Monday, June 30, 2008

My People Are Great, Your People Suck

Here's another "liberals vs. conservatives" piece.

Are Teachers Unions Anti-Teacher?

This guy calls it exactly as I see it--which might explain why we're both on the board of directors of the California Teachers Empowerment Network.

Excellent piece, Larry.


I've written before about patriotism and its cousin, nationalism. Here are a couple new points about American patriotism:

Surely, I can state categorically that any political philosophy that has as its core value some variation of “from each according to his ability, to each according to his needs” is antithetical to American values and, therefore, unpatriotic.

Surely, I can state categorically that any political philosophy makes the “world’s” feelings a priority over American interests or sovereignty is antithetical to American values or survival and, therefore, unpatriotic.

That jibes nicely with what I wrote in the first linked post.

Update, July 1, 2008: More. More still.

Update #2, July 10, 2008: This piece jibes with my views precisely.

Far more American is the sentiment Benjamin Franklin expressed: “Where liberty dwells, there is my country”.

Thus, most Americans love their country in a more conditional way — not as a thing in itself, but insofar as it embodies core ideas about liberty. It is in the same spirit that our Presidents and miltary officers and naturalizing citizens swear to defend, not the land or people of the United States but its Constitution — a political compact. This is adaptive in many ways; one of them is that tribal patriotism is difficult to nourish in a nation of immigrants...

But patriotism by dissent can take a much stranger turn. An influential minority of Americans now behave as though loving their country as it might be in the imagined future, where everything they don’t like about it is fixed, excludes loving their country as it actually is...

At its extreme, patriotism by dissent becomes a kind of anti-patriotism in which dedication to an imagined America-that-might-be produces actual, destructive hatred of America as it is and has been. Unreasoning, extreme patriotism is sometimes called “chauvinism”, after the Napoleonic French officer Nicolas Chauvin; for this kind of anti-patriotism I shall analogously coin the label “chomskyism”, after a well-known U.S. radical who appears to embody it.

The Wheels On The Bus Won't Go Round And Round So Much

With fuel prices the way they are, you can imagine what school districts are thinking about busing kids to school.

Teacher In A Bikini Violates Morality Clause?

Oh my goodness. A teacher appeared on the Howard Stern Show and won a "hottest wife and ugliest husband" competition. Pictures show her in a bikini--and she was fired for it.

Perhaps she should have worn a burkhini.

She could appear at the local swimming pool--or heck, walk down the street--wearing that attire and it's not immoral. So, how, exactly, is this immoral?

If the school wanted to push the issue of "taking a sick day", that would be fine, but they didn't. They said that the pictures themselves, which are not racy at all, violate the morality clause.

It's foolishness like this that causes me to state yet again: barring something that directly impacts the safety of kids, what teachers do on their own time is no one's business but their own.

San Francisco Schools Go After JROTC Students Now

I've written before about how San Francisco schools have attacked the JROTC program, which will be completely gone in schools next year. Now, though, they're going after the students by not giving them credit for the JROTC courses they've already taken.

Actually harming kids in order to push your political agenda? Shameful. But we expect that kind of scorched earth behavior from the lefties of San Francisco.

Shutting Down Speech You Don't Like

This story is sad all around.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Pay Plus Pension

From the Boston Globe via NewsAlert:

Nearly 100 retired educators in the Commonwealth were allowed to earn their full salaries while collecting full pensions in the past school year, a growing practice critics call state-sanctioned "double dipping."

The retirees collectively made more than $5 million on the job while taking home $5.5 million in pension payments, according to information obtained by the Globe...

Critics say the practice, which was designed to make it easier for districts to fill hard-to-staff positions, leaves the door open for abuse, enticing a pool of well-connected retirees to move from one job to the next or stay indefinitely in a position that should have been filled by a nonretiree. In some cases, school districts have been allowed to continue rehiring the same retiree rather than readvertising for the position each year and providing fresh proof that they could find no one else to fill the spot, another state requirement.

Good work if you can get it, I guess.

Teacher Suspended For Year and a Half

It's definitely not a First Amendment issue, despite what the teacher's attorney said.

The teacher assigned The Freedom Writers Diary, a book about a teacher who is able to reach inner city students through writing, helping them grow and mature in the process. It was recently made into a movie--and yes, there are some graphic themes and language in it.

The teacher's supervisor (principal) sent her an email telling her not to use the book in her class. She did anyway: "They were reading, they were engaged. And then I read that email again, and I looked at my students, and I decided, I want them to read this book."

And for her going against the rules, she's been suspended without pay for a year and half--and promises not to return unless she can teach using that book.

I've stated before on this blog--it may not be smart for schools or districts to keep particular books out of classrooms, but it is legal. And since we teachers are public employees and not private contractors, we follow the instructions that are laid out by the elected school boards and implemented through the school administration. I'm sorry this teacher lost her job over this, but she defied specific instructions about curriculum.

If she was so adamant about her students' reading this book, she could have told them about it and suggested they check it out of the school library, where it sits on a shelf.

Full disclosure: I have a shelf of books in my classroom, and this book is on that shelf.

I Keep Telling You...

Some people really aren't interested in getting us off oil and onto alternative, cleaner fuels; they really just want to destroy Western success:

BECAUSE IT'S NOT AS IF WE NEED MORE ENERGY: U.S. Halts Solar Projects Over Environment Fears.

Okay: Nukes are out, coal is filthy, wind power destroys Ted Kennedy's view, and solar leads to "environment fears." Do they just want us all to freeze in the dark? Pretty much, I'd say . . . .

(Via Sonic Frog). Seems like this would be a good campaign issue for somebody . . . .

UPDATE: Reader Robert Schwartz emails:

Whatever happened to the Democrats? It used to be that their sole criterion for evaluating proposals was how many blue collar jobs they would create. Oil drilling and nuclear power would have been no brainers as both activities require millions of man hours of labor, real blue collar, sweaty, dirty labor. These days Democrats seem to care more about beachfront property values than worker’s jobs.

Yes, the Democrats have become the party of the upper-crust now.

Why is this? Because, as Daniel Webster said:

There are men in all ages who mean to govern well, but they mean to govern. They promise to be good masters, but they mean to be masters.

And while I support the call to switch to alternative fuels--I'm a big fan of nuclear and solar--there's nothing available that will allow us to stop using oil today, tomorrow, or even 10 years from now. We already know how to use nuclear power, already have plans for plants on shelf, and can start building tomorrow, if only we had the willpower the courage to stand up to the faux-environmentalists who resist it.

So why don't we do something today?

Five years ago we were told that increased refinery and oil pumping capability in the US would do no good because it would take five years for those to affect gas pump prices. Query: if we had greatly increased supply over the past five years, would not oil be at about $75/bbl, still high, but not headed to $200? And if we do nothing to increase supply now, where will oil go? . . . We are in a time of national emergency, but it does not affect the politicians, who continue business as usual.

My response to those who say that increased drilling is pointless because it won't yield immediate results -- like Arnold Schwarzenegger --is why worry about the greenhouse effect, then? Nothing we do will cool the planet immediately. Yet we're told immediate action there is vital. In fact, we're told that by none other than Arnold Schwarzenegger, in the very same speech.

UPDATE: TigerHawk: "One would have thought that this point was so obvious it would not have to be made at all."

You can never be too obvious, it seems.

I keep telling you this.

Update, 7/3/08: Public pressure has caused BLM to change course.

There are plenty of people--and I include myself in this group--who would like fuels that don't pollute so much. The "environmental movement", though, has different goals in mind. Says who? Patrick Moore, "apostate" co-founder of Greenpeace.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Reporter Should Use Correct Math Terminology

According to this story:

Cathy Campbell did a double-take and tapped the brakes when she spotted what appeared to be a pointy-edged box lying in the road just ahead.

She got fooled.

It was a fake speed bump, a flat piece of blue, white and orange plastic that is designed to look like a 3-D pyramid from afar when applied to the pavement.

Assuming that what's shown in the picture is what's being discussed in the article, the speed bumps appear to be prisms, not pyramids.

Update: If that link goes away, try this one.

Black Students Given "Ghetto" Names In HS Yearbook

I can see how some might find this funny, but I can also see how people could be extremely offended by it.

Phony "ghetto" names were printed under a yearbook photo of Black Student Union members at a suburban Los Angeles high school, leaving some angry students and parents calling for an apology and a reprint.

"Tay Tay Shaniqua," "Crisphy Nanos" and "Laquan White" were among the nine names placed next to the club's photo in Charter Oak High School's yearbook, Charter Oak Unified School District Superintendent Clint Harwick said.

Yearbooks are not the place to make fun of people. I stated that before, here.

Saving For A Rainy Day

Why don’t public colleges and universities salt away large sums of cash during good times to tide them over during bad times? Because the internal politics won’t allow large sums to sit undisturbed. Because the external politics are such that when times get bad, legislators see those reserves as excuses to cut funding. (Apparently now in Massachusetts, the state is even applying this to endowments at private universities!)

Why don't governments do so? Same reason.

BTW, the author of that post is a flaming liberal. You can tell by his second paragraph.

Sweet Valley High, It Isn't

In one Pennsylvania school district, incidents of STD's are so high that the Centers for Disease Control has stepped in to look for students at risk for HIV.

Women Teachers, Male Students

Inappropriate behavior, to say the least.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

This Teacher Should Have Spent Her Time Learning More Math...

...instead of leaving threatening notes around her school, as well as a fake bomb.

What fraction of the maximum 73 years will she get for this crime?

Report Finds US Elementary Teachers Not Well-Enough Prepared To Teach Math

From the report, issued by the National Council on Teacher Quality:

Our individual experiences with elementary teachers, corroborated by any number of national studies, reveal their limited background in mathematics. There must be a higher standard set for mathematics proficiency in education schools’ teacher preparation programs. The minimum first steps toward establishing that standard would be administering assessments that assure general mathematics proficiency as part of the candidate screening process for admission to teacher preparation programs and requiring high standards
in coursework containing elementary and some middle school level mathematics topics for program

We have no objections to prospective teachers taking mathematics courses designed for a general college audience, but we strongly recommend teacher candidates take a minimum of three mathematics courses designed specifically for prospective elementary teachers which deal explicitly with elementary and middle
school topics. This coursework should be coupled with one mathematics methods course. While we have no objection to an exemption from mathematics coursework for those able to pass a suitable examination, at present there is no such standardized examination that tests the required knowledge.

As a start, elementary teacher preparation programs might learn from, and assign, readings from Liping Ma's Knowing and Teaching Elementary Mathematics.

Otherwise, we might get more teachers like this one.

Canadian Health Care

From Investor's Business Daily, via NewsAlert:

The government followed his advice, leading to his modern-day moniker: "the father of Quebec medicare." Even this title seems modest; Castonguay's work triggered a domino effect across the country, until eventually his ideas were implemented from coast to coast.

>Four decades later, as the chairman of a government committee reviewing Quebec health care this year, Castonguay concluded that the system is in "crisis."

"We thought we could resolve the system's problems by rationing services or injecting massive amounts of new money into it," says Castonguay. But now he prescribes a radical overhaul: "We are proposing to give a greater role to the private sector so that people can exercise freedom of choice"...

What would drive a man like Castonguay to reconsider his long-held beliefs? Try a health care system so overburdened that hundreds of thousands in need of medical attention wait for care, any care; a system where people in towns like Norwalk, Ontario, participate in lotteries to win appointments with the local family doctor.

Just as we're starting down the road to socialism, one of its Canadian pimps has already seen the light.

2nd Amendment Barely Survives

The 9th and 10th are already shot to heck (shot? get it?), but at least we still have the 2nd. Barely. Quoting ScotusBlog:

Answering a 127-year old constitutional question, the Supreme Court ruled on Thursday that the Second Amendment protects an individual right to have a gun, at least in one’s home. The Court, splitting 5-4, struck down a District of Columbia ban on handgun possession. Although times have changed since 1791, Justice Antonin Scalia said for the majority, “it is not the role of this Court to pronounce the Second Amendment extinct.”

Look Whose Name Pops Up Out Of The Blue

I was reading a post about yet another of Obama's associates being thrown under the Hope and Change bus when a picture just jumped off the page and assaulted me. I've seen that dude before, I thought. And then it came back to me.

Yes, I've seen him before. Didn't know at the time Klonsky was a "Maoist hardliner", though, one who has been "repeatedly feted with state-dinner-level visits to Beijing".

I'm glad not to have engaged a person like this in discussion. Sick bastard.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

*THIS* Kind Of Affirmative Action I Can Support

This isn't lowering standards. This is helping at-risk black boys rise to meet standards, to reach their full potential.

The Urban Prep Charter Academy for Young Men, founded in 2002, has become a haven. The charter school, which is not part of the Chicago Public Schools system, has a mission to prepare young black men for college and promote self-esteem and success.

The article is very uplifting. Go take a read.

Who Wants To Be A Millionaire?

I do, which is why I almost got up at 4am this past Monday and drove out to Jackson to audition. My aunt had heard about the audition and called to tell me about it--and I was almost convinced to go. Then I looked up the contestant rules and saw this:


New York City

The Contestants for each Tape Date will travel to New York City at their own expense, and provide their own accommodations and transportation for the duration of their appearance on the Program. The Game Sponsor is not responsible for any expenses incurred by Contestants in connection with their appearance on the Program and will not reimburse any Contestant for such expenses. The Game Sponsor will determine how long the Contestant is required to stay in New York City. Based on the scheduling of Tape Dates, any Holdover Contestants and Unplayed Contestants may be required to remain available to return to the studio on the next scheduled standard Program Tape Date. The travel and transportation arrangements for all returning Holdover Contestants and Unplayed Contestants is the sole responsibility of the Contestant.

They can drop dead.

No Child Left Behind Act Is Working

No Child Left Behind (NCLB), the school reform law destined to be President Bush's prime domestic legacy, is under fire these days. And with Bush an unpopular lame duck, the law's critics see an opportunity to kill or weaken it...

There's only one problem with all this criticism: The standards-and-accountability movement appears to be working.

A new, 50-state report on the law's impact by the Center on Education Policy, a non-partisan think tank, found reading and math scores rising and minority achievement gaps narrowing.

Readers of this blog know I'm a stout believer in NCLB, and have been for quite some time. I'm glad this piece presents a view that's too often absent in the press.

What To Do With Schools With Low-Performing Students?

The California legislature and governor have different ideas.

The California Assembly approved legislation Monday that appears destined for a showdown with Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger over penalties for the state's lowest-performing school districts...

The measure by Senate President Pro Tem Don Perata, D-Oakland, is supported by much of the state's education establishment. It now goes to the Senate for concurrence.

"This legislation gives struggling school districts the guidelines and resources they need to make the improvements the state is demanding," Perata said in a press release...

Controversy centers on whether the state Board of Education should continue to have the right, after several years of failed test scores, to appoint a trustee to run low-performing districts in place of local school boards...

Supporters of SB 606 said the change would preserve local control while preserving a hammer to force change. Opponents countered that it would kowtow to failed leadership.

I must admit, I agree with several of the first commenters--if Perata and the "education establishment" (read: CTA) are for it, my initial reaction is to be against it. I see nothing in this article to cause me to go against that initial reaction.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Another Apocalypse To Worry About

Worried about global warming? You shouldn't. The world's gonna end in 4 years anyway.

Yet another so-called apocalypse to occur in my lifetime. Anyone want to take bets on this one?

America Is A "Mean" Country?

Bite me, Michelle Obama.

Mounting economic worries haven't stopped Americans from donating to charities. Charitable giving hit a record in 2007, topping $300 billion for the first time, the Wall Street Journal reports.

Giving to charities increased steadily in the past decade, though lately the pace of growth has slowed. The latest figures show an increase of only 3.9 percent over 2006, compared to spikes of roughly 10 percent and 13 percent in 2004 and 2005, respectively.

Even I have contributed more cash to charity so far this year than I have in years past. This FoxNews reprint of a Wall Street Journal story warms my heart and makes me continue to be proud of my country--unlike the aforementioned Madame Obama.

Carnival of Education

This week's Carnival is hosted by Where's the Sun? and includes my post about keeping student grades online.

The Marines--A Class Act

Several months ago, when the Marines' Officer Selection Station in Berkeley came under city-sponsored protests and harassment, I sent a letter to the senior officer of that station, offering to bring snacks to his men as a show of support.

Just today I received an answer (click on the letter to enlarge):

Very classy. Gotta love the Marines.

Quote of the Day

The Seattle School Board has decided to use $12.6 million of financial reserves to fund, among other things, 102 new jobs even while student enrollment decreases:

It's a plan that Steve Sundquist, chairman of the School Board's finance committee, calls unsustainable but responsible.

From the Seattle Times, via NewsAlert.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Obama, Change, and Good Intentions

Daniel Webster said this over 150 years ago:

Good intentions will always be pleaded for every assumption of authority. It is hardly too strong to say that the Constitution was made to guard the people against the dangers of good intentions. There are men in all ages who mean to govern well, but they mean to govern. They promise to be good masters, but they mean to be masters.
He was absolutely correct, which is why I don't trust government.

Hat tip to Mr. Chanman.

CEAFU: Teacher Strikes

According to Simon Campbell of, there are more teacher strikes in Pennsylvania than in all the other states combined. He spoke to us at the Concerned Educators Against Forced Unionism conference, and was certainly the most animated and entertaining of the great speakers we heard. Of course, his English accent only heightened the hilarity! Watch him on video in the upper right video at the link above.

I don't agree with him that teachers should not be allowed to strike--I understand that he's concerned about his children, but I'm concerned about mine. If I were a parent in Pennsylvania, though, with its fanatical record of teachers strikes, perhaps I'd see things differently. I agree with him completely, though, about forced unionism, about school districts' taking teachers' money and giving it to unions, and similar points.

Teachers unions often like to make comparisons which they claim show how beneficial they are. For instance, Mississippi does not allow teachers to bargain collectively and, coincidentally, teacher pay on average is lower there than in the rest of the country. Does that correlation imply a causation, though? The union would certainly give the impression that it does. How about this chart, then, which shows that 7 of the top 10 states in terms of teacher pay do not allow teacher strikes?

I'm also curious how the average pay on that chart was calculated, as $63,000 seems a very high average, even here in California.

CEAFU: Where Unions Hold Sway, And Don't

My guess is most teachers don't know that any union situation beyond the one in which they inhabit exists. In other words, in California most teachers have probably never even heard of Right To Work states, where teachers don't have to join unions or pay to support them.

I got the following information at last week's Concerned Educators Against Forced Unionism conference. I don't know how current it is, but it's a good place to start.

Model 1: Mandatory, monopoly, and compulsory exclusive bargaining for unions
District of Columbia
Indiana (somehow, also part of Model 2)
Maryland (somehow, also part of Model 2)
New Jersey
New York
Rhode Island

Model 2: Mandatory monopoly exclusive bargaining without compulsory unionism
Indiana (see also Model 1)
Iowa (a Right to Work, or RTW, state)
Kansas (RTW)
Maryland (see also Model 1)
Nebraska (RTW)
Nevada (RTW)
New Hampshire
New Mexico
North Dakota
Oklahoma (RTW)
South Dakota (RTW)
Tennessee (RTW)

Model 3: No mandatory bargaining statute, but bargaining is not illegal and does occur at the will of the local school board
Alabama (RTW)
Arkansas (RTW)
Louisiana (RTW)
Utah (RTW)
West Virginia (RTW)
Wyoming (RTW)

Model 4: Collective bargaining is illegal or not accepted
Arizona (RTW)
Georgia (RTW)
Mississippi (RTW)
North Carolina (RTW)
South Carolina (RTW)
Texas (RTW)
Virginia (RTW)

I found that list to be a tremendous eye-opener with regards to the possibilities of a future without compulsory unionism.

CEAFU: Chancellor Michelle Rhee, DC Public Schools

One of the most interesting (and there was stiff competition) speakers at the Concerned Educators Against Forced Unionism conference was the new chancellor of the DC Public Schools and the New Teacher Project founder Michelle Rhee.

I have to admit, my first impression of her was not positive. She seemed unimpressive, petite, plainly dressed.

But once she started talking, wow! She spoke about the challenges faced by the DC schools, how she intends to implement radical reforms to address those challenges, and how various obstacles (including unions and elected ward officials) attempt to block her and maintain the status quo. She spoke of her admiration for DC's mayor, who told everyone that works for him that "no one tells Michelle Rhee 'no' except me", and that he hasn't yet told her no.

She's an excellent speaker with great ideas, very entertaining, tough, well-spoken. Actually, she's a riot! Very bright, sharp--in other words, she and I agree on a lot. One of my favorite of her anecdotes was trying to get rid of an incompetent teacher. A union zealot asked, don't you think this teacher could and should be improved through professional development and not just fired? Her answer was, why should more children have to suffer an incompetent teacher before that teacher gets developed?

One of her main points was that so much of what goes on in the education bureaucracy happens for the benefit of adults, not for children.

She stated that she believes public education should be the great equalizer, but the reality is that it isn't so. There are so many obstacles, but she's having an impact in removing some of them.

One discouraging point she made was that she couldn't make the progress she has without a strong mayor to back her up. In other words, it takes her and a mayor to make progress, sometimes against other elected officials (like the ward bosses). I guess it's good that what she's doing is right and good (because I believe in it), but someone doing exactly the opposite could also be in charge and I'd be complaining about walking over the democratically-elected local officials. I don't yet know how to resolve that inconsistency.

I had a very pointed question to ask her, but when it came time, I just chucked my question and asked her if she'd consider working in the suburban Sacramento area, as my district is looking for a new superintendent. She remarked that such a job is very difficult because there isn't one strong elected official (like her mayor), usually only a squishy schoolboard intent on not rocking the boat and trying to get reelected, to help make things happen. She pretty much shot down my job offer.

But she knows Kevin Johnson, and hopes he wins this November's election for mayor of Sacramento.

CEAFU: Senator Tom Coburn, Keynote Speaker

As a representative for the California Teachers Empowerment Network, last week I attended the Concerned Educators Against Forced Unionism conference in Washington, DC. The keynote speaker at the opening dinner was Senator (Doctor) Tom Coburn of Oklahoma.

I probably would never have heard of Senator Coburn, or at least wouldn't have remembered his name, were it not for frequent mentions on Instapundit in his role with Porkbusters. Put plainly, Senator Coburn doesn't believe in earmarks, commonly known as "pork", and has campaigned that he won't bring home the bacon to Oklahoma--and they elect him.

He opened his talk by stating that there are two areas where we don't trust Americans, health care and education--and that's why they're both in trouble. Government is too heavily involved in both. And he gave great talk from there.

I was fortunate enough to get to ask him a question. First I thanked him for his participation in Porkbusters, then I asked why, when earmarks are such a tiny share of the budget when compared to entitlement spending like welfare, social security, and Medicare, he spends so much time focusing on those earmarks instead of the much greater problem.

His answer was this: that earmarks are the "gateway drug" (his term) to bigger spending. Americans won't trust the Congress to fix social security and other entitlements until it shows it can handle the smaller responsibilities like earmarks.

I'm not sure the second part of his answer is correct, but it sure sounds good to my ears.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Does The Punishment Fit The Crime?

A student received 24 months of suspension, later reduced to 10 months, for giving his junior high Spanish teacher a noogie. Actually, it was for giving her two noogies in three days.

Is this punishment fair?


Kook Teacher Fired

A couple months ago I wrote about the kook who burned crosses into his students' arms. You might go read that post to see what a nutjob that guy is, and how pathetic his school district is.

At least the district has finally gotten around to firing him. Here's some background:

School board members voted 5-0 to fire Mount Vernon Middle School science teacher John Freshwater. Board attorney David Millstone said Freshwater is entitled to a hearing to challenge the dismissal.

Freshwater denies wrongdoing and will request such a hearing, the teacher's attorney, Kelly Hamilton, told the Mount Vernon News.

School board members met a day after the consulting firm H.R. On Call Inc. released its report on the teacher's case.

The report came a week after a family filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Columbus against Freshwater and the school district, saying Freshwater burned a cross on a child's arm that remained for three or four weeks.

I just love this part, though:

Freshwater's friend Dave Daubenmire defended him.

"With the exception of the cross-burning episode. ... I believe John Freshwater is teaching the values of the parents in the Mount Vernon school district," he told The Columbus Dispatch for a story published Friday.

Lot of idiots in that town, apparently.

A Practical Application of Pre-Algebra Math

Especially given today's gas prices, this story is extremely interesting.

"There is a math illusion here," said Richard Larrick, a management professor at Duke University, whose research appears in the journal Science.

Larrick said most people think improvements in miles per gallon are all the same, where a 5 gallon per mile improvement would yield the same gas savings in a car that gets 10 miles per gallon or 20 miles per gallon. (One mile equals 1.61 kilometers, and one U.S. gallon equals 3.79 liters.)

"The reality that few people appreciate is that improving fuel efficiency from 10 to 20 miles per gallon is actually a more significant savings than improving from 25 to 50 miles per gallon for the same distance of driving," Larrick said.

Go read the whole thing. It's very interesting--and simple to understand.

The Fairness Doctrine

It's foul, unconscionable, and probably unconstitutional, but have no doubt that the Dems will push for it if and when they get enough power to do so. Here's an interesting tale about the so-called fairness doctrine, as it played out on a small scale at the Aspen, Colorado airport.

Strrrrrrike! You're--ow!

Watch video of these high school baseball players who, upset with the umpire, appear to conspire to bean him with the ball--and this in the Georgia State High School Championship game.

The school was fined $1000, and the catcher has been told by his prospective college that he's not welcome on their team next year. The report doesn't say what, if anything, happened to the pitcher.

Would You Like Fries With That?

A Burger King in London offers a gourmet $200 burger, with proceeds going to a children's charity.

Check this out. The burger's ingredients include the following: Japanese wagyu beef, white truffles, onions fried in Cristal champagne, topped with pink Himalayan rock salt.

They even sold a few, with one Burger King employee saying how a couple split the bill.

Now of course, if you're dropping the better part of $200 on a burger, you don't really want to be washing it down with any old soft drink, which is why if you're eating in you get a complimentary glass of wine.

Let me be clear. If I pay $200 for this, it had better not be made and served by some pimply-faced teenager!

Nothing wrong with donating a little money to charity, is there? Sure there is, because for some people, any amount of happiness is too much.

What's not going down so easily is Burger King's controversial concept of "delicious decadence" during a time of global economic meltdown and worldwide food shortages. Food crisis campaigners view it as the wrong burger at the wrong place at the wrong time.

"To come out with this kind of hugely expensive and over-the-top burger and to have 800 million people going to bed hungry every night is just to shoot yourself in the foot," said Dave Tucker of the organization "War On Want."

It's not a mercantilistic world, idiot. If Burger King got rid of this burger tomorrow, those 800 million people wouldn't instantly be fed. "Social justice" will not be served by eliminating this burger.

Some people will seize upon any reason to wag their fingers and moralize against the rest of us. I wonder what bumper stickers Mr. Tucker has on his car.

Bumper Stickers A Potential Sign Of Road Rage

There's nothing wrong with one or two bumper stickers. If I had to generalize based on my own experience, though, I'd note that lefties are far more likely to have a car slathered with bumper stickers than those of us on the right. That's simply because they want to force their views on you, whether you want them or not. At least they're consistent, though--they want to force the government on you as well, but only if they're in charge of the government.

Here's an SF Bay Area (hint: leans left) news report about a small link between bumper stickers and road rage.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Crop Circle Design Indicates Pi

The fact that the design seems to represent pi still doesn't tell us who or what made it.

Keeping Grades Online

Techheads think everything should be accessible on the internet, including student grades. Give parents a password and they can look up their child's grade any time they want.

The problem comes, of course, when that convenience comes up against the limits of technology security. What's to keep a hacker from destroying or changing grades?

And what if that hacker is the student himself?

I don't even store my grades on my school computer. I store them on removable media. If parents want to know grades, they can email me and with a few keystrokes I can send them complete details of their student's grade. It seems a small price to pay for my peace of mind.

CTA Gets Around To Supporting the Obamessiah

From their own press release:

Teacher delegates meeting here over the weekend as the top governing body of the 340,000-member California Teachers Association endorsed Senator Barack Obama of Illinois for president in the November general election.

Obama’s positions on public education issues and his clear support for changes to the flawed federal education law, President Bush’s No Child Left Behind Act, led to the vote Sunday by the CTA State Council of Education, comprised of 800 democratically elected teacher delegates from across the state.

Don't you love how they toss in that "democratically elected teacher delegates" part? I remember all sorts of "people's democratic republics", but they weren't very democratic, either.

Strike Another (albeit small) Blow Against Unionism

The Supremes have overturned a California law aimed to put pressure on employers regarding unions:

“In its Chamber v. Brown decision, the Supreme Court correctly reversed the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals’ decision to uphold a California law which increases pressure on employees to join unwanted unions.

“The law was nothing more than an underhanded attempt by union officials to use public funds to corral California workers into their forced dues-paying ranks, and the High Court was correct to find that the law is pre-empted by federal labor law...

“California officials were wrong to use the heavy hand of government to trample upon workers’ rights. Because union hierarchies are having trouble persuading employees to join unions voluntarily, they have resorted to coercive tactics in order to maintain the flow of forced union dues.”

Just say no--to forced unionism.

Finally, The Pictures

You can click on the pictures to enlarge them.

Dr. King is represented by this statue in the Capitol.

I had hoped to run into Nancy Pelosi during my tour (note the stickers on my shirt, granting me admittance to the building). I wanted to ask her what she thought of her chances against Cindy Sheehan in the upcoming election :-)

This is the Supreme Court building. Like the House of Representatives chamber, no video or still pictures were allowed inside the courtroom itself--for "security" purposes, of course.

This is one of the buildings of the Library of Congress.

Your intrepid blogger hangs with Abe.

I'd never before been to the Korean War Memorial, so here are a few shots from it.

This picture is haunting.

And this one speaks for itself.

The Reflecting Pool (the Lincoln Memorial is behind me), the WWII Memorial, the Washington Monument, and the Capitol.

Two monuments to warriors in one picture.

The World War II Memorial.

These darned fences and barricades are everywhere in DC now, even this close to the Washington Monument.

I get so uplifted when I visit DC; sadly, knowledge of what goes on inside those impressive buildings is enough to bring me back to the real world.

Here are more pictures from last year's trip.

"There is only mathematics; that is all that exists."

I didn't say it, this Swede did.

Air Travel

I wrote this about 5 pm local time yesterday while sitting in Washington-Reagan National Airport:

There's a perfect storm brewing in the air travel industry. Combine idiots in the legislative branch of government, which created the TSA, with idiots in the executive branch, who run the TSA and make the stupid rules that the idiot TSA inspectors follow, with idiots who run the airlines--combine these idiots, and you get a disaster of Biblical proportions. And that's what we've got.

Allow me to start with the airlines, because at check-in they're the first people you encounter. At the airports I've been to in the last couple years, it seems the vast majority of the airlines have installed computerized kiosks at their ticket counters--ostensibly to speed check-in. This is absurd. It might work for people who fly regularly and know how to manipulate the kiosks, but everyone else has to read every single word on every single screen to ensure they don't make a mistake checking in. And assuming you get it done correctly, you still have to speak to an agent so they can tag and take your luggage and give you the luggage receipt. Wouldn't it be quicker if those agents--the people who do this every single day and who know what they're doing--wouldn't it be quicker if they just checked everybody in? After all, they know their particular airline's check-in procedures intimately.

I was the only person in line a few minutes ago, so I wasn't concerned about holding up the (non-existent) people behind me, so I asked one of the four agents who were standing there to come assist me. While we were chatting, I asked why the agents don't just check folks in like they did in the pre-kiosk days. "Oh, it's best if the customers check themselves in." When I asked why, the response I got was, "It's in the customers' best interest to check themselves in." That's some excellent logic there. Except for making less work for the agents, how is this any improvement over the old system? When I left Sacramento I watched as the kiosk next to me malfunctioned and wouldn't print the boarding pass for the frustrated gentleman operating it. It took the two of us to get a ticket agent over to assist him--but rest assured, it's best for the customer to operate this unfamiliar equipment and check himself in.

So after achieving the sacred "boarding pass" merit badge, it's time to move on to what is perhaps the biggest groups of idiot government workers outside of Congress, the Transportation Security Administration. Pre-9/11, inspections were performed (not very well, at least at Boston and New York airports) by minimum wage employees hired by each airport. Obviously, people of rocket science-caliber were not applying in droves to be airport baggage inspectors. Now, you have the same caliber of person making $16/hr or more doing exactly the same job but with the full force and authority of the US government behind them. And what do they do? They enforce rules drafted by idiotic, CYA bureaucrats who wouldn't know security if it bit them on the butt. Why do some airports require you to take off your shoes, and others don't? Why do some check you out naked with x-ray backscatter devices, and others don't? Why do some have you open your laptop before x-raying it, and others insist it remain closed? There's no consistency; how's the traveling public supposed to know what to do? The result? Long, slow-moving lines. And it's not like the TSA is improving security at all--how many more reports do we have to read about TSA's failure to detect mock guns and bombs in carry-on baggage?

And who doesn't just love the ziplock baggie rule? You know, any liquids you want to bring on board must be in 3 fl. oz. or smaller containers and all of them must fit in a clear, ziplock baggie. If that isn't genius enough, we're not allowed to bring a soft drink or a bottle of water with us--but please, feel free to buy water at $3/bottle or more after going through the security checkpoint! Same with that sandwich you want to bring to supplement the pretzels and/or peanuts the airline might serve you--can't bring it with you because that PB&J might blow up the aircraft, but buy one for $8 at the concessionaire beyond the security checkpoint. Talk about a racket.

We're not done with the TSA yet, because after having your person and your carry-ons x-rayed, you have to wait in line while everyone in front of you gets dressed. Watches and necklaces have to go back on, as do belts and shoes and glasses. Laptops have to be returned to their cases. Is there as much room on the "done" side of the x-ray machine as there is on the "get ready" side? Oh, you know there's not. An idiotic rule backed up by piss-poor planning.

But now that we're done with security, having shown ID 3 times so far, we're back to the airlines. You know who I'm talking about, those companies who compete against each other to show the lowest prices on Travelocity or Orbitz but then tack on all sorts of extra fees, some of which they don't tell you about until the end. Some airlines are already charging to check a 2nd bag per person, and a few have started to charge to check in a single suitcase! At least one has decided to charge for $2 for a soft drink--the very soft drink you're now forbidden by law to bring through the security checkpoint.

One thing we know from economics--the marketplace will respond. And it has. As an example, one city that is extremely dependent on air travel, Las Vegas, is already experiencing a big drop as airlines cut routes to save money. Fewer air passengers mean fewer visitors to the casinos, which means...well, you get the idea. My point is, who wants to fly under these conditions? The marketplace will respond.

Government isn't the solution here. Heck, government is half the problem. And the airline industry isn't helping itself by thinking in 19th-century-railroad terms, not recognizing that demand for air travel is very elastic. Something has to give, and this storm shows no signs of abating.

Government and industry, working together to create the absolute worst travel experience possible.

And for the record, my check-in and security experiences were as smooth as they could have been this trip. Can you imagine the tenor of this post if I'd have had a difficulty?

And let me offer kudos to Continental Airlines, the mandatory check-in kiosk notwithstanding. Their flight crews were exceptional, they offered more than just peanuts and drinks on two of my four flights, and, in these days of severe cost-cutting, they still offered pillows and blankets to passengers.

Update: What will US air travel look like in 10 years? Here are some ideas.

Update #2, 6/24/08: Here we learn that customs can seize your laptop and camera if they so desire.

Citing those lawsuits, Customs and Border Protection, a division of the Department of Homeland Security, refuses to say exactly how common the practice is, how many computers, portable storage drives, and BlackBerries have been inspected and confiscated, or what happens to the devices once they are seized.

The article also doesn't say what criteria customs uses to determine whether or not to seize your private property.

When will this madness end? When Americans get fed up with it and insist, insist, that the Congress make it end.

As I Sit Back With A Smug Look On My Face

The Goracle's family house uses more electricity now than it did before the so-called green renovations--but it's ok, of course, because he purchases carbon offsets.

Anyone who takes this man seriously is a fool.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Best Time For A Vacation? When Your Union's On Strike!

Five members of the Danish Nurses Association are facing sanctions from their labour union for going on holiday when they should have been on the picket lines, reports Berlingske Tidende newspaper.

And both the nurses' union and daycare teachers' union BUPL, which is also striking, are sticking to that principle.

'In the worst case scenario the five nurses will be expelled from the union and be forced to pay back the money they've received from the union during the strike,' said John Christiansen, vice-president of the nurses' union. 'You can't take a holiday while you're on strike.'

Christiansen pointed out that it costs the union a considerable amount of money to conduct a strike.


This would be a no-brainer for me. I'm not in the union, and even if I were, the CTA doesn't provide strike pay.

Strike=Cancun. If the sheeple in my local union were ever to grow enough of a pair to go on strike (instead of whining about crappy contracts and then approving new ones 92%-8%), I'd hope it lasts long enough to make the cost of a flight to the Yucatan worthwhile =)

Why Reporters Should Know Some Math

Before heading over to the Concerned Educators Against Forced Unionism conference this morning (I now have a professional crush on Chancellor Michelle Rhee of the DC Public Schools), I picked up today's USA Today in the hotel lobby.

Oh. My. Word. From page 6A:

More than half of prospective voters favor a 3% increase in hotel room taxes to help fund the state's cash-strapped public school system. The room tax is paid primarily by tourists. Proponents say increasing it from 10% to 13% could raise more than $150 million...

That's a 3 percentage point increase, but a 30% increase in taxes. And no, that's not a minor technicality, it's an important distinction.

(I'll have a separate post about Michelle Rhee when I get some time.)

Sunday, June 15, 2008

The Capitol and Supreme Court

Tomorrow I have scheduled, through my congressman's office, tours of the Capitol and the Supreme Court. I'll try to get pictures posted muy pronto!

Update: Sadly, someone believes that taking pictures in the House chamber and in the Supreme Court courtroom will violate "security", so we weren't allowed to. I'll say this, though: both rooms were significantly smaller than I'd envisioned. The House Chamber looks so expansive when it's packed to the gills during the State of the Union Address, but in actuality I'll bet it's smaller than the gym at the school at which I teach. And the Supreme Court courtroom was similarly unimpressive--at least as size goes.

I'll work on getting pictures uploaded.

The internet connection in my hotel room sucks so I type this from the lobby--where an extremely strong rain is beating loudly against the floor-to-ceiling glass windows. I haven't seen water fall from the sky in several weeks, and it's been a few months since I've seen any fall this heavily. Perhaps it'll help reduce the stifling heat.

Update #2, 6/17/08: I'm taking much more video than I am still pictures, and learning in the process that those two actions require very different skill sets! Having said that, I'm finding that the hotel's internet connection is not amenable to posting pictures. At all. So while I'd like to post a couple, I guess you'll have to wait until I get home and have a reliable connection.

At The Moment This Gets Posted... plane is scheduled to leave Sacramento and eventually deliver me to Washington for the Concerned Educators Against Forced Unionism conference.

Union zealots: if unionism is such a great thing, why do I need to be forced to contribute money as a condition of employment? I don't have any issues at all if you want to be in a union, but I have very serious issues with being forced to contribute my money to a union I don't support.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

President Bush and Cowboy Diplomacy

Maybe that whole "Bush is going against our NATO allies" thing wasn't Bush's fault at all. Witness his cordial relationships with Tony Blair and Gordon Brown, and now Sarkozy in France and Angela Merkel in Germany.

Maybe the problem was Chirac and Schroeder, not President Bush. Odd that the Europeans are moving more right as the US moves more left.


Read this entire post from Samizdata. You'll get a taste of the intellectual level from this snip on liberty and power:

As Perry de Havilland of this parish would put it, that is wrong on so many levels. At the most basic level, the Guardian has conflated the idea of liberty and the idea of power. There is "negative liberty", which says that liberty is the absence of coercion, and "positive liberty", which blurs the idea of freedom with the ability, or power, to do things, or have things one wants, such as food, shelter, good health, nice weather, and so on. The late, great Isaiah Berlin skewered this reasoning years ago. The problem in claiming, as the Guardian does, that being "destitute" is the same as lacking liberty is that it ignores what has caused such destitution. A destitute person, living in a free country, will not be molested by the agents of a state in the way that anyone, rich, middling or flat broke, can and will be in a society that has the sorts of restrictions that Mr Davis is opposing. Of course, in some extreme cases, a very poor, or handicapped person is vulnerable to being taken advantage of by others, which is why prosperous societies full of people willing to help the weak and vulnerable are far better places to be. But socialism makes the fatal error in conflating liberty with power. In fact that error leads to the idea that somehow, all manner of regulations are okay so long as we have a full belly and somewhere to lay our heads at night. David Kelley, the philosopher, also confronts the nonsensical idea that poverty and coercion are the same thing in his book about welfare. Here is a review of that book that is worth reading.
One view is a libertarian view of liberty, the other is a socialist view. I support the former.

Avis and Hertz

When I was young, Hertz was the #1 car rental company. Everyone knew its name, and its advertisements were all over television. Future murderer OJ Simpson appeared in many of those commercials.

At the time, Avis was #2. Their motto was, "We're #2, so we try harder."

Well, the US used to be Hertz. Now we're Avis.

China has now clearly overtaken the United States as the world's leading emitter of climate-warming gases, a new study has found. The increasing emissions from China - up 8 percent in the past year - accounted for two-thirds of the growth in global greenhouse gas emissions in 2007, the study found.
Remember, this is a country specifically and explicitly exempt from the Kyoto Protocols.

Friday, June 13, 2008

I'll Take "Mind Your Own Business" for 200, Alex

"A world organization that has recommended that Britain hold a referendum on keeping its monarchy."

"What is the United Nations?"

"Correct, select again."

I notice that Cuba and Saudi Arabia are on the council that made this recommendation. No word yet on whether or not those countries will be directed to hold a similar referendum.

Boat Full Of Recent HS Graduates Sinks Off Cancun

A catamaran built to hold 80 sank off Cancun--it was carrying almost 200 recently graduated high school students on a snorkeling trip. This video shows an interview with two of those students, one of whom stayed behind after the crew bailed and helped with life jackets, untied life boats, and only jumped in himself when everyone was safely off and there were no more life jackets.

This young man (in the video) reports to West Point in a couple weeks.

Car Runs On Water

A water-run car? It even runs on ocean water, so a drought doesn't affect fuel supply.

It's way too small; hopefully they'll build a larger model soon.

A liter of water will allow the car to run at 80 kph (approximately 50 mph) for "about an hour". There are 3.78 liters in a gallon (I know this because of my milk cartons), which means the car gets about 180 mpg. That's not bad!

Here in California we'd have to use sea water. We just don't have enough fresh water to support our current needs and fuel our cars. The Midwest, on the other hand....

Update, 6/17/08: In line with some of my commenters, "highly unlikely".

Teachers Defend Hoax About Students' Drunk Driving Deaths

These teachers and administrators are idiots.

If students had done something like this and called it a prank, they'd be suspended, or worse. We had Every 15 Minutes at our school a couple years ago, but there was no attempt to make everyone believe that students had actually died. The stagecraft involved in E15M is graphic and shocking enough, going above and beyond with a lie is so far beyond the bounds of moral and decent that I can't believe anyone would do so.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Graduation Speakers' Canceling at the Last Minute

From the major Sacramento newspaper:

Former Assembly Speaker Fabian Núñez has canceled a speech today at the University of California, Davis, School of Education commencement, university officials said.

Núñez had agreed to speak at the 4 p.m. ceremony in the Mondavi Center, but pulled out Tuesday because of a lingering labor dispute between the university and the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees.

Former President Clinton did the same thing at UCLA a few days ago.

I know that as Democrats both of these men had to do what they did, but that's part of the point. Backing out on a commitment at the last minute because of something political--and not even big political, but chickencrap political, and not at all related to graduation--I have words for that, but we'll just settle for "that's extremely poor form".

Update, 6/13/08: Clinton spoke here instead.

NPR on West Point

Here's an almost-6-minute-long audio clip from NPR, in which three recently-graduated lieutenants are interviewed.

Before you listen to it, imagine the type of education you think these cadets received. Imagine what type of courses they attended, what books they were required to read.

Now go take a listen, and see how close you were to reality. Lefties, I'm sure, will be more than a little surprised.

I'm quite sure most of our so-called liberal arts schools aren't providing the breadth of experience, thought, and philosophy that West Point is.

Cheering At Graduation

I know there's a difference of opinion between whether graduation ceremonies are a solemn occasion for pride or a party festival. I, of course, lean more towards the former.

And I can understand when schools ask that people not hoot and holler so much when their student's name is called. Can you imagine being the family of the next child, the one whose name cannot be heard because of the air horns, cow bells, and screeches of some people who think the whole ceremony is about their own student?

Some might say, "don't read the next name until all the whooping has subsided". My school graduated over 300 students; given the time constraints of the auditorium we utilize for graduation (there was another graduation right after ours), there isn't time to do that. We have to read another name every few seconds.

Some schools experience this problem of "excessive exuberance" and ask people not to cheer, or to hold their applause until all graduates have walked across the stage. Some even put that request in writing. Still, some people ignore it completely.

So what do schools do then? They can't mandate class. They have to up the ante.

When Rock Hill school officials tell commencement crowds to hold their applause until the end, they mean it — police arrested seven people after they were accused of loud cheering during the ceremonies.

At first glance, that could seem pretty extreme. Even to me, that looked extreme. But let's read on:

"I just thought they were going to escort me out," Jonathan Orr told The Herald of Rock Hill, about 70 miles north of Columbia. "I had no idea they were going to put handcuffs on me and take me to jail."

Let me interpret what this 21-year-old man said. "I know how I was supposed to behave, but I didn't think there would be any real consequences for being obnoxious, so I did whatever I wanted anyway. And I thought that once I got away with it, they'd just kick me out--which is fine, because I'd already seen and done what I went there to see and do anyway." Selfish, rude, and needing to be knocked down a notch. With people like young Mr. Orr, I'm not surprised the school had police there.

Acting with dignity doesn't have to mean a funereal atmosphere at graduation, but let's remember that a graduation ceremony is not a football game.

Municipal Wi-Fi

I've written before about this little experiment in socialism going bust. Now, another one bites the dust, big time:

The free municipal Wi-Fi dream appears to be coming to an end for a handful of Bay Area cities.

MetroFi, a Mountain View wireless provider that had built its business largely from advertising-supported Wi-Fi networks, is just over a week away from pulling the plug on its nine networks including Santa Clara, Sunnyvale, Cupertino, downtown San Jose, Foster City and Concord, part of a larger pullback due to a lack of revenue.

The big lie in socialism is that you get something for free. You'll pay for everything. Is it worth anything to you to pay so that someone can access the internet from a park bench?

Monday, June 09, 2008

Here's How The Left Supports The Troops

From the LA Times:

Troubled by military recruiting at Los Angeles high schools, activists are seeking equal access to students on campus to provide what they say is unvarnished information about the armed forces and information about nonmilitary careers.
The Coalition Against Militarism in Our Schools , a Southern California group of educators, volunteers and veterans dedicated to promoting nonviolent alternatives to military service, is taking the proposal to the Los Angeles Board of Education, saying it is vital that students have the truth about military enlistment. That "truth," however, is subjective: Some view the group's literature as controversial itself.

Not all of the students succumb to their brainwashing:

Inouye told the wiry teen he would end up in Iraq "killing a lot of innocent people," or could be killed himself.

"I'm only going to kill people who shoot at me," Adrian replied.

Nope, nothing but absolute fact told to young Adrian there, no bias at all. And good for him for not accepting their tripe.

The Pentagon has issued a statement:

" . . . we are not confident that these groups' intentions are to provide students with opportunities, but rather to spend a great deal of time and effort to provide disinformation that advances their organizations' agenda with little regard to the individual student," said Lt. Col. Jonathan Withington, a Pentagon spokesman, in an e-mail.

You don't say, Colonel.

Three years ago I addressed the issue of so-called counter-recruiters. You can see that their story hasn't changed much, even though facts on the ground have changed immensely.

Communists For Teachers

Last week the teachers union in Los Angeles conducted a one-hour strike to--well, I don't know exactly what their purpose was, but they did it, anyway.

Who supported them? Communists.

You think I'm being extreme here? At the top of that link I clicked on the About Us page, where I read this:

Read's "Where We Stand" for a brief statement of the tradition we stand in and our political positions.

What do we find on the Where We Stand page?

We stand in the Marxist tradition, founded by Karl Marx and Frederick Engels, and continued by V.I. Lenin, Rosa Luxemburg and Leon Trotsky.

Oftentimes we're judged by the company we keep. That being true, Shame on you, Los Angeles teachers.

I've written about teachers unions' links to communist groups before. It concerns me greatly.

A Longer View

One of the reasons we older folks aren't as excitable as the younger folks is we have a bit more experience from which we can form opinions and make judgements. I've had plenty of students who think that global warming is the biggest crisis ever to strike mankind; they are taken aback when I discuss all the apocalypses that were supposed to have struck so far in just my lifetime. Global warming? Color me skeptical.

It's fashionable lately for Lefties to talk about how bad the economy is--only when there's a Republican President, and whether the economy is bad or not, and especially if there's an election approaching--but here's a post with some longer term information. Keep in mind, the information in that post is still in a time frame shorter than my own lifetime. I found the following most interesting, especially since I lived through it and remember it:

The reason Volcker raised interest rates so aggressively was that inflation went wild in the late 1970s. For example, inflation hit 11.3% in 1979, 13.5% in 1980 and 10.3% in 1981 before Volcker’s harsh medicine began to kick in and inflation moderated to 6.2% in 1982. As inflation ratcheted higher, so did home mortgages rates.

Thirty-year fixed rate mortgages went up to nearly 13% in November 1979 and did not fall under 12% again until November 1985. The peak rate for mortgages was 18.45% in October 1981. 18.45%!

But, even though high interest rates began knocking down inflation, high rates also led to sharply higher unemployment. The unemployment rate peaked at 10.8% in December 1982. However, it had been soaring for years and it remained at 8% or higher until January of 1984.

When you hear politicians and pundits opine that this is the worst crisis since the Depression, just mentally compare current conditions to those of the late 1970s and early 1980s. We had double digit inflation, unemployment and home mortgage rates back then. Let’s see: inflation is around 4%, unemployment is 5.5% and 30-year fixed mortgages are about 6.25%. In other words, we are not remotely close to anything like double digits on any one of these factors, much less all three.

The difficulties we faced in the 1970s and 1980s were far more severe than anything we are seeing now and I am confident that the Fed and the U.S. Treasury will be able to deal with the much more moderate economic problems we are facing. We clearly have issues now, but they are not nearly as difficult as the issues we have successfully overcome in the past.

A longer view.

Why I'm Against Socialism

Via Instapundit comes yet another example of why "free" services from the government are not good for individuals or for society:

(BILOXI, MS) June 3 -- What are people who receive FEMA assistance doing to help themselves? That's the question NBC 15's Andrea Ramey asked those who have been staying for free in hotel rooms after they moved out of FEMA supplied travel trailers. What she found out is there are some who are doing very little.

The scorching heat puts many at the Quality Inn poolside, but for Gwenester Malone, she chooses to beat the heat by setting her thermostat to sixty degrees. Malone's room for the past three months, along with three meals daily, have all been paid for by taxpayers.

"Do you work?" asked NBC 15's Andrea Ramey.

"No. I'm not working right now," said Malone.

Malone says she can't drive and it's too hot outside to find work within walking distance. "Since the storm, I haven't had any energy or pep to go get a job, but when push comes to shove, I will," said Malone.

Just a few blocks away, Kelley Christian also stays at a hotel for free. She says she's not taking advantage of her situation, but admits it's easy to do. "It's too easy. You know, once you're there, you don't have to pay rent," said Christian. "I kept putting it off and putting it off and now, I'm tired of putting it off."

She hasn't had any "energy or pep" since Hurricane Katrina? That was almost 3 years ago.

When there's no incentive for people to take care of themselves, the person suffers in the soul and the rest of us suffer for them in the wallet.

Leftie Extremists vs. Rightie Extremists

I'm sometimes given grief for coming down so hard on the extremists on the Left and for not paying so much attention to the extremists on the Right. My usual response to that is, which extremists on the Right are causing any trouble? Abortion clinic bombers? How many years has it been since we've seen them? Fred Phelps and his gang of weirdos? That's 25 people whom no one takes seriously. Is it people on the Left or on the Right who riot during WTO gatherings?

Honestly, who on the right compares to Earth First, or to the Democratic Underground/Daily Kos types, or to these people?

SATs As Predictors Of College Performance

Via Kimberly at we're directed to this article about the value of SATs:

Let's begin with predictive validity. Among the countless studies done on this subject over the years, not a single one has failed to find a high correlation between SAT scores and academic performance in college, as measured by grades or persistence. On a personal note, during my ten years as Provost of SUNY, I had my institutional research staff repeatedly review the relationship between SAT scores and academic success among our 33 baccalaureate campuses and their 200,000 + students, and found - as all the national research has confirmed - a near perfect correlation. SUNY schools and students with higher SAT profiles had higher grade point averages and markedly higher graduation rates. (boldface is mine--Darren)

You should read the whole thing.

Sunday, June 08, 2008

Here We Go Again With Teachers And Online Behavior

I've said it before and I'll say it again: what teachers do on their own time is no one's business but their own. Teachers are public employees but they are not, as the state official says in this piece, public figures.

Several teachers in Palm Beach County, Fla., may soon lose their jobs for allegedly posting questionable materials on the Web site, officials say.

State Deputy Chancellor for Educator Quality Pamela Stewart said each of the teachers could lose their teaching certification for allegedly posting materials on the social networking Web site that their students could potentially access, the South Florida Sun-Sentinel reported last Sunday.

"We could think of it similarly to taking an ad out in a newspaper. If we're going to do something about that, we'll do something about it on a social network," Stewart said. "They certainly are public figures."

Only when their behavior affects their work performance should the school get involved. There are entirely too many opportunities for abuse for it to be any other way. Might a teacher get fired for appearing in newspaper picture from the local Wicca festival? Or how about for writing a letter to the editor in favor of some ballot initiative or another? How about for writing a blog?

Posting certain material on Facebook may be unwise, and teachers (especially young teachers) should have this explained to them if they're too immature to figure it out themselves, but until their online behavior crosses into the illegal or until it affects their ability to function in the classroom, I say leave adults alone.

I've written about this before, most recently here.

When You Reach Bottom, Don't Keep Digging

The best thing this woman could do right now is keep a low profile, because stunts like this aren't likely to garner her any sympathy:

The incarcerated son of former wrestler Hulk Hogan has received a letter from a Florida teacher accused of having sex with underage students, police say.

Sheriff's deputies in Hillsborough County, Fla., confirmed Stephanie Ragusa contacted Nick Bollea, Hogan's teenage son, to express sympathy for his arrest for reckless driving, the Tampa (Fla.) Tribune reported Saturday.

"It's not us, Nick, but something 'off' with society, that our situations garner more attention (and) print than the president, the election, or even an earthquake killing thousands," Ragusa wrote in the letter. "Nothing prepares you for nor prevents it; sensationalism."

The 17-year-old Bollea is serving an eight-month jail sentence for crashing a car into a tree last August. That accident left one of his friends with brain damage.

The Tribune said Ragusa has been accused of having sex with two of her students, ages 14 and 16.
Isn't Hogan's son 18? If so, he'd seem to be a bit old for her.

Saturday, June 07, 2008


I think I was in this one once. sigh

I'd Have Canceled The Play

I'm all about giving parents some say over how schools educate their children, and while I'm not sure exactly where the "too far" line is, this situation is so far beyond that line that the line is a dot:

The stage was set, the lights went down and in a suburban Japanese primary school everyone prepared to enjoy a performance of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. The only snag was that the entire cast was playing the part of Snow White.

For the audience of menacing mothers and feisty fathers, though, the sight of 25 Snow Whites, no dwarfs and no wicked witch was a triumph: a clear victory for Japan's emerging new class of “Monster Parents”.

I hope they loved the play.

Decline of the West

I've been reading the comments on an Ann Althouse blog post regarding Mark Steyn's/Maclean's kangaroo court proceedings in British Columbia, and I've come across the comments of one Pogo, who is exceedingly insightful and in fact scary in the truth of his/her words:

And this is how the west commits suicide, substituting rules for principle, permitting groups that disdain you to use your tolerance as a weapon against your own.


It is interesting to me that Canada is starting to resemble other nations that are lauded for their 'right to health care' while lacking basic human rights such as free speech, e.g. the USSR, China, Cuba, Venezuela.

I wonder if there is some sort of connection between the expansion of government power for seemingly beneficent purposes and its subsequent decline into tyranny.

We need to heed the warnings that are right in front of our eyes.

Friday, June 06, 2008

Teacher's Pet, Or Jock?

In an al-Reuters piece that doesn't glorify the terrorists who fight against us, we learn that perhaps the role you played in high school has some bearing not only on the type of job you choose, but on your job satisfaction.

Thursday, June 05, 2008

You Know What Sucks About Graduation?

Having to say good-bye to all those kids for whom I've developed a genuine affection.

Generals, Admirals, and Field Marshalls, Oh My!

I just got home from our school's graduation ceremony, held downtown in Sacramento's Memorial Auditorium --a beautiful building that wouldn't be built in Sacramento today, because it's dedicated to those who died in the first war to end all wars, but I digress.

"Uniform" for the graduates included the appropriate cap, gown, and tassle. But wait, there's more.

Yearbook students got to wear a cord.
Newspaper students got to wear a cord.
Band students got to wear a medal hanging on a ribbon. The more band classes, the more medals and ribbons.
AVID students wore a white stole.
Honor students wore a gold stole.
Other students wore various pins, clips, and appurtenances.

Some had so much stuff on that you could hardly see the color of their gown!

Notwithstanding that we already have a Senior Awards Night at which we could present all this "stuff", all I could think of was how much some of them looked like the Joint Chiefs of Staff--or even perhaps a tinpot dicator.

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Good Thing I'm Not A Member

Massa Reg, who runs the NEA, had this to say today:

"Ideally, NEA would have endorsed a candidate during the primaries, but our members are like voters everywhere," said Weaver. "They are evenly split between Senator Obama and Senator Hillary Clinton."

That's right, folks--the NEA doesn't have anyone who would consider voting for a non-Democrat.

Good thing the NEA is non-partisan, right?

Carnival of Education

This week's is posted back home at the Education Wonks and includes my post about searching the car trunks of students at school.

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

A Tale of Three Students

Three current and/or former students of mine will not be participating in this Thursday's graduation exercises.

One will not graduate. He came by to assure me today that he's getting his stuff together by going to a junior college and will eventually become a Highway Patrolman.

Another will not graduate. His parents want him to have another year of high school eligibility for basketball, presumably so colleges can have another look.

A third will graduate but will not go through the ceremony because of his participation in some inappropriate activity.

They'll all be OK.

Monday, June 02, 2008

Tammy Bruce Filled In For Laura Ingraham Today

Usually I listen to a local talk radio show on my way to work, but as this morning's discussion didn't interest me at all, I turned over to Laura Ingraham's show. Sitting in for Laura Ingraham this morning was Tammy Bruce.

I'll pause for a moment and point out that I'm quick to lambaste liberals when they exceed any reasonable standard of decency by wishing harm on those whom they disagree with--Ted Rall and Keith Olbermann come immediately to mind. Voicing hopes that Dick Cheney has a heart attack, or that the President would just get shot, or that Reagan went to Hell--these are expressions so beneath contempt that one wonders how they could be tolerated in any company. Yet, they occur with frequency--not just on liberal blogs like Kos, Firedoglake, MyDD, and Democratic Underground, but in mainstream press and commentary (e.g., Rall and Olbermann). So much for tolerance and decency, I always say, and rightly so. And you should note that I practice what I preach in this regard (see the 1st paragraph here).

So when I heard Tammy Bruce talk this morning about Kennedy's impending brain tumor surgery, I was shocked, disgusted, and saddened. Generally I find that conservatives will at least say the right thing in such situations, if for no other reason than to be polite, civil, and decent, but what Tammy said today was what I'd expect of liberals talking about conservatives, and I've already pointed out how foul that is.

Oh, she was trying to sound nice, but she came across as an insincere you-know-what. I can't find a transcript of it, so I'll paraphrase as best I can. If anyone can find a transcript, please send me a link pronto. The segment in question was between 10 and 10:30 am EDT today. In the meantime, here's my paraphrase:

I'm not going to lose any sleep over it (Kennedy's surgery). I mean, I don't wish him any harm, but I'm not going to lose any sleep over it. There's a young woman from the 60's who'd have loved half the concern and medical attention Kennedy's getting.

That's just mean-spirited and unnecessary. If you're Joe Sixpack Blogger and say something like that, I'm not going to worry about it too much. But if you're a big voice in the conservative movement, or a talk show host that's filling in for a nationally syndicated conservative talk show host, you'd darn sure better not bring disgrace upon the rest of us conservatives.

And Tammy, disgrace is exactly what you brought us today. Shame on you. I expect more decency from a fellow conservative.