Saturday, February 28, 2009

Just Keeping Track...

...of the smartest, most well-run, most honest and pure government the US has ever had.

Update, 3/2/09: Another one! I'm beginning to believe Leona Helmsley was right--taxes are (only) for the little people.

Saturday Trivia

The answer to yesterday's question is:
Elba (in the Mediterranean), followed by St. Helena (in the middle of nowhere in the Atlantic).

Today's question is:
In today's army, what is the name of the unit immediately above a division?

Friday, February 27, 2009

Ayers and Dohrn Go To San Francisco

And according to essayist Zombietime, they get a large, friendly reception. So what's the problem?

But we ran smack dab into what I call the Ayers-Dohrn Paradox, which is:
Ayers and Dohrn gained fame as violent revolutionaries willing to commit murder and other terrorist acts in order to overthrow the United States. For that, they were greatly worshipped by the far left. Now, in their sunset years, they’re trying to re-cast themselves as “respectable” left-wing professors with “reasonable” opinions, who have long ago sworn off violence. And so, at these events, neither of them ever mentions their violent heyday, except rarely in passing. Instead, they focus exclusively on their current obsessions: Introducing Marxist thought into schools, and closing down the prison system. However, almost no one who goes to see Ayers and Dohrn gives a damn about hearing monotonous lectures on these particular topics: instead, their fans idolize them because of their violent revolutionary past. So at these events, the audience (as in this case) is full of far-far-far-left radicals who came in order to hear overheated revolutionary rhetoric. But instead, what they get is a boring professorial monologue. If Ayers and Dohrn were nothing more than your run-of-the-mill leftist professors, no one would go to their appearances. They’re coasting on their violent reputation, while at the same time trying to distance themselves from it. And that is the Ayers-Dohrn Paradox.

OK, you say--so what? I'll tell you so what!

Just like our new Attorney General Eric Holder, Dohrn and Ayers think the United States is “a nation of cowards” for not “talking about race” enough — as if 23 hours per day isn’t satisfactory. In this video (sorry about the terrible camerawork), Dohrn says she agrees with Eric Holder. Which is exactly what Obama’s detractors were saying during the campaign — that Obama would appoint people to powerful government positions who would in fact be promoting the Ayers/Dohrn philosophy. And now we know — that’s exactly what has happened.

I don't like the kinds of people the President surrounds himself with. No sir, I don't care for them one bit.

State Workers Making Minimum Wage?

If it can happen to state workers, it can happen to teachers. You watch!

State workers' pay can be cut to the federal minimum wage when lawmakers miss California's annual budget deadline, a Sacramento Superior Court judge has tentatively ruled.

Assuming the ruling stands, it's a win for Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger in a fight that started last summer when Controller John Chiang refused to cut paychecks that paid about 200,000 hourly state workers $6.55 per hour, the federal minimum. Exempt or salaried employees would get $455 a week.

"(The tentative decision) is encouraging, and it's important so that the state has the ability to control spending in tough economic times," said Schwarzenegger spokesman Aaron McLear. "But we're awaiting the court's final decision"...

The administration pointed to a 2003 case, White v. Davis, in which the court decided that state workers have the right to their full wages but the law doesn't authorize their full pay until the money is appropriated in the state budget.
Fortunately it won't happen this year, because the state now has a (crappy) budget.

Where To Go On Spring Break?

Some colleges and universities are warning students about going to Mexico because of an upsurge in drug violence there.

The U.S. State Department and universities around the country are warning college students headed for Mexico for some spring-break partying of a surge in drug-related murder and mayhem south of the border.

"We're not necessarily telling students not to go, but we're going to certainly alert them," said Tom Dougan, vice president for student affairs at the University of Rhode Island. "There have been Americans kidnapped, and if you go you need to be very aware and very alert to this fact."

More than 100,000 high school- and college-age Americans travel to Mexican resort areas during spring break each year. Much of the drug violence is happening in border towns, and tourists have generally not been targeted, though there have been killings in the big spring-break resorts of Acapulco and Cancun, well away from the border.
I went to Acapulco in August '86 and to Cancun in August '08 (pictures and commentary in the August 2008 archives). Nice places.

Teaching Students "21st Century Skills"

Every teacher has heard that phrase, "21st Century Skills". It's one of those phrases that administrators and consultants like to toss around to sound forward-looking and perhaps even impressive.

To paraphrase Shania Twain, they don't impress-a me much.

For those who have only just arrived on our planet this morning, the highly visible and well-financed 21st Century Skills movement seeks to put information and communications skills, critical thinking and problem solving “at the center of US K-12 education.” (Diane) Ravitch pointed out that the zippy name notwithstanding, most of the ideas promoted by P21 have been with us for over a century. “After examining the materials associated with P21,” she quipped, “I concluded, to quote the noted philosopher Yogi Berra, that ‘it’s like déjà vu all over again.’”

The post continues:

Bending over backwards to applaud its motives and goals, Hirsch nonetheless observed that the entire premise of 21st Century skills rests on a flawed assumption about critical thinking, problem solving and innovation: “The error at the heart of P21 is the idea that skills are all-purpose muscles that, once developed, can be applied to new and unforeseen domains of experience,” he noted. “This error is fundamental, and it is fatal,” he said.
I agree. Let's actually teach the kids something first, then let them get creative and deep with their knowledge. Let's not just say we're going to teach them something, then give them cursory instruction and let them impress impress us with their skills in using presentation software.

Friday Trivia

The answer to yesterday's question is:
Naruhito. He is the son of the current Emperor, Akihito, who was the son of Emperor Hirohito (of WWII fame)--this making Naruhito the grandson of Hirohito.

Today's question is:
After causing trouble all over Europe, Napoleon was deposed and exiled on an island (I've been to his house there, it was rather nice). He escaped from this exile, made his way back to France, and started causing trouble again during what became known as The Hundred Days--until he was defeated by the Duke of Wellington at Waterloo. He was exiled again, this time to a more isolated island. What was the first island to which Napoleon was exiled, and what was the second?

Why Everyone Should Understand Fractions

You don't want to come across as stupid as Nancy Pelosi does, do you? Regarding the potential drawdown of forces in Iraq, where 50,000 troops will remain, Madame Math says:

“I don’t know what the justification is for 50,000,” Representative Nancy Pelosi, a California Democrat and the House speaker, said on MSNBC. Noting that she wanted to hear the president’s plan, she added, “I would think a third of that, maybe 20,000, a little more than a third, 15,000 or 20,000.”

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Is This Guy A Criminal Or Not?

The jury voted 11-1 to acquit, so a mistrial was declared. I'm having trouble seeing how what he did wasn't a severe conflict of interest:

A mistrial was declared Wednesday in a fraud case against a former Los Angeles Unified School District math teacher who prosecutors said conned the district into placing a $3.7-million order to buy math textbooks he wrote...

According to prosecutors, Vheru defrauded L.A. Unified in 2004 while interim director of mathematics. In that position, he persuaded the district to purchase about 45,000 copies of an algebra book he wrote, they alleged. Prosecutors also said Vheru did not disclose to district officials his financial interest in the transaction.

As a result of the district's purchase, Vheru received about $930,000.

Vheru's attorney argued that his client obtained the proper approval from both the mathematics department and the accounting office before placing the purchase order. Disclosing royalties on book sales was not part of L.A. Unified's policy, his attorney said. He added that teachers frequently write textbooks that are used in the district.

Really? Do teachers really "frequently write textbooks that are used in the district"? I find that exceedingly hard to believe.

Japanese Scientists Not So Hot On Kyoto

A few more real scientists speak out against global warming, climate change, or whatever it's being called this week.

Why California's Budget Is So Screwed Up

Hint: it's not because Republicans are reluctant to raise taxes. It's because the state has some real, systemic problems. (And at this point I'm compelled to ask: which party has run both houses of the legislature for at least as long as I can remember?)

While many states are grappling with budget problems, none are nearly as large as California’s relative to its size--$41 billion in a state of 37 million, or $1,108 per resident. Even New York, the next most fiscally pressed state, clocks in with a mere $13 billion for 19 million residents, or $685 per capita.

There’s good reason why most states won’t fall down the fiscal black hole where California now dwells. This is a state whose politicians, public sector unions and advocacy groups have been living in a fantasy world of overspending, investment-deadening taxation and job-killing regulation. Looking out over the state’s prospects and examining the budget deal that legislators have put together (jerry-rigged as it is with revenue gimmicks and unrealistic projections), the only question is who will be begging Washington for more money sooner, the banks, the auto companies or the Terminator?

The similarities between California and the auto companies are especially striking. Neither can afford their workforce. California schools pay their employees 35 percent more on average in wages and benefits than the national average (17 percent more when adjusted for the state’s higher standard of living), a significant bite because the state funds much of local education (to the tune of $42 billion last year). Benefits are a big part of these costs. A public employee in California with 30 years of service can already retire at 55 with more than half of his salary as pension, and public-safety workers can get 90 percent of their salary at age 50.

Another budget buster is California’s spending on social services, clocking in at about 70 percent more per capita than the national average. Leading the way is state spending on cash assistance programs (that is, welfare), where the state expends nearly three times more per resident than other states. There’s a good reason for this rich budget. California’s legislature has only reluctantly embraced federal welfare reform, and for years the state has had one of the worst records in moving people from welfare to work because state law limits the ability of welfare administrators to sanction those who refuse to participate in work programs.

The rich program of social service benefits is also burdensome because of the state’s large low-wage immigrant population. As Milton Friedman observed in the mid-1990s, you can’t have porous borders and a welfare state. The incentives are all wrong. California has become a case-study in that notion. A report by economists working for the National Academy of Sciences in the mid-1990s concluded that the average native-born California household paid about $1,100 in additional taxes because of government services used by immigrants whose own taxes don’t come close to covering their cost to society. It would be very interesting to see what the numbers are today.

But California doesn’t just have a spending problem. Increasingly it also has economic and revenue problems. Even as I write this other neighboring states are running ads in local newspapers inviting California businesses to move their headquarters out of the state. That’s advertising money well spent. A poll of business executives conducted last year by Development Counsellors International, which advises companies on where to locate their facilities, tabbed California as the worst state to do business in.

There are a host of reasons why California has become toxic to business, ranging from the highest personal income tax rate in the country (small business owners are especially hard hit by PITs), to an environmental regulatory regime that has made electricity so expensive businesses simply can’t compete in California. That is one reason why even California-based businesses are expanding elsewhere, from Google, which built a server farm in Oregon, to Intel, which opened a $3 billion factory for producing microprocessors outside of Phoenix.

In the race for the exits, residents are accompanying businesses. In just one decade California made a remarkable turnabout, going from a state with one of the highest levels of net in-migration to the state with the second highest level of domestic net out-migration. Typically people either head for the exits because they are seeking more economic opportunity or because they are being driven out by high housing costs. You get a little bit of both in California because the state’s zoning regulatory schemes keep housing production artificially low and housing prices high even in a mediocre economy.


Where California goes, so goes the nation--especially with the current Congress and President--because this is what happens when you spend money you don't have.

How Whiny Can Some Teenagers Be?

I can't believe anyone would whine about this--but some college rejection letters are "too hurtful".

And some students say the new electronic rejections—some of which are little more than "Admissions decision: Deny"—feel much harsher than the traditional letters enclosed in ominously thin envelopes...

Some student posters on collegeconfidential.com have complained that after all their hard work on essays, electronic rejections can feel especially brutal. A Rice University rejectee said he felt awful when he logged on to read "Admissions decision: Deny" and then got what he called a "hard, cold" formal rejection in the mail. A Stanford rejectee said that school's preference for electronic rejections aggravated feelings of worthlessness. "They say they won't be sending you an actual letter because that would only make it worse. Ha ha like I didn't cry enough," wrote one poster.

This story also mentions some of the sillier things colleges do for those they've accepted (confetti, t-shirts, congratulatory videos, etc.), but you just have to wonder at how self-involved someone would have to be if they're upset about receiving a "hard, cold formal rejection" in the mail.

News flash to you narcissistic teenagers--much as you may not want to hear this, it's not all about you or your feelings. The college is telling you that you didn't make their cut; I'm sure they didn't go out of their way to be harsh, and neither should they go out of their way to molly-coddle you. So many students apply to so many schools; considering all the schools that you might turn down, do you spend a lot of time nicely wording a letter stating why you're going somewhere else? No, of course not.

Don't be such whiners. Get some dignity; you're responsible for your self-esteem, not some university.

Welcome to the real world, wherein you're not the center of the universe.

(I must say, though, that I like the fact that some schools post their admissions decisions online in the evenings, so students don't find out during the middle of the high school day and react there.)

Update: Here's a related story:

An Oxford University student killed himself just hours after being told his PhD thesis needed to be improved, an inquest has heard.

A coroner was told how former Buddhist monk Juncnok Park hanged himself after what he saw was a colossal disappointment and an embarrassment.


This student, however, was 37 years old.

Thursday Trivia

The answer to yesterday's question:
Chrissie Hynde

Today's question is:
Who is the crown prince of Japan? (Bonus if you know his relationship to WWII emperor Hirohito.)

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Yale Halts Pay Raises

The recession has hit the Ivy League!

Faculty, managerial, and professional employees with salaries below $75,000 will continue to be eligible for merit increases of up to 2%. But there will be no increases for those with salaries above $75,000, including all deans, directors, and University officers. Foregoing the increases announced previously will allow us to preserve more staff positions.


Read more.

So Much For That Transparency In Government

The Obama administration has directed defense officials to sign a pledge stating they will not share 2010 budget data with individuals outside the federal government.
In an undated non-disclosure agreement obtained by Defense News, the administration tells defense officials that “strict confidentiality” must be practiced to ensure a “successful” and “proper” 2010 defense budget process.

More hopenchange I can believe in. What would lefties had called it if President Bush had required something like this? Fascist.

Teenage Prostitutes

I'd have been surprised by this story if I hadn't had experience with the topic before.

A British teen earned up to $20,000 in two months working weekends as a prostitute, a court was told Wednesday, according to the Daily Mail.


I used to teach at a junior high that offered some, uh, interesting experiences. Would you like to hear a few of them?

One girl used to cut school with friends to go break into people's houses. They found a firearm in one, and while playing with it she got shot and almost died. She lost a lot of intestine as well as her reproductive organs.

I had a student who transferred from another school. After a week he died playing Russian Roulette.

I had two 8th grade students who were mothers.

I had a student who feigned pregnancy, knowing her father would kick her out of the house--right into the house of the boyfriend the father didn't want her to date. This ruse lasted several months.

And I had two students who were picked up in downtown, during school hours, for prostitution. Unlike the linked story above, though, I doubt they made much money.

Carnival of Education

This week's is posted here and includes my post about the Oregon law banning snack and soft drink machines in Oregon schools--including in the teachers' lounges.

Wednesday Trivia

The answer to yesterday's question is:
Arizona, Utah, Colorado, and New Mexico.

Today's question is:
Who was the lead singer for The Pretenders?

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

A Ripe Old Age

I got a call from one of my aunts tonight. Grandpa's 97th birthday--no, that's not a typo--is next week, and he wants to go to Hometown Buffet for dinner on Sunday.

The stories that man tells, especially from his childhood in Arizona....

Advanced Placement Spanish in Middle School

AP classes are supposed to be college level courses, yet here's a middle school (junior high) offering AP Spanish:

A middle school in Southern California is spending $10,000 a year to teach Advanced Placement Spanish to 35 of its 650 students -- and all but one of them are already fluent in Spanish.

Thirty-four of the kids in the AP class are from Mexico or are the children of Mexican immigrants. They all grew up speaking Spanish at home.

The program -- the only one of its kind in California -- has outraged some critics who say they are concerned that the AP course wastes public resources – including taxpayer dollars – to teach native Spanish speakers how to speak their native language in an American public school...

Lemon Grove principal Ambler Moss says his school is the only middle school in California to implement the AP class, which he believes will boost the students’ confidence because they already have an edge.

It's always about the self-esteem, isn't it?

Well, the concerns about this program are self-evident, so I won't go into them here. But where have I heard the name Lemon Grove before?

Ah yes, I heard it in one of my bilingual/multicultural courses back in the Fall of 2002. According to Wikipedia:

The Lemon Grove Incident was an incident that occurred in 1930 and 1931 in Lemon Grove, California where the local school board attempted to build a separate school for children of Mexican origin...

The landmark lawsuit resulting from the "Lemon Grove Incident" became the first successful school desegregation court decision in the history of the United States...

In the decision, the judge ruled that children of Mexican origin could not be segregated under the laws of the state of California because they were "of the Caucasian race", and that as such, laws allowing the segregation of "Oriental", "Negro", and "Indian" children did not apply.

This Advanced Placement Spanish story indicates that the pendulum in Lemon Grove has swung all the way to the other extreme in the past 78 years.

ROTC Returns to Colgate

Thirty-plus years later, it's back. Small, but back.

Baby steps.

This Guy Could Have Been Our Secretary of Education

On Bill Ayers, via Drudge:

Ayers to Alan Colmes: Obama Making 'Colossal Mistake' sending additional troops to Afghanistan
Mon Feb 23 2009 14:00:00 ET

In an exclusive interview airing tonight on Hannity at 9:00pm ET on FOX News Channel, Bill Ayers spoke with Alan Colmes on a wide range of issues including his past with the Weather Underground and President Obama...

On setting bombs as part of the Weather Underground:

"I don't regret anything I did it to oppose the war. It was -- I did it to oppose the war. I don't regret it."

"I don't look back on those things and regret them, but I'm willing to rethink them. And there are many things which I'm going to rethink."

One man's domestic terrorist is another man's mentor and potential Presidential Cabinet Secretary.

Tuesday Trivia

The answer to yesterday's question is:
International Business Machines (Corporation)

Today's question is:
What four US states meet at Four Corners?

You Say You Want A Revolution

Behold, the final result of too many Oliver Stone movies and liberal arts degrees. If this is what today's university students think is making "meaningful change", it's no wonder they voted for the current president.

The comments are priceless.

Revolutionary NYU Food Court Occupation. sigh

Monday, February 23, 2009

I Thought This Was A Gay Event

Come on, calling an event Pink Friday--what the heck was I supposed to think?

March 13 is the deadline for school districts to issue preliminary pink slips to California's teachers. Last year, more than 10,000 teachers got pink slips and nearly 5,000 lost their jobs. And this year could be much worse.

Please join us on Friday, March 13 and Stand Up for Schools.
What You Can Do
1. Wear pink on Friday, March 13 to show your support for public schools, students and educators.

2. Organize or attend an event at a school near you.

3. Call or e-mail your Legislator. Tell them that investing in public education is an investment in California's future.

Go take a look-see at the web site. It's certainly not easy to tell that this is a CTA-created event, is it? Who, then, is running this so-called grassroots event?

Whatever. Back to the event.
1. I will not wear pink that Friday. I don't have anything pink. If I did, it wouldn't be pink. It would salmon, or something. And I don't have anything salmon, either.
2. While I'm hoping not to be pink-slipped, I will not be organizing or attending any such events. Unlike our friends on the left, I recognize the need to cut costs--yes, even in government!
3. My legislators would tell me they understand that "investing" in public education is good for California. That, however, doesn't pay today's bills. Shouldn't we now be reaping the benefits of previous "investments" in public education?

OK, so I'm not thrilled at this organized "event". I'd prefer to go to a "pink slip party", have a few drinks, and eat snackies. At least something positive would come from that event--I'd be fed, and I'd forget the pain of being laid off for a few hours.

CTA really needs someone more adept at naming events.

CTA's Solution To California's Budget Problem

The following thought occurred to me while reading page 4 of the February mouthpiece rag of the CTA: why can't ole Si Se Puede himself just be honest and call it a tax increase?

It's long past time for lawmakers to stop playing partisan politics and pass some viable revenue increases for K-12 and higher education.

Of course! Especially during a recession, the smart thing to do is to raise taxes. We don't want to call it "raising taxes", because that's unpopular, so we speak innocuously of "revenue increases". Remember, California teachers--like it or not, this guy speaks publicly for you. Raising taxes is the idea that your union proposes.

Who Will Give This Speech Today?

What I wouldn't give to have a Republican such as this one, whose moral clarity and understanding are so obvious. What I wouldn't give to have someone like this to vote for now.



Listen to what he says about the appeasement of enemies. Do you remember all those who said that our involvement in the Middle East will "inflame the Arab Street", whatever the heck that means, and that we should try to understand why they're so angry at us? Do you remember those who said that we cannot win in Iraq or Afghanistan? Do you remember who said that the insurgents in Iraq were modern Minutemen, and they would win?

There is a time for diplomacy, and a time for war. Diplomacy should not mean appeasing our enemies, and President Reagan understood that. Diplomacy should be an attempt to get what we want short of war. You cannot appease a dictator, or those who act like dictators.

At the end of this clip Reagan mentions the role of government, and our duty as Americans. These beliefs, ladies and gentlemen, encapsulate what it means to be a conservative.

Monday Trivia

The answer to yesterday's question is:
Bismarck

Today's question is:
What do the initials for the company IBM stand for?

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Sunday Trivia

The answer to yesterday's question is:
Suzie (various spellings are allowed)

Today's question is:
What World War II German battleship sank (or was possibly scuttled to avoid capture) and was discovered on the ocean floor by Dr. Robert Ballard of Titanic fame?

More Craziness In English Schools

It's hard to believe these people were ever smart enough to colonize and civilize a good part of the planet when you read things like this:

Children are being encouraged to imagine they are suicide bombers plotting the July 7 attacks as part of the Government's strategy to combat violent extremism.

The exercise is part of a teaching pack aimed at secondary school pupils that has been adopted by the Department for Children, Schools and Families. It requires children to prepare a presentation on the July 7 atrocity – in which 52 innocent people died – "from the perspective of the bombers".

They are asked to summarise the reasons why they thought the bombers wanted to carry out their attacks and even suggest some more.

Fortunately, someone sane has put a stop to it.

The government has apologised for causing offence as it withdrew a school pack asking pupils to think about the 7 July attacks from the bombers' view.

The new teaching pack, launched by Calderdale Council in West Yorkshire, had been recommended by ministers as a way of addressing controversial issues...

The government has admitted the pack was "misguided and inappropriate".
You don't say.

Roddenberry Got It Wrong

Every fan of Star Trek knows that Starfleet Academy is located at the former Presidio of San Francisco, and that Starfleet Headquarters is located across the Golden Gate Bridge in the Marin Headlands (clearly seen in ST IV, known colloquially as "the one with the whales").

Every fan of Star Trek is wrong. Starfleet Headquarters will be located in Tehran.

Reader and former student John sent me this link for proof.

On February 3, Tehran placed its indigenous satellite into orbit -- joining an elite group of countries capable of both producing satellites and sending them into space using domestic launchers.

What's that have to do with Starfleet Command? Go to the link above and look at the satellite's logo, which will also appear on Iranian coins and currency. (Side note--I totally have to get some of those coins!) Do you notice any similarity? Might Paramount sue for some form of copyright infringement?

This would be funny if it weren't so serious. Iran is not now, nor has it ever been, just another Middle East country, one that's important only because it has oil under its sands. It's a large, populous, relatively modern and educated country, one that can be a valuable ally or a violent foe. Unfortunately, for the past 30 years it has chosen to be the latter.

Should Iran throw off its fundamentalist Islamist shackles and return to the company of civilized nations, the world would be a better place--and so would Iran. If it does not, and continues to be a threat, perhaps a new empire, with a new logo, might emerge to diminish that threat. Notice which side of the planet is shown in the ascendancy. =)

A Scary Thought Experiment

Here is an experiment for you. Grab your copies of 1984 and Atlas Shrugged and meander though their pages. Now read the headlines of the day. Are there any differences? Any at all? link

I haven't read Atlas Shrugged yet, but I should. 1984 terrifies me. It, and Goldwater's Conscience of a Conservative, explain why I believe in limited government and why I am most assuredly not a liberal. They explain why I was against the porkulus package, why I weep for California, and why I consider myself more of a conservative than a Republican.

Sea Ice

Here's a post about Antarctica and sea ice, here's a post about Arctic sea ice, and here's a story about faulty sensor readings that underestimated the amount of Arctic sea ice by an area the size of California.

No, I'm definitely not a global warming alarmist.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Saturday Trivia

The answer to yesterday's bonus round:
Margaret's short-term husband was LTC Donald Penobscot.

The answer to yesterday's question is:
Christ the Redeemer statue

Today's question is:
With whom did Elton John have so much fun holding hands, skimming stones, and doing the Crocodile Rock?

Unions To Merge

EIA reports on some interesting anagrams that could result if the NEA, Change To Win, and AFL-CIO were to merge. The most apropos? A Conceit Flaw.

So Much For Human Rights, Lefties

"Human rights cannot interfere with the global economic crisis, the global climate change crisis and the security crises," Clinton said in talks with China's foreign minister. link

At least we know where the President's priorities are.

Skiing Yesterday

I went skiing yesterday; as of right now there are only 7 muscles in my body that are not sore.

Here's the picture I took of Castle Peak when I went at the end of December,
and here's the picture from yesterday.

In the interim, all that snow over there was gone. What you see came from storms in about the last two weeks.

Update, 2/25/09: The friend I went skiing with just called and said I should credit him for taking the second picture. Credit is hereby given.

Why I Weep For California

Two links at NewsAlert were so harsh that I felt hit below the belt: the first, a Wall Street Journal piece, compares California's welfare state to France, while the second refers to California as the Michigan of the West.

Now there's much to recommend the Old World. California brings to mind my last home, France -- God's country blessed with fertile soil for wines, sun-blanched beaches, and a well-educated populace. Amusingly, both states are led by bling-bling immigrants married to glamorous women and elected to shake up the status quo. In both departments, the governator got a head start on Nicolas Sarkozy in Paris.

The parallels are also disquieting. The French have long experienced the unintended consequences of a large public sector. Ask them about it. As the number of people who get money from government grows, so does the power of constituencies dedicated to keep this honey dripping. Even when voters recognize the model carries drawbacks, such as subpar growth, high taxes, an uncompetitive business climate and above-average unemployment, their elected leaders find it near impossible to tweak the system. This has been the story of France for decades, and lately of California...

California's constitution locks in higher spending in good years, paving the way for huge deficits in the down. A dependence on a highly progressive tax code leaves it particularly vulnerable to boom and bust cycles. Democrats run the legislature. Across the street from the Capitol, the offices of unions and lobbyists are arguably the real locus of power in Sacramento...

California is in a French-like bind: unable to afford a welfare-type state, and unable to overhaul it. "The people say they want all these programs, then there's nothing they want to pay for," says Hector De La Torre, a Democratic assemblyman. "The schizophrenia in the legislature reflects the peoples'"...

Some Democrats and Republicans privately say the best option may be failure. The rough scenario is fiscal insolvency, followed perhaps by federal receivership. No precedent or legal avenue exists for a state to reorganize its affairs under a form of Chapter 11 protection, but that striking suggestion sounds better by the day.


That's from the Journal. Let's see what's in the other link:

If the future happens in California, we all should tremble at its ever-expanding debt, falling credit ratings, crushing pension obligations, suffocating regulation, and rising taxes — with environmentally preening, ill-considered restrictions on carbon emissions thrown on top. California Democrats are only slightly ahead of national Democrats, so the country’s fiscal future may be in preview in Sacramento...

California has roughly doubled its budget during the past ten years...

The politicians aren’t entirely to blame, although at every sign of the unsustainability of the state’s fiscal practices their reaction has been to resort to more gimmicks and borrowing. California’s voters have recourse to an initiative process they have used to make responsible budgeting as hard as possible. They passed a proposition in the late 1980s that basically locked up half of state spending for the schools, no matter what. Even in November, with fiscal disaster looming, they passed another $10 billion in bonds for high-speed rail, apparently on the theory that a state can never have enough debt.


Let's not forget $6 billion in embryonic stem cell research, because that's a high priority for California government. But I digress....

The new budget deal will cut about $15 billion in spending and raise roughly the same in taxes, including the car tax over which Schwarzenegger pounded Davis in 2003. The deal has its worthy provisions, but fundamentally it is more of the same. California will remain overtaxed, overregulated, and overburdened by a public sector that is the state’s sole boom industry...

Schwarzenegger now governs the Michigan of the West. California has the fourth-highest state unemployment rate in the nation and is routinely ranked among the worst states in its business environment. Almost 1.5 million more nonimmigrants have left the state than moved to it during the past ten years.

Once, Schwarzenegger was supposed to be a model for a more appealing, more moderate Republican Party — socially liberal, yet fiscally conservative. All he has demonstrated is, to paraphrase Barry Goldwater, that moderation on the road to fiscal ruin is no virtue.


Lest you non-Californians want to laugh at those of us out here on the Left Coast, I remind you--this is exactly where the federal government is headed. Where, exactly, is the Speaker of the House from? And have you seen any signs of fiscal sanity (or even knowledge) from the president?

I need to think more about moving back to Colorado. Seriously.

Playing The Race Card Again

Will stories like this ever go away? Maybe they will when people who remember the pre-1964 (Civil Rights Act) days are all gone. Or maybe I'm just hopelessly naive.

The highest-ranking black congressman said Thursday that opposition to the federal stimulus package by southern GOP governors is "a slap in the face of African-Americans."

U.S. Rep. James Clyburn, D-S.C., said he was insulted when the governors of Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi and his home state, which have large black populations, said they might not accept some of the money from the $787 billion stimulus package.


He was insulted because some governors didn't want to burden businesses with the additional requirements that would come with the money--the concern given by (ethnically Indian, dark-skinned) Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal. I notice Clyburn didn't seem to have a problem with Alaska's Republican governor's not accepting the money. Why can Alaska legitimately turn down the money, but not Southern states? Yes, we already know the answer.

Gotta read down in the article, though, to find this bit of spin:

Clyburn spokeswoman Hope Derrick later said Clyburn didn't mean he thought those governors were racially motivated in their opposition, but that rejecting stimulus money would hurt black residents.

I'm calling BS on that. This idiot was playing the race card, pure and simple.

Hey, Clyburn! Get this through your fat head. It's not all about your skin color, dude. That's so 40 years ago.

Carnival of Education

This week's is hosted at Thoughts On Education Policy and includes my parody about the teacher who got fired for spending a Massachusetts quarter at school--because this quarter clearly shows a firearm on the reverse.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Friday Trivia

I'm going skiing today and will post the answer to yesterday's question when I get back tonight.

Not wanting to keep folks waiting, though, I'll schedule this post to appear at 4pm.

Today's question is:
What new Wonder of the World is located near Rio de Janeiro, Brazil?

Update, 6:46 pm: Skiing weather was perfect. Ski conditions were exceptional. I don't think I had to wait in a lift line until after lunch, and even then they were only a couple minutes. I'll post a picture or two later.

As for yesterday's trivia question, so many got it right--Major Margaret "Hot Lips" Houlihan. Bonus round: She got married during the course of the series; what was her husband's name?

Thursday, February 19, 2009

What Do The English Know About Tanning?

In California, we just know how to do it. In England, you can apparently take tanning classes in school.

Someone let the Malfoys know.

Obama--Feigned Outrage at Bush Policies?

Two consecutive stories at Instapundit sure could give one that impression:

After trashing President Bush for not spending enough money for Katrina cleanup, President Obama signed a huge porkulus bill with not one cent dedicated specifically to Katrina cleanup.

Immediately after that post is one stating that the new president plans on indefinite detentions of terrorism suspects.

I guess these are OK because it's now H instead of W.

Update, 2/21/09: Oh, look, here's another for the hopenchange crowd!

HOPE, BUT NO CHANGE: “Many people, myself included, hoped that Barack Obama’s popularity abroad would enable the administration to get increased cooperation from our allies, thereby making key US foreign policy objectives easier to achieve. These hopes took a major blow recently when European NATO allies rejected the Administration’s call to send more troops to Afghanistan.”


What, Mr. Smooth-talking Diplomacy can't make everyone love and support us? Who knew?

Update #2, 2/21/09: But wait, there's more!

A Pentagon review of conditions at the Guantanamo Bay military prison has concluded that the treatment of detainees meets the requirements of the Geneva Conventions but that prisoners in the highest-security camps should be allowed more religious and social interaction, according to a government official who has read the 85-page document.

The report, which President Obama ordered, was prepared by Adm. Patrick M. Walsh, the vice chief of naval operations, and has been delivered to the White House. Obama requested the review as part of an executive order on the planned closure of the prison at the U.S. naval base at Guantanamo Bay, on the southeastern tip of Cuba. (boldface mine--Darren)

So what, exactly, is wrong with that prison camp?

Update, 2/22/09: Here are even more examples of things Obama excoriated President Bush for but now is adopting himself.

Layoffs or Pay Cuts?

According to an editorial in the major Sacramento newspaper, districts should be looking at the latter.

In the meantime, my district continues to sit on $80 million of reserves--and the state only requires us to have $10 million. About 25% of our teachers are expected to receive layoff notices next month.

California Budget and Debt Is All Republicans' Fault

Despite having elected a few Republican governors, California is a Democrat state. Both houses of the legislature have been controlled by Democrats for as long as I can remember.

Still, though, all of California's problems are caused by Republicans, at least according to the major Sacramento newspaper. It's because Republicans don't want even higher taxes on Californians that we have such a crushing state debt and no budget (at least, not one before a few hours ago). No way is it the fault of Democrats, who continue to spend and spend and spend.

If you don't see a bias in these two editorials, you're definitely a liberal. Here's the first:

State Senate Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, Senate Republican leader Dave Cogdill, Assembly Speaker Karen Bass, Assembly Republican leader Mike Villines and Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger have all made concessions on a deal to bridge most of the $40 billion gap...

The deal would have become law days ago if California, like other states, permitted a majority vote to pass a budget or raise taxes. Sadly, that is not the case. Because of the state's two-thirds vote requirement, a handful of Republican senators have blocked passage, even with polls showing that Californians are willing to support tax increases.

This page is no fan of the secretive "Big Five" process that produced this compromise, so we understand why some GOP senators have criticized it. But let's be real: Republican senators are not trying to kill this deal – details of which have been public for several days – because of its closed-door origins. Most are opposing it because far-right bloggers and radio hosts are threatening to recall Republicans who vote for a tax increase.

Get that? We're in deep doo-doo because of Republicans, who take their marching orders from "far-right bloggers and radio hosts". Of course, to the libs, there's no such thing as a "moderate-right blogger or radio host". These editors would certainly never refer to "far-left bloggers" or to NPR or the former Air America as "far-left radio". It's no wonder lefties support the so-called Fairness Doctrine.

Here's the second, excoriating Republicans for replacing their squishy leader in the state senate:

The circular firing squad of the Senate Republican caucus claimed another victim Wednesday – Sen. Dave Cogdill of Modesto.

GOP senators ousted Cogdill as leader because he dared put the state's interests above his caucus's no-tax pledges, and negotiated the best compromise he could craft to close the state's $40 billion budget shortfall.

A handful of senators shamefully replaced Cogdill with Sen. Dennis Hollingsworth of Murrieta, who immediately signaled that taxes were a no-go. That provided the red meat that anti-tax activists demanded, which was the whole point of Cogdill's ouster.

You'd almost think that higher taxes were a good thing, and damn the Republicans for not wanting to raise them.

What was that Boston Tea Party thing all about, anyway?

Thursday Trivia

The answer to yesterday's question is: googol.

Today's question is:
In the movie and TV series M*A*S*H, what was the nickname of the chief nurse?

Kids and Coins

I've received permission from the editor to post this article in full--because I like the subject matter.

Even kids know that money doesn’t grow on trees, but a lucky few who are students at the John Quincy Adams Middle School in Metairie, La., received some free money in the form of over 1,000 encapsulated John Quincy Adams Presidential dollar coins Jan. 20.

They were a gift presented by coin dealer Paul Hollis of Mandeville, La., to honor the school’s principal, Dr. Cheryl Milam.

Hollis attended the suburban New Orleans school two decades ago.

“One of my greatest educational experiences was the gifted and talented program at Adams, and I have always wanted to do something to express my gratitude,” Hollis said.

The mixture of proof and high-grade Mint State coins was encapsulated by Numismatic Guaranty Corporation. The coins were distributed with certificates explaining their historical significance and also congratulating Dr. Milam, who was named “2008 Principal of the Year” by the Louisiana Department of Education.

The certificates were printed by Crane & Co., the firm that produces paper for the nation’s paper money.

“Dr. Milam was an amazing teacher when I attended Adams from 1984 to 1986,” said Hollis.

“She helped encourage and foster my creativity and taught me so much. She even helped me start my first business, opening a salad bar at the school during my lunch break. I catered to the faculty, and it was a great experience for me.”

Nearly 1,050 encapsulated Adams dollars were distributed to students at a brief, special school assembly.

“Handing out all the coins was a real thrill for me, and I think the students really loved them,” said Hollis.

He gave Dr. Milam a proof Adams dollar graded NGC PF-69 Ultra Cameo and housed in a wooden box with a gold-colored metal label engraved, “Congratulations Louisiana’s Principal of the Year – Dr. Cheryl Milam.”

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

California, The Iron Pyrite State

When I was young, I was proud to say I was from California. It was the place to be from, a land of opportunity in a land of opportunity. California seemed to have it all.

But lo, how the mighty have fallen.

If you thought Washington's stimulus debate was depressing, take a look at the long-running budget spectacle in California. The Golden State's deficit has reached $42 billion, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger is threatening to furlough 20,000 state workers (go ahead, make our day), and as we went to press yesterday Democrats who control the legislature had blocked lawmakers from leaving until they finally get a deal.

It's sad to watch. The Golden State -- which a decade ago was the booming technology capital of the world -- has been done in by two decades of chronic overspending, overregulating and a hyperprogressive tax code that exaggerates the impact on state revenues of economic boom and bust. Total state expenditures have grown to $145 billion in 2008 from $104 billion in 2003 and California now has the worst credit rating in the nation -- worse even than Louisiana's. It also has the nation's fourth highest unemployment rate of 9.3% (after Michigan, Rhode Island and South Carolina) and the second highest home foreclosure rate (after Nevada)...

The tax increases will continue to chase even more productive people out of the state. For at least two years, the sales tax would rise by one percentage point to 8.25% and the income tax by 0.3% to a top marginal rate of 10.56%. These will both be the highest statewide rates in the nation (see chart).


We used to say, "As California goes, so goes the rest of the nation." I pray that's no longer true.

Differing Takes on Reviving The So-called Fairness Doctrine

Again, President Obama says he's against it. However, I've already posted about how he might try to implement it anyway.

Wednesday Trivia

The answer to yesterday's question is Yellowstone National Park, created on March 1, 1872, by President Grant.

Today's trivia question:
What is the name of the number that has a 1 followed by 100 zeroes? (spelling counts)

One Way To Keep The Achievement Gap Down...

...is to ensure that bright students don't progress as far or as fast as they could.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Tuesday Trivia

The answer to yesterday's question is:
Kissing.

Today's trivia question:
Which was the first US National Park?

A Fellow Math Spirit

Just reading the top of this guy's blog, I know I'm going to like a lot of what's there:

I believe that mathematics should be taught, not collaboratively explored; algebra and geometry are better than a vague course of Integrated Math; spiraling doesn't work nearly as well as learning it properly the first time; "I don't DO math" should be an incentive rather than an excuse. "I don't DO English" should be treated the same way.


Of course, the name of the blog doesn't hurt, either.

No Twinkie For You, You Socialist!

It's oh so gratifying to watch lefties, especially unionized lefties, get bitten by the rules they so happily impose upon others. Let's read about it straight from the Education Intelligence Agency:

Teachers testified before the state House Education Committee “seeking changes to a 2007 law restricting the sale of soda, fruit juices and high-calorie snack foods in schools. It turns out that the law, intended to combat an obesity epidemic among Oregon’s children, had the unintended consequence of pulling the plug on vending machines inside teacher lounges.”

Laurie Wimmer Whelan, lobbyist for the Oregon Education Association, said “whether a teacher wants to buy a bag of peanuts or a cookie shouldn’t be a legislative issue.”

Welcome to the Nanny State you helped create, OEA.
My favorite lines in the article linked at EIA were these:
Doreen Powers, who teaches fourth grade at Butternut Creek Elementary School in the Hillsboro district, said the law treats teachers like children.

"We are adults," she said. "We have rights."

Not when you give them up to a government who knows better than you do, honey. It's for your own good.

This is a poster child for socialism.

College Professor Calls Anti-Gay-Marriage Student a "Fascist Bastard"

Joanne has the story, and it's a good one:

Halfway through a speech opposing gay marriage, Jonathan Lopez’s community college instructor told him to stop, calling him a “fascist bastard,” the Los Angeles student charges.

A suit has been filed, of course. How could one not be, when this is an attitude present on campus:

In the letter, Dean Allison Jones also said that two students had been "deeply offended" by Lopez's address, one of whom stated that "this student should have to pay some price for preaching hate in the classroom."

I get offended by speech all the time--some of it could even be classified as hate speech. Doesn't mean the speaker should be subject to official sanction.

Update, 2/24/09: Here's more commentary on the topic, from the always-interesting Erin O'Connor.

University Administrator Pay

I don't know anyone who thinks our colleges and universities are better run than they used to be, who thinks the rising costs of a university education--higher than inflation for many years now--is justified and reasonable. Is it easier now, or harder than it used to be, to complete a bachelor's degree in four years? Is the education our students get any better than it used to be?

Are university presidents doing such a great job that they deserve the significant pay they receive? (And I'm not talking about private universities here--they can pay whatever they want. I'm talking about public universities, supported by the taxpayers.) And what are they doing that justifies performance bonuses, even as they raise tuition by double digit percentages each year?

The taxpayers should insist that something yield.

(Hat tip to NewAlert for the link)

Class Envy

Corporate officers make too much money--according to our egalitarians on the Left. Someone should pass a law limiting their pay to some small multiple of their workers' pay, they say.

Health care costs are going through the roof. Government should step in. If not price controls on the free market, then just take over the entire health care industry. Because Washington can run health care better than Blue Cross or Kaiser. There shouldn't be a profit motive in the health care industry.

Americans don't want to buy as many American cars as they used to. Let's keep the American car makers in business, but dictate to them what kinds of cars to make! And let's insist that they continue to pay homage to the UAW. And no, their CEOs cannot fly on a corporate jet. In fact, they should fly coach and wear sackcloth.

Witness, boys and girls, how easy it is to stoke up some class envy. Let's conveniently forget, though, that we Americans are the envy of the world--that we are as rich to most people on the planet as these CEOs are to us. If someone were able to enforce upon us all the class envy-based restrictions that are being contemplated for our own rich, we'd all lose.

We are the rich. What might you have to give up so some dirt-scratching farmer in Ethiopia can have just a little less of a reason to hate you?

Too Extreme For George McGovern and Camille Paglia

Democrats who think the so-called Fairness Doctrine is a good idea should realize they're way to the left of George McGovern and Camille Paglia--and that's saying something. McGovern's appeal is high-minded and philosophical, whereas Paglia brings up Berkeley and the free speech movement. They're both right.

Update: Listen to a liberal try to defend the so-called Fairness Doctrine.

Green Credentials--I Waste More Heat Than You Do

It's not hypocrisy every time someone says one thing and does another; all of us fail to live up to our own ideals sometimes. It is hypocrisy, though, when someone makes a big deal about one thing, and secretly does another. Like these:

THEY may shout their green credentials from the rooftops, but some of Britain’s most prominent environmental champions are living in homes that produce up to half a ton of excess carbon dioxide a year.

An audit of properties, measuring heat loss, has revealed that Chris Martin, the pop star, Boris Johnson, the mayor of London, and Sir David Attenborough, the broadcaster, are among those who reside in homes that are “leaking” energy. Some lack even the most basic energy saving measures such as cavity wall insulation and double glazing.

Thermal images of the residences of 10 high-profile green campaigners found that their heat loss was either worse or no better than that found in the average family home.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Monday Trivia

The answer to yesterday's question was the drachma. It was used in Greece, in one form or another, for about 2500 years.

Today's question is:
"Philematology" is the science or study of what?

Update, 2/17/09: OK, I'll post entertaining answers early. If it looks like a real attempt at an answer, I'll hold off until I post the answer and the new question.

Finally, A Useful iPhone App

Unfortunately, its use is illegal in Nevada.

Nevada gambling regulators have warned casinos in the state about a card-counting program that works on Apple Inc.'s iPhone and iPod Touch that illegally helps players beat the house in blackjack.

Card counting itself is not illegal under Nevada gambling laws, but it is considered a felony to use devices to help count cards.


I don't have, want, or need an iPhone--at least not at current prices.

Update: and I'm not the only one writing about the iPhone today.

Would You Want Government-Provided Health Care During A Recession?

I wouldn't. I wouldn't want my life to hang in one end of the balance, and the state or national budget to hang in the other end.

I don't believe the British and Canadians are stupid people. I don't believe they intentionally created failing medical systems. But they have. Why we think we could do any better than they have is far beyond me. Talk about arrogance! They've had decades to fine-tune their systems, and look what they get for it. Click on the socialism tab below for more. And then think about that kind of system in an economic downturn....

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Sunday Trivia

The answer to yesterday's trivia question is Jordan. Crown Prince Abdullah, now King Abdullah II, was a fan and was given a non-speaking appearance in an episode of Voyager.

Today's question is:
What was the currency of Greece immediately prior to the adoption of the euro?

Update, 2/16/09: Unless someone has a better idea, I'm going to hold off posting the answers until I post the next day's question. That way, everyone has a chance to participate without being influenced by other answers.

Many correct answers on this question :-)

Oil Down, Gas Up

I blame President Obama!

Crude oil prices have fallen to new lows for this year. So you'd think gas prices would sink right along with them.

Not so.

On Thursday, for example, crude oil closed just under $34 a barrel, its lowest point for 2009. But the national average price of a gallon of gas rose to $1.95 on the same day, its peak for the year. On Friday gas went a penny higher...

"Drivers are being ripped off even more now than before," said Stuart Pollok, who was filling up recently at a Chevron station in downtown Los Angeles. He pointed out Exxon Mobil Corp. reeled in billions in profits last year when oil prices neared $150.

Others see the conspiracy reaching higher.

"It got really low during the elections and now it's going back up," said Christel Sayegh, a 23-year-old graphic designer in Los Angeles. "They do that every election, though, right?"


Conspiracy? With Chicago politicians running the executive branch? Never!

(You know what? This "blaming the President for everything" business is easy--and great fun! I can see why the lefties did it for the last 8 years. I think I'll enjoy it for awhile.)

Saturday, February 14, 2009

New Feature--Trivia!

Let's see how long I can keep going with a daily trivia question. You have to *know* the answer, you can't just look it up--but since there's no enforcement mechanism, we'll just go with the honor system.

Tonight's question:
The current monarch of which country appeared, while still the crown prince, as an uncredited extra on an episode of Star Trek: Voyager?

How The Sacramento Region Ranks Academically

According to the major Sacramento newspaper, we're about in the middle.

How well students are prepared for college – and how well they perform once there – varies greatly across California. And the Sacramento region mostly runs in the middle of the pack.

That's what Sacramento State researchers found in a new report analyzing college readiness and enrollment in 14 state regions and among the major ethnic groups.

The study – "The Grades Are In 2008" – found that California's place as a national leader in higher education is declining largely because the state's fastest growing regions are poorly educated.

The students at the school at which I currently teach do fairly well, and for the most part I enjoy teaching them. The issues I have at my current school are with the adults, not the students.

Maybe I'm Wrong

Maybe where we're headed isn't socialism.

[T]he state is getting more and more deeply involved in business, even taking controlling interests in some private companies. And the state is even trying to “make policy” for private companies they do not control, but merely “help” with “infusions of capital,” as in the recent call for salary caps for certain CEOs. So state power is growing at the expense of corporations.

But that’s not socialism. Socialism rests on a firm theoretical bedrock: the abolition of private property. I haven’t heard anyone this side of Barney Frank calling for any such thing. What is happening now–and Newsweek is honest enough to say so down in the body of the article–is an expansion of the state’s role, an increase in public/private joint ventures and partnerships, and much more state regulation of business. Yes, it’s very “European,” and some of the Europeans even call it “social democracy,” but it isn’t.

It’s fascism. Nobody calls it by its proper name, for two basic reasons: first, because “fascism” has long since lost its actual, historical, content; it’s been a pure epithet for many decades. Lots of the people writing about current events like what Obama et. al. are doing, and wouldn’t want to stigmatize it with that “f” epithet.

Second, not one person in a thousand knows what fascist political economy was. Yet during the great economic crisis of the 1930s, fascism was widely regarded as a possible solution, indeed as the only acceptable solution to a spasm that had shaken the entire First World, and beyond. It was hailed as a “third way” between two failed systems (communism and capitalism), retaining the best of each. Private property was preserved, as the role of the state was expanded. This was necessary because the Great Depression was defined as a crisis “of the system,” not just a glitch “in the system.” And so Mussolini created the “Corporate State,” in which, in theory at least, the big national enterprises were entrusted to state ownership (or substantial state ownership) and of course state management. Some of the big “Corporations” lasted a very long time; indeed some have only very recently been privatized, and the state still holds important chunks–so-called “golden shares”–in some of them.


Sound like anything you've seen recently?

Calvin and Hobbes On The Economy

Is there anybody who doesn't like Calvin and Hobbes?

No Internet Connection!

This is a very bad weekend for my dsl modem to die.

And based on prior experience with my ISP, from whom I apparently have to purchase a new correctly-configured (for their network) modem, I'm going to be without internet service for awhile. And since this is a 3-day weekend for most folks, I'm probably shafted until Tuesday.

I went to the local mall, where the food court features free internet (!), but couldn't get any connectivity there. I crossed the street to Starbucks, but since my gift card hadn't been previously registered online, I couldn't get access there. I was surprised to find my local library open today, so here I sit, letting you know that it's possible I won't be doing any posts or even posting comments for the next few days.

You can keep checking back before Tuesday--who knows, I may get lucky--but I'm not holding my breath.

Update: The modem is now working, through no effort of mine or that of my ISP. Let's hope it stays that way.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Layoffs

One local district will be notifying all teachers hired since 2002 that they are subject to being laid off.

A Debate Between Ronald Reagan and Barack Obama

I tear up listening to Reagan's words in this video, about as much as I did when I visited the Reagan Library.

The comparison between Reagan's words and Obama's words is stark.

Ski Week

My district gets the entire next week off for "Presidents Week". The unofficial name, of course, is Ski Week. I love to go skiing mid-week, when the slopes are relatively empty. Sadly, though, weather forecasts are pretty bad for next week, with snowstorms each day. It always seems to snow less, and/or less hard, than early predictions, so I'm thinking that next Friday is looking pretty good.

Paying Off The Unions

What little transparency President Bush and his Labor Department were able to bring to union financial shenanigans is being cast aside by President Obama:

I applauded President Barack Obama's commitment to a new era of openness. He pledged, "Let me say it as clearly as I can: transparency and the rule of law will be the touchstones of this presidency."

Then why is he helping unions hide information from their members?

Over the last eight years, former Secretary of Labor Elaine Chao modernized the reports the unions file under the Labor-Management Reporting and Disclosure Act. These reports are posted online, and provide union members with detailed information about union income, expenditures, officer salaries, and other financial information. The requirements, initially championed by John F. Kennedy when he was a senator, require unions to operate in a transparent fashion with their members. This transparency has helped publicize some questionable spending by union officials, including huge outlays for booze, movie tickets, steak dinners, golf outings, and equestrian dinner theater (yes—a horse show with food).

The Dept. of Labor recently updated the annual disclosure form that most large unions are required to file. One revision required unions to report the value of benefits paid to officers and employees in order to provide an accurate picture of compensation received by union employees.

On January 30, the Obama administration announced plans to delay implementation of the rule by 60 days. The office is also seeking comments "on the merits of rescinding or retaining the rule."

And that’s not all. An AFL-CIO memorandum obtained from Obama’s transition team details organized labor’s wish list for the new administration.

The AFL-CIO’s “Priorities for Day 1” include halting implementation of disclosure rules than have not gone into effect—a recommendation Obama followed with the January 30 rule delay.


Especially in a state like California, where financially supporting a union is a condition of employment whether or not I choose to be a member, can anyone honestly argue that unions should not have to detail how their (extorted) money is spent?

Porkulus--But We've Got To Do Something

"But we've got to do something!" That's about the stupidest excuse for porkulus that I can imagine. "Something" is not always better than "nothing", and it's not always better than "something else". The Captain of the Titanic, after colliding with the iceberg, could have ordered the rear of the ship flooded, too--it would keep the ship balanced! That would be "something", but I don't think anyone could reasonably argue that that would have been smart. Or imagine this: there's a gas leak, let's light a match to see where it is!

Notes to President Obama:
1. "Bipartisan" means more than "I won so do it my way."
2. Campaigning is different than governing. Please learn the difference, quickly.
3. You are now being judged on your actions, not merely your rhetoric. And this action is a mistake. And I'm not the only one who thinks so:

The compromise economic stimulus plan agreed to by negotiators from the House of Representatives and the Senate is short on incentives to get consumers spending again and long on social goals that won't stimulate economic activity, according to a range of respected economists.

"I think (doing) nothing would have been better," said Ed Yardeni, an investment analyst who's usually an optimist, in an interview with McClatchy. He argued that the plan fails to provide the right incentives to spur spending...

Another reason that some analysts frown on the stimulus is the social spending it includes on things such as the Head Start program for disadvantaged children and aid to NASA for climate-change research. Both may be worthy efforts, but they aren't aimed at delivering short-term boosts to economic activity.

"All this is 25 years of government expansion jammed into one bill and sold as stimulus," said Brian Riedl, the director of budget analysis for the Heritage Foundation, a conservative policy research group.


I applaud the House Republicans for voting against this as a bloc, as was done with President Clinton's first budget. And what happened in the next election?

I hope Republicans in the Senate vote against this, even if the Three Stooges (Specter, Collins, Snowe) continue to be suckered into voting for it.

Student Catches Mistake On State Test

Considering the amount of time and effort that go into state tests, there absolutely should not be glaring errors in them. Yet a student in Kansas found a fairly large one.

Note the topic was greenhouse gases. Why do we have to go all "pop culture" in these tests? Is there nothing less polarizing that could go into these tests?

To the person who commented at the linked article that this is only a story because the student is white and not black or brown: you, sir or ma'am, are an idiot.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Mathematicians Discover Largest Number

From Iowahawk:

An international mathematics research team announced today that they had discovered a new integer that surpasses any previously known value "by a totally mindblowing shitload." Project director Yujin Xiao of Stanford University said the theoretical number, dubbed a "stimulus," could lead to breakthroughs in fields as diverse as astrophysics, quantum mechanics, and Chicago asphalt contracting.

"Unlike previous large numbers like the Googleplex or the Bazillionty, the Stimulus has no static numerical definition," said Xiao. "It keeps growing and growing, compounding factorially, eating up all zeros in its path. It moves freely across Cartesian dimensions and has the power to make any other number irrational."


Oh yes, it continues. Click, read, laugh, then sigh.

"Claims Heterosexuality Was A Factor"

I'm not sure how to react to this one:

Central Michigan and its women's basketball coach are being sued by a former player, who claims her heterosexuality was a factor in losing a scholarship after two seasons.

Brooke Heike said she fell out of favor with Sue Guevara immediately after the coach was hired in 2007.

Heike said Guevara told her she wore too much makeup and was not the coach's "type." That meant she wasn't a lesbian, according to a lawsuit filed last week in federal court in Bay City.

Why You Should Know At Least A Little Math

If you don't, you could end up as dumb as this Verizon call center employee--and his supervisor.

WARNING warning WARNING

If you have a low tolerance for stupidity you may not want to listen to this. It's painful. Honestly.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Teacher Fired For Spending A Quarter At School

Edie Oats, WI--First-year teacher Susan Potts was placed on unpaid administrative leave pending termination from her position at Forked Tongue Middle School for paying for a lunchtime snack with a Massachusetts state quarter.

"We have a strict zero-tolerance policy regarding firearms, and the Massachusetts quarter has a firearm depicted on it. A teacher, of all people, should know better than to bring such items on campus," said Superintendent Stew Pid.

Pid was referring to the Massachusetts quarter, released in 2000 as part of the US Mint's extremely popular 50 State Quarters Program. The Massachusetts quarter clearly shows a minuteman carrying a firearm.

"I thought all money was acceptable at school," said Potts. "I just wanted a rice cake and gave the cafeteria lady some coins, one of which was the quarter in question. It never occurred to me to 'screen' my money, and I had no idea the cafeteria ladies were trained to look for people spending this particular quarter."

Potts referred to a recently-instituted anti-violence program at school, the Cafeteria Workers Against Rotten Teachers Endorsing Rifles, or CWARTER.

"The CWARTER program is an effective anti-violence campaign implemented at all our schools," according to Superintendent Pid. "We've trained all our cafeteria ladies to be on the lookout for money with weaponry on it."

After spending the inappropriate quarter, Ms. Potts was placed on unpaid administrative leave. Next Tuesday she will plead her case before the school board, which is expected to terminate her employment immediately.


OK, that didn't really happen. Want to read what idiotic thing really did happen to a Wisconsin teacher? Try this post at Joanne's.

A middle school teacher has been placed on leave for posting a photo of herself with a rifle on her Facebook page, reports WKOW 27 News in Wisconsin.

Compare that with the first paragraph I wrote above. Hard to tell which is real and which is parody, isn't it?

Update, 2/12/09: Well, that was fast:

The Beaver Dam teacher, placed on leave for what District officials deemed an “inappropriate” picture on her Facebook page, finally returned to class. The district investigated and she won’t face any more discipline. You can read the update to that story here: http://www.wkowtv.com/global/story.asp?s=9821639

You might think that would be the end of it, but you would be wrong:

The teacher’s union and the District are going to get together to come up with a policy at what teachers can and cannot post on their private Facebook page.

Amazing. If I were a teacher in that district, they could bite me.

Just as interesting, though, is this tidbit:

What I do find interesting now is that the union supported the action taken by the District and now, they’ll sit down to discuss policy.

That woman paid money to a union that supported her suspension when she did nothing wrong. I could go on an anti-union rant here, but I couldn't harm them any worse than they've harmed themselves in this case.

Wal*Mart--Still Helping The Poor and Middle Class After All These Years

I've said it before and I'll say it again: Wal*Mart has done more to alleviate the effects of poverty than any government program ever has. From low prices to $4 prescriptions to attempts to put medical clinics in their stores, Wal*Mart allows consumers to stretch their dollars seemingly to the snapping point. So what's next? Well, it's tax season, so...

The Wal-Mart Foundation yesterday announced a $3.6 million grant to provide free tax prepararion services for taxpayers earning less than $56,000 per year through Mobile Tax Center vans which will be set up in various Wal-Mart parking lots for two to three weeks at a time between February 10 and April 11. Wal-Mart is partnering with the United Way and One Economy Corporation to offer this service.


But Wal*Mart is still an evil, greedy corporation, right, lefties?

THIS Is The Right Way To Get More Minorities On Your Campus

I don't support lowering standards for anyone. As a taxpayer I foot the bill for a lot of the cost of our higher education system, and the best way for me to get my money's worth is for it to be spent on the most highly qualified people we can find to attend our universities. We aren't getting the most highly qualified people when we lower standards through affirmative action.

Outreach, on the other hand, is not only preferable, it's a great idea.

Top administrators from California State University will be speaking at African American churches throughout the state this weekend as part of their campaign to encourage more black students to apply to its 23 campuses...

They will talk to students, parents and community members about topics such as preparing for college, applying to CSU and obtaining financial aid.


This type of activity reminds me of an old saying: a hand up, not a hand-out.

Even More Change You Can Believe In

Renditions are bad--until Obama is President, and then they're not only OK, they make a lot of sense.

So does detaining terrorism suspects indefinitely.

Again, I have no problem with the policy. I fault those who said it was bad when it was President Bush's policy but acceptable when it's President Obama's policy.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Need A Teaching Job?

I hear there might be a few openings up in Shasta:

A group of 15 teachers and administrators at Shasta Lake School, who've been playing the state lottery together for seven years, picked the winning numbers for a $76 million SuperLotto Plus jackpot that was drawn on Saturday.

No Grades or Grade Levels--Until High School

Sure, let kids work at their own pace and even solicit their input in lesson planning. Let them think that learning is one big kumbayyah fest--and then let high school slap them in the face.

For starters, when the elementary and middle-school students come back next fall, there won't be any grade levels – or traditional grades, for that matter. And those are only the most visible changes in a district that, striving to reverse dismal test scores and a soaring dropout rate, is opting for a wholesale reinvention of itself, rather than the incremental reforms usually favored by administrators.

The 10,000-student district in the metropolitan Denver area is at the forefront of a new "standards-based" educational approach that has achieved success in individual schools and in some small districts in Alaska, but has yet to be put to the test on such a large scale in an urban district...

The district is training teachers to involve students in the lesson plan in a far greater way than before – the students articulate their goals and develop things such as a code of conduct as a classroom. And when children fall short of understanding the material, they keep working at it. The only "acceptable" score to move on to the next lesson is the equivalent of a "B" in normal grading – hopefully showing proficiency and giving kids a better foundation as they move on to more advanced concepts. Advocates sometimes describe it as flipping the traditional system around so that time, rather than mastery of material, is the variable...

Scheduling is a big one (complication). It's also unclear what will happen if large numbers of kids arrive in high school still unable to demonstrate proficiency in certain subjects, like math, and a bottleneck gets created. Since no student can move forward without a "B" equivalent, it's also essentially impossible for students to have lower than a 3.0 GPA, which could be a challenge to explain to colleges.
I'm cynical about such projects. It will be interesting to see how this turns out.

Maybe They Learned It From The Mob?

OK, part of me says that some kids probably could use a little corporal punishment, and some could use some sergeant punishment, too, if you get my drift! But this seems a little extreme--and it's from the district whose superintendent is now President Obama's Secretary of Education.

Hundreds of students have allegedly been beaten by teachers, coaches and staff at Chicago Public Schools. 2 Investigator Dave Savini continues his ongoing investigation involving the illegal use corporal punishment...

An exclusive CBS 2 investigation discovered Treveon Martin is one of at least 818 Chicago Public School students, since 2003, to allege being battered by a teacher or an aide, coach, security guard, or even a principal. In most of those cases - 568 of them - Chicago Public School investigators determined the children were telling the truth...

The 2 Investigators found reports of students beaten with broomsticks, whipped with belts, yard sticks, struck with staplers, choked, stomped on and pushed down stairs. One substitute teacher even fractured a student's neck.

But even more alarming, in the vast majority of cases, teachers found guilty were only given a slap on the wrist...

"Any founded allegation where an adult is hitting a child, hitting a student - they're going to be gone," (former superintendent and current US Secretary of Education Arne) Duncan said.

But that's not what happened under Duncan's watch. Of the 568 verified cases, only 24 led to termination. Records show one teacher who quote "battered students for several years" was simply given a "warning" by the Board of Education...

There is a state law that bans corporal punishment. But as our 2 Investigators first exposed in September - students are being hit by coaches too. Paddles were confiscated, and CBS 2 exposed gym security tape at Simeon Career Academy showing a coach paddling volleyball players reportedly for missing serves.

I don't think I really need to add anything here.

Shaming Your Kid Into Good Grades

Kid gets bad grades, so his parents make the kid wear a poster board sign outside for two hours.

Watch the video. These parents don't come across as nutjobs--they come across as knowledgeable and caring. They even gave the kid's teachers a shout-out!

When asked if he'd learned his lesson, the boy replied that standing outside holding that sign "sucks" and he didn't want to be out on that corner anymore. If that motivates him to do what he was supposed to do, great.

Don't criticize until you watch the video and see what the parents tried prior to this punishment. Then if you have a better solution than the one they finished up with, I'll be happy to entertain it.

Monday, February 09, 2009

When You Don't Know How To Solve A Projectile Motion Problem...


...flatter the teacher with a cool castle and impressive weaponry, and throw in a cetacean for good measure.

Yes, I received permission from my student to post this here.

Stupid Is As Stupid Does

Joanne has a great post that starts with this question: Can students use technology to learn new things if they lack a base of knowledge?

Go read about the poor endangered Pacific Northwest Tree Octopus if you want to be both entertained and saddened at the same time. It will come as no surprise to my readers that I fall into the "you've got to teach them something before they can think critically about it" category. Remember, technology is not a replacement for having your own knowledge and judgement.

Just as entertaining as Joanne's post, though, was this comment:

KateC wrote:

> The internet has made us stupider.

Oh, I’m sorry but as an elder statesman from a time before the Internet I can assure you that the quantity of stupid hasn’t changed.

Think of the Internet as a “stupid” telescope.

Previously inaccessible examples of stupid are now instantly transmitted across time and space. This gives the illusion of an increase in the volume of stupid when in reality stupid is neither created nor destroyed merely passed, like a treasured family heirloom, from one generation to the next.

But the power of technology now allows us to feel smarter then people from countries we’ll never visit and whose language we don’t understand. So while the principle of conservation of stupid is inviolable the forms in which stupid is expressed are ever changing, ever evolving.

This modest satire brought to you by a grant from the Pew Charitable Trust whose motto is “we’re better the you”.
I liken this situation to calculator usage as well. If the only way you get the answer is "that's what my calculator says", then you've learned nothing.

Where The Porkulus Money Will Go...

...according to the Congressional Budget Office: click here, and then click the picture again, if necessary, to enlarge it.

National Review Online offers up 50 reasons to disapprove of the porkulus package.

"Fixing" Urban Education

Today I came upon two different articles which discussed "urban education"--put another way, "teaching poor kids".

Joanne has a post that compared two different attempts in North Carolina:

To improve the performance of low-income students, Wake County, North Carolina’s largest district, uses busing to integrate its schools by socioeconomic status. One in six students is bused at a cost of $541.56 per student.

Charlotte-Mecklenburg, the second largest district, runs neighborhood schools that serve affluent kids in the suburbs, poor kids in the downtown. Millions of extra dollars go to improve high-poverty schools.

Which system works better? According to the Raleigh News & Observer, both systems are equally unsuccessful.


Coincidentally, RotLC reader Mazenko forwarded to me this column by DC Public Schools Chancellor Michelle Rhee, in which she says, "[T]eachers are the solution to the vexing problems facing urban education. "

I don't often say this, but I disagree with Michelle Rhee here. Looking at the failed solutions in Joanne's post, we can either assume that both the districts in North Carolina completely screwed up (not out of the realm of possibility, especially in public education), or something else is at work. I vote for Option B, and I'll even tell you what the answer is: The problem isn't the school, it's the culture.

And that explains why Rhee is mistaken. Her statement could be corrected thusly: Teachers are a necessary, but not sufficient, part of the solution to the vexing problems facing urban education.

And therein lies the answer to why so many students, especially lower income students, do so poorly--as a society we only address the school component.

Update, 2/10/09: And look what the major Sacramento paper reported Sunday.