Politics Archive

Friday, April 9, 2010

Response to Anti-Liberal Article by Gary Hubbell

Updated 2011-09-25

I've just been threatened with a lawsuit over this entry, because I included the full text of Hubbell's article. I thought the manner in which I was using it would have fallen under fair use, so I didn't think I was doing anything illegal. But, since this blog is just a hobby of mine, I don't feel like getting caught up in a legal battle over it, especially since I'm not an expert on copyright law. So, for the time being, I'm going to remove most of the quotes from Hubbell and leave my commentary. I am going to leave the first sentence from each excerpt, so that readers can follow along in Hubbell's original article. Certainly, this must fall under fair use.

For reference, here's the e-mailed threat that I received. I suppose I should mention that it's possible to spoof e-mails, so there's no guarantee this is actually from Hubbell.

From: Gary Hubbell [e-mail address redacted]
To:
Date: 24 Sep 2011, 10:21:29 PM
Subject: You have one day to remove my copyrighted content from your website

I will sue your stupid liberal ass for more than you ever knew you possessed if you don't remove my copyrighted content from your website at once.

If you don't believe me, contact your copyright attorney and see who's right and who is wrong. I know the law and you don't, you ignoramus.

It would be fun to go through with this, because you have defamed me, I can prove it, and you have violated my copyright.

tick...tick...tick...

Gary Hubbell, Broker/Owner
United Country Colorado Brokers
Hotchkiss, CO 81419

[contact info redacted]

On to the entry...


I got another e-mail forward that I couldn't resist replying to. The e-mail was basically just a copy of an article from the Aspen Times Weekly, Barack Obama has awakened a sleeping nation, written by Gary Hubbell.

Much of what this guy said was just outright wrong. Whether he's lying or misinformed, I'm not really sure. But considering that this is a monthly column that he writes for a paper, it doesn't really make much of a difference. He ought to have the sense of responsibility to fact check statements he wants in print.

Continue reading "Response to Anti-Liberal Article by Gary Hubbell" »

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

McLeroy Out

Woo Hoo!In yesterday's primary, the incumbent State Board of Education member, Don McLeroy, lost to the challenger, Thomas Ratliff. I can't say how happy I am that McLeroy is going to be off the BoE. Most of the news stories I've read about the primary bring up McLeroy's stance on evolution, which is certainly a major problem, but it certainly wasn't the only one. I've covered a lot of this recently, so I'll just direct readers to this blog entry for a brief summary of McLeroy's shenanigans (English standards, social studies standards, back door dealings, 'standing up to the experts'). Or, go read this essay from McLeroy's own site, where he downplays teaching children critical thinking skills. The election was close, though, so those of us in Texas will have to remain vigilent in future elections. But for the time being, we can breathe a little easier, knowing that there's one less kook affecting our children's education.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Texas Board of Education in NY Times Magazine

TEA LogoWhen I tell people from outside Texas what a bad board of education we have, I don't think they realize just how bad it is. They seem to think it's the general complaints about governments that everybody has. But the board of education down here really is horrible. I've blogged previously about the science standards (and again, and again), the language arts and reading standards, and the Chris Comer affair.

Now, there's a very good article in the NY Times Magazine describing their shenanigans in regards to the new social studies standards. I highly recommend this article. Here are a few highlights to wet your appetite.

Don McLeroy, a small, vigorous man with a shiny pate and bristling mustache, proposed amendment after amendment on social issues to the document that teams of professional educators had drawn up over 12 months, in what would have to be described as a single-handed display of archconservative political strong-arming.
...some activists decided that the time was right to try to reshape the history that children in public schools study. Succeeding at this would help them toward their ultimate goal of reshaping American society. As Cynthia Dunbar, another Christian activist on the Texas board, put it, “The philosophy of the classroom in one generation will be the philosophy of the government in the next."
McLeroy makes no bones about the fact that his professional qualifications have nothing to do with education. “I’m a dentist, not a historian,” he said. “But I’m fascinated by history, so I’ve read a lot.”

I'm not a doctor, but I stayed at a Holiday Inn last night.

McLeroy remains unbowed and talked cheerfully to me about how, confronted with a statement supporting the validity of evolution that was signed by 800 scientists, he had proudly been able to “stand up to the experts.”
Merely weaving important religious trends and events into the narrative of American history is not what the Christian bloc on the Texas board has pushed for in revising its guidelines. Many of the points that have been incorporated into the guidelines or that have been advanced by board members and their expert advisers slant toward portraying America as having a divinely preordained mission.
when Steven K. Green, director of the Center for Religion, Law and Democracy at Willamette University in Salem, Ore., testified at the board meeting last month in opposition to the board’s approach to bringing religion into history, warning that the Supreme Court has forbidden public schools from “seeking to impress upon students the importance of particular religious values through the curriculum,” and in the process said that the founders “did not draw on Mosaic law, as is mentioned in the standards,” several of the board members seemed dumbstruck.
One recurring theme during the process of revising the social-studies guidelines was the desire of the board to stress the concept of American exceptionalism, and the Christian bloc has repeatedly emphasized that Christianity should be portrayed as the driving force behind what makes America great.
Besides the fact that incorporation by reference [trying to tie the Constitution to the Declaration of Independence] is usually used for technical purposes rather than for such grandiose purposes as the reinterpretation of foundational texts, there is an oddity to this tactic. “The founders deliberately left the word ‘God’ out of the Constitution — but not because they were a bunch of atheists and deists,” says Susan Jacoby, author of “Freethinkers: A History of American Secularism.” “To them, mixing religion and government meant trouble.” The curious thing is that in trying to bring God into the Constitution, the activists — who say their goal is to follow the original intent of the founders — are ignoring the fact that the founders explicitly avoided religious language in that document.
What is wrong with the Texas process, according to many observers, is illustrated by the fate of Bill Martin Jr. The board has the power to accept, reject or rewrite the TEKS, and over the past few years, in language arts, science and now social studies, the members have done all of the above. Yet few of these elected overseers are trained in the fields they are reviewing.
To give an illustration simultaneously of the power of ideology and Texas’ influence, Barber told me that when he led the social-studies division at Prentice Hall, one conservative member of the board told him that the 12th-grade book, “Magruder’s American Government,” would not be approved because it repeatedly referred to the U.S. Constitution as a “living” document. “That book is probably the most famous textbook in American history,” Barber says. “It’s been around since World War I, is updated every year and it had invented the term ‘living Constitution,’ which has been there since the 1950s. But the social conservatives didn’t like its sense of flexibility. They insisted at the last minute that the wording change to ‘enduring.’ ” Prentice Hall agreed to the change, and ever since the book — which Barber estimates controlled 60 or 65 percent of the market nationally — calls it the “enduring Constitution.”

Those quotes are only a taste of the article. Go read the whole thing.

Friday, November 20, 2009

E-mail Forward - Obama's Reaction to Ft. Hood Shootings

I got another e-mail forwarded to me to research that hasn't yet been covered by Snopes. There is an official statement from one of the parties implicated in the e-mail, but the misleading nature of the e-mail makes people less likely to actually go to that organization.

The e-mail is about Obama's reaction to the recent shootings at Ft. Hood. It claims that Nidal Hassan was an advisor to Obama on homeland security, and that Obama has been quiet in his response to the shootings for this reason. As evidence, the e-mail provides a link to notes from a meeting that lists Hassan as a participant.

For the most part, this e-mail is false or misleading.

The link provided goes to the George Washington University Homeland Security Policy Institute (HSPI), not the federal government's Department of Homeland Security. The HSPI describes itself as follows.

Founded in 2003, The George Washington University Homeland Security Policy Institute (HSPI) is a nonpartisan “think and do” tank whose mission is to build bridges between theory and practice to advance homeland security through an interdisciplinary approach. By convening domestic and international policymakers and practitioners at all levels of government, the private and non-profit sectors, and academia, HSPI creates innovative strategies and solutions to current and future threats to the nation.

Nidal Hasan is listed in the pdf link, and this is the same Nidal Hasan responsible for killing the people at Fort Hood. However, he is listed as a participant, or in other words, an audience member. The presenters are listed earlier in the pdf, and Hasan is not among them. The HSPI has released a statement on Hasan's connection to the institute (currently available on their homepage). Here is the first paragraph of that statement.

In his capacity as Disaster & Preventive Psychiatry Fellow at the Uniformed Services University School of Medicine, Nidal Hasan registered ("RSVP'd') to attend as an audience member a number of Homeland Security Policy Institute (HSPI) events in the period June 2008 to February 2009. All of these events were open to the public. At no time has Nidal Hasan been affiliated with HSPI or The George Washington University.

So, Hasan was an audience member, or at least RSVP'd, for a meeting on homeland security organized by a university think tank. I think it's disingenuous to try to use that to try to show that Hasan was connected somehow with the president (other than the fact that as commander in chief, Obama was Hasan's boss, though removed by many levels of supervisors).

The full text of the e-mail forward is available below the fold.

Continue reading "E-mail Forward - Obama's Reaction to Ft. Hood Shootings" »

Friday, November 13, 2009

Crazy E-mail - Cash for Clunkers

CARS LogoI have a bit of a reputation as a skeptic among family and friends, so I end up getting a lot of e-mails forwarded to me just so that I can do the research on them. Usually, a quick visit to Snopes is enough to verify or debunk most, but the latest one I received on the Cash for Clunkers program wasn't covered by Snopes directly, so I had to do some searching on it myself. And as usual with e-mail, it was misleading (some might even say dishonest).

The e-mail argued that taking advantage of the program was a waste of money. Here's the math that's the core of the argument being made in the e-mail:

You traded in a car worth:    $3500
You got a discount of:        $4500
                            -------
Net so far                   +$1000
But you have to pay:          $1350 in taxes on the $4500
                            -------
Net so far:                   -$350
And you paid:                 $3000 more than the car was selling for the month before
                            -------
Net                          -$3350

First, they're making an assumption that your current car is worth $3500. There's no requirement in the CARS program that your car has to be a certain value. In fact, it could be relatively worthless. Here's a list of requirements from the government's CARS site.
http://www.cars.gov/faq

  • have been manufactured less than 25 years before the date you trade it in and, in the case of a category 3 vehicle, must also have been manufactured not later than model year 2001
  • have a "new" combined city/highway fuel economy of 18 miles per gallon or less
  • be in drivable condition
  • be continuously insured and registered to the same owner for the full year preceding the trade-in
  • Moving on ot the rebate value, it's actually variable - either $3500 or $4500, depending mostly on the difference in gas mileage between the new car and the trade in.
As far as taxes, Snopes did cover this one (it's addressed on the government's CARS site, as well). http://www.snopes.com/politics/taxes/clunkers.asp

The federal government won't tax you on it, but some states do. Still, it's not nearly as high as $1350. In Maryland, for example, the tax is the standard 6% excise tax, which is $210 if you got the $3500 rebate, or $270 if you got the $4500 rebate.

The inflated prices is something I can't speak to. I didn't find anything on it in 2 minutes of googling, but I didn't want to waste any more time on it. Given the tone of the e-mail and the errors cited for two of the previous figures, I'll go on record as being skeptical. Besides, it's still a case of caveat emptor. Every individual buyer can bargain with every individual dealer. If you think the dealer's trying to charge you too much, don't buy the car. It's as simple as that. (This inflated cost also has nothing to do with a buyer taking advantage of the CARS program. If someone was looking to buy a new car during that period, they had a choice of doing a straight trade in with their old car, or taking the rebate from the CARS program. Either way, the sales price of the car they wanted to buy was the same.)

This e-mail also left out one other source of money for the buyer - the scrap value of their old car. Here's what the CARS site had to say about that.

Do I get any money for my trade in vehicle in addition to the CARS credit?

YES. The law requires your trade-in vehicle be destroyed. The dealer must disclose to you the scrap value of your vehicle. The dealer is entitled to keep up to $50 of the scrap value for administrative fees. You are entitled to negotiate about who keeps the remaining scrap value. For example, you may use that money toward the price of your new car separate from the CARS credit.

So, one figure was a made up number pulled out of thin air (original value of car), another figure was a complete fabrication (tax), a third figure is uncited (inflated price), and another source of money was left out entirely (scrap value). Let's run through the calculation again, with some different numbers, assuming you're trading in a P.O.S. in Maryland. And even though the inflated price is uncited, we'll be generous and assume that it's actually a real phenomenon, and give it a value of $1000 (and remember, this effect would be present whether you performed a straight trade-in or took advantage of the CARS program).

You traded in a car worth:     $500
You got a discount of:        $4500
                            -------
Net so far                   +$4000
But you have to pay:           $270 in taxes on the $4500
                            -------
Net so far:                  +$3730
And you paid:                 $1000 more than the car was selling for the month before
                            -------
Net                          +$2730

So, in that situation, you'd still make out with almost 3 grand. Depending on the value of your trade-in vehicle, and whether car prices were actually inflated or by how much, there were probably cases where using the rebate made sense, and other cases where it didn't, but this e-mail didn't shed any useful light on the subject.

The full text of the e-mail that prompted this response is available below the fold (slightly corrected for formatting errors).

Continue reading "Crazy E-mail - Cash for Clunkers" »

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