Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Let The Contortions And Head-Exploding Begin

Months after the Berkeley city council extended gracious protest privileges to Code Pink--to include a prime parking place in front of the Marine recruiting office--the Berkeley College Republicans have applied for a permit with the same privileges.

The CRs also are circulating a petition for a protected zone around the Marine recruiting center. Funny enough, the same libs who probably have no problem with speech-free zones around abortion clinics are balking at applying the idea to recruiting centers.

I'm gonna break out the popcorn and watch the little Stalinists explain why the College Republicans shouldn't be allowed a similar sweetheart deal. Surely one of them will twist so hard they'll pull a muscle.

Not Classy At All

It's hard to believe, but the girl said "yes".

The varsity lacrosse players displayed the question, "Will You Go To The Prom With Me? Yes or No?" on their bottoms, which they bared during a junior varsity game last Thursday.

Officials suspended the 13 players for an undetermined number of games and ordered them to perform 20 hours of community service. They also were suspended from school for one day.

While it's marginally funny--I mean, who doesn't enjoy a good mooning--it's not very classy at all. And it's certainly not "epic". I wonder if her parents were as impressed as she was:

Campbell accepted the invitation by patting the back of the player who displayed the word "Yes."

Race and Education, Part 8 Million

Is it "racist" for the school principal to meet with the black students prior to state testing, and to tell them that they score lower than their white peers, presumably to motivate them to do better? If it's not racist, is it just dumb?

Or is it neither? We know that American blacks, as a group, underperform compared to their white counterparts; are we not allowed to tell them that?

Perhaps one way not to have to worry about this is just to reclassify the students as white. That's right, just find the ones that are mixed race and ask their parents to reclassify them. If the school doesn't have enough students in a particular subgroup, that subgroups scores don't have to be identified--and if it's a traditionally low-performing subgroup, that subgroup will no longer count against the school if it doesn't perform well! Oh, the individual scores will count in the school's tally, but the subgroup won't officially "exist" at the school and hence cannot be broken out.

Why is this important? Because the No Child Left Behind Act states that if a particular (racial or socioeconomic) subgroup doesn't meet improvement goals, then the school is considered a failing school. No group, no failure.

This is one of those times where I need some assistance from my readers. I might be holding contradictory viewpoints here, and I could use some clarity. In general, I don't like racial classifications. I don't think skin color matters in education, or in matters before the law. However, certain groups of students consistently don't do well on standardized tests, and those groups are those with black or brown skin. Yes, culture has much to do with that gap, but even affluent black students don't score near as high as affluent white kids in the same neighborhood. In wanting to make sure we don't let these same kids fall through the cracks--in order to make sure they're not left behind by having their scores lost in the school average--I support breaking school scoring data down by subgroup.

So in general I don't like these (racial) subgroups, but I like the idea of using them to identify where we in the education business aren't doing as well as we can with certain kids. Am I being contradictory here? If not, can you explain to me how I'm not? And if I am, can you explain how I might modify my beliefs--keeping in mind that racial colorblindness is one of my bedrock beliefs--in order to ensure that schools continue to shine a light on students, whether as groups or as individuals, who don't perform as well as they could or should?

I genuinely want to reconcile these beliefs into a consistent framework.

Carnival of Education

This week's is at What It's Like on the Inside and includes my post about what freedoms teachers should have to do what they want on their own time.

Oddest Recession I've Ever Seen

When I hear people talking about how bad this current so-called recession is, I often ask them: do you know what the definition of a recession is? Of course, the vast majority do not. How, then, can they say we're in a recession? Because the news media tell them we are, and because we have a Republican president.

The definition of a recession is two consecutive quarters of "negative economic growth"; in other words, it's two quarters of a contracting economy. So you can't really tell if we're in a recession until the economic numbers for two consecutive quarters are in.

And they are. 4th Quarter of last year, ending December 31st, the economy grew at an annual rate of .6%. First Quarter of this year, ending March 31st, the economy grew at an annual rate of .6%.

Now I'm not saying that this anemic growth is cause for celebration and perhaps a national holiday, but if we're to believe facts over hype, then we have to be honest.

And our friends on the left need to quit lying just to score political points.

Leave it to al-AP (the linked article above) to find the dark cloud within the silver lining:

Many analysts were predicting that the gross domestic product (GDP) would weaken a bit more — to a pace of just 0.5 percent — in the first quarter. Earlier this year, some economists thought the economy would actually lurch into reverse during the opening quarter. Now, they say they believe that will likely happen during the current April-to-June period.

How long have we been hearing these doom and gloom predictions? I'm thinking since about January 2001.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Lots of Posts

I wasn't paying attention, but I now have over 3,000 posts on this blog, going back a little over 3 years.

Talk About An Ivory Tower

Via Instapundit we learn about a Dartmouth professor who is suing her students because she didn't like their end-of-course evaluations.

Do You Need To Go To College?

This article says perhaps not.

What Does A School Do When It's Not Gang Attire?

Several students at Centennial High School have picked up on a trend to shave lines into their eyebrows. They say it's a fashion statement; school administrators, however, contend it's a gang sign.

Centennial administrators are telling students who shave the lines that they can't return to school until they take care of the problem — by shaving their eyebrows off. Four students have been sent home. One came back immediately with a bandage covering the shaved brow. The others are still out of school.

Assistant Principal Mark Porterfield said the students are not suspended, but they are not allowed in school until they cooperate.

And if one gang decides to grow their pinky fingernails an extra 1/4", are schools going to forbid that, too? What if a gang adopted an American flag logo? How far can, or should, schools go to keep gang identifications out of school?

Cause of Death: Teaching, In Saudi Arabia

Roads in Saudi Arabia are among the most dangerous in the world, with a high rate of traffic accidents. But one type of victim stands out: female teachers, who are dying at alarming rates because of long commutes through the desert to reach schools in remote locations.

And we can't say "Ugh, women drivers!" because women don't drive in Saudi Arabia. But hey, I'm multicultural enough to recognize that all cultures are equal--or at least, they're all superior to Western/US culture.

So anyway, how bad is it?

A study released in October by the King Abdulaziz City for Science and Technology found that female teachers commuting to their jobs have about a 50 percent greater chance of getting into car accidents than average Saudi citizens. Its findings were based on figures from the late 1990s...

Women are not allowed to drive in Saudi Arabia, so the teachers must hire drivers — sometimes sharing rides in minivans, leaving home as early as 3 a.m. Many of the roads leading to the remote schools are windy, unpaved and full of potholes.

"It's as if Saudi (female) teachers are doomed to bid farewell to their families every day and embark on a journey they may not return from," wrote Hasan al-Harthi in Al-Hayat newspaper.

I lived in Saudi Arabia for a few months in late 1977, when I was in 7th grade. Oh, the stories I could tell--but not in this post. This story doesn't surprise me, however.

Third Time's A Charm

A suspended middle school teacher out on bail for allegedly having sex with two students will be back in court Tuesday after police say they caught her having sex with one of them again.
Apparently they've done this a couple dozen times. He must be some stallion--apparently he was worth it, though, because she can't help but go to jail for this one. Let's hope, anyway.

Is it just me, or do a disproportionate number of these stories come out of Florida?

And she was the boy's math teacher. *sigh*

This Is What Happens When You Dispute The Church of Global Warming

An inconvenient truth:

By pioneering the science of seasonal hurricane forecasting, William Gray turned a university far from the stormy seas into a hurricane research mecca.

But last year, the long-term relationship between Gray and Colorado State University, where he has worked for nearly half a century, nearly unraveled in an episode that highlights the politically charged atmosphere that surrounds the global warming debate.

University officials told Gray that handling media inquiries related to his forecasting required too much time and detracted from efforts to promote other professors' work.

Gray, who has emerged as a leading voice of skepticism about global warming, reacted hotly, firing off a memo to Dick Johnson, head of CSU's Department of Atmospheric Sciences, and others. He didn't buy the too-much-media reasoning.
What's the problem?

Gray, an emeritus professor at CSU who has taught dozens of graduate students who populate the National Hurricane Center and other research institutions, has become increasingly vocal in his skepticism about climate change, saying the planet is warming due to natural causes.

So Dr. Gray must either go to Coventry or go to Canossa.

Fortunately, CSU has backed off--a little bit.

CSU officials said late last week that they intend to support the release of Gray's forecasts as long as they continue to be co-authored by Phil Klotzbach, a former student of Gray's who earned his doctorate last summer, and as long as Klotzbach remains at CSU.

And on a related note, here's a post about biofuels and their cheerleaders. My favorite part of it is the chart showing the greenhouse emission increases of Kyoto-signing countries vs. the US.

Shhh, Not So Loud!

Keep getting the truth about Obama out there so clearly and succinctly and he won't stand a chance of being the Democrat nominee!

Obama wants me to believe that a candidate who: (1) was utterly supine and silent for 20 years in his own church as racial hate was propagated by the pastor; (2) who refuses to condemn a prominent supporter and fundraiser for whom bombing American sites is still seen as a good thing, and (3) who has said not a single word on the campaign trail as his party heavyweights removed post-Abramoff earmark reforms... is a candidate who will stand up to Washington interests and change the way business is done. While helping get America past its racial issues, and healing its political divides. That a candidate talking up charter schools as part of the solution, who has received positive ratings from teachers unions for blocking them, is to be taken at face value.

50 bucks for that whole bridge, you say?

Yes, and here's some butter for your toast.

Monday, April 28, 2008

The Worst Kind of Cheating

Via EIA (see blogroll) comes this story from Georgia:

A Coffee County High School substitute teacher has been arrested in what police say appears to be a scheme to bilk money from students promised a trip to Disney World.

Police charged 39-year-old Christy Wise with theft by conversion after they say she collected more than $7,400 from students for their senior trip but never booked the reservations.

It just gets worse from there.

Nearly 50 students toting suitcases and bags lined up outside Coffee County High on Friday waiting to start their vacation, but the bus never came and Wise never showed up.

It takes a special kind of horrible to do that.

Pack Mentality

One problem with labor unions is that they, by their very nature, encourage a pack mentality. We're all equal, we're all the same, and they, whoever they are, are the bad guys.

People will do things in a pack that they'd never do individually. Not only does the pack provide cover, it can whip emotions into a frenzy.

I hope there aren't too many union members proud of this video.

"But Darren, these are just a few guys out of millions of union members." When you can point me to violence conducted against union members by those of us who are non-union members, trying to get those guys out of the union, let me know.

By the way, does anyone know which public sector union is the most violent? I do.

"I Need A Real World Example"

Have you ever noticed how students always want a real-world example--often phrased "when are we ever gonna have to use this?"--but they hate (real-world) word problems? Joanne (see blogroll) points to a study that says that real-world problems confuse students, and that we'd often be better off just sticking to the math.

So much for relevance.

Teachers, Facebook, and Potential Trouble

Both Joanne and NewsAlert (see blogroll) have linked to this Washington Post article about (usually young) teachers who have, shall we say, less than absolutely professional information on their personal Facebook pages.

Local school officials say they have no policies concerning social networking pages or blogs kept by teachers. But they said that online improprieties would fall under general guidelines requiring proper behavior in and outside school and that sketchy Web sites would be handled case by case.

"I hate to think of what's out there. . . . There's so much out there that it's hard to know what's there," said Ken Blackstone, a Prince William schools spokesman. "But as public employees, we all understand the importance of living a public life above reproach."

I've posted before about my concerns about these "morals clauses". What teachers do in their off time is nobody else's concern unless it affects their on-duty time. Yes, one could argue that "if kids see your college frat/sorority party pictures online, that could limit your effectiveness in class"--and it might, if you don't already have a good rapport with students as well as good classroom management skills. Granted, it's best if raucous behavior is kept from students, and it certainly shouldn't be celebrated during class time, but as I've said before, teachers shouldn't have to be saints.

Here's a prime example of my concern, from the linked article above:

In Prince William, Rich Davila, a real estate company director and the father of a 6-year-old first-grader, said that when he found a substitute teacher's risque MySpace page recently, he complained to school officials and the teacher was eventually removed. School officials said they cannot comment on the teacher's case, citing personnel rules.

The teacher's page includes a painting of a young woman lifting up her dress, exposing her lingerie, and another showing her bare chest. "I felt sick to my stomach when I saw the page," Davila said. "These Web sites are the bars and restaurants of our new era. It's like running into your teacher in a restaurant and seeing them not act appropriately. It's going to come back and haunt him."

Sick to your stomach? You're a wuss. What was described shouldn't make anyone but the most prissy Puritan sick to their stomach.

I'm sure this blog turns the stomach of some lefties. Should I be fired over it? Conceivably, I could be:

If teachers claim free speech protection under the First Amendment...the U.S. Supreme Court recently ruled that governments can fire employees if their speech harmed the workplace's mission and function.

Now I'm sure some of you lefties are squealing about my support for the sections of California education code that prohibit Communists from teaching. How can you, these lefties might ask, reconcile your view that teachers can do everything except be Communists? The answer is simple: the 1st Amendment must be interpreted as broadly as possible, but it is not a carte blanche. Not supporting socialism (me) is a far cry from wanting to do away with our representative form of government (communists). Trying to claim a moral equivalence, lefties, will not make you look especially bright.

So I support the butt-print artist, the teacher who sold paintings he made by putting paint on his butt and smearing his cheeks on canvas. A bit odd, but that off-school activity has no bearing on his ability to teach children. I support teachers who were fired for putting "unprofessional" information on their personal web sites. I'd support a teacher who was fired merely for being seen at an event some might consider "unsavory". Because if you think about it, this event was unsavory in my book, and it included plenty of teachers.

Let teachers live like any other adult. I don't know too many with a halo. I myself have one, but even still it's not perfectly shiny.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

A Nation Still At Risk, 25 Years Later

We all remember the 1983 report A Nation At Risk. Well, how are we doing 25 years later? The Christian Science Monitor has some thoughts.

What Were They Saying In 1970?

I haven't confirmed any of the quotes in this post, but if they were actually said, they make for funny/entertaining reading.


It's been awhile since I've been tagged, and Kelvin at Moments in Time has restarted the clock.

The rules:
  1. The rules of this game get posted at the beginning.
  2. Each player answers the questions about themselves.
  3. At the end of the post, the player then tags 5-6 people and posts their names, then goes to their blogs and leaves a comment, letting them know that they've been tagged and asking them read your blog. (I will email them instead--Darren)
  4. Let the person who tagged you know when you've posted your answer.
And, the questions.

1. What was I doing 10 years ago?
I was nearing the end of my first year of teaching.

2. What are the 5 things on my to-do list for today?
It's Sunday, I shouldn't have a to-do list! But if I were to, I might mow the backyard, fold some laundry, do a load of dishes, read in the hammock-chair on the porch, and scrub the bathtub. OK, I'm kidding about that last one :-) Maybe I'll go for a scooter ride.

3. Snacks I enjoy
Me? Snackies? Never! But if I were to like snackies, I'd like Starburst, Skittles, Toblerone bars, and chocolate chip cookies.

4. Things I would do if I were a billionaire
Travel. Travel, travel, travel. There's an entire planet to see, so rich in diversity that I couldn't see it all in a lifetime--but I'd try. Of course I'd hook up my friends and family, too, but mostly I'd travel. Have you seen the BBC show Planet Earth? I've only seen three episodes--but wow, they're good episodes.

5. Three of my bad habits
I chew my fingernails, procrastinate, and have a 10-second rule for dropped food (unless the floor's really gross!).

6. 5 Places I have lived
Sacramento area, SF East Bay, Saudi Arabia, Hudson Valley, and Colorado Springs

7. 5 Jobs I have had
Army lieutenant, inside sales coordinator, manufacturing manager, special projects manager, teacher

If you'd like more details on any of these, ask in the comments.

Tag, you're it! Steve Bartin of NewsAlert, Mike Antonucci of the Education Intelligence Agency, Eric Scheie of Classical Values, Jack Lacton of Kerplunk, and Middle School Secretary.

Environmental Hypocrisy

This is a great example of people who don't even act locally, much less think globally.

(Scroll down to ENVIRONMENTAL HYPOCRISY #5612494)

7 Days' Suspension For Senior Prank

Personally, I think this prank is hilarious, harmless, and worthy of at most a lunch detention.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Why I Oppose Shield Laws

The freedom of the press applies to all American citizens, not just to self-appointed--or worse, government sanctioned--"journalists".

How will the government know to whom it will grant this federal shield? It will be necessary for the federal government to define “journalists.” It is, in effect, a federal license to practice the First Amendment. Won’t it be a comfort when your license to practice journalism is granted by the likes of John Ashcroft or Alberto Gonzales?

We can go anywhere and cover what we please because we are American citizens. Every citizen has always had freedom of the press—the freedom to print a pamphlet like Tom Paine, start a Kiplinger newsletter, or write a book like Upton Sinclair. The Internet has made it even easier to practice citizen journalism.

When the government starts to decide who is qualified to be a journalist, where does that leave bloggers? Freelance writers? Documentary filmmakers? People writing books based on investigative journalism? Where does it leave the average American who wants to speak out about their government? Can the government decide Chris Cillizza (Washington Post blogger) is a journalist but that Glenn Reynolds (Instapundit) is not?

There is a false argument raging on the Internet about whether bloggers are “journalists” and whether they should be accorded the same rights and privileges. This is idiocy. The rights and privileges belong to every American citizen, whether they work for a newspaper or whether they even have a blog. For it to be any other way the government would have to be able to define what constitutes journalism. Any takers?

I don't want the government creating a separate class of citizens free from judicial orders.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Concerned Educators Against Forced Unionism

Yesterday I booked my flight to attend this year's Concerned Educators Against Forced Unionism conference, held in Washington, DC this June. I'm pleased to go for the second year in a row as CTEN's representative at this conference.

Pay close attention to the title. The conference isn't anti-union, it's anti-forced union. That's an important distinction.

Most of us who don't want to be in the unions don't oppose those who do at all. We believe in voluntary associations--if you want to join a union, please, feel free! It's no skin off our collective noses.

Union zealots, on the other hand, don't believe in that same freedom of association. They want everyone to have to pay a union, whether they want to or not. They want everyone else to support their beliefs.

I understand one of their arguments. I don't agree with it, but I understand it. And that is, since the Supreme Court has ruled that a union must represent all similar employees before an employer, all employees should pay their "fair share" (the agency fee) to support that representation. My issue with that is that the Supremes got it wrong--it's happened before!--and that they went too far, along with the rest of our government, in supporting unions. Requiring this forced association is unjust.

Honestly, I don't see much of a need for unions today. Most of the complaints unions were formed to address are now handled by government--the 5-day work week, overtime pay, occupational safety, etc. It's telling that since government now protects what unions used to protect, private sector union membership has sunk to new lows; only public sector union membership shows any strength at all.

Unions serve today only to bargain for more and more pay and perks--which I don't mind when I receive them, of course, but eventually there will be nothing more to give, and then what will the unions fight for? To answer this we should ask the United Auto Workers union members--or rather, all those tens of thousands of former members whose jobs moved from Detroit down South and overseas.

In principle, I support unions. I support voluntary associations of people who work together to accomplish more than what they could have accomplished separately. Heck, I might join such a union, since the law of supply and demand indicates that a collection of math and science teachers should command more pay than a collection of elementary school teachers, or of English and social studies teachers. But I'm not allowed to do such a thing, and unions as currently constituted don't want me to.

Because let's face it, unions today are nothing more than arms of the Democratic Party, a party I choose not to associate with. They exist almost solely to extort money from workers so they can spend it for political purposes.

So I go again to the CEAFU conference, not to deny others any freedom, but to seek my own.

Calling A Spade A Spade

The indomitable Peggy Noonan, on the Transportation Security Administration and airport "security" checks:

Why do we do this when you know I am not a terrorist, and you know I know you know I am not a terrorist? Why this costly and harassing kabuki when we both know the facts, and would agree that all this harassment is the government's way of showing "fairness," of showing that it will equally humiliate anyone in order to show its high-mindedness and sense of justice? Our politicians congratulate themselves on this as we stand in line.

It's Not Murder, Though

A pregnant bank teller lost the twins she was carrying when she was shot in an Indianapolis bank robbery, a prosecutor said Friday.

Katherin Shuffield, who was five months pregnant, was critically wounded in the robbery Tuesday morning at a Huntington Bank branch. Police have been searching for the gunman.

The children hadn't been born yet, so it couldn't have been murder. Just ask any abortion proponent.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Stomping On Another Human?

I hope no one will try to "explain" this to us, providing some sob story in an effort to justify what happened:

On the day of the incident, Williams says the pair walked into her classroom during class and began arguing about a book. The teacher says she asked them to leave, but the mother pushed past her and grabbed a book off her desk.

According to a police report, when Williams tried to get the book back, the mother pulled the teacher's hair and threw her to the ground. Then the mother and daughter stomped on the teacher.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008


I received the following email today and thought it too interesting not to post here.

This has got to be one of the cleverest
E-mails I've received in awhile.
Someone out there
is deadly at Scrabble.

When you rearrange the letters:

When you rearrange the letters:

When you rearrange the letters:

When you rearrange the letters:

When you rearrange the letters:

When you rearrange the letters:

When you rearrange the letters:

When you rearrange the letters:

When you rearrange the letters:

When you rearrange the letters:

When you rearrange the letters:

When you rearrange the letters:

When you rearrange the letters:

When you rearrange the letters:

Yep! Someone with waaaaaaaaaaay
too much time on their hands!

Carnival of Education

This week's is back home at the Education Wonks, and includes my post about after school programs' having no discernible influence on whether or not students join gangs.

That Texas FLDS Brouhaha

I've tried to avoid that issue just because it's so weird, but here's a post with which I agree completely.

Where is the ACLU? As one of the commenters says, "The ACLU does not have a history of caring much to protect the constitutional rights of Christians…"

If you're not into clicking on links, here's a sampler:

However, I am increasingly disturbed by the way the state of Texas is handling this matter. The wholesale rounding up and de facto incarceration of hundreds of women and children - none of whom have (sic) been individually accused of any crime - is very troublesome.

Yes, sometimes groups commit crimes and you arrest the whole group and then sort out the specific criminals. That's reasonable when dealing with groups of adults, it's entirely different when the state takes children from their parents.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Kooks At School

A public school district in Ohio says it has hired an independent investigator to look into allegations by parents that a teacher used an electrostatic device to burn crosses on to students' arms.

The Mount Vernon City School District has assigned an administrator to monitor the classroom of eighth-grade science teacher John Freshwater until the investigation is over.

It's the district's latest run-in with Freshwater, who last week refused to obey an order to remove a Bible on his desk from view of students.

OK, that teacher is one kook in this story. Let's continue and find another.

School district officials say they are required by the U.S. Constitution not to promote religious beliefs.

So let's see if I get this straight. This nutjob might be burning crosses into students' arms, and they're worried that the problem is a 1st Amendment issue? Is no one worried about assault, battery, or child abuse?

Here's how stupid these administrators are. Their fear that this is a "promoting religious beliefs" issue is about as valid as if this teacher claimed his actions were acceptable under a "freedom of religion" argument--I cannot believe anyone is brainless enough to buy either one. The Constitution doesn't require the district not to promote religious beliefs; Good God, I'm so tired of that ignorance. Let's go through the laundry list again:

1. Freedom of religion is not freedom from religion. You don't have to practice it, but you can't forbid everyone around you from practicing it.
2. Our national motto
3. A chaplain in the House of Representatives and the Senate
4. Chaplains in the military, and chapels on military installations
5. You can argue it, but "under God" is still in our Pledge of Allegiance
6. You can swear "so help me God" in court
7. God is mentioned in the constitutions of all 50 states, including those that were admitted after the 1st Amendment was ratified
8. Thanksgiving is a federal holiday--and we give thanks to whom?
9. Christmas is a federal holiday (I accept, however, that the purely secular Christmas might be celebrated, as opposed to the religious Christmas)
10. US Ambassadors to and from The Vatican

That's enough for now. You get the idea.

This teacher has a screw loose. Those administrators are too dense to figure that out or too milquetoast to say so, so they have to make up some flimsy chickencrap pseudo-1st Amendment charge to throw at him instead.

Are there any sane, rational adults in that district?

Lying About Green To Get Your Green

Many times, when a resort/airline/cruise line/car rental company says they're "going green", they're totally b.s.-ing you.

Hotels are figuratively falling all over themselves to out-green each other. Most of their efforts look sincere but have a negligible effect on the environment. So you're washing fewer towels? Good for you. That's not saving the planet -- it's saving you money. You're recycling? Nice, but in many places, that's just following the law. You installed water-saving showerheads? Great, now can you convince those Americans who insist on taking two showers a day to cut back? Being socially responsible, say experts, isn't just about adopting one or even several "green" practices, but changing the way a resort and its guests think about the environment and their limited resources...

One question you must ask yourself when booking a green vacation is: How sustainable is each component? It's easy to write off a plane running on biofuel as unworkable, at least for now. But what about the golf resort that bills itself as green but then irrigates the desert in order to offer guests a lush lawn to play on? How about the full-service hotel that practically scolds you for not reusing your towels, but then stocks its minibars with overpriced water bottled in landfill-clogging plastic? And don't even get me started on cruise ships ...

Besides, if you fly halfway around the world to take an eco-tour of a rain forest, are you really doing that much for the environment? How much did you pollute to get there?

The Height of Professionalism

You've got to be kidding me.

When the Gilroy Unified School District deemed a South Valley Middle School English teacher and an Eliot Elementary School second grade teacher identical in every way in terms of their qualifications, a judge flipped a coin to break the tie and determine which teacher was more senior, a decision that will affect the order in which teachers who received layoff notices will be hired back if the district has the resources to do so. When the coin fell, Jessica Chessani of Eliot won the prize. At this point, she still doesn't have a job next year. But when and if the district can, it will hire the teachers back in reverse order, based on their ranking. (boldface mine--Darren)

A judge decided this way.

Europe Turns To Coal

I thought coal was bad for the environment and caused global warming?

Monday, April 21, 2008

Teacher Pension Shenanigans

Tony Rezko's name wouldn't be known outside of Illinois, wouldn't be known outside of Chicago, were it not for his personal and shady business dealings with Barack Obama. In this story, he's "involved" in teacher pension investment board.

How many more people does Obama have to disassociate himself from?

Emphasizing State Testing A Bit Too Much

Long-time readers of RotLC will know that I'm a big fan of standardized testing. I hate giving the tests, but I recognize their importance and value. That being said, though, state testing isn't the end-all, be-all in K-12 education. Some things are more important--things like student health. So what the heck were these officials thinking?

About 300 Galena Park High School students and staff members will be tested for tuberculosis as a precaution after a student tested positive for the disease earlier this month...

The test date was chosen because health officials didn't want to interfere with upcoming TAKS testing and wanted to give parents plenty of time to turn in consent forms, Eichhorn said. (boldface mine--Darren)

You've got to be kidding me. Get the darned kids in for a TB test.

On a related note, I heard on the radio this morning about a new strain of drug-resistant tuberculosis. We may have whipped TB here in the First World a few decades ago, but with plenty of people coming here from the (former) Second and Third World, we can't afford to rest on our laurels. Disease is freakin' serious business--let's take it seriously.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Too Much Violence, It's Time To Withdraw

Escalating, wanton violence has compelled me to accept what so many others have been saying for so long--it's time to withdraw...

...from Chicago.

Bloody Weekend: 32 Shot, 2 Stabbed, 6 Dead

CHICAGO (CBS) ― A violent and deadly weekend continues in Chicago. At least 12 people have been shot, two of them killed, since Saturday morning. Two others were stabbed in a home invasion. This comes after at least 20 people were shot, four of them killed, from Friday night through early Saturday.

Pull out the troops and bring 'em home.

What? We don't have troops helping quell the violence there? Never mind.

Update: Wonder what kind of gun control laws are on the books in Chicago? Pretty strong ones I'll bet, at least on paper.

Update #2, 4/22/08: Here's more.

Joining Gangs

On her campaign web site, Hillary Clinton promises to "Double the after school program to ensure that 2 million young people have a safe and stimulating place to go between 3 and 6 p.m."

From the Obama web site: "Obama will double funding for the main federal support for afterschool programs, the 21st Century Learning Centers program, to serve one million more children."

I assume that part of the reason these two candidates want to spend even more federal dollars on such programs is the belief that giving kids somewhere to go and something to do after school will keep them out of gangs. If that's their motivation, then perhaps we should save the taxpayers' money:

There is no evidence after-school clubs or cognitive-behavioral interventions can prevent youth age 7 to 16 from joining a gang, a British review said.

But it makes us feel so good to spend money on the children this way.

What's Up With Merrill Lynch?

Graphic of donations to presidential campaigns

A Liberal, On Liberals

“I have bitched and moaned for years about the lack of tolerance in the elitist wing of the Democratic Party, or what I refer to as the ‘Metropolitan Opera Wing.’ These are the people who talk of tolerance but the only true tolerance they ever exhibit is for their own pseudo-intellectual arrogance,” the then-Edwards adviser proclaimed in his typical profanity-peppered prose on Time magazine’s Swampland blog.

Hear hear here.

Teachers Are A Charity?

I'm a professional, and this embarrasses me:

A free public school education is guaranteed by the state Constitution to every California child. But as districts grapple with proposed state funding cuts that could cause the layoffs of thousands of teachers and inflate class sizes, parents are being asked to dig deeper into their pocketbooks to help.

"Public education is free, but an excellent public education is not free at this point," said Janet Berry, president of the Davis Schools Foundation, which recently launched the Dollar-a-Day campaign, urging citizens of the city near Sacramento to donate $365 per child, grandchild or student acquaintance...

South Orange County families are being urged to donate $400 per student to save the jobs of 266 teachers in the Capistrano Unified School District.
I'm in no position to argue whether or not California spends enough money per student on education--even though education consumes a full 50% of our state budget. And if it were my job being saved by this charity, I'd be plenty thankful. But looking from the outside, this is just unseemly. Honestly, aren't they playing on the guilt of parents here? "If you don't help these poor, helpless teachers, your child may suffer."

One politician has a good idea, though:

David Long, California's education secretary, acknowledged the inequity (between those communities that can contribute extra to schools and those that cannot) but said money from nonprofit organizations and federal funds earmarked for poorer schools help level the playing field somewhat. However, he said the only way to fix the state's finances is for the Legislature to approve Schwarzenegger's budget stabilization act, which would put away surplus revenue during economic booms for use in leaner times.

I wish him good luck in that endeavor.

Saturday, April 19, 2008


One of the joys of being a teacher is the opportunity to meet so many kind and generous people. Last Christmas my son and I were invited to the home of one of my former students, a gesture of kindness I wrote about here. Last night I participated in a Seder with the friends and family of one of my students.

History, ritual, stories--it's an honor to share such a celebration. I'm moved by the open-heartedness of a family that would allow me to do so.

As an aside, Jews as a group in this country tend to vote Democratic--and this gathering was no exception. They had been told beforehand that I'm somewhat conservative--that's no secret at school--and when that subject was broached, I volunteered that I'd promised my student that I'd "behave" that evening. The only political statement of the evening was a joke directed to me, when another guest asked if I was "bitter". We all laughed, and that was when I learned that while my host was an Obama supporter, there were plenty of Clinton supporters there, too. Oh, the fun I could have had!

Friday, April 18, 2008

Mitt Romney CAN Be Funny

I doubt he wrote these himself, but he still delivered them in a humorous fashion. His Top 10 Reasons Mitt Romney Left The Race is much funnier than Letterman's, and not as snarky.

The Draft

It must be an election year--that's the only time you ever hear calls for a military draft, and it's always by lefties. The first paragraph of this opinion piece offers up a small collection of these lefties, including the public editor of the major Sacramento newspaper.

Go read the link. I'm a big fan of "modest proposals".

P.S. You know whom you never hear calling out for a draft? The military brass.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Abortion Art

The Yale Daily News (what is it with Yale recently?) reports:

Beginning next Tuesday, Shvarts will be displaying her senior art project, a documentation of a nine-month process during which she artificially inseminated herself "as often as possible" while periodically taking abortifacient drugs to induce miscarriages. Her exhibition will feature video recordings of these forced miscarriages as well as preserved collections of the blood from the process.

She then rants about what, not being free to express herself?

This is one sick woman, and one sick institution. Ann Althouse thinks it's a hoax, and I hope she's right.

Update: Yale claims it's merely performance art, that she didn't really do what she claimed.

Indoctrinate U

If you can't catch a showing in your own community, download it and watch it today!

Liberals and Free Speech

They don't want you to have it unless you agree with them.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Polar Bears, Frogs, and Robins, Oh My!

Global warming is not pushing the robin to extinction. Au contraire: It’s expanding the robin’s range northward, into places where it's never been seen. Robins are venturing so far north that they’ve even been sighted in the Inuit territory of northern Canada, where, Sen. John McCain tells us, there isn’t even a word for the birds...

But, of course, it’s not true. Like the tale of the endangered polar bears that happen to be at or near record population levels, the robin story is yet another climate confabulation. It ranks with the death of frogs in the mountains of Colombia now shown to be caused not by global warming, but by the introduction of fatal fungus on the shoes of concerned ecotourists...

There are plenty of words in Inuit, or Eskimo, describing our red-breasted harbingers of spring. What’s a little disturbing is how the myth of the robin persists, when it is so easy to find the truth.

If man-made global warming is real, why do The Faithful have to keep lying about it? Or maybe on these topics, as on so many others (mosquitos in Harare, the hockey stick graph, the hottest year on record), they're just plain wrong.

Update, 4/17/08: Here's more for you.

Carnival of Education

The midway's open a few hours early this week over at The CEA Blog, and includes my post about the I CAN Learn software package pushed in some school districts as a tool for teaching math.

Parents, A Teen, and Religious School

It's too bad when parents can't agree on something so basic.

Oldham County family court Judge Tim Feeley said in a ruling published Monday that 14-year-old Michael Ryan can attend St. Xavier High School because that's where he wants to go.

His divorced parents disagreed over whether their son should go to the religious school, which his mother Susan Bisig wanted.

Tag: The Asininity Grows

You have to wonder if some people aren't losing their minds.

The principal of Kent Gardens Elementary School in McLean told students this month that they are not allowed to play the game of chasing and yelling "You're it!" at recess after determining the playground pastime had gotten out of hand.

Update: Makes you wonder why this school didn't ban tug-of-war.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Higher Food Prices Affect School Cafeterias

Interesting story from the Washington Post.

"We're seeing our food cost growing at a rate that is putting pressure on our budget. Increases in corn, wheat, milk -- it's really hitting us," Goldstein said. "We're having to be creative, but we're worried it's not sustainable."

Sunday, April 13, 2008

And This Guy Wants To Be President

The hypocrisy of the left knows no bounds. Apparently, some "hate speech" terms are more hateful than others.

More on the Colorado College Witch Hunt

Odd that I use the term witch hunt, because what we have going on out on the Front Range is a reversal of Salem--this time, it's the white men who are being challenged for their heresy and supposed crimes.

If you don't know the kerfuffle currently occurring at Colorado College, please read this background post. The Denver Post had a good story yesterday, including a quote from one of the feminists whose newsletter was parodied:

Tomi-Ann Roberts, director of the feminist and gender studies program that publishes "The Monthly Rag," said participants in her program were surprised when this situation arose.

"We were like 'whoa ... wow ... wait.' Obviously, there are some men here on this campus who are very angry at our flier," Roberts said.

So, being a good liberal, is Tomi-Ann going to cease publication of The Monthly Rag since some find it so offensive? We don't know, because we aren't told what followed her quote. Did she say, "Tough, I'm glad those male oppressors are offended," or did she say, "Perhaps we should look at what we're publishing and see if it could genuinely be considered offensive"? The Post author slipped up here--whether intentionally or unintentionally.

The double standard that's in play in this case is just phenomenal.

In response, Robinson and a friend created their flier, which provided tips on chainsaw etiquette, detailed a sexual position from Men's Health magazine and provided trivia about a sniper rifle — what Robinson called information for the stereotypical macho man. Staff members removed The Bag within hours of receiving complaints that the publication was threatening...

"We quickly determined this was one of the worst cases of the year," said Adam Kissel, director of FIRE, because the parody publication was singled out. "It's such an obvious double standard. The fact that 'The Monthly Rag' mentions male castration alongside an announcement for a feminist porn activist provides the same juxtaposition they're claiming for Robinson of violence and sexuality."

Colorado College is a private school, though, and therefore is not bound by the 1st Amendment. However, they're not free to do whatever they want:

As a private institution, Colorado College is not bound by the same limitations for controlling speech that public institutions are, Kissel said. However, they have a contractual obligation because they include free speech as a value in the student handbook.

False advertisement, as it turns out.

Update, 4/14/08: Further commentary on the issue is here.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Math And Music

Are you one of those who believes in "discovery learning" and thinks students should "invent" their own ways of doing math problems? If so, imagine if that methodology were applied to teaching music.

Race Stupidity

As long as some people remain fixated on race, situations like this will arise:

Reginald Fentress wants to succeed Yvonne B. Acey as president of the Memphis Education Association, and he is not willing to wait. However, the Memphis Education Association board of directors has said he must.

The board voted April 1 not to include Fentress’ name, or that of any other African-American candidate, on the ballot for the 2008-10 presidential term. Since Acey is African American, Fentress was ruled ineligible to run for the office because the next MEA president must be white.

“We voted to follow the bylaws,” said Acey.

According to bylaws formed when all-white and all-black teacher associations joined in the mid-1970s: “The position of president shall alternate from white to ethnic minority.”

I think situations like this are fantastic. The more often race considerations bite people in the butt, the sooner they'll get past this idiotic preoccupation.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Local Union Does Good

In my previous post I vented about what happened at yesterday's union meeting. After getting that out of my system, though, I emailed my school's union rep and suggested that we meet and identify which items are "union things", that I can be excluded from, and which are "bargaining unit member things" that I cannot be excluded from. He referred me to our local union president.

I sent the president my dispassionate view of what transpired at the union meeting, and offered to meet him to identify that which is union and that which is bargaining unit. I closed with the hope that we could resolve this issue quickly so that we may, at this time of impasse in contract negotiations with the school district, present a united front instead of bickering amongst ourselves.

The union president contacted my site rep to get his view of yesterday's events, which I assume was close to mine. Within a couple hours today I received word that the union's executive board met and decided that bargaining unit members--which includes all teachers, not just union members--can now "vote on such things as calendar, salaries, etc."

I emailed the president, thanking him for his rapid attention to this matter and for offering such a fair and reasonable resolution. I asked for a clarification: does this really mean I get to vote on such things as contract ratification, strike authorizations, and the like? The response was that the executive board only discussed contract ratification, not strike authorization--but we can now vote on our contract.

Dear readers, this is BIG. Even though it's the right and just thing to do, legally they're not required to let me vote on my contract. Right now I don't know or care why they chose to resolve the problem this way, to change the longstanding practice of disenfranchising non-members; I'm still too swept up in the euphoria of being on the receiving end of justice and fairness.

I now have a vote.

When unions do the right thing, I will give them credit for doing so. My local union has done the right thing here.

Is this the end, is there nothing more I'd like or expect from them? It's not the end, and there is more. But there's plenty of time to move on those goals later. My local union has taken a very big first step, made a very powerful statement. Let's celebrate that for awhile.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Union Mentality?

After our staff meeting today, we teachers remained behind for a "union meeting." I'm not a union member, but I'm entitled to be at such meetings because I do pay for representation and am thus still a "bargaining unit member", or BUM =)

Our district is looking at changing our overall calendar--school start date, school end date, and vacation days. Our union rep gave us the four options being considered and asked for our input, so that he could take that input to the union, who would compile the "will of the teachers" and take that information to the district.

As we started to vote, one teacher called out, "Some people here aren't entitled to vote because they're not union members." That comment was stifled by the agitated mumbling of the group--but you've got to love that kind of mentality.

How can you represent me before the district if you don't find out how I want to be represented?

Sadly, though, I'm sure CTA would agree with her. This is exactly why union membership should be voluntary, exactly why so-called "fair share" agency fees are a farce, and why the legal requirement for the union to represent even non-members is un-American.

Update, 4/11/08: How could I post about this and not mention the California Teachers Empowerment Network? Teachers who encounter what I did will find that CTEN welcomes their voluntary association.

Update #2, 4/14/08: There's been a very positive resolution to this, one I've written about here.

Still Crazy After All These Years (in Delaware)

Last fall I wrote about the University of Delaware's thought control/indoctrination program for freshmen. Thanks to FIRE's involvement, the Head Rooster backed down:

“I have directed that the program be stopped immediately. No further activities under the current framework will be conducted.”

Ah, those halcyon days of last year, when we thought that would be the end of the nightmare. How naive we were.

Last fall, University of Delaware President Patrick Harker appeared to pull the plug, once and for all, on a totalitarian-style dorm program for indoctrinating freshmen in the full complement of today’s radical dicta. But in fact, as the Wilmington News-Journal now reports, Harker passed the buck, as university administrators are wont to do in time of controversy, by lobbing the program to the faculty for what has proven to be a feckless “review”...

However, the faculty’s overriding failure, as the News-Journal and others strongly decried, was not to give example to all higher education by terminating the program, simply and irrevocably. Instead, as Faculty Senate President Alan Fox now vaguely notes, the faculty anticipates approving, later in the year, a “new program” with a continued but less narrow focus on diversity and gender. Moreover, the same Gestapo-like Residence Life administrators, who ought to have been summarily fired, will continue to administer it, albeit with annual faculty oversight.

I know that the price of liberty is eternal vigilance, but this is ridiculous. Let's pull out another old saying about liberty--maybe it's time to water the tree of liberty with the blood* of some (University of Delaware) tyrants.

U.D. President Harker got it right when he decreed — with false promise as it turned out — that the campus’s repressive dorm program had to “be stopped immediately.” Shame on him, and all other university administrators, trustees and professors who cower before despotic campus “change agents” intent on upending American society. Shame on them all for flagrantly violating the public trust.

Jobs have got to be lost over this.

*(Speaking metaphorically there, not advocating violence, you leftie turds who'd accuse me of that just to try to score a debating point.)

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Taxpayers Paying For Islamic School?

I'm not one of those teachers who believes public schools are sacred. Universal public education is sacred, but not public schools. I've always been a fan of vouchers.

If vouchers came into being, though, how would we stop this from happening?

Recently, I wrote about Tarek ibn Ziyad Academy (TIZA), a K-8 charter school in Inver Grove Heights. Charter schools are public schools and by law must not endorse or promote religion.

Evidence suggests, however, that TIZA is an Islamic school, funded by Minnesota taxpayers.

I'm a big fan of accountability for taxpayer dollars. If you get taxpayer money, you have to accept some responsibility for results--I support standardized testing. I don't have a problem with religious schools, as long as they teach the academic content they're supposed to. I also don't think the state should fund the religious instruction--and I'll let legislatures figure out how to do that.

In the story above it appears that Minnesota is not following its own rules. Perhaps the citizens of Minnesota will hold their legislators, or at least the Department of Education, accountable....

Socialism In A Nutshell

Michelle Obama--you remember her, the one who wasn't proud of her country until her husband ran for President--says it about as succinctly as anyone could:

"The truth is, in order to get things like universal health care and a revamped education system, then someone is going to have to give up a piece of their pie so that someone else can have more."

I'm curious how much pie Princeton- and Harvard-educated Obama is willing to do without. You know, for the little people.

Carnival of Education

This week's Carnival is hosted by The Elementary Educator, and includes my post about letting communists teach.

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

March 2008 Issue of California Educator

CTA President, again, reminding us he's Hispanic--in case we didn't know. Check.

NCLB is the cause of all evil in the world, including global warming. Check.

State budget cuts cannot touch education, even though education is half the state budget. Check.

Art and music classes are going away. Check.

White male teachers underrepresented in photographs. Check.

Six of seven "CTA-sponsored and co-sponsored legislation" items don't relate to K-12 education. Check.

OK, we've got the usual stuff out of the way. That leaves only one mildly entertaining thing on which to comment: an advertisement.

On page 37, a certain travel "group" advertises "2-for-1 Savings" on a popular cruise line. Wow, 50% off, that's pretty good. Not good enough to join the union for, but not bad.

Oh, but it's only for specific week-long cruises: one cruise departing September 27th, one departing October 12th, and one departing November 29th.

I don't have any of those weeks off school, do you?

CTA President's Numbers Don't Add Up

This morning on the way to work I heard David "Si se puede, por que no" Sanchez on a CTA radio spot about budget cuts. I've written here about California's budget crisis and education's share of the California budget, so I know the numbers we're talking about. Sanchez' numbers don't add up.

He laments the "almost $5 billion in cuts" the governor has proposed. That's less than 10% of the entire education budget. Yet Sanchez says that such cuts will require class size increases of more than 1/3. I'm not making this up, the text of the ad is here.

Perhaps Sanchez is stretching the truth a bit, like that surprises me.

Learning Algebra From a DVD

Every time I hear about the I CAN Learn program, the story just gets uglier and uglier.

I CAN Learn is a dvd-based program to teach math. Students sit at computer, put on headphones, pop in the appropriate dvd, and watch an instructor on video teach math. They are then quizzed on the material and based on the results of that quiz either repeat the lesson or move on.

In February 2005, the Fort Worth Weekly published an article about that company called I CAN Earn. I'll summarize: kids aren't showing improvement, and there are suspicions that bribery has been involved in getting school districts to adopt the program.

I'm not surprised. I worked in a school district that forced that program on its teachers against the advice of the math department chair of every school in the district. I know this to be true--I was the district's math chair, and I was the person getting the recommendations from each school. We all agreed that the program itself might have some value in certain circumstances, but it could not be the primary method of pedagogy for teaching Algebra 1.

I won't go into further detail--the post would be exceedingly long--but here's the condensed version. In addition to the program itself each school had to buy all the computer hardware to run the software. Additionally, furniture was needed--our district chose glass-topped desks with the monitor under the glass, so the students were always looking down. But the glass reflected the overhead lights, so the curtains had to be closed and the lights covered. Teaching in those circumstances was like being in the Bat-cave. Teachers no longer taught; they were reduced to being "the answer guy" and the classroom IT specialist (someone had to keep that network of computers running). It was while several of us were undergoing training in the first Bat-cave that the superintendent said that he was imposing this program because "every superintendent has a pet project, and this is mine."

Oh, and the guy was a crook, and I'm absolutely convinced he received kickbacks. I ended up leaving that old district, partly because I couldn't accept that computer program. When the Fort Worth Weekly reporter later contacted me about I CAN Learn, and told me her suspicions and where the evidence led her, I could only nod in agreement based on the limited experience I had in my own district.

A couple years later, that district dropped the program because students weren't performing any better. "It no longer fits our needs", said the district spokesman.

If you read the entire Fort Worth Weekly article, you might recognize two names--one of them is Mike Huckabee, and the other? Guess.

So why do I dredge up this story from seven years ago? Because I CAN Learn is in the news again.

Mose Jefferson, the eldest brother and chief political strategist of embattled U.S. Rep. William Jefferson, was indicted by a federal grand jury Wednesday on charges that he bribed Ellenese Brooks-Simms, the former president of the Orleans Parish School Board, to ensure her support for a computer-based algebra curriculum he was selling.

Two of the seven felony counts faced by Mose Jefferson, 65, stem from what federal prosecutors describe as two attempts to cover up the bribes by meeting with Brooks-Simms and trying to persuade her to give the feds a bogus explanation for the $140,000 she accepted from him.

Unbeknownst to Jefferson, Brooks-Simms had already cut a deal with the government. At both meetings, she wore a wire to record her conversations with Jefferson, according to a source close to the case.

The Congressman keeps $90,000 in cash stashed in his freezer, and his brother bribes school district officials to buy the I CAN Learn program. Nice family.

The charges against Mose Jefferson have no direct bearing on William Jefferson, who is awaiting trial in Virginia on 16 unrelated corruption charges.

But the case does have close links to the congressman. John Lee, the founder of JRL Enterprises (the company that sells I CAN Learn), has held fundraisers for him. William Jefferson has been a big supporter of "I CAN Learn," arranging for at least some of the $45 million in congressional earmarks the company has received.

The exact amount of money the congressman set aside for the company is unclear, because until recently bills containing earmarks passed by Congress did not identify which member inserted the request.

Lee said JRL Enterprises did nothing inappropriate.

In a previous interview, Lee described the commissions paid to Mose Jefferson as the going rate for "introductions to the decision-makers." Lee has said he does not know which members of Congress arranged for JRL's earmarks; regardless of who inserted them, the company's hiring of Mose Jefferson was unrelated, he said.

I hope they're able to pin some of this on Lee. Too much taxpayer money in too many states has gone to this man--who's crooked, in my opinion--and it's got to stop.

Yet Another Reason To Be Against Socialized Medicine

When the government pays for your health care, the government can make some extreme rules "for the greater good":

To curtail Japan's overweight population, the Japanese health ministry recently mandated that all waistlines among its 56 million workers over age 40 be below “regulation size” of 33.5 inches (for men). Any company failing to bring its employees’ weight under control--as well as the weights of their family members--will be fined up to 10% of its earnings by the government.

The Bloomberg story linked in the post above is a little less exclamatory:

Companies will be required to cut the number of overweight workers and dependents by 10 percent as of 2012 and 25 percent by 2015. Failing to do so will result in a surcharge of as much as 10 percent on contributions to a fund for elderly care. Insurance groups paid 6.4 trillion yen into the fund in 2004.

Still, the threat is ominous. It shouldn't be against the law to be fat, and companies shouldn't be penalized because their workers are fat.

Update, 4/10/08: Socialized health care isn't polling well, but it's polling better than makes me comfortable.

Monday, April 07, 2008

The Imperial Presidency

This is so good that I'm going to repeat the entire Instapundit snippet:

UNPRECEDENTED EXECUTIVE AUTHORITY -- Bad when it's used to fight terrorists, but good when it's used to fight "global warming!"

That's the idea behind a new study from a team of researchers at the University of Colorado law school, who worked full time for nearly six months on a project that could help the next U.S. president make sweeping climate-change policies -- fast. The new report probes the edges of executive orders and lays out the authority the next president could use to introduce global-warming policies without waiting for legislation to wind its way through the notoriously slow congressional machine.

"Given the extreme importance of climate change, this is a way for the next president to be able to take rapid action," said Kevin Doran, a researcher at CU's Center for Energy and Environmental Security. . . .

The report is part of a larger project, the Presidential Climate Action Project, which has created "a bold, comprehensive and non-partisan plan for presidential leadership rooted in climate science," according to its Web site, www.climateactionproject .com.

Guess the days of worrying about the imperial presidency have come to an end.
Must be an election coming up, or something.

Sunday, April 06, 2008

Why Teachers Leave

The NEA has a story on their web site, originally published in their mouthpiece rag, about why teachers leave the profession. Here are their main reasons:

--lack of respect

Go read the story if you can stomach the stupidity, if those are the best reasons they can come up with. Here are the easiest replies to each of them:

--NEA contributes more to the lack of respect than any other single organization
--if you really claim to want to help kids, especially those who are most at risk, you want those students identified, and you want the schools that aren't teaching them identified
--can you teachers identify how much money your state spends on education, and if you claim it's not enough, explain how much would be enough?

Remember, folks, these union types are college-educated and they're teaching your children.

The Horrific Economy

Must be a Republican in the White House--everywhere we're told that we're in a recession, and it's a bad one.

Can any of my doom-and-gloom-economy readers tell us what an economic recession is? By definition, it's two consecutive quarters of negative growth (contracting economy). We don't have the numbers in yet for the 1st quarter of this year, so we can't know yet whether or not we're in a 2nd quarter of negative growth.

Why we go through so much hand-wringing over these cyclical occurrences, I don't know. The economy can't grow forever. It stops, takes a breather, then picks up again. Market forces. To steal a line from the new Battlestar Galactica: all this has happened before, and it will happen again.

But when Republicans hold the White House and there's a possibility of a recession--I've been hearing about recessions since January 2001--you'd think we're one step away from 1933. So what's our current situation? A little perspective is always helpful, brought to us by Power Line via Instapundit:

I'm sorry to see unemployment climb to 5.1%, but by historic standards, that's not exactly a "grim picture." For example, nothing like the unemployment rates that, along with runaway inflation, propelled Ronald Reagan to the presidency in 1980. But I wondered about a more recent comparison. Do you remember 1996, when Bill Clinton swept to an easy re-election victory over Bob Dole, on the basis of what pretty much everyone in the press considered a near-perfect economy? No "pink slip nation" in 1996!

Actually, though, the unemployment rate in November 1996, when Clinton rode a soaring economy to victory, was 5.4%. That's right--three tenths of a percent higher than the "grim picture" of a "pink slip nation" painted by this month's unemployment report.

To all those people who expect the President to "run the economy"--think about exactly what that means, and what you expect him to do. Tell me exactly what President Clinton did to make such a great economy.

Presidents can affect the economy positively in only a couple ways. They can sign into law bills passed by the Congress, bills that economists tell us will help an economy--like tax cuts. They can lead from the bully pulpit to encourage tax cuts. And they can choose, every decade or so, a new fed chairman. Anything else?

There are lots of things a president can do to affect the economy negatively--like put 1/7 of it under federal control, a la HillaryCare. Raise taxes. Put on a sweater on national tv and tell your fellow Americans to make do with less.

Now I know what you lefties are dying to say. "The war is draining our economy!" Check out the percentage of GDP our military is eating up today--in a kinda-shooting war--and compare it to 1945 (WWII), 1952 (Korea), 1969 (Vietnam), 1979 (no war), 1985 (no war), and any year in the mid-90s, then try to justify your claim. Lefties, I won't post any comment of yours about the economy and the war unless you do this. It's my blog, my rules.

Update: Instapundit adds another post this evening, saying

This may well be true; we're overdue for a recession -- we haven't had a really deep one in over 25 years -- and my sense is that there remains a lot of economic idiocy still to be wrung out of the system, which is what recessions are for.

Speaking for myself, though, I'm not an econo-blogger. I tend to be over-pessimistic, but I guess I have tuned out a lot of the media econo-doomsaying because they've been predicting massive economic collapse for pretty much my entire sensate life and so far it hasn't come. Plus, at the moment they're playing their usual pre-election gloom-and-doom game in the hopes of helping the Democrats.

Which doesn't mean that the economy is necessarily doing better than they say, since their bias is exceeded only by their laziness and ignorance. As I noted some years ago about their Iraq reporting, the fact that they're transparently playing up bogus bad news doesn't mean that there isn't genuine bad news that they're not reporting, because reporting that would require knowledge and effort. So you can't just apply "Kentucky windage" and assume that things are better than the reports say. They may actually be worse, just in a different way than is reported . . .

Pretty much true.

Update #2, 4/9/08:

Here are more comparisons with 1996. Love how those goalposts change.

Saturday, April 05, 2008

Well, This Is One Way To Fund Your College Education


Real World Schools

I teach in an upscale area, and many of my students are shielded from the realities that exist just a few miles away. They don't understand that there are entire schools where kids don't learn, where violence stalks the hallways, where street cred is the coin of the realm.

They have no understanding of this type of reality.

An anti-violence rally at George Washington High School turned ugly Thursday when a series of fights broke out in a crowd of students being dismissed for the day.

Parents and students had gathered at 3 p.m. to protest what they said has been escalating violence between black and Latino students at the school, at 3535 E. 114th St. on the Far Southeast Side.

Tensions between the groups have persisted for years, parents and students said. But this week has been particularly violent, with several flare-ups that caused some parents to pull children out of school for their safety. Several parents said they would not allow their children to return to school until the violence was addressed.

The protest came on the heels of a larger rally Chicago Public Schools held earlier this week calling for an end to the shootings that have claimed 20 students this year. (emphasis mine--Darren)

I'm glad my students are so far removed from this type of school system.

Hat tip to EIA.

Friday, April 04, 2008

Local Blogger Harassed By Craigslist Founder

Two stories in one day on the web site of the major Sacramento newspaper:

Like an online Goliath girding for battle, moved Thursday to quash a Sacramento man who launched the first national blog about the classified ad Web site that has successfully cultivated a populist community and image.

Craigslist CEO Jim Buckmaster fired off an e-mail to blogger Tim White that told the 38-year-old to change the name of his site, a move that would make it tough to find.

"We need you to stop using the infringing domain CRAIGSLISTBLOG.ORG immediately, and arrange for transfer of it to us asap – using/selling/transferring infringing domains is illegal, and penalties up to $100,000 per domain can be applied," Buckmaster wrote to White.

Apparently this made news in more than just Sacramento, because this evening came with a second article:

Craigslist CEO Jim Buckmaster, feeling media pressure, on Friday acknowledged he had been "acting like a jerk" a day earlier to push a Sacramento man to cease and desist in his Craigslist blog.

Buckmaster, while saying he was "getting some well-deserved flak" for his heavy-handed e-mail to Tim White, also charged that White had placed "deceptive" ads on his unofficial blog before taking them down and contacting the media Thursday.

"We have no interest in shutting down blogs about Craigslist, critical or otherwise, and have never tried to do so," he wrote on the official Craigslist blog that was born Thursday. "But in the strange world of trademarks and copyright, it's poor practice to allow a confusingly similar domain or business name to go unchallenged."

Good for everyone concerned.

Thursday, April 03, 2008

Commies Soon May Not Have To Hide Under The Desk

Two years ago I wrote a post about the sections of California education code that refer to communists and communism. To summarize:

-You can't teach and be a member of the Communist Party.
-You cannot teach about communism with the intent to inculcate in the minds of students a preference for communism.
-You cannot let communist organizations use school property.

Are you ready for this? A state senator has introduced a bill that will reverse these laws.

And I haven't found objective evidence yet, but I'm told that the only sponsors of this bill are the state teachers unions, the CTA (NEA) and the CFT (AFL-CIO). Maybe they're trying to make up for this.

What possible good could come from this bill? Our government should not be required to lend assistance or hire people whose political philosophy is the destruction of our form of government.

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Freedom Is A Little Piece of Broken Concrete

I--Growing up in Cold War Sacramento

I lived just down the street from McClellan Air Force Base; I remember watching from my front yard once as an AWACS came in for a landing, looking like it might touch down right at the end of my street. McClellan was a major logistical base; aircraft were repaired there. It was just north of downtown.

Mather Air Force Base, just east of downtown, was a Strategic Air Command base. There were bombers there, and most assuredly nuclear weapons.

In downtown, and just northeast of downtown in Roseville, were major railroad repair depots. My father worked at the Southern Pacific yard downtown.

East of downtown, in Folsom, was the Folsom Dam, which included a power generation station. Southeast of downtown was the Rancho Seco Nuclear Power Plant.

South Sacramento held the Sacramento Army Depot.

In West Sacramento is a deepwater port, capable of supporting ocean-going vessels. And Sacramento itself is the capital of what was at the time the 7th largest economy in the world.

Sacramento was an inviting target indeed. We went to school every day knowing, in the back of our minds, that there were Soviet nuclear missiles targeted at us.

II--The Soviet wheat harvest

I believe it was during my first trip to Germany, in the summer of 1974, or perhaps it was my second in 75, when I heard on the radio about a bad wheat harvest in the Soviet Union. The President had decided to sell American wheat to the Russians. I remember thinking, at only 9 or 10 years old: "Let them die." Why would we help the enemy? Détenté or not, they were the enemy. Why not finish them off?

III--The Hawk battery tactical site

In the summer of 1985, the summer after my sophomore year at West Point, I was sent to an active duty air defense artillery unit based in Schweinfurt, West Germany. Each day I rode the troop bus from our battery headquarters out to our "tac(tical) site" near Massbach, West Germany.

B Battery was "on the leading edge of freedom's frontier, guarding the skies of NATO Europe." The thought was that before the Soviets and the Warsaw Pact invaded with ground forces, they'd soften us up with air attacks; our battery's mission was to destroy the attacking aircraft with Hawk missiles. There was only one problem, though--we were within range of ground artillery. The Reds would take us out before the first aircraft flew overhead, before we could ever get a shot off.

Germany in the summer can be rainy or hazy, but one day the weather was exceptionally clear. I climbed to the top of one of our radar towers, and in the far distance I could see a thin strip of dirt winding its way through the trees.

It was the East German border. A fence and probably a minefield, not to keep us out, but to keep them in. A thin strip of dirt--freedom on one side, tyranny on the other.


Only a couple months later I was an exchange cadet at the Air Force Academy. The 6 of us from West Point, along with the exchange cadets and midshipmen from the Coast Guard and Naval Academies, were taken on a tour of the Cheyenne Mountain Complex south of Colorado Springs.

Cheyenne Mountain was partially hollowed, and an entire base built inside. In it was housed the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD), which tracked everything in orbit around earth--down to and including flecks of paint that had come off rockets. They also monitored our satellites which spied on the Communists.

Like the Greenbrier facility in West Virginia, only not a secret, the Cheyenne Mountain Complex could be sealed off from the outside world with a huge steel door--in the event of a nuclear war. I stood in the control room, I saw the phone that connected the commander directly to the President. I touched the phone myself.

If a launch was detected anywhere in the world, the staff in the control room had about 20 seconds to analyze the flight dynamics and determine if it constituted a threat to the United States or its allies. Fortunately, there never was such a threat; if there had been, the commander would have picked up the phone and told the President. This would have put into play a lengthy series of steps culminating in the launch of nuclear missiles from our triad of forces--ground-launched ICBM's, air launched missiles and bombs like those at Mather, and submarine-launched ballistic missiles.

It was called MAD, mutually-assured destruction. You fire at us, we'll fire back at you. Our missiles will pass each other over the North Pole. You don't fire at me, and I won't fire at you. Deal?

It was an insane policy, but it worked.

V--Tienanman Square

I was on a rotation to the National Training Center, outside of Barstow, CA, when we got the news. There had been rallies and protests in Beijing since April, but by early June the Communist leadership had had enough. The Chinese sent troops into Tienanman Square to end the protest once and for all.

We were very isolated out in the desert, not even having non-military radios. The only news we got was from the observer-controllers who were evaluating us. All we knew was that the Chicoms had sent the army into Beijing. They began shooting. We heard reports, later proven to be inaccurate, that some military units were firing on others in defense of the protesters. We wondered about a civil war in a nuclear power.

Those reports were wrong. No military units mutinied. It was a massacre. Only weeks later, when we finally returned home to Fort Carson, did we see the iconic picture of White Shirt Guy standing in front of a tank. Tanks are very effective anti-personnel weapons. But one man, a man craving liberty, can be brave enough to stop a line of tanks.

For a little while.

VI--The Wall comes down

Late 1989 was a surreal time. All across Eastern Europe, protests against Communist rule occurred. Why then? It's hard to say. The borders were becoming more porous, and more people were escaping to the West. President Reagan was fueling an arms race, one he knew would bankrupt the Soviets--and governments began to collapse under their own weight and that of their citizens who yearned to breathe free. Gorbachev promised even more democratic reforms, more perestroika. All the lines were converging.

It all happened so quickly. First, East German strongman Honecker resigned in October. On November 7th his entire cabinet resigned. The Communist Party dismissed the ruling Politburo in response to huge anti-government protests. Two days later, on November 9th, the East German government opened it's border and The Wall. Other Eastern European governments also faced huge protests, and within weeks they fell.

The entire Warsaw Pact had collapsed without a shot being fired. The world order that had existed since before I was born evaporated in less time than it took to get a visa.

At that time, most people in the world had never heard of Nicolai Ceausescu, the Romanian dictator. Most had no idea how bad life was in Romania. I had only read his name so couldn't pronounce it (it's chow-shes-coo), and I had only the faintest idea how bad it was there. I remember telling a friend of mine, "I'll believe this is real when that Co-ses-co guy in Romania falls." A few days before Christmas I got a phone call early in the morning; my friend said, "Turn on your tv." And there was Ceausescu, under arrest in his own country.

VII--The Baltic Republics

It seemed that in late 1989 the entire Eastern bloc was protesting communist rule. The biggest underdogs, though, were the Baltic Republics.

Unlike the Warsaw Pact countries, which were theoretically independent but in reality answered to Moscow, the formerly independent countries of Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia had been absorbed into the Soviet Union itself. Special attention was paid to these three Soviet republics by the press. While the world marveled at the sight of people from both east and west standing atop the Berlin Wall, or striking it with picks and sledgehammers, news reports continued to show non-violent protests in the streets of these three small lands.

I didn't understand how fast everything was changing, I couldn't believe it was real. I thought I was going far out on a limb when, in the fall of '89, I bravely predicted that "the Baltic Republics will be free within a decade." There might not be a fight, but no way was Moscow going to slice off parts of its own country, not any time soon.

In December, Lithuania abolished the Communist Party. In March of 1990, it declared its independence from the Soviet Union. Latvia and Estonia followed only two months later.

VIII--The Quinones family

A retired sergeant major died, and I was tasked to be the widow's Casualty Assistance Officer. I was to escort her to the funeral, and later help her with the myriad activities that no one wants to plan for--dealing with insurance companies, getting all the household bills put in her name, having the deed to the house placed in her name, getting a new military I.D. card, and meeting with lawyers, among others.

One of her sons was a major in the Berlin Brigade, the US garrison that had been stationed in Berlin since the end of World War II. He appreciated the efforts I'd expended on behalf of his mother and family, and before returning to Berlin after the funeral asked if there was anything he might do for me. I'd already told him that I would be leaving the army soon, so no, there was nothing, but thank you. And then, with my usual sprightly manner and a smile, I said, "You know, sir? I would like a piece of The Wall." That was just me being funny, fending off the discomfort of talking about getting out of the army.

A few weeks later I received one of those bubble-wrap envelopes in the mail. It was from Major Quinones, and inside the envelope, inside the ziplock baggie, and inside the paper towel--was a little piece of broken concrete. The enclosed letter said he'd gone to The Wall himself to get it for me.


I've seen freedom born--in Vilnius, in Riga, in Tallinn, in Moscow and Tirana, and more recently in Kabul and Baghdad. I've seen the looks on the faces of people as they took their first breaths of free air, their first tastes of genuine liberty. It's a wondrous sight, an honor to watch. Because you see, freedom isn't an abstraction, not to me. Freedom is something real, it's concrete--it's that little piece of broken concrete sitting on my shelf.