Tuesday, January 17, 2017

President Obama's Legacy

This one is so good that I have to lift it in its entirety from Instapundit:
Peter Berkowitz:
Chait’s case for Obama largely ignores the case against. It is one thing to defend the utility of deficit spending in a recession; it is quite another to blink away doubling American debt in eight years to a staggering $20 trillion and growing. It is appropriate to credit Obama for expanding access to health care, but it is deceptive to gloss over his repeated deceptions concerning insurance cost, keeping one’s doctor, and keeping one’s insurance. The reduction of greenhouse gas emissions is good, but no excuse for undermining constitutional government by extravagant exploitation of executive orders to skirt the people’s representatives in the legislative branch. And while the Middle East was unstable and dangerous before Obama, it is negligent to overlook how his determination to circumscribe America’s international role has emancipated the forces of chaos and destruction in the region.

Overreach and underperformance have consequences. Not the least part of Obama’s legacy is a shrunken and enfeebled Democratic Party in the states, a successor in the White House he tried hard to derail, and Republican majorities in both houses of Congress who are determined to overturn his signature domestic and foreign policy achievements.
Obama’s real legacy will be sworn into office on Friday.

Monday, January 16, 2017

Proposed Boondoggle

I don't pay into Social Security; rather, I pay into the California State Teachers Retirement System, or CalSTRS.  This pension fund is in such bad shape that the state, the school districts, and the teachers themselves all now have to pay higher amounts into it--in order to fund the retirements we were promised at the lower contributions.  In other words, we're paying more for the same amount.

I guess that's not horrible, from an economics standpoint, if that's what it takes to keep the fund solvent.  After all, as the Instapundit always says, "Something that cannot go on forever, won't."  However, this should tell us that CalSTRS isn't run very well, as we were promised what is not affordable at the lower rates.

Less than a decade ago STRS built a tall, shiny glass building just across the river from Old Sacramento.  I missed the story when it came out, but just saw on the Education Intelligence Agency web site that STRS claims to be running out of room already and wants to build another tower:
CalSTRS is considering building a second office tower, adding to the growing skyline along West Sacramento’s riverfront but raising fresh questions about the financial state of the teachers’ pension fund.

The 10-story building, expected to cost $181 million, would be erected alongside CalSTRS’ 20-story headquarters on the Sacramento River. CalSTRS officials said they need more space; they expect to outgrow the headquarters building, which opened in 2009, about three years from now...

Construction of the tower is not a done deal, however. CalSTRS board members, meeting last month, expressed concerns about spending $181 million when investment returns are weakening and the pension fund is barely two years removed from a financial rescue plan approved by the Legislature. The bailout, designed to erase a long-term funding gap, is costing the state, school districts and teachers billions of dollars a year in additional contributions to CalSTRS. The California State Teachers’ Retirement System controls $193 billion in assets and is about 69 percent funded.

“We’re in a low-return environment probably for quite some time to come, and we’re going to be asking more, frankly, of the state and our employers and our employees,” said state Controller Betty Yee, a board member, during last month’s meeting. “I’d like to wait a couple of years to evaluate our funding status and our staff space needs.”

CalSTRS doesn’t need legislative approval to build the tower and would fund the project itself.
Are teachers the agency's priority, or not?  How much space does managing assets require?

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Posts Like This, If Misinterpreted, Can Make Me Sound Like A Class-Envy Liberal

I lived in Alameda County when Al Davis moved the Raiders from Los Angeles back to Oakland.  I didn't live in Oakland, I lived in the Fremont/Newark area, about a half an hour drive away.  Still, though, my taxes went up to build "Mount Davis", an addition to the Oakland Coliseum that allowed for more people to attend Raiders games.

Sacramento has just finished building the Golden 1 (Credit Union) Center for the Sacramento Kings.  Living in suburban Sacramento County in a different incorporated city, I'm glad the county didn't decide to tax me to build that arena so that rich people could get richer.

This position is actually very conservative.

This is how such things are sold:  they'll raise the sales tax, for instance, a half a cent for 15 years to raise the needed revenue that the city (or whatever governmental level is kicking in) will put towards the new stadium/arena.  The justification is that this will be good for the city/county, as it will bring in tourists and diners, etc., and their expenditures will help the economy and their sales taxes will be good for the government.  This is called an "investment".

If I'm paying for this investment, when do I get my return?  Here's how it should work, if government is going to kick in money at all:  You raise the sales tax half a cent for 15 years.  At the end of that 15 years, not only does that half a cent tax go away, but so does another half a cent--after all, all that tax money that the stadium/arena is bringing in should have the governmental coffers overflowing, shouldn't it?  Shouldn't government--the people--get back that money they "invested"?  Keep the sales tax a half a cent lower than it was originally, and do it for the same 15 year time period.  If this isn't justified economically, then the government shouldn't be helping fund private entities like sports leagues in the first place.  (But I'd say don't do it anyway, because that's not the purpose of government at any level.)

But Darren, you say, you just don't like the Kings!  You want Sacramento to go back to being a cow town!  To which I reply, if the Kings are the only thing keeping Sacramento from being a cow town, then we're already a cow town--with a basketball team.  Honestly, I don't care if the Kings stay in Sacramento or not, they don't impact my life in the slightest, but I'd resent having to pay more in taxes to keep them here.

I didn't get anything out of my paying more taxes for Mount Al Davis.  I wouldn't get anything out of paying more taxes for the Golden 1 Center, had Sacramento County (not City) wanted to tax me more for it. 

I'm not the only person who thinks this way:
The people of San Diego won by losing.

Chargers owner Dean Spanos did the corporate equivalent of taking his ball and going home Thursday, bolting for Los Angeles because San Diego residents had balked at building his team a fancy new stadium. Imagine the nerve of those people! Refusing to spend millions for a stadium that, studies have shown, would likely end up costing taxpayers more than what is originally estimated while providing less in return...

But he (Dean Spanos) and pretty much every other owner think they’re owed civic welfare as a show of gratitude for their benevolence in owning a sports franchise. Franchises that already line owners’ pockets with millions of the public’s money each year in the form of merchandise, ticket sales, concessions and parking, mind you...

Yes, it’s devastating to lose a team that has been part of the city’s identity for more than a half-century, and Chargers fans were understandably outraged at being jilted. In the hours after Spanos made his announcement, fans littered the sidewalk in front of the team’s headquarters with jerseys and other now-unwanted merchandise.

But if there’s anything that has become clear in all of these money grabs – and stay strong, Oakland, because you’re next – it’s that teams really don’t give a damn about their fans. So long as there are suckers in another town so blinded by the prospect of having a professional franchise that they don’t read the fine print, teams will view their fans as little more than lines on a balance sheet.

That’s not being part of the fabric of a community, that’s blackmail.
Yeah, what she said.

Saturday, January 14, 2017

Un-American

Protesting is one thing, but stopping someone else's freedom of speech is un-American:
Milo Yiannopoulos, the alt-right-friendly media figure and Breitbart tech editor who is permanently banned from Twitter, was scheduled to speak at the University of California-Davis on Friday, but student-protesters mobbed the scene, forcing event organizers to cancel his appearance.

Given the unruly state of the protesters, university officials informed Yiannopoulos's hosts, the Davis College Republicans, that they could no longer guarantee anyone's safety. This prompted the CRs to cancel the event before Yiannopoulos had a chance to speak.

Martin Shkreli was supposed to speak as well, but because of the actions of irate students, his lecture did not take place, either.

The university initially remained committed to letting the event go forward, despite the administration's fervent opposition to Yiannopoulos's message. But fights broke out, according to local news reporters. Someone even poured hot coffee on a photojournalist.
Leftists are the fascists they decry.

Update, 1/16/17: Milo went to UC Davis on Saturday, stating that the College Republicans only canceled his talk because the administration said the CR's would be responsible for any damage done by protesters.  View video here if you cannot below.


Liberty on Coins

On current and previous coins, Liberty has appeared either as white or Native American.  These new representations will be welcome additions to our numismatic heritage.
The 2017 American Liberty 225th Anniversary Gold Coin design is unique in that it portrays Liberty as an African-American woman, a departure from previous classic designs.  The obverse (heads) design depicts a profile of Liberty wearing a crown of stars, with the inscriptions "LIBERTY," "1792," "2017," and "IN GOD WE TRUST."  The reverse (tails) design depicts a bold and powerful eagle in flight, with eyes toward opportunity and a determination to attain it.  Inscriptions include "UNITED STATES OF AMERICA," "E PLURIBUS UNUM," "1OZ. .9999 FINE GOLD," and "100 DOLLARS."

The obverse was designed by Mint Artistic Infusion Program (AIP) Designer Justin Kunz and sculpted by Mint Sculptor-Engraver Phebe Hemphill, while the reverse was designed by AIP Designer Chris Costello and sculpted by Mint Sculptor-Engraver Michael Gaudioso.

The 2017 American Liberty 225th Anniversary Gold Coin will be struck in .9999 fine 24-karat gold at the West Point Mint in high relief, with a proof finish.  The one-ounce coin will be encapsulated and placed in a custom designed, black wood presentation case.  A 225th anniversary booklet with Certificate of Authenticity will accompany each coin.

The 2017 American Liberty 225th Anniversary Gold Coin is the first in a series of 24-karat gold coins that will feature designs which depict an allegorical Liberty in a variety of contemporary forms-including designs representing Asian-Americans, Hispanic-Americans, and Indian-Americans among others-to reflect the cultural and ethnic diversity of the United States.  These 24-karat gold coins will be issued biennially. A corresponding series of medals struck in .999 silver, with the same designs featured on the gold coins, will also be available.

Sulu, So Low--Doesn't Like Trump

OK, let’s be honest.  Sulu was a “bit part”.  He wasn’t a big deal.

He was a bigger deal that George Takei is, though...


Friday, January 13, 2017

Cool Currency

You might recall that I started this "cool currency" theme in a post in which I denigrated the appearance of US money--I think it's drab and uninspiring--and said I should post pictures of some of the beautiful notes I have from around the world.  This one from Bhutan certainly fits that requirement, no?

click to enlarge

Actually, as with most of the currency scans I've posted, the colors are more vivid in person than they appear to be here.

Thursday, January 12, 2017

One More Data Point In Support of Right-to-Work Laws

Last weekend I wrote about Kentucky, poised to be our country's 27th right-to-work state.  Here's some good news we supporters of right-to-work laws can point to:

States with right-to-work laws and no income taxes grew fastest in the Obama years

Math Stuff From Today

If you want to learn about so-called imaginary numbers, you could do a lot worse than watching the thirteen short videos from Welch Labs (the first is here).  I've watched only the first 11 so far, and I'm still not convinced that the parabola graphic in Video #1 is correct, but my department chair--who, incidentally, turned me on to these videos--assures me that I'll be convinced after I've watched the last one.  Anyway, if you're at all interested in the so-called imaginary numbers, then give the videos a watch.  I thought it interesting how they showed multiplication of complex numbers and, by extension, DeMoivre's Theorem.  The integration of algebra and geometry was exceptional.

And completely unrelated.... Yesterday in pre-calculus I introduced converting from degrees/minutes/seconds to decimal degrees, and vice versa.  Here is a paraphrase of the class starter problem I gave today:

Prior to 1969, Great Britain didn't use a decimal system for money like they do (and almost every other country does) today.  Their system was:
12 pence = 1 shilling
20 shillings = 1 pound
If an item cost £3 5s 4p, how many decimal pounds did it cost?
No, pre-decimal British money has nothing to do with angles, but the method of calculation is the same as that of degrees/minutes/seconds to decimal degrees.  I just wanted to see if my students could make the connection, and to my delight, most did.

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Running Out of Someone Else's Money

Socialism not only isn't cheap, it isn't even affordable:
Less than four years after declaring California’s budget balanced for the foreseeable future, Gov. Jerry Brown on Tuesday said the state is projected to run a $1.6-billion deficit by next summer — a noticeable shift in the state’s fiscal stability that could worsen under federal spending cuts championed by President-elect Donald Trump.

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Motes and Beams

This author is so biased that he cannot see his own biases.  He can't comprehend how anyone can possibly think differently than he does.
A vote cast for Trump is kind of like a murder; there may be context to consider — a disadvantaged background, extenuating circumstances, understandable motives — but the choice itself is binary and final, irrevocable. There's a case to be made that it's indefensible; that his supporters have forfeited any right to be respected or taken seriously. The conservatives of the heartland have lashed back against the coastal elites' condescending, classist prejudices by defiantly confirming them: that they're pathetically dumb and gullible, uncritical consumers of any disinformation that confirms their biases, easy dupes for any demagogue who promises to bring back the factories and keep the brown people down.

Ignorance and bigotry are actually the best possible motives for having voted for Trump — they are at least honest, if not honorable. But I don't believe all Trump voters are ignorant, or bigoted; most of them are just evil — evil being defined not as anything so glamorous as beheading journalists or gunning down grade schoolers, but simply as not much caring about other people's suffering. They're willing to consign someone else — someone Mexican, or Muslim, or trans, not anyone they know — to exile, arrest, or second-class status, in exchange for... what? A tax break? To send a message to Washington, or the mainstream media? Just out of spiteful, petulant rage?
How many conservatives does this author know?  Or, to have a little more fun, does he know anyone who owns a pickup?

Well, a little later in the column he "admits" to knowing 2 Trump voters.   "One of them is from Texas and the other's a Marine, so they both have their excuses."  Not reasons, not justifications, excuses.  This guy is a gift that keeps on giving.

Go read the whole thing.  He thinks he's being magnanimous in allowing 2 Trump supporters into his life.  Marvel that anyone could be so lacking in introspection.

If You Cheered Harry Reid in 2013...

Live by the sword, die by the sword.

Sorry, lefties.  You started it.  The Republican Congress is going to continue it.

Media Narratives

Yep, this is how narratives are made:
"should we slip in somewhere high up a ref to the attack this weekend. i think we should.  showing how the city is already a place of high tension blah blah -- Yes..."

Monday, January 09, 2017

Don't Have The Tools To Do The Job?

It's been a week and half now since I lost my voice.  It's coming back very slowly but also surely, but the problem is that I have to teach tomorrow.

Today was a teacher work day.  I finished up grading finals and submitting semester grades, and planned at least the next couple days of instruction.  Also met with a student and parent.  To be honest, it was a moderately productive day.

The problem is that I make my living talking, and there's no way I'll be able to talk all day tomorrow--not if I want to be heard by all of my students, even those in the back of the room, after teaching for 5 periods.  I don't think that's going to do my voice much good.

Last year we had a teacher who was, uh--what's the right word?  She wasn't "a dominant force" in the classroom.  She was so--timid?--that she used a speaker system to be heard in her closet-sized classroom.  I asked my principal if we still had that speaker system.  Turns out we don't, as it belonged to the district.  He called the district to see if they could provide me with one.

They asked if I had a doctor's note.  If I did, they'd be required to get me one, but that could take weeks, by which time hopefully my voice will have returned in full.  Not having a doctor's note, though, I'm out of luck, as they don't have any left to lend me.

My principal had a suggestion.  He asked if I'd consider using the huge speakers/microphone we use in the gymnasium during rallies.  Yes, that big and that loud.

Later this afternoon the night-shift custodian brought over 2 monstrous speakers and a mic.  He set it all up, showed me which buttons to push, and checked that everything worked.  I'm still concerned about having to talk all day, but hopefully this setup will at least keep me from experiencing a retrograde.  I may not have much of a voice for the job, but this will help.

Check.  Check one two.  Sibbilance.  Sibbilance.

Update, 1/10/17:  I got through the day and my throat isn't shredded.  I hope that I won't need that speaker system by the end of the week, though.

Update, 1/15/17:  I can talk now but the sound is gravelly and not very loud. I can't hit a single note if I try to sing, it's almost as if the voice I have isn't my own.  I may need the speaker system for a few more days.

Sunday, January 08, 2017

Who's Against Illegal Immigration?

Everyone, at one time or another.  Even Democrats, if the timing is right.  There was a time when Americans agreed that illegal immigration was bad, now apparently only Republicans do:
All Americans, not only in the States most heavily affected but in every place in this country, are rightly disturbed by the large numbers of illegal aliens entering our country. The jobs they hold might otherwise be held by citizens or legal immigrants. The public service they use impose burdens on our taxpayers. That's why our administration has moved aggressively to secure our borders more by hiring a record number of new border guards, by deporting twice as many criminal aliens as ever before, by cracking down on illegal hiring, by barring welfare benefits to illegal aliens. In the budget I will present to you, we will try to do more to speed the deportation of illegal aliens who are arrested for crimes, to better identify illegal aliens in the workplace as recommended by the commission headed by former Congresswoman Barbara Jordan. We are a nation of immigrants. But we are also a nation of laws. It is wrong and ultimately self-defeating for a nation of immigrants to permit the kind of abuse of our immigration laws we have seen in recent years, and we must do more to stop it.
--President Clinton's 1995 State of the Union Address
Democrats remember that we are a nation of immigrants. We recognize the extraordinary contribution of immigrants to America throughout our history... Today's Democratic Party also believes we must remain a nation of laws. We cannot tolerate illegal immigration and we must stop it...
--1996 Democratic Party Platform 

And here's a couple videos.  When I find more, I'll post them. 


  

How Far Left The Democratic Party Has Moved

The following are excerpts from the 1996 Democratic Party Platform.  Do they have any relation to the Democratic Party of today?  Do you think this is what we could have expected from a 2nd President Clinton?  Do you think Barack Obama agrees with any of this?  This was only 21 years ago.
That is what today's Democratic Party offers: the end of the era of big government...

In the last four years we worked to get the American economy going: cutting the deficit, expanding trade, and investing in our people. In the next four years we have to make the new economy work for all Americans: balancing the budget... The only deficit left today is interest payments on the debt run up over the 12 Republican years before fiscal responsibility returned to the White House. President Clinton is the first President to cut the deficit four years in a row since before the Civil War.

Now the Democratic Party is determined to finish the job and balance the budget...

Today's Democratic Party believes in a government that works better and costs less. We know that government workers are good people trapped in bad systems, and we are committed to reinventing government to reform those systems...

We believe that if we want the American economy to continue strong growth, we must continue to expand trade, and not retreat from the world...

In the next four years, we must do even more to make sure America has the best public schools on earth. If we want to be the best, we should expect the best: We must hold students, teachers, and schools to the highest standards... Teachers in this country are among the most talented professionals we have. They should be required to meet high standards for professional performance and be rewarded for the good jobs they do. For the few who don't measure up to those high standards, there should be a fair process to get them out of the classroom and the profession...

Today's Democratic Party knows that the era of big government is over. Big bureaucracies and Washington solutions are not the real answers to today's challenges. We need a smaller government...

Today's Democratic Party believes the first responsibility of government is law and order...Today's Democratic Party stands with America's police officers...We believe that people who break the law should be punished, and people who commit violent crimes should be punished severely. President Clinton made three-strikes-you're-out the law of the land, to ensure that the most dangerous criminals go to jail for life, with no chance of parole...

We must keep drugs off our streets and out of our schools. President Clinton and the Democratic Party have waged an aggressive war on drugs...

Democrats remember that we are a nation of immigrants. We recognize the extraordinary contribution of immigrants to America throughout our history... Today's Democratic Party also believes we must remain a nation of laws. We cannot tolerate illegal immigration and we must stop it...

Today's Democratic Party knows there is no greater gap between mainstream American values and modern American government than our failed welfare system...Now, because of the President's leadership and with the support of a majority of the Democrats in Congress, national welfare reform is going to make work and responsibility the law of the land. Thanks to President Clinton and the Democrats, the new welfare bill includes the health care and child care people need so they can go to work confident their children will be cared for. Thanks to President Clinton and the Democrats, the new welfare bill imposes time limits and real work requirements -- so anyone who can work, does work, and so that no one who can work can stay on welfare forever. Thanks to President Clinton and the Democrats, the new welfare bill cracks down on deadbeat parents and requires minor mothers to live at home with their parents or with another responsible adult...

Four years ago, the North Koreans were operating a dangerous nuclear program. Today, that program is frozen, under international inspection, and slated to be dismantled...

Today's Democratic Party is unwilling to surrender to the voices of retreat and indifference. We believe the only way to ensure America's security and prosperity over the long run is to continue exerting American leadership across a range of military, diplomatic, and humanitarian, challenges around the world...

Strengthening our military. Over the past four years, the Administration has undertaken the most successful restructuring of our military forces in history. Even as the size of our forces has decreased, their capabilities, readiness and qualitative edge have increased. The Administration has ensured that America is prepared to fight alongside others when we can, and alone when we must. We have defeated attempts to cut our defense budget irresponsibly...

The Democratic Party remains committed to America's long-standing special relationship with Israel, based on shared values, a mutual commitment to democracy and a strategic alliance that benefits both nations. The United States should continue to help Israel maintain its qualitative edge. Jerusalem is the capital of Israel and should remain an undivided city accessible to people of all faiths...

President Clinton and Vice President Gore have led the fight to help parents control what their children see on television. Because of their leadership, Congress passed a law requiring all new televisions to include a device called a V-chip that will block violent programs when it is activated by an adult...

Today's Democratic Party knows that governments do not raise children, parents do...

We believe everyone in America should learn English so they can fully share in our daily life...

Today's Democratic Party understands that all Americans have a right to express their faith. The Constitution prohibits the state establishment of religion, and it protects the free exercise of religion. The President fought for and signed the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, to reaffirm the great protection the Constitution gives to religious expression, and to recognize the historic role people of faith have played in America. Americans have a right to express their love of God in public, and we applaud the President's work to ensure that children are not denied private religious expression in school. Whenever the religious rights of our children -- or any American -- are threatened, we will stand against it...

(APP Note: The American Presidency Project used the first day of the national nominating convention as the "date" of this platform since the original document is undated.)
Again, this was the Democratic Party less than 21 years ago.

Go back one more year and read Bill Clinton's 1995 State of the Union Address.  The same themes are present.

There Aren't Enough Rich People To Pay For Your Utopia

Those taxes will hit the poor the hardest, as they always do.  But you tree-huggers can feel good about yourselves, so screw those poor and middle-class people:
The carbon tax will cost Alberta school boards an extra $8 million to $12 million this year, and as much as $18 million next year, according to a government briefing note obtained by the official Opposition.

“The numbers are just huge,” Wildrose education critic Leela Aher said Friday.

Ultimately, the higher cost of heating schools and transporting students will be borne by parents paying higher school fees, Aher said.

In rural school divisions, where children sometimes spend hours each day on school buses, the costs will be even more substantial, Aher said. The additional expenses may stop cash-strapped families from enrolling kids in school band, sports teams or other activities that require travel, she said.
And here's a comment from a typical liberal:
The tax, intended to encourage a reduction in fuel consumption, is an environmentally responsible step students expect from government, she said.
Gawd.

Here's what I don't understand. Later in the article we're told that schools will be "first in line" for the money from the new taxes.  So, how is the carbon tax helping the environment?  Sounds to me like money's just being redirected from the taxpayer to schools.  Oh, but there will be "a reduction in fuel consumption", you say, and that will help the environment!  But won't a reduction in fuel consumption mean that there will be a reduction in the revenue generated by this tax and sent to schools, and thus, the taxpayers will just be out that money and the schools will just be paying more for gas for schoolbuses?

Who wins here, except the people who like to force everyone to live in their Utopia?