Michigan Hullabaloo

Things have been a bit crazy up here in Michigan as Republicans are attempting to pass some right to work legislation. Obviously, Michigan has a long history with unions so this topic is even more contentious here than in many other states. The manner in which the bill is being passed (no committee meeting, public banned at one point, in the lame duck session) only fans the flames. Here are the basics and here is an article from Michigan State Senator Gretchen Whitmer. Keep an eye on her. I would not be surprised to see her run for Governor. Governor Snyder signing this bill has given her significant publicity and will motivate the Democratic base for the next election.

Getting less attention than the right to work legislation is piece of education legislation also being considered in the lame duck session. We have had several discussion at this blog regarding public schools, private schools, and the role of the government in education. Fortunately we have a diverse view on the subject and people, I’m thinking Kevin in particular, with some great knowledge in the subject area. With that said, I am interested in people’s thoughts on quite the hullaboloo that has arisen here in Michigan over a couple of laws being considered by the lame duck state legislature.

In short, the legislation would expand the Education Achievement Authority (EAA) to become a super-disctrict of underachieving schools (the bottom 5%). The two primary criticisms relate to the lack of oversight, the head of the EAA is not elected and reports only to the governor, and the absence of much evidence that the EAA improves things.

One of the interesing aspects of the debate is that the superintendents from some rather wealthy and successful districts are strongly opposed to the proposals. A couple have drated letters and various PTA organizations had a letter published in The Washington Post

Work is pretty busy, but I’ll try to keep an eye on comments to answer any Michigan specific questions.

Being a Muslim in America

I thought that this piece by Rany Jazayerli was amazing. I usually balk at web pieces that make me click through five pages to read it (just put it all on one page, dammit, or do what Salon does and give me the option of seeing it on multiple pages or scrolling down one), but his writing is excellent and I think his point resonates.

It was with some reservation that I voted for Obama last Tuesday. I have found his presidency to be a disappointment in many ways. He wasn’t nearly aggressive enough about addressing the financial crisis he inherited, nor did he press for a public airing of what caused the crisis in the first place. His sustained use of drones to fight the war on terror has been both utterly immoral – an inordinate number of innocent victims, including children, have been killed – and completely counterproductive, because the obvious immorality of these attacks has ignited more terrorists than it has killed. Obama’s weak and unfocused response to the horrors being committed every day by the Syrian government is appalling.

But — third parties aside — the alternative was Mitt Romney, and I could not vote for Romney. There was simply no way that I could justify voting for a party that denies the very legitimacy of my identity as an American. And there was no way that I could justify voting for any member of that party that does not, in the strongest possible terms, denounce that view. Nor could most other members of the American Muslim community, who just happen to be clustered in swing states like Ohio, Virginia and Florida.

As it turned out, with the Muslim community voting overwhelmingly against him, Romney lost Ohio, Virginia and Florida by narrow margins, and lost the election. Joe Walsh lost his bid for reelection in Illinois’ 8th district, which frees up his schedule to start looking for the terrorists in Elk Grove and Addison. Also losing his bid for reelection was Florida congressman Allen West, who claims that “Islam is a totalitarian theocratic political ideology, it is not a religion.” Well, that’s one way to get around that pesky 1st amendment.

It doesn’t have to be this way. The Muslim community still shares many core values with Republicans, the same core issues that attracted most Muslims to the Republican Party in the first place. Muslims haven’t changed their views on limited government, or the superiority of the traditional nuclear family, or the importance of encouraging entrepreneurship. A Republican Party that focused on its core principles rather than on demonizing a minority as a way to score cheap political points would find support among the American Muslim community again.

Look, I don’t want to be a party-line voter. It does Muslims no good to be identified with a single political party – we run the risk of being taken advantage of by the Democratic Party, while having our needs completely ignored by the Republicans. And I look forward to the day, hopefully in the near future, when I once again vote for a Republican candidate. If Chris Christie — who unlike Romney has forcefully denounced “the crazies” (his term, not mine) — runs for president, I’ll give him full consideration.

But first, the Republicans have to stop insinuating that I’m alien to this nation. They have to stop implying that I support terrorists. They have to stop accusing me of being anti-American. And they need to denounce anyone in their ranks who does those things. That, I’m afraid, is not negotiable.


well, jnc4p  was prescient.  And I’m glad it was as relatively clear cut as it was last night, in that Florida is still deadlocked but, as yello points out, irrelevant.  What do you want to see happen in the next four years–and for purposes here let’s not say gridlock (although I know a couple of you think that’s a good thing when it comes to federal government!  :-))

I, for one, am very glad that the PPACA is safe. . . although it’s too much to hope that it can be modified.  I’d like to see the DREAM Act actually become law and I’d like to see one actually liberal Justice get appointed to the SCOTUS.  I’m sure I’ll come up with more as the day goes on.

Plus, what happened with your various states?  I see that pot is now legal in Washington and Colorado (and that last I’m betting had something to do with CO going for Obama last night).

And about that fiscal cliff. . .


P.S.  And I’m very glad that ATiM is around to see it happen.

Election Day Open Thread

I’m going to go ahead and put this post up tonight, since I’m going to go vote before work tomorrow and don’t know when I’ll be able to get it up.  Do any of you have big plans for the morrow?  After I reminded her that tomorrow is Election Day my boss moved our staff meeting back to 10:00 and told everybody to go vote before coming in to work; I don’t anticipate huge lines here (voter turnout in UT is abysmally low), but you never know.  Then tomorrow evening I’m going to some friends’ house to watch the returns with them and a couple of other folks.  Thanks to you guys, I’ve become the Recognized Expert among my friends on all things political. . . hoot!

Remember–vote early and often!

Electoral vote predictions

Picking up on a comment by nova, here’s a link to a website where you can design your own electoral map. Then you can copy the URL into your comment for everyone else to see. Overall vote percentages, including minor party candidates, can be used as a tiebreaker.

If someone finds a better site to link, please add it into this post (or replace my link above).

Storm Fallout

Here in Maryland we seem to have escaped the brunt of Hurricane Sandy but with New Jersey and New York taking the greatest damage. I was living in West Palm Beach when Hurricane Andrew sliced through south Dade County, making it twice that I have been on the fringe of major storms.

Whenever I hear of hurricanes heading for New York I always think of the cautionary tale of the Citicorp Building where the structural engineer, through a series of propitious events, discovered that the building was susceptible to collapse under certain wind conditions. The New Yorker has one of the most succinct and lucid accounts of the event.

This resulted in a crash program to remediate the building’s structure which was successfully completed before any major storm struck the building. This one example is a cautionary tale about engineering professionalism. One should always do the right thing regardless of the consequences.

And no discussion of wind and structures is complete without a reference to the Tacoma Narrows Bridge collapse which is shown in about every freshman engineering class ever.

Open post for storm and disaster stories:

3rd (and final) Presidential Debate — Foreign Policy


“Unbroken” – A Book Review

Interestingly enough this was a difficult book for me to read. Next month will be the five year anniversary of my father’s death. He was a bombardier (First Lieutenant) in WWII and flew over Germany in support of Patton’s Army. Their B17 suffered from structural problems, not unlike the B24.

Part of a passage from my father’s diary reminds me how dangerous their mission was:

Al and I were looking up records of previous missions of the Group. Since they started B-17’s they have had three times as many “major aircraft damage” in half as many missions. Ratio-six to one. That isn’t good.

A couple of years ago I received a copy of a letter my father wrote to one of his buddies after arriving in Europe that never reached his friend. He went down with the plane and the pilot during a terrible fire on the plane, originating in the bomb bay, while most of the crew was able to abandon ship. His nephew tracked me down and I sent him a copy of my dad’s diary and he sent me a copy of the letter my father wrote to his uncle.

My father was also raised in Southern California, not far from Torrance, and graduated from USC. He attended college after the war however, taking advantage of the GI Bill. Reading Louie’s story occupied my time with a lot of reflection and comparing and contrasting stories. It was very strange for me. I kept wishing I could ask my dad what he knew about Louie, if anything.

My father was also an athlete, although not in the same league as Louie (football and swimming), and always stressed participation in athletics as a character building exercise and that the discipline needed to succeed in sports would be useful in fighting life’s adversities. It’s one of the lessons I tried to pass on to our children. Reading Unbroken, I couldn’t help but believe that Louie’s passion for, and commitment to running taught him how to survive in some of the worst circumstances we can imagine.

Anyway, it was an odd experience for me reading the book, even down to the description of the crew flying the Enola Gay and dropping the bomb over Hiroshima. One of my father’s best friends, Rick Nelson, was the radio man on that flight. Reading how the pilot desperately tried to maneuver the plane away from the blast and how the fillings in his teeth tingled gave me chills. I sat around a dining room table on many occasions listening to that story and more.

Luckily my father had a much different experience than Louie. Even though there were bomb bay door fires, feathered engines, blown tires, damaged landing gear, hot flak breaking through the skin of the airplane, and even one emergency landing in Belgium, he flew his 36 missions and came home without suffering the terrible conditions many of these young men did, if they were lucky enough to survive at all.

Another reason I had trouble reading the book was because of the awful conditions the POW’s suffered from. It was a very vivid reminder of why we used to be so careful in our treatment of enemy combatants, at least I thought we were. That kind of brutality and suffering is difficult for me to read about.

This passage from the book really resonated with me.

Few societies treasured dignity, and feared humiliation, as did the Japanese, for whom a loss of honor could merit suicide. This is likely one of the reasons why Japanese soldiers in World War II debased their prisoners with such zeal, seeking to take from them that which was most painful and destructive to lose. On Kwajalein, Louie and Phil learned a dark truth known to the doomed in Hitler’s death camps, the slaves of the American South, and a hundred other generations of betrayed people. Dignity is as essential to human life as water, food, and oxygen. The stubborn retention of it, even in the face of extreme physical hardship, can hold a man’s soul in his body long past the point at which the body should have surrendered it. The loss can carry a man off as surely as thirst, hunger, exposure, and asphyxiation, and with greater cruelty.

I’ll be curious to hear what the rest of you thought of the book.

The AL MVP Debate

It’s Friday, so how about something on the light side?

We’ve discussed some weighty topics here at ATiM and, with the exceptions of Scott and QB, we’ve all managed to be right once or twice. But we have yet to tackle a topic as important or divisive as: Who should win this year’s American League Most Valuable Player award?

Like the Presidential race, there are two candidates: Mike Trout of the Anaheim Angels and Miguel Cabrera of the Detroit Tigers.

As in the Presidential race, the sides have dug in and the mud-slinging has begun. There are many other similarities as well, but let’s just get to the arguments.

Mike Trout:

.326 BA, 30 HR, 83 RBI, 49 SB, 10.4 WAR (via Fangraphs)

Pros:He’s one of the best center fielders in baseball and is a rookie! He’s having one of the best rookie seasons in the history of baseball.

Cons: His team didn’t make the playoffs and he faded the last month of the season.

Miguel Cabrera:

.330 BA, 44 HR, 139 RBI, 4 SB, 7.2 WAR (via Fangraphs)

Pros: He just won the Triple Crown, meaning he led the American League in Batting Average, RBIs and Home Runs. He is the first player to do so since 1967. He played his best in August and September with the Tigers trying to make the Playoffs.

Cons: He’s not a good defender and he is not a good runner. His team had a worse record than Mike Trout’s team.

Some of you may be asking…what in the world is WAR? WAR is a “new” statistic that stands for Wins Above Replacement and has become somewhat of a dividing line between the Pro-Cabrera and Pro-Trout camps. From Fangraphs: WAR basically looks at a player and asks the question, “If this player got injured and their team had to replace them with a minor leaguer or someone from their bench, how much value would the team be losing?”

So, according to WAR, if Cabrera was replaced with a minor league player, the Tigers would win 7 fewer games while the Angels would win 10 fewer games. Now I could go on and on about these arguments and am happy to do so in the comments, but the bottom line is I’d be voting for Trout. He’s nearly as good of a hitter as Cabrera and he adds a lot more value with his running ability and defense. Who’s got your vote?

Debate Night

This will be an open thread, live blogging the first Presidential debate.

From a variety of sources this is what we know:

The first presidential debate of 2012 will be held on Wednesday, Oct. 3, at the University of Denver in Denver, Colo. The moderator is Jim Lehrer, executive editor of the PBS NewsHour.

The Commission on Presidential Debates said the 2012 presidential debates will be moderated by a single individual and take place from 9 to 10:30 p.m. Eastern Standard Time. Neither of the candidates will be permitted to give opening statements, but will be allowed 2 minutes for closing statements.

The first debate will focus on domestic policy. The specific topics will be announced several weeks beforehand, and the debate will be divided into six 15-minute segments focusing on each. The moderator will ask a question, and each candidate will have 2 minutes to respond.

It should go something like this:

A debate that will consist of a total of six time segments of approximately fifteen minutes each in length. The issues to be discussed by the candidates have been agreed to in advance of the debate. Lehrer said on September 19, as he announced the issues that would be debated on Wednesday, that the first three segments would focus on “the economy”, while the final three would discuss “health care, the role of government, and governing”.

Each candidate will be asked a question by the moderator, and the candidate will respond with his answer, representing his personal view on the question. Some new proposals may be introduced during the debate, and while the debate will have few direct interactions between the candidates, both candidates are expected to question the proposals of their opponent.

And then a little hopeful thinking from one of Nova’s links:

Who knows? Maybe one day there will be candidates who will see it as politically advantageous to reveal themselves in this way. In the meantime, take note of a meaningful rule change announced this year by the presidential debate commission. For the first time, in the first and third events, the candidates will each get two minutes to respond to the opening question for each 15-minute segment, and then “the moderator will use the balance of the time in the segment for a discussion.” That could mean up to 11 minutes of free-wheeling talk between the candidates. In a 90-minute debate, that could happen six times.

That is not insignificant. And if the candidates use that time not to make speeches or repeat talking points, or to ignore an important question that was just asked, but instead to listen, engage and think in a way the audience can witness, we just might get a presidential debate that deserves the label.

What are you looking for in the debate? Do debates ever change the trajectory of an election? Why are there so few chances for third party candidates to participate? Will we hear any surprises, policy-wise, from what we’ve heard on the campaign trail?

And lastly, here are some body language tells we can all watch for…………hahahahahaha

1. An itchy nose could be a sign that someone isn’t telling the truth. If someone is scratching their nose, there could be an issue

2. Hands in pockets are a sign of insecurity

3. Crossed arms don’t necessarily mean a person is angry or protective: They could just be cold in the studio where the debates are taking place!

4. Touching the neck could be a sign that someone is threatened or feels insecure

5. Finger pointing is a sign of aggression and it can make the audience mistrust the speaker

Another telltale sign, experts say, is frequent blinking by a speaker. It might indicate that person is uncomfortable with the words they are saying.

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