O’Donnell is Correct, and the Media Dissembles

Friday, 22 October 2010 by Jim Patrick

Dissembles - it’s a fancy word for lying.

The airwaves and internet are abuzz about a supposed error by Delaware’s ‘Tea Party candidate’ for Senate, Christine O’Donnell. But any time the top media chains make claims about someone else’s stupidity, be suspicious. It’s not that there aren’t competent reporters; there certainly are, but none of them get promoted to mainstream media’s top ranks.

The claim is Ms. O’Donnell doesn’t know what is in the Constitution’s First Amendment and made a fool of herself in a debate. Unfortunately in this case, the facts —those pesky, indisputable, demonstrable things— show the media, their favored Democratic candidate, and big-name lawyers are all wrong. Hubris is a terrible thing, as you will see below.

It is clear O’Donnell is attempting to make a point about the phrase ’separation of church and state’. Complete debate audio is here, but this video portion is shorter and all times refer to it.

It started when Chris Coons (D) stated, “One of the indispensable principles is the separation of church and state…” to which Republican candidate Christine O’Donnell (2:50 ) asked, “Where in the Constitution is separation of church and state?”, not ‘Where . . . is the separation of church and state?’ as if it was or could be there. [emphases mine] The crowd jeers and laughs, the moderator interrupts, and the detail isn’t pursued.

Then Coons (5:41) tells the audience that his opponent was ignorant of the Constitution, “. . .the First Amendment establishes the separation. . .” and O’Donnell counters (6:17) with the question, “So you’re telling me that the separation of the church and state —the phrase, ‘the separation of the church and state’— appears in the First Amendment?” O’Donnell distinctly asks Coons where “the phrase . . . appears” in the Constitution, which it doesn’t.

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Over-reactions to Immigrants

Thursday, 14 October 2010 by Jim Patrick

To the culprits: Please take no offense, we have all done stupid things.
Better to have this remembered humorously than as meanness and intolerance.


The following is ‘based on a true story’, but like television docudrama, I’ve made stuff up . filled in the gaps. Like they do on the teevee, names have been changed to protect the not-so-innocent.

This tale hinges on the terms affinity and consanguinity. Without knowing those, this article will probably make little sense. It also helps to have a sense of humor and know how local governments operate; though many insist those are the same.


The government of a certain City had problems. On-street parking was scarce, scarcer than ever before. Then there was trouble with litter. And Mexicans were moving in; people who looked and acted differently than long-time inhabitants, even speaking a different language. Determined to find the source of these problems, the City investigated.

Research by the Sanitation Dept. showed litter didn’t produce any discernible parking shortages or Mexicans. A letter of inquiry was sent to City Police, whose reply indicated parking can’t generate either Mexicans or litter. This left one inescapable conclusion. The solution was simple until a series of setbacks from legal staff.

The first blow was the City couldn’t make Mexicans illegal. More confusing, many Mexicans were already illegal but nothing could be done about it. More confusing was that Mexicans came from many different countries. Legal staff further advised to use the term immigrant, and to always use illegal in front of it.

The situation was horribly confusing, and the City was stumped. They were on the verge of instructing Sanitation to pick up loose trash and Police to ticket for violations. Just before the order, staff was grousing how illegals crowded into construction sites, crowded around 7-11 stores, crowded into low-pay jobs, crowded into restaurant kitchens, crowded into cheap housing, crowded …. when a light bulb flashed.

“Crowded” was the operative word; Mex… uhh, illegals crowded a lot. A whole lot; too much. In short order the problem was determined to be “overcrowding”. Illegals overcrowding was what created parking problems and litter. A council meeting was promptly scheduled to resolve the City’s problem.

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Where’s My Country?

Wednesday, 13 October 2010 by Jim Patrick

Mining has always been dangerous. Contrary to many people’s beliefs, the earth is not a chunk of inert, passive dirt. The earth moves; it heaves and shifts, liquids and gases move through it. Seldom does it shake enough for humans to notice, it usually takes instruments to track the changes. But the earth is alive and it does not rest.

Yet it is from deep inside the earth that our life as we know it is made possible; the substances critical for our society and technology are not found at the surface. To get these minerals, man must descend into the depths —the very bowels of the earth— to bring these materials out. But all the while, as we burrow and dig and tunnel, the earth moves and shifts, gases and liquids move through it.

There is a special meaning about mining to my family. Mother’s cousin married a miner; a decent and hard-working man, living in a town where the mine was the only work. Determined that their only son should not have to be a miner also, they sacrificed everything to send him to college. Graduating in a recession, the only work the new engineer could find was . . . in the mine.

The son’s job was only temporary, but in a mine fire, he was “among the 18 miners trapped in the accident, which took the lives of all of them”. Something inside those two broke that day, but his father was back at work a week later. The family had to eat, and we —the public— needed heat and lights.

Deep, deep beneath the surface where the temperatures soar, man’s efforts are puny in relation to the surrounding forces. In deep water pressures can mount to thousands of pounds, while deep under the earth the pressure is measured in thousands of tons. Human creativity has made mines remarkably safe; pumping gases and water out and fresh air in, monitoring ground movement, electronic alarms, extending lights and phones into the depths. But reality does not change; despite our best efforts mining will never be ’safe’ the way most other jobs are.

So in early 2006 we paid attention when there was a catastrophic explosion in the Sago Mine. The same chunk of coal that took my cousin decades ago now killed a dozen people. But I noticed something different, something that became more apparent a few months later. Just 3 months and three days later, an explosion in a southern West Virginia mine killed 29 employees.
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How the Taliban is winning in Winchester, Virginia

Wednesday, 25 November 2009 by Jim Patrick

One of terrorism’s goals is to change the way people operate by making the public fear common, everyday things. But who ever dreamed they would make the police scared of eggs?

Police shut down Winchester’s downtown mall for almost two hours in order to summon bomb experts when an egg was found ‘with a threatening message’ the police insisted they couldn’t ignore.

Eggs had been placed around the mall. In planters, resting on statues, from one end of the mall to the other. One of the eggs had ‘asian porn made me do it’ written on it. A mall store-owner found an egg on their store’s doorknob threw it out without incident. But none of that mattered to police as they irrationally closed the area.

It was the egg that specifically said ‘this is a pipe bomb’ which raised or heightened our senses to take all necessary precautions and to treat it as if it was actually a pipe bomb.” –Sgt. Lahman

Sorry to disappoint, but it was an egg, not a pipe, and therefore not a bomb. But Winchester police —already unable to use common sense— were also unable to use logic either. They roped off the area.

Winchester used to have a great police department. They had one of the greatest interrogators in the state; a guy so empathetic that criminals literally looked him up to confess. Winchester PD boasted having one of the only pre-1980 terrorism experts in the nation.

Now the department is reduced to the idiocy of acting like eggs are pipes and pranks are terrorism. Heads should roll for this stupidity. While they cut into shop hours and scared off some shoppers, they also were wasting taxpayers and not protecting the rest of the city. Just as bad, with the wasted time spent on the scary egg, now there will have to be an investigation to justify the police department’s security theatre, and some pranksters might face felony charges.

Until some officers are punished and policies changed, the real terrorists are winning in Winchester, Virginia.

Hatip to the Northern Virginia Daily

PS – Yes, the flag at the courthouse was flying upside down too. It may have been the pranksters, but more probably local citizens hoping to be saved from a police force gone brain-dead.

Assumptions, assumptions and more assumptions

Sunday, 27 September 2009 by Jim Patrick

A 1990 study of winter births claimed compulsory school laws improved test scores, increased later earnings, improved health and lengthened life. It was nonsense, based on assumptions that weren’t true and never investigated.

Children born in the winter months already have a few strikes against them. Study after study has shown that they test poorly, don’t get as far in school, earn less, are less healthy, and don’t live as long as children born at other times of year. Researchers have spent years documenting the effect and trying to understand it. —Wall Street Journal

Joshua Angrist of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Alan Krueger of Princeton University wrote the original paper. The problem isn’t so much that they missed blatantly obvious and critical data —which they surely did— it is that the tiny differences in tests, earnings, health and lifespans were translated in government enforcement.

It is accepted as truth in government circles that compelling longer amounts of school is good for people; that making children stay in educational institutions more time is ‘for their own good’. Krueger is now an assistant Treasury Secretary, and Angrist is writing books about verifiable social measurements.

“Variation in education that is related to season of birth arises because some individuals, by accident of date of birth, are forced to attend school longer than others because of compulsory schooling. . . .

Our results provide support for the view that students who are compelled to attend school longer by compulsory schooling laws earn higher wages as a result of their extra schooling.” —Does Compulsory School Attendance Affect Schooling and Earnings? Joshua Angrist & Alan Krueger; emphasis in original

Yet the foundation of their studies is rotten. Angrist and Krueger assumed the backgrounds of children born in the winter are the same as children born in other seasons; therefore something external happens to ‘winter-babies’ that accounts for poor outcomes.

Then, a gigantic “Oops!” when a couple of other researchers found a single overlooked factor . . . the babies’ mothers.

While researching sibling behavior, Daniel Hungerman noticed that families tended to have seasonal births. Unrelated to that, Kasey Buckles —in an office across the hall from Hungerman— was investigating multiple births, and found an apparent pattern between birth seasonality and mothers’ education.

While chatting together, the two realized they may have found a significant answer to “Why ‘winter-babies’ have poor outcomes”. After reviewing data on almost every US birth over a dozen years they found an answer: ‘Winter babies’ have statistically poorer and more disadvantaged outcomes because they have statistically poorer and more disadvantaged beginnings.

Seasonality of births

The percentage of babies born to teenage, unwed, teenage, and high-school dropout mothers peaks in January every year. We know (statistically) that children of teenage mothers do less well in school, have poorer health, lower incomes, and reduced lifespans compared to the general population. We know the same is (statistically) true of children of unwed mothers, and the same is also true (statistically) of HS dropout mothers. Yet all three factors coincide and peak in January of each year.

When economics giant Daniel Hamermesh selected Buckles and Hungerman’s paper for an upcoming conference presentation he said

“I love the paper. It means you have to think about things more than you want to think.”

It also means people —or the government— shouldn’t act on the basis of assumed facts.

More reading:
Angrist and Krueger’s original paper
Buckles and Hungerman’s paper (2008)
Wall Street Journal

Trickle Down ‘Waternomics’

Thursday, 24 September 2009 by Jim Patrick

leakchartConservation is generally a good thing, whether it’s conserving energy, material, or water. So I was pleased by this card on water conservation distributed by DCWASA; the DC Water and Sewer Authority. The handout had tips to find and repair water leaks, along with simple explanations of plumbing. The brochure even had some leak-detecting dye tablets attached, for determining if a toilet tank is leaking into the bowl.

What really caught my eye was a chart of household water leakage and the corresponding monthly gallons from each type of leak. From steady drips to streams, the amount of water wasted by leaks can add up to a lot of water in a month.

At the low end, the pamphlet lists 100 drops a minute. That shouldn’t be considered ‘slow’ in my opinion, but it isn’t extremely fast either; it’s the the tempo of disco’s Staying Alive.

But the Water Authority’s point about leaks is valid, a small trickle —over time— can add up to a lot. Except . . . . well, except when it’s DCWASA itself; then the amount of lost water and sheer waste dwarfs any losses caused by consumers.

2008dec23There is May 06, 2008, where a 20-inch main, three separate 8-inch mains, a 16-inch main in SE, and a 6-inch connector all broke. More water was lost that one day than if every household in the District left a faucet running wide-open for five months.

The same year on November 25, one 16-inch main line, a 12-inch, and an eight-inch main all broke; eleven million gallons per minute were wasted until those three breaks were repaired.

Then in December, 135 million gallons per minute — so much water, so fast it carried boulders away and knocked cars around. One month later, another 25 million gallons per minute was flooding streets.

In the end, the waste of drinking water is primarily caused by the DC Water and Sewer Authority and its aging infrastructure, not it’s consumers.

2009jan22This is important to Virginians —and vitally important to those in the Shenandoah Valley— because we get penalized for the District’s failure. Washington DC is the driving force behind EPA and DEQ regulations imposed on Valley farms and towns.

Under the guise of ‘Save the Bay’, strict controls on water quality have been ordered in the Shenandoah Valley, yet little (if anything) has been done to upgrade Washington’s failing overflowing sewer plants that discharge back into Chesapeake Bay. It appears the true purpose of ‘pollution’ mandates on Virginians has been to reduce or minimize the District’s water treatment costs at its intakes.

When water is wasted and lost by the very people charged with its care and distribution, those who kept the water pure at its source here in the Shenandoah Valley should be upset and demand better handling from metropolitan users. Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) regulations reduce pollutants, but also act as limits on growth; not just population, but restrictions on new industry, economic opportunity, and increased agriculture.

There is a cost —a real and human cost— when water drips from a District faucet, and that cost multiplies when the water spews from negligence or disrepair of pipe infrastructure.

Give us this day . . .

Sunday, 13 September 2009 by Jim Patrick

Dr. Norman E. Borlaug
March 25, 1914 – September 12, 2009

Borlaug in wheat
Norman Borlaug, food crop agronomist, humanitarian, Nobel laureate, and father of the ‘Green Revolution’, has died. Borlaug’s remarkable lifetime efforts fed millions of less fortunate around the world and continue to inspire everyone concerned with hunger and malnutrition.

Dr. Borlaug’s favorite saying was “Reach for the stars. You will never touch them, but you may get a little ‘star dust’ on your hands.” Indeed. His legacy includes billions of lives saved from the horror of starvation.

Norman Borlaug not only developed highly productive crops, but assured that small, third-world farmers had access to markets, agricultural knowledge, machinery and credit, fertilizers, and food storage. That in turn increased demand for machine production, education, roads, electricity, health care, and the whole range of infrastructure needed for modern civilization. Borlaug literally changed the world.

Borlaug’s accomplishments in multiplying food crop productivity earned him the 1970 Nobel Peace Prize in addition to a host of other awards and recognitions for his lifetime of devotion to feeding the earth.

Borlaug’s wife, Margaret Gibson Borlaug, preceded him in March 2007. At the loss, I extend my condolences to his daughter Jeanie Borlaug Laube and her husband Rex; son William Gibson Borlaug and his wife Barbie; and to his five grandchildren and six great-grandchildren. Peace be with you.

Borlaug’s success led to other results —‘farmland loss’ from unneeded and marginal farms, increased national park and monument areas, increased suburbanization and ‘sprawl’, even illegal immigration from countries whose populations no longer starve to death. That Norman Borlaug was successful, and we failed to prepare for or deal with these results, is not his fault.

One consequence of Borlaug’s work is almost all of our nation lives in urban areas insulated from agricultural reality. Less than two percent of Americans has a clue about our sustenance; what makes food, where it comes form, what is required, or how it is produced.

Many people remember but few can connect the actuality to the words, “Give us this day our daily bread”. For most of the world, Norman E. Borlaug’s work —his lifetime— was an answer to that prayer.

Norman Borlaug –Wikipedia
Billions Served –Reason Magazine
The Man Who Saved More Human Lives –Reason Magazine
Forgotten Benefactor of Humanity –The Atlantic
Norman Borlaug: The Legend –AgBio World

BrownBailout.com and Conservatives for Rent

Friday, 17 July 2009 by Jim Patrick

The story is heating up about the American Conservative Union (ACU) switching course in a dispute between FedEx and UPS . . . after FedEx declined an offer to ‘donate’ $2 or $3 million to the ACU in order to launch a grassroots campaign.

At the heart is a lobbying effort by UPS to have FedEx subjected to the same labor regulations as UPS currently is. A trucking based carrier, UPS operates under the NRLA; while FedEx is subject to the Railway Labor Act (RLA) since it primarily relies on air transport.

Soon after UPS started the lobbying, at ACU’s request FedEx administration met with them, and ACU then sent them a letter suggesting a $2.1 to $3.4 million donation to fund a campaign opposing what FexEx is calling the “Brown Bailout.”

FedEx is concerned (rightly) about changes in labor law that would require enormous changes in personnel, materials, regulations, training, routes, schedules, and other areas. Any company would be concerned about their bottom-line, and FedEx opposition is reasonable. The ACU position that changing the law is handing unprecedented power and control to large labor unions is also reasonable, and the UPS-proposed change would add to clout the Teamsters, the nation’s largest trucking union.

FedEx thanked the conservative group, but declined their offer. Two weeks later, FedEx got a letter decrying their use of the term ‘brownbailout’, signed by representatives of numerous other ‘conservative groups —including ACU’s president David Keene— complete with the groups’ logos.

So when FedEx claimed that UPS was seeking a government bailout, we were prepared to jump all over another wasteful government program. But after looking into FedExʼs claims, we realized that FedEx was not telling the truth. UPS was not seeking any taxpayer funds — only regulatory reform that would insure equal treatment of both companies under our nationʼs labor laws. . . . What FedEx falsely and disingenuously labels a bailout is merely UPS asking that the government treat both competitors the same. –letter to FedEx

In fact the term ‘bailout’ means “A rescue from financial difficulties” . . . at least according to the American Heritage Dictionary that these ‘conservative’ failed to consult. UPS is trying, through the government, to get more business by causing FedEx costs to go higher. It would be a providential stroke —for UPS— if that happened.

To be precise and pendantic, if anything it is our government that is incorrectly using the term ‘bailout’. That should be no surprise to anyone. What is surprising is the string of ‘conservative organizations’ signed up to extort FedEx.

Rent-seeking is par for the special-interests course, but switching positions is not. The ACU has issued a press release denying any switch in their position, but their president Keene’s name and their logo is on that letter. If the ACU is honest, their only honorable course is to fire president Keene (after obtaining an apology) for signing the letter and using their logo.

The same applies to the other ‘conservative groups’ that signed: Frontiers of Freedom, Americans for Tax Reform, 60 Plus, Citizen Outreach, Small Business & Entrepreneurship Council, and the National Taxpayers Union.

This type of soft-extortion or coercion has no place in ethical organizations. [Spit]

Hat-tip to Politico

“Do as I say, not as …”

Wednesday, 15 July 2009 by Jim Patrick

Interesting juxtaposition; while the President of the United States lectures Africans on what makes good government, the leader of his own political party closes public restrooms for ‘not enough tax’ . . . while refusing to audit the state’s transportation department. Hmmm.

No country is going to create wealth if its leaders exploit the economy to enrich themselves … or if police - if police can be bought off by drug traffickers. No business wants to invest in a place where the government skims 20 percent off the top … or the head of the port authority is corrupt. No person wants to live in a society where the rule of law gives way to the rule of brutality and bribery. That is not democracy, that is tyranny, even if occasionally you sprinkle an election in there.” —President Obama, (speech in Accra, Ghana)

Governor “No-Potty-Breaks-For-You” Kaine; showing what his Party will do when they can only skim 36% off the top.

Hat tip to Don Boudreaux

Politicizing the Court

Wednesday, 15 July 2009 by Jim Patrick

If those aren’t liberal credentials, nothing is:

Carmack Waterhouse Professor of Constitutional Law at Georgetown University Law Center. AB, Chicago; JD, Harvard. After graduating from Harvard Law School in 1971, Professor Seidman served as a law clerk for J. Skelly Wright of the D.C. Circuit and U.S. Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall. He then was a staff attorney with the D.C. Public Defender Service until joining the Law Center faculty in 1976.

Louis Michael Seidman:

Louis Michael Seidman“Speaking only for myself (I guess that’s obvious), I was completely disgusted by Judge Sotomayor’s testimony today. If she was not perjuring herself, she is intellectually unqualified to be on the Supreme Court. If she was perjuring herself, she is morally unqualified. How could someone who has been on the bench for seventeen years possibly believe that judging in hard cases involves no more than applying the law to the facts? First year law students understand within a month that many areas of the law are open textured and indeterminate—that the legal material frequently (actually, I would say always) must be supplemented by contestable presuppositions, empirical assumptions, and moral judgments. To claim otherwise—to claim that fidelity to uncontested legal principles dictates results—is to claim that whenever Justices disagree among themselves, someone is either a fool or acting in bad faith. What does it say about our legal system that in order to get confirmed Judge Sotomayor must tell the lies that she told today? That judges and justices must live these lies throughout their professional carers?

Perhaps Justice Sotomayor should be excused because our official ideology about judging is so degraded that she would sacrifice a position on the Supreme Court if she told the truth. Legal academics who defend what she did today have no such excuse. They should be ashamed of themselves.” —Seidman

The professor is absolutely right; the nomination system is corrupted, and there isn’t a single point of time when the break-down began. But there is one measureable point; the point of no return, the point where there is no turning back:

Robert Bork’s America is a land in which women would be forced into back-alley abortions, blacks would sit at segregated lunch counters, rogue police could break down citizens’ doors in midnight raids, schoolchildren could not be taught about evolution, writers and artists would be censored at the whim of government, and the doors of the federal courts would be shut on the fingers of millions of citizens for whom the judiciary is often the only protector of the individual rights that are the heart of our democracy. - Senator Kennedy

That speech was given 45 minutes after the nomination. When the left went beyond any reasonable opposition and attacked a nominee, when Joe Biden —now our Vice President— created the Biden Report that left us with the word “bork” (borking, to bork) in the dictionary, meaning to savage, to vilify, to defame.

That was the point of no return. And yes, we will now have a lying, perjuring, morally unqualified Justice . . . or she’s just plain stupid. One way or another, America lost, ‘thanks’ to Biden, Kennedy, and their party.

You should have seen it coming.