Archive for the ‘Big Dumb Government’ category

Preventing Cyber Bullying?

January 25, 2009


I think the idea of legislating away bullying is ridiculous. The existence of the disease is doubtful, and the cure is far, far worse. Everyone has at some time been the victim of a bully, nearly everyone has been a bully, and with no criminal sanctions to mar our records, we all ended up fine. It’s just a lousy part of being a kid, not something we need state laws about.

Today, of course, we also have “cyber bullying.” Kids using the internet to bother other kids. The horrors. Why little Billy sending little Johnny a text message saying he’s going to get him after schools is somehow worse than telling him face to face, as was the case in my day, I don’t know. Why little Johnny can’t delete messages from the bully, I don’t know either. Why we can’t solve this ‘problem’ the same way we’ve solved bully problems for centuries (attentive parents and teachers and perhaps fists), I don’t know. Really, what I don’t know is why this is a big deal. To me, anyone who gets worked up about this is just as goofy as anyone who gets worked up over bad language on television. In either case, if you are offended, turn the media off.

Of course, as local attorney M. Samantha McCallister points out, we do have a terrible example of cyber bullying to use as emotional justification for all kinds of over-reaching and unnecessary laws:

The 2006 death of 13-year-old Megan Meier prompted Missouri lawmakers to update a state harassment law so that it now covers bullying and stalking done through electronic media, like e-mails or text messages. If you are not familiar with Megan’s story, a former friend (along with help from other classmates) of Megan Meier created a fake Myspace page for a boy named “Josh” and began messaging Megan regularly, with the intentions of beginning a relationship with her. One day, “Josh” wrote to Megan that “the world would be a better place without you” and other mean-spirited messages. Megan’s mother discovered Megan hanging in the closet with a belt around her neck.

Tragic case, no doubt. But Megan Meier had a lot of problems in addition to the cyber bullying. Also, there’s nothing that occurred over the internet that the same a**holes could not have done using pens and paper or the telephone. In other words, this could have happened even without those wicked old interwebs.

It’s also one case. A horrible situation, but still only one. Yet look at what this one terrible combination of unique events has led to:

Missouri’s law prompted several other states to create laws and policies against “cyber bullying.” In 2007, the Arkansas legislation passed a law allowing school officials to take action against cyber bullies even if the bullying did not originate or take place on school property. The law gave school administrators much more freedom to punish those individuals who sought to harass their fellow students.

The progressive state of Oregon really delves into the details of cyber bullying. The laws passed in recent years in Oregon expand the boundaries of what constitutes cyber bullying to include those actions which “substantially interfere” with the education of the young person.

Vermont has added a $500 fine for cyber bullying offenses to their already stringent laws on the matter. There is currently a bill being discussed that would increase the reach of the school’s powers regarding cyber bullying when the action puts the individual’s ability to learn (or health and safety) at risk.

Other states with new policies for cyber bullying include New York, Rhode Island, New Jersey, Iowa and Idaho.

Do you really want some principal to have the authority to fine you or your kid if that principal thinks your kid is somehow interfering with the education of another student. Even if it occurs competely off the school campus? Think about it for a second. Think about how kids talk to each other, even to their friends. Consider how you acted in school.

Then consider what a reasonable, calm, and rational person the average school administrator is. We’re about to entrust the War on Bullying to school administrators. Think about how well they’ve handled the War on Drugs:

A 13-year-old Arizona girl who was strip-searched by school officials looking for ibuprofen pain reliever will have her case heard at the Supreme Court. . . .

The case involves Savana Redding, who in 2003 was an eighth-grade honor student at Safford Middle School, about 127 miles from Tucson, Arizona. Earlier that day the vice principal had discovered prescription-strength ibuprofen pills in the possession of one of Redding’s classmates. That student, facing punishment, accused Redding of providing her with the 400-milligram pills.

The school has a zero-tolerance policy for all prescription and over-the-counter medication, including the ibuprofen, without prior written permission.

Redding was pulled from class by a male vice principal, Kerry Wilson, escorted to an office and confronted with the evidence. She denied the accusations.

A search of Redding’s backpack found nothing. Then, although she had never had prior disciplinary problems, a strip-search was conducted with the help of a school nurse and Wilson’s assistant, both females. According to court records, she was ordered to strip to her underwear and her bra was pulled out. Again, no drugs were found.

In an affidavit, Redding said, “The strip-search was the most humiliating experience I have ever had. I held my head down so that they could not see that I was about to cry.”

Anti-bullying laws, especially those attempting to prevent the cyber variety, may or may not prevent another case like Megan Meier’s. They will certainly lead to dumba** busybody administrators doing the equivalent of strip-searching 13 year old honor students looking for an aspirin. Given the choice between handling a bully and dealing with an overreaching principal on a righteous power trip, I’ll take the bully every time.

Preventing bullying isn’t that hard. Certainly nothing requiring government intervention. All you have to do to solve the cyber bullying is turn off the computer. As for real bullying, well we could all take a lesson from Ralphie . . .

“I certainly respect the Constitution, but we have some issues that are much bigger than the Constitution.”

January 15, 2009

Was that George Bush defending his national security tactics?

Nope. It was Jackson, Mississippi mayor Frank Melton after . . .

The City Council voted 4-2 against a plan Tuesday that would have made it unlawful for people to wear pants below the waistline exposing their underwear.

The council members who voted against the saggy-pants ban said it likely was unconstitutional.

When Shreveport passed it’s version of this dumbass ordinance, at least the morons on our council who supported it defended themselves by saying they thought the ordinance was constitutional. Melton, though, says the issue is bigger than the Constitution. In other words, he is saying that regulating how people wear their pants is more important than the Constitution; even if people have a right to wear their pants however they please, the city ought to ignore that right and arrest them anyway. Preventing carpenter cracks is so crucial that we can ignore all of our most basic and fundamental rights in order to do so.

That sound like a trivial thing to you? It shouldn’t. But if it does, check out all the other ways Melton’s “respect” for the constitution manifests itself. That sound like a city in which any rational person would want to live?

Louisiana Schools Once Again To Attept Teaching Creationism In Science Classes

January 14, 2009

The legislature passed a law last summer allowing teachers to bring “supplemental materials” into the classroom when it’s time to discuss the origins of life or evolution. Sounds innocuous enough.

But that’s the idea. The groups who supported it are the same ones who have been trying for years to get creationism into science classes, only to lose court challenges on establishment clause grounds. Rather than change the substance of their beliefs, they just keep renaming them in hopes the disguise will fool people. First it was intelligent design, now it’s “critical thinking.” As if science teachers are currently encouraging anything else.

Anyway, some people on the state board of ed have some sense, and wanted to at least prevent lawsuits by adding regulations letting teachers know that they could NOT use materials which taught

“creationism or intelligent design or that advance the religious belief that a supernatural being created humankind.”

Alas, this being Louisiana, education officials with sense are in the minority, and that language was excluded from the final regulations.

The board was most swayed, however, by state Education Superintendent Paul Pastorek’s argument that the language was unnecessary. “I’m satisfied that you cannot teach creationism or intelligent design” with other language in the rules, he said.

A provision stating “The materials shall not promote any religious doctrine, promote discrimination for or against a particular set of religious beliefs or promote discrimination for or against religion or nonreligion” is directly from the law and covers the issue, Pastorek said.

Wrong, Superintendent. The fuzzy language on which you rely is nowhere near as good as the precise – and constitutionally correct – language you rejected. The regs adopted are not going to provide enough warning and some backwoods teacher is going to read this story and bring her Sunday School book to her science class because of it. Maybe the school will be sued. (If so, it’ll lose.) Maybe not. What will certainly happen, though, is plenty of children will have a much worse science education than they would have absent this law and these fuzzy regs.

The List Of Successful Pot Smokers

November 8, 2008

The latest propoganda from the Office of National Drug Control Policy tells teens they’ll never get a job if they smoke pot. That, of course, is total bulls**t. In response, Radley Balko has this challenge:

Here’s my challenge to Agitator readers, bloggers, and others:  In this comments thread, let’s compile a master list of admitted pot smokers—current or former—who not only haven’t ended up as heroin junkies or burnouts, but have gone on to lead successful lives.  If the person is famous, include a link.  But feel free to add yourselves and what you do now, too, if you fit the criteria.  School teacher?  Cop?  Stay at home mom?  Grad student?  Count yourself in.  You can leave out your name if you like.  Or include it.  Either way.

Balko kicks it off with the following:

Barack Obama, president-elect.  Bill Clinton, 42nd president of the U.S.  John Kerry, U.S. Senator and 2004 Democratic nominee for president.  John Edwards, multi-millionaire, former U.S. Senator, and 2004 Democratic nominee for vice president.  Sarah Palin, governor of Alaska, 2008 Republican nominee for vice president.  British Home Secretary Jacqui Smith, Transport Secretary Ruth Kelly, and and Chancellor Alistair DarlingJosh Howard, NBA all-star.  New York Governor David Paterson.  Former Vice President, Nobel Peace Prize winner, and Oscar winner Al Gore.  Former Sen. Bill Bradley, who smoked while playing professional basketball.  Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich, and former New York Governor George Pataki. Billionaire and New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg.

The comments section to his post is up to about about 250 additional people. Some famous, some not. Everything from chemists to founding fathers to economists to athletes to musicians. I could add a school teacher I know who has run three marathons, rides his bike about 125 miles a week, and was a lawyer who graduated in the top ten per cent of his class from law school.

The point is that smoking pot isn’t by itself going to interfere with a person’s ability to have a successful career. Getting caught smoking pot will. The harm isn’t caused by the drug; it’s caused by the people who don’t like the drug. There’s probably a lot of people who would have been on this list, if they had not had their lives stolen by drug warriors.

Hey Republicans, Want My Vote Back?

November 7, 2008

Stand up to Barack Obama and Rahm Emanuel’s assault on the 13th Amendment.

I value time much more than I do money; that’s a big reason I switched from being a lawyer to being a teacher. So while taxes don’t really bother me a lot, requiring people of any age to spend their time volunteering (oxymorons, anyone?), would have this independent voting straight Republican faster than you can say Palin 2012.

If That’s Merit Pay, I’ll Remain A Slacker

October 14, 2008

Our parish received a decent chunk of change from the governor that we’re supposed to use for a merit pay system. That’s all I know. I do not know if we were told how the system should work, or if the design and implementation was up to our local authorities. I do know the system we have is worthless.

Why? Because rather than making the extra pay depend on individual performance, it depends on the entire school. Each school that makes its yearly performance goals (test scores and attendance) receives a share of the award. It does not matter how well an individual teacher’s students do, if the school overall fails there is no merit pay. Making rewards depend on teamwork is great for team sports. Education is not a team sport. Sure, we can have meetings, and we can teach across the curriculum, but in reality, little to nothing the history teacher does is going to help the students improve math scores. And of course, every second the English teacher worries about science is one less second the English teacher is worrying about English. In other words, keying the pay to school performance creates incentives for no one. There’s nothing practical I can do that would help “the school” meet its goals. There’s nothing I have not been dong that I am now going to do because I have a potential financial reward. I can’t even think of anything.

Other than, of course, doing my best to teach my own students my own subject. But if that’s the best way I can help “the school,” then it would be a lot more efficent to key the merit pay to my success or failure in my part of the school’s success. The connection would be direct. The likelihood that teachers would receive the pay would go up. That would spur better work next year, too, as other teachers saw the reward first hand. But, alas, the education world being what it is, we’d rather exist in fantasy land and dream about teamwork than deal with reality.

But Republicans Are The Party Of Small Government

October 8, 2008

Used to be, but no more:

McCain’s pledge to have the government help individual homeowners avoid foreclosure went considerably beyond the $700 billion bailout that recently cleared Congress.

“I would order the secretary of the Treasury to immediately buy up the bad home loan mortgages in America and renegotiate at the new value of those homes at the diminished value of those homes and let people be able to make those payments and stay in their homes,” he said.

How much would it cost? Who cares about those details, there’s an election to win. Why should people who bought homes they could afford now be forced to help irresponsible people get new terms? Because John McCain needs to win an election.

I hate this idea. No one ought to be forced to rescue all the idiots who spent too much on their homes. And that’s what it is. The money doesn’t come from a tree. You and I are forced to contribute it via taxes. And every dollar spent helping someone who knew when they bought their home that they could lose it, is one less dollar spent on roads, or national defense, or any of the other thousand things the federal government ought to be doing.

But this post is not slamming John McCain or the bailout so much as all the dummies out there who will vote Republican this year because they think Republicans are the party of small government and fiscal responsibility. If you believe that they are, you have either been asleep for the last eight years, or else you are on the party payroll.

That’s not to say the Democrats would be better; just that some people need to update their stereotypes and realize we do not have a party dedicated to free markets, individual freedom and personal responsibility. Well, not one that can get on ballots, anyway.

House Renews My Faith In Government

September 29, 2008

It said no to the bailout. I’m glad, not so much because of the substantive result, but because of the ridiculous process that led to the vote.

As I understand it, there are two main groups responsible for the big crisis. One is the idiots who bought houses via adjustable rate mortgages that, even before the rates increased, probably cost them half their income every month. The second is the crooks who sold those craptastic mortgages and then re-sold them as securities.

As far as I am concerned, both groups are getting what they deserve and can go piss up a rope. The people in the homes knew the rates could go up. These people gambled and now they are losing. They can pay the price; I’m not. They want sympathy, they can look in the dictionary between spit and syphilis. As for the financiers, they knew those mortgages were highly likely to fail, so if they relied on them as assets, that’s their problem. Now that those assets are worthless, I hope all of the financial people end up living under park benches begging bread.

That’s my understanding. I may be wrong. These two groups may be less blameworthy, or the blame may reach more people. Or the impact may reach more people. The damage might even hit people like me. Folks who bought houses for way less than the amount of the mortgage for which they were approved. Folks with no credit card debt. Folks who drive used cars so they can avoid credit cards. Folks with savings. You know, half way responsible people.

The problem is, all I’ve heard for the last few weeks is generalized fear mongering about “the economy” and the need to trust Our Fearless Leaders with unfettered control of almost one trillion dollars. Sorry, I do not care about “the economy;” I care about me and mine. And no one has clearly explained to me how the crisis will hurt us. Even if it will, I am still not going to trust any one person to handle all that money. There should have been way more accountability in that bill.

In other words, if someone could have calmly and clearly explained how the problems could hurt more than just the people who deserve it, and then proposed a solution that addressed the problems in a manner that ensured as little of my money would be wasted as possible, I’d have been much more willing to listen. As it was, I’m glad the bailout died.

Gingrich On The Bailout

September 22, 2008

Sleaze though he be, I agree with everything he says in this NPR interview about the $2,500 per person Wall Street bailout. And props to him for saying his own party is wrong on this issue:

Do you feel betrayed by the Bush administration and by the president?

Well, betrayed is too strong a word. I think what they’re doing is just wrong. And I think that it’s likely to fail and it’s likely to make the situation worse over time. And I think that [U.S. Treasury] Secretary [Henry] Paulson has shown almost no understanding of how a democracy operates. His initial draft would have given him $700 billion of your tax money with no oversight, no judicial review, no accountability. I mean, we’re not a dictatorship. . . .

But Mr. Gingrich, a lot of the Republicans in Congress seem to be saying this needs to go forward.

Well, I think they’re just wrong. I think we need to slow down, take a deep breath, hold public hearings, have experts testify, understand exactly what the agreement would be, where the money would go, how we would account for it. I don’t think the taxpayers should be socked for $700 billion for welfare for Wall Street. I think it’s fundamentally wrong, and I think that it is very likely to create a bureaucratic control of our financial system in a way that will cripple us for 20 years.

It’s little ironic to hear him complain about an executive branch “with no oversight, no judicial review, no accountability,” since that’s exactly what his party has tried to create over the last eight years. But at least now he gets to see that those powers can be used for things you don’t like, too.

Most Asinine Law Of All Time Declared Unconstitutional

September 16, 2008

It’s not Scotus, nor even a Louisiana court. Heck, it’s not even a decision that extends beyond the courtroom of the judge who made it. Still, it’s nice to know someone, somewhere, has some sense:

A judge in Riviera Beach has ruled a city law banning sagging pants is unconstitutional in the case of a 17-year-old who spent a night in jail for having his underwear exposed.

Palm Beach Circuit Judge Paul Moyle said Monday that the law is unconstitutional “based on the limited facts” of the case.

Authorities charged Julius Hart last week when an officer spotted him riding his bicycle with 4 to 5 inches of boxer shorts sticking out of his pants.

Sorry, but no matter ho cramped your view of the constitution, that law has absolutely no rational purpose. It is totally insane for a kid to spend a night in jail and have a criminal record because his underwear – not his ass – was showing. Good for this judge. I hope some of our judges will follow his lead when they confront Shreveport’s version of this stupid law.