Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Pro-Choice in Education

There’s a certain, rancid incongruity in the phenomenon that so many folks who attach value to the freedom to kill unborn children also find abhorrent any movement toward freedom of choice in the education of the children who do make it into our world. If it can’t be dead, let it be dumb.

We’ll save the matter of abortion for another day. Today, we’re excited that New York Congressman Vito Fossella (Rep. – 13th C.D.) has introduced legislation to empower a right-to-choose that every parent should love – a tax credit of up to $4,500 per family for elementary and secondary education tuition paid or incurred by the taxpayer during the taxable year. Private non-sectarian school, or Catholic, Jewish, Muslim or other religious school. Parents’ choice, unconditionally.

There’s nothing in this simple bill not to like, unless you’re a government school union leach with a track record of imprisoning working folks’ kids in failed urban and increasingly failing suburban government schools to keep stoked-up the union full-employment gravy train. That’s why the bill enjoys the co-sponsorship of 26 Congressmen, including New York Congressman Edolphus Towns (Dem. - 10th C.D.), representing one of the City’s most chronically under-performing government school territories.

In addition to directly benefiting families and children, the bill would benefit indirectly the single most important source of alternative education to working families’ children – the parish schools of the Catholic Church. That benefit would not be a preference for Catholic schools, but merely a step toward reversing the destructive forces that government has long unleashed on Catholic (and other private) schools. For decades, state governments have been increasing subsidies (non-locally raised funds) to government schools, including for higher teacher salaries, perversely in proportion to the extent to which such schools returned poor results. In New York City, Mayor Bloomberg has helped make it fashionable to have high-powered Park Avenue-set fundraisers to benefit government schools. Simultaneously, the Catholic Church’s self-inflicted financial wounds, on top of declining demographics, and declining enrollment in many places, have hobbled the Church’s ability to match its traditional subsidizing of parish schools, and to raise the funds for its schools locally. Catholic schools have been forced to close, and surviving parish schools forced to raise tuition. Bright-but-poorer students are being pushed back to government schools. And the gap between the Church’s lay teacher’s salaries and taxpayer-funded public school teacher’s salaries grows. Still, the urban Church schools turn out a superior education at far less cost than government schools, and on an equally non-discriminatory basis.

This bill needs and deserves your support, whether or not you have kids. Go to http://www.house.gov/writerep/ to find your representative in Congress, and send an e-mail urging support for H.R. 5230 (To amend the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 to allow a credit against tax for qualified elementary and secondary education tuition).

ADDENDUM: Congressman Edolphus Towns Reneges

Today’s (June 2, 2006) New York Sun reports that Congressman Towns’ office has told the Sun that Towns’ co-sponsorship of H.R. 5230 was a mistake – the work of an unknown rogue staffer. Also the work of an unknown rogue staffer was Towns’ signature on a letter dated May 23, 2006 jointly signed with Congressman Fossella, and sent to all 435 Members of the House, urging support for the bill. Curious Cowardice!

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Infantile Mexican Film Directors Mouthing-Off in France

Well, Just Cause knew that we'd be back at the southern frontier before long, but we didn't predict it would extend to the south of France. In hindsight, we're not surprised.

Mexican film director Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu says from the south of France during the presentation of his film "Babel" at the Cannes film festival this week that "There is an obsession in the United States today... about, you know, showing the power but at the same time having the fear of the other." He added: "The government of the United States is pressuring other countries to capture terrorists and sometimes they make big mistakes," he said. "That is a very, very sad thing that is happening all around the world, using political pressure or econonomical pressure to make people act like that."

His film "Babel," which is, unsurprisingly, an exercise in America-bashing (tell me again why all of his countrymen want to come here if it's so awful), "was so well received at its screenings Tuesday that critics counted it among the frontrunners for the Cannes festival's Palme d'Or award to be given out on Sunday" according to the Breitbart news wire.

All you have to do to keep America-bashing phonies from abusing us like this is refuse to see their films, and discourage your friends from paying to see them.

President Bush used to know how to respond to people like Gonzalez Inarritu:



And for now, if I have to celebrate diversity, I'll be watching Shakira...

Hat-tip: The Dick List

Thursday, May 18, 2006

"Zero Tolerance" Lightning Strikes Twice in Penn HIlls, PA

Administrators at the now-infamous "zero tolerance for mature common sense" Penn Hills, PA school district have now suspended fourteen students at Shenandoah Elementary School, after discovering that the children traded and enjoyed bags of powder they made from different flavors of Kool Aid and sugar. Perhaps dimwittedly, the kids called their confection "Happy Crack," and Penn Hills has zero tolerance for fifth-grade foolishness with sugar. Being children, and moreover being children in a school district with no grown-ups to speak of in charge, their foolishness in calling their confection Happy Crack can't much be held against them.

But parents and taxpayers absolutely should hold against the administrators in this district the idiocy manifest in the suspensions and the expulsion of the last two weeks. See immediately preceding post, below.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Agents of Unjust Cause – Penn Hills, PA

On April 5, 2006, Dible Elementary School fifth-grade student Jokari Becker brought with him to school a ridiculous-looking toy squirt gun, along with various other also-harmless items to which he attached some importance, to put in a “memory box” – something of a show-and-tell exercise.

The squirt gun looked something like this (the boy is Jokari):



The squirt gun is not a realistic, “look-alike” gun. Not even close. It is a brightly-colored, plastic, genuine toy, and looks like a toy, and nothing but a toy. There was nothing in it at the time, and the boy never pointed it, pretended, played or threatened with it, while at school.

After the squirt gun was noticed in the boy’s backpack, he was suspended for three days. Then officials made the suspension seven days. He remained on suspension while some unspecified, asinine process transpired. Then, on Tuesday evening, May 9, 2006, by a 5-3 vote, the Penn Hills, PA school board voted to expel the fifth-grader. Until January of 2007. At least. It's another case of "zero-tolerance" means "zero-common sense."

The boy’s single mother is appealing the board’s vote. While Ms. Becker waits on that process, she has to find a way to finish her college studies and attend her scheduled job training to become a county 911 operator, and not leave the boy home alone during what should have been school hours. She’ll have to pay lawyers. The boy is being emotionally traumatized. The school district, which this year increased its tax levy by $4.48 million, will pay to send instructors to the boy’s home to teach him there.

The following five school board members are responsible for this particularly unjust bit of senseless tyranny, and they need to hear from you, no matter where you live. Just Cause has made it easy for you to do that by providing their e-mail addresses as well as their names.


Mr. Richard Vuocolo, Board President: rvuoco@phsd.k12.pa.us

Mr. Barry Patterson, Board Vice President bpatte@phsd.k12.pa.us

Ms. Kathryn Bolte kbolte@phsd.k12.pa.us

Mr. Robert Hudak rhudak@phsd.k12.pa.us

Ms. Margie Krogh mkrogh@phsd.k12.pa.us


The following board member needs to hear from you because he is the only one who did not vote at all:

Mr. Leonard Gallo vgallo@phsd.k12.pa.us


The following board members are the three possessed of common sense and decency sufficient to have voted against this outrage. Erin Vecchio has particularly stood up and spoken out against this injustice. They should be carbon copied on your e-mail to the others, so that your concern won’t disappear with a tap of a few “delete” keys.

Ms. Carolyn Faggioli cfaggi@phsd.k12.pa.us

Ms. Erin Vecchio evecch@phsd.k12.pa.us

Mr. John Zacchia jzacch@phsd.k12.pa.us

A quick note (nothing that will have any of those five idiots calling the FBI on you) saying "Stop the injustice, end your own national embarrassment, rescind Jokari's expulsion" should suffice.

If you live in the district, be sure to go to the next public board meeting and raise hell. That School Board Public Voting Meeting is on Tuesday, June 13, 2006 at 7:30 p.m., Administrative Center, 309 Collins Drive, Pittsburgh, PA 15235. It’s all in just cause.

Friday, May 12, 2006

Making School Elections Matter (NJ)

In New Jersey, school elections are held in April, when no other elected offices and no non-education questions are on the ballot. Predictably, year-in and year-out, voter participation as a percentage of registered voters is abysmal. Voter participation as a percentage of administrators, teachers, board members, their voting-age friends and family, and preferred vendors, is surely something else.

Years of delinquent and derelict school board “supervision” of excessively-paid administrators who bloated payrolls, awarded themselves generous “lulus”, made wasteful capital expenditures, and grew salaries at rates bearing no relationship whatsoever to performance, have left too many New Jersey school districts and their taxpaying communities on the edge of breakdown. The schools spend more than ever, and perform worse than ever, while abusive property taxes threaten the savings of homeowners and the character of communities. Real change is long overdue.

Now, the beginnings of real change may be at hand. Two bills – A1567 and its identical Senate counterpart, S708 – are on the move in Trenton, with bipartisan support. The bills have two main effects. Most importantly, they move school board elections out of April, when only organized interests are paying attention, to the November general election day, when several times as many voters will be motivated to pay attention. The second, less salutary effect of the bills is to eliminate a public vote on budgets that are within state guidelines of 4% growth, but all things considered, that effect is no great loss, for two reasons. First, the vote on the budget never meant much anyway, since a voted-down budget always ends up, after a trip to the local municipal council for potentially minor cuts, going back to the same board that recommended it. Second, and most to the point, those who control the board control the budget. These bills, at long last, give the communities a fair opportunity to control their school boards, and thus their budgets, and their curricula, etc.

The Senate bill recently cleared the Education Committee with only one dissenting vote.

The New Jersey Education Association (NJEA), the union that serves the interests of teachers and administrators as well as those of the union leadership, and the New Jersey School Boards Association (NJSBA), which serves the interests of those already serving on school boards (and the people who organized to get them there, frequently the members of the aforementioned NJEA) both oppose moving the school board elections from the obscurity of April to the general election day in November. Why is that?

The stated bases of their objections – increased politicization of school board elections and increased voting in school board elections by under-informed voters, are both inconsistent and specious. Greater political activism, including, yes, party-based candidate support, brings more information to the electorate, not less. In any event, just like mayoral elections in Boston and a number of other significant general elections, the proposed November school board elections will be officially non-partisan, and ballots will reflect that. As for the specter of the invasion of uninformed voters, as Rush observed in song, “if you choose not to decide you still have made a choice.” The choice of so many voters to stay home in April means that presently, successful school board candidates are elected in the greatest measure by the choices of the least motivated. That’s unacceptable, and sadly, it’s just how the NJEA and NJSBA like it and want to keep it.

NJEA and NJSBA motivate their interested constituents every April to protect the incumbent school boards and elect approved new board candidates, who in turn will protect and grow the interests of the NJEA and its interested friends and associates. The payrolls bloat, the salaries increase, the buildings get expanded, more personnel are hired to fill them, “consultants” get paid, and in most districts, teaching performance increasingly disappoints. Taxpayers stay home because many know that the budget vote is essentially phony. The most capable parents of school-age children have moved their children into the relatively few districts that do perform well, or else into private alternatives. The rest cannot, absent the synergies that come with a November general election cycle, compete politically with the professional, institutional, entrenched and politically savvy interest groups represented by the NJEA and NJSBA, whose priorities do not include the education of New Jersey’s children.

New Jersey readers, please take one minute to send an e-mail to your state senator and legislators, respectfully urging them to support A1567 and S708. Start at the convenient, official "e-mail your legislators" link below, choose your New Jersey town or city from the drop-down menu, and carry on from there.

http://www.njleg.state.nj.us/SelectMun.asp

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Illegal Immigration and National Security

The topic of illegal immigration and national security sadly appears destined to be a frequent subject here at Just Cause. It is bad enough that our national government barely pretends to enforce immigration laws at our southern border. Today's news brings the particularly disappointing awareness that the U.S. Border Patrol is actually providing intelligence to the Mexican authorities regarding the location of Minutemen and other citizen patrols who are very bravely doing the job the Administration is derelict in doing.

Here's a sample letter that you can cut and paste to send to the President ( comments@whitehouse.gov ) and your own elected officials as you see fit:

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Dear Mr. President:

It is bad enough that you consciously fail to execute your responsibility to secure our border with Mexico. It is worse beyond belief that your Administration is actively frustrating the effectiveness of those volunteers who are courageously stepping up, at considerable personal risk, to redress your dereliction of duty.

I specifically refer to this news report from DailyBulletin.com of Ontario, California:

According to three documents on the Mexican Secretary of Foreign Relations Web site, the U.S. Border Patrol is to notify the Mexican government as to the location of Minutemen and other civilian border patrol groups when they participate in apprehending illegal immigrants -- and if and when violence is used against border crossers.

A U.S. Customs and Border Protection spokesman confirmed the notification process, describing it as a standard procedure meant to reassure the Mexican government that migrants' rights are being observed.

"It's not a secret where the Minuteman volunteers are going to be," Mario Martinez said Monday.

"This ... simply makes two basic statements -- that we will not allow any lawlessness of any type, and that if an alien is encountered by a Minuteman or arrested by the Minuteman, then we will allow that government to interview the person."

http://www.dailybulletin.com/news/ci_3799653

The above statements by an official of the U.S. government are pure nonsense. Migrants have a right and an obligation to present genuine immigration documents to a US immigration official upon entry to U.S. territory. YOU allow lawlessness every day that you permit migrants to pour across our borders without need of presenting lawful documents. Migrants have no right to trespass all over the American Southwest, or to travel freely throughout our country to overwhelm the capacity of taxpaying citizens and residents to care for their own lawfully constituted communities. The Mexican or other interested Central American governments can interview their citizens in secure facilities or better yet, in their own territories. You are now not merely derelict in one of your highest duties as president, but complicit in the undermining of our Constitution and laws.

Our immigration laws may be in need of reform for reasons you have mentioned from time-to-time, but those reasons do not excuse your failure to defend our laws and our sovereignty in the meantime, and cannot excuse your complicity in the undermining of our laws and sovereignty.

Sincerely,

###

Welcome

Welcome to Just Cause. At Just Cause, our mission is not merely to call attention to the unjust causes at work in our towns and schools, cities, states and nation, although we will join others in doing that. Our particular niche in the blogosphere will be to offer specific suggestions, ranging from sample letters and suggested phone calls to persons in authority, to strategic political and organizational advice, in order to best equip more good citizens to join battle successfully against the agents of unjust cause.

At Just Cause, we remember and act on the awareness that "[w]hen bad men combine, the good must associate; else they will fall one by one, an unpitied sacrifice in a contemptible struggle." Edmund Burke

So without further ado, onward we march, together, in Just Cause...