Seeing Stars: Welcome to 2012

I'm skipped Seeing Stars the last couple of days because the news was so sparse. It's back today with all sorts of new fun.

Colorado

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"Strange as it seems, no amount of learning can cure stupidity, and higher education positively fortifies it." -- Stephen Vizinczey

You're Rights are Negotiable

Congress sent President Barack Obama a disastrous bill that allows the government to detain Americans indefinitely without trial. Obama, who threatened to veto the bill, sent Congress a strongly worded letter and signed it anyway. Jim Hoft was kind enough to remind us that the administration asked for the change in language that removes due process rights from Americans.

Obama's not the only one trying to play both sides here. There are a large number of people in Congress doing the same thing. The Republicans, especially, are using some variant of "Well, this provision sucks but we have to fund the military."

Let me remind you of the parable of the arsenic cookie. It doesn't matter how good the cookie is, once someone put arsenic chips on it, you don't want to eat it. The detainment provision is the arsenic on the NDAA cookie. It never should have left either house of Congress.

The NDAA is the perfect example of why Congress needs a single subject rule like Colorado and many other states already have in the books. So many of these provisions end up as riders on bills that Congressmen don't feel that they can vote against.

The situation is maddening.

Not-so-serious Predictions for 2012

As I've been sitting here this New Year's Day, I've been reflecting a little on last year and what 2012 might bring. Since the former has been done to death, I'd like to focus on the latter which has only been done to severe beating. So, without further ado, here's a random list of predictions presented in no particular order.

  • Despite the efforts of all parties involved, someone will be elected president. That someone will claim that, despite only receiving 51-ish percent of the vote, he (or she) has been given a mandate from all Americans to do something or other. He opponents will mock him while the rest of America will try to forget about him until the next election.
  • The greatest TV show in the history of TV shows (with the exception of Firefly) will air on a national network only to be cancelled in the third week of the season. It will be replaced by a pseudo-reality show about drunk, oversexed politicians and/or political staffers.
  • Losing the fight over SOPA and PROTECT-IP Acts, the movie and music industry will propose the Force Internet Shutdown Today Act and it's companion the Give the Internet to Music and Movie Executives Exclusively Act. They'll also team up with Facebook and Microsoft on the Americans Should Stop Reporting on Abusive Private Enterprises Act. Sadly, someone will look at the acronyms and change the names of the bills.
  • Tim Tebow will be voted the greatest quarterback to ever pray the game by a remote group of Chinese monks in southern Colorado who have never watched football.
  • 2012 will be rated the worst hurricane season ever when it fails to produce to a single storm that can mess up Mitt Romney's hair.
  • The greatest game of handball ever played will happen at the 2012 Olympic games in London. The video will show up on porn sites around the world forcing a judge and a goat to resign in shame.
  • Normal Americans will begin hoping that the end of the world predicted by the Mayans will happen in six months early so that they don't have to suffer through non-stop political ads and cold calls. The last remaining Mayan will look upon those same ads and calls and laugh know that it's worse than anything they could have contrived.

That's it for me. Do you have a not-so-serious prediction? Share it in the comments and let's ring in the 2012 with all the seriousness it deserves.

NAACP Leader Sent to Prison for Voter Fraud

Here's something to keep in mind the next time some one claims that voter ID laws are unnecessary.

In a story ignored by the national media, in April a Tunica County, Miss., jury convicted NAACP official Lessadolla Sowers on 10 counts of fraudulently casting absentee ballots. Sowers is identified on an NAACP website as a member of the Tunica County NAACP Executive Committee.

One of the most important requirements of a democratic society is the unquestionable results of elections. All parties must be sure that the results of the election fairly represent the will of the people. One of the ways to do that is to ensure that every eligible voter gets one and only one vote. That's what voter ID laws try to do. By requiring that the voter prove that he or she is who they say they are, the law ensures that someone else isn't voting in the place of someone else. It's a running joke that the cemeteries in Chicago have the highest voter turnout of any area in the state. Good voter ID laws would help with that situation. At least, it would make it much harder.

The one valid point most opponents to voter IDs laws have is the cost of state approved identification. South Carolina provides a free voter ID card and other states can and should do the same if and when similar laws are passed though that is not without cost. Requiring a person to pay to vote is illegal. Providing a voter ID card for free should satisfy that requirement. The "hassle" of obtaining one would be no greater than that of registering to vote in the first place and a standard driver's license or state ID would suffice and there would be no need for the majority of the population to get a new voter ID card. Anyone else would be able to get a card if they so choose. There is no disenfranchisement.

With the simple solutions to the complaints of voter ID opponents, one must wonder why anyone would want to continue a system with such glaring flaws that would allow people like Lessadolla Sowers to cast fraudulent ballots in the first place. The only answer I can come up with is that they want to continue to allow people to cast fraudulent ballots. There is no legitimate reason for that to be the case.

Updated 2012-01-01 17:40: Updated the title. The NCAA isn't into rigging elections, just bowl games.

Seeing Stars: Back from Vacation

I'm back from taking some time off for the holidays and other than a brief medical problem with a member of my family it was a nice, quiet week. It seems like it's going to be quiet on the news front as well.

Colorado

Everywhere else

  • Only 55.3 percent of Americans between the ages of 16 and 29 have jobs. "Hope and change" doesn't seem to be working out for America's youth.
  • Who doesn't want to see the Foundry's Naughty or Nice? Oh, right. Progressives.
  • There's a great post over at Ace of Spades on tax policy and personal income. It's well worth the time to read.

Merry Christmas

It's a beautiful, of cold, Christmas day here. I hope your day is "Merry and bright". I'd like to share a couple of my favorite Christmas songs with you.

O Holy Night - Celtic Woman.

Do You Hear What I Hear - Bing Crosby

Luke 2 is my favorite account of the Savior's birth. The LDS Church has a very nice video of the angel bringing "good tidings of great joy" to the shepherds.

Merry Christmas everyone.

Seeing Stars: Rick Perry's Epic Campaign Fail

I spent the day catching up on the news I missed yesterday. Fortunately, there wasn't much to miss. Of course, Rick Perry failing to make it on the Virginia ballot was amusing. No matter what else your campaign does, getting on the ballot is the most important.

Fortunately, there were enough valid signatures to bring you today's Seeing Stars. On to the links.

Colorado

Everywhere else

Seeing Stars: What's a Quarter Million Between Friends

Slow news cycles make for short round-up posts. Tomorrows will be even shorter. Non-existent in fact as I have church meetings and work tomorrow evening and night. I'll be back over the weekend but may be spotty after Christmas as I'll have family visiting. Until then, enjoy the links.

Colorado

Everywhere else

Seeing Stars: I'm Sure There's Money Here Somewhere

Enjoy the links.

Colorado

Everywhere else

Seeing Stars: Letting it All Hang Out

Thar be links below. You better be reading them or ... um ... something really bad will happen. No really. It's so bad that I can't talk about it. It's almost as bad as this. *shudder*

On to the links.

Colorado

Everywhere else

Seeing Stars: Hail to the King, Baby

What do snow cone machines, hazardous materials and electric cars have in common? They're all in the links below.

Colorado

  • Colorado's application for Federal Race to the Top funding was denied. Again. Here's a brilliant idea. How about we quit begging from Uncle Sugar and start making actual changes on our own.
  • Can you say that you're for public participation in politics when you want to require a lawyer's services to participate?

Everywhere else

Seeing Stars: Colorado PUC Says "No Energy for You"

Sorry about missing Seeing Stars yesterday. It was just one of those days when I just wasn't home long enough to get anything up. Today and tonight look to be busy as well. Just one more hazard of Christmas season.

On to the links.

Colorado

Everywhere else

Seeing Stars: Another One Bites the Dust

Candidates are dropping like flies in the wake of Democrats' reapportionment tricks. Happy reading.

Colorado

Everywhere else

Seeing Stars: Democrats Reaping the Fruits of Their Labor

There be links here.

Colorado

  • The nasty, dishonest games Democrats played with the reapportionment will make it more contentious in the Legislature this year, says the Denver Post. Thank you Captain Obvious. Deviousness and dishonest don't breed good relations.
  • Senator Keith King is the first victim of the Democrat's gerrymandering if state districts. He's announced that he won't run against fellow Republican Senate Minority Leader Bill Cadman.
  • How ugly was the reapportionment process? Even Governor John Hickenlooper is upset with how the process was handled. Despite his complaints about the process, I'm sure he's happy with the results.
  • I've seen several posts over the last couple of weeks that claim that the Denver Broncos success with Tim Tebow at quarterback are because God has taken an hand in the games. (Perhaps they're trying out an "Angels in the Outfield" plot.) Anyway, every time I see one, I think of this 1998 sketch from Saturday Night Live. Tebow's hogging all the Jesus.

Everywhere else

Seeing Stars: Colorado Supreme Court Approves "Vindictive" Reapportionment

The Colorado Supreme Court approved the "vindictive" Democrat reapportionment map without changes. I had a feeling before the map was sent back to the committee, the Republican argument against competitive districts would backfire. "Oh, competitiveness shouldn't be considered? Fine. Here's an uncompetitive map. Up yours." Well, that's exactly what happened.

There's one good thing to come out of these maps. It looks like I won't be represented by Gail Schwartz for much longer.

Colorado

Everywhere else

Seeing Stars: Oh, No. Not Again

I hope everyone had a good weekend. Here's some random fun and exciting stories you may have missed while wondering why Tim Tebow can only play well in the last three minutes of games.

Colorado

Everywhere else

Denver Judge Blows Up Colorado Education Spending

A Denver judge blew the state budget apart yesterday.

In a ruling that could have multi-billion dollar consequences for Colorado's budget, a Denver judge ruled the state's school funding system is not "thorough and uniform" as mandated by the state constitution.

The state's school funding system "is not rationally related to the mandate to establish and maintain a thorough and uniform system of free public schools," District Judge Sheila Rappaport said in her 183-page ruling in which she called the system "unconscionable."

"It is also apparent that increased funding will be required," Rappaport said in her ruling, saying lawmakers would be given time to remedy the situation.

Here's the "money" quote.

The lawsuit [Lobato vs. State of Colorado] seeks no specific sum of money, but plaintiffs have pointed to studies estimating the state is underfunding education by as much as $4 billion.

The state now spends more than 40 percent, or $3.2 billion in the 2010-11 fiscal year that ended in June, of its almost $7 billion general fund on K-12 schools.

Look at those numbers again. Colorado spends $3.2 billion on schools now. If they were to spend the additional $4 billion the plaintiffs want, that would total $7.2 billion or more than the entire state budget.

Colorado voters made it perfectly clear in November that they didn't want to raise taxes even for schools. That's going to be a challenge for legislators as they work to meet the court's requirements. No matter what they do, it will almost certainly require Constitutional amendments to change taxation and spending requirements encoded therein.

Democrats will almost certainly target TABOR, though except for the voter approval of new taxes, it hasn't had much to do with the current "crisis". They really don't like that they have to ask before they take more of your money. Dems will probably fight to keep Amendment 23 as well but I think many Democrats realize that mandatory spending increases become a problem when the income doesn't increase with it.

Ripping all of that apart could be problematic as well given Colorado's single subject laws. A ballot issue may only tackle one subject at a time. If it takes more than one, there's always the possibility that voters will approve some of the issues and not others. For example, they may approve a spending bill but not the tax bill.

The legal wonks at the Independence Institute will probably have more on what this means Constitutionally. I'll post a link in Seeing Stars when I see it.

My concern is that no matter how much money we throw at the school system, nothing will change. That's been the trend for the last 40 years and this ruling doesn't change that.

The biggest loser in the short term will be higher ed. As a stop gap, I can see the state pulling all funding from the state colleges and universities and giving it to K-12. They've done it in the past and will do it again.

There was more to the law suit that scares me. I haven't read the ruling so I'm not sure if and how it was addressed. Here's the description from the Valley Courier. (emphasis mine)

The Public School Finance Act (PSFA) is condemned in the suit for failing to provide adequate funding for children with special needs, children learning English and gifted and talented students. The suit also points to a lack of funding for capital construction projects and questions the fiscal advisability of charter schools and schools of choice.

In other words, the plaintiffs want to do away with school choice.

All of that said, I think there's a tremendous opportunity here. Colorado's budget process is insane. In an meeting with Scott Tipton before the 2010 election, he said that only three percent of Colorado's spending is discretionary. The rest is mandated by Constitutional or other legal requirements. The Lobato decision provides an opportunity to change that.

There's also a chance to completely blow up the current educational system in Colorado and put it back together in a more efficient, more successful and more responsive way. In effect, it would be like declaring the educational system bankrupt and going into a reorganization. There is a real chance for educational reform.

In a (badly proofread) post a couple of years ago, I proposed eliminating grade levels as we know them. Rather than advancing students through every subject at the same rate, allow students to take subjects as fast (or as slow) as they need. This eliminates the "need" for social promotion while giving students the opportunity to reach their full potential. Schools spend so much time and money trying to lift the worst performing students that they often forget about the highest performers.

If we're going to reform education in Colorado, let's actually reform it and make it something better.

Seeing Stars: Kermit the Fraud Here

My house has been overrun by tweens. Fortunately, the music of choice has been Weird Al.

On to the links.

Colorado

  • CTBC has the list of briefs in the never ending reapportionment battle. The Republican minority on the panel filed their minority report as a legal brief because the Democrats on the panel tried to keep them silent.

Everywhere else

Seeing Stars: Called on the Carpet

There were two big Congressional hearings today. Michelle Malkin has the play by play.

Attorney General Eric Holder was grilled over Fast and Furious. He testified that guns from the program will be showing up the streets for some time. Holder was threatened with impeachment if he doesn't turn over the required documents. It's not looking good for the team at the DoJ.

Jon Corzine has lost $1.2 billion. In fact, he seems to have been unaware of just about everything. It's no big deal, right? After all, it was someone else's money.

On to today's uncorruptible links.

Colorado

Everywhere else

Seeing Stars: College Remediation Doesn't Work

In memory of Dragnet costar Harry Morgan (who was also great in "Support Your Local Sheriff"), it's just the links.

Colorado

Everywhere else

Seeing Stars: Where Judges Make the Rules

Colorado reapportionment and redistricting are both in the hands of judges. Isn't it great that the future of our state is in the hands of unelected officials? I'd feel better about it if I was sure the justices on the Colorado Supreme Court were actually impartial.

One note on the USPS story below. I've seen a lot of posts that claim that USPS is slowing down mail to save money. It's a logically weird way of putting it and is exactly backwards. USPS is closing facilities to save money which will slow down mail delivery. Slower delivery is a symptom, not the cause.

On to the links.

Colorado

Everywhere else

Seeing Stars: CO Supreme Court Lets Democrats Get Away With Gerrymandering

Colorado

The Colorado Supreme Court upheld the Democrat's redistricting map. I can't say I'm surprised. The Pueblo Chieftain has the map, if you need a refresher. Colorado Peak Politics looks at how the changes will affect the Republican incumbents.

Everywhere else

Seeing Stars: I Find Your Lack of Science Disturbing

I threatened to drop a whole bunch of stuff here today because I cut things short yesterday. It turns out there wasn't much more to post. Fun stuff is coming out of Climategate 2.0. It's worth spending some time reading about the politics these so called scientists practiced.

Colorado

There's not much going on in Colorado politically other than Republicans and Democrats launching verbal missiles at each other and, frankly, that gets boring. If you are having trouble sleeping, the Joint Budget Committee staff reports for the 2012-2013 fiscal year are being posted. I found the one for higher education interesting but that may be because I work for a state college.

Everywhere else