War…what is it good for?

“I have decided that the United States should take military action against Syrian regime targets.” (President Barack Obama, August 31, 2013)

Later, the president said he would involve Congress in a vote on this issue. It somewhat begs the question as to why he is putting to vote a thing that he has already decided on.

We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence [sic], 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. (Preamble to the U.S. Constitution, emphasis mine)

How does attacking a nation that has not struck outside of its own borders constitute a defensive action?

The mission of the Department of Defense is to provide the military forces needed to deter war and to protect the security of our country. (Department of Defense official Web site)

Syria has not threatened the United States with war. Its ownership of chemical weapons does not constitute any greater security threat to the United States than any other military armament it possesses. The U.S. owns massive caches of chemical weapons, yet we are no threat to any other nation. Nations around the world, including the U.S., use o-chlorobenzylidene malononitrile (CS gas, a/k/a Tear Gas) on their own citizens on a regular basis. Between March 2011 and February 2012, 34 people in Bahrain died from Tear Gas (see http://physiciansforhumanrights.org/blog/tear-gas-or-lethal-gas.html). Maybe we should launch a drone strike on Bahrain.

I have one last quotation:

First, in dealing with those nations that break rules and laws, I believe that we must develop alternatives to violence that are tough enough to change behavior – for if we want a lasting peace, then the words of the international community must mean something. Those regimes that break the rules must be held accountable. Sanctions must exact a real price. Intransigence must be met with increased pressure – and such pressure exists only when the world stands together as one. (Barack Obama when he was accepting the Nobel Peace Prize on December 10, 2009)

Fight for a Change

I believe that we have forgotten how to fight in this country. The further we get from the fighters of the 1950’s and 1960’s such as Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., the further we get from fighting that makes a difference in society. The Occupy movement was a perfect example of this. For all of their bluster, they accomplished nothing and broke dozens of laws that had nothing to do with their cause in the process. They left filth on the streets and caused problems for people that had nothing to do with those they were protesting. In comparison, think of the four young men from North Carolina A&T who in 1960 quietly sat at a lunch counter and simply asked to be served coffee. They were refused because of their skin color. These four young men took up a fight as gentlemen (in the old sense of the word) and with dignity and grace. They were heard. They caused real change.

Fighting involves risks. I believe that Dr. King knew of his impending death and spoke of it just before he was assassinated. Corrie Ten Boom knew that if the Nazis discovered evidence of her fight against totalitarianism by hiding Jewish people in her home, she would lose her life. The Chinese students who died in Tiananmen Square gave their lives so they could raise their voices.

We need to recapture the fires of change in our bosoms and stand against all forms of injustice. Find your passions and fight for them. Take risks. Be willing to lose what you cannot keep so that you can gain what you cannot lose (Jim Eliot). Remember that “a man [that] hasn’t discovered something that he will die for, he isn’t fit to live” (Dr. King). Maintain the pressure on your “boilers” so you are hot enough to fight but not so hot as to explode. Leave nothing on the battlefield except the echos of your cries for change.

Have unions outlived their value?

Before there were child labor laws, occupational safety laws, and a minimum wage, the unions in this country provided a huge service to their members.  In more recent times, unions have single-handedly harmed and killed businesses throughout the United States.  The death of Hostess Bakery came at the hands of a union.  In this case, it wasn’t the Teamsters.  They worked out a deal with Hostess.  We owe this one to the Bakery, Confectionary, Tobacco Workers and Grain Millers International Union (http://www.bctgm.org/).  That union is affiliated with the AFL-CIO.  Maybe the AFL-CIO should take the $5.95 million its Political Action Committee gave to the Democrat Party in 2012 and give it to the families of the newly unemployed that it helped to create.

What are unions doing for us today?  They make sure that pro athletes get tons of money.  They don’t seem to do that for everyone though.  The three most important jobs an American can hold today are teacher, police officer, and firefighter.  In spite of the fact that these professions are largely unionized, the noble men and women in these jobs are some of the most notoriously underpaid in the nation.  A large group of people making less than them today are 18,500 Americans that used to have a job with Hostess.

If you want to say, “I told you so”

I am inviting anybody in the United States that held a different opinion than mine about our newly re-elected president to say, “I told you so” to me when any of the following happen:

  1. The national debt ceases to grow for 12 months straight
  2. Our credit rating goes back to AAA
  3. We completely leave Afghanistan
  4. A budget is passed
  5. The president sets foot in Israel
  6. Real unemployment stays at or below 6% for three consecutive months
  7. DOMA is repealed and benefits like Social Security and military spousal privileges are extended to all legally married people
  8. The academic rating in science and math of U.S. students gets back into the top ten in the world
  9. The president fulfills his 2009 promise to shut down Guantanamo Bay
  10. The number of appearances the president makes on talk shows in a year is less than the number of press conferences he holds in the same year
  11. There isn’t a single presidential appointee at the USDA that has not or does not benefit from Genetically Modified Organisms (GMO’s)

You know where to reach me.

U.S. politcal outlook prediction update

Almost two years ago, I predicted that Mr. Obama would win if the Republicans put a moderate in place.  Furthermore, the House and the Senate would stay the same.  For 2016, the Republicans will put a real conservative in place, possibly Chris Christie.  The Republican landslide in the 2016 election will be Reaganesque in magnitude to include the loss of the Senate.  I’ll add a few more details:

  • In 2014, the House and Senate will hold their current majorities although to a lesser extent

  • DOMA will still be the law of the land, despite a growing number of states passing marital equality laws

  • Our credit rating will not improve above AA+

  • The Department of Homeland Security will expand

  • The national debt will increase at a somewhat slower rate but it will be nearly $20 trillion by 2016

  • We will still be in Afghanistan

  • Unemployment will hover around 8

  • Things will be stagnant through Mr. Obama’s second term as a mixed Congress will never allow him to get any of his pet projects passed.  There will be one exception because Mr. Obama will present something more moderate and that will get passed

  • Our trade deficit will increase

  • Businesses going offshore will increase

  • Bankruptcies will increase in 2014 when the full set of laws under Obamacare hit small to medium businesses

  • An increasing number of Republicans will become “liberty-minded” and more libertarian planks will find their way into the Republican platform for 2016

Just remember, if you always do what you always did, you will always get, what you’ve always gotten.

Numbers don’t lie, politicians do

In this debate season we are hearing all sorts of numbers from politicans that tell us how wonderful they are and how evil their opponents are.  If you don’t care much for the truth, take the numbers at face value and stop reading at this point.

Since you care about the truth, let me tell you a story of numbers to show how accurate numbers can be used to deceive.  When I was a lieutenant in the Army in the 1980’s, I played goalkeeper for my post’s soccer team.  I was a very average goalkeeper.  Because Ft. Bliss was a NATO post, we got to play teams from other nations.  One game that we played was against the team from the United Arab Emirates.  If you were to ask me how our team did, I could have honestly answered by saying, “I stopped 50 shots on goal.”  That sounds impressive.  If you were to ask me a follow-up question like, “How many shots on goal did they take?,” to be honest I would have answered 63.  With one answer, I sounded ready for the U.S. World Cup team.  With the other answer, I sounded to be as porous as Spongebob Squarepants. One last question would give you some real meaningful information.  It is “How many goals did your team score?”  The answer is 1.  We lost 13 to 1.

Mr. Obama claims that during his administration 4.5 million new jobs were created.  That number is correct.  However, the combination of workers retiring at an older age and the addition of new workers to the job force mean that to break even, 90,000 new jobs must be created each month.  He has been president for 46 months.  46 times 90,000 equals 4.14 million.  4.5 minus 4.14 equals 360,000 net jobs added.  Claiming 4.5 million new jobs when people think that a net gain of 4.5 million jobs occurred is a lie.  When someone asks me how my team did in a soccer game, that person wants to if we won or lost.  If I tell that person that I stopped 50 shots on goal, I am lying to that person because I am making that person think we did well.

Here is one more numerically accurate lie.  The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported unemployment at 7.8% at the end of the summer, something Mr. Obama took credit for.  That number was somewhat accurate depending on how you define “employed.”  The lie is tied up in the fact that millions of college students who were employed full-time through the end of August left their jobs to return to school.  A reasonable person hearing the number 7.8% unemployment in mid-October thinks that is the current unemployment figure.  It isn’t and that’s why it is a lie.

The Joebberwacky

The Joebberwacky

‘Twas thrillig, and the slimy joves
 Did grint and gibble on the stage;
 All dumbsy were the politcoves,
 And the dume bydns outrabe.

“Beware the Joebberwack, my son!
The lips that sneer, the teeth that flash!
 Beware the Barrybarry bird, and shun
 The debious Wassersnatch!”

He shone his shiny pate by hand:
 Long time the moxiny joe he sought—
So rested he by the Dumdum tree,
And stood awhile without a thought.

And as in matthyooish thought he stood,
 The Joebberwack, with eyes of blame,
 Came overcombing through the oogley wood,
 And sneerkled as it came!

One, two! One, two! and through and through
 The lolling tongue went blabber-back!
He left it dead, and with his empty head
 He went amphtraking back.

“And hast thou slain the Joebberwack?
 Come to my arms, my gopish boy!
 O barriless day! Callooh! Callay!”
He chortled in his joy.

‘Twas thrillig, and the slimy joves
 Did grint and gibble on the stage;
 All dumbsy were the politcoves,
 And the dume bydns outrabe.

One of these things is not like the others

Anybody that has seen Sesame Street is probably familiar with these lyrics:

One of these things is not like the others,
One of these things just doesn’t belong,
Can you tell which thing is not like the others
By the time I finish my song?
Did you guess which thing was not like the others?
Did you guess which thing just doesn’t belong?
If you guessed this one is not like the others,
Then you’re absolutely…right!

Given that, let’s look at the four men involved in the presidential campaign.  President Obama, Governor Romney, and Representative Ryan seem to have no problem with being passionate while staying mature and civil.  Then there’s Joe.  I don’t get it.  His boss isn’t modeling that sort of behavior.  His opponents don’t behave that way.  Why is it OK for Joe?

I put the four men’s behavior to a simple test.  Would I tell a ten-year-old to behave like the person on stage?  The three men I mentioned would easily pass that test.  Biden interrupted Ryan and the moderator 81 times.  If a child interrupted his or her teacher one tenth that many time, that child would be in the principal’s office.  Furthermore, if Biden is so comfortable with being so rude, what is to say he won’t cross one too many lines when he is outside of the debate hall?

Lastly, shame on my fellow native from Queens, NY, Debbie Wasserman-Schultz, who said that Mr. Biden was behaving “vice-presidentially.”  Since when does rudeness and sarcasm make someone vice-presidential?  She is a mom.  Would she really tolerate her kids behaving during a school debate like Mr. Biden did?  I doubt it.  She said that Mr. Biden was demonstrating gravitas.  She needs to get her Latin straight.  Mr. Biden was showing he is an asinus.

Daddy, there’s a bully at school

Child: Daddy, there’s a bully at school!

Father:  Why do you say he’s a bully?

Child:  He doesn’t let other people talk.

Father:  Does he do that all of the time?

Child:  Yesterday, my friend dropped a marble in a jar every time he didn’t let the teacher or one of us talk.

Father:  How many marbles were in the jar?

Child:  81

Father:  What else does this bully do?

Child:  He lies.

Father:  What does he lie about?

Child:  There was this really bad third grader who was waiting around the corner and then he ran out and crashed into a teacher.

Father: So what was the lie?

Child: Well, the bully saw the third grader getting ready to crash into the teacher and when the principal asked a bunch of us if we knew what happened and the bully said he didn’t.

Father:  This sounds like a very bad boy.  Is there anything else the he does?

Child:  Yeah.  You know how you teach me how important it is to be nice to people and not say mean things, even if I don’t like them?

Father:  Yes.  That’s very important.

Child:  Well the bully isn’t like that.  He laughs at people and makes fun of them.  There’s something else.

Father:  OK.

Child:  You know how you said it is bad to use words that are just make believe for bad words just so we don’t get in trouble?

Father:  Sure.  That’s important because what really matters is what you think, not just what you say.

Child:  The bully uses words that mean…poop…a lot.

Father:  This boy is a bully.  What does he look like?  I’m going to school and talk to the principal.

Child: He looks like this:

What is more dangerous?

I was corresponding with pinkishey, a fellow citizen of the blogosphere, about the incessant bombings in her soon to be home in Israel.  She writes beautiful prose of her adventures there.  It takes me back to my younger years in Teaneck, NJ where I and many of my Jewish friends dreamt of living in the Holy Land.  I remember giving serious thought to moving there and joining the IDF (Israeli Defense Force) when President Carter re-instituted the draft.  She wrote of the impact of missiles in her soon to be home-town of Netivot (http://kvetshing.wordpress.com/2012/09/09/grad-missiles-from-gaza-hits-home-in-netivot/) and how that related to her feelings of relative safety.  I wrote the following to her.

What is more dangerous, living in a country where your government seeks to protect you from your enemies or living in a country that gives aid to your enemies? I used to be proud of how our (U.S.) government treated our (Jewish) people. Now I have a president that hasn’t set foot in the Holy Land while in office and would rather appear on Late Night with David Letterman than meet with Israel’s PM. Here is one of my favorite Israeli’s view of this, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0YK7UGytvs8.

I hope she is able to stay there.

A Second Open Letter to Sen. Tom Harkin

On September 24, 2012, I posted the following letter to Senator Tom Harkin’s Senate Web page.

________________________________________________________________________

Senator Harkin:

As a veteran and taxpayer, I appreciate your desire to have the money used to educate our veterans be used effectively and efficiently. However, the presentation that you authored has issues. I’m trained in statistics and because of that, I could make a laundry list of issues. You are a very busy man so instead of going item for item, please allow me to point out one blatantly wrong slide. You have a slide entitled “For-Profit Colleges Employ Many Recruiters But Few Placement Staff.” From a subjective perspective, to have a slide with a title that indicates an issue with For-Profit Colleges as a group but then indicts a single one is disingenuous and ineffective because your case is that many schools have this problem, yet you showcase only one. It also smacks of a lack of objectivity and personal bias. Even if your chart is accurate, it does not make the point that this is a systemic problem.

Objectively, the slide in incorrect. University of Phoenix, the largest school under the Apollo Group umbrella, has an extremely robust Career Services site that covers the gamut of services from resume writing to career research to interview preparation. The site also lists major employers that Phoenix partners with to help find jobs for its graduates.

Your data was gathered from 2007 to 2010. I started at Phoenix in 2010 and I don’t know what its career placement services were like then. It could be that in 2010, your statement was accurate. However, it is nearly 2013 and it definitely is not accurate.

If I had the 20-30 hours free to write it, I would write a report that shows slide for slide, just how bad this report is. I don’t have the time to write it and anyone as busy as you doesn’t have the time to read it. Please consider making this “update” to your report as a show of good will. I’ll be the first person to thank you for that by making a post to that effect on my blog, andyknaster.com.

Since your Senate Web site has a link to that report on its home page, it appears that this is a report you are proud of and feel the people need to read. Don’t you owe it to your constituents and all of America to be accurate and up-to-date?

This is my second letter to you. I requested a response to the first one and I have not received it. I posted to your Facebook page and got no response. Please respond to this message. This is a very non-partisan issue. In this highly contentious and partisan time, taking action on a non-partisan issue is something I think would resonate well with many Americans.

Respectfully yours,
Andrew Knaster, BA, MA, MCP
University of Phoenix Master of Information Systems student, class of 2013

Sen. Tom Harkin needs to tell the truth

Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA) released a report that takes to task for-profit educational institutions such as the University of Phoenix, Capella University, DeVry, Kaplan, and others.  One of his slides states the Apollo Group, the owner of University of Phoenix has no career services or placement staff.

Senator Harkin's incorrect graph about the University of Phoenix's career placement staff

Senator Harkin’s incorrect graph about the University of Phoenix’s career placement staff

Source: http://www.harkin.senate.gov/documents/pdf/4f9ac62292704.pdf

That would be a very serious problem if it was true.  However, as the next picture clearly indicates, Sen. Harkin needs to study the facts a bit more and tell the American people the real truth instead of his truth.

University of Phoenix career services page

University of Phoenix career services page