What if Teachers were paid like Athletes?

We’ve all seen the memes about athletes making millions of dollars while teachers struggle to get by. It may surprise my conservative friends to learn that I believe teachers are underpaid. On the other hand I believe it’s their own fault!

In my life I have had some extraordinary teachers. Jim Becker instilled in me a love of French and I have become a lifelong francophile and I have traveled to French speaking countries more than a dozen times. Ken Butzier taught me to be a confident public speaker which has served me well professionally and in politics. Ferd Riechman, instilled in me a love of history and I am constantly reading history books. Marge Vargas gave me the freedom in school to pursue photography and I travel almost everywhere with a camera to this day. Don Wiederanders recognized my love of mathematics, logic and introduced me to geometry and proof resulting in me pursuing a degree in mathematics. Lynn Schwandt saw that I was interested in computer programming and gave me access to the school’s computers whenever I wanted and I have turned this into a very satisfying career. Anyone who knows me well can see the influence these teachers had in my life.

Old joke:

Q: What’s the difference between a high school music teacher and a large pizza?

A: A large pizza can feed a family of four!

We’ve all seen the meme, “What if teachers were paid like athletes?”

The problem with teacher pay is that teachers, collectively, through their union have chosen a compensation model guaranteed to keep their pay mediocre. Teachers and the districts that employ them have settled for a system that provides for excellent job security, solid benefits including some that are unheard of in private industry like defined benefit retirement plans and no cost health coverage. Kudos to the NEA, these are all great benefits. The downside is that such a system tends to keep salaries low.

I will not argue with anyone who says that teaching is a critical profession. So why do athletes like LeBron James, Roger Federer, and Payton Manning make hundreds of times more than the average teacher? Professional athletes are the elites in their sports and they have the numbers to prove it.

Take football as an example. There are approximately 1,000,000 high school football players in the US. Of these about 6.5% or 65,000 will play in college. Of these 65,000 about 1.6% or about 1000 will play in the NFL.

At every step in their development, from peewee touch to the pros, football players are evaluated based on their performance against their peers. The best are given playing time, and moved on to the next level. The rest eventually disappear and end up not playing. It’s a brutal system, even a promising player who gets injured, does not qualify academically or even has a slump may be benched and disappear into obscurity.

It’s a capricious system, evaluations are subjective and may not fairly reflect a player’s ability. As an example I have a son who played High School football. He was a leading defenseman on both freshman and sophomore teams. His junior year he sat on the bench and got only 3 minutes playing time on a team with a horrible losing season. Senior year, he was a starting defensive end and awarded all-conference honors. If it were not for a late season injury, he would have gone on and played college ball at some level. (In the end he was a college swimmer earning DIII All-American honors) Now, I am not a football expert and as a parent I try very hard not to second guess my kids coaches, but he didn’t suddenly turn into superman his senior year. He could have played but for whatever reason he didn’t get the chance until he was a senior.

A high school football player has a 0.1% (1 in 1000) chance of making it into the NFL. Anywhere along the way he can be judged, fairly or not, as not up to par or be injured and be cut to never play again.

While I don’t think that there is a workable system whereby teachers can be paid like pro athletes, I do think that teachers could be paid more like engineers or other professionals. But to do so, they will have to give up the economic system under which they currently work. Teachers are always decrying the fact that they are not paid like other professionals, yet they are unwilling to accept some form of merit pay.

I am a software engineer and I am paid considerably more than the average teacher. But teachers, at least in my home state of Iowa, have many benefits that I do not. With tenure, it is difficult for a teacher to be fired, engineers don’t get fired either — we get laid off or downsized sometimes by the tens of thousands.

One of the arguments that teachers use against merit pay is that it is impossible to fairly evaluate what they do. They say that metrics like test scores are not fair because they do not take into account the native ability of students and may be culturally biased. Yet in my profession we have the same thing. I have often been evaluated on the outcome of projects that either succeeded or failed due to factors beyond my control. It is one of the risks in my, and most other professions. The canard that teachers cannot be fairly evaluated is just that. The truth of the matter is that if you ask students, parents, or even other teachers — they will all tell you who are the best teachers and worst teachers.

If teachers want to be paid like other professionals, like engineers, accountants, and lawyers they need to give up the economic model that they have negotiated for themselves and allow themselves to be treated like other professionals. Until they do they should not expect to be paid (or respected) like other professionals.

The Caucus and Delegates to the National Convention

Iowa casting 22 of 28 votes for Ron Paul at the 2012 GOP National Convention
Iowa casting 22 of 28 votes for Ron Paul at the 2012 GOP National Convention

Last June I posted an article about a proposed amendment to the RPI bylaws defining how Iowa would bind delegates at the 2016 Republican National Convention. Unfortunately the article is out of date and is not an accurate description of the process. Let me explain:

Ron Paul’s 2012 candidacy for president put the Republican National Committee in full panic mode. At the 2012 Republican National Convention, the RNC changed the rules midstream to prevent Ron Paul from being officially nominated and earning a prime time speaking spot alongside with the eventual nominee, Mitt Romney. To prevent a possible repeat of the situation that gave Paul, the third place finisher on caucus night, a super majority of Iowa’s delegates the RNC ruled that every state must bind their National Convention delegates based on the results of their primary or caucus. As a result, the Republican Party of Iowa amended its bylaws to be in compliance with the RNC Rule 16(a)1 (relevant portion shown here)

Any statewide presidential preference vote that permits a choice among candidates for the Republican nomination for President of the United States in a primary, caucuses, or a state convention must be used to allocate and bind the state’s delegation to the national convention in either a proportional or winner-take-all manner, …

Therefore, for the first time ever, we in Iowa are required to bind our delegates. This was not our choice, but in my role as Chairman of the party’s Organization Committee, I oversaw our committee’s effort to come up with a binding method that in compliance with Rule 16. Our original proposal was to bind the delegation on the first ballot based on the Caucus night vote and the candidates who are formally nominated at the convention. After extended back and forth discussions with the RNC legal staff we were told to make modifications to our proposal.

Now, I know that some of you reading this are thinking,

Why didn’t you stand up to the RNC Rules Committee? Why did you let them push you around like that?

The answer is simple,

We Iowans cherish our First-in-the-Nation caucuses!

The RNC passed a rule that required us to bind our delegates but also guaranteed us firs-in-the-nation for 2016. When I ran, unsuccessfully, for National Committeeman in 2012 I quickly learned something: Job #1 is retaining First-in-the-Nation! In my role on the State Central Committee, I am not going to do anything to push back against the very rule that gives us this privilege. There are already enough states working to take FITN away, the last thing I want to do is give them ammunition.

So, this is the rule that we negotiated with RNC legal and adopted into our state party bylaws:

ARTICLE VIII – BINDING OF NATIONAL CONVENTION DELEGATES
1. The Iowa delegation to the Republican National Convention shall be bound on the first ballot to vote proportionally in accordance with the outcome of the Iowa Caucuses. The proportional delegate allocation shall be rounded to the nearest whole delegate. In the event that a delegate is unallocated due to mathematical rounding, the unallocated delegate vote shall be cast in favor of the candidate closest to the rounding threshold. In the event that delegates are over-allocated due to mathematical rounding, the over-allocated delegate shall be removed from a candidate based on the rounding threshold. Delegates shall be bound to the candidates in direct proportion to the candidates’ respective vote shares in the Iowa Caucuses regardless of whether any such candidate has withdrawn from the race or otherwise does not have his or her name placed in nomination at the Republican National Convention.

2. Notwithstanding paragraph 1 of this article, if only one candidate’s name is placed in nomination at the Republican National Convention, all delegates shall be bound to vote for such candidate on the first ballot provided that the candidate received votes in the Iowa Caucuses.

3. The Chairman of the Iowa delegation, or his or her designee, shall announce the vote of the delegation in accordance with this Article.

So what does this mean? It means that individual Iowa delegates will not vote on the first ballot at the convention. The chairman of the delegation will simply do the math and announce Iowa’s vote based on this rule.

So, if only one candidate meets the threshold to be officially placed into nomination, they will receive all of Iowa’s votes.

If more than one candidate is officially placed into nomination, then Iowa’s votes will be recorded in proportion to the caucus night totals. In other words, Iowa will cast  some votes for candidates who have suspended their campaigns and are no longer running. There will be no recalculation, there is no opportunity for a candidate to release or pledge his votes for another.

The rules about what it takes for a candidate to have their name officially placed in nomination are equally byzantine and may have very serious consequences … the topic of a future blog post!

On Islam

Martin and Gracia Burnham

Martin and Gracia Burnham

I have been touched by Radical Islamic Terrorism albeit indirectly. I don’t just mean in the way that all Americans were affected by 9/11, to me it’s more personal. During the dark days of Afghanistan and Iraq, before the surge, my two oldest sons both enlisted in the military. One served in Afgahnistan with the storied 82nd Airborne (hooah!) and the other, an Arabic linguist was never stationed abroad but served in places he may never be able to speak about. More recently, I was in Paris one week after the recent terror attacks. I arrived the day of the shootout in the suburb of St. Denis where the terrorists blew themselves up after a an hours long siege with police. From Paris I travelled to Brussels in the heart of a complete lockdown. Before the trip I took out a $1 million life insurance policy, that covered acts of terrorism, to reassure my wife — unfortunately I think it made her more nervous. Finally, the picture above is of my friends Martin and Gracia Burnham. The Burnhams were missionaries (Martin was a pilot) in Papua New Guinea. They were kidnapped, along with 18 others while on vacation in the Philippines by the Muslim terrorist group Abu Sayyaf. After more than a year in captivity, Martin was killed in a rescue attempt. Gracia was wounded but survived the ordeal.

Therefore, I find it absurd that America tolerates a group of people in their midst who hold the strictures of their religion higher than the US Constitution. People who choose to follow their backwards superstitions rather than assimilate into American society. People who believe that infidels are cursed and bound for damnation. People who protest, complain and even go to court when their religious symbols are desecrated. People who describe themselves as warriors or soldiers in their God’s army. People who hold archaic views on the roles of men and women. People who use social media and send proselytizers to convert American youth to their cause. People who look forward to and work towards the day that a theocratic government will be established under their king.

Of course those of you who know me have also figured out that I am talking about Christians. For those of you who don’t know me I should probably share my bona-fides:

I am a born-again Christian, a homeschooling father of eight, a deacon in a Baptist church, a Sunday School teacher, a sometime preacher and I believe so strongly in traditional marriage that I am trying to arrange marriages for my four daughters!

Of course my description of Christians was deliberately inflammatory, but everything I said is rooted in truth. In regards to Donald Trump’s statement that he would place a moratorium on Muslims entering the country, I see many of my friends citing Sec. 313. [8 U.S.C. 1424] as legal justification for such an action. The aforementioned section prohibits naturalization of persons:

(4) who advocates or teaches or who is a member of or affiliated with any organization that advocates or teaches (A) the overthrow by force or violence or other unconstitutional means of the Government of the United States or of all forms of law; or (B) the duty, necessity, or propriety of the unlawful assaulting or killing of any officer or officers (either of specific individuals or of officers generally) of the Government of the United States or of any other organized government because of his o r their official character; or (C) the unlawful damage, injury, or destruction of property; or (D) sabotage; or
(5) who writes or publishes or causes to be written or published, or who knowingly circulates, distributes, prints, or displays, or knowingly causes to be circulated, distributed, printed, published, or displayed or who knowingly has in his possession for the purpose of circulation, publication, distribution, or display, any written or printed matter, advocating or teaching opposition to all organized government, or advocating (A) the overthrow by force, violence, or other unconstitutional means of the Government of the United States or of all forms of law; or (B) the duty, necessity, or propriety of the unlawful assaulting or killing of any officer or officers (either of specific individuals or of officers generally) of the Government of the United States or of any other organized government, because of his or their official character; or (C) the unlawful damage, injury, or destruction of property; or (D) sabotage; …

They claim (or imply) that all Muslims fall into these categories. They point out that if Muslims really followed the teachings of the Koran they would be like ISIS or Al Qaeda. The fallacy is similar to suggesting that all Christians are “pro-life” or “pro-gay marriage”. The truth is that many people self-identify as Christians whose beliefs differ greatly on these and many other issues, in that regard Muslims are no different.

If painting with such a broad brush could result in legal consequences for all Muslims based on the action of a few means that in different times, the same broad brush could result in legal consequences for all Christians as well. Some of my friends have been gleefully sharing this article on social media as an exemplar for the United States. The headline reads,

While we fight over Trump, France closes 3 mosques, finds hundreds of weapons

I am a Francophile. I love French food, French art, French literature, and French history — notice French food came first :) I speak prefect second year French and I have made dozens of trips to France, Belgium, and French Canada.

Even so, I do not want the US to be France. France was able to close 3 mosques and find hundreds of weapons (not all in mosques) because they are almost in a state of martial law. I speak French well enough that when I was over there a few weeks ago, I heard commentators speak about the extraordinary emergency powers the French government had taken after the Paris attacks. For the first time since WWII, municipal leaders could unilaterally order curfews. The national government placed limitations on speech and movement. The police could now perform warrantless searches, hold people without charges, and with France’s strict gun-control laws — mere possession of a firearm is a serious criminal offense.

In WWII, similar thinking led to the internment of the Nisei. Nisei comes from the Japanese word for two, ni. The Nisei were second generation US citizens born on US soil and Roosevelt (Franklin) used Executive Order #9066 to summarily deny them of their constitutional rights.

In this climate, some are using terrorism to call for limiting the civil liberties of Muslim US citizens. Is it so far-fetched to believe that there could be a climate where gun violence leads to calls to limit the rights of gun owners? Where anti-abortion violence leads to calls to limit the rights of pro-lifers?

Oh, wait we are already there!

I was awarded a scholarship and went to the Air Force Academy – Just like Ben Carson!

Air Force Academy Chapel

Air Force Academy Chapel

It’s a good thing that I am not running for president. If I were, the Politico  would have researched my past and reported that I fabricated this story. While I am the proud father of two veterans, those who know me know that I never served in the Air Force or any other branch of the military. Unlike Ben Carson, I was never even in High School ROTC. So before readers start accusing me of lying or Stolen Valor, let me explain my story. In truth, my experience and the way I convey it to people some decades later causes me to believe that this particular attack on Ben Carson is unfounded and without merit.

The year was 1977, I was a high school junior thinking about the Air Force Academy. Physically, I was in decent shape, I raced bicycles and cross country skied. Of course these sports did nothing to help my my position on the totem pole in the pecking order in high school! (Oops, I was almost racist there!!!) I had good but not great grades. Teachers always complained (and rightfully so) that I was not performing up to my potential. On the other hand, I had excellent ACT and SAT scores. As for leadership skills, I was beginning to come out of my shell and take on positions of leadership in a number of organizations. Looking back I was probably not the best candidate for an Academy appointment but not totally outside the zone either.

Like Ben Carson, I never formally applied to the Academy. I may have contacted my congressman, but my memory on that is a bit hazy after these decades. Somehow I did get in touch with the local Air Force Academy liaison, a retired Colonel and Academy graduate. He took time to answer my questions about the Academy and Air Force life. I was interested and he encouraged me. He told me about an opportunity for high school students in their junior year interested in going to the academy. The academy had then, and still has, a camp for high schoolers called Summer Scientific Seminar (s-cubed). In those days, it was a science camp, not just for prospective cadets but for high achieving high schoolers in STEM (the phrase was invented much later) fields. My grades may not have been the best, but there was no question that I was my one of my schools resident math and computer geeks. The camp may have been two weeks long and it took place on the Air Force Academy ground in the summer. In addition to academics, it was also an introduction to Air Force and Academy life.

I signed up, and as a minority I was awarded a full scholarship to attend. The camp was one of the highlights of my high school career. I had been to other gatherings of high school students at state, regional and national events, like the National Junior Achievement Convention, but this was by far the most intelligent group of high school students I had ever been with. Every one a leader, every one an academic high achiever, ever one an athlete. I felt privileged to be counted in their number.

During the seminar, we signed up for courses in various academic disciplines. They were all hands-on and for a geek like me they were a blast. I got to play with a jet engine on a test stand, participate in a multi-day political simulation game, work with a wind tunnel, and visit NORAD under nearby Cheyenne Mountain. We got to sleep in the Academy dorms and and eat in the cafeteria. It was an awesome experience!

In the end, like Ben Carson, I decided not to pursue an Academy appointment. While I was interested in serving in the Air Force, I really wanted to be an electrical engineer and do R&D on computers. A traditional college seemed the best route for what I wanted to do.

So, I was in fact awarded a scholarship to the Air Force Academy (Summer Scientific Seminar), I was never appointed, nor did I formally apply for appointment to the Air Force Academy. Good thing I am not running for president or the Politico would have a field day!

The SCC Passed a Resolution Today Calling for the De-funding of Planned Parenthood

__interestingI really hate Internet memes most of them are just plain silly and frankly annoying. But in this case I couldn’t help myself :)

Today I proposed a resolution calling on Governor Branstad and the Republican caucuses in the Iowa House and Senate to end state (and state-controlled) funding of Planned Parenthood.

So, why this issue and why now? In eight years on the SCC, I have never authored an issue resolution.

The Republican Party is the pro-life party. Every year it is the first issue in our platform. Our elected GOP leaders have fought for years for pro-life issues in the Iowa. This issue resonates with Republican voters. Thanks to the recent videos showing that Planned Parenthood may be violating federal law in the sale of aborted baby parts, people are talking about this issue. It is never the wrong time to do the right thing — but given the circumstances — now is the perfect time. This issue resonates across and beyond the pro-life spectrum. In this resolution we call on our legislators and Governor Branstad to act and we want to let them know that we have their backs.

Before the meeting, a couple of other SCC members and I worked on some wording changes. At the meeting today, we still had a vigorous debate over wording. But everyone on this SCC is pro-life and believes that no state money should go to Planned Parenthood for any purpose.

Here is the wording of the resolution:

Whereas, the Platform of the Republican Party of Iowa has consistently recognized the sanctity of human life and the personhood of the unborn, and

Whereas, recent information has indicated that Planned Parenthood may be illegally profiting from the sale of baby parts,

We, the Republican Party of Iowa, acknowledge and applaud the past and ongoing efforts of Governor Branstad and the Republican caucuses in the Iowa House and Iowa Senate to advance the cause of life, stand with them in their efforts, and now encourage them to remove all state and state-controlled funding from Planned Parenthood as soon as possible using all means and methods at their disposal, including all funding for non-abortion related services.

Between you and me, the real reason I want to de-fund Planned Parenthood is because Planned Parenthood kills babies.

I am the most interesting SCC member in the world!

I don’t have a dog (dawg for my Southern friends) in this fight

History is personal. In the recent debate over the flag (that I will not name because no matter what I call it it will start a flame war) pictured to the right this point has been made especially clear.  When the US Civil War was fought, my ancestors were living on Guam (under Spanish rule), Jamaica (or Africa — possibly as a slave under British rule) and China (during the Second Opium War.) So I really do not have a dog (dawg) in this fight. But I know how important and personal history can be. History, personal history, is in so many cases linked to our identity.

The English historian, Lord Acton said,

History is not a burden on the memory but an illumination of the soul.

On my Facebook page, I posted a link (without comment) to an article in the Cedar Rapids Gazette with the headline Republican chairman upset by Confederate flags and started a flame war! [[N.B. I believe the Gazette online article has been edited several times during the day without noting the changes.]] The Marion County Republican Party towed their parade float in the Pella and Pleasantville 4th of July Parades in a truck with three Confederate Flags. The truck belongs to a couple who are members of the Sons of Confederate Veterans and they displayed them to honor the three Confederate soldiers buried in Marion County.

In the article Republican Party of Iowa Chairman Jeff Kaufmann did not mince any words in his response saying,

I’m very disappointed that a local central committee would engage in such juvenile and stupid demonstrations.

and

We are the party of Abraham Lincoln. We were the party that supported the Union army and we are still that party of Abraham Lincoln. I absolutely won’t tolerate it. We have no room in our party for people like that — none,  I hope they toss those people out (of the local GOP) so fast, it’ll make your head swim. And, if they don’t, I’ll lead a party of 98 central committees.

An anonymous soldier wrote,

No war is really over until the last veteran is dead.

Well, the last veteran of the Civil War died in 1956, the last Civil War widow died in 2003 and by some accounts at least children of Civil War Veterans are still receiving pensions! In many ways, the Civil War (or War of Northern Aggression) is still not over. The current debate over the flag (that I dare not name) is a prime example. Was the war fought over slavery? Freedom? States rights? Was the Union the aggressor? Was the South traitorous? Was Lincoln a hero? Was Lee?

I am not a Ph.D. historian like our party chairman so I will not pretend to be expert on these questions. But what I know for sure is that apologists on all sides pontificate on this issue with a fervor bordering on religious.

As I said, I do not have a dog (dawg) in this fight. History is personal. (Ask me sometime about the Pacific in WWII, where my grandfather was a Japanese POW and my mother spent her childhood under Japanese occupation!!!) Given the current state of affairs in our country and the level of emotion that this subject brings up, I find it unfortunate that our party chairman, when speaking on behalf of the party would add fuel to this particular fire.

Binding the Iowa Delegation

Iowa at the 2008 National Convention

Iowa at the 2008 National Convention

[Note: the information in this post was correct at the time of publication. For current information on delegate binding please refer to The Caucus and Delegates to the National Convention]

I am not going to re-visit the argument about how we got here. I am not going to discuss whether it is good or bad. But as chairman of the RPI’s Organization Committee, I want to take this opportunity to tell you what has happened at the national level and describe how the changes will affect the process here in Iowa.

After the 2012 Republican National Convention in Tampa, the RNC Rules committee adopted a new rule on binding and allocating delegates. Under the new rule all delegates to the national convention will be bound. The rule also carved out four states (Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina and Nevada), allowing them to hold caucuses or primaries before March 1st preserving Iowa’s first-in-the-nation status. Iowa’s delegation at the RNC was split on the vote.  Iowa’s National Committeeman and RPI Chairman voted in favor of the rule, Iowa’s National Committeewoman voted against the rule.

The relevant part of RULE NO. 16 reads:

Any statewide presidential preference vote that permits a choice among candidates for the Republican nomination for President of the United States in a primary, caucuses, or a state convention must be used to allocate and bind the state’s delegation to the national convention in either a proportional or winner-take-all manner, …

So, for better or worse, every Iowa delegate to the 2016 Republican National Convention will be bound beforehand to vote for a particular candidate. All that remains is to determine the mechanism. This Saturday at the State Central Committee meeting, we will be considering the following amendment to the RPI bylaws.

Amendment to add a new Article VII to the Bylaws and renumber accordingly.

Article VII – Binding of National Convention Delegates

The Iowa delegation to the Republican National Convention shall be bound on the first ballot to cast a vote that reflects the outcome of the Iowa Caucuses. The Chair of the Republican Party of Iowa, or his or her designee, shall cast the vote of the delegation on the first ballot, for those candidates who have been officially placed in nomination, in proportion to the statewide Iowa Precinct Caucus vote. The proportional delegate allocation shall be rounded to the nearest whole delegate. In the event that a delegate is unallocated due to mathematical rounding, the unallocated delegate vote shall be cast in favor of the candidate closest to the rounding threshold.

Under this proposed amendment, the RPI chairman will announce the vote of the Iowa delegation in the first round based solely on the math based on the outcome of caucus night. The chairman will not poll the delegation. All of Iowa’s votes will go to candidates who have officially been placed in nomination, so if a candidate drops out before the convention, the math is re-figured and Iowa’s votes are divided up among the remaining candidates. If there is a second (or further) round of voting, all delegates may vote for the candidate of their choice.

I would love to hear your input on this.

 

Living a Lie — I self-identify as White!

White David

The author as White

This week, I have realized that I have been living a lie — I self-identify as white. I came to this realization after reading about Rachel Dolezal. Dolezal is the former head of the Spokane NAACP who was born white but has been passing herself off as black. Dolezal apparently went so far as to invent an African American father and post pictures of him in place of her biological father. Like Dolezal, I began thinking of myself as white at a young age. There is a difference however, in my opinion, Dolezal’s actions seem to fall somewhere between mental illness and fraud. But Dolezal is right on one thing — racial identity is complex and multi-layered.

The author as an Asian Man

The author as Asian

My father was from Jamaica. Racially he was 1/2 Jamaican and 1/2 Chinese. The Jamaican half was almost certainly African courtesy of the slave trade. As a university professor, students would ask him about his racial background and he would tell them to guess. I suspect that it was his Chinese last name that threw them off because students never could seem to figure it out. To me, my father always looked black. He was a handsome man with dark skin and thick jet black hair. I always thought he looked a little like Harry Belafonte (also Jamaican). I couldn’t really see much hint of Chinese/Asian features. Today when I tell people that my father was Jamaican/Chinese they are surprised. Since Jamaica was a British Colony there were many immigrant from the British colonies, and later the commonwealth, in Jamaica.

The author as an Pacific-Islander

The author as Pacific-Islander

My mother is from Guam a small island in the Pacific. Guam is a US territory and part of Micronesia. The native people of Guam are called Chamorro though today many consider Chamorro to be the exonymic spelling and have adopted the endonymic Chammoru. [[Actually the word Chamorro comes from Spanish so Chammoru is the endonymic spelling of anexonymic name ;-)]] My mother has relatively light skin and black hair though many of her relatives have considerably darker skin. Guam was colonized and ruled by Spain until the Spanish American War so most islanders have Spanish surnames. (BTW having a Spanish surname is in many cases sufficient to call oneself hispanic). Since my mom is light skinned, it is difficult for people to visually discern her race. I suspect most people consider her Caucasian or white. Though I am guessing that on forms she classifies herself as Asian/Pacific Islander.

The author as Hispanic

The author as Hispanic

So given that my father was Jamaican-Chinese and that my mother is Chammoru — how is it that I have come to identify myself as white? It reminds me of Steve Martin’s character in The Jerk who says, “I was born a poor black child.” But in my case (or for that matter Rachel Dolezal’s) it would not be true. I was born to educated middle class parents whose racial backgrounds I have detailed above. My birth took place in Cedar Falls, Iowa, a small midwestern college town. Cedar Falls, like the rest of Iowa had a minority population of under 5%. When I was born in the early 1960’s that number was probably more like 2%. That number is not just blacks but all minorities combined. Since we were part of the university community, my parent’s circle of friends included more minorities than most. Growing up we were an active part of a small but vibrant Chinese community.

The author as Black

The author as Black

When I was growing up, I went to a laboratory school. This school was a part of the university and served as a teaching lab for the College of Education. The schools enrollment area was so white — that the university bussed in African American students from a nearby town to provide a more diverse student population. (This was long before forced bussing — the program was totally voluntary.) Therefore as a child, almost all of my friends were white. While I never drew pictures of myself with blond hair, all of the action figures I played with — GI Joe and Major Matt Mason (an astronaut) — were white. I watched white TV shows, listened to white music, played white games and grew up in a white world. It is no wonder that as a child I thought of myself as white.

The author as an Asian Man

The author as White Hispanic

In reality, I never thought of myself as being of any particular race. I did not (and still don’t) have a strong sense of racial identity. But I guess if I had thought about it at all, I would have self-identified with my peers who were almost all white. All of this changed in my early teens. After I finished fifth grade, my father took a sabbatical from the university and took a position at the University of Guam. We moved to Guam and I went to sixth, seventh and eighth grade on the island. Living on Guam made my racial identity much more complicated. Growing up in Iowa with all of my extended family on Guam or Jamaica — I never really felt connected to my larger family. Chammoru culture is very family centered and families are large and close. Suddenly I found myself surrounded by cousins, aunts, uncles, and various other relatives on a daily basis. It was a wonderful experience and played an important role in forming who I am.

The author's Caucasian father

The author’s Caucasian father

As for my racial identity, it became more complicated. All of those aunts, uncles and cousins were Chammoru, they were brown. Except for two of my female cousins who were light skinned with red hair — I was part of a brown family in a majority brown society. But in school, my closest friends were all haoles (a lovingly derogatory term like ‘cracker’ or ‘honky’). Today I understand that this affinity was more cultural than racial. The white kids (most from the mainland US) and I shared a common culture. We had significant shared experiences and we tended to stick together. My best friends had names like Browder and Chase not Lujan and Gutierrez.

On the other hand, when my father came to the US as a young man he went to the DOT and in those days they put race on the driver’s license. Being Jamaican and Chinese so puzzled the DOT employees that they decided to list him as Caucasian. So, if my father was Caucasian — I must be white, it’s not a lie after all!!!

Shame …

Former IA Congressman Jim Nussle expressing shame over the House Bank scandal

Former IA Congressman Jim Nussle expressing shame over the House Bank scandal

I have been a Republican apologist for years. I have said that politics is a ‘team sport’ and you vote for the team that most closely matches your values — not the individuals.

People used to say to me, ‘But Dave, the GOP barely plays lip service to LIFE!’

And I have responded, ‘I know, but you can count on them to be good on marriage, the second amendment and of course holding the line on taxes!’

People used to say to me, ‘But Dave, the GOP won’t stand up to the Iowa Supreme Court on MARRIAGE!’

And I have responded, ‘I know, but you can count on them to be good on the second amendment and of course holding the line on taxes!’

People used to say to me, ‘But Dave, the GOP won’t support CONSTITUTIONAL CARRY in Iowa’

And I have responded, ‘I know, but you can count on them to hold the line on taxes!’

Today people are saying, ‘But Dave, this is a GOP TAX INCREASE!’

And I have no response … but shame :(

The Gas Tax, the platform and the GOP cowards who now support it

Let me start out by saying that I am not opposed to taxes, having moved irrevocably beyond John Locke’s State of Nature — taxes in a civil society are a necessary evil. As a conservative, I want my government to collect the necessary and sufficient taxes to competently and efficiently perform the functions mandated by the Constitution or allowed by the Constitution and mandated by the people as voiced by their legislature.

I also agree that our transportation infrastructure needs work. It is crucial to the economic health of this state to have a robust system of roads and highways.

The problem is that if the Jeopardy answer is: ‘Competent, Efficient, and operating within the Constitution’

Nobody would ever believe the question is: ‘What is government?’

I have written on the gas tax before. While I was a vocal critic of former RPI Chairman AJ Spiker  (I never get tired of saying that), one of the good things that RPI did under Spiker’s leadership was speak out and advocate for issues in our platform (life, 2nd Amendment, gas tax). I did take issue when under Spiker, RPI spoke out on issues not in our platform like medical marijuana or random traffic stops — not because I disagreed, rather because I believe that the party leadership should advocate for things the party has actually (through the platform) agreed upon.

I also spoke out when in 2014, all four district platforms opposed a gas tax increase, yet the State Platform Committee felt that they should ignore the strong message sent by the grassroots and add support for a tax increase to the State Platform. Fortunately, enough pressure was applied to the committee that they changed their position before the convention. Unfortunately, the platform adopted at convention does not address the gas tax.

So in answer to those who ask why RPI Chairman Jeff Kauffman hasn’t publicly voiced opposition to the gas tax — it is because the platform does not address it. Since I criticized Spiker for speaking Ex Cathedra (even on issues I supported) — consistency demands that I support Kaufman’s decision not to unilaterally speak out against the gas tax.

On the other hand, as I say on the about page for this blog:

… all of the commentary on this blog is my own and does not represent the position of the State Central Committee or the Republican Party of Iowa.

I do not speak for RPI. As a conservative, as a Republican, I am disgusted that my guys would support a 45% in the gas tax or any other tax! I went to a lot of events, heard many candidates speak, received their flyers, and saw their commercials. Funny thing is, I can’t remember any of them (I’ll concede that there could have been a few) who made raising the gas tax a cornerstone of their campaign.

Some may say,

Dave, be realistic, you want to have your cake and eat it too!

No, the government wants to take more of my cake and eat it too!

If I believed that our state government (no matter which party controlled it) were competent, efficient and acting within the Constitution, I could probably be convinced to support a modest increase in the gas tax. However, if the state government were operating in that way, we would have all the money we need for roads!

What’s the solution? If I may make a modest suggestion — MAKE CUTS IN THE BUDGET ELSEWHERE!!!!!

Recently my daughter criticized me for not listening to any music from this century — I told her that it’s OK because I don’t own any cars from this century either. It is time to replace our vans.

I think I’ll follow the lead of our state government and as my boss for a 45% raise!

Probably not a good plan, I guess I’ll have to put some money aside until I can afford something newer.

But when the state is getting ready to ask me for a 45% increase —  a number of my (Republican) guys are willing to go along, in fact, in this case they are the ones doing the asking :( It was no secret that the a gas tax increase would come up this session. Most of us knew that it would be the defining measure addressed by this session of the legislature.

To the Republicans in Des Moines I have this to say (I am going to be gentle and use my inside voice.)

If you didn’t campaign on raising the gas tax and you support it now: you are a hypocrite, a liar, or a coward!!! At least the Democrats are honest about wanting to take more of my money!