Samuel Goldwyn Films and City on A Hill Studio will release the movie, "The Song," on Stepember 26, 2014. Inspired by the Song of Solomon the themes of this romantic drama include love and finding purpose and meaning in life through permanent commitments.

The narrative follows an aspiring singer-songwriter, Jed King, as he struggles to catch a break and escape the long shadow of his father, a country music legend. After reluctantly accepting a gig at a local vineyard harvest festival, Jed is love-struck by the vineyard owner’s daughter, Rose. Romance quickly blossoms and soon after their wedding, Jed writes "The Song" for his wife. The song  becomes a breakout hit, thrusting Jed into a life of stardom and a world of temptation in the form of fellow performer Shelby Bale. Suddenly, Jed’s life and marriage begin to fall apart.

The Archbishop of Louisville, Most Reverend Joseph E. Kurtz, D.D., writes in his review of "The Song":
 
     The beauty of the faithful love of husband and wife is showcased in
     a moving portrayal of a man and woman who fall in love and conquer
     the world’s challenges.  This movie, based on Holy Scripture's "Song
     of Songs," leads the viewer to yearn for a faithful love of such deep
     and lasting beauty and helps us appreciate the sacrifices such a love
     in this life requires and deserves. Our world needs such a compelling
     witness, which is too often missed in the glitter of today’s fast-paced
     culture of impulsive and shallow relationships.
 
The release of "The Song" coincides with the first Synod of Bishops to be held October 5-19, 2014, in Rome. There, Catholic bishops from around the world will meet with Pope Francis to address the pastoral challenges confronting the family today in the context of the New Evangelization.

In light of the Synod of Bishops, "The Song" provides an excellent opportunity for people to consider the Church's teaching about the indissoluability of the Sacrament of Marriage. The movie is especially appropriate for teenagers and young people as it will arouse in them the natural desire for a loving and permanent union teaching them, at the same time, that marriage is not all glitter and excitement but requires guts and commitment.

And, if f that's not enough, there's also lots of good music.

For all of these reasons, The Motley Monk rates "The Song" as a "must see."


Let the discussion begin...
 
 
“Mediation” is not a word that likely comes to mind when the topic is student misbehavior in inner-city public schools.

For example, consider the City of Philadelphia's public schools. The 2014-2015 school year represents the first time the School District of Philadelphia (SDP) was not named on the list of “Persistently Dangerous Schools” that’s published annually by Commonwealth’s Department of Education. It was as recent as the 2013-2014 school year that SDP reported 2,485 violent incidents.

Mediation? Isn't that psychobabble, the stuff of "Can't we all just get along?" Why not incarceration? When it comes to school violence, isn't it time for young people to learn there are consequences for their conduct?

What’s happening at a Philadelphia charter middle and high school—Freire Charter School—suggests it may be time to reconsider the concept of mediation when it comes to non-violent conflict.

According Watchdog.org, the school has a "zero-tolerance" policy when it comes to physical violence, verbal violence, and bullying. Students from 5th to 12th grade are held to high standards of conduct, not only in the classroom but also beyond school grounds. Any violent conduct results in expulsion...no second chances. That sounds more like a private or parochial school than a public school.

But, non-violent conflict is dealt with through mediation. At Friere:
  • Students can take fellow students or teachers to mediation.
  • If the mediation is successful, the parties sign a contract.
  • Any violations of the contract will result in another round of mediation.

Hmmm…Teachers being hauled before a mediator? Endless rounds of mediation? Where does all of this end?

Apparently, it works at Friere:
  • In 2013, U.S. News and World Report listed the charter school among the nation's "Best High Schools" after 94% of its graduates were attending college. Considering the SDP’s high dropout rate, that’s pretty impressive.
  • Better yet, in 2014, students graduating from the charter school received ~$60k/student in scholarships.

Most importantly, the charter school keeps parents involved. Using its "Power School" software program, parents are kept abreast of their children's grades, attendance, and conduct. In addition, students struggling in classes are matched with peer tutors, who—under the supervision of adults—are paid to assist those struggling students.

Same neighborhoods. Same families. Generally the same curriculum. Different approaches to discipline. Different outcomes.


Charter schools generally outperform public schools, magnet schools being a different case. Why should the public school teachers’ union bosses fear them if their primary focus is “the children”?


Let the discussion begin…




To read the Watchdog.org article, click on the following link:
Violent schools? A Philadelphia charter has answers.”

 
 
The Wall Street Journal has reported that public school teachers' unions in Florida have mounted an offensive to terminate the school choice scholarship program signed into law by Governor Jeb Bush in 2001. The unions claim the program is "hurting public education."

The cleverly-conceived plan provides tax credits to donors who make charitable contributions to fund private school scholarships. To qualify for the scholarships, students must receive subsidized federal lunches. Once a scholarship is granted, students can attend the schools of choice.

Some data for the 2014-2015 school year:
  • Scholarships are capped at $5,272.
  • 70% of scholarship recipients are minority students whose families with an average income of $25k.
  • $357M in tax credits are available. This amount is equal to <2% of local and state education budgets.
  • Between 2010 and 2014, the number of students receiving scholarship awards grown 300%, reaching 70k children.

Since 2001, per-pupil spending in Florida has increased 40%. In 2012, the program saved the state $58M.

The outcome? The school choice program has helped Florida's low-income students, both in public and in private schools. In fact, students in Florida's public schools have demonstrated testing gains, which may be a healthy by-product of increased competition due to the growth of the scholarship program and charter schools.

In the face of this demonstrated successs where the scholarship funds are not part of the Florida treasury--they are funded by private contributions and no money is sent to private schools to pay for the scholarships--the public school teachers' unions are calling the growth of the tax credit program "unconstitutional."

The unions have hried some very clever lawyers who maintain that Florida's constitution requires the "adequate provision" of public education. Thus, the lawyers contend that Flolrida's school districts are losing ~$7k for each student who uses a tax credit scholarship to attend a private school.

What's interesting to note, once again, is that the public school teachers' unions are not interested primarily in students but in continuing if not expanding their monopoly. They hold low-income students hostage to their failing system which only ensures those students will continue to experience difficulty moving out of poverty.

It's so very sad to see the public school teachers' unions mounting a new offensive. They have already taken upon themselves what belongs to parents by divine right...the education of their children. Now they once again seek to deny parents choice in the education of their children. That's immoral. 


Let the discussion begin...




To read the Wall Street Journal article, click on the folllowing link:
"Florida's School Choice Showdown."

 
 
If one is to believe President Obama, a college education is not only basic right of citizenship but also a necessity to “make it” as an adult in his vision of America. Unfortunately, the facts of Obamanomics don’t support his assertion.

Consider the infographic produced by Reason.com:

Underemployment –those in the labor force are employed less than full time or holding jobs that don’t require their level of educational achievement—presents a significant problem for recent graduates.

To wit:
  • The Class of 2007 boasts an underemployment rate of 9.6%.
  • The Class of 2014 boasts an unemployment rate of 16.8%.

That’s a 31% increase.

Then, too, the portion of college grads working part time (<35 hours/week) has risen.
  • In 2000, 15% of college graduates worked part time.
  • In 2011, 23% worked part time.

That’s a 53.3% increase.

What jobs do those college graduates hold? In 2010:
  • 51.9% of jobs held by college graduates required a bachelor’s degree or higher.
  • 37% of jobs held by college graduates required a high school diploma or less.
  • 11% of jobs required something more than a high school diploma but not a bachelor’s degree.

That means 48% of the jobs available require no college education.

The “take away”?

The Obamanomics job market is increasingly becoming characterized by part-time jobs that require no college education. Moreover, those jobs pay less, provide fewer benefits, and offer little promise of advancement to full-time jobs that pay more and offer greater benefits. Thank goodness there’s Obamacare to cover their healthcare.

How’s that for hopium and changium?


Let the discussion begin…




To access the infographic at Reason.com, click on the following link:
"The Sluggish Economy Slams Recent College Grads."

 
 
The aphorism, "You are entitled to your opinions but not to invent your facts," seems appropriate with this item with the addendum, "or change standard definitions."

Billings Gazette op-ed quotes Steve Running, one of the great high priests of those who worship at the altar of environmentalism, as stating:

     Since 1986, longer, warmer summers have resulted in a fourfold 
     increase of major wildfires and a sixfold increase in the area of forest
     burned, compared to the period from 1970 to 1986.

Wow! That's a 600% increase in wildfires. Perhaps it's true. After all, CBS runs videos of wildfires in California burning down homes and destorying neighborhoods practically every week.

Thanks to the Heartland Institute, data from the National Interagency Fire Center--which has wildfire statistics going back 50+ years,wildfires have decreased, not increased, as global temperatures have risen:
  • In 1986, there were 85k wildfires.
  • In 2013, there were 47k wildfires.
  • There were fewer wildfires in 2013 than in any year since 1984.
  • In 2014, there have been 38k wildfires.

Is the great high priest--one of the stormiest of the stormy petirls--being artfully deceptive?

Not exactly. The term Running used to justify his mathematics is "major" wildfires. Under the Obama administration, policy concerning wildfires has changed. Today, wildfire policy allows wildfires to burn freely, until the fires begin to pose a threat to humansThis change of definition has the policy impact of requiring firefighters to allow small wildfires to burn until they become much larger blazes.

The result? A 50% increase in acreage burned in 2013 compared to 1986, despite 50%+ less wildfires actually taking place in 2013.

Getting regulators to change a definition to support the data that, in turn, will promote the dogma. How's that for honest and forthright discourse?


Let the discussion begin...




To read the Billings Gazette op-ed, click on the following link:
http://billingsgazette.com/news/opinion/guest/guest-opinion-global-warming-makes-firefighting-more-dangerous/article_a863e51f-5ae7-5fe0-b018-98b6952041ad.html

To read the Heartland Institute report, click on the following link:
"Sorry, Steve Running, Wildfires Are Decreasing with Global Warming."

 
 
Bloomberg Businessweek reports that more than 50% of American adults are not married in 2014. That’s up from 37.5% in 1976.

There are some economic benefits for singles:
  • More likely than married couples—who have children and own a home—to move easily and change jobs.
  • More likely to take risks and engage in entrepreneurship, as fixed costs are lower and singles can cut spending more easily than married couples.

There also are some economic risks for singles:
  • Job loss or an injury may more negatively impact singles—income and health insurance being primary concerns—than married couples.

In addition, there are some economic benefits for the nation:
  • Singles contribute to a more dynamic labor market.
  • Singles build new businesses.

Then, there is big one economic risk for the nation:
  • Fewer children are born, leaving fewer taxpayers in the next generation to fund the growing price of entitlements.

That’s the economics of the matter.

Unfortunately, that neglects what may be some more important matters, like the psychological, social, and spiritual aspects associated with marriage and single life. Certainly not every adult is equipped to meet the challenges that marriage and family life presents. Perhaps the rise in the number of singles is a good sign, as that may portend fewer divorces. But, it may also portend a fear of committing oneself to another human being in an institution that is permanent, suggesting that many more singles today than four decades ago would rather “go it alone” than risk “going it together.” Then, too, it could also be a result of the feminist movement, with both women and men deciding to “go it alone” for reasons associatgender politics.

From a psychological, social, and spiritual point of view, what may the benefits and risks to individuals as well as to the nation be for this increase in the number of Americans who are opting to remain single?


Let the discussion begin…




To read the Bloomberg Businessweek article, click on the following link:
"Most Americans Are Single, and They're Changing the Economy.”

 
 
Since 2000, the Community Renewal Tax Relief Act—which included a "social justice" program known as the New Markets Tax Credit (NMTC) providing federal tax credits to companies that invest in businesses in low-income areas—has provided 836 investors with $40B in tax credits for 4k projects.

But, the truth is that NMTC is an income redistribution scheme to provide more than $1B in credits annually to large banks and investors not to businesses in low-income areas. “Crony socialism” it’s called. Senator Tom Coburn (R-OK.) has exposed it, and the Washington Examiner is reporting it.

Here's how the NMTC scheme works:
  • The Department of the Treasury provides funds annually to Community Development Entities (CDEs), which look for investors willing to purchase the tax credits. There are 5,780 CDEs across the country.
  • Private investors receive a tax credit in exchange for an investment in the CDE. The CDE then takes the funds and invests them directly in local businesses or projects located in low-income areas. Or, the CDE may use the funds to issue loans to these businesses.

However, the Congressional Research Service believes the NMTC has defined "low-income" communities so broadly that "virtually all of the country's census tracts are potentially eligible for the NMTC." To wit:
  • a Starbucks in Indianapolis, Indiana;
  • a day spa in Alaska;
  • a Milwaukee IHOP;
  • four law firms; and,
  • a specialty tea shop in Columbus, Ohio.

Now, why ever would the NMTC want such a broad definition? Got any guess?

If those examples aren't enough, consider the Atlanta Aquarium.

Its "Dolphin Tales" exhibit received CDE funding after Wells Fargo and SunTrust Bank purchased tax credits through NMTC. Advocates for the NMTC insist the project created "hundreds" of new jobs. But, the simple fact is that much of the funding went to Hollywood producers and show directors. Worse yet, project supporters have themselves admitted the aquarium could have funded the expansion without CDE financing.

In the end, where's the benefit to low-income Americans?

Can they afford admission to Dolphin Tales at 64.95/ticket?

Yesiree, crony socialism at its best. In the name of assist low-income citizens, the government takes from the 48% of Americans who pay taxes and gives it to the wealthy!

Let the discussion begin…




To read Senator Coburn’s report, click on the following link:
Banking on the Poor: How Corporate America Exploits Struggling Communities to Collect New Markets Tax Credits.”

To read the Washington Examiner article, click on the following link:
Why a program for the poor may be helping big banks instead.”

 
 
How’s this for a piece of economic “good” news?

The number of workers voluntarily leaving their jobs (aka, the “quit rate”) across the United States is up. According to Janet Yellen, Chairman of the Federal Reserve Board, that’s a good thing, indicating labor market “health.”

Discussing this counter-intuitive notion, Yellen recently said that although the nation’s economy has yet to fully recover, the rising quit rate means the economy is headed in the right direction. To quote the Fed Chair:

     [M]ore workers voluntarily quit their jobs when they are more confident

     about their ability to find new ones and when firms are competing more
     actively for new hires. Indeed, the quits rate has picked up with
     improvements in the labor market over the past year, but it still remains
     somewhat depressed relative to its level before the recession.

The Fiscal Times recently reported that quit rates general correspond with economic ups-and-downs. To wit:
  • Prior to 2007, the quit rate/month for non-farm workers was 2+%.
  • Between 2007 and 2009, the quit rate/month dropped to 1.3%, the lowest since the mid-1990s.
  • Quit rates have remained low since the recession’s official end in 2009.
  • Between 2012 and 2014, the quit rate gradually rose to 1.8% by June 2014.

Mrs. Yellen’s observation would make sense, that is, if one assumes better jobs are out there. Yes, indeed, that would provide a motive for employees to quit their jobs and move onward to more bountiful pastures.

However, the Bureau of Labor Statistics has reported that as of August 1, 2014, the number of unemployed persons in the United States was 9.7M. In addition, Factcheck.org reports the following statistics since Obamanomics were implemented in 2009:
  • The economy continues to gain jobs (note: mostly government and low-wage), but the number of long-term unemployed is nearly double what it was when President Obama was inaugurated (not good).
  • Wages remain stagnant, increasing only 0.3% after inflation (not good).
  • The number of low-income persons on food stamps remains just below the record level reached in 2012, with 15% of the population still receiving entitlements.

Perhaps Mrs. Yellen is wrong. The truth may be that the quit rate/month is rising because people are voluntarily leaving their jobs and going on the dole.


Let the discussion begin…




To read the Fiscal Times report, click on the following link:
"People Are Quitting Their Jobs. That's Good News."

To read the Factcheck.org report, click on the following link:
http://www.factcheck.org/2014/01/obamas-numbers-january-2014-update
 
 
For decades, The Motley Monk has thought one of the best ways to begin tort reform would be to hold the losing party responsible for paying the costs of litigation. All too often, plaintiffs bring frivolous lawsuits to courts forcing defendants to settle outside of court for fear that losing the frivolous case might cost millions of $$$s more than a settlement.

The Supreme Court of the State of Delaware—the "incorporation capital of the United States"—concurs, ruling in May 2014 that corporations can protect themselves by instituting “loser pays” requirements in corporate bylaws. Unless the ruling is overturned legislatively, corporations can use this new power to curb abusive lawsuits.

The impact of this ruling upon class action investor lawsuits, in particular—which cost shareholders money as well as stock value—could be immense. The Wall Street Journal notes that the U.S. Chamber Institute for Legal Reform estimates the losses associated with frivilous class action lawsuits are 600% greater than the typical payment plaintiffs receive from such lawsuits.

For example:

In 2009, the law firm Robbins Geller accused Boeing of illegal misrepresentations. Refusing to settle the case, Boeing let the case proceed to trial. As the suit unfolded, it became clear that the plaintiffs had no legal foundation for their claim. Then, in August 2014, the federal judge overseeing the case, Ruben Castillo, accused Robbins Geller of “repeated misconduct”—under Rule 11(b) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, requiring the sanctioned party to compensate the other for legal costs—and required the law firm to pay Boeing's legal fees.

Sanctions like these are rare. But, the Washington Examiner reports, instituting a “loser-pays” system would dissuade plaintiffs from filing frivolous lawsuits, as defendants would be more likely to take these cases to trial, confident they could recoup the court costs following the verdict.

“Loser pays” isn’t a perfect solution—judges may not apply it evenly—but it provides a positive step in the direction of real tort reform.

Then, too, there’s the “Lawsuit Abuse Reduction Act” (LARA), a bill filed in the U.S. House of Representatives. LARA would punish an attorney for withdrawing a case once the bluff is called. Unfortunately, LARA isn’t making progress because lobbyists for lawyers’ associations don’t want the bill to see the light of day. Wonder why?

The time has come for serious tort reform. “Manning up” against lawyers who bring frivolous lawsuits to court in the hope of receiving a settlement before the case goes to trial is a great place to start.


Let the discussion begin…




To read the Wall Street Journal article concerning Robbins Geller v. Boeing, click on the following link:
http://online.wsj.com/articles/good-news-bad-lawyers-pay-1409181200 


To read the Washington Examiner article evaluating “loser pays” standard, click on the following link:
New ‘loser pays’ standard could curb abusive lawsuits.”

To read the Supreme Court of the State of Delaware opinion regarding “loser pays,” click on the following link:
http://courts.delaware.gov/opinions/download.aspx?ID=205490

 
 
Another unsurprising finding, this one care of the U.S. House Committee on Ways and Means: The Emergency Unemployment Compensation (EUC) program contributed to the nation's poor jobs recovery.

Some facts:

Beginning in July 2008, EUC issued checks to the long-term unemployed, namely, those who had already been receiving 26 weeks of state unemployment compensation. This was not the first EUC but definitely the biggest:
  • The 2008-2013 EUC paid 800M checks. In contrast, the post-2001 EUC paid out 89M checks between 2002 and 2004. 
  • The 2008-2013 EUC spent $260B. Previous temporary programs had paid less: the 2002-2004 paid out $28B; the 1991-1994 EUC paid out $46B; and, the 1982-1985 EUC paid out $22B.
  • On average, the unemployed received 33 weeks of benefits from the 2008-2013 EUC. The 1991-1994 EUC provide recipients 17 weeks of benefits.

Some analysis:

So, what “bang” did the economy get for the “bucks” Congress spent?

According to The Motley Monk fave, Pamela Villarreal’s analysis of the House Ways and Means Committee reoprt:
  • Long-term unemployment under the 2008-2013 EUC was 200% greater than during the 1970s recession.
  • Long-term unemployment only began to decrease in 2012, just as Congress reduced the maximum amount of unemployment benefits people could receive.
  • Short-term unemployment only reached the 2001-2007 average at the end of 2013, when the EUC program expired in December 2013.

Under President Obama:
  • Employment has grown by 900k but 3.1M adults--ages 16 to 54--have dropped out of the labor force.
  • Since  EUC expired in December 2013, the number of 16 to 54-year olds in the labor force has increased by 400k.

That’s some correlation, isn't it?


Cut funding for the long- and short- term unemployment and the rates of both decrease. So much for Obamanomics. Zero bang for the buck with 3.1M adults remain unemployed.


Let the discussion begin...









To read the House Ways and Means Committee report, click on the following link:http://waysandmeans.house.gov/uploadedfiles/euc_labor_day_report_082814.pdf

To read Pamela Villarreal’s analysis, click on the following link:
"More Evidence: Unemployment Benefits Hurt the Unemployed