Saturday, September 3, 2011

Obama's Jobs Record

Courtesy of John Nolte, editor-in-chief of Big Hollywood, we have a very good graphic depicting Obama's record for job creation last month:

Friday, September 2, 2011

The Final Five: September 2, 2011

The Final Five: Bedtime Stories for Conservatives
September 2, 2011

Tonight's Crazy Story

Apple has apparently lost its prototype for the iPhone 5 at a San Francisco bar. If this sounds familiar, it could be because this is not the first prototype iPhone to disappear at a bar. The iPhone 4 disappeared last year at a bar and was then sold to a technology blog for $5000. So far, there is no word on any potential sales of this prototype.

Tonight's Final Five:

Obama is expected to propose a hiring tax credit again. This proposal would give employers a tax credit for every new employee hired. However, the President has already proposed this idea--twice--and each time, both parties lined up to oppose it.

Obama won in 2008 on catchy phrases such as "yes, we can." However, Obama's phrases have evolved into ideas like "I need more time." Dave Boyer at the Washington Times asks is this the message that will resonate with voters?

Pressing the Pause Button...
To bring some laughs.
"After pressure from Republicans, President Obama moved his big jobs speech from Wednesday to Thursday night. Obama gave in when he realized something important: He could just TiVo 'Jersey Shore.'"
-Jimmy Fallon, 8/31/11

Now Back to The Final Five

After seeing the NRLB oppose a new Boeing plant in her state, South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley argues that the NRLB should be abandoned. Hot Air has the story.

The new "super committee" will begin meeting once Congress returns from the August break. At least seven of the twelve members will have to support any proposal, meaning at least one from each party will have to support it. Because of this, there is talk of a "grand bargain", but is that really what American wants or needs? Economics21.org breaks down why a stalmate might be best for the country.

This President has blown through cash faster than any other, claiming that it is for "investment" in our economy. However, too much of the cash has been fast-tracked without real analysis of the "investment." Donald Lambro brings another home run on the Washington Times to The Final Five.

Tomorrow in History: September 3
September 3, 1944 - Anne Frank, known for her diary written during the Holocaust, was placed on a train to Auschwitz. She would arrive three days later."

Food For Thought - A Bedtime Snack
"Can the liberties of a nation be sure when we remove their only firm basis, a conviction in the minds of the people, that these liberties are a gift from God?"
-Thomas Jefferson

Pentagon Leads in No-Bid Contracts

General Petraeus retired this week and gave a warning to the government to not cut the military like it did following the Vietnam war. While I agree that large cuts should be avoided, given the current budget deficits and economic climate, everything--the military included--needs to be put on the table. Given the size of the Pentagon budget, there is certainly room for at least a little belt tightening.

Wired shows one area that could use some belt tightening. According to its report, almost 40 percent of military contracts are awarded without a bid. All other executive departments report much lower percentages for their no-bid contracts. In one instance mentioned in the article, a contract that was initially given to one company was eventually awarded to a different company, excluded from consideration, during a competitive bid process.

We are entering a time of economic and financial uncertainty. If we are going to gain control of our country's finances, we must find ways to cut, and increasing competition for government contracts is one way to make sure jobs are done at a reasonable price. Despite its claims, the Pentagon certainly needs to carry its share of budget cuts, and allowing for more competitive bidding will allow the military to absorb some of those cuts without affecting its job.

Restoring Competition in Education

There have been several stories about education recently. Instead of commenting on them individually, I've decided to lump them into one post.

One of the articles deal with teacher pay. According to a report by the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development, the US is ranked 22nd out of 27 countries studied for teacher pay. The average salary for a teacher is less than 60% of what college graduates make in the workforce. By contrast, many countries pay 80% to 100% of the average to their teachers.

It is pretty obvious that education will not improve unless teacher quality improves, but we cannot attract large numbers of qualified people to education without raising teacher pay. Education Secretary Arne Duncan has proposed raising the average starting teacher salary to $60,000. While I think that is a little high for a job that does provide two months off each year, I do agree that teacher pay needs to be improved.

The article goes on to state that the highest-achieving countries recruit all of their teachers from the top third of their class, but America only gets 23 percent of their teachers from this group. While there are people in this group who would not make good teachers or who have no interest in teaching, there are plenty of people who would consider it if their pay was more in line with what they would make in a similar field in the private sector. I understand that this is not the greatest time to be proposing salary increases for the public sector, but America's education system will not improve until we improve the quality of our teachers.

Another article from the New York Times discusses New York's new teacher evaluation system. Under the current plan, teachers in New York will be evaluated on both classroom performance (60 percent) and student achievement (40 percent). Of the student achievement measures, half would be based on state testing and half on other measures determined by the school district.

A similar system was suggested on this blog over the summer. With too much emphasis placed on state-mandated testing, we will likely have results similar to the debacle in Atlanta, where teachers are accused of holding parties to change test results for students. Test results should be a part of the process, but other factors need to be considered as well. Announced and unannounced observations would keep teachers accountable to their administrators. Administrators can also learn a lot about a teacher by watching a teacher though the window in the classroom door. Finally, parental feedback can also provide evidence of a teacher's quality. None of these factors should stand alone in a teacher evaluation, but combined, they will provide clear evidence of the ability of a teacher.

Finally, another article defends the tenure system for teachers, claiming that it is necessary for academic freedom. The tenure system is great for college professors. It allows them to conduct research and publish conclusions without fear of reprisal for challenging "pillars" in their field. For example, when everyone believed that the world was flat and at the center of the universe, a professor who attempts to scientifically challenge the theory and argue that the world is a sphere that revolves around the sun would still be protected.

However, teachers in the K-12 system will not be engaging in "groundbreaking" research. Therefore, the tenure system only serves to muddy the waters when a teacher is fired for other reasons. The teacher can come up with some reason to claim that he was fired for his academic ideas rather than whatever reason, and unless the school district has strong evidence to the contrary, the teacher usually ends up winning. The tenure system should be replaced by an evaluation system that rewards the teacher for quality rather than longevity.

Ultimately, America's education problems can be solved with one word: competition. If parents have the right to enroll their child in multiple schools, the better performing schools will receive the most students and the under performing schools will eventually be forced to close their doors. This will force schools to improve the quality of the education they provide or face the loss of students. Competition will allow parents, who have the greatest interest in seeing that their children receive a proper education, to have a greater say in public education.

White House Creates Online Petition Site

The First Amendment guarantees the right to petition, but thanks to computers and the internet, that right is getting a makeover. The White House has announced the creation of an online petition page where members can start a petition and pass the link on to others. According to the site, any petition receiving 5000 signatures in 30 days will receive an official response from the administration.

For once, I commend the Obama administration for doing something innovative. This is a great way to involve the younger generation in the political process, regardless of ideology. I do have some concerns: for example, since it is impossible to tell how many signatures have been collected, petition signatures could be "conveniently lost" to avoid the need to respond or to reduce the appearance of popularity for a petition. However, if implemented fairly, it is a great way to open the political process to new ideas from all Americans.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

The Final Five: September 1, 2011

The Final Five: Bedtime Stories for Conservatives
September 1, 2011

Tonight's Crazy Story

The National Geographic World Atlas iPhone app has some competition at the top of the "Reference" category for apps: the Obama Clock. This new app (available in the app store for 99 cents) allows users to monitor Obama's approval rating, economic numbers, and days left in office.

Tonight's Final Five:

Rick Perry has been criticized for calling Social Security a Ponzi Scheme. However, Michael Tanner at National Review comments that it's not just a Ponzi scheme, but it's worse than a Ponzi scheme. At least with a Ponzi scheme, people get to choose where to invest their money.

Obama is set to propose his new jobs plan next Wednesday--I mean--Thursday. However, Donald Lambro warns in a Washington Times column that no economic growth will take place until Obama fixes the fundamental problems with our economy, and he cannot fix them without upsetting the people who elected him.

There's always time for a quick break...
For a joke
"The Justice Dept is trying to block the merger between AT&T and T-Mobile. It’s only fair because AT&T keeps blocking the mergers between me and the people I try to call."
-Jimmy Fallon, 8/31/11

Now Back to The Final Five

Jerry Jasinowski, former president of the National Association of Manufacturers, writes on the Huffington Post that America suffers from the lack of a quality workforce. He argues that in order to change this, we should focus on giving employers the resources to properly train employees for the jobs they will perform. While I do not agree with the government intervention he proposes, his column does provide some great insight into why employers, especially in manufacturing, are sending jobs overseas.

Although the left wants to paint Rick Perry's foreign policy as a "reckless cowboy plan," Perry's own statements show that he will be slow but decisive in his dealings with other nations.

An Op-Ed by Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) uses two examples to make the claim that EPA Regulations violate our Constitutional rights. This comes as the EPA is considering four new regulations that would each cost the economy at least $1 billion per year. (There are also three additional $1 billion regulations from the Department of Transportation.)

Tomorrow in History: September 2
September 2, 1901 - At the Minnesota State Fair, Vice President Theodore Roosevelt spoke the famous phrase, "Speak softly and carry a big stick."

Food For Thought - A Bedtime Snack
"Any people that would give up liberty for a little temporary safety deserves neither liberty nor safety."
-Benjamin Franklin

NYPD Secretly Tracked Muslims In New York

Fox News is reporting that the NYPD secretly created an intelligence program to track Muslims. The report says that undercover officers visited public locations in Muslim areas in order to monitor sentiment and look for indicators of criminal or terrorist activity.

While this undercover activity may sound like a good way to prevent crime, it also sounds like a good way to encroach freedom. Intentional eavesdropping without a warrant or reasonable cause should not be permitted by the police, CIA, or any other governmental agency. Police certainly have the right to listen while both on and off duty, and they should report suspicious behavior or conversation. However, on-duty officers should not be sent on "intelligence missions" without following Constitutional procedures.

Alcoholic Truckers?

The Heritage Network is reporting that the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has filed a suit against Old Dominion Freight Line alleging that alcoholism is a disability protected under the Americans with Disabilities Act. The EEOC's suit claims, "...an employer’s concern regarding safety on our highways is a legitimate issue, an employer can both ensure safety and comply with the ADA."

If a truck driver has an alcohol-related accident, the company will be held liable, especially if the company was aware of the driver's alcohol problem. However, the company now has no recourse to fire a driver who reports an alcohol addiction. At the current rate, expect to see the EEOC sue for a disabled man's right to drive a truck without a right leg.

925 Days

Business Startups At 25-Year Low

The Huffington Post has a report that the number of startup companies among the unemployed have hit the lowest rate since polling began in 1986. In the second quarter of 2011, only 2.5 percent of the unemployed had plans to start a new company. In the 2002 recession, this rate was as high as 9.6 percent. However, this also reflects a decline in the total number of self-employed people: from 10 million in 2007 to 8.6 million four years later.

The article attributes this to the lack of available money for startup businesses, and that certainly could be part of the problem. At the height of the financial crisis when money was supposedly "dried up", the pastor of one of America's largest churches said that he had banks offering him loans because of the church's strong credit reputation. The cause of the problem is not lack of money, it is the lack of ideas. I remember a consultant for startup companies once saying in a college business class that funding is always available for those with a solid business plan. People are more content to sit back and claim unemployment rather than experiment with a new company. If we are going to get America back on a positive financial course, we must restore ingenuity and the entrepreneurial spirit to America.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

The Final Five: August 31, 2011

The Final Five: Bedtime Stories for Conservatives
August 31, 2011

Tonight's Crazy Story

If somebody offered you an iPad for $300, and then dropped the price to $180 when that was all the cash you had, would you take the deal? One woman did, and then discovered her new gadget was actually only a block of wood with the Apple logo. I like one of the closing lines in this article: " you swipe the screen of your new iPad and get a splinter, you may have gotten duped."

Tonight's Final Five:

The US is spending billions of dollars on wind energy development, but other nations are backing out of the wind energy idea. 410 organizations from 21 European Union countries have united to demand a moratorium suspending wind farm projects.

Medical care is oftentimes based off of statistics. For example, a procedure successful 80% of the time is attempted while a procedure successful only 30% is often dismissed. Under the new healthcare law, medicine will likely become even more statistically driven. Dr. David Katz analyzes the need for personalized care in medicine.

Taking a Break from the Countdown...
For some laughs.
"The storm was huge news. In fact, The Weather Channel reported something they hadn’t seen in years: viewers."
-Jimmy Fallon, 8/29/11

Now Back to The Final Five

Jimmie Bise Jr. from Fixing Spending breaks down the numbers supporting the balanced budget amendment.

Although Perry has received attention for some of his recent statements, he's actually right. Peter Wehner from Commentary Magazine defends Perry's claims.

Jonathan Last writes a Weekly Standard column discussing Obama's lack of response to major events. Obama finally arrives in the gulf area following the BP oil spill, but first wants to talk food stamps. Japan gets hit with one of the largest earthquakes in history, but Obama goes golfing. Last breaks down the source of the problem.

Tomorrow in History: September 1
September 1, 1985 - A joint expedition of American and French researchers located the wreckage of the Titanic.

Food For Thought - A Bedtime Snack
“The foundation of our national policy will be laid in the pure and immutable principles of private morality...”
-George Washington

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

The Final Five: August 30, 2011

The Final Five: Bedtime Stories for Conservatives
August 30, 2011

Today marks the debut of three new features on The Final Five. Each night we will begin with a crazy or humorous story, and we will finish with "Tomorrow in History" and a quote from our founding fathers in addition to our usual late-night joke.

Tonight's Crazy Story

A woman was arrested at Los Angeles International Airport after being found with two endangered birds stuffed into tube socks. Perhaps she was trying to smuggle the birds, or maybe she was just trying to bring Angry Birds to life. In another unrelated incident, a man was arrested at Miami International with snakes and turtles underneath his clothing.

Tonight's Final Five:

In a column on Bloomberg, Jonathan Alter issued a challenge to prove that Obama has been a bad President. (You can read his column here.) Commentary Magazine's Peter Wehner takes up Alter's challenge.

The United States is struggling because of its reliance on a service-driven economy as opposed to a manufacturing-driven economy. Susan Hockfield writes an Op-Ed in the New York Times to analyze how we can revive American manufacturing.

We Interrupt This Broadcast...
For some humor.
"Hurricane Irene wasn’t that bad. In fact, it was downgraded to a tropical storm. Even our hurricanes are getting downgraded. Maybe Irene owed money to China too."
-Jay Leno, 8/29/11

Now Back to The Final Five

Jon Kraushar from Fox News analyzes how Texas--and America--would fare if Obama and Perry switched places.

What does Karl Rove have in common with Nancy Pelosi? Curt Anderson writes an Op-Ed for Politico discussing why the left and right are both attacking--and afraid of--Rick Perry.

President Obama has just about exhausted his supply of progressive Keynesian ideas to stimulate the economy to a strong recovery. However, he can't change course now and upset the progressives that put him in office just before the election.

Tomorrow in History: August 31
August 31, 1997 - Princess Diana passed away following injuries sustained in a car accident early in the morning. Her driver and a companion were also killed in the accident.

Food For Thought - A Bedtime Snack
“Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.”
-John Adams

California Bill Would Ban Styrofoam Containers

Gawker has a report about a bill before the California legislature would ban restaurants and other food vendors from distributing food in Styrofoam containers. Sen. Alan Lowenthal introduced the bill, claiming that the containers are the most abundant form of debris found in sewers and streets.

This is a classic "ignore the problem and take away freedom of choice" response from the left. Instead of solving the problem of littering, California tries to ban containers that make up the greatest percentage of littering. However, the litterers who throw the Styrofoam container on the ground will also throw a paper bag, a cardboard box, or whatever container is chosen to replace the Styrofoam ones on the ground, necessitating additional laws to deal with the litter of those products.

We're Waiting for Obama's Jobs Plan--From 2010

CNSNews has the video of an August 29, 2010 interview on NBC where President Barack Obama stated that he would present a jobs plan when he returned from his vacation. However, in the month following this statement, Obama only proposed one concrete proposal: eliminate the capital gains tax on small businesses, a proposal that failed to make it through Congress. (A revised version that applied to a few businesses was passed as part the compromise extending the Bush tax cuts.) So if you're waiting for Obama's "new" jobs plan that is supposed to be released soon, you might be waiting a while.

Here's the video where he promises a 2010 jobs plan:

Flight School Admission Made Tougher

FOX News has a report on the tougher admission standards for flight schools following 9/11. Some students and even instructors have to go through rigorous background checks that are designed to weed out potential terrorists, but the background checks do not apply to everyone.

Although I understand why there is a strong interest in improving security at flight schools, it seems that singling out flight schools is not a way to do it. The terrorists accomplished what they did on 9/11 not by breaking rules, but by mostly staying within them until the mission demanded otherwise. We could make it impossible for a terrorist to gain access to a flight school, but the terrorists will go to another country or most likely, find another way to accomplish their mission without flying aircraft. Instead of increasing standards to get into flight schools alone, perhaps our government should focus on ensuring that no school, regardless of its fields of study, is providing education for potential terrorists.

Roger Williams for Congress

Roger Williams is running for Congress in Texas. His campaign recently put out a YouTube ad that has gotten attention. Some have said that he is comparing Democrats to donkeys. Watch the video and decide for yourself.

The "Semi-Conservative" Mayor of Chicago

Having lived near Chicago for a large part of the reign of Mayor Richard Daley, I was very glad to hear of his retirement. However, I thought that the front-runner and eventually winner in the race to fill his seat, Rahm Emmanuel, would do nothing more than perpetuate Daley's failed policies. However, as Emmanuel approaches 100 days in office, The Economist has an article showing that nothing could be further from the truth. A few of the facts pointed out in the article:
  • He has stuck to his pledge to not raise taxes during his first year.
  • He cut $75 million from the city budget on his first day in office.
  • He cut even more from the budget at his first city council meeting.
  • He demanded that union leaders change their contract to reduce overtime and benefit costs.
  • When the unions refused, he laid off 625 employees and privatized their jobs.

I would still be highly unlikely to support Emmanuel in any election. However, the actions he has taken as mayor show that he is a problem-solver who is willing to do whatever it takes to get the job done, even if it means standing up to his party's biggest supporters (the unions). His decisions are setting the course for Chicago to become fiscally stable, and he might just be the most conservative mayor the city has had in the past few decades.

Monday, August 29, 2011

The Final Five: August 29, 2011

The Final Five: Bedtime Stories for Conservatives
August 29, 2011

Tonight's Top Five:

Gallup took a poll of the most hated industries in America. "Big Oil" ranks high on the list, but the "industry" at the top should not be a big surprise. View the Huffington Post's slideshow countdown and find out what America hates more than oil companies.

Bill Peacock at the Texas Public Policy Foundation analyzes the real state of Texas's economy. Short of a visit, this might just be the best way to find out what's really happening in America's 2nd-largest state.

Movenbank founder Brett King describes how Steve Jobs and Apple changed the banking industry. Article from the Huffington Post.

An article on RedState discusses the need for Congress to be able to vote on executive regulations. A bill in Congress called the REINS Act would do exactly what is proposed in this post.

Not too long ago, Warren Buffet called for raising taxes on the rich. However, his company's annual report shows that it has not paid its taxes in almost a decade. The Blaze has the coverage on this story.


Finally...
Tonight's joke:
"Obama said the housing market may not pick up again for another year or longer. On the bright side, President Obama now has nine people interested in his house."
-Conan O'Brien

Romney Downgrades Presidential Rating

CNSNews has a video of Mitt Romney stating that he gives President Obama a DDD Rating: standing for Debt, Downgrade, and Delay.


Blog Problems

Over the weekend, some problems developed with this site. I was out of town and unable to address the issues, and upon returning, was unable to figure out the problem until earlier today. It appears that it was the HTML code in some posts that were creating these problems. Those posts have been removed and will be put back up after the code has been fixed. Thank you for your understanding, and please feel free to e-mail the blog address: admin@defenseoffreedomblog.com


However, be sure to check out the new Blog News page linked above and on the side. This page will provide updates dealing with the blog itself that is not related to freedom.