Friday, May 16, 2003

Does Illinois Need a Law Against Tongue Splitting?

Just Plain Harris doesn't think so. Here is the "money quote".

As stupid as this may be, we still don't need a law against it. Interestingly, the same people who push this kind of legislation are the same ones who are always screaming that we need government to be smaller and do less. "There are too many regulations! Wait, there's a kid running with scissors! Let's make a new law! And increase funding to the Department Of Intruding On Individual Rights!"

Man, I wish I had written this! Go read the whole thing.

Wednesday, May 14, 2003

Time to Scale Back Human Rights Advocacy?

Perhaps not. But, Rekha.. bwah-ha-ha-ha-ha, now is PRECISELY the time to cut government social programs.

With the War in Iraq on the back burner, Rekha is focused like a laser on the domestic front again. And, surprise of surprises… in her piece today, she articulates the need for expanded State Government.

By any measure, Iowa is getting more diverse. The last census showed non-white, mixed-race or Hispanic Iowans had surged to more than 9 percent of Iowa's 2.8 million people. But the changes were evident even before the numbers.

There are almost weekly stories of how racial diversity is affecting Iowa schools. The growth of immigration, both legal and illegal, has been the subtext to news about meat-packing plants, deportations and the tragic rail-car deaths of 11 Latin American migrants.

How is racial diversity affecting Iowa schools? What negatively affect Iowa schools are children who come to public schools not prepared to learn. Be it because of totally dysfunctional families or inability to communicate in English, these are the issues that tax the public schools.

Now, what exactly were we supposed to do about the admittedly horrible deaths of the people in that rail tanker car? Hey Rekha, I’m Hispanic. I’m for completely opening up the border in both directions. My people have a rich and proud heritage to share with the Norteamericanos… but these newcomers must come like all immigrants have come to this country. They must come (as most Hispanics do, by the way) ready to work and improve their lot. They must take it upon themselves to learn English and do it as soon as possible… and do all of this without the help of the state.

It is not the responsibility of any citizen or legal resident of the United States to subsidize the lot of new immigrants to this country. That amounts to a forced redistribution of wealth, which is bad enough in and of itself, but indefensible when the wealth is redistributed from hard working taxpayers to recent immigrants.

So if anything, state planners and legislators should be getting more responsive to the growing needs and challenges of its population. Instead, the Iowa Legislature appears to be heading in the opposite direction.

Now Rekha, pull up a chair and listen. Regardless of how you feel about these programs, the State government does not create the wealth that funds them. It saps wealth from the private economy. When the economy is in a downturn, the state gets to leech less money from private and corporate taxpayers. Increasing taxes only makes the situation worse. The engines of creativity and production are dampened by the increased taxation and net tax revenues go down over time. And at the State level you can’t just keep taking from the well, Rekha. It does not work. Taxes cannot be raised to the point where you drive individuals and businesses from the state. There are no chains that bind these individuals and businesses to the State of Iowa. Remember Gateway…?

In short, “services” SHOULD be cut in the lean times. It’s just like my family budget Rekha. If my wife or I lose our job or our income is otherwise lowered, we must cut back.

The state's Human Rights Division has since 1986 pulled together the divisions representing the needs of various Iowa populations, including Latinos, African-Americans, women, deaf people and those with disabilities. Each division has its own commission and is responsible for study, referrals and advocacy for its constituency.

Now a legislative subcommittee is considering scrapping both the Human Rights and Elder Affairs departments and replacing them with a Department of Elder Affairs and Advocacy. It would fold the Latino, African-American and women's divisions along with the freestanding Civil Rights Department into one catch-all agency.

Oh, noooooooooo!!! We can’t have that!!! We have to EXPAND those divisions…especially the women’s division. With women doing better in high school, going to and graduating from college at a higher rate than men, living longer than men, having an overwhelming, unfair advantage in family court, having more choice than at any point in history… yep, that’s where I want MY tax dollars to go. They need MORE help.

Republican Senators Mary Lundby and Bob Brunkhorst of the Legislative Government Oversight Committee say it would help advance Gov. Tom Vilsack's idea of "reinventing government" while promoting the Republican goal of less interference of government in people's lives. And, of course, save money.

But it threatens to water down each division's mission and effectiveness to the point of dooming them all.

In my best Mr. Burns voice: “Excellent!” It is my sincere hope that government gets “reinvented” back to the time before FDR. Government should provide for defense (law enforcement on the State level), a judicial system, education (I’m not a pure libertarian…) and physical infrastructure. And Rekha, “saving money”, which means less taxes taken from my family is the best way of attaining “less interference of government in people’s lives.”

"That's so short-sighted it's almost incomprehensible," said Jonathan Narcisse, who produces "The State of Black Iowa" report, and has applied to fill the vacant position of director of the division on the Status of African-Americans. "At some point, you choke on your own lack of vision. And we're nearing that point.”

Oh yeah, you mean the same Jonathan Narcisse who is an organizer of the “White Privilege Conference”… From their web site.

“...defines white privilege as "unearned assets" about which most white people are unaware. She describes it as "an invisible weightless knapsack of special provisions, maps, passports, codebooks, visas, clothes, tools and blank checks" that serve to advantage white people living in a racist society.”

Hey… I pass for white. Where’s my knapsack??? I thought I left it in the hall closet. I want to get me some of them blank checks baby.

This is only one aspect of a larger merger scheme under consideration. The Department for the Blind would combine with Deaf Services and Persons with Disabilities. The Division of Criminal and Juvenile Justice Planning would merge with Drug Control Policy. The Community Action Agencies division would fuse with the Department of Economic Development. Agency heads have been asked to respond at committee meetings May 20-21.

Seriously, my Libertarian ideology aside, in a time of lean revenues and in an effort to reduce the size and scope of government, these moves make perfect sense. The problem is that Rekha wants government to larger and more intrusive. For every problem a program... for every “victim” a check.

Two years of budget slashing have already left some departments bare to the bone. Brunkhorst says some advocacy divisions can hardly be effective with only one or two staffers. He suggests they could benefit from a merger. "Let's not just focus on one or two groups but focus on all Iowans, no matter whether they're men, women, children, black or white," he said.

Between 1992 and 2000, the Iowa State budget grew 56% according to the American Legislative Exchange Council. But, that’s the way it’s supposed to work, right? When times are good, the economy is humming along the state reaps the benefits and it’s spend, spend, spend. When times are not so good, you can’t even freeze the budget to last years numbers adjusted for inflation. There’s always another victimized group that needs funding and state “advocacy”.

It's at best naive, and at worst cynical, to think that someone who understands elderly issues could be an effective spokesperson for Hispanics. Or that an understanding of wage disparities and gender would translate into an appreciation for African-Americans" experience of racial profiling. Each division also relies on the expertise of its unpaid commissioners, who are links to the communities and would be gone in a merger. "Elder Affairs would have no idea what Latino communities need in Iowa," said John-Paul Chaisson-Cardenas, a Latino Affairs commissioner. "It feels like a dismissal of particular communities."

Hey Rekha, why are demographic groups entitled to a state funded spokesperson? I’m perfectly capable of speaking for myself, thank you. As for Mr. Chaisson-Cardenas, just did a Google search on him and, guess what… top of the hit list… you guessed it: speaker at the “White Privilege Conference”.

Some of these communities are already in crisis. Iowa Latinos in seventh through 12th grades are dropping out at the rate of 5.4 percent a year, says Chaisson-Cardenas. Narcisse says 81 percent of black and Latino kids in Des Moines schools live in poverty, and in Davenport 80 percent of African-Americans are born out of wedlock and 58 percent of minority youth are incarcerated.

Not communities in crisis!!! The children, the children!!! Yeah Rekha, let’s get our statistics from “advocates” for these particular groups… that will give us the most unbiased numbers.

And concern over the care of the state's nursing-home population may never have been as intense.

Different groups deserve their own advocacy agencies because "they're deprived of different rights and privileges and access," says Rudy Simms, who heads the Iowa chapter of the National Conference for Community and Justice. As to folding in the Civil Rights Department, its job under state statute is to enforce the laws against discrimination, while the other agencies are advocates.

Excuse my language Rekha, but Mr. Simms’ comment is BULLSHIT. Every individual’s or family’s failure in every non-white community is caused by depravation of rights and access? No… it’s not a person’s choices and actions… it’s society’s fault. This lame rationalization has been going on for nearly 40 years in this country and has gotten us nowhere.

Sometimes in Iowa you feel like you're living in a bubble. Suggesting that the 32-year-old Status of Women division may no longer be needed, Lundby asked, "What are its goals, now that we have an Equal Rights Amendment?"

More preferential treatment for women, perhaps?

Where to begin: With wage disparities and lack of child care? With domestic violence and sexual assault? With the glaring absence of an Iowa woman ever elected to the U.S. House or Senate? The particular needs may change, but the lack of equality is ongoing.

Rekha, the lack of equality will always be ongoing. Why…? Because you are talking about equality of outcome, not equality of opportunity. And the examples that you cite are getting more than a bit threadbare:

The wage disparities between men and women are almost nonexistent when you remove flawed data that was truly comparing apples to oranges.

Lack of child care…??? Oh, you mean FREE, state-funded child care.

Domestic violence and sexual assault – yep, if we just get more state programs we’ll surely eliminate them. Don’t take responsibility for yourselves ladies. Don’t leave that abusive moron you live with… just blame it on society and get aid from the state.

You want an Iowa woman elected to the House or Senate, field a candidate and get her elected. Hey… YOU could run Rekha on the Socialist Workers Party ticket!

This proposal has the mark of so much else flowing from the Legislature these days: extreme denial.

So Rekha, you equate fiscal responsibility with denial. I think that just the opposite is true. I think that YOU are in denial. The state coffers are low. The state government has been bloated to gargantuan proportions over the last 30 years and the people who pay taxes are more and more tired of it.

Not every problem at the individual, community, state and federal level is a “social justice” issue. As scary as it is to those who owe their livelihoods to the institutionalization of demographic victimhood, the overwhelming majority of institutionalized racism in this country has been overcome. There has never been a better time and place on the planet to be a human being of whatever color, creed or religion. But, like a paranoid McCarthyite who sees bomb-throwing Bolsheviks behind every corner, Rekha sees social injustice as the root of every human fault and failure.

It’s not social injustice Rekha… it’s just the human condition.