Tuesday, December 8, 2009

The BCS system

I love college football. I went to school at LSU and have been a fanatic since I was a student. We get the "appropriate respect" when it comes to the rankings and the BCS, so this is not a selfish rant.

What really irks me is that a majority of FBS (Football Bowl Subdivision - formerly know as I-A) has NO shot at playing for the national championship. It's a farce. It's a power/money thing perpetuated by the schools/conferences in power.

Do I think that Boise State could hang in the SEC? I doubt it. My problem is that the answer to this question shouldn't be subjective. If there's a playoff and Boise State gets trounced in the first round, so be it. They'd get their shot.

As far as 2009, putting Boise State and TCU in the Fiesta Bowl is a complete and utter rigging of the system. These "David" teams are 3-1 in BCS bowls against the BCS "Goliath" teams since they were at least allowed to make a BCS bowl. Nobody wants to play them because it's a losing proposition. If you barely beat them or lose, it's an embarrassment. If you trounce them, it's a complete bore of a game against a team that shouldn't even be there.

So, these two potentially great teams are relegated to showing off their stuff to each other, proving nothing. Yes, they get to eat some pie at the big boy table and that's not insignificant. However, it's an insult to these programs and it's cowardly of the power brokers.

Big-time college football simply needs a real champion via a playoff system ... and soon.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Health Care

So, are you for letting people die when they could be saved? Do you want people to get cancer and not get any treatment?

Ah, the sensationalist questions that force you into socialized medicine...

We don't have a care problem in the United States. We have an affordability problem. Why do we have this problem? It's complex, but the simple answer is that market forces are not in play. Why is it that every product becomes better and cheaper over time except healthcare? Well ... care has gotten better, but it certainly hasn't gotten cheaper.

The problem is that what we have now is not a free market in any way. The consumer generally has no idea what things actually cost, so they don't use their dollars to choose. If a doctor visit costs somebody $200 out of pocket, I guarantee they would shop around a little. This competition would drive prices down and create markets for cheaper clinics to provide basic services at very little cost. If a prescription cost someone $500 out of pocket, the same thing applies. Pretty soon, routine visits and prescriptions would cost the same (or less) than current copays.

The current problem is really on those that don't have insurance. Because of the behavior of the majority that have insurance, the retail cost of all of these things is hundreds or thousands of dollars. If you don't have insurance, you just can't afford to pay for these things and you go without. This is where our heart strings get tugged on and we're led down the path of socialized medicine.

Solution? Get rid of insurance for day-to-day healthcare. Create a free market for treatments of colds, viruses, broken bones, and all other routine items. Insurance should focus on the catastrophic: cancer, failed organs, major diseases, etc.

If you want to talk to me about government programs for catastrophic insurance, then I'd be willing to listen. Otherwise, the government has no place in this market, other than maybe blowing up the current one to allow a real market.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Music preferences

I am someone who came of age in the 1980's. The 1990's ushered in adulthood. So, what does this mean in terms of musical taste? Frankly, I do not look back with much fondness at 80's music. There is definitely stuff I love from the 80's, but in general the synthisizer heavy stuff just doesn't work for me anymore. U2, The Police, Billy Idol, The Go-Go's, R.E.M., Prince, Tom Petty, Springsteen, Van Halen ... these all roll off the tongue with some staying power. I know many of these got a start in the 70's, but I'm speaking of their 80's work in particular. If I'm in the right mood, I can handle a lot of other 80's stuff, but not like I used to.

I'm finding myself much more nostalgic toward the 90's. I listen to it more in the car, on my iPod, etc. than anything else. It seems like this is fresher music to me, even though it's a decade old at a minimum: Pearl Jam, Nirvana, Alanis Morissette, Barenaked Ladies, Cranberries, Dave Matthews, Beck, Cracker, Cake, Foo Fighters, Green Day, Hootie, Jane's Addiction, Oasis, Smashing Pumpkins, Sublime, Sugar Ray, 311.

The 80's aren't even #2. I guess if I were to rank the past 50 years, it would be:


These music periods actually break down to me as:

50's rock -> Beatles on Sullivan -> Disco -> Punk/New Wave -> Nirvana -> Hip Hop pop integration (late 90's) -> Current

Friday, September 11, 2009

Polarization - idiots and hatred

This country has become insanely polarized. I thought it was bad under Reagan/Bush I, took off under Clinton, and got even worse under Bush II. Now, it seems to be at an all-time high.

As a libertarian and generally agreeable kind of person, I've befriended people with just about every point of view. I've been exposed to the general philosophies of most sides. Some I understand a little more than others, but I believe I get the gist of most points of view.

Contrary to the rhetoric, nearly all people I've talked to (that are at least somewhat educated about the issues) are NOT idiots. They're not Nazis, anti-American, racists, homophobes, anti-capitalist, anti-liberty, crusaders, anti-God, etc., etc., etc. They simply may just have different opinions than you. Yes, most of these people have a limited knowledge of the issues they are spewing about (including myself). It's nearly impossible to be well-educated about all of the various issues, but most people have a reasonable amount of intelligence and common sense.

Where people tend to differ is:

1) Base assumptions
2) The people they associate with
3) The information they read, watch, and listen to

Base Assumptions

Believing that government is good/bad or a solution/problem makes a big difference. Government has grown massively over the last century. Viewing this as a good or bad thing has seemed to divide the country at a pace similar to the growth.


We all like being around people that are like us. It's natural. It can be anything from religion to politics to skin color. Homogeny creates a reinforcement of your own thoughts and ways. However, it can limit the thought process. It can create a mob mentality of "we're right" when discussing issues. How can anybody think differently? All of these people around me all agree, so therefore it is valid.


Gathering information is how we reinforce what we think. We look it up, watch a documentary, read a book, watch the news. The only problem is that things like "the news" are not what they used to be. Most forms of information media are now entertainment masquerading as fact. What's even worse is that a lot of "news" now comes in the form of opinion-based TV shows, radio programs, and bloggers. Just like with our peers, we surround ourselves with information sources that are similar to our views.

Just remember that the media is too often trying to entertain, not educate, you. They're looking for market share. Even if the hosts are true to their beliefs, the people employing them are looking for market share and hiring people to entertain. What gets market share? It's things that are enticing to read/listen/watch.

Now people are getting their "facts" from sources that not only sensationalizes and reinforces singular tendencies, but then points to the other people and calls them all kinds of names. People start believing it because the person makes a lot of sense on other things.

Their peers do the same and this infomation is shared among the group. It is resetting some base assumptions and these are being passed to their children.

This is polarized America and it doesn't look like it will get better any time soon.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Medicare does not work - at least not like people think

As part of the current health care debate, one of the frequently used arguments is that Medicare works. People like their Medicare and they're getting treated. That sounds great, right?

Well, where does the money come from? Similar to Social Security, it comes mostly from the payroll taxes of those that are currently working. You won't pay the bulk of your Medicare plan. You've been paying for your parents' Medicare. Your children will pay your Medicare. The only problem is that if things continue, they won't be able to. Healthcare costs are rising too quickly and there won't be enough working people. Both Medicare and Social Security are simply Ponzi schemes. As long as there are enough working people to cover the required taxes, all is well (in terms of coverage and the balance sheet).

Money doesn't grow on trees. When the government provides a service, it isn't free. It's the trap of many social programs. Somebody else pays and you get the benefits.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Back to School

It's that time of the year again! This morning, I sent my kids off to the government schools for another year of education. Neal Boortz, a local and nationally syndicated talk show host, always tells me (via the radio of course) that this is akin to child abuse. While that's quite an extreme viewpoint, I do often think about the public schools and what they do for society.

For all the socialism talk these days, the public schools are exactly that - socialized education. Yes, they are community schools (at least here in Georgia) with a reasonable level of involvement by the parents. However, make no mistake that they are ultimately controlled at the Federal level whether it's through legislation or court decisions.

So is socialized education a success? Wow ... not an easy answer there! It seems like a timely question, given the current healthcare debate, but I digress.

Areas of success

  • It has provided a general education for the American public over the years. This baseline has contributed to the class mobility that has helped create opportunities for all.

  • It introduced standardization to the curriculum. This is generally a good thing. I think that a common baseline for curriculum has some definite benefits. The national knowledge spread with regard to age appropriate learning is generally a good thing. With the mobility of our society in the last couple of generations, this also creates a continuity for children moving from one school system to another.

Areas of failure

  • "All men are created equal" is a fundamental American philosophy. Well, all people are equal under the law, but they are not equal in capability. Schools used to, for lack of a better word, segregate their students by capability and/or behavior (among other things, but I digress again). Now, it's every child's right to be in a regular education class, regardless of their ability, performance, or behavior. This creates such a situation where teachers spend an inordinate amount of their time dealing with those students to the detriment of the others.

  • Even though it has some success tied to it, standardization becomes a crutch for limiting the possibilities for individual students. Teachers can treat their kids like a herd because of standardization (as well as class size and other factors).
  • The cost of educating a student is around $10,000 a year. If you do some simple math, 20 students (low number) multiplied by $10,000 gives you $200,000. If a teacher is getting paid $60-70,000 after all their benefits are included (government benefits aren't cheap!), that's a lot of left over money. Sure, the building, buses, textbooks, local administration, specialists, etc. all come into play, but to the tune of $130,000 per classroom? Can you say overhead?
  • Political correctness is a real problem. I'm an ardent supported of the separation of church and state, but is it really the intent of the Framers to pretend like religion doesn't exist? The amount of things that people have to and can't do because it might be offensive to someone is insane.

Final rambling

Think about the teaching profession for a second. Who goes into teaching now? Who went into teaching a generation or so ago? The following isn't going to be a call to change their choices or blame them in anyway, but the woman's movement caused a change in the caliber of teacher in the elementary and secondary education system. If you were a career-minded, intelligent woman in 1958, what were your standard possibilities? Teaching and nursing were both very high on that list. Now, it's virtually anything (glass ceiling is another discussion). So who is left in our classrooms (and at home when the children get home from school for that matter ... yet another digression)? The pay of a teacher versus a corporate vice president is laughable. Which career would you choose if you had the capabilities to do both?

Friday, April 24, 2009

What is America?

I think there are a lot of people confused in this country about what America is and should be about.
  • What does it mean to be an American?
  • What role does our government play?
  • What is the American culture?
  • How is it protected?
  • What is "The American Way"?
  • How does that apply to our government?

These questions just rolled off the tongue and I'll let these be the tangent of the day. :)

What does it mean to be an American?

There's a legal definition of course - being an American citizen. That's not what I'm getting at obviously.

What I'm talking about is how a citizen thinks about their country and their role as part of it. To me, it's a state of mind related to the principles of liberty and freedom. It's not the flag, the Pledge of Allegiance, The Star-Spangled Banner, etc. Certainly those are symbols of the country and things to be proud of. However, they are simply that - symbols.

An American should try to view the macro stance on an issue with regard to whether it upholds a test of freedom and liberty. It is perfectly ok to have a personal, even vehement, stance against an issue. If you believe in freedom, you should rise above personal feelings to evaluate it though. You should be willing to stand up for that freedom, even if you disagree with it.

What role does our government play?

Our government is completely out of control. Anybody that thinks our national government resembles the one the Framers envisioned is either in denial or uneducated about it. This is not an attack on the current administration and party in power. This government has completely run amok for over a century, if not longer.

The government's job is well outlined in the Constitution. It should be the driving force in promoting and protecting the freedoms of its citizenry, as well as be an example to the rest of the world. The Preamble is the guide ...

"We the people of the United States, in order to form a more perfect union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America."

It's a shame the Framers didn't use a better phrase than "promote the general welfare" as this is language that allowed so much interpretation and expansion of the federal government. Regardless, it's succinct and to the point.

What is the American culture?

That's a tricky one for most people. Too many people think that the culture should dictate government policy. "We're a Christian nation," says many. This is a nation of mostly Christians, yes. However, this is not a Christian government. It may be a government of mostly Christians, but that's still not a Christian government.

This is such a fundamental key to the success of a democracy with a base for liberty. This country is failing at that.

Take gay marriage for example. I'm not going to argue whether the Bible allows it or not. Let's say, for the sake of argument, that it's crystal clear that homosexuality is an abomination to God. Should this be a springboard to limit the actions of homosexuals? Does that live up to the test of liberty and freedom?

So many groups, liberal and conservative, think that their views should be imposed on the rest of America. If it is forcing citizens to give up their claims to freedom, then it is most likely the wrong path. Educate the citizenry through all of the forms of media until your heart's content.

Don't use the government as an instrument to impose your will.

"Don't tread on me!"

How is it protected?

The American culture, other than the culture of liberty, should not explicitly be protected by the U.S. government. Rights, however, should be protected by all three branches of the government. These protections should allow individuals to practice their own brand of America without infringing on the rights of other to practice theirs.

What is "The American Way"?

I'd say "The American Way" means a lot of things, but not all things to all people. To me, it's rather simple:

  • If you work hard, you'll get somewhere
  • Everybody has a shot, regardless of where you start
  • All men (ok, people!) are created equal
  • Freedom of speech, religion, assembly, etc.

How does that apply to our government?

Follow the Constitution! The government is not a solution to our problems. It is there to make sure society flows properly so that everybody gets to live their lives!

Public School Testing

I have a good friend that is a public school teacher in my Metro Atlanta county. The other day, she told me that they currently are doing standardized testing for 42 out of 180 school days now ... 42 days! That's almost 1/4 of the the school year spent testing.

Sound crazy? Impossible? Bad information? That was my initial reaction.

They have national tests, which apparently aren't released anyway. I think that's the ITBS (Iowa Test of Basic Skills). That only take a few days apparently.

Then, the state of Georgia has the CRCT (Criterion-Referenced Competency Tests), which last a week. Apparently, the CRCT is used to judge a school's status in No Child Left Behind. Since that's so important to the administrator, because it's important to the county, because it's important to the state, because it's mandated by Washington, the schools have practice CRCT tests. This, of course, is taking up instruction time.

The CRCT is a battery of minimum competency tests that are probably unnecessary in the Atlanta suburban schools. The state of the suburban schools vs. the rest of Georgia is like night and day. The test is so below the average student here, that the county decided to implement their own tests.

These tests are called the Benchmarks. These tests are intended to guide an advanced curriculum and then test the students (and ultimately the teachers) on what they've learned. These tests aren't in lieu of normal testing that would occur, relative to normal instruction. These are on top of that. These tests are interspersed throughout the year and make up the balance of days to bring the total to 42.

On top of the 42 days, these tests are made to be so critical in importance, the teachers are basically put into the position of teaching to the test to make sure the kids maximize their test score. This is taking away from real learning. The administration puts on pep rallies to show the students how important these test are, taking up instruction time.

25% of classroom time solely devoted to testing ... and how much prepping for that?