Thursday, November 24, 2005

Education Funding

Thanks to Gary Thornock for pointing out this excellent post and set of comments at Casserole Bar. It was pointed out that we have a ton of federally owned land which cuts down our state tax base. It was also pointed out that it is very expensive to educate students at the U or USU compared to UVSC or the other smaller colleges. We ought not lower the standards to get into the U, but rather raise the standards to encourage people to go to the smaller schools where they are more likely to succeed.

Reading the thread made me doubly sad that Steve U. isn't still running for the Senate. That guy is amazing.

Saturday, November 19, 2005

Rosa Parks

John Hatch wrote a nice rememberance of the history surrounding Rosa Parks and her famous bus ride. Included in his post was this detail I didn't know. "We often remember the story that Rosa was just asked to move to the back so a white man could sit in the front since there were no seats. Actually, there were seats, but Montgomery's segregation law made it so whites didn't even need to sit next to blacks; in other words, Rosa was asked to move so a white man didn't have to sit next to her, not just so he could have a seat."

I am so grateful for people throughout the ages who have been willing to sacrifice their own comfort to make the world a better place for everyone else.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Whose pants are on fire?

I read angry letters to the editor railing against the President for "lying" about intelligence. I hear commentators like Robert Scheer (representing the "left" in KCRW's Left Right and Center) arguing that Joseph Wilson is a hero for blowing the whistle on Bush's lies.

I just don't get it. It baffles me. It seems that opponents of the current Republican administration have abandoned honest discourse or have somehow failed to hear about facts that debunk their fallacious argumentation. Read this article by Norman Podhoretz for a thorough, if somewhat exasperated, answer to common misconceptions that "Bush lied."

Isn't there enough to legitimately disagree about on national policy matters without resorting to misinformation? Nobody is right all the time, but when we're proved to be wrong, let's admit it.

Ed Partridge recently had a piece on this topic posted on (cross-posted to his own blog.) At his own posting, he eagerly anticipated the counterarguments from "the wingnuts." While Ed made a few valid points, the main body of the post to which he was responding stands uncontested.

Sunday, November 13, 2005

Utah Loan Sharks: Payday Loans

The Deseret News printed an important piece today.

"Utah has more payday loan stores than 7-Elevens, McDonalds, Burger Kings and Subway stores -- combined."

It found the median quote was $20, or 521 percent annual interest. Rates ranged from a low of 312 percent annual interest to a high of 913 percent, or $12 to $35 on a two-week $100 loan.
"Studies on interest rates charged by the Mafia in New York City in the 1960s found an average rate of 250 percent. So, payday lenders in Utah charge more than twice as much as the Mafia loan syndicates. It shows it has gotten out of hand," said Christopher Peterson.

I was super disappointed to hear Frank Pignanelli quoted for the defense in this article. I guess he's acting in his role as lobbyist rather than human.

Lenders disagree with critics. Frank Pignanelli, attorney and lobbyist for the industry's Utah Consumer Lending Association (and also a political columnist for the Deseret Morning News), says, "Payday lenders fill an important niche. Try walking into a bank or credit union and say you have withdrawn all your savings and maxed-out your credit card but want to borrow $300 for two weeks. They will send you to a payday lender."
He added, "People compute and figure it is cheaper to get a payday loan than to pay fees for a bounced check, or have a late utility payment, or fees for a late mortgage payment. That's why they proliferate here."

I can see the niche that such lending could fill. Here are two more paragraphs from the article that should explode that notion, comparing a study by the payday loans and one from an outside organization.

[Pignanelli] says industry studies say a typical borrower in Utah is a woman in her early 30s with a household income of $50,000 to $70,000 and is "using payday loans because she doesn't want to pay overdraft or retail merchant fees." He says lenders "don't prey on the poor and the homeless because the poor and the homeless don't pay back loans."
Of note, a 2003 study by the Center for Responsible Lending said it found that 91 percent of all payday loans are made to borrowers who take out five or more such loans a year. It said only 1 percent of all payday loans are made to one-time emergency borrowers.

I think Utah, in the spirit of human decency and responsible government, ought to put some huge restraints on this industry and stop (or drastically reduce) this leaching off the poorest among us.

Saturday, November 12, 2005

Enough of Racist Organizations Already!

The Deseret News had an editorial this morning about race-oriented medicine. Science is recognizing that there are genetic differences between races that will cause them to respond differently to medications. This is, as the News points out, a wonderful advance that shouldn't be an issue of race but of medicine.

One line in the editorial chapped me, however. (Why else do you think I'm writing this post?) "We urge black leaders — especially the Association of Black Cardiologists — to study the proposals carefully and, if they see any benefit, allow the tests to move ahead." Why on earth is there an Association of Black Cardiologists? What does being black have to do with being a cardiologist? It is racist to assume that black cardiologists can't compete and participate just fine in an association with cardiologists of other races. This happens all over the place with special associations for black journalists or black congressmen. Why do they need to be seperate? Why do they seperate themselves on the basis of race?

I will concede that there was justification and probably need for such organizations in past times. But I'm part of a younger generation that has grown up without much of the racial bias that tainted my grandparents generation. Such organizations have served a very useful purpose and the country (if not the world) has moved past the need for race-based organizations. Let's judge all men and women by the content of their character and by the greatness of their achievement rather than by the color of their skin. Let's close down every organzation and program that would treat people specially based on race. Let us now shift our attention to more pressing differentiators.

I see plenty of reason to have "affirmative action" programs for people that have grown up in poverty, especially in terms of education. But what does that have to do with race? Nothing. Really. The old race-based thinking and institutions now seem to only increase racist divisions in our society. Let's get rid of them.

Sunday, November 06, 2005

A Mother's Conflicted Feelings About a Son at War

It has to be really tough to be the mom of a soldier. Sue Diaz is facing that struggle. She isn't sure she agrees with the war, but mostly just wants her boy to be safe. Her well crafted essay is worth reading. My heart goes out to all the parents of the soldiers. And I thank God for their sacrifices.

Harry Reid and the Iraq Intelligence Conspiracy

In a hilarious (okay, maybe that is a bit strong... amusing?) article for the NY Times, David Brooks highlights silly beliefs relating to the charge that the Bush administration manipulated intelligence about Iraq. He frames his arguments with a scene of Harry Reid sitting alone at his kitchen table at 4:00 AM. A couple of choice lines:

Reid now knows that as far back as 1998, Karl Rove was beaming microwaves into Bill Clinton's fillings to get him to exaggerate the intelligence on Iraq.

Reid now knows that in the late 1990s, Dick Cheney and other Republican officials used fluoridated water in the State Department and other government agencies to brainwash Clinton administration officials into exaggerating the threat posed by Saddam Hussein.
In 1997 Clinton's defense secretary, William Cohen, went on national television and informed the American people that if Saddam has "as much VX in storage as the U.N. suspects" he would "be able to kill every human being on the face of the planet."
Secretary of State Madeleine Albright compared Saddam to Hitler and warned that he could "use his weapons of mass destruction" or "become the salesman for weapons of mass destruction."

Harry Reid sits alone at his kitchen table at 4 a.m. He knows now that seven centuries ago at a secret meeting of the Bilderberg Society-Trilateral Commission-American Enterprise Institute, the six High Lords of the Secret Order of the Neocons decided to implant alien life forms into potential Democratic officials that could be activated in case there was a need to manipulate intelligence on Iraq.