Common Sense Conservatism: Education

On September 10, 2010, in Conservatives, Education, Liberals, Politics, by Mark Ciavola

May 16, 1980: a day that will live in infamy. It is the day the Department of Education began operating as an autonomous Cabinet-level department. The national graduation rate peaked a decade before President Jimmy Carter created the Department of Education at 77.1%, and has enjoyed an almost uninterrupted decline since, currently hovering in the high 60s. That means three out of every ten students, and almost half of minority students, won’t graduate. The State of Nevada ranks dead last in graduation rates for two years running, as only 47% of high-schoolers graduate.

Everyone agrees that our education system needs to be improved, and liberals and conservatives disagree, as usual, on how to address the challenge. The liberal position typically includes additional funding, even though spending on education has skyrocketed since 1980 with no results to show for it. Conservatives have proposed a number of ideas that routinely get shot down:

“The Party of No” supports School Vouchers, so parents can send their children to the school of their choice, regardless of cost.

“The Party of No” supports Open Enrollment, so parents can choose better performing schools, instead of the one closest to their home.

“The Party of No” supports Charter Schools, which are free from many of the restrictive and costly regulations placed on traditional public schools in exchange for producing measurable results.

“The Party of No” supports Empowerment Schools, which allow for more local control of curriculum, and less micro-management from the Department of Education.

Meanwhile, “The Party of Yes” routinely opposes all of them. Teachers Unions across the country have frequently opposed School Vouchers, Open Enrollment, Charter Schools and Empowerment Schools. And why do teachers unions and many Democrats oppose these choice options? Because they threaten the status quo, which unions and Democrats have worked very hard to establish over the years. Let’s dig a little deeper:

The best example of the successes of school voucher programs is our nation’s capital. The Washington DC public school system ranked 46th in the nation in 2002, and remains below 50% when charter schools are excluded. The District also spends the most money per pupil, at roughly $28,000, proving that money won’t solve our education crisis. Six years ago, Washington DC began a school voucher program that allows low-income parents to take their children out of poor performing schools, and put them in private schools regardless of cost. In fact, the average cost of a voucher is around $6,500, ONE-FOURTH of the cost of enrolling the same child in the public school system that only graduates 48% of kids.

Not only has the DC Opportunity Scholarship Program helped more than 3,000 students, it has done so with significant savings to taxpayers. So why do unions oppose it? And why did Democrats in Congress, and President Obama, END THE PROGRAM? Teachers Unions believe that if school vouchers give parents the ability to send their kids to private schools, there will be fewer students in public schools. Fewer students mean fewer tax dollars, which when combined will lead to fewer public schools, fewer public school teachers and fewer union members paying dues. That’s pretty obvious, and it’s simple math – even if 52% of public school students in DC can’t add and subtract. It should also be noted that a large portion of dues paid to unions are spent attempting to get union-friendly politicians elected, who then continue to oppose common sense reforms like school vouchers.

So is the program worth saving? Does it work? The answer is a resounding YES! The latest report from the Department of Education shows that students who used their vouchers had graduation rates 21% higher than those who did not receive them. It doesn’t take a high school diploma to see how amazing that is. The fact that there are far more students seeking vouchers than there are vouchers to give, clearly illustrates the need for expansion. Liberals believe the public school system will collapse if vouchers remove tax dollars from poor performing schools, but conservatives see it differently. Perhaps if public schools feel the need to compete for students and tax dollars, they will do better in providing a quality education. If the end result is the building of more private schools, and the complete collapse of the public school system, I’m all for it. We should not tolerate a 48% graduation rate when we’re spending $28,000 per pupil in a failing school system. Our goal should be to provide a quality education at a practical cost, which is an area where public schools fail.

Survival is a powerful instinct. I can’t blame teachers unions for opposing these common sense reforms, because they will most definitely result in a less-robust public school environment for them to control. I also can’t blame them for opposing these ideas on the grounds that they will show how truly ineffective our public school systems are. However, we should care more about the students and their results, than about the politics. Whatever reforms work best should be implemented – even if they are advocated by conservatives.

Today in Nevada, the state hardest hit by low graduation rates, U.S. Senate candidate Sharron Angle is being labeled a radical because of her belief that the Department of Education should be abolished. Is that a radical idea? I’m sure President Carter had the best intentions when he put education in a prominent position in our federal government. But like everything our government does, financial cost always keeps pace with inefficiency. Since 1980, the Department of Education has produced significant cost increases and graduation rate decreases, all in the name of a failed one-size-fits-all approach to education. Do we really need 4,800 bureaucrats spending $80 billion a year (of our money) to fail our kids?

If someone asked you for $1,000, and told you they’d send you back $500 and tell you how to spend it, would you give it to them? That’s exactly what the Department of Education does. It takes our tax dollars and sends a fraction of them back to us with strict instructions on how those dollars must be spent. Do you honestly believe bureaucrats and politicians in Washington know better how to educate the children of your hometown? It isn’t radical to want the Department of Education to be downsized, and returned to the fold of the Department of Health & Human Services. It isn’t radical to want local control over local school systems. And it isn’t radical to want a better education for our children, at a lower cost, with more choice and accountability.

When it comes to education, the Democrats are the “Party of No.” Unfortunately, they get a free pass. Why? Because the vast number of educators and administrators in our nation’s school system are Democrats. They don’t want to call out their own. Meanwhile, the “Party of Yes” built a $578 million school in Los Angeles while Democrats in Washington passed a $26 billion spending bill to save teacher jobs. Apparently a high-tech swimming pool, vaulted ceilings and a marble sculpture of Robert F. Kennedy are more important than teaching students English, Math and Science. Believe it or not, the school cost $78 million more to build than the Olympic Bird’s Nest in Beijing, China. The L.A. Unified School District has a $640 million budget shortfall, and a 35% drop-out rate, with 3,000 teacher layoffs over the past two years.



I’ll leave you with a question. What percent of a school district’s budget (not counting expenditures for capital projects or equipment purchases) should go to the classroom?

If you said 13%, welcome to Clark County, Nevada. And people think spending more money is the solution.

The views expressed in this blog are the author’s, and do not necessarily represent the views of Right Pride or GOProud.


The future of our planet is at stake! That’s what you’ll hear from proponents of cap and trade legislation. For those of you who aren’t familiar with Cap and Trade, let me explain what it is and what it is designed to accomplish.

According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), “Cap and trade is an environmental policy tool that delivers results with a mandatory cap on emissions while providing sources flexibility in how they comply.” That sounds a little vague. Over at Wikipedia, they explain it a bit better: “Emissions trading (also known as cap and trade) is a market-based approach used to control pollution by providing economic incentives for achieving reductions in the emissions of pollutants.” Not bad, although it sounds voluntarily. Here are the facts from a pretty fair article over at Now Public:

  • Cap and trade legislation “aims to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 17% by 2020.”
  • Cap and trade legislation would “cap” or limit the amount of greenhouse gases emitted by industrial industries.
  • If companies go above their limit, they have to buy pollution permits.
  • If companies stay under their limit, they can sell their additional permits to companies that need them.

The idea of limiting carbon emissions with a system of rewards and penalties sounds like a great way to help keep our planet clean and ensure companies make our environment a priority. The bill passed the Democrat-super-majority-controlled House of Representatives 219-211 (Democrats control 255 votes, and only need 218 to pass a bill). The bill has yet to pass the Senate.

Many conservatives and Republicans are against this bill. In traditional fashion, these “anti-climate,” “anti-environment” conservatives are being painted as “hating green jobs” by proponents of Cap and trade legislation. So do conservatives hate the environment? Or are there other reasons why they’re against Cap and Trade?

First, opponents of Cap and Trade extend beyond the Republican Party. After all, 44 Democrats voted against the bill and 8 Republicans voted for it. I haven’t seen a news story asking why those 44 Democrats hate the environment, but I’m sure it’s in the works. Like all pieces of legislation, there are both good and bad components. When evaluating whether a bill should be passed, we should take a look at how good and how bad these provisions are. Let’s do just that.

Reducing greenhouse gases 17% by 2020 is a noble goal. What are greenhouse gases? According to the National Climactic Data Center (NCDC) they include water vapor, carbon dioxide, and methane among others, in order or importance. According to their website, “the feedback loop in which water is involved is critically important to projecting future climate change, but as yet is still fairly poorly measured and understood.” So we know water vapor is important, we just don’t know how or why.

The site also tells us that carbon dioxide has increased 30% since before the industrial revolution, but that is to be expected. It has risen from 310 parts-per-million (ppm) to 370 ppm since 1955, hardly a giant leap. However, the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) recommends an exposure limit of 5,000 ppm. If the current rate of increase continues (roughly 1 ppm per year), we will reach unsafe limits in the year 6640.

Methane, which we’re told is the most dangerous by-product of the cattle industry and our dependence on beef, has not increased significantly in our atmosphere since 1990. According to the NCDC, “there is no scientific consensus on why methane has not risen much since around 1990.”

While reducing greenhouse gases is a respectable objective, it hardly seems as though we are in the throes of an environmental catastrophe.

Limiting the amount of greenhouse gases emitted by industrial industries also sounds practical. However, no one will argue that reducing the output of every carbon emitter in the country by 17% will result in problems. To address this problem, pollution permits have been created. Companies that must go over their allotted emissions can purchase these carbon credits from companies that have extra. The Chicago Climate Exchange (CCX) is one greenhouse gas emission registry which will trade these carbon credits between companies, no doubt for a tidy profit, as the European Climate Exchange (ECX) is already doing. Companies like Al Gore’s Generation Investment Management will seek to make money from the exchange of these credits, by charging fees to their clients. This amounts to nothing more than penalties for going over the cap; penalties that will undoubtedly be passed on to consumers.

In 1975 we learned of impending doom in the form of Global Cooling. The last 15 years has been dominated by talk of Global Warming. In the end, there is so much inconsistency among scientists, including evidence of scientists falsifying information to prove warming trends. If there’s no real emergency, why is Congress trying to pass a bill that the Obama Administration admits could cost families almost $1,800/year?

While conservatives are being vilified for opposing Cap and trade legislation, Americans should take the time to learn about exactly how this bill will affect them. Our nation is $13.4 Trillion in debt, unemployment remains near 10%, and Congress continues to spend money on bill after bill. Would passing Cap & trade help us solve these problems, or would it simply create more?

Imagine a nation where our industries are restricted by arbitrary limits on emissions, and penalized for not complying with potentially unrealistic goals for reduction. This will happen while China and India, the world’s top polluters, would have no such restrictions! How does this help America? If the playing field was level, and America was not forced to operate at a huge disadvantage, this bill would be worth taking a second look at. Until that happens, how can we honestly support Cap and Trade?

Rahm Emanuel is known for having said, “You never want a serious crisis to go to waste.” It is with that philosophy that President Obama, and his Democrat-controlled Congress, is using our current economic crisis to pass trillions in new spending. These policies will have long-term effects on our country and taxpayers, and it’s time to start analyzing whether we need this spending now giving our economic challenges.

Al Gore, the most prevalent advocate of Cap and Trade and other global warming legislation, doesn’t even follow his own advice. He routinely travels via private jet, keeps his motorcade’s engines running, and lives in a mansion, four-times the size of the average American’s home – resulting in energy consumption 12-times higher than the average American family according to Associated Press. He even plagiarized a clip from the disaster movie “The Day After Tomorrow” in his environmental epic “Inconvenient Truth” to advance his views.

Conservatives don’t hate the environment, but they do hate government expending by trillions of dollars, if taxpayers are on the hook for something we don’t need. Saving our planet shouldn’t be a partisan issue, but has been made one by environmentalists hell-bent on using government to achieve their goals. These liberals blame conservatives for fear-mongering, while they scare Americans into supporting bills like Cap and Trade with Global Warming doom and gloom scenarios. It’s hypocrisy, and should be treated as such.

“The Party of No” continues to be vilified by the Left, but they never take the time to explain why “yes” is the right answer. Today, being “The Party of Yes” means supporting:

  • Government-imposed penalties for emitting pollution, costing us money and jobs.
  • A complete government takeover of the health care industry via the public option, which Democrats are still trying to pass.
  • Limitless bailouts for everything and everyone, regardless of how much debt we accrue.
  • The immediate end to Don’t Ask Don’t Tell without allowing the military to weigh in and assess the impact on our military readiness during wartime.
  • A mandatory reduction in salt at restaurants.
  • Taxes on soda and candy.
  • Removing toys from Happy Meals at McDonalds.
  • Mandating equal time for conservatives and liberals on the radio.

If saying “No” to this stuff means conservatives are the bad guys, so be it!

The views expressed in this blog are the author’s, and do not necessarily represent the views of Right Pride or GOProud.


Of Bombers and Bacteria

On September 1, 2010, in Foreign Policy, Terrorism, by Dustin Wood

In a few days our nation will stop to reflect on that September morning nine years ago when scores of our fellow Americans fell at the hands of Muslim terrorists. Everyone has his or her own 9-11 story. I was on my way to work traveling along I-430 in Little Rock listening to country music on KSSN-96. Whatever song was playing ended (something by Ty Herndon, I think) and the morning DJ, Bob Robbins, came on the air to say there were reports of a small twin-engine plane striking the World Trade Center in New York. Arriving at work, I said hello to our receptionist and asked if she heard about the, “…little plane that hit the World Trade Center.” She looked over her glasses at me and replied, “It wasn’t little.”

Like watching a familiar episode of any show in syndication, we all know how the story unfolds. Shock and innuendo filled the remainder of my day. How many people died? Was the flight that went down in the Pennsylvania field related? An attorney I worked with came by my office and told me to leave about thirty minutes early. When I asked why he replied that I needed to get as much gasoline as possible since oil pipelines in the Middle East were being shutdown out of fear of attacks. “Gas is about to get a lot more expensive.” he said.

Over There, Not Over Here

There’s a problem with U.S. thinking on the 9-11 attacks that I don’t believe is readily acknowledged by most people. In general, we perceive the four hijacked planes on that day to be the start of our struggle against Islamic terrorism. This is inaccurate.

Less than a year before thousands of American citizens were immolated on September 11th, the USS Cole was bombed while docked in Yemen. 17 soldiers were murdered that day and another 39 were injured in an attack perpetrated by the Sudanese government and Yemeni citizens. It’s also worth noting that, by the end of 2008, every terrorist convicted in that bombing had either escaped from prison or were freed by Yemeni government officials. Additionally, in 1998, Al Qaeda claimed responsibility for bombing the U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania. In those explosions 224 people were murdered including 12 Americans. This list could continue to include the Al Qaeda bombing of the World Trade Center in 1993 as well as the October 1983 bombing of the USMC barracks in Beirut, Lebanon. However, if you want to get right to the core of Islamic terrorism against our country, you can go all the way back to 1785. In March of that year, the U.S. dispatched its two French ambassadors, Thomas Jefferson and John Adams, to speak with Sidi Haji Abdrahaman, the London envoy of Tripoli. They spoke with Mr. Abdrahaman and asked by what right the Barbary States (modern day Algeria, Libya and Tunisia) attacked American vessels and enslaved the U.S. citizens thereon. They pointed out that the U.S. had not taken part in crusades and had no issue with Islam. As Jefferson and Adams later reported to Congress:

“He said it was written in their Koran, that all nations which had not acknowledged the Prophet were sinners, whom it was the right and duty of the faithful to plunder and enslave; and that every Muslim who was slain in this warfare was sure to go to paradise.”

These acts of enslavement and piracy were no small ordeal. Estimates of Americans and European persons taken into slavery by the state sponsored pirates (terrorists) of the Barbary States go upward of around 1.5 million people. Jefferson later dispatched the U.S. Navy to bombard the Barbary States into submission until they agreed to no longer attack American ships. Incidentally, the U.S.M.C. hymn recalls this action in its lyric, “…to the shores of Tripoli.

Therefore, the contention as posited by the anti-war left in our country is not merely frivolous in its assertions that U.S. foreign policy is the cause of radical Islamic jihad, it’s actually a flat out lie. However, none of these examples excuse the fact that Americans on the whole gave little to no thought concerning the very real threat from Islamic terrorists. Since close to the founding of our country, terrorism against our people was largely ignored until the events of 9-11. It was a problem, “over there” and not, “over here”.

Bacterial Nature

I was hesitant to label this section Bacterial Nature as I thought it on some level to be condescending to other humans – namely the terrorists. I thought it in low taste to steep to such a level as theirs, because, whereas they commonly refer to us as “crusaders” or “infidels”, I thought comparing them to bacteria would be to sink to their level. Thus, let me state on the front side that this is not in reference to them, but rather with regard to the way they act and adapt.

Mold and bacteria are amazing creatures. For millennia unseen by human eyes (or perhaps a few centuries if you believe The Flintstones to be an animated docudrama), bacteria and mold engaged in a struggle for supremacy over food.  Eventually, some molds began to produce antibacterial chemicals to kill off the competition. It worked fine until a few bacteria survived by developing a resistance to the mold’s chemical assault. The mold would then have to adapt to kill off those bacteria who had become resistant. Scottish scientist Alexander Fleming discovered this microbial battle in 1928 while working with the penicillin mold. Hence, the age of the antibiotic was born.

Islamic jihadists operate in much the same way as the bacteria. While our earlier attempts at countering their actions in the Barbary States were quite successful, they are starting to adapt their techniques and we are not (if you’ll excuse the phrase) evolving fast enough. One failure of this can be seen in the stipulations ordered by our own Transportation Security Administration. They list the things they’re looking for. It would only make sense, then, for the terrorists to hide their weapons and techniques where we tell them we’re not looking.

In 2005 as the murmurs over illegal immigration were getting well underway, I engaged in a friendly debate with a liberal friend of mine. She contended that all the arguments made against illegal immigration rested on issues of racism against Hispanics. I disagreed. I told her that my issue with illegal immigration rested on national security issues. As I pointed out to her, “What’s to stop a member of Al Qaeda from crossing from Mexico into the U.S. with a dirty bomb? If that happens, we don’t know where he’s at and the next thing you know, downtown Los Angeles or Houston is made uninhabitable for the next 100 years due to the radioactive fallout. To say nothing of the people who will die slow, agonizing deaths from radiation exposure illnesses like cancer.”

My liberal friend brushed aside my argument on the basis of it being unrealistic. About a year later, the House Homeland Security Committee released a report that operatives of Hezbollah were captured attempting to illegally enter the country from Mexico. Likewise, in 2005, Mahmoud Youssef Kourani, brother to a Hezbollah chief pled guilty to charges of providing material support to Hezbollah after his arrest in the heavily Muslim area of Dearborn, Michigan. He was smuggled into the country via Mexico as well.

The terrorist bombers intent on killing us are changing their tactics just as the bacteria competing for food altered their resistance against chemicals produced by competing molds. We need a new antibiotic.

“There” Is the New “Here”

Whereas once our struggles against Islamic terrorism were confined to over-sea operations, the game has changed. I wonder, sometimes, if Americans are still cognizant of this fact. Not to discount the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center, terrorism wasn’t much on the minds of U.S. citizens until 9-11. Since then, the terrorists have been telling us that the game board has changed. I just wonder how many people are listening.

For a quick rundown of how they’ve let us know this while on our own soil, consider the following:

June, 2009, Abdulhakim Mujahid Muhammad, an Islamic convert, murders one soldier and wounds another outside a Little Rock military recruiting station; September, 2009, Hosam Maher Husein Smadi, a Jordanian national, plots to blow up the Fountain Place building in downtown Dallas; November, 2009, Nidal Hasan, a Muslim psychiatrist serving in the U.S. Army, murders 13 and wounds 30 at Fort Hood, Texas; December, 2009, Umar Abdulmutallab, a Nigerian national, attempted to blow up Northwest Airlines Flight 253 flying from Amsterdam to Detroit; May, 2010, Faisal Shahzad, a naturalized American citizen and Muslim, born in Pakistan, fails in his attempt to detonate a Nissan Pathfinder loaded with explosives in Times Square; and, August, 2010, two Yemeni Muslims attempt a “dry run” to scout out U.S. airport security by making mock-up bombs and stowing them away in their luggage.

Mile High Racial Profiling

Probably the most controversial of our adaptations to counter the terrorist threat is the use of racial profiling. I can honestly say that every time I’ve been in an airport security checkpoint and seen a person of obvious Middle Eastern descent, that person is inevitably subjected to “random additional security screening measures.” The practice of racial profiling isn’t limited to government officials, however. I myself have been party to it. In 2005 on a flight from New England to Arkansas, I had a connection through Newark International Airport. After the pilot advised the passengers and crew that we were on our final approach to land, a woman of dark complexion wearing a hijab sitting several rows ahead of me got up from her seat and began walking towards the back of the plane. I was sitting in an aisle seat. Just before she got to my location, I put my hand and leg into the aisle of the plane – remember, I’m 6’4. The woman turned and looked at me and asked what I was doing. I informed her that we were on our final approach and she needed to sit back down. She told me then that she desperately needed use the bathroom. I in turn told her that I understood, but that our instructions from the captain were to be in our seats as we were about to land. At this point, the woman became angry and began raising her voice.

“You’re only acting like this because I’m a Muslim!” she cried.

The flight attendants took notice of this and headed in our direction. Other passengers, too, began taking a heightened interest in our exchange.

“Yes I am. So what?” was my response to her.

At this point the Muslim woman became incised and started yelling that I was a racist and Islamophobe. The approaching flight attendants were starting to say, “Ma’am, Ma’am?” with increasing volume.

It was then that I informed the woman, in a voice low enough to be heard by her but not the flight crew, that if she didn’t turn around and walk away, she wouldn’t be conscious for the landing. Actually, my words were something along the lines of, “Sit your ass down before I beat the fuck out of you.” But in the moment, my blood stream was coursing with adrenalin from fear for me to now to recall exactly what it was I said. The flight crew arrived just as those harsh words had left my mouth and escorted the woman back to her seat. It should go without saying that I’m a nervous flyer and this woman’s stunt didn’t help.

Would I have reacted the same way if a white man or white woman aged 30 to 60 had acted the same way during that final approach? It’s a justified question and I have an obligation to respond. The most honest and succinct answer I can proffer is this – I don’t know. I’ve given a lot of thought to this exchange since that time and what I can say is that I hope I would have behaved in a similar fashion. In light of our white, “home grown”, Islamic terrorists like Colleen LaRose, a.k.a, Jihad Jane, Adam Gadahn, and John Walker Lindh, I certainly hope so, but I can’t be certain. What this says to me is that racial profiling, while effective at some level, is insufficient in and of itself. Just as many antibiotics are now useless if not used in conjunction with another medication, so too must our security and intelligence forces prepare additional mechanisms to prevent those who do not, “look like a terrorist,” from bringing harm to our person and our country.

It’s a miracle that more Americans have not been murdered on our soil by terrorists. We are being asked to submit to a radical form of Islam. We’re being invited to this submission by violence and, ultimately, to become part of the reestablished Islamic caliphate. This “invitation” isn’t going to be rescinded. It will be asked again and again. However, the only question for us as Americans to decide is how we will respond. Shall we RSVP and cast our pearls of liberty and freedom to the swine or, rather, shall we decline the invitation, cry havoc and let slip the dogs of war on an extremist ideology that wishes to enslave us all?

A Post Script is one of my favorite websites. The blogger and photojournalist who started the site, and who goes simply by the name of “Zombie”, chronicles the goings-on of the far left in and around the San Francisco bay area. If you look at the pictures there, the theme of the bay area leftists couldn’t be clearer: America is the problem. And I must say that, on some level, I agree with these idiots.

For every member of the Taliban who believes stoning or throwing acid in the faces of unveiled women is appropriate, America is a problem. For every Iranian cleric who believes that hanging gay teenagers is appropriate punishment for their “crime”, America is a problem. For every Islamist who believes that a small democratic nation in northern Europe should have its embassies burned because of the printing of a few cartoons of Mohammad in a secular newspaper, America is a problem. For every terrorist who thinks that suicide bombing innocent people in a Bali hotel, an Israeli market, or a Russian theater is an act of bravery, America is a problem. And for every jihadist who wishes to usurp our ideals of freedom of, and from, religion by forcing us at gunpoint to convert to their faith, America is a problem.

The views expressed in this blog are the author’s, and do not necessarily represent the views of Right Pride or GOProud.