Monday, October 31, 2011

How Will CTA Spend Its Money?

According to EIA:
The state affiliates are acting in the same fashion as NEA. The California Teachers Association suffered a 4.2 percent loss in active membership even before the latest round of layoffs. The loss of revenue prompted CTA to sell off three of its 35 regional resource centers. Yet the union budgeted $3.9 million for its media fund, maintained its $36-per-member initiative fund and its $20-per-member "advocacy" contribution, and recently approved a $2 increase to the union's candidate PAC. CTA currently collects $18.45 per member in PAC money. Unlike federal PACs or PACs in many other states, California PACs are allowed to deduct contributions from paychecks along with union dues, so that objecting members have to request a refund.

Democrats control all the levers of power in California, so it is not entirely clear where CTA plans to spend this money, though it is well-positioned to launch a tax increase campaign, and may also seek to temper Gov. Brown's more radical ideas. (boldface mine--Darren)
Will the snake bite its own tail?

Income Inequality

Does it exist? You might say, "Yes! Of course!", but economics professor Mark Perry would say, "Not so fast":
Bottom Line: Whether we look at Census Bureau data on Gini coefficients [a statistical measure of dispersion that quantifies income inequality on a range from 0% for complete equality to 100% for complete inequality where one person receives all of the income] for U.S. households, families, or year-round workers, or look at the share of income going to the top fifth of Americans, there is absolutely no statistical support for the commonly held view that income inequality has been rising recently. So why are we even having this national debate about solutions to the "non-problem" of rising income inequality. Is this another "imaginary hobgoblin" (see below)?

H.L. Mencken: "The whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed (and hence clamorous to be led to safety) by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, all of them imaginary."

Fighting Street Crime With Math

Oddly enough, this was exactly the plot of the episode of Numb3rs I saw last night:
UCLA mathematicians working with the Los Angeles Police Department to analyze crime patterns have designed a mathematical algorithm to identify street gangs involved in unsolved violent crimes. Their research is based on patterns of known criminal activity between gangs, and represents the first scholarly study of gang violence of its kind.

A "Jobs" President

Not every regulation of business is bad, but how much more regulation do we really need?
The roots of today’s economic troubles are hinted at in a new Gallup Poll of small business owners, which finds compliance with government regulations tops their “problem list.”

Bigger businesses say the same. No one’s forgotten that Vegas resorts mogul Steve Wynn called Washington “the greatest wet blanket to business, and progress and job creation in my lifetime”; or that Bernie Marcus claims he could not have built Home Depot in the regulatory environment of today.

Consumer Electronics Association President Gary Shapiro this month called today’s White House the “most anti-business administration in my lifetime.” Even Apple’s Steve Jobs reportedly gave President Obama an earful on regulation, invoking impediments to manufacturing in the U.S and more.

Continental Energy CEO Harold Hamm, rebuffed by the president when describing the sheer torrent of domestic energy available and accessible, told the Wall Street Journal that Washington keeps “a regulatory boot at our necks and then turns around and asks: ‘Why aren’t you creating more jobs.’”
He's smarter than these guys, he know what this country's economy needs.

Are Polar Bears Really Drowning?

Outside of alarmist literature, I've never seen anything that remotely implies that polar bear populations are in danger--or are even declining.
Remember the U.S. government report report five years ago that polar bears were drowning? Kassie Siegel, director of the U.S.-based Center for Biological Diversity, cited the report in her call to place the polar bear on the endangered species list. Never mind that we now have 5 times as many polar bears today than we did 50 years ago. We must take action immediately. Based on one report. Because that’s how science works. One report is all it takes to leap to a conclusion that may cost society billions.

In December 2006, Kassie Siegel told the Ottawa Citizen: “This is a watershed decision in the way this country deals with climate change. The science of global warming and the impact to polar bears are so clear that not even the Bush administration can deny that polar bears are threatened with extinction because of global warming.”

Well, it turns out that report was likely crap. The Office of Inspector General of the U.S. Department of the Interior is investigating the veracity of the report.

College Admissions Myths

I'd rather these come from an admissions officer than newspaper reporters, but take them for what they're worth:
1. It’s best to set your heart on one school and really go for it.
2. The tuition price listed in brochures is what everyone pays.
3. The admissions department adores you.
4. It’s best to crowd your application with a volume of extracurriculars.
5. It’s better to have a high GPA than to take difficult classes.
6. Essays don’t really matter much in the end because grades and test scores are so dominant in admissions decisions.
7. Recommendations from famous people can give an applicant a huge boost.

I'm Not The Only One Who Thinks The "Occupy" Crowd Is Way Off Base

His points about corporations, about consumerism, about 401(k)’s, are right on.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

A Unified Theory

For all the physics buffs out there, here's a unified theory of left-wing causes:
Isn’t it interesting that no matter what the current global crisis is, according to leftists, the solution is always the same: a benevolent world dictatorship of the enlightened elite, and mass transfer of wealth from rich nations to poor nations.
Interesting that I pointed out the same thing 2 years ago, only without the physics language.

Global Warming Science Is Settled?

Not yet it isn't:
Read the whole article, but the real conclusion is this: Judith Curry, a co-author of these four papers, has now gone on record repudiating not the papers themselves, but the press associated with the papers. This will be a black eye for the Berkeley Earth Project, and in all probability for Prof Muller. Worst of all, it means that the integrity and validity of what should have been an important confirmatory study is now questionable.

Instead of a truly useful study, Muller’s use of the press has simply added to the climate food fight.
If it's settled, why do these people repeatedly have to resort to lying and subterfuge to make their point?

Update: Just learned about this site.

Update #2, 10/31/11: More on Muller's paper:
Very few if any skeptics assert that the earth is still in the Little Ice Age. While the Little Ice Age raged from approximately 1300 to 1900 AD, it is pretty well accepted that the Little Ice Age did indeed end by approximately 1900 AD. The mere fact that the Little Ice Age ended a little over 100 years ago, and that temperatures have warmed during the course of recovering from the Little Ice Age, tells us absolutely nothing about the remaining components necessary to support an assertion that humans are creating a global warming crisis.

Muller himself admits, “How much of the warming is due to humans and what will be the likely effects? We made no independent assessment of that.”

So we have a paper merely claiming that two out of three global temperature stations report the Little Ice Age is over...

Even prominent global warming advocate Eric Steig admits, “Anybody expecting earthshaking news from Berkeley, now that the Berkeley Earth Surface Temperature group being led by Richard Muller has released its results, had to be content with a barely perceptible quiver. As far as the basic science goes, the results could not have been less surprising if the press release had said ‘Man Finds Sun Rises At Dawn.’”
I continue to think we're in a cyclical warming pattern.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

I Will Not Be Volunteering For This Training

Two months ago I told you about a bill working its way through the halls of the Capitol, a bill that would allow--well, just reread that post here. It's now the law in California:
Authorizes a school district to provide school employees with voluntary training in rendering emergency medical assistance to pupils with epilepsy suffering from seizures, including rectal administration of Diastat; and allows a parent of a pupil with epilepsy to request the school to have an employee receive the training if the pupil suffers a seizure when a nurse is not available.
Again, my fear is that this will eventually become mandatory training. I most certainly will not volunteer for this.

You've Got To Love The Hypocrisy Here

Gotta love it when CTA complains about "tax fairness", or the lack thereof:
California has the second-highest foreclosure rate and the second-highest unemployment rate in the nation behind Nevada. There are 2.2 million unemployed people in California — 12.1 percent of the population — many of whom have exhausted their 99 weeks of unemployment benefits months ago. Due to the housing crisis and unemployment, California has the highest rate of small business failures, ranks 40th in the nation in child homelessness, and has 2.2 million children living in poverty. According to a report from the Center for American Progress, California is among the three top states seeing an increase in hunger due to the recession. Our state has the eighth-largest economy in the world, but ranks 43rd in per-pupil education spending. Our schools have undergone unprecedented cuts and layoffs in recent years.
Just for giggles, which political party has run California for most of my life? And which political party does over 90% of CTA's political donations go to?

Just sayin'.

But wait, it gets better:
Joining a groundswell of support from fellow unions, community leaders and students throughout the country, CTA proudly supports the Occupy Wall Street movement, which is in favor of tax fairness and against corporate greed.
This from an organization that doesn't produce anything, that legally compels and extorts money from teachers who don't want to pay them, and that doesn't pay any taxes at all on that money.

I've said it too many times to count: consistency is not a strong suit of the left.

Nothing To Do With The Teachers Union, But It's A Great Story

I enjoyed this story in the October issue of California Educator:
Want the latest news about your school district right on your smartphone? Now there’s an “app” for that — at least in one Bay Area school district, thanks to the inventiveness of two high school students.

The Fremont Unified School District students have created the first iPhone application for a school district in California. Andrew Han and Sumukh Sridhara, both seniors at Mission San Jose High School in Fremont, came up with the idea and ran with it, says Han’s journalism teacher at the high school, Sandra Cohen.
The best part of the story is that it comes with no union whining or cheerleading.

CTA Embarrasses Itself Again

A couple years ago I wrote about a CTA commercial I heard on the radio--one that contained an obvious grammatical error. The current issue of California Educator has a similar error, only this time in words listed on a whiteboard in a picture. A fellow teacher/blogger emailed me, saying, "How did no one catch this?" Unless and until they change the picture, you can see it here.

It's a tradegy that they're not more careful.

Free Speech? Yes. Hate Speech? That Depends On Who You Ask.

I think we can all agree that he wasn't very civil:
A Kent State University professor allegedly with former ties to a jihadist website shouted “Death to Israel” at a public lecture delivered on the Ohio campus by a former Israeli diplomat.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

It's The End Of The World As We Know It, And I Feel Fine

Some people think global warming is upon us and that we're doomed. I don't really think so; at least, I'm not yet convinced that's true. What I am convinced is true is that both California and the US as a whole are going to go broke if our spending habits don't change, and the math on that subject is airtight--much more so than the "science" of global warming.

Several years ago, Governor Schwarzenegger tried to reform California's broken, underfunded, and overpromised pension system, and he got royally trounced. Interestingly enough, Governor Brown has just proposed some of the very same things Schwarzenegger did:
Gov. Jerry Brown will propose a higher retirement age and less-generous pension benefits for newly hired state employees, sources familiar with Brown's pension plan said Wednesday.

The Democratic governor, who plans to release his pension plan today, will also propose prohibiting the purchase of additional retirement service credit, or "airtime."

The plan, as presented privately by the Brown administration to labor leaders Wednesday afternoon, includes increasing the full retirement age to 67 for most new workers not in public safety jobs.

The increased retirement age proposal is more aggressive than expected, and labor interests, which poured millions of dollars into Brown's gubernatorial campaign, are likely to bristle at the prospect.

Brown's plan includes replacing defined-benefit pensions for new employees with a mandatory "hybrid" system combining a smaller, defined benefit, Social Security and a 401(k)-style benefit.

Though Brown's pension plan includes some of the same ideas he discussed with Republican lawmakers in failed budget talks in March, Brown was thought at the time to be considering the "hybrid" system only as an option for employees.
Unions pumped millions into Brown's campaign, I wonder how they'll handle this? Here's my prediction for the California Teachers Association: they wail about how this is the end of the world, and if it passes, they'll claim it's a wonderful compromise which shows how serious Brown and the Democrats are about putting the state on solid financial ground. They'll pump millions into his next campaign.

Of course, this may never come to pass. Brown, like his predecessor, is learning that he has to work with the Legislature, and a more dysfunctional organization can scarcely be found. They'll still pump millions into Brown's next campaign.

It's not just California that's going broke:
So, in order to prevent the debt situation from expanding, and depending upon which economist you trust concerning the multiplier effect, federal spending must be reduced to somewhere between $2,085 trillion on the high end and $1.344 trillion on the low end. And here are the current big-ticket items:

$761 billion - Social Security
$468 billion - Medicare
$269 billion - Medicaid
$598 billion - Unemployment/Welfare
$679 billion - Department of Defense + Foreign Wars

So, this is why the Tea Party and the Republican Party cannot possibly salvage the situation They're not proposing the end of ANY of these major programs even though the nation can only afford to keep two of them, three in the unlikely event that both Defense and Social Security are entirely junked. Since that's not going to happen, given the way in which the incompetence of politicians presently inhabiting Washington aren't willing to even consider such drastic action, the financial collapse of the US federal government is assured.
The numbers don't lie. And there's no unexplained/not-yet-understood science here to cause doubt.

Update, 10/28/11: And it starts:
Even as Gov. Jerry Brown announced his plan Thursday to reduce pension benefits for public employees across the state, its prospects of passing intact appeared dim.

California's powerful labor interests objected to major parts of the plan, and the leaders of the Democratic-controlled Legislature – neither of whom attended Brown's announcement – reacted warily...

Brown's record of legislative accomplishment does not suggest great likelihood of success. Republican lawmakers blocked his bid for a bipartisan budget deal and for passage of a tax and jobs plan this year.

Opposition to his pension plan is likely to come primarily from fellow Democrats.

Update, 10/29/11: Uh oh.
What about CalSTRS?

Despite two years of lobbying from the teachers' retirement fund, a plan to shore up CalSTRS' finances was missing from Gov. Jerry Brown's pension reform proposal this week.

The California State Teachers' Retirement System faces a long-term shortfall of $56 billion – the gap between assets and estimated liabilities. The fund has been quietly pushing a plan to increase taxpayer contributions, and has stepped up its campaign in recent weeks.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

We've Created A Generation of Wussies

We've taught kids how to feign offense at the slightest thing, and we've taught them that they should impose their feigned offense on others. Why should we be surprised when they do so?
An Ohio university is funding a student-led campaign to denounce what they consider to be racially offensive Halloween costumes – ranging from Geisha girls to terrorists.
One of the posters shown displays an Asian girl holding a picture of someone dressed in a geisha costume, with the slogan "This is NOT who I am, and this is NOT OKAY." A second one shows a guy I think we're supposed to assume is Middle Eastern, holding a picture of someone dressed as a suicide bomber, with the same slogan.

First off, who says that these costumes represent you, you little narcissists? Who made you the center of the world? Hey, chick in the poster, are you a geisha? Then you're right, the costume doesn't represent you--so now tell me why it's not OK? And guy, if you're not a suicide bomber, well, same point.

“Don’t dress up like a Guido,” she (a spokesperson) said. “That’s offensive to Italian Americans. Don’t dress up in black face. That’s offensive to African Americans.”

So what about dressing up like a rapper or someone from the Jersey Shore? Sheeley said that kind of costume would actually be appropriate.

“It’s different if you are saying I’m Snooki or dressing up as Obama,” she said. “It’s difficult when you cross the line between being someone specific and just being a representation of a culture. That’s a lot different than saying I’m a Guido.”
Who says anyone is dressing up to "represent" a culture?

Gawd, these whiners are a bit much, even for my steel-lined stomach. (Or was that comment offensive to people from Pittsburgh?)

This Can't Be, Not In California!

But, but, we're so progressive and egalitarian and wonderful out here:
California generally - and the Los Angeles and San Francisco Bay Area specifically - have higher levels of household income inequality than the nation as a whole, according to a new Census Bureau statistical analysis.

More On the Protesting Morons

I'm sure some of their points are valid--a stopped clock is right twice a day, after all--but for the most part they're "mockworthy":
After we’ve taken care of their wealth, to keep the nation happy and prosperous we should pass a law making it illegal for there to be a wealthiest 1 percent -- this country should just be the normal 99 percent.

Sure, that isn’t mathematically possible, but government shouldn’t be about what’s possible; it should be about what’s fair.
This, to me, is more valid:
NEW YORK (CNNMoney) -- Occupy Wall Street protesters might say they represent 99% of the nation, but there's a growing number of Americans who are making it clear they are not part of the dissident crowd.

They call themselves the in the 53% of Americans who pay federal income taxes. And they are making their voices heard on Tumblr blogs, Twitter and Facebook pages devoted to stories of personal responsibility and work ethic.

The number originates in the estimate that roughly 47% of Americans don't pay federal income tax, according to the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center. The 53 percenters stress the fact that they are paying the taxes that support the government assistance the protesters say they want.
How many engineering or computer science--or even math!--majors are out there among those protesters?

Education Buzz

This week's is here, and includes my post about reteaching a topic I clearly hadn't taught well enough.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

State University, or State Resort?

Here's a book with a provocative title, one that will appeal to at least one long-term reader of this blog:
Club College: Why So Many Universities Look Like Resorts
The Kindle version is free, and since it's due to be released in less than a month, I'll try to remember to download this.

For Those Who Think We Aren't Yet Regulated Enough...

Let's read what Gallup has learned:
Small-business owners in the United States are most likely to say complying with government regulations (22%) is the most important problem facing them today, followed by consumer confidence in the economy (15%) and lack of consumer demand (12%).

Rounding out small-business owners' top five problems in the Oct. 3-6 Wells Fargo/Gallup Small Business Index poll is lack of credit at 10% and poor leadership by government and the president at 9%.
As the Estonian Economics Minister was quoted as saying in this article in the German magazine Spiegel:
If all you do is administer, nothing comes of it. The state must clear the way for those who want to achieve something. That's the function of the state.
You don't clear the way by adding more regulatory hurdles. It's sad that in this country that's considered a "conservative" viewpoint.

Bail Out Banks? No! Forgive Student Loans? Yes!

Uh, no. And fortunately, most of the country agrees with me on this particular "demand" of the Occupy This crowd:
The latest Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey finds that just 21% of American Adults think the federal government should forgive the nearly $1 trillion in loans it made or guaranteed to help students pay for a college education.
You took those loans out to get degrees in Art History, Aggrieved Victim Studies, Political Science, or Literature, and wonder why you can't get a job? And you want me to pay for your degree? No, thank you. Those degrees are personally enriching, but if you expected them to make you rich, you in all likelihood aren't smart enough to be in college in the first place.

Pay your own bills. Oh, and take a shower.

School Taken In By Hoax

It happened at Smith College:
All last week, students at Smith College were buzzing over a rumor that the school was going completely vegetarian and locavore. There were protests and counter-protests, with slogans chalked on walkways. There was a Twitter feed that caught the attention of VegNews, “America’s premier vegan lifestyle magazine.’’ At a student government meeting, the dining services manager came under attack: How did she expect students to pass their midterms without coffee?

But the Smith administration wasn’t really planning to ban meat, food from outside New England, or anything else.

The whole thing was a hoax - one in a decade of annual pranks perpetrated by professors Jay Garfield and Jim Henle as part of their introductory class in logic. The point is to teach rhetoric and argument, albeit in an unorthodox way. Logic classes get dry. Typically, students spend a lot of time working through inscrutable proofs on the chalkboard.

So Garfield and Henle try to liven things up by inventing a rumor just this side of believable, then assigning their 100 students to convince the campus that it’s real by whatever means the students think will be most effective - fliers, Facebook campaigns, word-of-mouth.
No harm no foul, right?

Milton Friedman on Why Soaking The Rich Won't Help

Monday, October 24, 2011

EIA's Quote of the Week

"The NEA's position is no surprise. Although its liberal members support federal mandates for special education, desegregation and a hundred other things, God forbid they should be judged by federal standards on the little matter of whether their students are actually learning anything. The union prefers the status quo, where they use their muscle and sophistication to turn every state and local accountability effort into mush." - Columnist Jonathan Alter. (October 20 Bloomberg)

What Is The Point Of College Entrance Tests?

One might think that the point of such tests would be to determine who the best and brightest are, and to make sure they get educated. One would also be wrong.

Up until some time in the 1990's, the SAT was a good proxy for "intelligence", ill-defined though that term my be. In fact, until fairly recently, Mensa accepted those older SAT scores in place of an IQ test when considering people for membership. ETS changed the SAT in the 90's. I can no longer find a reference on Mensa's web site regarding SAT scores.

But what's the college-related purpose of the SAT? Despite all the sticks and stones thrown at it, it's still a good predictor of freshman-year academic performance at college. Is that information not valuable?

In addition to the SAT or the ACT, there are some specific subject-matter tests that students can take--to demonstrate proficiency, in theory the same way an Advanced Placement test might demonstrate proficiency. Isn't that a good idea, to know how "academically sound" a potential student is? Keep in mind that according to California's Master Plan for Education, the UC system is supposed to take students in the top 10-12% of their high school class. Doesn't it seem that testing is the way to identify those students? UC must not think so:
A major change in freshman admission requirements for the University of California this year was supposed to ease the burden of standardized test-taking for high school seniors and allow more students to apply.

But the new rules have caused widespread confusion and anxiety among students about whether to take the supplemental tests known as SAT subject exams. To boost their chances of UC admission, thousands of high school seniors are taking the subject exams even though the university has dropped them as a requirement, starting with applications for next fall. UC still requires scores from the main SAT test or its rival, the ACT.
Coincidentally, or perhaps not coincidentally, 1/3 of college students need remediation, even at UC campuses:
The percentage of freshmen needing remediation varies considerably across UC campuses. In fall 2009, the unpreparedness rates ranged from a low of 8 percent at UC Berkeley to a high of 64 percent at UC Merced.
Perhaps we need to rethink the purpose of a university education, and also question whether California truly gets value--economic, social, or otherwise--from sending so many unprepared students to college.

Global Warming

Happening, or maybe not so much?
The scientific reality is that on virtually every claim, the scientific case for man-made climate fears has collapsed. The only thing "worse than we thought" is the shoddy journalism of the mainstream media, which parrots global warming activists' baseless talking points.

Consider these facts:

The Antarctic sea ice extent has been at or near record extent in the past few summers; the Arctic has rebounded in recent years since the low point in 2007; polar bears are thriving; the sea level is not showing acceleration and is actually dropping; cholera and malaria are failing to follow global warming predictions; Mount Kilimanjaro-melt fears are being made a mockery by gains in snow cover; global temperatures have been holding steady for a decade or more as many scientists are predicting global cooling is ahead; deaths because of extreme weather are radically declining; global tropical cyclone activity is near historic lows; the frequency of major U.S. hurricanes has declined; the oceans are missing their predicted heat content; big tornadoes have dramatically declined since the 1970s; droughts are neither historically unusual nor caused by mankind; there is no evidence we are currently having unusual weather; scandals continue to rock the climate fear movement; the United Nations' Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has been exposed as being a hotbed of environmental activists; and scientists continue to dissent at a rapid pace.

Sex Ed Wasn't Like This When *I* Was In School

They're getting a bit saucy in New York:
A New York City education will now cover readin’, ’ritin’ -- and rubbers.

Sex ed, which becomes mandatory in city middle and high schools next year, is meant to stem unplanned pregnancies and sexually transmitted diseases among teens. But parents may be shocked by parts of the Department of Education’s “recommended” curriculum.

Workbooks reviewed by The Post include the following assignments:

* High-school students go to stores and jot down condom brands, prices and features such as lubrication.

* Teens research a route from school to a clinic that provides birth control and STD tests, and write down its confidentiality policy.

* Kids ages 11 and 12 sort “risk cards” to rate the safety of various activities, including “intercourse using a condom and an oil-based lubricant,’’ mutual masturbation, French kissing, oral sex and anal sex.

* Teens are referred to resources such as Columbia University’s Web site Go Ask Alice, which explores topics like “doggie-style” and other positions, “sadomasochistic sex play,” phone sex, oral sex with braces, fetishes, porn stars, vibrators and bestiality.
Why not just show them some porn in class, and then talk about their feeeeeeeeeeeelings? That's where we're headed anyway.

We Can Only Hope

And in California, we most certainly will only hope:
Voters around the country are concluding it’s better to be red than dead—applying a whole meaning to an old phrase. If you do not currently live in a red state, there’s a good chance you will be in the near future. Either you will flee to a red state or a red state will come to you—because voters fed up with blue-state fiscal irresponsibility will elect candidates who promise to pass red-state policies...

The study looks at factors that affect state prosperity and economic outlook, such as tax burdens and population change. What’s clear is that red or red-leaning states dominate the top positions while blue states have the dubious distinction of dragging in last. In the economic outlook section, for example, the top 20 states are bright red or lean red, while eight out of the bottom 10 are very blue: New York, Vermont, California, Hawaii, New Jersey, Illinois, Oregon and Rhode Island.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

The Big F

I once had a friend whose parents referred to Fitzgerald's Hotel and Casino in Reno as "Da F", their native Mandarin for "the Big F", in reference to the script F near the top of the building. I was saddened almost 3 years ago when I saw that Fitzgerald's was closed.

The building is now undergoing some changes:
But we couldn't be happier to report that the old Fitzgerald's Hotel has reopened as CommRow, a 60,000 square foot complex which will feature the world's tallest climbing wall, a world class 7,000 square foot indoor bouldering park, two live entertainment venues and eleven food and beverage vignettes. The first phase is transforming the building into a non-gaming, non-smoking, pet-friendly, no-frills chic hotel.
They've made progress on the climbing wall:

I Respect Intellectual Honesty

I've changed my mind on voter ID laws -- I think Alabama did the right thing in passing one -- and I wish I had gotten it right when I was in political office.

When I was a congressman, I took the path of least resistance on this subject for an African American politician. Without any evidence to back it up, I lapsed into the rhetoric of various partisans and activists who contend that requiring photo identification to vote is a suppression tactic aimed at thwarting black voter participation.

The truth is that the most aggressive contemporary voter suppression in the African American community, at least in Alabama, is the wholesale manufacture of ballots, at the polls and absentee, in parts of the Black Belt.

Voting the names of the dead, and the nonexistent, and the too-mentally-impaired to function, cancels out the votes of citizens who are exercising their rights -- that's suppression by any light. If you doubt it exists, I don't; I've heard the peddlers of these ballots brag about it, I've been asked to provide the funds for it, and I am confident it has changed at least a few close local election results.

The entire open letter is here.

Why Do We Have Government?

“The social contract exists so that everyone doesn’t have to squat in the dust holding a spear to protect his woman and his meat all day every day. It does not exist so that the government can take your spear, your meat, and your woman because it knows better what to do with them.” link

Saturday, October 22, 2011

It May Not Be Perfect, But It's Doing Some Things Right

I wonder what their tax rates are:
It's one of the few summer evenings in Tallinn when it's warm enough to eat outside. Half of the dozen or so small tables in his restaurant are taken by Japanese, Finns, Danes and Dutchmen, but there are no Estonians. A meal at his restaurant is too expensive for them, says Nakosmatis. Then he describes the two Estonian women he hired as waitresses.

"They are hardworking, honest and never late," he says. The group of Greek men falls silent for a moment. "Strange country," says Elias.

Just what is it that makes such a country work? What's so great about Estonia?

"Muchas cosas pequeñas," or many little things, says Spaniard Naphtali Peral. He says that he established his company here in only half a day, mainly online. The record for establishing a company, he adds, is only 18 minutes. In other words, the government doesn't say: Hey, Peral, who do you think you are, starting a company, just like that? No, he says, the state actually encourages entrepreneurship, and says things like: So you have an idea, Peral! Go for it! And then he says that it takes him 20 minutes to prepare his semi-annual tax return, and that when it was time to slash the government budget, Estonia's cabinet ministers started with their own salaries...

(Economics Minister) Parts is vigorous, blonde, and athletic, but seems tired. He tries to conceal a yawn, explaining that he and his wife have just had their fourth child and nights have been short. "Comparisons are always difficult," he says. "But when we had finally escaped from Soviet socialism, we were sick and tired of government centralism. We wanted precisely the opposite in all respects: We wanted a transparent state. A country that isn't constantly intervening, nationalizing businesses, placing a bureaucracy above everything and imposing rules on people in every respect"...

Of course, he says, it's important to help a society's losers, the ones who are left behind. It would be wonderful, he adds, to have a fantastic healthcare system and offer social guarantees for every emergency. "But you have to have the money. We don't have it. Our average monthly income is €800. So we have to reflect on what's important for a society's development. It's the top performers, the successful ones. Ideas! Companies! Products! If all you do is administer, nothing comes of it. The state must clear the way for those who want to achieve something. That's the function of the state."
Actually encouraging business--who'd'a thunk that would work?

Friday, October 21, 2011

Attempting to Overturn the CA Dream Act

California's initiative process rolls along, this time trying to undo a recent law:
Opponents of a new law that allows illegal immigrants to receive college financial aid were given the green light to begin collecting signatures for a referendum to overturn the measure, Secretary of State Debra Bowen's office announced today...

Assembly Bill 131, written by Assemblyman Gil Cedillo, D-Los Angeles, will allow undocumented immigrant college students who already qualify for in-state tuition rates to receive state-funded financial aid, including Cal Grants. Qualified students must have attended California high schools for at least three years and graduated.

Was This School Built With Union Labor?

From the major Sacramento newspaper:
The Natomas Unified middle school is empty – and stark. Its exterior walls have been stripped to bare wood and its buildings are encased in plastic sheeting.

Neighbors call it an eyesore.

Built in 1994 for $10 million, the Leroy F. Greene Middle School in Natomas was closed at the end of the 2009-10 school year.

District officials estimate it will cost up to $7 million to reopen the 17-year-old school.

The school has extensive water damage, mold and problems with support beams in the gym and multipurpose room, said Michael Cannon, assistant superintendent of facilities and planning...

The water intrusion at the vacant Natomas school was the result of thin brick veneer installed when the school was built, Cannon said. "If you don't seal it properly and reseal it, it leaks," he said.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Redistributing Teachers, In The Name of Fairness

Is it fair that the newest teachers so often teach at the worst schools? What if there were a federal mandate for distributing teachers fairly? Does that sound like a proposal that might be made by one political party in particular, or perhaps a proposal that might get a favorable hearing in a particular presidential administration?
Last Tuesday, Senator Tom Harkin (D–IA) introduced a much-anticipated proposal to rewrite No Child Left Behind (NCLB) and has announced that committee markup on the legislation will begin this Wednesday...

For example, the bill would codify Obama Administration education priorities, such as the “equitable distribution” of effective teachers among schools.
Since it would be "for the children", there's no way for teachers unions to be against this proposal :)

Educators For Steve Jobs!

Because it's "cool", educators love Apple--and loved Steve Jobs. I wonder if they know this, from Jobs' biography:
Jobs also criticized America's education system, saying it was "crippled by union work rules," noted Isaacson. "Until the teachers' unions were broken, there was almost no hope for education reform." Jobs proposed allowing principals to hire and fire teachers based on merit, that schools stay open until 6 p.m. and that they be open 11 months a year.
I hope he's right about one thing:
"You're headed for a one-term presidency," he told Obama at the start of their meeting, insisting that the administration needed to be more business-friendly.

More Thoughts On The "Occupy" Protests

First off, what is their moral basis?
This theory, which is based on ideas from the anthropologist Richard Shweder, outlines six clusters of moral concerns—care/harm, fairness/cheating, liberty/oppression, loyalty/betrayal, authority/subversion, and sanctity/degradation—upon which, we argue, all political cultures and movements base their moral appeals...

So what’s the mix of moral foundations at Occupy Wall Street (OWS)? In my visit to Zuccotti Park, it was clear that the main moral foundation of OWS is fairness, followed by care and liberty. Loyalty, authority, and sanctity, by contrast, are very little in evidence.

If corporations are "bad", aren't people who benefit from them equally bad?
Despite frosty relations with the titans of Wall Street, President Obama has still managed to raise far more money this year from the financial and banking sector than Mitt Romney or any other Republican presidential candidate, according to new fundraising data.

How many of the protesters are making that link?
Kevin Zeese observed to that "President Obama, with his one billion dollar campaign, is holding fundraisers that cost $38,500 to get into." Zeese noted that the fundraiser cost is "higher than the median individual income for Americans, which is $1,000 less." He added that such a fundraiser "puts Obama out of touch with the people and very much in touch with the money elite."
Wonder who he voted for in 2008, and who he'll vote for in 12 1/2 months.

If you've concluded that I mostly have contempt for these particular protesters, you win the prize.

Update, 10/21/11:
From Politico, hardly right-leaning:
“First, the White House signaled it would make anger toward Wall Street central to President Barack Obama’s reelection campaign. But then, Obama warned against demonizing all of Wall Street — only a few days before he sympathized with the Occupy Wall Street protesters who do exactly that. And that’s just what the president and his team have said since Saturday.”
The Occupy Baltimore folks would prefer you not to involve the police in your unfortunate little rape:
Efforts by the Occupy Baltimore protest group to evolve into a self-contained, self-governing community have erupted into controversy with the distribution of a pamphlet that victim advocates and health workers fear discourages victims of sexual assaults from contacting police.

The pamphlet says that members of the protest group who believe they are victims or who suspect sexual abuse "are encouraged to immediately report the incident to the Security Committee," which will investigate and "supply the abuser with counseling resources."
As the folks at Hot Air said:
The news here isn’t really that they’d rather have a “Security Committee” deal with alleged rapists than the local P.D. The whole point of starting a utopian commune is that it’s as insular as possible.

No, the news here is that there’s apparently enough of a problem that they felt obliged to publish a pamphlet dealing with the subject at all. I confess, I haven’t been to any tea-party rallies so you’ll have to tell me: Are there a lot of “here’s what to do if you’re raped today” fliers circulating at those too?
Nice folks, those "occupy" types.

X-Rated Gifts at School

Stories like this make me laugh:
School administrators hoping to reward students for their A+ fund-raising efforts at a Florida elementary school unwittingly gave them X-rated gifts, officials said.

School officials at Jay Elementary School in the Panhandle on Wednesday were trying to collect more than 100 bracelets distributed to students involved in a fund-raising drive after pictures of naked women were found hidden beneath the bracelets' cloth coverings.

"Mad Dog" Muammar Meets His Maker?

No tears shed here, even when it's confirmed.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Teaching an Old Dog New Tricks

Today, during our chapter review for tomorrow's trig test, a few students came up to ask me how to do a certain problem. That let me know that I hadn't covered that topic well, and I hit upon an idea of how to make it clear to them. An example of the problem would be:
The point (-3,5) is on the terminal side of an angle. What is the sine of that angle?

The formulaic approach is to say that sine (A) = y/r, where r is the radial distance from the point to the origin. But that formula is just for memorizing, so I came up with an alternate explanation about "shrinking" the entire triangle down until it would fit into the unit circle. To do so you'd have to divide all 3 sides by r (in this case, root 34), and the new y-value would be the sine: 5/(root 34), or (5 root 34)/34.

Just seeing the diagram made it very clear to them. And it's the first time I've ever thought to teach it that way, even though I've taught the course, sometimes more than once a year, for 8 different years.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Just What Every California Teacher Wants To Read

Outlook goes from bad to worse for CalSTRS under proposed accounting standards

As Brown and the Legislature prepare to wrestle over pension costs, an organization that sets the industry standards for how government finances are reported, the Governmental Accounting Standards Board, is proposing new rules for calculating pension fund liabilities – the amount of money such funds owe retirees.

The proposal wouldn't have much effect on CalPERS, the nation's largest public pension fund. But it would have an enormous impact on the second largest public fund, CalSTRS.

The California State Teachers' Retirement System already faces a funding gap of $56 billion – the difference between the money it expects to have on hand over the next 30 years and what it will need to pay out in benefits during the same period.

The accountants' proposal would triple the gap – on paper – to around $150 billion, said Ed Derman, deputy chief executive officer at CalSTRS.

"It complicates things," Derman said. "People are going to see this other number … and they're going to say, 'Oh my gosh, it's a much bigger problem.' "

Derman said CalSTRS' financial problem won't actually worsen. It will just look worse to accountants – and maybe elected officials. That could complicate CalSTRS' efforts to plug its funding gap.
As one teacher at school said today, "It's not like a $56 billion deficit isn't bad enough."

I Don't Support Theft...

...but if it has to happen, it couldn't happen to a nicer bunch of people:
Occupy Wall Street protesters said yesterday that packs of brazen crooks within their ranks have been robbing their fellow demonstrators blind, making off with pricey cameras, phones and laptops -- and even a hefty bundle of donated cash and food.

“Stealing is our biggest problem at the moment,” said Nan Terrie, 18, a kitchen and legal-team volunteer from Fort Lauderdale.

“I had my Mac stolen -- that was like $5,500. Every night, something else is gone. Last night, our entire [kitchen] budget for the day was stolen, so the first thing I had to do was . . . get the message out to our supporters that we needed food!”

Crafty cat burglars sneaked into the makeshift kitchen at Zuccotti Park overnight and swiped as much as $2,500 in donated greenbacks from right under the noses of volunteers who’d fallen asleep after a long day whipping up meals for the hundreds of hungry protesters, the volunteers said.
Do I need to add any commentary, or does this post just write itself? :-)

Update, 10/28/11: Should I laugh, or just smile smugly?
Organizers of Occupy Portland say they fear as much as $20,000 donated to the group through a PayPal account has disappeared.

They also say the group's finance committee has hijacked the demonstration's Internet domain name and filed for incorporation against the wishes of the group's decision-making body.
Inside job.

Those Positive, Uplifting Liberals

Don't believe me, take them at their own word:
Ed Schultz, the (white) host of MSNBC’s Ed Show, believes that Republican presidential contender Herman Cain is pandering to “white Republicans out there who don’t like black folks.” Professor Cornell West said that Mr. Cain needs to get off his “symbolic crack pipe” because Cain doesn’t believe racism is a major factor in keeping blacks behind these days. And Harry Belafonte says that Cain is a “bad apple in the black community.”

These statements should be considered along with the ones insisting that Republicans refuse to “put country ahead of party” (Barack Obama), that Republicans “don’t love this country” (Representative Linda Sanchez) and that Republicans who vote in favor of a bill that would prohibit federal funds from being used to pay for any part of a health plan that covers abortion will “be voting to say that women can die on the floor” (Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi).

These recent remarks give you a sense of the lovely, uplifting, and edifying spirit of modern liberalism – which is, we’re told by liberals, the ideology of compassion.
Remind me again who the racists, the dividers, the out-of-touchers are....

Monday, October 17, 2011

EIA's Quote of the Week

If you don't read at least the weekly (Monday) Communique from the Education Intelligence Agency, you're not well-enough informed about union matters. Here's the current Quote of the Week:
"The survival of California's public schools and essential public services depends on stable tax revenues. And a stable tax structure begins with everyone paying their fair share... It's time to put Main Street before Wall Street, and for corporations to pay their fair share of taxes." - Dean E. Vogel, president of the California Teachers Association, a $187 million tax-exempt organization. (October 13 CTA press release)

It's Bound To Change Someday, Probably In My Lifetime

From Gallup:
A record-high 50% of Americans now say the use of marijuana should be made legal, up from 46% last year. Forty-six percent say marijuana use should remain illegal.
Marijuana is now so readily available, and its cost to society so low, that I can find no legitimate reason to criminalize its possession and use. My conservative viewpoint is that government does not have a legitimate reason to prohibit it.

I think marijuana is like "the gay thing"--it's not so much a conservative/liberal issue as it is a younger/older issue. I know plenty of older liberals who cringe at the mere mention of anything gay, and can't understand how anyone but a pothead can be for legalizing marijuana, even though both of these positions are supposedly "conservative".

"Class" Act By Wells Fargo Bank

Get it? Teachers teach classes, and this is about teachers! Sometimes I slay myself.
Two local teachers will be featured on thousands of Wells Fargo ATMs across the state to honor their selection as California's 2011 Teachers of the Year.

ATM screens will congratulate Kadhir Rajagopal of Grant High School in the Twin Rivers Unified School District and Shannan Brown of Thomas Edison Elementary in the San Juan Unified School District.
Big-time kudos to Wells Fargo Bank for doing this, and congratulations to the two teachers. BTW, "Mr. Raj" is a math teacher :)

When Even NPR Can't Ignore It Any Longer...

How many news organizations refused to cover the John Edwards love-baby story, even though more and more evidence gathered daily, until they were compelled by the sheer quantity of facts to start reporting?

How many news organizations refused to cover the "Bush national guard paperwork is fake" story, easily reproduced with the default settings in Microsoft Word, until there was no way to try to hide the truth anymore and they had to report on the fakery, thus costing Mary Mapes and Dan Rather their jobs?

Even NPR can't be struthious anymore about the danger to civil liberties caused by President Obama and his administration:
So Jonathan Turley, he's a law professor at George Washington University. His piece, "Obama: A Disaster for Civil Liberties," ran last month in the Los Angeles Times, and he joins us now in Studio 3A. So you say of President Obama that his election may be one of the single most devastating events in our history for civil liberties? That is very, very strong language, Jonathan.

JONATHAN TURLEY: It is a strong language, but I think civil libertarians are coming to grips with what is really a building disaster for our movement, and it's been a rather difficult process. You know, I have a large civil liberties blog, and there's a lot of soul-searching among civil libertarians about what exactly happened. But we are engaging in a sense of collective denial when we deal with President Obama.

DONVAN: You mean you're not talking about it publicly.

Remember, President Bush and his Republican-led Congress passed the Patriot Act with overwhelming support on both sides of the aisle; they also put a sunset provision in it. President Obama and his Democrat-led Congress reauthorized the Patriot Act, giving even more strength to many areas challenged by civil libertarians. And I don't think there's a sunset provision in the reauthorization, but I could be wrong.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Santana Row

I stayed in a hotel here once. I remember that visit, all of perhaps 24 hours, as a very enjoyable moment in my life--but that was because of the company I shared, not because of Santana Row itself.

The area definitely was nice.

Should This Woman Be Teaching Kids?


Yes, everyone is entitled to an opinion, but in reality, we all know that some opinions are "more equal" than others. Anyone who suggests that people of her "minority status" should be run out of this country would be considered ineligible to teach kids. I predict she will suffer no ill effects from her oh-so-public statement....

Update, 10/19/11: According to Andrew Breitbart, I was wrong:
Substitute teacher Patricia McAllister was fired for saying the "Zionist Jews" who are running our banks "need to be run out of this country."

In defending herself, McAllister reiterated her belief that Jews are "destroying this nation."

Update #2, 10/19/11: EIA has more:
The Los Angeles Unified School District summarily fired McAllister for her remarks. Evidently this is permitted, even though substitutes can become members of United Teachers Los Angeles and are covered by a number of provisions in the collective bargaining agreement...

Since Ms. McAllister was so vocal and direct with her opinions, even in light of the consequences and the media glare, my question is this: Did she never before express these views to her co-workers or superiors? If she did, why wasn’t she fired earlier?

My sense is that you can spout this stuff and suffer no more than office ostracism, unless you do so in front of the cameras.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Am I The Only One Who Thinks So, Or Is This Principal An Idiot?

Fall holidays are insensitive:
Anne Foley, the principal at Kennedy School in Somerville, Mass., sent an email to teachers warning them about celebrating Thanksgiving, the Boston Herald reported.

"When we were young we might have been able to claim ignorance of the atrocities that Christopher Columbus committed against the indigenous peoples," Kennedy School Principal Anne Foley wrote.

"We can no longer do so. For many of us and our students celebrating this particular person is an insult and a slight to the people he annihilated. On the same lines, we need to be careful around the Thanksgiving Day time as well."
Who's around to be insulted, if Columbus annihilated all of them? And really, Thanksgiving?

Bottom line is, anyone can choose to be offended by any holiday, or even by the origins of the word "holiday". This principal certainly has her panties in a bunch....

I Made $100 This Morning

I proctored the PSAT, and at the same time got some quizzes graded and grades entered. Not the worst way to spend a Saturday morning, as the work needed to get done anyway....

Friday, October 14, 2011

Hey, Hippy Whiners! Occupy *This*!

Just reading this site is an inspiration.

Update: I'll bet most of them voted for, and will vote again for, this guy. Here's the headline:
The inconvenient truth that the "I Am The 99 Percent" crowd refuses to face

Lecture, Smecture?

We're constantly being told that we shouldn't lecture. When pressed, the speaker (often an administrator) will back off and say that of course we should lecture sometimes, but that we need to mix it up, that it can't be the sole form of pedagogy. Well, duh. Is there anyone out there who, in K12, does nothing but lecture?

Some subjects lend themselves more to "direct instruction" than others, and lecture is an efficient form of direct instruction. The theory is that I know more about math than the students in my classes, and hence I should impart my knowledge to them. Why should they figure it out for themselves, when I can teach it to them much more quickly--and hence they can learn more in the same amount of time?

So this week in one class I tried some different approaches. Yesterday after school I came to a conclusion: I was a flop. The students were confused, they didn't understand the material, and there's no way I could give them a quiz today on this week's material--it just wouldn't be fair.

So I canceled today's quiz and I taught. No "discovery learning", no "guide on the side", no ivory tower pedagogy, just me sharing my knowledge with my pre-calculus students. And guess what. They finally got it. All week they struggled, but today it all made sense. In 50 minutes. What they couldn't understand in the previous 200 minutes.

Some would say that I just didn't do the other stuff correctly. But I know better. Some topics, and some subjects, are better presented in a "direct instruction" format. I explain the material, walk students through it, then guide them through it, then they do it on their own. It just makes sense.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Hope and Change

We learn that two lawyers who had criticized George W. Bush for supposed overreach recently drafted authorization to assassinate a U.S. citizen, the traitorous and dangerous Anwar al-Awlaki. This follows Bush critic and former Yale Dean Harold Koh’s various briefs authorizing elements of the Obama War on Terror, among them sanction to join the Anglo-French war against Qaddafi without U.S. congressional approval — something Bush obtained for both Afghanistan and Iraq.
What were your reasons for voting for this guy again? Just asking.

Student Wrongly Accused of Rape Finally Gets The Wheels Of Justice Rolling

I've written before about the Department of Education's new mandate that schools use a simple "preponderance of evidence" standard, instead of a "beyond a reasonable doubt" standard, when determining whether or not students accused of sexual crimes are found guilty. Even before that mandate, though, the field wasn't always level for men, and hopefully the blowback will be severe:
A federal judge has ordered Brown University to turn over fund-raising and donation documents sought by lawyers in a case involving a former student who says he was falsely accused of rape and pressured to leave the university.

Judge John J. McConnell Jr. of the U.S. District Court in Providence, R.I., ordered Brown last week to release the documents.

The former student, William McCormick III, was suspended in 2006 following "sexual misconduct" charges and later agreed to leave Brown permanently, but he says in a lawsuit that he did so under duress. In 2009, he sued Brown, the student who accused him, and her father, a wealthy Brown alumnus and donor, arguing that his accuser's father had used his sway at the university to influence how administrators handled the allegations.
Tar and feathers would be one way to resolve such travesties.

SAT Cheating Scandal

Until I saw this article I hadn't even heard of this:
The investigation into SAT cheating at a New York high school has expanded to two more school districts and one private school, and more arrests of current or former students are imminent.

Veterans Success Center Opening at Sacramento State University

Three years ago I was proud to bring you this post about California's Troops To College Program, and its implementation at nearby Sac State. Today, totally unexpectedly, I received this in the mail:
I will be very pleased to attend.

Orthopedics Appt Today, Update On My Recovery

Within 3 minutes of the bell's having rung today, I was getting into my car--had to rush to my ortho appointment to see how my recovery is progressing. Made it to the office with 2 minutes to spare!

The doctor is pleased with the improvement in strength and flexibility in my quad muscles and knee, saying the muscle mass looks good. She recommends I lay off running on the treadmill for another couple months until I get more strength in the leg, and since I don't enjoy her suggestion of riding the bikes at the gym, she suggested swimming (but the gym pool is cold!). I'll probably stick with my leg extensions and leg presses :-)

The best news, though, is that progress is sufficient such that she didn't schedule a next appointment, moving me instead to an "as needed" basis. I'm a week-and-a-half short of six months into this.


I didn't go to the best high school. Oh, it was clearly the best in its district--probably still is--but it wasn't in a great area. I sometimes wonder if not enough was expected of us; we didn't have a single AP class! In fact, I'd never even heard of AP classes until I got to college. If we went to college it was expected that we'd go to the local community college. A few would go to Sac State, and those breathing rarified air would go down the road to UC Davis.

So I found it more than a little entertaining to see the shirts that kids in my 6th period pre-calculus class were wearing today: 2xStanfords, Georgetown, Duke, MIT, UC Berkeley, USC, Yale. And they fully expect to attend these schools!

And many of them will. I teach in a relatively well-to-do area.

Education Buzz

This week's is here and includes my post about the racial achievement gap.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

I Like This Charter School

I've often thought that if I were to start my own charter or private school, it would be called All-American High; the school colors would be red, white, and blue, and the mascot would be the Eagles (maybe the Eager Eagles).

Someone has created the feeder school for my high school:
Dead presidents grace the walls of Roseville's first charter school. Its school colors are red, white and blue.

Instead of textbooks, its students will read the primary writings of the Founding Fathers, along with such classics as Homer's "Iliad" and "Odyssey."

John Adams Academy is only a month old and already the students are talking about "restoring America's heritage" and becoming "servant leaders."

As conservatives and liberals across the country tussle over the proper role of government, the Constitution – and its interpretation – has become a hot topic. So perhaps it's only natural that the Sacramento region now has a school whose curriculum is centered on America's Founding Fathers.

Roseville is just up the road from me. I could get to this school in perhaps 10 minutes.

How Can This Possibly Pass 4th Amendment Muster?

To all of you who thought Jerry Brown would be a civil libertarian's best friend, I remind you that a statist will never be such:
California Gov. Jerry Brown is vetoing legislation requiring police to obtain a court warrant to search the mobile phones of suspects at the time of any arrest...

Brown’s veto message abdicated responsibility for protecting the rights of Californians and ignored calls from civil liberties groups and this publication to sign the bill — saying only that the issue is too complicated for him to make a decision about. He cites a recent California Supreme Court decision upholding the warrantless searches of people incident to an arrest. In his brief message, he also doesn’t say whether it’s a good idea or not.
Searches incident to arrest should not be allowed to become fishing expeditions.

UC Professors Vow To Limit or Control Online Courses

Whenever you hear statements from teachers unions or professors unions, be sure to keep in mind that it's all about the students:
The specter and promise of online education is perhaps nowhere more deeply felt than in California, where campus administrators and instructors are faced with a bloodletting. University of California officials have suggested that the system will have to innovate out of the current financial crisis by expanding online programs. (State house analysts agree.) Instructors, meanwhile, are terrified that this is code for cutting their pay, or increasing their workloads, or outsourcing their jobs to interlopers, or replacing them with online teaching software.

The system’s corps of lecturers feels this threat sharply. “We believe that if courses are moved online, they will most likely be the classes currently taught by lecturers,” reads a brief declaration against online education on the website of UC-AFT, the University of California chapter of the American Federation of Teachers, “and so we will use our collective bargaining power to make sure that this move to distance education is done in a fair and just way for our members.” (emphasis mine--Darren)
I say again, it's all about the students.

Hat tip to reader MikeAT.

What's Wrong With This Statement?

Regarding Governor Brown's signing the California DREAM Act, which will allow illegal immigrants to get financial aid to attend college (question: why don't they just go to college in their own country?), the major Sacramento newspaper has the following quote. Can you spot the problem?
When an undocumented Fresno State student asked the candidates about immigration, Brown said of his Republican opponent, Meg Whitman, "She wants to kick you out of this school because you are not documented, and that is wrong morally and humanly."

Brown said, "I'm going to treat everybody, whether they're documented or not, as God's child, and my brothers and sisters."
The problem is that he's treating them that way with my money.

I had hopes for Brown after his election, even though I didn't vote for him. Alas, he's still a moonbeam, and I'm more than a little disappointed with him.

Monday, October 10, 2011

I'll Never Understand Performance Art

What, exactly, am I supposed to get out of this?

Just not my thing, is all.

Warning: NSFW if you work in an extremely uptight place.

"I Need To Use The Phone"

About 4 1/2 years ago I wrote this post about letting students use the restroom during class time, and based on recent observations, it's time to update that post.

Sometimes during my prep period I go out and take a walk around campus. It clears my head, gets me out of the classroom and into the sunlight, and it does my recovering knee some good. Invariably during these perambulations I run into students on their way to, or returning to class from, the restroom--and very often these students are on their phones, a clear violation of our school's policy on cell phone use (which is that they can be used during our morning 13-minute break and during lunch).

In the post linked above, several commenters took genuine issue with limiting students' ability to come and go as they please. In other words, they thought that a "bathroom pass" should be treated as a "get out of class free" card. Anything less is, to them, a violation of human rights.

OK, I get that. How about this: if a student wants to leave class to use the restroom, they leave their phone with me. No human rights violation that way.

And I'll bet the number of bathroom requests drops dramatically :-)

NEA Likes A GOP Proposal Regarding NCLB?

As Joanne said, How’s the ice skating in hell? Details at the link.

Obama The Genius

Where's the evidence that Obama's a policy genius?
Now I don’t think Wilson is flat-out wrong. Obama certainly does see himself as a policy wonk, and he’s surrounded himself with people who see the president in precisely the way the president likes to be seen. Funny how that works. Also Obama is one of the most zealous members of the cult of experts we’ve had in the White House in a very long time. . . .

So what’s my complaint? Simply this: Where’s the proof that Obama is a master of public policy? To be sure there’s ample proof that he’s a master at talking about public policy, describing the problems, summarizing the current thinking, regurgitating all of the reigning clichés and platitudes. But where’s the evidence that he’s actually good at public policy?

It’s a sincere question: What have been the truly innovative, groundbreaking or even unconventional big public policy ideas to come out of this administration? Are there any? Because from where I sit, it simply looks like Obama takes existing, conventional, liberal ideas – some of them very, very old – off the liberal pantry shelf and hawks them like it’s new inventory. Where’s the evidence that Obama’s “mastery” over public policy has translated itself into creative approaches? Not in the stimulus from what I can tell. Maybe there’s something impressive to tout in ObamaCare, but Obama didn’t actually have much to do with the crafting of ObamaCare – a fact Wilson acknowledges. Was his genius to be found in shoveling cash into Solyndra and other embarrassing white elephants? Was he the guiding intellect behind a green jobs program that has produced dozens of jobs in places where it was supposed to create thousands?

And if he’s such a genius about public policy, why did it take him so long to discover that there’s no such thing as “shovel ready jobs”? You don’t have to be a Jedi Master of public policy to have known that.
This excerpt courtesy of Instapundit.

Sunday, October 09, 2011

Student Narcissism, Technology, etc.

Many of our students can't help being narcissists--they've been told since Day 1 how wonderful they are, they were given trophies just for showing up, and they had ponies and bouncy-houses at their birthday parties. The world has always seemed to revolve around them, why shouldn't they believe that it does?

OK, I'm painting there with a brush that's as wide as the Sonoran Desert, but you get my point.

I got started on this train of thought by reading Math Curmudgeon's post about what students say they want out of teachers and education. Curmudgeon is appropriately named--and he's also 100% correct in the post! I especially enjoyed the part about technology, at which students are supposed to be so much more adept than I am:
"Us youth love all the new technologies that come out. When you acknowledge this and use technology in your teaching it makes learning much more interesting."

I love them, too. Now get out your iPads and load up the Kindle version of the textbook and get to work. If you can't connect to the school's network, then set up a wi-fi hotspot off your iPhone, go to, find the answer to the first part of the question and incorporate it into the Excel spreadsheet to further analyze the problem, dump the results to Powerpoint, send it to your portable printer or convert it to one of the four acceptable electronic formats. Then, don't send it to my email account but rather submit it to the class Moodle in the proper forum. You know how to do that, right? By the end of the week, I'll want you to be able to explain all this and apply your knowledge to something completely different, so you need to get cracking.
I wonder what percentage have ever made their own videos, except as an assignment somewhere. More than half of my seniors had never used a simple spreadsheet until I taught them the most basic of features.

But wait, there's more!
"I can't learn from you if you are not willing to connect with me."

Bullshit. Teachers can connect but it's a two-way street and you're not playing. If you can't learn without the touchy-feely crap then you'll never learn from Salman Kahn, a computer, an online program, a disinterested presenter or any teacher who is even slightly less than your ideal of perfection. That's a damn shame.

And more!
"You need to use tools in the classroom that we use in the real world like Facebook, email, and other tools we use to connect and communicate."

You need to put away your childish toys and realize that gossip and passing notes is something we did when we were young, too, and that Facebook and twitter are simply the new version of that.

In theory, I know more about math than the students in my classes. What say we learn it the way I think is best, OK?

Corporations Control The Government

We need government regulation to protect us from these organizations.

Lefties would be so cute if they weren't playing with actual reality.

Saturday, October 08, 2011

Congressman McClintock on California and Conservatism

McClintock is a conservative's conservative, and he represents a district right down the road from me. He was a state legislator for many years, and an unsuccessful candidate for both governor and lieutenant governor. Every word he says in this piece is true, every single word:
When my parents came to California in the 1960’s looking for a better future, they found it here. The state government consumed about half of what it does today after adjusting for both inflation and population. HALF. We had the finest highway system in the world and the finest public school system in the country. California offered a FREE university education to every Californian who wanted one. We produced water and electricity so cheaply that some communities didn’t bother to meter the stuff. Our unemployment rate consistently ran well below the national rate and our diversified economy was nearly recession-proof.

One thing – and one thing only – changed in those years: public policy. The political Left gradually gained dominance over California’s government and has imposed a disastrous agenda of radical and retrograde policies that have destroyed the quality of life that Californians once took for granted.

The Census bureau has reported for the better part of the decade that California is undergoing the biggest population exodus in its history, with many fleeing to such garden spots as Nevada, Arizona and Texas. Think about that. California is blessed with the most equitable climate in the entire Western Hemisphere; it has the most bountiful resources anywhere in the continental United States; it is poised on the Pacific Rim in a position to dominate world trade for the next century, and yet people are finding a better place to live and work and raise their families in the middle of the Nevada Nuclear Test Range.

I submit to you that no conceivable act of God could wreak such devastation. Only acts of government can do that. And they have.

We conservatives espouse principles of individual liberty, free markets, constitutionally limited government, fiscal responsibility, the protection of natural rights – not out of some slavish devotion to ideology, but because all human experience has shown these principles to be the most certain means to achieve a prosperous and happy society. If you want to see the opposite of that – come to California.
This is what's happened to my home state, and it both saddens and angers me. Scares me a bit, too.

Update, 10/9/11: Need any more evidence?
California Governor Jerry Brown on Saturday signed a bill giving illegal immigrant college students access to state-funded financial aid, the second half of two-part legislation known as the "Dream Act."

The controversial measure, which passed the Democrat-controlled legislature on a party-line vote in September, represents a victory for immigrant-rights activists ahead of the 2012 presidential election. California is the nation's most populous state.

Only two other states, Texas and New Mexico, allow illegal immigrants to qualify for state financial aid for college, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures...

"(California already offers) students in the country illegally in-state tuition; legally documented students from the next state over can only dream of such a benefit," (State Assemblyman) Donnelly said.

California is one of about a dozen states that allows illegal immigrants to pay in-state tuition, based on attendance and graduation from a state high school.

Fast and Furious

The US Government allowed firearms to be sent to Mexico--why, exactly? And who thought this was a good idea? Mark Steyn, as usual, cuts through the crap and clarifies the issue:
Steyn noted the lack of media outrage compared with other scandals in the past.

“Now real Mexicans are dead,” he continued. “Does the president of the United States, does his attorney general, does CNN, does The New York Times, does NPR — do they not care about dead Mexicans?

“I mean, forget the United States Border Patrol guys that were killed about these ‘Fast & Furious’ guns. Real-live, or previously live, citizens of third world countries — the kind of people that NPR, The New York Times claim to love — are dead because of this.”

“Why isn’t that a national scandal?” he pleaded. “This is absolutely a — Iran-Contra didn’t rack of that kind of body count. Watergate didn’t rack up that kind of body count. Sarah Palin’s daughter’s boyfriend’s mother, or whatever stupid story they were chasing around Wasilla for months, that didn’t rack up a body count. There were hundreds of dead Mexicans from a gun running program run by the United States.”

Update, 10/11/11: If you read through the first several comments, you see that one commenter doesn't appreciate any digs at NPR. OK, let's drop NPR for a moment and check out what CBS has to say about F&F:
In Fast and Furious, the ATF allegedly allowed thousands of assault rifles and other weapons into the hands of suspected traffickers for Mexican drug cartels. The idea was to see where the weapons ended up, and take down a cartel. But the guns have been found at many crime scenes in Mexico and the U.S., including the murder scene of Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry last December.
Ah, I see. At what kind of crime scenes do you imagine these firearms were found? Murders, perhaps? Again, the only dead person mentioned is a US Border Patrol agent. All the dead Mexicans? They must not even exist.

Mark Steyn's criticism above continues to be steel on target.


My son and I went to San Francisco today to meet up with a friend of mine from West Point, and his family. It's the start of Fleet Week in SF, and we all enjoyed the aerial demonstrations put on for us.

My son took these "stealthy" pics with his iPod Touch (peace be unto Steve):
click to embiggen

Friday, October 07, 2011

The Lesson Is: Compromise With Democrats Doesn't Work

Remember the so-called nuclear option, which Senate Republicans threatened to use 6 years ago? This option, and those who suggested it, were derided as un-American, and a compromise saved the Republic. Fat lot of good that compromise did for Republicans:
In a shocking development Thursday evening, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) triggered a rarely used procedural option informally called the “nuclear option” to change the Senate rules.

Reid and 50 members of his caucus voted to change Senate rules unilaterally to prevent Republicans from forcing votes on uncomfortable amendments after the chamber has voted to move to final passage of a bill...

Republicans had considered using Reid’s maneuver, dubbed the “nuclear option,” in 2005 to change Senate rules to prohibit the filibuster of judicial nominees. Democrats decried the plan under consideration by then-Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.) as a bomb that would decimate Senate traditions.

That crisis was resolved by a bipartisan agreement forged by 14 rank-and-file senators known as the Gang of 14.
Update: ‘I Pray To God’ Democrats Do Not Do This When We Have Power.--Joe Biden

Thursday, October 06, 2011

Apple--Good Company or Evil Corporation?

I found this quote, from an article mentioning how Steve Jobs ended philanthropic programs at Apple, to be very illuminating about economics in general and about how differently conservatives and liberals see economic issues:
Whatever drove Jobs, it drove him to create superior products, better stuff at better prices. Profits are not deductions from the sum of the public good, but the real measure of the social value a firm creates. Those who talk about the horror of putting profits over people make no sense at all. The phrase is without intellectual content. Perhaps you do not think that Apple, or Goldman Sachs, or a professional sports enterprise, or an Internet pornographer actually creates much social value; but markets are very democratic — everybody gets to decide for himself what he values. That is not the final answer to every question, because economic answers can satisfy only economic questions. But the range of questions requiring economic answers is very broad.

It's About Darned Time

I support the legalization of marijuana, but I support our system of laws even more. Federal law is superior to state law, so California's law regarding so-called medical marijuana must yield.
Federal officials are warning California medical marijuana dispensaries they must shut down within 45 days or face criminal prosecution and having their property confiscated.
This is the only outcome that's acceptable until federal law changes.

Wednesday, October 05, 2011

The Loss of Jobs

So many are lamenting the loss of Steve Jobs. Are they lamenting the loss of the pop culture icon, or of the rich capitalist/industrialist?

I'm not taken in by the Apple mystique so the pop culture aspect weighs zero on me; I mourn the loss of someone who created and managed a thriving business.

Even if he was a Democrat :-)

Can't "Do" Math? It's Not Your Fault.

Blame your parents and grandparents for bad genetics:
Can't calculate a tip or even balance your checkbook?

Take heart. Maybe you can blame your brain -- specifically, the parietal cortex in the top back part of the head. It also could be a problem that has roots not in a failed arithmetic or "new math" lesson, but even earlier.

Recent findings indicate that how well 3-year-olds estimate quantities predicts their math ability in elementary school. Another study funded by the National Institutes of Health showed that the innate capacity to estimate is impaired in children who have a math learning disability.

The findings are so new that there's no widely accepted way to diagnose what's known as dyscalculia (dis-cal-KOO-lia), nor any set strategies for coping with it -- even though 5 to 8 percent of the population is thought to suffer from math learning disability. Consider it the mathematical partner to dyslexia, which impairs reading ability.
I'm going to need a lot more evidence of this before I believe that 5-8% of the population has a physical issue preventing basic math ability. Gawd, the last thing we need is yet another excuse.