Gay Marriage Debate Even More Complicated In UK

A new thorn in an already thorny debate: if the Queen marries a woman, and produces a child via insemination by a third party, will that child succeed her on the throne? Keep in mind, only natural, legitimate children can succeed the throne. What if the party providing the, um, issuance were royalty in another country. Would the child be required to renounce any foreign titles? The House of Lords is debating these matters now.

No Homeschooling in Wisconsin.

According to the department of public instruction, there is no homeschooling in Wisconsin. Rather, there is “Home-Based Private Education Program Enrollment”. Seeing as homeschooling and “Home-Based Private Education Program Enrollment” are exactly the same thing, why not just call it homeschooling?

I once saw a sign that proclaimed a UW-Madison as a “Large Animal Holding Facility”. Winston Churchill once broke out into song on the floor of Parliament singing: “Mid pleasures and palaces though we may roam, / Be it ever so humble, there’s no place like a Housing Unit”.

Does anyone know any other bureaucratic phrases for things that have perfectly good normal names?

Unions should be for workers, not executives.

America has a long history of unions. Many early unions were started by immigrants. These unions were more than bargaining units: they were social centers. They were places were new immigrants could learn about America and where those who had been here for a while could reminisce about the old country. They were the blue-collar answer to the upper-class social clubs.

How much things have changed! Very few unions have a strong ethnic component. In fact, most have diversity clauses that prohibit them from forming any strong ethnic identity. Employees attempting to unionize can be denied certification for lacking diversity. Gone are the days of the “Italian Workmen’s Club”.

Unions aren’t very blue-collar anymore. Many unionized employees work for the government. The government doesn’t have many blue-collar jobs. They employ doctors, lawyers, engineers, teachers, and accountants, but not many truck drivers or bakers. Where else besides the government is a Harvard educated lawyer going to belong to a union? The Federal government has something called the Senior Executive Service which employs former business executives. They help run departments and agencies when the political appointees don’t know what they”re doing. They have their own union: The Senior Executives Association. Yes folks, we now have executives unions!

In Wisconsin, it is illegal for a teacher to serve on the school board she works for. There are no prohibitions against former teachers, or teachers from other districts. Many school boards have members who teach in neighboring districts. This means the school board members are also members of the unions they are negotiating with. Unions should represent workers. As it says in the good book, “No man can have two masters”. Executives should represent shareholders. School board members should represent citizens. Unions should represent members. Its not that complicated.

Foreign policy wisdom from an unlikely source.

In 2002, President Bush issued a document called “The National Security Strategy of the United States”. Say what you want about Bush, but the opening words are the perfect description of what American foreign policy should be:

“The great struggles of the twentieth century between liberty and totalitarianism ended with a decisive victory for the forces of freedom and a single sustainable model for national success: freedom, democracy, and free enterprise. In the twenty-first century, only nations that share a commitment to protecting basic human rights and guaranteeing political and economic freedom will be able to unleash the potential of their people and assure their future prosperity. People everywhere want to be able to speak freely; choose who will govern them; worship as they please; educate their children male and female; own property; and enjoy the benefits of their labor. These values of freedom are right and true for every person, in every society and the duty of protecting these values against their enemies is the common calling of freedom-loving people across the globe and across the ages.

“Today, the United States enjoys a position of unparalleled military strength and great economic and political influence. In keeping with our heritage and principles, we do not use our strength to press for unilateral advantage. We seek instead to create a balance of power that favors human freedom: conditions in which all nations and all societies can choose for themselves the rewards and challenges of political and economic liberty. In a world that is safe, people will be able to make their own lives better. We will defend the peace by fighting terrorists and tyrants. We will preserve the peace by building good relations among the great powers. We will extend the peace by encouraging free and open societies on every continent.”

Assault Weapons Ban Won’t Work.

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Barack Obama is trying to renew the ban on assault weapons. This is a mistake. The assault weapons ban that was active from 1994 to 2004 had little effect on crime. Not only are assault weapons used in a small portion of crimes, that ban was full of loopholes and proved unenforceable. The proposed ban is no better.

Most gun crimes are committed with “informally” obtained handguns. Handguns are easy to conceal and dispose of. They are also easier to steal and smuggle. Assault weapons are larger, heavier, more conspicuous, and impossible to conceal. While assault weapons may be able to fire more rounds, most criminals only need a 1 or 2 shots. In fact, the mere presence of a gun is often enough. Assault weapons are often used in mass shootings, but mass shootings are very rare. 151 people died from mass-shootings in 2012. In contrast, 410 men died of breast cancer in the same year.

The previous ban on assault weapons did not reduce crime, nor did it ban all assault weapons. Assault weapons already owned were grandfathered in. One reason that sales in assault weapons have risen since the shooting in Connecticut is that people want to buy them while they still can. These weapons will not be confiscated.

After the previous ban, gun manufacturers produced guns that complied with the law, but were equally deadly. These newer versions were marketed under the same names used before the ban. Therefore we do not yet if know the AR-15 used at Sandy Hook was an assault rifle. If it was made between 1994-2004, it is not. If it was purchased prior to 1994 or after 2004, it is an assault rifle, but would not be included under the previous ban. In addition to the plethora of legal “legacy” assault weapons, foreign gun makers kept importing assault weapons into the US. Without expensive, rigorous screening, there is no way to determine if an imported weapon is as assault weapon.

The new ban on assault weapons is symbolic, but the money it spends is real. That money could be spent on caring of the mentally ill, running drug rehab programs, mentoring for at-risk youth, training people for jobs or a host of other programs that have been shown to prevent crime.

Acts of God: Kindness in the Midst of a Blizzard

Over the last two days, a blizzard hit Madison. There was tons of snow, gales of wind, icy roads, and whiteouts. I tried to drive to work this morning, but got stuck in a snow drift. Yesterday, I didn’t bother trying.

As is often the case, there was a blessing mixed in with this curse. You see, nothing brings out our neighborly spirit like a natural disaster, even one this small. I saw people digging their strangers cars out, helping stranded passengers, and checking on elderly neighbors. When I was stranded in a snow drift, at least six people stopped and offered to help.

Why do natural disasters bring out the best in people? Maybe it is because natural disasters are blameless events. With nobody to blame, there is nobody to attack. We have no enemy to fear, so we let down our guard. Or, maybe it is because the typical bureaucratic safety net has fallen through. We have to check on elderly neighbor, because there is no police officer or social worker to do it for us.

Maybe I’m wrong. Maybe natural disasters don’t bring out the best in us. After all, what about the looting during Hurricane Katrina? But, that’s not what I saw over the last 2 days. I saw a great people practicing their greatness.