Q: When do principles cost too much?

A: when they’re the wrong principles and the money could be spent educating students instead.

USA Today/Ganette is reporting that The Easton, PA school district is appealing a federal appeals court decision that allowed two girls to wear bracelets that say, “I (heart) Boobies”.  The bracelets are part of a breast cancer awareness campaign.  Easton’s argument is that the bracelets are lewd.

I grew up in a town that had a track record of going to the Supreme Court for stupid reasons.  The first case involved trying to claim that English as a Second Language Teachers weren’t actually teachers, despite their qualifications and the fact that they were in fact teaching.  They lost.  In a separate case, they went to the Supreme Court over having searched a girl’s locker and having had her arrested.  The Court dismissed the notion that they were entitled to act in loca parentis, under the theory that few parents would have their children arrested.  Both of these cases cost the tax payers millions of dollars.

Easton, PA is not a rich town.  The district does okay with what they have (about the middle of the pack in PA).  Still, their money is being wasted by a case of very questionable merit, where even a positive result will not help a single student.  So why sue?  Because the superintendent wanted to be the ultimate source of authority in his district for what is and is not appropriate for students to wear.  Guess what?  He’s a public servant, applying the rules of our society.  He doesn’t get the final say.  And he’s wasting a lot of money finding out.  Oh and their lawyer story claims that the appeal will cost $2,000-$3,000.  Horse hockey!

Yeah, NJ: Governor Christie screwed you (again)

The New York Times reports that a forthcoming GAO report shows the government distorted the facts, made misstatements, and said whatever he needed to say to cancel a tunnel project that would make the lives of hundreds of thousands of people better. Good going, Governor!

Governor Chris Christie of New Jersey (courtesy: Luigi Novi)

Back in 2010, I wrote about how foolish and shortsighted Governor Chris Christie was being when he cancelled a new tunnel project for trains between New York City and New Jersey on practically the same day that the Swiss broke through a new mountain tunnel on either side.  The contrast was nothing short of sad, from an American perspective.

But now it turns out that Christie was being very loose with the facts, according to the  New York Times.  It says that in a forthcoming GAO report, the governor misrepresented both the total cost for the tunnel, and New Jersey’s share of it.  That’s a shame.  Anyone who commutes by train into New York knows that it doesn’t take much for trains to run late.  That gets more people into cars, the long term results being more pollution, more asthma, and more traffic for New Jersey and New York.  Good going, Governor Christie!  Thanks for making the lives of people in New Jersey more miserable.  I’m sure that’s why you’re there.

Should you go to prison just for lying?

I tell my child, as we all tell our children, that lying is wrong.  A lot of things are wrong.  But does that mean you should go to federal prison?  Guess what: that is exactly what can happen if you lie in a federal investigation.  What’s more, you might not even know that there’s an investigation!  Today’s Wall Street Journal has as the next installment in its serious of the criminalization of America the woeful tale of marine biologist Nancy Black, is facing a $100,000 legal bill and criminal charges for lying, when she didn’t know there was an investigation, and she didn’t believe she was either lying or misleading anyone.  In fact she thought she was cooperating with someone from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

How could this be?  Here is what 18 USC 1001 has to say:

(a) Except as otherwise provided in this section, whoever, in any matter within the jurisdiction of the executive, legislative, or judicial branch of the Government of the United States, knowingly and willfully—
(1) falsifies, conceals, or covers up by any trick, scheme, or device a material fact;
(2) makes any materially false, fictitious, or fraudulent statement or representation; or
(3) makes or uses any false writing or document knowing the same to contain any materially false, fictitious, or fraudulent statement or entry;

shall be fined under this title, imprisoned not more than 5 years or, if the offense involves international or domestic terrorism (as defined in section 2331), imprisoned not more than 8 years, or both. If the matter relates to an offense under chapter 109A, 109B, 110, or 117, or section 1591, then the term of imprisonment imposed under this section shall be not more than 8 years.

The breadth of this law is staggering, and the results could be perverse.  While the jury should have a good view of this, why would anyone not assert their 5th amendment rights when talking to anyone from the federal government?  After all, who knows if there’s an investigation?  Want to end up with a $100,000 legal bill finding out?

This is a law that prosecutors under administrations of both parties have used.  So what should it say?  Perhaps there needs to be a tie to a conviction of an actual crime we care about.  Perhaps the standard otherwise needs to be such that only sworn statements are applicable, in which case isn’t the existing purgery law enough?  And it has the added benefit of putting someone on notice that they could be held accountable for lying.


Win! Dealer supports customer! This must not be America

It’s not- it’s Switzerland.

So here’s a story for my friend Tom who hates BMW America. I was beginning to feel the same way about our national sales organization here in Switzerland. We had been hearing what to me sounds like valves banging around, practically since the day we got the car, but it was intermittent. Well, 4 years and 22,000 miles later (after the warranty is supposed to have expired), we were able to reproduce it. And guess what? It was valves banging around.

Initially, BMW Switzerland said they’d cover parts and 1/2 labor. But our guy at the local garage argued back at them on our behalf and got them to eat the whole valve job.


Our Supposed Healthcare System

Let’s do a brief comparison of the U.S. to the civilized world, when it comes to healthcare insurance and what actually happens when a child is born.  In Switzerland, when a child is born, both the mother and the child may stay up to five days in the hospital.  For even the slightest complication that time gets extended for both.

In the U.S., an insured mother and her child are entitled two days.  If there is a problem with one, as was the case with my new niece (she was jaundiced and required an extra day), she is separated from the mother, who in this case herself spent the night in the hospital lobby so that she could nurse her newborn daughter, three days after having given birth.

Which would you want for your wife, sister, or daughter?  U.S. or civilized?  If you answered “civilized”, then you get to answer another question: who are the people who should supervise our profit-oriented health insurance industry, and where are they?  I personally would like to know.  By the way, here in Switzerland my family and I pay less than most Americans our ages for healthcare, and we’ve not been turned down for anything we needed (in fact we’ve never even had an argument about it).  Now- does that change your answer?