing substantially more money for the remaining students. That is good for our public schools, students and taxpayers!

If Utahans don't vote FOR Referendum #1, there will likely be significant property tax increases to pay for new school buildings, and other significant tax increases in order to hire new teachers and to educate this surge of students. In such an environment, it will be impossible to make additional progress toward increasing teacher salaries or reducing class sizes as all our resources will be stretched to accommodate this unprecedented growth.
I tip my hat to the liberals: they have done a good job of convincing the casual observers that vouchers are bad. I asked my adult students their opinion on the Referendum 1 and those that say they are going to vote NO, have not studied the issue. This is the only way liberals can win. They cannot win on merit, they win on ignorance and spin.

There are plenty of people that feel the public education system is the only way to educate our children. They are people that feel a market-based system is optimal. This referendum will be decided by the uninformed, like most elections. Vouchers will be voted down because the average person just cannot grasp the pros and cons. There's math involved and that gets them every time.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Law on Maritime Cargo Scanning


Back in July, Congress approved H.R. 1 Implementing Recommendations of the 9/11 Commission Act of 2007, specifically the Law on Maritime Cargo Scanning Requirements. The Senate approved the bill 85-8 while the House vote was 371-40; Bush signed the law on 3 August.
The bill calls for 100 percent scanning of maritime cargo—before it is loaded onto vessels in foreign ports heading for the United States—to be required within the next five years (although the Department of Homeland Security may extend the deadline by two-year increments, if necessary). It also calls for scanning all cargo on passenger planes within the next three years.
This is a grandiose and expensive process that will add significantly to the cost of goods and to delivery times (dwell time). This will impact the ability for smaller ports to cover the necessary scanning equipment, estimated at around $100 million per port. Add to that the infrastructure to get the containers to the scanners, and the costs are enormous.

According to a 25 Oct 07 article in the Wall Street Journal, the newer, more modern ports in Asia are in a better position to handle the added requirements. The older ports in Europe are not so fortunate, hence the opposition from the EU. Fewer ports will help consolidate the points of entry -- from 700 to around 100.

Those that will reap the spoils of the requirements are the scanning companies: Nuctech, SAIC, Smiths Group and OSI Systems.

The law states "100 percent scanning." What are we scanning for?Chemical agents? Nuclear agents? Explosives?

I can see why Congress would be in favor of this new law, but I doubt it will have much of an impact on thwarting terrorist shipments. Like most things the government tries to do with respect to security, it is a "feel good measure." It is theoretically possible to scanning 100 percent of the cargo but is the perceived result worth the cost? The cost-benefit ratio has got to be way out of proportion. Congressman Ed Markey (D-MA), the bill's sponsor, feels 100 percent screening is not only possible but essential. (See his myths vs facts comments.)

I can see "some synergy" between the U.S. Customs and Border's C-TPAT program which is designed to enhance border security while providing "fast-pass" treatment to certain shipments and shippers. However, it seems bureaucracy on top of bureaucracy -- good in theory, poor in implementation.

This program seems typical for a Democrat: more government, higher costs. Result: higher taxes, barriers to practicality.