Kansas Info Quartermaster

Thursday, December 29, 2005

An edited version of the blog below . . .



Follow the link below for a version of the PayDay lender Blog that appeared in today's Wichita Eagle.

http://www.kansas.com/mld/kansas/news/editorial/13502758.htm

There has been a good blog thread on the subject at the Eagle's Blog - see this link -

http://blogs.kansas.com/weblog/2005/12/limits_on_payda.html#comments

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

PayDay Lenders: A Very Serious Subject . . .




Below is a letter to the editor I sent to the Wichita Eagle because of Deb Gruver's recent articles about these predatory lenders.

I want to express my appreciation to Deb Gruver for her two recent Eagle stories on the burgeoning growth of PayDay loan businesses in Wichita. In my view these stories have been long overdue. Each week my family and I drive at least once from our near-east side home to downtown and then back again. My children have invented a game whereby each of them attempts to collect instances of newly opened PayDay loan businesses, Cash-for-Car-title-Loan businesses, and etc. This game has been going on for several weeks and there are no indications that it will be over any time soon. Howard Karger in his book – ShortChanged: Life and Debt in the Fringe Economy (2005, p. 73) says “In fact, there are now more payday loan shops in America than McDonald’s restaurants.”

I want to be up front, I have a decided bias against these businesses and I have written my state representative expressing my concerns. I don’t believe that there is a viable “other side” to the story. In fact, it offends me when a purveyor of one of these “fringe economy” (read - “predatory lending”) businesses say that they are merely filling a market niche untouched by others. To me, this would be tantamount to Dr. Kevorkian saying that his assisted suicides offer patients an alternative to anesthesia. Sorry, the reasoning doesn’t make sense, and I don’t find it amusing.

As Ms. Gruver pointed out in her article, the annual percentage rate (APR) on PayDay loans can run in the 400% range. Advocates of this business practice say that their usual customers are professional, between 30 and 40 years of age, and making between $30,000 and $40,000 per year. The argument is that “these are not poor people, don’t feel sorry for them, because they are making maybe admittedly stupid choices by accepting such credit terms – they are none-the-less making free choices from a position of individual freedom”. Sounds pretty high-minded, doesn’t it?

The truth is, in today’s fringe economy, it is very easy for people making the amounts of money listed above to be “functionally poor” as described by Howard Karger in his book cited above. It is very easy for people making 30k to 40k per year to have such high debt and an absence of assets that the sum of their monthly and yearly income-to-debt ratio is a negative number. Hence, for all intents and purposes these people are poor. Provide a financial emergency, like a car breaking down, and these same people become desperate. Given sufficient desperation, anyone (and not just from greed) will turn to these predatory lenders.

I am a “live and let live” person, and I am troubled whenever government decides it must “take actions to protect people from themselves”. In Ms. Gruver’s article, Representative Brunk speaks of such protection. Instead of limiting how many PayDay loans a person can have, I would like to suggest a two-pronged alternative.

The first prong would involve, instead of passing laws that facilitate these businesses’ preying on people, how about the Kansas legislature passing a law that says the APR of any loan cannot exceed 30% in Kansas. It seems reasonable to me that anyone taking 30% APR on a loan can make enough money to stay in business. I believe that if our legislature had the courage to pass such a law, these predatory lenders would go scurrying to more hospitable environments and I would say “good riddance”.

This first prong would not be enough, however. Also Credit Unions and Savings & Loans should be encouraged to make convenient/accessible small loans with terms that would allow, say, a six month repayment plan. This second prong has been demonstrated to be effective, most notably in North Carolina. See the following link to the success story of the North Carolina Self-Help Credit Union - http://www.self-help.org/. It can be done a better way than it is now. It can be a win-win situation for the lender AND the borrower.

Ms. Gruver has helped us recognize the problem, let us not stop now. Let us not stop until we have resolved this problem. Our city will be a better place to live for EVERYBODY.

Thank you.
Steven E. Davis

See Deb Gruver's articles with the following links:

http://www.kansas.com/mld/kansas/business/consumer/13431936.htm?template=contentModules/printstory.jsp

http://www.kansas.com/mld/kansas/business/consumer/13447081.htm?template=contentModules/printstory.jsp

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Praise the Lord!!!



Or, should I say "praise Judge Jones". This has to be a set back for Phill, Connie, and Steve.

Read more here:

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2005/12/20/AR2005122000532.html

Saturday, December 17, 2005

They are at it again . . .

See this LJWorld article on State Board of Education member, John Bacon's attendance at a religious conference and his submission for the State to pay for it.

http://www2.ljworld.com/news/2005/dec/16/taxpayers_foot_bill_officials_trip_churchschool_ev/?education

As the Thoughts from Kansas blog points out, this amounts to Bacon asking to be paid for going to church.

http://jgrr.blogspot.com/

Oh, boy . . .

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Maturity, Thy Name is Connie



Apparently State Bored of Education member, Connie Morris, has been troubled by recent conflicts among members of the Board and criticisms of the ever-so-qualified commissioner, Bob Corkins. Here is what the Eagle reports as her comments:

"Board member Connie Morris said she found the bickering between board members 'boring' and defended Corkins.
'I think it's sad what has been put out there and what has been said against him,' she said. 'It's sad and it's hurtful.'"

Read the rest here: http://www.kansas.com/mld/kansas/news/local/13411026.htm

The above article in the Wichita Eagle reports on an interesting strategy of the conservative majority of the board. Corkins appointed a subcommittee to study the issue of school choice. This subcommittee included 10 state school superindents. This was clearly a placating move to suggest that the Board wished to have input before proceeding with its vouchers agenda. The only problem is that the subcommittee is to report back a full month after the Board has scheduled itself to decide on the vouchers question. Regarding this bassackwards time schedule, Janet Waugh, D-Kansas City said:

"That's kind of inappropriate if we're going to go ahead and vote next month. Their [the above subcommittee] input would be beside the point."

So, Janet, do you have a problem with that? When Corkins and crew look to be compromising, you had better watch out.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Tiahrt's Fix for the Health-Care Crisis


From the home page of Kansas Representative, Todd Tiahrt, the congressman outlines his response to the health care crisis in the U.S. and Kansas:

"He [Tiahrt] also said health care costs must be addressed and suggested that the new Medicare prescription drug bill may provide a model for how to reform the rest of the system."
http://toddtiahrt.com/news04_27march_abolishtaxes.htm

I think Toddly may be on to something here. . . If the health care system were to become as confusing as the Medicare Prescription drug plan, it would be so inaccessible that not even M.I.T. graduates will be able to figure out how to get in to see their doctors. Consumption of care goes down, which has to result in cost savings, right? Yeah, yeah . . . Toddly's got the ticket!

Governor Discusses Success Guidelines


How dare that Sebelius look into ways of improving Kansas Public Schools. Doesn't she know that Bob Corkins is already on the job, doing his best to improve public schools. And contrary to what Sebelius says in this LJWorld.com article, the solution is VERY SIMPLE -- more competition. Give public school funds to private schools and the public schools will have to compete with private schools and will get better as a result. Any idiot can see that this is a very straight-forward solution!

http://www2.ljworld.com/news/2005/dec/14/governor_discusses_success_guidelines/?print

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Is it the Devil, or is it God, Who's in the Details? I think it may be God.



The leader of the conservative majority of the KS BOE, Steve Abrams, provides an interesting column about the KS BOE efforts on a web page of the “politically neutral” Kansas Republican Assembly. In the document “A Column About Kansas Science Standards”, Abrams states:

7) explains proposed scientific explanations of the origin of life as well as scientific criticisms of those explanations.
"As anyone can see, Intelligent Design is not included. But many of our critics already know this. This is not about Biblical creation or Intelligent Design… it is about the last 5 words of indicator 7… “scientific criticisms of those explanations.”

He further elaborates:

“Instead of discussing the issues of evolution, noisy critics go into attack mode and do a character assassination of anyone that happens to believe that evolution should actually be subject critical analysis.”

At the heart of all of Abrams comments on this controversial subject is his contention that he is doing all of his activism with open-minded goodness, whereas his opponents are resorting to “character assassination” and other bad habits so that “evolution can be taught as dogma.” His motives are pure, he’s doing it “for the kids of Kansas”, whereas his opponents are pursuing their goals in the service of a naturalistic, and deeply flawed theory/dogma.

All Abrams wants is the “scientific criticisms of those explanations [evolution]”. What could possibly be wrong with that?” He asks. Let’s see if we can provide some answers for Steve Abrams’ inquiring mind.

In the 2001 Kansas State BOE Science standards there are a group of numbered items that specify the standard that is to be taught. There are under these standards “Examples” that explains the standard in greater detail. The 2005 KS BOE standards continue this tradition, but instead of calling these elaborations “Examples”, the 2005 standards labels these elaborations as “Additional Specificity”. The number one standard under Life Science for Grades 8-12 is:

“1. understands biological evolution, descent with modification, is a scientific explanation for the history of the diversification of organisms from common ancestors.”

No argument from me on this standard, but when one gets into the details, problems start to raise their ugly heads. Under the above standard, Additional Specificity letter f. states:

“The view that living things in all the major kingdoms are modified descendents of a common ancestor (described in the pattern of a branching tree) has been challenged in recent years by:
i. Discrepancies is the molecular evidence (e.g. differences in relatedness inferred from sequence studies of different proteins) previously thought to support that view.
ii. A fossil record that shows sudden bursts of increased complexity (the Cambrian Explosion), long periods of stasis and the absence of abundant transitional forms rather than steady gradual increases in complexity, and
iii. Studies show animals follow different rather than identical early stages of embryological development."

Let us take each of these “challenges” one at a time:

Regarding i. –
RESPONSE OF MAINSTREAM SCIENTISTS:The family tree relationships of some of the early life forms remain unclear. But fossil and biological evidence argues that all life today descends from the earliest organisms. Not surprisingly, new methods like comparison of proteins or genes have generated family trees that differ somewhat from those deduced from fossils. But those differences have not fundamentally changed scientists' view of evolution or common descent.
http://www.nytimes.com/2005/11/14/science/15evol_side.html?ex=1134622800&en=b3c73b34e93d39c3&ei=5070

STRIKE ONE!

Concerning ii –
Karen E. Bartelt, PhD, Professor of Chemistry, Eureka College, Eureka, IL replies:
“Straw man. There are many transitional forms in the fossil record.”
http://www.ksde.org/outcomes/sciencestdreviewkarenbartelt.pdf
Ken Miller of Brown University states:
“In reality, evolutionary theory encompasses both gradual and non-gradual (punctuated) change. Also, the fossil record contains scores of examples of exactly the sort of lineages expected for evolutionary change, and the proposed revision misleads students by concealing this fact from them. Page 16 [the author is citing the earlier proposals and the pagination does not match the approved standards pages] makes the incorrect claim that fossil record lacks “transitional forms.” This statement has been repeatedly rebutted by scientific evidence. As the National Academy of Sciences noted in 1999 , “nearly all fossils can be regarded as intermediates in some sense; they are life forms that come between the forms that preceded them and those that followed.”
http://www.kcfs.org/standards05/idcritiques/miller.html

STRIKE TWO!

And, finally regarding iii. –
Ken Miller again, asserts:
“Page 16 [see the above note about pagination] makes another incorrect claim: “Studies that show animals follow different rather than identical early stages of embryological development.” This claim is based on the work of embryologist Michael K. Richardson, who found significant differences between early embryonic development and widely-copied drawings used in many biology textbooks. Textbooks have long been corrected to reflect Richardson’s observations. However, Richardson himself points out that “All vertebrates develop a similar body plan (consisting of notochord, body segments, pharyngeal pouches, and so forth). This shared developmental program reflects shared evolutionary history” (Richardson et al. Science, 280: 983. [1998]). Telling students that vertebrate embryos differ in ways that they in fact do not is misleading.
http://www.kcfs.org/standards05/idcritiques/miller.html

STRIKE THREE!

So, these errors as pointed out by knowledgeable scientists, begs the question, are Steve Abrams and his conservative supporters:
a) too stupid and ill-informed to do their job? Or…
b) intent upon pushing a narrow-minded partisan agenda and lying about doing so the whole time?

You know what? To me,the answer to these questions is immaterial. The solution to the problem is the same – we need to get these bums off of the KS BOE!!!

Visit this PAC that is trying to accomplish this goal:
http://www.ksalliance.org/

Williams Executed



Just after midnight today, Stanley Tookie Williams was executed.

http://news.yahoo.com/s/nm/20051213/pl_nm/crime_execution_tookie_dc

This story is only peripherally related to Kansas. Phill Kline was recently arguing before the U.S. Supreme Court to re-instate the Kansas Death penalty. For me, the Williams story raises a number of questions about the death penalty in general.

As I understand the story, Williams went from the founder of the Crips gang, a murderer of 4 people to a children's book author. These books supposedly warned children against joining gangs. The questions that the Williams execution raises in my mind are:

1. Is an "eye for an eye" ALWAYS the right thing to do?

2. Are the families of Williams' victims better off in any way today than they were yesterday? If no, will they be better off in the future? [I am not aware of any empirical evidence that addresses these questions]

3. Can people change? Are they deserving of mercy if they appear to make sincere positive changes?

4. Is the world better off today, now that Williams is gone, than it was yesterday? [I'm not thinking so].

Thank you.

How Mirecki Could Best Help The Cause

The Mirecki situation continues to get stranger, just when I thought it couldn’t. He has now hired a lawyer claiming that he was forced out of his Department Head position, and that his rights to free speech and academic freedoms were infringed upon. KU disagrees with his claims. Go to the following for an LJWorld.com story.

http://www2.ljworld.com/news/2005/dec/13/ku_mirecki_left_leadership_post_voluntarily/?print

Unfortunately, the conservative activist who publicized the unfortunate Mirecki e-mails to a listserve has also gotten a lot of attention by way of this debacle. We will not mention his name here, not to elevate him to a Voldemort stature, but as a way of framing his utter insignificance.

In today’s Wichita Eagle, Deborah A. Gordon, an associate professor of the Center for Women’s Studies at Wichita State University suggests:

“If I was Mirecki, I could think of a number of scholarly articles I’d write to turn my grief and wasted time into grist for a scholarly mill.”

I completely agree with Gordon, Mirecki should use his strengths to deal with his attackers. He could better protect himself and useful scholarship would be an added benefit. As Dr. Gordon says:

“Oh, please, Paul. Write the book.”

http://www.kansas.com/mld/kansas/news/editorial/13391841.htm