Friday, May 22, 2015

Dreaming Is Free

First Wisconsin falls, then Illinois?  Perhaps California isn't a pipe dream:
A federal judge ruled late Tuesday that a lawsuit challenging mandatory union fees paid by government workers in Illinois can move forward. The judge’s ruling was in response to legal action taken in March by three state workers represented by attorneys at the Chicago-based Liberty Justice Center and the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation.

“Government workers should not be forced to pay money to a government union to keep their jobs,” said Jacob Huebert, senior attorney at the Liberty Justice Center. ”With today’s ruling, the court recognized that these workers deserve to have their day in court.”

Pell Grants For Prisoners

What conditions are different from 1994 such that this program would now be considered?
The U.S. Department of Education is poised to announce a limited exemption to the federal ban on prisoners receiving Pell Grants to attend college while they are incarcerated.
Correctional education experts and other sources said they expect the department to issue a waiver under the experimental sites program, which allows the feds to lift certain rules that govern aid programs in the spirit of experimentation. If the project is successful, it would add to momentum for the U.S. Congress to consider overturning the ban it passed on the use of Pell for prisoners in 1994...
Even a limited experiment will provoke controversy. Spending government money on college programs for convicted criminals is an easy target for conservative pundits and for some lawmakers from both political parties...
The administration estimated that roughly 4,000 of the 60,000 incarcerated juvenile offenders would be eligible for federal aid. That investment makes sense, they said, given that it costs an average of $88,000 per year to lock up a juvenile offender. And inmates of all ages are half as likely to go back to jail if they take college courses.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

When Should AP Tests Count at College?

AP tests have been around for quite some time, so you'd think there might be some consistency by now about how they're used to allow students to validate college classes.  In Illinois the concerns about consistency are both academic and financial:
A proposed change to state law that has advanced in Springfield could expand high school students' access to college credit through AP testing — but could also have a financial impact on state colleges and universities in Illinois, which could lose out on tuition revenue.
The AP testing program awards students whose knowledge has surpassed the high school level, and can save them time and money in college because they don't have to pay to take the equivalent courses.
But college standards for granting credit for AP tests vary widely. The tests are scored on a 5-point scale, but while some colleges and universities will award credit for scores as low as 2, others require the top score of 5 in certain subjects, according to the College Board, which administers the program. At some schools, the standards vary by subject, while the University of Illinois has different thresholds for different campuses.
To standardize the criteria, lawmakers are considering passing a law to require public universities and colleges in Illinois to give course credit for scores of 3 or better...
Last year in Illinois, nearly 116,000 AP tests were awarded scores of 3 or better, according to a coalition backing the legislation that includes state education groups and the College Board. At an average cost of $426 per credit hour, that would add up to $148 million in savings overall, proponents say.
AP credit could cost colleges and universities lost tuition from those students who can skip over classes, but officials say many AP students simply take other classes instead, to add depth or breadth to their education. Or they can use the lightened course load to improve their chances of graduating on time.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Research Paper on the Development of Logarithms

Grades were posted today in my History of Mathematics course.  I haven't seen the grade I got on my research paper or on the final exam but I'm pleased with my overall grade in the course.

Since some readers showed an interest in my my research paper, I decided to post it here. The formatting didn't transfer, though, and it looked like heck.  If you'd like to read it--and it's a page-turner, I can assure you!--email me (contact info on my profile page) and I can send you the PDF.

And They Say There's No Inflation

70%, 20%, 10%--add that up and it's big money.  I'd say that's some inflation:
The bailout of the California State Teachers’ Retirement System enacted last year requires a 70 percent increase in pension contributions from school districts, a 20 percent increase from the state general fund and a 10 percent increase in teacher contributions. When the phased-in increases are complete in 2020-21, CalSTRS will get about $5 billion more a year than it now does, putting it on much firmer ground.
But even at a time when school funding has reached an all-time high, districts are apprehensive at having to spend so much more on pensions. This month, their strategy has become clear: establish separate, specific state funding for districts to cover their increased contributions.
If districts have to spend more on pensions there will be less available for raises.
[T]he education establishment expects to use the flexibility and extra dollars provided by the Local Control Funding Formula to pay for the higher pension costs. But that’s not what the change in how schools are funded was supposed to be about, according to its champion, Gov. Jerry Brown. The governor’s website contains a 800-word account of the signing of the LCFF law on July 1, 2013. It depicts the funding change as being solely about getting more help to struggling English-learners, the state’s “neediest students.”
Money doesn't grow on trees.  If you had to bet who would get extra money,  students who don't vote or teachers backed by powerful unions, on whom would you bet?

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Now That Ramadi Has Fallen...

Just go here for a reminder of Biden's and Obama's bragging about how peaceful Iraq was in 2010, about Obama's 2008 statement that preventing genocide would not be enough of a reason to keep our troops in Iraq (I guess brown-skinned people don't matter to him, and he was warned), and other salient commentary and videos providing damning evidence of just what an incompetent president we have.

When Government "Asks" For "Investment"

Posted without commentary:

GOVERNMENT DOESN’T “ASK” ANYTHING:  Thomas Sowell rips apart President Obama’s recent remark opining that the way to reduce poverty is to “ask from society’s lottery winners” that they make a “modest investment” in government programs to help the poor.
[T]he federal government does not just “ask” for money. It takes the money it wants in taxes, usually before the people who have earned it see their paychecks. Despite pious rhetoric on the left about “asking” the more fortunate for more money, the government does not “ask” anything. It seizes what it wants by force. If you don’t pay up, it can take not only your paycheck, it can seize your bank account, put a lien on your home and/or put you in federal prison.
So please don’t insult our intelligence by talking piously about “asking.”
And please don’t call the government’s pouring trillions of tax dollars down a bottomless pit “investment.”
As for referring to successful individuals as “society’s lottery winners,” Sowell observes:
Most people who want to redistribute wealth don’t want to talk about how that wealth was produced in the first place. They just want “the rich” to pay their undefined “fair share” of taxes. This “fair share” must remain undefined because all it really means is “more.”
, , , ,
Obama goes further than other income redistributionists. “You didn’t build that!” he declared to those who did. Why? Because those who created additions to the world’s wealth used government-built roads or other government-provided services to market their products.
And who paid for those roads and other government-provided services if not the taxpayers? Since all other taxpayers, as well as non-taxpayers, also use government facilities, why are those who created private wealth not to use them also, since they are taxpayers as well?
The fact that most of the rhetorical ploys used by Barack Obama and other redistributionists will not stand up under scrutiny means very little politically. After all, how many people who come out of our schools and colleges today are capable of critical scrutiny?
link

Update:  When liberals say I'm "lucky", well--Peter Dinklage, in the picture I downloaded from Facebook, says it best:
It's not "privilege", either.  I've worked for what I have.

When Knowing How Isn't Enough

Barry Garelick and Katharine Beals discuss why knowing how to do math problems just isn't good enough under Common Core:
At a middle school in California, the state testing in math was underway via the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC) exam. A girl pointed to the problem on the computer screen and asked “What do I do?” The proctor read the instructions for the problem and told the student: “You need to explain how you got your answer.”
The girl threw her arms up in frustration and said, “Why can’t I just do the problem, enter the answer and be done with it?”
The answer to her question comes down to what the education establishment believes “understanding” to be, and how to measure it. K-12 mathematics instruction involves equal parts procedural skills and understanding. What “understanding” in mathematics means, however, has long been a topic of debate. One distinction popular with today’s math reform advocates is between “knowing” and “doing.” A student, reformers argue, might be able to “do” a problem (i.e., solve it mathematically), without understanding the concepts behind the problem solving procedure. Perhaps he has simply memorized the method without understanding it.
I hear this silliness about "explaining" often.  I assert that a student who can solve a multi-step algebraic problem and get the correct answer shouldn't then have to explain each step--their comprehension is demonstrated already by the systematic steps taken!  If someone still disagrees with me, I give them this challenge:  "Divide 100 by 6 using long division, and explain to me why that algorithm works."  99% of people can't explain why the algorithm works, but does that really matter if they know the algorithm and can execute it flawlessly?  And why does it matter why the algorithm works?  After all, no one does division for its own sake but rather to solve a problem; the division itself is only a tool, not a goal in and of itself.  Yes, it would be nice if someone could explain it, but are they at all mathematically handicapped if they cannot?  Is someone handicapped at driving a car because they cannot explain the 4 strokes of a "4 stroke engine"?

But lets get back to Beals and Garelick:
Despite the goal of solving a problem and explaining it in one fell swoop, in many cases observed at the middle school, students solved the problem first and then added the explanation in the required format and rubric.  It was not evident that the process of explanation enhanced problem solving ability. In fact, in talking with students at the school, many found the process tedious and said they would rather just “do the math” without having to write about it.
In general, there is no more evidence of “understanding” in the explained solution, even with pictures, than there would be in mathematical solutions presented in a clear and organized way. How do we know, for example, that a student isn’t simply repeating an explanation provided by the teacher or the textbook, thus exhibiting mere “rote learning” rather than “true understanding” of a problem-solving procedure?
This is intuitively obvious.  And Garelick and Beals point out the greatest flaw in the "explain your answer" pedagogy:  requiring the types of explanations identified as good by Common Core undermines, and in fact is counter to, the conciseness of mathematics.
The idea that students who do not demonstrate their strategies in words and pictures must not understand the underlying concepts assumes away a significant subpopulation of students whose verbal skills lag far behind their mathematical skills, such as non-native English speakers or students with specific language delays or language disorders. These groups include children who can easily do math in their heads and solve complex problems, but often will be unable to explain – whether orally or in written words – how they arrived at their answers.
Don't intentionally misunderstand what I'm saying.  I'm not saying that students shouldn't be able to justify their work or shouldn't have to explain anything.  I'm saying that what's put forth as "Common Core" is excessive, it's geared towards the more verbal and less mathematical among us, and is not good math.

The closing of the linked article says it all:
As Alfred North Whitehead famously put it about a century before the Common Core standards took hold: 
It is a profoundly erroneous truism … that we should cultivate the habit of thinking of what we are doing. The precise opposite is the case. Civilization advances by extending the number of important operations which we can perform without thinking about them.

Monday, May 18, 2015

A Tale Of Two Professors

Actually, the tale isn't so much of the two professors as it is of the responses of their employers to their public commentary.

Professor #1, a black woman soon to be teaching at Boston University:
Boston University had a weekend change of heart about a new professor's angry tweets about white people, after FoxNews.com and others reported on the racially-charged comments -- and Terrier alumni threatened to stop writing checks.

Saida Grundy, an incoming assistant professor of sociology and African-American studies at the school, tweeted in recent weeks that "white masculinity is THE problem for america’s (sic) colleges," white men are a "problem population,” and that she tries to avoid shopping at white-owned businesses. On Friday, her new employer's spokesman, Colin Riley, told FoxNews.com that the tweets came from Grundy's personal Twitter account and that she was "exercising her right to free speech and we respect her right to do so.”

Then, amid a deluge of angry emails from former students, the school sought to amend the comment.
“The University does not condone racism or bigotry in any form and we are deeply saddened when anyone makes such offensive statements,” Riley told FoxNews.com Saturday.
You would think that after embarrassing, if not herself then at least Boston University, Ms. Grundy would tone it down a bit, or perhaps have been told by BU to keep a low profile.  You might think that, but you would be wrong:
Boston University, which has already condemned the racist Tweets of an incoming faculty member, has now been sent an outrageous Facebook exchange in which a poster who identifies herself as the controversial sociology professor mercilessly ridicules a white rape victim.

Saida Grundy, a newly hired professor at Boston University who recently said she regrets tweeting that white males are a "problem population," and other racially charged comments, is now accused of Facebook posts in which she appeared to taunt a white rape victim...
Chamberlin, the rape survivor, responded: “No really. I got it. You can take your claws out, thanks.”
To which Grundy exploded:

“^^THIS IS THE S**T I AM TALKING ABOUT. WHY DO YOU GET TO PLAY THE VICTIM EVERY TIME PEOPLE OF COLOR AND OUR ALLIES WANT TO POINT OUT RACISM. my CLAWS?? Do you see how you just took an issue that WASNT about you, MADE it about you, and NOW want to play the victim when I take the time to explain to you some s**t that is literally $82,000 below my pay grade? And then you promote your #whitegirltears like that’s some badge you get to wear… YOU BENEFIT FROM RACISM. WE’RE EXPLAINING THAT TO YOU and you’re vilifying my act of intellectual altruism by saying i stuck my “claws” into you?”

Chamberlin responded by trying to leave the discussion. “I am choosing to “exit” this conversation,” she wrote.

But Grundy posted again, finishing with: “go cry somewhere. since that’s what you do.”
This woman will soon be teaching at Boston University.

Now let's visit Professor #2, a white male professor at Duke University:
A Duke University professor was defiant after the school last week condemned his "noxious" and "offensive" words in a letter published in The New York Times in which he compared African-Americans unfavorably to Asian-Americans.

The school's rebuke came after a student backlash against Political Science Professor Jerry Hough, 80, whose May 9 letter sought to address racism and the Baltimore riots. Hough said African-Americans don't try to integrate into society, while Asians “worked doubly hard” to overcome racism instead of blaming it.

“Every Asian student has a very simple old American first name that symbolizes their desire for integration,” he wrote on May 10. “Virtually every black has a strange new name that symbolizes their lack of desire for integration.”

Duke students and faculty blast Hough last week, and the school told The News & Observer of Raleigh that he was placed on leave and that 2016 will be his last year at the school.

“The comments were noxious, offensive, and have no place in civil discourse,” said Duke spokesman Michael Schoenfeld. “Duke University has a deeply held commitment to inclusiveness grounded in respect for all, and we encourage our community to speak out when they feel that those ideals are challenged or undermined, as they were in this case.”

But Hough, in an e-mail to an ABC affiliate, said political correctness is getting in the way of thoughtful and frank debate.

“I am strongly against the obsession with ‘sensitivity,'" Hough wrote. "The more we have emphasized sensitivity in recent years, the worse race relations have become. I think that is not an accident. “I know that the 60 years since the Montgomery bus boycott is a long time, and things must be changed. The Japanese and other Asians did not obsess with the concentration camps and the fact they were linked with blacks as ‘colored.’"
Interesting, the two responses from the two schools regarding the two professors.

Talk About Militarization of the Police

Until this issue was raised (on a libertarian site I frequent) I'd never given much thought to excess Pentagon equipment being given to local law enforcement.  I'm reminded of a series of lines from the relatively recently reimagined Battlestar Galactica series in which Commander Adama explains to new-President Roslyn why Galactica's marines cannot serve as a civilian police force throughout the fleet:

That is the problem with militarizing police forces.

Recently I came across this article, from a site I do not know and the validity of which I cannot yet vouch, outlining what types of military equipment have been delivered to local law enforcement all over the country.  On this site, though, I was shocked to find that my own little hamlet in suburban Sacramento has an MRAP.  That's Mine Resistant, Armor Plating.  Why the heck does a local police force need such a vehicle?  And the vehicle truly does exist--I saw it in my neighborhood a few weeks ago!  The local police said it's good for them to have such a "defensive" vehicle, one that protects officers, but unless they're being protected from mines and RPGs, which we don't have many of here in Sacramento County...talk about the militarization of the police!

I started this post well over a month ago and just saved it, not knowing when or if I'd ever finish it, but decided today to complete it when I heard about the following:
The Obama administration on Monday moved to prohibit federal agencies from providing local cops with certain kinds of military equipment such as grenade launchers, high-caliber weapons and bayonets, in the wake of controversy over a "militarized" police response to unrest last summer in Ferguson, Missouri.

The new prohibitions are part of an executive order President Barack Obama issued for federal agencies to review the types of equipment they provide to local and state police...

"We've seen how militarized gear can sometimes give people a feeling like there's an occupying force as opposed to a force that's part of the community that's protecting them and serving them," Obama said in Camden Monday. "It can alienate and intimidate local residents and send the wrong message."

Agencies including the Defense, Justice, and Homeland Security departments help provide equipment to local police. 

The banned list includes: tank-like armored vehicles that move on tracks, certain types of camouflage uniforms, bayonets, firearms and ammunition of .50 caliber or higher, grenade launchers, and weaponized aircraft. 
Why do police officers need bayonets or camouflage uniforms?  Answer:  they don't.  And if they don't need those, they don't need grenade launchers or weaponized aircraft, either--for exactly the reasons Commander Adama gave in the video clip, and for exactly the same reasons President Obama outlined in Camden.

Update, 5/20/15:  Here's the information at the bottom of the first link:

It's set to open on California but you can check whatever state you want.  I notice the Sacramento County Sheriff got 5 bayonets and scabbards.  US DHS CBP FORCE OPTIONS TRNG, which is listed in California, was given machetes. Ventura County was provided with "guns thru 30mm". Maybe they got a Vulcan!

Abusive Fees

If this story were about college students' not having the maturity or responsibility necessary to keep from racking up heavy credit card debt, my take would be "too bad, so sad" along with some commentary about the real world.  I don't fault companies when individuals make bad decisions.  I do fault companies, however, when their practices are abusive, and in this case it's probably good that the federal government is stepping in:
The Obama administration is taking on banks and other financial firms with new rules that would ban certain fees they can charge college students as well as restrictions on how they market products on campuses.
The U.S. Department of Education on Friday unveiled draft regulations on debit cards and other financial products offered on campuses. Consumer advocates have long sought the rules, which have drawn the ire of the financial services industry.
The draft regulations target two categories of financial products. First, the department is seeking to place the most stringent restrictions on debit cards and prepaid cards that colleges use to directly disburse federal grants and loans to students. For those accounts, the department would prohibit point-of-service fees, overdraft or insufficient funds charges, and ATM withdrawal fees.
A second category includes checking accounts or other financial products that are offered on campus or marketed to students under an agreement with the college. For example, some banks offer debit cards that are co-branded with the logo or mascot of a college. Those types of products would be prohibited from charging account access fees or in-network ATM withdrawal fees.
What is the point of having an account if you have to pay to access it? 

Of course, as with so much else it does, the federal government regulations go too far--why shouldn't someone be penalized with overdraft charges?--but other than that these regulations seem both reasonable and overdue.

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Endgame

This upcoming week is the last full week of school.  Following it are two 4-day weeks, and then two months off.

I have some travel planned this summer so I'm looking forward to the time off.  That doesn't mean I've stopped teaching, though--no, despite the pleas from my students we're still working in my math classes.  My seniors will have the longest summer of their lives off, most not starting school until September.  They don't need a few more weeks if we can use that time to review, retain, and master some material.

OK, so on one of our upcoming days we'll play Statistics Jeopardy.  I downloaded a PowerPoint template which looks like the Jeopardy board, and you put in your own questions and answers.  The Jeopardy music is already built in!  It's way cool, an entertaining yet serious review of topics from the last semester.

In 5 classes (two different courses) I have only a few students who may not pass.  No one's out of the game yet.

Trigger Warnings, Safe Spaces, Micro-aggressions, and other Fruits of Campus Feminism

I posted this video in a previous post about so-called micro-aggressions, but the topics Sommers discusses merit a post of their own.

Some of the highlights, IMNSHO:
5:20-6:40  In the past her opponents would come to debate or spar, now they "protest my presence on campus as a threat to their mental health"
6:50-7:50  The movement for "safe rooms" and panic attacks isn't about protecting vulnerable people, it's a power grab by people who can't persuade others about their views so they try to shame and delegitimize and shut others down
15:40-16:40  Is this what feminism has become?
18:50-19:35  A nod to Socrates, debate, inquiry, and "safety"--and this "safety" is regressive and harmful to women
28:05-30:31  The US Dept of Education's "Dear Colleague" letter and the now-granted legitimacy of the belief in so-called rape culture on campuses
32:05-32:40  A discussion of the Rolling Stone article about a non-rape at the University of Virginia
36:30-40:15  Feminism on campus is warmed-over Marxism, we don't live in a patriarchal oppressive society, equity feminism is an American success story

California's "Mediocre" Graduation Rate

I'm not convinced that Common Core is going to bring us to the Promised Land of all students graduating, or even that all racial and ethnic groups will graduate in statistically-equal proportions:
California’s high school graduation rate has improved in recent years but is still mediocre compared to other states, a new national study reveals.
The study, entitled “Building a Grad Nation,” was done for America’s Promise Alliance, a consortium of civic and business groups headed by former Secretary of State Colin Powell and his wife, Alma. Its goal is to raise the national graduation rate, 81.4 percent in 2013, to 90 percent by 2020.
While citing progress in raising graduation rates, Powell says in an open letter accompanying the report that “we are running out of time to close large and lingering gaps in graduation rates among different student populations.”
California’s 2013 graduation rate, 80.4 percent, is a full point below average, although the state was cited in the report for adding 4.4 percentage points to its rate in two years. California’s superintendent of schools, Tom Torlakson, reported last month that the state graduation rate rose again to 80.8 percent last year.
Twenty-eight states had graduation rates higher than California’s in 2013, the study found, with Iowa, at 89.7 percent, Nebraska (88.5 percent), and Texas and Wisconsin (88 percent) coming closest to the 90 percent goal. Oregon had, by far, the lowest rate, 68.7 percent.
I'll admit that I'm surprised that Oregon's rate is so low.  Are all these percentages calculated the same way?  If so, what is the explanation for Oregon, and for Texas?

Saturday, May 16, 2015

The Wages of Affirmative Action

Affirmative action is affirmative discrimination, especially towards those of Asian descent:
More than 60 Asian American organizations filed a complaint (see below) with the federal government on Friday alleging that Harvard University discriminates against Asian Americans in the admissions process and calling for an investigation.

The Harvard Crimson, a student newspaper on campus, wrote in this story that 64 groups filed the complaint with the U.S. Education and Justice departments, arguing that the university makes an “unlawful use of race” in its decisions that hurts Asian Americans...

This is the second complaint against Harvard admissions  practices on behalf of Asian Americans in a month. A legal defense group called Project on Fair Representation filed a lawsuit against Harvard about a month ago on behalf of a group called Students for Fair Admissions. It accuses Harvard of “employing racially and ethnically discriminatory policies” in its admissions practices. You can read that suit here.
Our colleges and universities, at least those who get taxpayer money, should focus on academics, and if I as a taxpayer have to pay for the education of others because somehow it's a public good that I do so, I should at least have the satisfaction of knowing that I'm paying for the best and brightest, those at the top end of the academic performance spectrum.

And if that means that our colleges and universities are overwhelmingly Asian, so be it.  Why we're still looking at skin color and eye shape in 2015 is a mystery to me.  Chief Justice Roberts said it best when he said in the Parents Involved case, "The way to stop discrimination on the basis of race is to stop discriminating on the basis of race."

Gallup: Schools Not Doing So Well

From Gallup:
Ninety-six percent of Americans say it is "somewhat" or "very" important for adults in the country to have a degree or certificate beyond high school. Clearly, the perceived importance of postsecondary education remains very high, especially considering the majority of American adults do not have a degree. But something very troubling lurks beneath the surface of this finding in the recently released fourth annual Gallup-Lumina Foundation poll.
Only 13% of Americans strongly agree college graduates in this country are well-prepared for success in the workplace. That's down from 14% two years ago and 19% three years ago. This is effectively a "no confidence" vote in college graduates' work readiness, and if we don't work to fix it, there will be catastrophic effects for the American education system and economy.
The no confidence vote gets worse: Americans with college degrees are much less likely to strongly agree college grads are ready for the workforce than Americans without college degrees -- 6% vs. 18%, respectively.
Where is the disconnect?

Friday, May 15, 2015

Yet Another Obamacare Fail

This time in his home state of Hawaii:
Federal taxpayers dumped more than $205 million into Hawaii's ObamaCare insurance exchange, but after a steady downward spiral the once-highly praised Hawaii Health Connector is on life support.

The federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services has already restricted grant funds to the Hawaii Health Connector, after telling officials in March it was out of compliance with the Affordable Care Act because of fiscal instability and ongoing IT issues.

With state lawmakers also blocking additional funds, the system is struggling to stay afloat. The governor's office said it is doing what it can to salvage the situation, including approving $30 million to temporarily transition the local portal to the federal exchange, HealthCare.gov -- where residents could continue to enroll over the next year while problems with the local site are addressed. 
Remember, these people who can't maintain a web site insist they'll be able to handle your healthcare and insurance.

Untrue Statements From Unions? I'm (not) Shocked.

I would suggest a refresher course in arithmetic:
The big bosses are taking all the money! USA Today dutifully reports: “CEOs in the AFL-CIO’s pay database released Wednesday earned an average of $13.5 million last year, which is 373 times more than the $36,000 per year paid to the average production and nonsupervisory worker, says the AFL-CIO. CEO pay in the AFL-CIO study increased 16% in 2014.”

According to the union, that CEO-to-worker pay ratio pay  is “simply unconscionable. … It doesn’t have to be this way. Lawmakers should raise the minimum wage and protect U.S. workers by not engaging in bad trade deals. Corporations should pay their employees a living wage. And workers should have a collective voice on the job to demand their fair share.”

But before we do all that supposedly wonderful stuff that the AFL-CIO wants us to do, let’s take another look at those numbers. As my AEI colleague Mark Perry points out, you really shouldn’t compare — as the AFL-CIO does — the wages of the average worker to the compensation of CEOs at a few hundred, large companies, often multinationals. In 2014, the BLS reports that the average pay for America’s 250,000 chief executives was only $181,000. So the CEO-to-worker pay ratio for the average CEO compared to the average worker is only about 4, not nearly 400.

And if you calculate the CEO-worker pay ratio at the 100 largest US companies — which I did using 2013 PayScale data — it works out to 79-to-1 — a fraction of what the exaggerated AFL-CIO analysis finds. Only five companies had a ratio of over 200-to-1, by the way, that year.

They Don't Like The Shoe's Being On The Other Foot

The president is not a nice person:
With the sand running out on the Obama presidency, it's finally dawning on the president's friends and fans that he can be a real jerk.

Consider the Washington Post's Dana Milbank. For the last six years, he's spent much of his time rolling his eyes and sneering at Republicans. His subspecialty is heaping ridicule on conservative complaints about, well, everything and anything. If it bothers conservatives, it must be irrational, partisan, churchy, fake, hypocritical -- or all of the above. Meanwhile, poor Barack Obama, while not always without fault in Milbank's eyes, is the grown-up, the good guy trying to do good things amidst a mob of malcontents and ideologues.

That is, until this month. President Obama wants to get a trade deal passed. He needs Democrats to do it. But, Milbank laments, Obama's blowing it.

"Let's suppose you are trying to bring a friend around to your point of view," Milbank writes. "Would you tell her she's emotional, illogical, outdated and not very smart? Would you complain that he's being dishonest, fabricating falsehoods and denying reality with his knee-jerk response?"

"Such a method of a persuasion is likelier to get you a black eye than a convert," Milbank notes. "Yet this is how President Obama treats his fellow Democrats on trade ..."

Yes, well, true enough. But lost on Milbank is the fact that this is precisely how Obama treats everyone who disagrees with him. When Obama -- who ran for office touting his ability to work with Republicans and vowing to cure the partisan dysfunction in Washington -- treated Republicans in a far ruder and shabbier way, Milbank celebrated.

Of course, he was hardly alone. The president has spent his entire presidency insisting that his political opponents are, to borrow a phrase from Milbank, "emotional, illogical, outdated and not very smart." Republicans, in Obama's view, are always dishonest, fabricating falsehoods and denying reality with their knee-jerk responses.

To pick just one of countless examples, there was a White House summit on health care in 2010. The president invited members of Congress to discuss the issue in good faith. He then proceeded to treat every concern, objection and argument from Republicans as dumb, dishonest or emotional. They were, according to a column by Milbank, "stepping into Prof. Obama's classroom." Milbank marveled at how the "teacher" treated them all "like his undisciplined pupils." Whenever someone said anything politically inconvenient, the president replied that those were just partisan "talking points."

When Sen. John McCain, his opponent in the previous election, noted that Obama had broken numerous promises and that the 2,400-page bill was a feeding trough for special interests, Obama eye-rolled. "Let me just make this point, John," Obama said. "We're not campaigning anymore. The election's over."

He responded to Sen. Lamar Alexander -- he called him "Lamar" -- "this is an example of where we've got to get our facts straight." When it was Rep. John Boehner's turn to speak, Obama reprimanded "John" for trotting out "the standard talking points" and, in the words of a palpably impressed Milbank, forced Boehner to "wear the dunce cap."

Again, this was all quintessential Obama then, and it's quintessential Obama now. All that has changed is that he's doing the exact same thing to Democrats, and it's making them sad. Specifically, he's accused Sen. Elizabeth Warren of not having her facts straight. He says she's just a politician following her partisan self-interest.

But here's the hilarious part: Liberals can't take it...

Is Anybody Surprised By This? I'm Certainly Not.

The TSA--minimum wage-caliber employees with the full power of the federal government backing them up.  What could go wrong?  There's certainly not a lot going right:
The inspector general for the Department of Homeland Security remains “deeply concerned” whether the agency charged with maintaining internal security is up to the task.

John Roth told the House Oversight & Government Reform Committee that the Transportation Security Administration, an arm of DHS responsible for ensuring airport safety and screening passengers before boarding, faces “significant challenges” in contracting for goods and services.

“Despite spending billions on aviation security technology, our testing of certain systems has revealed no resulting improvement,” Roth said...

Audits of the TSA workforce, Roth said, “repeatedly found that human error — often a simple failure to follow protocol — poses significant vulnerabilities.”
Perhaps one of my statist friends or commenters can explain how the current situation is any better than what we had on September 11, 2001.

Making Us All Look Bad

Is a truck with US flags in the parking lot a disruption to the educational environment?  No?  Then what the heck?
Peyton drove his pickup truck to school on Wednesday with Old Glory and the POW-MIA flag hoisted in the truck bed.

He told television station WBTV that an administrator directed him to remove both flags – and leave them at home – never bring them back.

“He said we’re having some issues,” Peyton said. “Some people were complaining about the flags in your truck, possibly offend them. He asked me to take them down.”

Someone was offended by the American flag --- in South Carolina?

“I’d understand if it was the Confederate flag or something that might offend somebody,” the young man said. “I wouldn’t do that. But an American flag – that’s our country’s flag.”

The school administrator also told Peyton that the 4x6 flag posed a safety issue and therefore broke a pre-existing rule.

It’s unclear what the exact safety issue was – unless the high school is concerned about a spontaneous outbreak of patriotism.

At the end of the school day, Peyton discovered that a school official had removed the bolts that secured the flags and took them down. The flags were placed in the middle of the boy’s truck bed.
As is often the case, the disinfecting power of sunlight prompted a change of heart:
So Peyton decided to write a note about what happened on his Facebook page. And the following day, moms and dads and students and a handful of veterans staged a protest outside the high school.

It wasn’t too long afterwards that the school district had a change of heart and reversed its flag ban.
This is what is meant by having to "fight" for what's right.  Sadly, people, especially martinets, won't always do what's right until they have to.

Requirements For State Testing

California's new standardized testing regime requires a computerized test given over the internet.  Schools and districts have to come up with the computers--with proper capabilities, of course--to give these tests.

What if the school doesn't have a good internet connection?
Nestled between mountains 60 miles from the nearest city, students at Cuyama Valley High School use Internet connections about one-tenth the minimum speed recommended for the modern U.S. classroom.
So when it came time to administer the new Common Core-aligned tests online, the district of 240 students in a valley of California oil fields and sugar beet farms faced a challenge.
New Cuyama has no access to fiber optic cables. Some residents live entirely off the grid, relying on solar power and generators. The local telephone company provided a few extra lines, but that only bumped speeds a few megabits.
"We tripled our capacity but it's still woefully inadequate," said Paul Chounet, superintendent of the Cuyama Joint Unified School District.
Across the country, school districts in rural areas like New Cuyama and other pockets with low bandwidth are confronting a difficult task: Administering the new standardized tests to students online, laying bare a tech divide in the nation's classrooms...
The Common Core standards adopted in 43 states and the District of Columbia provide uniform benchmarks for what students should know in each grade in reading and math. To aid their adoption, two groups of states received grants from the U.S. Department of Education to develop new assessments required to be computer based.
I myself was not happy with the practice test I took last year.

Thursday, May 14, 2015

The Very Opposite of Free Speech

The English are getting it all wrong:
Last fall, we noted that UK Home Secretary Theresa May had made it clear that if her Conservative Party were re-elected, one of the first orders of business would be a new "Extremist Disruption Orders" plan that would outlaw any speech or events that the government declared "extremist." She wasn't kidding around. Following last week's election in the UK, David Cameron appears to be announcing just such a plan to basically wipe out anything resembling free expression in the UK...

Oh, and here's the really insane part. David Cameron is claiming that he's doing this in the name of free speech. No joke:
“For too long, we have been a passively tolerant society, saying to our citizens: as long as you obey the law, we will leave you alone. It’s often meant we have stood neutral between different values. And that’s helped foster a narrative of extremism and grievance.

“This government will conclusively turn the page on this failed approach. As the party of one nation, we will govern as one nation and bring our country together. That means actively promoting certain values.

Freedom of speech. Freedom of worship. Democracy. The rule of law. Equal rights regardless of race, gender or sexuality.

“We must say to our citizens: this is what defines us as a society.”
Did you hear that? That's the sound of actual free speech supporters having their collective jaws hit the floor. Here he is, saying that for too long we've been "tolerant" of free expression, and thus we have to ban it, in support of "free speech" and democracy. And he flat out admits that they no longer think "obeying the law" should keep you out of trouble. That's some incredibly Orwellian bullshit right there. 
I can only shake my head, and then be thankful that the former Englishmen who founded the United States were much brighter than the current English leadership--which has had almost 230 years to learn the right way to do free speech but has utterly failed to learn the lesson.

Color of Their Skin vs. Content of Their Character

The very presence of white people is now a so-called micro-aggression:
According to a new report released by the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, just “walking into or sitting in” a classroom full of white people is a microaggression in itself.
“Students of color reported feeling uncomfortable and unwelcomed just walking into or sitting in the classroom, especially if they were the only person of color, or one of a few,” stated the report, which designated the experience a microaggression.
I'm thinking this "micro-aggression" silliness has now officially jumped the shark.  How do such people even look at themselves in the mirror?

Update, 5/16/15:

The Enemy of My Enemy

This post is a conservative attack on Republicans.  On what basis do "big government" liberals attack this?
I am with my fellow constitutional law professors, Glenn (Mr. InstaP himself) and Jonathan Adler on this one:  I don’t see a principled constitutional basis for Congress to regulate abortions.  It is a matter of state power–for state-by-state legislative consideration–and not within Congress’s power to regulate interstate commerce.

For a Republican Congress to embrace such an expansive interpretation of the Commerce Clause is more than a bit ironic (and unprincipled), especially given Republicans’ more parsimonious view of the Clause during the Obamacare litigation. Why jettison this basic understanding of constitutional structure/federalism merely to score a cheap political victory?

A Rolling Stone Gathers A Lawsuit

Last November, Rolling Stone magazine published an article about a brutal rape on the campus of the University of Virginia.  One fraternity and seven male students in particular were identified, the entire Greek system at UVa was penalized, and a pernicious myth of so-called rape culture on our university campuses was given new life.

As you can see at the link, Rolling Stone has since retracted the story as there was absolutely no corroborating evidence that the attack described took place.  The author, Sabrina Erdely, had actually published similar stories in the past, also without corroboration:
It should be noted here that Erdely had done at least two rape stories prior to “Jackie’s”—one concerning the US Navy and the other a Catholic parish in Philadelphia. No one at Rolling Stone apparently found it curious that Erdely stumbled upon festering rape scandals at the three institutions that together comprise the trifecta of left-wing hate objects—organized religion, the US military, and that bastion of male privilege, fraternities.
The "you raped someone" genie, already out of the bottle, cannot be put back in.  The reputations of the accused men cannot be repaired near as easily as they were trashed, and with the assistance of UVa President Teresa Sullivan to boot!

Is anyone but me seeing shades of the Duke Lacrosse Story here?

The Columbia Graduate School of Journalism conducted an investigation and, according to The New York Times, they weren't kind to Rolling Stone:
Rolling Stone magazine retracted its article about a brutal gang rape at a University of Virginia fraternity after the release of a report on Sunday that concluded the widely discredited piece was the result of failures at every stage of the process.
The report, published by the Columbia Graduate School of Journalism and commissioned by Rolling Stone, said the magazine failed to engage in “basic, even routine journalistic practice” to verify details of the ordeal that the magazine’s source, identified only as Jackie, described to the article’s author, Sabrina Rubin Erdely.
One would think that the fraternity brothers would sue Rolling Stone, Sabrina Erdely, and perhaps even Teresa Sullivan, but the first lawsuit against Rolling Stone is by an assistant dean:
Nicole P. Eramo, an associate dean of students at the University of Virginia who handles reports of sexual assault for the school, is suing Rolling Stone magazine over the way she was depicted in a now discredited story.
Eramo has filed suit against Rolling Stone LLC, parent company Wenner Media LLC, and Sabrina Rubin Erdely, the author of the article called "A Rape on Campus," which painted a harrowing picture of a rape and its coverup at U.Va. The complaint was filed in the Charlottesville, Va., circuit court. Eramo is seeking a total of $7.85 million.
In her complaint, Eramo says, "Defendants' purpose in publishing the article was to weave a narrative that depicted the University of Virginia ('UVA') as an institution that is indifferent to rape on campus, and more concerned with protecting its reputation than with assisting victims of sexual assault."
One wonders why Associate Dean Eramo didn't include her own university's president in her lawsuit.

One wonders why any young men would want to apply to such a school in the future.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Why Free Expression Is So Important--Exactly Why Liberals Don't Like It

Free speech protects speech liberals don't like, and our totalitarian friends on the left just can't have that:
The First Amendment to the Constitution instead was designed to protect the obnoxious, the provocative, the uncouth, and the creepy — on the principle that if the foulmouths can say or express what they wish and the public can put up with it, then everyone else is assured of free speech. 
 
Every time the West has forgotten that fact — from putting on trial cranky Socrates or incendiary Jesus to routinely burning books in the Third Reich — we have come to regret what followed. Censorship, of course, is never branded as extreme and dangerous, but rather as a moderate and helpful means to curb the hate speech of a bald, barefooted crank philosopher who pollutes young minds and introduces wacky and dangerous cults, or a hatemonger who whips innocent people in front of a temple in between his faked and hokey miracles, or traitorous Jews who scribble and call their first-grade art the equivalent of Rembrandt or their perverted sexual fantasies the stuff of Hegel. Banning free expression is never presented as provocative, but always the final act of an aggrieved and understandably provoked society. 
 
Lately, the West in general and America in particular seems to have forgotten the free-speech pillar of Western constitutional government...
 
Among those who attack free expression the most loudly are progressives who do not like politically incorrect speech that does not further their own agendas. The term “illegal alien,” an exact description of foreign nationals who entered and reside in the United States without legal sanction, is now nearly taboo. The effort to ban the phrase is not because it is hateful or inaccurate, but because it does not euphemistically advance the supposedly noble cause of amnesties and open borders. Of course, the politically correct restrictionists have no compunction about smearing their critics with slurs such as xenophobe, racist, or nativist.

The Nirvana of Anxiety

At least twice this year, here and here, I've written about increasing student diagnoses of anxiety.  As I stated in those posts, I lean more towards the philosophy that we should teach students to accommodate their own anxiety, to learn to deal with it, rather than expect the rest of the world to accommodate and adapt to them.  I don't view that as a harsh or unfeeling view, merely one that will work in the real world.

If you were in the hospital, would you want this person as your nurse?
A Pennsylvania university nursing student is suing the school after failing a required course twice, saying anxiety and depression made it difficult for her to concentrate.

Jennifer Burbella claims her Misericordia University professor did not do enough to help her pass a class on adult health patterns.

Burbella said the professor gave her a distraction-free environment and extra time for her final exam when she took the class the second time, but did not respond to telephoned questions as promised, giving her even more stress.

Burbella said she started to break down in tears because of the lack of help.
The article points to federal discrimination law, which I assert is a case study in the concept of the road to Hell being paved with good intentions.

And to answer my own question:  no, I myself would not want this person as my nurse.