Condom Conundrum

Liberal conundrum:

US Agency for International Development has distributed 10 billion US-made condoms around the world. To save money, they can switch to Chinese-made condoms. They’re less than half the price. But that will eliminate jobs in Alabama. Should the US government insert a “buy American” provision back into the stimulus bill, even though it’s known that protectionist trade policies hurt long term GDP? To save US jobs, it’ll cost more money and extend the recession.

Conservative conundrum:

What the *&#% is the US Government doing paying for 10 billion condoms?

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Roadside Hero

There are still men in America.

I live on North Street. You know how I get here everyday? I walk. Yep, that’s five miles round-trip. But there’s no sense in whining about that. What am I supposed to do; not go to work because I have too far to walk? I’m a man, and I have responsibilities. So I suck it up and act like a man. And that’s all I have to say.

Hope and Fear

Inauguration Day:

“On this day, we gather because we have chosen hope over fear, unity of purpose over conflict and discord.”

Today:

“This recession might linger for years. Our economy will lose 5 million more jobs. Unemployment will approach double digits . Our nation will sink deeper into a crisis that, at some point, we may not be able to reverse.”

NO TIME TO LOSE! DON’T READ IT, JUST PASS IT! PASS IT NOW OR WE WILL NEVER RECOVER! WE NEED THIS MASSIVE SPENDING BILL OR THE WORLD WILL END, CIVILIZATION WILL CEASE AND PUPPIES WILL DIE! DON’T READ IT! DON’T DEBATE IT! CATASTROPHE, DISASTER AWAIT UNLESS WE CONVERT TO MARXISM TODAY! TRILLIONS OF DOLLARS OF PORK ARE NEEDED IMMEDIATELY, OR WE WILL ALL DIE!!!!

Even if Obama is from Kenya, this is the largest Nigerian financial scam ever.

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Higher Paying Jobs

I had a conversation with a good neighbor and friend tonight, and one of the topics was job growth. Here in Houston, the job market has been terrible, and it’s apparent some jobs in some industries are not coming back. But I think this is looking at the economy through a pinhole – the US economy is picking up steam, adding jobs, and high paying jobs at that.

Some of these topics I’ve already covered. For instance, there have actually been jobs gained under the Bush adminstration, not lost. And that the economy is growing faster than it has in years.

Are these low paying jobs, as John Kerry’s claiming? The numbers don’t support that conclusion:

A new set of numbers from the Bureau of Labor Statistics actually shows solid growth in employment in relatively higher -paying occupations including construction workers, health-care professionals, business managers, and teachers, and virtually no growth at all in relatively lower-paying occupations including office clerks and assembly-line workers. It’s the most detailed breakdown yet — looking at 154 different job and industry groupings. These statistics are a FactCheck.org exclusive — supplied to us by BLS at our request and not previously published.

Another statistic often overlooked by Bush critics is that average earnings of rank-and-file private-sector workers have increased since Bush took office, though modestly. Even after adjusting for inflation — including the rising price of gasoline –those earnings are up just over 1% since January 2001, despite the recession and the initially slow recovery.

And InformationWeek says that the amount of jobs shipped overseas is greatly exaggerated – not only are more jobs staying here, but it’s the highest paying jobs that are here:

Not surprisingly, pay has increased for the most in-demand positions. Schafer cited some examples–average base salary for a programmer analyst moved from $131,000 last year to $172,500 this year while a business-application delivery manager saw his salary increase from $91,000 to $116,500.

The most sought-after IT specialists remain in senior levels, where pay premiums remain the highest. Senior-level staff in highly technical positions remained the highest paid. Conversely, Schafer found entry-level hiring remained stubbornly static.

As for outsourcing, Schafer found that it, too, has generally been suffering with the slowly recovering economy. Asking survey respondents for the first time for information on offshore outsourcing, the Meta survey revealed that only 20% are currently sending work offshore.

And Bush’s economy for his first 3 years is remarkably better than Clinton’s first 3 years, or have we forgotton?

Economic Growth Comparisons between Clinton and Bush 1st 3 years

That’s not to imply some industries haven’t been hit hard – telecommunications, for instance – but the overall economy is in fine shape and poised for even better growth. Kerry’s going to have to find something else besides the economy to harp about.

Valid Criticisms and Polite Discourse

In any disagreement, there’s a way to have a polite discourse. Once you’ve resorted to name-calling, the effectiveness of the argument is lost. For instance, I feel calling Michael Moore a liar is valid as long as I have evidence he is purposefully misleading people. I see some bloggers calling him “fat”. While that’s true, it has nothing to do with the argument. Peter Jackson is also fat, yet many people loved the “Lord of the Rings” movies. The weight of the director in either case shouldn’t come into play.

When the NAACP said the Republicans “idea of equal rights is the American flag and the Confederate swastika flying side by side,” it’s crossed over the border of ideas and into the realm of insults. “Confederate swastika” invokes images of slavery, concentration camps, slaughter of people based on religion, etc. Is there any truth that Republicans want slavery to return when Condoleeza Rice, Colin Powell, and Rod Page are in Bush’s cabinet? Are we rounding up people of certain ethnicities and gassing them to death? Of course not – so this is “partisan rhetoric” designed to inflame emotions. It should be denounced by both sides – partisan rhetoric leads to hate.

There’s nothing wrong with being partisan though. You can support Kerry if you wish, it’s perfectly American to support the candidate of your choosing. I’m supporting Bush, I think by far he’s the better person for the job.

I’ve criticized Kerry frequently; I don’t think he’ll be good for America. I think he engineered his 3 Purple Hearts for political gain, I think he straddles the issue of abortion for political gain. I think he’s trying to be both pro-war and anti-war at the same time. I think he flip-flops on a wide majority of issues for political gain – yesterday, the Washington Post quoted Kerry as pandering to the Jewish community when he’s spent years criticizing Bush’s policies and calling Arafat a “statesman”. But each of those criticisms comes with backup and sources to justify my opinion.

Can Bush be criticized in a civil manner? Of course he can. I don’t fault him for the deficit; I believe the recession was caused by a stock market bubble bursting (I don’t even fault Clinton for that), and that burst caused the drop in revenue and 9/11 made it worse, and the additional military spending was required to fight the battle. I *do* criticize him for additional social spending. I’m not sure Bush has actually run on a platform of fiscal conservatism; he’s generally been labeled a “neo-con” that favors spending on conservative issues, but I can still be critical of the Medicare spending and farm subsidies and steel tarriffs, etc. Kerry’s not a solution to those issues since he wants to spend a *lot* more. I saw New Gingrich (ok, so he’s not exactly bi-partisan) on Fox this week who counted Kerry’s promised social programs and said they added up to $2 trillion. Ouch.

The Iraq war is winding down; I don’t believe in criticizing a sitting President’s war-time decisions, but the Iraqis are sovereign again and questions can be asked. Did Bush lie, as some liberals have said? I don’t think so – Bush said Saddam had WMDs; not only have we found sarin, mustard gas, long range missiles, and enriched uranium, but the bipartisan 9/11 Commission unanimously said that Bush relied on CIA intelligence and didn’t force them to reach a specific conclusion. In fact most liberals themselves believed Saddam had WMDs before the war. Everybody did. To call him a liar, then, is again unfair partisan rhetoric. I’ve heard a liberal friend call it “Bush’s daddy’s little war” as though this was some sort of revenge. I think that’s delusional if you think that was the overriding reason the US went to war. Some liberals have tried to claim that Bush lied about Saddam’s ties to 9/11, but that is also untrue – Bush never claimed that; Bush only claimed that Saddam had ties to Al Qaeda, and that part is true.

Can you criticize Bush over his handling of the war? I think so; a valid criticism might center around his ability to sway European people to the US point of view. I wouldn’t subscribe to that point of view; I think it’s obvious now that the corrupt U.N. Oil-for-Food program and other oil service significantly affected France, Germany and Russia, and any attempt to shut down this corruption was going to cost them billions of dollars. I think Bush did a good job at trying to make his point at the U.N. based on the intelligence at the time, but France was *never* going to support us. It would cost them too much money.

If you’re pro-abortion, I think a valid concern would be Bush’s pro-life agenda. I’m pro-life and think that Bush’s agenda is more than acceptable, it’s about dang time. But if you’re pro-abortion, that would be an acceptable criticism. I don’t think Kerry’s much of a solution here, either – he says he believes in pro-abortion, he believes life begins at conception, and he believes he shouldn’t vote his beliefs. He’s voted Pro-abortion as a Senator from Massachusets, but with a Republican congress he’s likely to sign pro-Life bills anyway.

Is Bush a moron? The loonier liberals like to claim that, too, but that’s untrue. Bush’s wealth and family connections might have gotten him into fancy colleges, but all the connections in the world won’t get you a degree. He has a undergrad degree from Yale, a Masters in Business Administration from Harvard, and he can fly an F-102. He might not be the best speaker in the world, but he’s hardly a moron. Criticize his speaking abilities – but I don’t think Kerry’s got him beat there. Bush has malapropisms, Kerry’s boring as wood.

But any valid liberal criticism of Bush is lost in the vast wasteland of the liberal hysteria – Bush lied, he’s a Nazi, he’s racist, he’s blah blah blah. Liberals have the ability to make valid criticisms and Bush certainly has traits that could be criticized, but any valid criticism has been completely drowned out by partisan liberal hysteria. I look forward to the days that the ultra-left wing hysteria is replaced with a more rational but patriotic liberal. Rational disagreements are good for our country; calling the President a Nazi is not.

Texas Teachers Comparatively Well-Paid

Today’s Chronicle has a story from the Texas Classroom Teachers Association (TCTA, part of the ultra-liberal National Education Association) and the American Federation of Teachers (AFT, a union group, part of the AFL-CIO). Of course, reading the article you’d have no idea the NEA and the AFL-CIO were involved.

In fact, most Houston teachers would say, “Who?” when asked about AFT and TCTA. Houston teachers belong primarily to 2 groups, either the Houston Federation of Teacher (HFT) or the Congress of Houston Teachers (CHT). HFT is the local chapter for the AFT, and CHT is affiliated with neither; CHT is part of the more conservative Center for Education Reform (CER) that apparently wasn’t consulted for input to this article. Why is that, Chronicle? Why not consult the two local groups that Houston teachers associate? Why not show the relationship to the NEA and AFL-CIO? And why skip the conservative voice completely?

The story leads off with

AUSTIN – Teacher salaries in Texas rank significantly lower than the national average and 30th in the country, according to a study by the American Federation of Teachers.

Horrors! This is obviously a problem that must be rectified immediately! The story barely hints at trying to put this in context.

The first sentence should be the first clue: 30th in the nation is not “significantly lower that the national average.” 30th out of 51 (including the District of Columbia) nearly *is* the national average.

The story barely mentions in the last paragraph that the cost of living isn’t included, yet this is important when trying to put teacher’s salaries into perspective. For instance, Orange County, California is 33% more expensive to live in than Houston Texas. Teachers should be paid comparatively more in Orange County in order to maintain a similar lifestyle to Houston teachers. Salary alone without cost-of-living is meaningless.

How about state taxes? Texas has no state income tax; most other states do. Those teachers in typically pay 6-7% of their salary back to the state. If taxes are included, Texas’s ranking should improve. The Chronicle doesn’t even attempt to address this.

When compared to our neighbors, the story slants the facts again:

Texas teachers fared slightly better than those in neighboring states – Arkansas ranked 44th; Louisiana, 45th; New Mexico, 46th; and Oklahoma, 50th. The District of Columbia was included in the count; South Dakota ranked last at 51st.

“Slightly” better? It looks to be that Texas pays teachers considerably more than our neighboring states.

The average pay in Texas was $39,972 in the 2002-03 school year, compared to the national average of $45,771. Texas’ ranking did not change from the previous year, despite a 1.9 percent increase in average salaries.

“Texas historically has not kept pace with the rest of the nation on teacher salaries,” said Lonnie Hollingsworth Jr., director of governmental affairs for the Texas Classroom Teacher Association. “We move forward, then fall back.

There are no figures given to back up the statement that Texas “historically has not kept pace with the rest of the nation.” The 1.9% increase in pay should be looked at in a far more positive light; the country has been in a recession, yet teachers are still getting raises.

First-year teachers in Texas are in slightly better shape, with average beginning salaries ranking 17th nationally at $31,874.

The state has a minimum teacher salary scale, which starts at $24,240 for beginning teachers. However, most school districts set their own salaries well above the state minimum.

So being ranked 30th out of 51 is “significantly lower” than the national average, but 17th of 51% is only “slightly better.” This article gives the impression that the NEA and AFL-CIO are unhappy unless *every* state is ranked at the top of the pay scale, something that is just not possible to do.

The article should have addressed favorably the starting teacher salary. If state law only sets the minimum at $24,240 but districts are averaging $31,874, it appears that school districts have already provided competitive salaries to attract teachers. In the simplest of supply and demand systems, it appears to be working.

Teachers, of course, deserve our support for their efforts in educating our children, and I’m glad they received a 1.9% increase last year. That’s more than many private enterprises were able to give their employees this year. But the Chronicle isn’t doing any sort of diligent work to de-liberalize the unionist propaganda provided by the left-wing teachers unions. They just printed it practically as-is with no examination of the numbers included to see if the words surrounding them made sense.

So Chronicle, how about publishing a more upbeat article? One titled, “Texas teachers some of the best paid in the United States.” No, make that, “The World.” Take into account taxes and cost of living and compare Texas to our neighboring states. Make it a point to stress that even with the recession, Texas teachers received a raise last year. Point out that since school property taxes are going up for most homeowners at 10% a year, and teacher salaries are only going up 1.9%, that some sort of examination about where the rest of that money went would be in order. And if teachers are only going to get a 1.9% raise, then maybe the 10% property cap could be decreased to 1.9% to match.

Now *that* would be an interesting story.

Happy Bush Country

Ben Stein – of “Win Ben Stein’s Money” – has penned an excellent, upbeat article in “The American Spectator.” Based on his travels in the vast center of this country, he sees an optimistic America that likes the direction America is going.

Despite the setbacks in Iraq, despite the long slow pullout from the recession that began in 2000, there is a happy mood in the country — we’ll get through whatever the problems are now, things will be better tomorrow, and for right now, we’ll all laugh about it together or maybe cry about it, but together, and the fact that we’re together will make it better.

He sees pockets of negativity, and vocal they may be, they’re don’t speak for middle America:

There are pockets of constant complaining. The big cities of the east and west coasts, especially among people who make their living be complaining, are not so happy as North Idaho. Whole large swaths of the population who rationalize their own failings by thinking of themselves as victims, especially in big cities and heavy coffee drinking centers, have their own clubs. Those brotherhoods specialize in pessimism and anger as they spend the money they have inherited or receive as allowances from family, state, or university. The malcontents live on their frustration and envy of the people who are actually out there accomplishing things. That envy rises like the steam from the coffee and lattes they are endlessly drinking.

I’m 99% sure I would have never won Ben Stein’s money. Occasionally I’d know an answer he didn’t, but they were few and far between. I hope I get the opportunity to hear one of his speeches for myself.