Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Halloween Tie

I have a presentation today and I decided I should wear a Halloween tie. Something with pumpkins or even a musical tie with ghosts that said "Boo" when you pushed a button. I looked in three stores by myself, then went to the mall with my wife and looked in a half dozen or more.

We saw Halloween clothes for women and children, but nothing for men. I guess men just aren't meant to be festive.

Happy Halloween from an unfestive presenter.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

This note is legal tender for all debts public and private

Check your wallet, that's what it says on all bills printed in the US. The idea is that it's backed by the full authority of the US Government (which sometimes is scary) and that you can use it anywhere you go to pay bills. No need to carry gold or silver or scales to weigh gold or silver. As Martha Stewart would say, "it's a good thing!"

Why then is Apple saying "your money's no good here"? And by that, they mean it's no good, not that you can have it without giving money. Seems like Apple is trying to track expenses and say who can buy their product and how many. Rationing. Discrimination. I can think of a lot of words. Bottom line, why can't I use cash?

I wasn't planning on buying an iPhone. I don't have/need an iPod (I do have a Palm Pilot that will play MP3's) and I already have a cell phone. My son is crazy about the iPhone, but they are WAY out of his price league. It just bothers me that you can't use cash.

When I was young, someone once told me that companies HAD to accept cash. It was the law. I know some companies today don't, but I also know I've heard stories about people demanding it. And I've heard the courts backed it up. I looked and couldn't find anything one way or the other. But, somehow, even if it isn't illegal, it's just wrong.

The article is here.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Sola Scriptura

This morning I was looking for some reference information and ran across an interesting article that took me way off track. It included the information below. This wasn't a key part of the article and I disagreed with the article's premises, but I completely agreed with these statements.

The article contained a definition of "sola Scriptura", which is Latin for "only the Bible". (I like quoting Latin, it makes me feel important". It said:

"Some Christians chafe at the discussion because there is no Bible verse (on subject of your choice). This charge is especially relevant to a Protestant such as this author (and this author), who believes in the Reformation principle of sola Scriptura.

"But sola Scriptura does not mean that Scripture is the only authority to which one should listen, but that Scripture is the final and non-negotiable authority, the norm that norms all other norms. I look to (my favorite mapping tool), not to Leviticus, to find my way from Louisville to Chicago, but if (my favorite mapping tool)—or the Third Vatican Council or the Executive Committee of the Southern Baptist Convention—tells me there was never a City of Jericho, I submit to the authority of Scripture over theirs.

"Moreover, sola Scriptura has never meant merely a concordance approach to the Bible (Where’s a verse on sex reassignment surgery? Not one? Then it’s fine? Well, no). There is a comprehensive storyline to Scripture, against which we must judge our actions, especially the actions of our churches as we testify to the reality of the gospel."

Ok, it's not ground breaking theology, but it expains a lot of how I feel. And since I couldn't find the information I was looking for, this serves two purposes: 1) it gives me something to put here and 2) it will help remind me of a basic tenant of my belief.

If anyone's interested, the full article on a totally separate subject is here. I'm very interested in any comments on this statement...

Thursday, October 25, 2007

When is a library not a library?

When you can't check anything out! See the article here.

Seems the Bill Clinton Presidential Library has a limited selection of information available to the viewing public. In particular, a collection of emails and papers about Hillary is not available and won't be until long after the 2008 election. Is she trying to hide something? How long did it take for her to find Whitewater papers? She must've used that as a trial ground to work this angle.

The story I heard on the radio said that less than 1/2 of 1% of all of the material from the Clinton days is available. This after Hillary promised us the library would be open.

Several republicans are running on the platform that they are the one who can beat Hillary. I've never liked someone who runs on a platform like this. But she is one person who almost makes me change my mind...

P.S. There's also a fishy report I heard about Hillary receiving donations from the China connection. I haven't researched it yet, but will post an entry when I do.

Monday, October 22, 2007

30,000 pounds of bananas

Fans of Harry Chapin (or residents of Scranton, Pa) may recognize the subject line as a song. If you don't recall, the lines, you can see the lyrics here.

Alas, the residents of the eastern half of Simpsonville, will be like the residents of Scranton in the second ending of the song (the first ending and the second were both rejected if you listen to the live performance).

The ending was:
A woman walks into her room where her child lies sleeping
and when she sees his eyes are closed, she sits there, silently weeping
and though she lives in Scranton, Pennsylvania
She never ever eats ... Bananas
Not one of thirty thousand pounds .... of bananas

Tonight was my son's last night on the job stacking bananas. Now he's going to take a break from the world of capitalism. Until the grocery store finds another banana stacker, the residents will go without. Stock up Simpsonville!

P.S. The song was based on actual history. Visit the link above for the details

What a weekend!

The weekend was busy!! As normal for our house, we had an invader for the weekend, our 18 month old grandson. He has more energy than both of us combined. The big event was a surprise birthday party for my 80 year old mother (Happy Birthday Mom!).

I was nominated to put together a slide show with old pictures, so I finished pulling them all together Friday night. Of course first, we had dinner with some of the folks who had come into town for the surprise.

Saturday involved finishing up last minute details and getting ready for the party. A little setup, a little moving furniture, then everyone started arriving. Three hours of meet & greet, take tear down it all and then to dinner again (we're a family that likes to eat).

Saturday night we crashed as soon as the 18 month old invader would let us. Sunday morning, I had the privelege of hearing my favorite singer worship her (& my) Lord by singing at my mom's church (another birthday present for Mom). And of course after church, what else, but go eat again.

Yes, a busy weekend, and no time to think about things I normally blog about. But it was a good weekend.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Evolution and the Wisdom of the Crowds

Does fundamentalist religion cause the rejection of evolution?or is it the other way around?

OK, I'm not abandoning my fundamentalist Christianity. But this was a well written article explaining a non-religious reason that some people reject evolution. Go see the full article here.

The article is a not an easy read, but if you read it like a school paper, it's not too hard. Basically, it suggests that the way to convert those of us who are anti-evolution is to address the conceptual difficulty in accepting evolution. Rather than go into details on how to do this, the article defends the process by showing three areas that are "evolution-like" that have the dubious honor of everyone believing would fail, but actually work.

The article uses as a reference a book called "Wisdom of the crowds", a book I read in my MBA. I found the book interesting and believable, but when I tried one experiment from the book, it failed miserably (if interested, I'll blog about that another time). The author suggested many references to back up his work, I have to assume my failure was an anomoly.

The article looks at Wikipedia and the fact that it is exceptionally high quality (higher than Encyclopdia Brittannica) even though it can be edited by people with little or no education. Then it goes on to look at predictive markets and explain how they work and recommendation systems (like Netflix - one of my favorite systems).

The article concludes that pro-eveolutionists should use different teaching methods to teach evolution and avoid the conceptual difficulties.

So what's my point here? Well, first it is NOT to suggest I believe in evolution. Second, it is NOT to alert my anti-evolution friends of some new method of disputing the Truth. Instead, my point is to share a well written article about the Wisdom of the Crowds and how it can help in some practical way. Hope you enjoy it.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Birth control for 11 year olds

In Portland Maine, a middle school has begun dispensing birth control pills and patches to students. Yep, it's true, look here for the article.

Seems the school board voted 7-2 in favor of the action (at least 2 thought the plan was ridiculous). Of course this shouldn't surprise anyone, condoms have been available at the same school since 2000. There is a requirement that parents allow treatment at the school health center, but who wouldn't sign that (I guess "treatment" includes condoms and birth control).

I guess the next step is to give them the phone number for Planned Parenthood and the nearest abortion clinic. Thinking about that, I wonder who sponsors the pills and patches? Even adults have trouble knowing how to take the pill, don't they think these children will make mistakes while thinking they are "safe"? As for the patch, students will wear it some times, then remove it at others and the patch won't be effective.

Why must schools teach students that pre-marital sex is ok? Why can't they stick to teaching academics and let parents teach morals?

Monday, October 15, 2007

Texas Student Booted - Follow-up

Several days ago, I posted an entry titled Texas Student Booted from School for Wearing John Edwards T-Shirt. In the post, I said “the question becomes, does the school district have the right (or responsibility) to restrict the clothes worn in order to keep the peace in school?” I sided with the schools.

I generated a couple of responses and promised to do more research. Special thanks to David and Tom who made me think (something that hasn’t happened outside of work in a while). This post will be long, I apologize but ask you to read it in full. Dissenting comments are welcome and expected.

While I have: 1) spent a lot of time in research and thought, 2) taken one (business) law course and 3) stayed at a Holiday Inn Express once or twice, any attempt to use this post for legal advice should be considered foolish. Or, if you use any arguments here in a bar and get into a fight, please don’t sue me.

Here’s a rough outline of my post, First, I will cover stare decis. It’s painfully long, but important. My second point will look quickly at some points on this specific case, along with points from cases that are similar. Finally, I will wrap up with my opinion and some supporting information.

Stare Decis
It’s important to understand a little bit about American law. Much to the disdain of my more conservative friends, criminal law in the US is based not only on the constitution and legislative laws, but also based on previous decisions. A policy of “stare decis” (I love speaking Latin) applies in the courts. Literally, this is translated “to stand by things decided.” It means that the courts recognize that prior court decisions must be recognized as precedents.

In cases involving the Constitution, the Court has often overruled its earlier decisions. For example, in the years 1946–1992, the U.S. Supreme Court reversed itself in about 130 cases (according to Wikipedia – not always the best source, but usually good).

In his confirmation hearing, Judge Clarence Thomas said “Stare decisis provides continuity to our system, it provides predictability, and in our process of case-by-case decision-making, I think it is a very important and critical concept. (This was in a response to Sen. Strom Thurmond, my SC senator for roughly 100 years).

But Thomas hasn’t always followed precedence. Judge Scalia has said "Clarence Thomas doesn't believe in stare decisis, period. If a constitutional line of authority is wrong, he would say, let’s get it right." Thomas would rather go against a previous ruling than continue a mistake. The judicial oath requires loyalty to the Constitution, rather than to precedence. Stare decisis is not mandated by the Constitution (again, thanks to Wikipedia).

Specific cases
I found a variety of cases regarding schools and enforcement of dress code. Nearly all focused on the student’s freedom of speech vs the school’s requirements for peace. Tom mentioned a benchmark case (Tinker vs Des Moines School District) where students wore black arm bands to protest the Vietnam War. The courts said that the school could not limit the students’ rights to free speech unless that speech constituted a “material disruption.”

Many cases go back to this 1969 decision. When looking at this specific case (Texas/Edwards t-shirt) it should be noted that the school district dress code prohibits all writing or slogans on student clothing except for “school spirit” slogans and “university logos.” The legal question would be: Does this school’s dress code meet the Tinker criteria – does the t-shirt create a “material disruption?”

The courts have decided that age of the student makes a difference. In Baxter v. Vigo County School Corp., the courts ruled that elementary school students' rights were not violated when students were disciplined for wearing expressive T-shirt reading: "Unfair Grades" and "Racism". The court concluded that the students failed to demonstrate the right to wear expressive T-shirts while in school. The court indicated that age can be a relevant factor in assessing the extent of a student's free speech rights.

In my words, elementary age students have no freedom of speech. (oops opinion slipping in too quickly)

Not only can age be a factor, but community standards can also influence school policy. In Hines v. Caston School Corp. the court noted that The court noted that evidence was presented that the enforcement of a strict dress code was a factor in improving students' attitudes toward school, and that this change in attitude had led to improvements in school attendance, drop-out rates, and academic performance.

The court stated that a community's schools be permitted to reflect its values. The court also said that "it is a valid educational function to instill discipline and create a positive educational environment by means of a reasonable, consistently applied dress code."

In my words, the courts saw value in dress code.

The same held true in a 1987 Illinois case prohibiting male students from wearing earrings as part of an effort to curb the presence and influence of gangs in the school. In this case, the school provided substantial evidence of gang presence and activity and resulting violence in its schools. The court upheld the policy, concluding that the Board's concern for the safety and well-being of its students and the curtailment of gang activities was rational and did not violate the First Amendment. (Oleson v. Board of Education of School District No. 228)

But the courts have not always supported a dress code. In California (where else?) in 1993 students filed and won a lawsuit against a dress code that prohibited clothing identifying any professional sports team or college. The court ruled that the policy violated the student’s First Amendment free speech rights. (Jeglin v. San Jacinto Unified School District)

And in a 1992 case in Oklahoma case, the courts held that the dress code was unconstitutionally applied to students when the district banned T-shirts with advertisements for alcoholic beverages. The school district failed to meet its burden of proof that the T-shirt message in question would be perceived as an advertisement for alcoholic beverages or that it would result in substantial disruption to the school. (McIntire v. Bethel Sch.)

Probably the most recent case was the “Bong Hits 4 Jesus” (2007). Seems a young man created a sign with the aforementioned slogan and held it at a school-sanctioned event (students were let out of class and accompanied by their teachers). He was suspended for 10 days for promoting illegal drug use. The courts ruled his rights were not violated and his banner was “sophomoric”.

So, staring in the face of stare decis (sorry couldn't resist), precedence going both ways, how should this case be settled? The courts have ruled both ways depending on whether or not they see a need for the policy. If it disrupts school, leads to gang violence or drugs is against community standards or if the children are young, the courts have upheld dress codes.

On the other hand, they have often torn down dress codes in the spirit of free speech. There’s no telling which way the court will rule here IF (big if) the people involved appeal. I wouldn't bet one way or the other.

My opinion remains the same. I side with the schools. If they have a policy against political comments on t-shirts, they should enforce it. Students who violate the policy should be disciplined.

If an individual is concerned about free speech, they should go to the school board meeting and voice their concern (no evidence that this was done in this case). If the school board fails to respond, a lawsuit could be filed WITHOUT disrupting school. You may argue that this shouldn’t disrupt schools, but it will. The teacher involved and the principal will have to decide whether to enforce the rules as handed to them, or violate them (and risk their jobs). Students will begin to lose respect for the system as a whole.

It’s possible to effect change within the system.

Thanks for reading this entire note. Special thanks again to Tom and David for making me think.

Saturday, October 13, 2007


This word has been on my mind a lot lately. I think I read it in the book Wild at Heart by John Eldredge (a good book, by the way). The word literally means to remove the entrails. Picture a hunter who has caught his prey, he removes the entrials to prevent them from infecting the good meat. You gut a fish before you catch it. Same thing.

But my mind hasn't been on hunting. Instead it's been on a friend of mine who has been eviscerated. Those who know some scorned or vengeful women may have an image of how an man can be eviscerated. In this case, that image doesn't fit exactly, but leave that image in your mind.

The friend has been told by many of those around him that he's not a man. He grew up in an abusive home (I'm assuming "mild" physical abuse - if there is such a thing) with an alcoholic parent. His parents divorced and the alcoholic hasn't remarried. The other spouse remarried and ignored my friend. (I think the remarriage and ignorance happend after my friend became an adult - not while he was still a child).

Now, his marriage is on the rocks. He wants to be a good husband, he wants to be a good father. They've been to counseling, but it didn't help. Certainly some (most?) of the blame for the failure of their relationship falls on his shoulders. He admits this as fact. That doesn't make it any easier to resolve things.

When I look into my very cloudy crystal ball, I see them headed for more problems. I wish I knew an easy way to un-viscerate him and convince her that they can recover. There may already be too much water under the bridge.

Friday, October 12, 2007

The Strong One

Last night my wife and I went to a Clint Black concert. It was in a city theatre (rather than an auditorium) so the ambiance was very nice. His tour is appropriately called "Up Close and Personal". Even though we were some 15 or so rows back, we had excellent seats as did everyone in the theater.

Along with a lot of favorites, he sang his new song "The Strong One" - a story about the strong ones in our lives: our mothers. It's a story about a single mom and it includes the line "you tell me who the strong one is." Excellent song.

Clint also did a Willie Nelson song and he actually did a better Willie than Willie does. His story about the time he met Willy before a CMA show was hilarious.

The opening act was Laura Bryna. She was good and I'll probably buy her upcoming CD just to hear more of her. She still has a ways to go. I read her resume on the program and it was impressive. Her personal comments also gave me a lot to believe in.

Overall, the night was a nice change from everyday doldrums. If you get a chance to see the tour, you should go.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Dedication to God, love of family and Country

This article tells a story that is sad. Seems a young eagle scout (age 17) wanted to honor his grandfather with a flag flown over the capital. So he filled out the necessary paperwork, paid the necessary fees and included a personal dedication that said it was for "his dedication to God, love of family and County." [sic]

But the official rules prevent religious expressions, so the word "God" was removed.

I thought the first amendment said that "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof..." Wasn't this eagle scout exercising his freedom of religion? Isn't Congress (who set up these rules) prohibiting him from that exercise?

(Note: Some headlines and radio reports said that Nancy Pelosi defended this policy. I couldn't find any facts to back that up. If you find any comments by Pelosi pro/con please let me know)

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Failure to plan on your part....

... does not constitute an emergency on my part.

My day today has been shot. I planned to go to Columbia, instead I'm headed north of Charlotte. I planned to work on several things this morning, instead I got an urgent call at 9:30. IF we order something, how long would it take to arrive? Oh, we've been sitting on it for weeks. We've known all the deadlines for months. We should have ordered it days ago. But we might get around to it and when we do, we want it RIGHT NOW. Just in time. No matter that the order has to be processed in Brazil, no matter that it has to be built to order in Mexico, no matter that it has to come through customs with more scrutiny than a pick-up load of illegals.

And that's just one of the fires I'm fighting while I spend 6 hours of my 10 hour day driving.

Hopefully, I'll have my follow-up and the school with John Edwards t-shirt problems tomorrow...
(Can you tell I'm frustrated?)

Monday, October 08, 2007

Obama speaks at church - Updated

Last Thursday, I posted a blog showing that Sen. Obama intended to violate the constitutional [sic] requirement for a separation of church and state. Since I'm sure most of my readers don't read the local newspaper or listen to local newsradio, I thought I'd update here.

The article can be found here. Apparently, Sen Obama stuch to his faith-based message and didn't drift into politics. He reported that his late-blooming faith is "what keeps (his) eyes set on the greatest of heights."

A listener to the local Christian talk radio program phoned in with his view. He reported that Obama seemed shocked by what he saw at the racially diverse congregation and probably wondered what role the government might have (none) since this was already diverse. He said Obama was stunned and for 20 minutes didn't even realize the congregation was standing. This listener said he spoke to Obama after the service and told him that "God can not bless you until you drop your pro-abortion stance".

This last comment comes off sounding very negative. When the speaker reported it on the radio, it didn't come off that way. Rather it sounded like he was impressed with Obama and wanted to share his opinion. Reportedly Obama looked down and went to the next person. Again, this wasn't reported as negative, just factual. I did not get the impression that the speaker took it negative. If you infer that either side of this was negative, I did a poor job reporting.

My point here is that Obama did what many conservatives do, and that is to speak in front of the church. Let's not forget this when Bush speaks in a church and is accused of violating this constitutional edict.

Update -
Where is the equal time? Will Fred Thompson or Sen. McCain be allowed to speak? Also, if there is such a push to shut out Rush Limbaugh, why not shut out this church?

Friday, October 05, 2007

I hate MySpace

I found a good blog, someone who lives in my area and shares some common interest (except college choices). But I can't comment because I don't have a myspace account. I guess I have to go create one, but do you KNOW how many userids/passwords I have? 51! (I just counted)

I have them recorded somewhere (it's a secret where). That's not good for security, but making them all the same isn't either. There has to be a better way!

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Separation of Church and State

Another case of a presidential candidate trying to use religion to get votes. See the details here.

Seems that Sen. Barack Obama is going to speak at Redemption Outreach Center, a non-denominational church, in Greenville this Sunday. In the past, similar actions have caused an outcry for "a wall of separation" between the Church and the State.

My reaction may surprise people on both sides. First, I think each candidate is guaranteed the right to speak about his/her faith (or not to speak as they desire). I personally hope each one explains his/her faith position and how it will impact their decisions should they win the White House. Maybe the answer is it won't affect them, that's ok too. At least I'll know where they say they stand.

I would like to go hear the Senator speak. I heard his speech at the Democratic National Convention and was impressed. I realized then that this was a Senator to watch. While I disagree with most of his positions, I think he is an excellent speaker and he brings a lot of good thinking to the floor.

It's unlikely that I will be able to hear him, I have commitments at my own church this weekend. It's not clear what time he will be speaking, so it's still possible.

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Texas Student Booted From School for Wearing John Edwards T-Shirt

Apparently, it's against the rules in a particular Texas school district to wear t-shirts with political slogans. Read the whole story here.

The question becomes, does the school district have the right (or responsibility) to restrict the clothes worn in order to keep the peace in school? Apparently, the fact that it was an Edwards shirt really didn't matter, the student would have had the same punishment for wearing a Clinton, Obama, Rudy or Thompson shirt.

The parents are talking about a law-suit (of course), claiming freedom of speech. I side with the school district here. If the policy was well documented (I'm assuming here), then they should be allowed to enforce the policy. The parents could sue, but shouldn't allow their son to wear the shirt until the policy is changed.

Somehow parents need to understand that the schools are at a disadvantage. They get complaints when they don't set standards, and then complaints when they do. Parents should support the schools, then work through normal channels to effect changes if needed. Using your kid (or allowing your kid) to effect the changes is just plain wrong. Kids need to respect authority, even if the authority is wrong. There's a better way to correct the wrongs.

Monday, October 01, 2007

Write in Jenna Bush for president

According to an MSNBC report, Jenna Bush won't be seeking the presidency. Uhh.. someone should check their constitution (with apologies to Al Haig). You have to be 35 to be president. Young Jenna is only 25 according to the same report. She'll have to wait out the next 3 elections.

MSNBC also says her fiancee doesn't aspire to the presidency. He's not much older, this site says he's 29. He'll have to wait out this election and the next.

I think this qualifies as stupid journalism (with apologies to my son-in-law)

Oh, as for changing their mind? Remember that in 1992, Hillary Clinton said she wasn't a "stand by your man" woman. Somewhere along the way, I guess she changed. Jenna and her husband-to-be are entitled to change their minds too


This past weekend, my wife & I took a short trip to Savannah, a first for both of us. This was in celebration of our sixth anniversary.

Let me first say that I am married to the most wonderful woman in the world. How she puts up with me continues to be a mystery and the fact that she deigns to my level is still beyond my comprehension. But she doesn't consider it that at all and that's even more mysterious.

Savannah is a nice town to visit. At 60 feet above sea level (lower in places), I'm not sure I'd want to live there. There's lots of history, back to the revolutionary war, the Spanish-American war and the Civil War. We walked through a Colonial cemetery and read some of the tombstones. The first I saw was a woman who died after the birth of her 15th child. I think it was self-defense.

We strolled along the river, saw street performers and just enjoyed the first evening. On Saturday we went to a light house. It was nice, but looked like all the other light houses I've seen. I'm sure I'll see more in the years to come.

After the lighthouse and the lighthouse museum, we went downtown for another stroll. (I find that I stroll more now that I'm older). Saturday night we took in a riverboat cruise. It was nice and relaxing, but we couldn't see a lot. Sunday morning we took a carriage ride. Lots of historical information.

Savannah is smaller than I imagined. It would be hard to make a full week out of it, but it's a nice weekend get-away.