Monday, April 30, 2012

Another Icelandair?

Readers of mine from last spring and summer might recall my issue with Icelandair--I was medically unable to fly, gave them over 2 months of notice before my flight, and they wouldn't refund my money or allow me to pay a fee to reschedule my flight (to this summer).  They kept half my money, earning my eternal ire and as well as the epithet "rat bastards".

Spirit Airlines appears to be going the same way:
After a weekend of brutal publicity over its refusal to grant a dying Vietnam vet a $197 ticket refund because his doctor forbids him to fly, Spirit Airlines issued has a simple response:

"No."

The terse, one-word retort from company spokeswoman Misty Pinson appears to have grounded any hope that Jerry Meekins, 76, of Clearwater, Fla., might get his money back. Meekins bought the ticket to Atlantic City last month so he could see his daughter before she had surgery of her own. But when his esophageal cancer left his immune system too ravaged for travel, all the airline offered him was another ticket.
Again, I'm not in favor of requiring them to do what Mr. Meekins wants. However, they're certainly not appearing to take care of their customer--like the Icelandair rat bastards--and if they suffer in the marketplace from this public exposure, such is life.

Update, 5/4/12Spirit capitulates, Icelandair does not.

Teachers, Are Your Union Dues Going Up?

Of course they are--supporting President Obama isn't cheap!  Well, that, and the funding model doesn't help:
With teachers’ unions losing members, it places additional financial strains on those who remain. Much of the overhead is tied to staff costs, and RIFs are subject to the provisions of staff collective bargaining agreements. In order to maintain the same size staff, dues must rise.

But there’s an additional inflationary factor for many NEA state affiliates. Union dues are often set according to a formula based on average teacher salaries. If salaries rise, dues rise. Because layoffs are usually made according to lowest seniority, the lowest-paid teachers are released first. That action alone raises the average salary. Factor in automatic step increases for many teachers and you may see an additional increase in average teacher salary. Finally, there’s a lag involved in collecting salary statistics, so today’s dues are based on the pay status of two or three years ago.

What remains is a dwindling number of members forced to make up the dues difference for members who are no longer there.

My union costs over $1000 per year.

What's That You Say? Wind Farms Aren't The Answer To All Our Problems?

Apparently not, and they may even contribute to *gasp!* global warming!
New research finds that wind farms actually warm up the surface of the land underneath them during the night, a phenomena that could put a damper on efforts to expand wind energy as a green energy solution.

Researchers used satellite data from 2003 to 2011 to examine surface temperatures across as wide swath of west Texas, which has built four of the world's largest wind farms. The data showed a direct correlation between night-time temperatures increases of 0.72 degrees C (1.3 degrees F) and the placement of the farms. 
Ohmigawd, .72 degrees Celsius?  Our undies are supposed to be in a bunch over much less than that from cow farts and SUV's.

Do You Really Want Government Running Your Health Care?

This is one of the many reasons I don't:
From the Guardian:
A majority of doctors support measures to deny treatment to smokers and the obese, according to a survey that has sparked a row over the NHS‘s growing use of “lifestyle rationing”.

Some 54% of doctors who took part said the NHS should have the right to withhold non-emergency treatment from patients who do not lose weight or stop smoking. Some medics believe unhealthy behaviour can make procedures less likely to work, and that the service is not obliged to devote scarce resources to them.
And that’s the trouble with services and institutions run from the taxpayer’s purse, administered by centralists and bureaucrats. It becomes a carrot or a stick for interventionists to intervene in your life. Its delivery depends on your compliance with the diktats and whims of the democracy, or of bureaucrats. Your standard of living becomes a bargaining chip. Don’t conform? You might be deemed unworthy of hospital treatment.
This is as good a reason as any for limits on governmental power.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Is This The Liberal Mindset? Or Is This Author Just Stupid?

The two aren't mutually exclusive.

Anyway, I was really struck by this quote from the NYT:
Apple’s headquarters are in Cupertino, Calif. By putting an office in Reno, just 200 miles away, to collect and invest the company’s profits, Apple sidesteps state income taxes on some of those gains. 

California’s corporate tax rate is 8.84 percent. Nevada’s? Zero. 

Setting up an office in Reno is just one of many legal methods Apple uses to reduce its worldwide tax bill by billions of dollars each year.
Is California somehow entitled to that money?  Because that's the only way I can see that would justify the statement that Apple is "sidestepping" state income taxes.
Almost every major corporation tries to minimize its taxes, of course. For Apple, the savings are especially alluring because the company’s profits are so high. Wall Street analysts predict Apple could earn up to $45.6 billion in its current fiscal year — which would be a record for any American business. 
Well no kidding!  Making money for its owners is the primary, some would say only, purpose of a corporation.  While it may be good practice to be a "good corporate citizen" or whatever other description people use to get companies to pay for something, that's not their purpose.

People who don't realize that don't have the slightest grasp of economics.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

A Military Academy Education, 2nd Semester Senior Year

Here are the courses I took during my final semester at West Point, along with their associated credit hours:
2nd term 86-87
AM402 Mechanical Design 3.5
EV389H Meteorology 3.0
HI302 History of the Military Art 3.0
HI384C Development of Air Power 3.0
MA396 Numerical Methods to the Solution of Differential Eqns 3.0
MA491 Research Seminar--Applied Math 3.0
PE404 Develop Sports Skills-Men .5

total units: 19

Dalai Lama Likes President Bush

Piers Morgan doesn't like that!

No more support for the Dalai Lama from the peacenik lefties in the crowd, I'm sure.

Friday, April 27, 2012

A Military Academy Education, 1st Semester Senior Year

My 7th semester classes and their credit hours:
1st term 86-87
AM401 Introduction to Design 3.5
HI301 History of the Military Art 3.0
MA391 Mathematical Modeling 3.0
MA484 Partial Differential Equations 3.0
MA487 Advanced Calculus II 3.0
PE403 Develop Sports Skills-Men .5
SS483 National Security Seminar 3.0

total units: 19

Sac State Cutting Degree Requirements

From the major Sacramento newspaper:
Sacramento State students may no longer have to take World Civilization or a second semester of writing to graduate. They could pass on the year of foreign language that has been required, as well as take three fewer units of an American history requirement if a committee's current recommendations are approved by the Faculty Senate in the fall.

The plan – albeit tentative – has caused considerable controversy on the Sacramento campus.
This week I've been posting my college courses, by semester, here on this blog. Most of the courses on that list were required courses. Compare these new Sac State requirements to the coursework I took at the Military Academy. Who got the better education? Whose education was more well-rounded?

Punished For Wearing Pro-Military Shirts At School?

No, at least not if the information in this story is correct:
The elementary school daughters of a soldier paralyzed in Afghanistan were punished for wearing t-shirts that bore the logo of an organization that provides homes for severely wounded veterans, according to their mother. However, the Texas school district said it has absolutely nothing to do with the logo — and everything to do with the dress code.

The girls, in first grade and fourth grade at Masters Elementary School, were wearing t-shirts provided by “Homes For Our Troops.” Their mother, Josie Perez-Gorda, said they had recently received word that the organization might be offering the family assistance in building a home that would be safe for her husband.

Army Spc. Justin Perez-Gorda was injured by a road-side bomb in Afghanistan, she told San Antonio television station KENS.

“These guys are fighting for our country and they should be able to wear something that honors their parents, especially if they are wounded,” Perez-Gorda told the television station...

“We have a standardized dress code,” Judson ISD spokesperson Aubrey Chancellor told Fox News. “Had the shirt had a collar, it would have been totally fine"...

 Chancellor said the children had previously violated the dress code multiple times. So when the girls showed up with the t-shirts, the principal called Perez-Gorda explained the problem...

“The principal bought two shirts for the kids — so they could wear them,” she said. But the mother declined. Chancellor said she took her children home and called the media.
If everything is as reported,  the school was absolutely correct here and the mother is just wanting a fight.  You don't get to use the military as a shield to get whatever you want.

Why I'm Not A Socialist

While I don't agree with the author's thesis as demonstrated in his title, there are many pearls of wisdom in his article--including this one:
Okay, so maybe there are some exceptions here. Your parents may have made some good decisions for you at some point. However, among your peers and neighbors, no one has a greater interest in you than you. If you aren’t wiling to do something for yourself, it’s tough to argue why others should do it for you.

So much of political activism is saturated with an irrational sense of entitlement, as if citizenship were like sitting in a restaurant waiting to be served. The youngest Occupier at the most recent Caux Round Table debate lamented a system which fails to “empower people.”

This is a notion which defies good sense. What exactly are we expecting to happen here? Does someone from “the system” come around the neighborhood knighting citizens? Who are we looking at to empower us? And why would they do so?

If you want power, you claim it by right and wield it jealously. No one is making the rounds in an effort to dispense it. Furthermore, no one who has taken the time and effort to claim and wield their own power is going to waste theirs delivering yours. Consider Democratic urban wastelands such as Detroit as examples. If anyone in power was actually going to follow up on their rhetoric of empowerment, they would have done it by now.

It has become a counter-intuitive point in our hand-wringing culture, but no one outside your family is likely to lose sleep over your problems. Indeed, it would be creepy if they did. Why then do we have this unfounded expectation that someone is going to come along and grant us wings?
Granting of wings is something God does, not government.

Truer Words Have Scarcely Been Written

Force, Not Money, Is the Root of All Evil
A popular sentiment among activists from across the political spectrum is that we ought to get money out of politics. Money is the root of all evil, we’re told. The Citizens United case is thought the bane of democracy, and evoked in calls for comprehensive campaign finance reform.

In truth, money is not the problem. Restricting the flow of money into politics only redirects cronyism. It doesn’t stop it.

The real problem is what is for sale. Government is force. That is its essential and exclusive quality. Government has the unique capacity to lawfully coerce behavior. When that capacity is unmoored from justice, it becomes available to the highest bidder. That is what has happened in America. Lobbyists and donors are lined up to purchase the initiation of force against their economic and political competitors. Winners get to wield a club with which to bludgeon others into submission. Losers are S.O.L.

That is why constitutionally limited government is so important, and why Tea Partiers are so enamored with the Founding and all its historical trappings. Limiting the state’s power to strictly defined roles prevents regulatory capture and other forms of cronyism.

If Occupiers really want to defang corporate lobbyists, they should defang Washington. Some of them may eventually come to realize that. link
I've said for a long time that the way to reduce corruption in government is not more laws, but less government power. If there's no power for the money to chase, well, there's no reason for the money and corruption.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

A Military Academy Education, 2nd Semester Junior Year

Finishing a semester at Air Force, I went on Christmas leave and then returned to West Point.  Here are my 6th semester courses and their credit hours:
2nd term 85-86
EE362 Intro to Electrical Engineering II 3.0
MA387 Advanced Calculus I 3.0
ME362 Fluid Mechanics 3.0
MS300 Army Systems Mgmt and Public Speaking 1.5
PE304 Develop Sports Skills-Men .5
PH385L Physics of Modern Weapons Systems 3.0
PL300 Military Leadership 3.0

total units: 17

Justice On Campus

If you think that this situation represents some kind of "fairness" then we really don't have any ideals in common:
Inside Higher Ed brings interesting news today about how the infamous "Dear Colleague" letter from the Obama education department--which requires all sexual assault and harassment cases to be judged by the lowest possible burden of proof, a preponderance of the evidence--has affected one university campus. In response to the letter's mandate, the University of North Carolina has reconfigured its disciplinary procedures, in part due to a desperate hope to retain some semblance of due process for accused students.

Under the current system at UNC, if an accuser simply files a sexual assault claim through the university but doesn't go to the police, the accused student has no right to outside counsel. "Neither a licensed attorney nor a person who has passed a state bar examination may serve as the investigator or defense counsel or be present during proceedings." If the accuser has simultaneously filed a criminal charge, "the accused student may be accompanied to the hearing by a licensed attorney who may confer with the student during the hearing so long as the attorney does not address the hearing panel, those hearing the appeal, or other parties or witnesses, and so long as the attorney does not delay or disrupt the proceeding." [emphasis added] And in either case, the right of the accused student to present evidence to clear his name is severely limited by a clause that prohibits presentation of evidence that "does not otherwise infringe the rights of other students." This is the procedure that Dean Manning had considered unfairly tilted against the accuser.

Since the Student Honor Court retains jurisdiction over all other disciplinary issues, the new UNC policy creates a two-tier system of justice. All other offenses under the honor code require guilt beyond a reasonable doubt; an allegation of sexual assault--even though a far more serious offense than virtually anything else that the honor code addresses--requires only 50.1% proof of guilt, and in a system where the accused student still won't have the right to a lawyer.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

A Military Academy Education, 1st Semester Junior Year

My 5th semester courses and their credit hours, from the semester I was an exchange cadet at the Air Force Academy:

1st term 85-86
Aero 312 Intro to Engineering--Thermodynamics 3.0
El Engr 340 Circuits and Systems 3.0
English 360 Masterpieces-Homer-Milton 3.0
Math 460 Linear Algebra 3.0
Physics 410 Modern Physics in the Air Force 3.0
Pol Sci 203 International Political Systems 1.5
Phy Ed 305 Competitive Athletics/PFT 1.0

Total units: 17.5

Any Of You Lefties Want To Claim Solidarity With These People?

I certainly hope not.

If You Don't See The Hypocrisy In This Video...

...then you're definitely a leftie!

This Teacher Is An Idiot

How could anyone possibly think this is reasonable?
A 6-year-old kindergarten student in Missouri was forced to wrap a trash bag around herself and sit in her own diarrhea, Ozarks-based television station KY3-TV reports...

The girl was forced to sit in the mess for the 15 minutes remaining of the testing period and an additional 20 minutes, as her mother drove to school with a change of clothing, KY3 reported.

Superintendent Bob Walker told the station that district officials “regret what happened” and wishes that the school had handled it differently.

“You can’t do that to a 6-year-old,” Skidmore told the station.  “You don’t even treat a dog that way.”
I'm relieved that at least the superintendent recognized the enormous stupidity involved.

If heads don't roll over this--maybe even literally--then tar and feathers is definitely called for.

Big Day Today

One hundred years ago today, the new campanile (bell tower) opened in St. Mark's Square in Venice.  The old one, which had lasted for centuries, had unexpectedly collapsed a decade earlier.  It was rebuilt "where it was, as it was".

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

I Thought Only Republicans Couldn't Tolerate So-called Centrists!

Those crazy partisans on the lunatic fringe--their party can't tolerate centrists!  Those darned Repub--oh, wait:
U.S. Rep. Tim Holden, the longest-serving member of Pennsylvania's congressional delegation, has lost his re-election bid in a Democratic primary race in a newly redrawn district.

Personal injury attorney Matt Cartwright spent nearly $400,000 in the race against Holden, who was elected to Congress in 1992 and was one of its conservative, so-called Blue Dog Democrats.

Cartwright's campaign hit Holden with allegations that he was too conservative for the district's voters, citing his vote against President Barack Obama's health care overhaul.
If those voters think health care costs a lot now, wait till they find out how much it costs when it's "free". Hopefully the Supreme Court will protect them from having to learn that lesson the hard way :-)

Black, Mormon, Child of Immigrants, Republican

That would be Mia Love, running for Congress from Utah.
"We have an opportunity to reach some of our fellow Americans that we haven't been able to reach, ever, on the conservative side," she told Yahoo News. "And if I can reach our fellow Americans and get them to believe what we believe--that the way that they're going to realize the American dream is through hard work and that they can do it, then I'm happy to play that role. I'm happy to be the example."

While talking policy, she comes across as a tax- and regulation-slashing, tea party conservative infused with a leave-us-alone libertarian streak, a hallmark of western Republicans...

If she makes it to Washington, Love said she plans focus on opposing federal regulations--particularly those set by the Environmental Protection Agency--and will immediately join the Democrat-led Congressional Black Caucus with Florida Rep. Allen West, currently the only Republican member of the group, with hopes to "change it from the inside out."

"I told Congressman West to hang in there, reinforcements are coming, and while I respect the ideas of some of these representatives to care for the poor in their community, I reject the notion that government dependency is the way to do it," Love said. "I am ready to go in and change it from the inside out."
I wish her success!

Working at Wal*mart

Here's one person's experience:
The best thing that I learned at Walmart was that hard work was recognized and rewarded. I worked hard and came back during a break from college to be promoted to work in the photo lab (more responsibility, higher rate of pay). I also saw many full-time employees that I worked with move up to become department managers, assistant store managers, and even move on to the corporate office.
However, I also saw the opposite end of the spectrum. Some fellow associates seemed content to do the bare minimum and didn't go anywhere in the company because of it. In fact, they are still at the same level.

In my opinion, these are also the employees that you hear speaking negatively of Walmart's employment practices. They want something for nothing from the company and they aren't getting it.

A Military Academy Education, 2nd Semester Sophomore Year

My 4th semester classes and their credit hours:

2nd term 84-85
LW402 Military Law 2.5
MA301 Probability and Statistics 3.0
ME302 Statics and Dynamics 3.0
MS200 Combined Arms Operations 2.5
PE204 Develop Sports Skills-Men 1.0
PH202 Classical Physics II 3.5
PY201 Philosophy 3.0

Total units: 18.5

That's The Ticket

You've probably already heard about Jon Lovitz' tirade against the president:
The actor said he’s a Democrat and voted for Obama, but now he’s mad as hell at the president’s plan to raise taxes on the rich -- and his rant has the Web buzzing. The comic called Obama a “[bleep]ing a-hole... for saying the rich don't pay their taxes." Lovitz delivered his invective after assuring the audience “I voted for the guy” and even expressed admiration for Obama’s rise from “nothing.” “He had no father -- he is mixed-race, which is a burden… and the guy ends up going to Harvard, and he's the president of the United States.” Lovitz gave Obama no slack for turning against his fellow millionaires, however. “This whole thing with Obama saying the rich don't pay their taxes is f---ing bulls---,” he said. “First they say to you… ‘The United States of America, you can do anything you want -- go for it! So then you go for it and you make it and everyone's like, ‘[Bleep] you!'”
It's ok, Jon--I don't understand it, either.

Redistribute Everyone Else's Stuff But Mine!

How many of these students are in favor of wealth redistribution, support the so-called Occupy idiots, and/or didn't find anything wrong with Senator/Candidate Obama's answer to Joe the Plumber's question?

Every time I see one of these types of stories I get a kick. The cognitive dissonance must be debilitating for some.

Ready or Not, Here Comes Algebra

Pushing into algebra kids who aren't ready shouldn't make any sense:
Mastering algebra is widely considered the gateway to higher mathematics and college readiness, but new studies question whether low-performing students benefit from exposure to the subject in middle school.

Separate studies of urban middle schoolers in California and in the Charlotte-Mecklenburg, N.C., schools suggest that placing struggling math students in algebra class does not improve their test performance on state math tests, and significantly hurts their grade point averages and the likelihood of their taking and passing higher math courses in high school.
There's much more at the link.

Genuine Democracy At Work

The following is from an email from my local union rep (emphasis is mine):
I have ballots for the 2012 (local union) Executive Board and CTA State Council. There are six positions open and all candidates are running uncontested.
The comparisons are self-evident.

"I Was A Climate Alarmist"

And this is from MSNBC, of all places:
James Lovelock, the maverick scientist who became a guru to the environmental movement with his “Gaia” theory of the Earth as a single organism, has admitted to being “alarmist” about climate change and says other environmental commentators, such as Al Gore, were too.

Lovelock, 92, is writing a new book in which he will say climate change is still happening, but not as quickly as he once feared...

“The problem is we don’t know what the climate is doing. We thought we knew 20 years ago. That led to some alarmist books – mine included – because it looked clear-cut, but it hasn’t happened,” Lovelock said.

“The climate is doing its usual tricks. There’s nothing much really happening yet. We were supposed to be halfway toward a frying world now,” he said.

“The world has not warmed up very much since the millennium. Twelve years is a reasonable time… it (the temperature) has stayed almost constant, whereas it should have been rising -- carbon dioxide is rising, no question about that,” he added.

He pointed to Gore’s “An Inconvenient Truth” and Tim Flannery’s “The Weather Makers” as other examples of “alarmist” forecasts of the future.
Suffer not an apostate to live, huh, lefties?

Monday, April 23, 2012

Why Does It Always Have To Be The Smart Kids?

Don't you just hate reading stories like this one?
Some of Berkeley High's best students are among nearly three dozen students suspended for hacking into the school's attendance system, an act that could lead to criminal prosecution, administrators said Thursday.

At least four students used an administrator's stolen password to clear tardies and unexcused absences from the permanent records of 50 students, offering the service or the password for a price, Principal Pasquale Scuderi said.

The scam allowed the students to circumvent the school's rigid attendance policy, which had been in effect until March and required teachers to dock student grades if they had three or more unexcused absences.

The hackers erased from the system hundreds of cut classes and tardies from October through December, and charged classmates $2 to $20 for the illicit assistance, Scuderi said.

It took the school district several weeks to investigate, identify and interview students involved.

At least two of the students who instigated the hacking scheme face expulsion.
Is it really so difficult just to go to class? Is a couple hours of "chillin" really worth this kind of legal hassle? I can't imagine the answer is "yes", so I have to believe these kids were too stupid or immature to think through the ramifications of what they were doing.

And yes, that goes for me, too, who did some things in high school of which I am exceedingly not proud.

Making State Tests Count For Students

One of the biggest flaws of our state standardized testing regimen is that there is no incentive, absent personal motivation, for students to do their best. The tests count for nothing to the students. When even the local (left-leaning) paper sounds the call for a change, that's significant:
This year may finally be the time to get a major overhaul in education – simpler, fairer, more flexible and accountable.

Two big proposals have lined up.

First is Gov. Jerry Brown's proposal to change how schools are funded...

Second is Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg's bill to overhaul the state's Academic Performance Index, a proposal tweaked after the governor vetoed his major education bill last year.

Brown said he wanted local panels to visit schools, observe teachers, interview students and examine student work. Steinberg's Senate Bill 1458 has that.

Brown said he wanted to reduce time on testing. Steinberg's bill calls for a plan to "streamline and reduce state-mandated middle and secondary school testing, including, but not limited to, eliminating redundant assessments and assessments that lack tangible meaning for pupils." The number of tests doesn't look excessive. But the tests are sometimes too long and need to be revised.

The timing is perfect for this. California has adopted the voluntary, multistate Common Core State Standards. California's old STAR system, launched by the Legislature in 1997, sunsets and a new assessment system is supposed to be in place for the 2014-15 school year. Steinberg should make sure that the timelines in his bill match the timelines for the Common Core Standards.

To make sure tests have "tangible meaning" for students, especially in high school, Steinberg should consider linking them to UC/CSU entrance tests or noting results on transcripts. (boldface mine--Darren)
Yes, such a change would only effect college-bound students, but at least it's a start.

Noah's Ark Found?

I found these two stories today:
First:
A group of Chinese and Turkish evangelical explorers say wooden remains they have discovered on Mount Ararat in eastern Turkey are the remains of Noah's Ark.

The group claims that carbon dating proves the relics are 4,800 years old, meaning they date to around the same time the ark was said to be afloat. Mt. Ararat has long been suspected as the final resting place of the craft by evangelicals and literalists hoping to validate biblical stories.

Yeung Wing-Cheung, from the Noah's Ark Ministries International research team that made the discovery, said: "It's not 100 percent that it is Noah's Ark, but we think it is 99.9 percent that this is it."
On the other hand:
Earlier this week a group of Chinese Christians held a news conference to announce they were 99.9 percent sure they had found Noah's Ark — the boat the Bible says was built by God's most righteous man before a "sinful" human race drowned in the Great Flood.

Maybe the find on Mount Ararat in Turkey really is Noah's Ark. More likely, it isn't. But if it isn't, that won't stop Ark enthusiasts from believing it is out there somewhere.

Immediately in the wake of the news flash, experts weighed in to shoot it down. "The wood in the photos is not old enough" ... "There are no location pictures to verify the site" ... "No independent experts have looked at the data" ... "There's never been evidence of a great flood."

And the people voicing the loudest caution are biblical archeologists who believe the ark is real and that it can be found.
I'm going to need a lot more evidence before I believe that this is the real Ark mentioned in Genesis.

I Did It!

Today, with a cheering section of both students and teachers, I ran my mile around the track at school on the one-year anniversary of my skiing accident. The run wasn't pretty, and if the camera adds 10 lbs then I must have had 4 cameras on me, but I made it.

Now I need to lose some weight (again) and build up my cardiovascular fitness.

After the video completes uploading to YouTube you'll be able to view it at this link.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Big War vs. Little War

I never liked Donald Rumsfeld's plan to cut the major combat power in the army--the heavy divisions--and transition to lighter, more nimble units. It struck me as very short-sighted, and I'm glad to have found an essay that agrees with me!
What this article describes are several asymmetries and a handful of truisms that defense intellectuals ignore at our peril.[1] By advocating more soft power and smarter counterinsurgency—by, essentially, pushing to outfit us for soft war—those who would re-orient our military are making two sets of errors. First, they misread 21st century realities. Second, they misread human nature...

If, meanwhile, we were to ask why so many leaders are still so willing to use force against their own populations, the cheap answer would be they must do so because they think violence works. The more discomfiting response is that it often does.

This brings us to Reality #3. For those who believe it can secure them an edge, decisive armed force will always trump finesse, and will always tempt those who don’t expect to be deterred by greater counter-force...

Not only does COIN’s (counterinsurgency's) own history reflect the need for a stunning amount of brutality, but the fact that in campaign after campaign commanders have found themselves desperate to be able to apply decisive force reveals what every generation ends up (re)discovering the hard way: soft approaches don’t impel enough people to change their ways fast enough...

In other words, despite what COIN doctrine itself suggests the status pyramid should look like, which in a population-centric warfare world would mean Psychological Operations and Civil Affairs units have the most prestige and shooter-killer teams the least, the status pyramid remains the same as it has always been. Nor is anyone seriously talking about inverting it. Though even if they did, and even if such a change could be successfully legislated, it is not clear it could ever be made to stick. That is because, as the long sweep of human history suggests, being able to inflict visibly decisive pain still beats any and everything else.[8]
If you want to win, you must always have the ability to hit, hit hard, and keep on hitting until the other guy says "uncle". That is how you win wars. Try anything else and you can still win, but it'll take a lot more time and will cost inordinately more--and not just in dollars.

Last Practice

Last year, during the very dark days and weeks after my skiing injury, I set a goal to run a mile on the track at school on the one-year anniversary of the accident. That goal not only gave me something to look forward to, it gave me something over which I felt I had some control, which was very important when feeling like (and actually being) an invalid.

Tomorrow is that one-year anniversary.

Last weekend I made it a mile on a treadmill at the gym for the first time. I had a nice Sunday afternoon workout at the gym today, which I ended with a 12-1/2 minute, 1.25 mile run on a treadmill. In NASA parlance the knee is "nominal"; any problems tomorrow will come from either the temperature (expected to be in the 80s) or my complete and total lack of cardiovascular fitness.

Bring it on :-)

A Military Academy Education, 1st Semester Sophomore Year

My third semester classes and their credit hours:
1st term 84-85
EV203 Terrain Analysis 2.5
LW401 Constitutional Law 2.5
MA262A Applied Differential Equations 3.5
PE203 Develop Sports Skills-Men 1.0
PH201 Classical Physics I 3.5
SS202 Politics and Government 3.5
SS251 Advanced Economics: Principles and Problems 3.5

Total units: 20

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Photo Book


Shutterfly photo books offer a variety of layouts and cover options to choose from.


You may think I've sold out for putting this advertisement here, and I did--for a $10 credit towards my next photo book! The one above contains 20 pages of pictures from my Philadelphia trip with my son earlier this month.

Update, 4/27/12:  The book arrived today and not only does it look exactly like it does in the picture above, it's just really cool seeing all these pictures I took in a hard-cover book.  I'm very impressed.

A Military Academy Education, 2nd Semester Plebe Year

Here are the courses I took as well as their units:
2nd term 83-84
CH102 General Chemistry II 3.0
EN104 Composition/Analysis/Critical Reading 3.0
HI102 History of Modern Europe 3.0
MA152 Calculus/Introduction to DE/Matrix Algebra 4.5
MS102 Small Unit Tactics 2.0
PE104 Phys Ed Foundations-Men 1.5
PL100 General Psychology 3.0

Total units: 20

Since I Dislike Both In This Story, It's Hard For Me To Figure Out Who Is The Good Guy and Who Is The Bad Guy In This Story

The University of Colorado at Boulder is the "Berkeley of the Mountains", and a bunch of pot smoking college students is, well, a bunch of pot smoking college students. I'm having a really hard time choosing which side I'm on here:
Stinky fish fertilizer and two dozen law-enforcement officers kept pot smokers away from a grassy quad at the University of Colorado on Friday, but a few hundred protesters defied the crackdown and rallied on another field, where some lit up at 4:20 p.m.

It was a far cry from last year's April 20 pot celebration, when more than 10,000 people gathered on the university's Norlin Quadrangle for the annual ritual of enjoying a smoke and demonstrating for legalizing marijuana.
Perhaps I don't have to choose a side; rather, I can just sit on the sidelines and enjoy the whole shebang.

Friday, April 20, 2012

A Military Academy Education

The latest issue of West Point magazine shares the following "Academics By The Numbers" on page 7:
Average number of credits per semester: 18
Average number of cadets per classroom: 17
Number of students who studied abroad this year: 120
Most popular major over the last 5 years: management
Most popular major for Class of 2012: mechanical engineering
Newest major: kinesiology (2007)

All very interesting information, and probably very unlike most civilian schools! The average credits per semester jumped out at me and I wondered about my own semester loads. So for the next few days, I'm going to share with you the courses I took and the credit hours for each course. Let's get started with my first semester at West Point:
Advanced German I (validated)
Advanced German II (validated)

1st term 83-84
CH101 General Chemistry 3.0
EF105 Intro to Computers-Fortran 3.0
EN103 Rhetoric, Logic, and Composition 3.0
HI101 History of Modern Europe 3.0
MA151 Calculus/Introduction to DE/Matrix Algebra 4.5
MS101 Introduction to the Military Profession 2.0
PE103 Phys Ed Foundations-Men 1.5

Total units: 20

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Thank You

I just received an email from Amazon--one of my readers has sent me Walter Williams' book Liberty vs. The Tyranny of Socialism on my Kindle Fire! I lack eloquence sufficient to adequately express my appreciation at such generosity and thoughfulness, but allow me to try: thank you.

(Since this reader did not expressly allow me to release his/her name here, I will keep that reader anonymous.)

Cherry-Picking

In an informative post from EIA's Intercepts comes this gem destined to be a classic:
And the “strong unions = better schools” argument works better when you cherry-pick your examples. Think Massachusetts, but don’t think California or Hawaii. Think Germany and Finland, but don’t think Mexico and Greece.

Here's the background for that morsel.

Perverse Incentives

If you didn't know, California's budget is tight--and getting tighter. There will be more cuts coming to education, and we're sweating the "May revise" to the governor's budget. One way my school district is reacting to this is to limit summer school to "credit recovery" only, which means that only students who receive F's in a course, and hence do not get course credit towards graduation, may attend summer school. Students who get a D officially pass a course and get credits.

At first blush the district's policy seems reasonable, but a little deeper thought reveals that it creates a very perverse incentive to fail. If students try but get a D, and want to move on in math, they'll need to retake the course next school year. On the other hand, if they fail the course, they can retake it in summer school and move ahead next year! Two math teachers have already reported having the conversation, "If I don't get a C, can you give me an F instead?"

Perverse incentives.

Admitting The Failure of Higher Standards

It's true that kids won't reach high standards if we don't set the bar high for them. On the other hand, merely setting the bar high isn't enough to get them to reach for the stars:
Eight years ago, the Los Angeles Board of Education adopted an ambitious plan to have all students take college-prep classes to raise academic standards in the nation's second-largest school district.

Now, that plan is about to take effect: Beginning this fall, incoming freshmen will have to pass those classes to graduate.

On Tuesday, district officials backtracked, offering details of a proposal to reduce overall graduation requirements and allow students to pass those classes with a D grade.

They must change course, Los Angeles Unified School District officials said, or they would open the doors to scores of dropouts and others who can't pass the more rigorous requirements. The new plan, which still must be approved by the board, would allow students to graduate with 25% fewer credits.

"If we don't do something, we have to be prepared to be pushing out kids as dropouts," said Deputy Supt. Jaime Aquino at a school-board committee meeting Tuesday. "We face a massive dropout rate in four years."

Currently, a student must earn 230 credits to graduate. Under the proposal, that requirement would be reduced to 170 credits, the minimum set by the California Department of Education. Among the requirements to be dropped are: health/life skills, technology and electives that cover a broad range of subjects, including calculus and journalism.
They're going to drop health/life skills. Can you imagine trying to explain dropping a course in health/life skills? What does this tell us about LA Mummified that we didn't already know or assume?

Why War

It may be an evil, but sometimes it's a necessary evil. The following is an exchange from Rudyard Kipling's Kim:

“It is not a good fancy," said the lama. "What profit to kill men?'

"Very little - as I know; but if evil men were not now and then slain it would not be a good world for weaponless dreamers.”

April 19, 1775

Over a year before the Declaration of Independence, American militia stood before the British at the Battle of Lexington.

Pause for a moment today and think of the significance of that event.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Infrastructure Spending and Conservatism

According to McClatchy:
The federal interstate highway system is showing its age, and, faced with the cost of repairing all those bumps and cracks, some states want to ask motorists to pay tolls on roads that used to be free.

That’s the last thing a public that’s paying $4 for a gallon of gasoline wants to hear, and elected officials, from members of Congress to President Barack Obama, aren’t likely in an election year to propose that motorists pay higher gasoline taxes or tolls. But many transportation experts and officials agree that if Americans want to drive on good roads, they’re going to have to pay more for them, or do without.
Hogwash. That's a false dichotomy. There's another option: how about we spend gas tax money on roads and bridges and not social programs, and do without some of the social programs that breed intergenerational dependence on failed government programs? Just a conservative thought.

Who's A Travel-booking Rock Star?

(thumbs pointing at myself) This guy!

In the middle of this summer's European trip I'll need to take a train from one city to another, and only recently did the train company's web site start posting fares for the date I need, and I've been watching the fares change. The base fare is €79 each, but last night I saw a rate of only €29 each! Today I couldn't stand the possibility that I'd lose such a great rate, and since there's only one train on the date I need that has that fare, I called the cruise ship company (a cruise in the middle of a trip to Europe!) to ensure that I should be able to make the train connection--and I should make it without a problem.

So I booked it! Talk about a great rate! Even got to choose our own seats, and if I've done this correctly, we'll see some of the major sights as we pull into our destination city.

I get stoked over little victories like this :)

(Why am I being so secretive about the cities involved? Because I have kind of a trivia game planned for this blog when I'm gone! Talk about thinking ahead--we don't leave for 11 weeks.)

Monday, April 16, 2012

A Brief Shot of Trophy Point

video
Another short clip from my trip to West Point last week--Battle Monument, a view across Trophy Point, and then north up the Hudson River towards Newburgh.

And as an added bonus:
Me in the Artillery Park at Valley Forge.

Update: You know what belongs here, with these Revolutionary War visuals? This commercial:

Sunday, April 15, 2012

A Diamond From The Past

My post Social Justice, Cultural Competence, etc. has aged well. There's nothing in it that isn't as true today as it was 6-1/2 years ago when I first posted it.

Parachuting onto the Plain

Since I filmed it in high def the file is too big for me to post here. Vimeo takes care of that--be sure the blue HD logo in the lower right corner is highlighted so you can view the video in its best resolution.

One Mile!

358 days ago I hurt myself on the ski slope. Back then, and in the weeks that followed, I had very serious doubts as to whether I'd walk again. While in that condition I made the commitment to myself that on the one-year anniversary of that accident, which will be a week from tomorrow, I would run one mile around the track at school.

I've been working up to it, and just today I made it a full mile on a treadmill at the gym. Of course, a treadmill isn't exactly like actual running, but I'm convinced that 8 days and 1 hour from now I'll be able to do that mile for real.

Are Grades Punishment?

Discuss.

Education Funding Hegemony

Cal State Universities may have to cut grant money for graduate students, many of whom are now wailing and gnashing teeth:
Back in Ye Olden Days when Pete Wilson was governor, these students would have been rioting in the quad against Evil Republicans balancing the budget on their backs. Now that there are no longer any Republicans with any say in the matter...the budget is still being balanced on their backs and all they can do is rail against dark mysterious forces taking away their crumbs. (ten of those $8,000/year grants probably add up to the annual pension for some retired university administrator). You feel powerless and frustrated? That's what happens when you rely entirely on the state, especially a one-party state, for your daily bread.


The Difference Between Good Schools and Bad

From a Georgetown student:
Entering my freshman year at Georgetown University, I should have felt as if I’d made it. The students I once put on a pedestal, kids who were fortunate enough to attend some of the nation’s top private and public schools, were now my classmates. Having come from D.C. public charter schools, I worked extremely hard to get here.

But after arriving on campus before the school year, with a full scholarship, I quickly felt unprepared and outmatched — and it’s taken an entire year of playing catch-up in the classroom to feel like I belong. I know that ultimately I’m responsible for my education, but I can’t help blaming the schools and teachers I had in my early years for my struggles today.

Even though I attended some of the District’s better schools — including my high school, the Cesar Chavez Public Charter School for Public Policy, at the Parkside campus near Kenilworth — the gap between what I can do and what my college classmates are capable of is enormous. This goes beyond knowing calculus or world history, subjects that I didn’t learn in high school but that my peers here mastered long ago. My former teachers simply did not push me to think past a basic level, to apply concepts, to move beyond memorizing facts and figures.

Since the third grade, my teachers told me I was exceptional, but they never pushed me to think for myself. And when I did excel, they didn’t trust that I’d done the hard work. They assumed I was cheating. Now, only 10 miles from those teachers and schools where I was considered a standout, I’ve had to work double-time just to keep up.
If we take this student at face value, the first question that comes to my mind is "Why?"

Update: A teacher on an emaillist of which I am a member posted the following information about the above story, information that is important and germane:
Some basic facts to know when reading this article:
  • DC Public Charter Schools are under the authority of the DC Public Charter Board.
  • They are not under the authority of the DC Public Schools; thus, Chancellor Rhee, Chancellor Henderson, former Mayor Fenty, current Mayor Gray have no authority over them. Many comments assume falsely that they did or do.
  • Likewise, the Washington Teachers' Union's contract is with DCPS; it has no contract with any of the DC Public Charter Schools, including Cesar Chavez PCS, which is the one the author attended and criticizes.

How Times Change In Capitalism

One of the nice things about capitalism is that conditions aren't constant--companies that get complacent, or which just are merely surpassed by another, don't prosper. As long as competition exists, the business environment is fluid, and this is usually good for consumers.

When I was a baby, "cheap Japanese junk" was the phrase used to describe anything "Made In Japan". Come the '80s, there was fear that "they'll be making the computer chips and we'll be making the potato chips". Sony was the name in consumer electronics for many years. The Walkman was the iPod of its day, but today is a different day:
“The time for Sony to change is now,” said Mr. Hirai, who formally took up the C.E.O. post on April 1. He posed for the cameras, one finger held high in a No. 1 sign. “I believe Sony can change,” he said.

Outside Sony — and inside it, too — not everyone is quite so sure.

That is because Sony, which once defined Japan’s technological prowess, wowed the world with the Walkman and the Trinitron TV and shocked Hollywood with bold acquisitions like Columbia Pictures, is now in the fight of its life.
When I was young, Sears was such a major retailer that it mailed its catalog, twice a year, to every house in America. As recently as the '90s, Kodak was a major player in the photography field (I even worked for a Kodak subsidiary for 9 weeks in the '90s, but that's a different, long story). How long has it been since the Big 3 American car companies led car sales in this country? The first Target store I ever saw was in the late '80s in Colorado Springs; when was the first time you ever heard of Wal-mart, much less saw one? Desilu Studios made Star Trek, which is one of the most profitable TV/movie franchises in existence. Remember when TWA and Pan Am could get you just about anywhere in the world you needed to go?

Companies get bought and sold and merged, they get created and they go out of business. Everything I mentioned above occurred since the Great Society legislation was signed; has there been any impact on poverty rates in this country?

My point is that government can do some things well, and it should stick to those enumerated powers. Government will never provide anything as well as the market can.

Telling It Like It Is

"[I]f you don't have any fresh ideas, then you use stale tactics to scare the voters. If you don't have a record to run on, then you paint your opponent as someone people should run from." That is what Barack Obama said when he accepted his party's presidential nomination in 2008. Four years later, it reads like a prophetic description of his re-election campaign.

President Obama's two biggest legislative accomplishments were the passage of his $831 billion economic stimulus package and his $1.8 trillion health care law. How's that working out? Last month's Washington Post-ABC News poll found that a mere 31 percent of Americans believe his "economic program" made things better, compared with 67 percent who said it had "no real effect" or even made conditions worse.

As the Supreme Court weighs whether Obamacare is even constitutionally permissible, support for the law is down to 39 percent, which is even lower than it was at the time of passage, according to an average of surveys compiled by the Huffington Post's Pollster.com. Although Obama promised to cut the deficit in half in his first term, it's now projected to be $1.25 trillion in 2012 -- the fourth straight year it will exceed a trillion dollars. With gas prices rising, unemployment still at a stubbornly high 8.2 percent and economic growth sluggish, Obama cannot win if he runs on his record.
And this is from the Washington Examiner, not the right-leaning Washington Times.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Social Darwinism

The president has tossed this term around lately, so I found the following passage in Jonah Goldberg's Liberal Fascism to be as interesting as it is enlightening:
Progressives did come up with a term for conservative opponents of eugenics. They called them social Darwinists. Progressives invented the term "social Darwinism" to describe anyone who opposed Sidney Webb's notion that the state must aggressively "interfere" in the reproductive order of society. In the hothouse logic of the left, those who opposed forced sterilization of the "unfit" and the poor were the villains for letting a "state of nature" rule among the lower classes.
So if so-called social Darwinists are bad, their progressive opponents can rightly be called social intelligent-designers? No, that doesn't have a creepy "government controls everything" sound to it at all, does it?

Friday, April 13, 2012

Flash Mob

Every year or two at my school, we do something new at a rally; each time we do something new at a rally, it's hailed as the coolest thing ever.

Our students don't want boilerplate, fill-in-the-blank rallies; they want something cool, a reason to go. Today we gave it to them.

Usually rallies are entirely student affairs, but near the beginning of this one we teachers did a flash mob. Some song the kids know (but of which I have no idea) was played, and a few dozen of us rushed out and got our groove on. When better video makes it to the Youtubes I'll link to it, but until then you can imagine me busting a move by watching this one. I'm at the far end of the gym in this view so not really visible.

Leadership, or the Lack Thereof

Jack Welch, former head of General Electric:
President Obama’s “divide-and-conquer” approach isn’t what great leaders do, Jack Welch said Thursday. . . .

“It was the insurance executives in health care. It was the bankers in the collapse. It was the oil companies as oil prices go up. It was Congress if things didn’t go the way he wanted. And recently it’s been the Supreme Court,” he said.

“He’s got an enemies list that would make Richard Nixon proud.”
It's also the racists and the gun-clingers. Now there's his manufactured War on Women.

This guy was supposed to be a uniter?

Thursday, April 12, 2012

You Know What Bonding Is?

Sitting on the couch with my son, watching Big Bang Theory, and shining shoes together for his color guard participation in tomorrow's school rally.

And after that, breaking out the iron and ironing board that I bought when I first entered the army--and showing him how to iron a uniform.

I wouldn't trade this for anything.

Mistake? I Hope Not!

Last week, while visiting my Alma Mater, I dropped into the registrar's office to request a transcript be sent to the University of Idaho for the masters program to which I'm applying. Since it didn't cost anything additional to have a copy sent to me, I requested such, and received it today.

Included with the transcript was a brief letter stating the following:

TO WHOM IT MAY CONCERN: This is to certify that Darren Miller, class of 1987, had a class rank of 28 out of 1047 cadets. This class rank is accurate as of 27 May 1987.

On 27 May 1987, there were either 1017 or 1019 cadets graduating, I'd swear it. Additional cadets graduated late, either later in the summer or in December, but they wouldn't have been counted as graduates on May 27th, so I don't know where the ~30 additional cadets came from to get us up to 1047. According to my Register of Graduates, our class graduated a total of 1042.

But the bigger news is my class rank. I've believed for almost 25 years now that my class rank was 35th/1017 or 35th/1019, but the mists of time have forever obscured the source of such beliefs. Only now I find out that I graduated 28th?

What other information is out there that I thought I knew, but didn't?

Higher Education--Fair and Balanced?

Some say not:
"I don't know any polite way of putting this -- but he's lying," said professor John Ellis, president of the National Association of Scholars' California division. Ellis was reacting to a critic's characterization of the NAS's damning report, "A Crisis of Competence: The Corrupting Effect of Political Activism in the University of California."

California taxpayers spend $2.8 billion to educate the more than 230,000 students at the 10 campuses that comprise the UC system. But the report says the UC system does not help students learn how to think, but rather teaches them what to think. And what they "learn" is that they are victims -- whether of racism, sexism, classism or discrimination because of sexual orientation. Liberal profs, says the report, turn the UC campuses into "a sanctuary for a narrow ideological segment of the spectrum of social and political ideas"...

NAS's Ellis says the answer is for the UC system to first acknowledge the problem. Then the UC system should stop ignoring its own regents' "Policy on Course Content." It states: "(Regents) are responsible to see that the University remain aloof from politics and never function as an instrument for the advance of partisan interest. Misuse of the classroom by, for example, allowing it to be used for political indoctrination ... constitutes misuse of the University as an institution."
It's not a "problem" if it's exactly what you want.

Schools That Overreach

Here we go again:
As further evidence that "cyberbullying" (with cyber-stalking close behind) has become the "disorderly conduct" of the online world—an all-purpose legal bludgeon with which to thump people in the kidneys when the authorities don't like what they're doing but can't find a real crime about which to complain—three San Francisco high school seniors were suspended for saying mean things about their teachers in Tumblr posts. They were reinstated only after civil liberties groups stepped in to remind school officials that there are actual limits to their power, and lawyers with pro bono time on their hands willing to make those limits stick.
Go read how the principal reacted before the ACLU intervened.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Open House

I don't know if most non-teachers have any idea how much we teachers dislike Open House. I've already been to work once today, do you really think I want to go back this evening and shmooze?

I like getting out of school early today. Gives me time to come home, get some things done around the house, go get gas before the afternoon traffic kicks in, things like that. I'll make a nice dinner for my son and me, too.

And then I get to get all gussied up and go back to work. Grrrrr.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Special Garbage Pick-up

My city contracts out for garbage pick-up, and one of the deals of our contract is 3 "clean-up" days a year--put out your old furniture, car tires, cut tree limbs, area rugs, etc., and off they go! The city ordinance says you can put stuff out up to 2 days before your pick-up day.

The city ordinance also says that it is illegal to pick through what people have placed out on the street for pick-up. Yet, starting yesterday (pick-up day in my area is tomorrow), pickup trucks with trailers trawl the streets and pick up anything that looks like it might have some value.

And it bothers the snot out of me.

You might think, why care, Darren? You don't want the stuff, they do, you're throwing it out, why do you care if they take it? And that's a good question. And tonight I tried hard to figure out why I care. And this is what I came up with:

They're violating the law.

We can discuss all day long whether the law should exist or not, and at the end of that discussion we might actually agree. But none of that discussion changes the fact that the law currently is the law and should be obeyed. They're flouting the law, with impunity, and laws that aren't enforced breed contempt for all other laws.

And that's what bothers me, as the pickups drive up and down my street, looking for treasure in the trash.

How Screwed We Are In California

First, from National Review:
So, a better way to compare public-sector spending is to look at what proportion of the states’ economies are spent on state and local government. Across America, spending on local and state governments made up 19.8 percent of the average state’s economy in 2008. California spent 22.5 percent, compared with Texas’s 15.4 percent. Simply put, Californians spend 46 percent more of their income on their government than do Texans.

Comparing major categories of spending really brings home the difference.

The average state spends 5.7 percent of its economy on education. Neither California (at 5.6 percent) nor Texas (5.4 percent) deviates far from the average. But Texas stretches its spending much further, employing 17 percent more educators per capita than does California, with its strong teachers’ unions and highly paid teachers.

If that isn't bad enough, now try this from today's major Sacramento newspaper:
As state leaders hope for a surprise uptick in revenues this spring, state Controller John Chiang reported Tuesday that California lagged last month by $233.5 million, or 4.2 percent.

The state missed its target most in corporate income taxes, which were $125.8 million (8.2 percent) off the mark. Income taxes and sales taxes were each less than 2 percent behind Gov. Jerry Brown's revenue forecast.

For the fiscal year that ends in June, the state is now trailing Brown's expectations by nearly $1.1 billion, or 1.9 percent.
You know what we need here in California? A $100 million bullet train from nowhere to nowhere! We can call it the Gravy Train.

Unions Protecting Teachers Behaving Badly

I'll all about due process before public employees get fired, but unions have created what I call undue process:
A male business owner joking about life for homosexuals in prison, forced a junior accountant to bend over a desk, lined up behind him to simulate a sex act, then quipped, “I’ll show you what’s gay.”

An insurance company middle manager who had been warned about touching secretaries brushed his lower body against a new employee, coming so close that she told company investigators she could feel his genitals through his pants.

A corporate vice-president sent text messages to and called one of his female underlings nearly 50 times in a four-week period and, over the winter holidays, parked himself near her home.

In its definition of sexual harassment, the EEOC says it is “unlawful to harass a person (an applicant or employee) because of that person’s sex. Harassment can include ‘sexual harassment’ or unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical harassment of a sexual nature.” As such, the above scenarios fit the EEOC description of a crime. The perpetrators should face serious legal charges, loss of employment or both.

The tragedy is that the above cases did not occur between employers and employees, but are real life examples of teachers abusing children. According to a recent New York Times story,

A health teacher at a high school in Manhattan, joking about life for homosexuals in prison, forced a male student to bend over a desk, lined up behind him to simulate a sex act, then quipped, according to an Education Department investigative report, “I’ll show you what’s gay.”

A high school science teacher in the Bronx who had already been warned about touching female students brushed his lower body against one student’s leg during a lab exercise, coming so close that she told investigators she could feel his genitals through his pants.

And a math teacher at a high school in the Bronx, investigators said, sent text messages to and called one of his female students nearly 50 times in a four-week period and, over the winter holidays, parked himself at the McDonald’s where she worked.

Surely these teachers are no longer employed as teachers, are they?

Well, yes they are.

After promising not to do it again, they were given a slap on the wrist by an “arbitrator” and returned to their classes.
I genuinely honestly truly like this part:
But, in a perverse sense, the union stance is understandable, but where are the paladins of the oppressed?

Where are the feminists?

Where is the anti-bullying brigade?

Where are the civil rights groups?
Where, indeed.

Global Warming Post of the Day--A Two-fer

First, this:
Hansen and Schmidt of NASA GISS under fire for climate stance: Engineers, scientists, astronauts ask NASA administration to look at empirical evidence rather than climate models
Looks like another GISS miss, more than a few people are getting fed up with Jim Hansen and Gavin Schmidt and their climate shenanigans. Some very prominent NASA voices speak out in a scathing letter to current NASA administrator Charles Bolden, Jr.. When Chris Kraft, the man who presided over NASA’s finest hour, and the engineering miracle of saving Apollo 13 speaks, people listen.

Now go see what The Oregonian is showing above-the-fold....

Monday, April 09, 2012

First Day Back After Spring Break

Students and staff both seemed just dead today--yet I was chip, chip, chipper. I think I'm still kinda sorta on East Coast time, so I was wide awake when school started this morning. I hope everyone else gets some beauty sleep tonight because they sure didn't seem to get any last night!

Sunday, April 08, 2012

Cadet Pep Band

http://vimeo.com/39975241

"Tricia", the girl in the center, is the sophomore daughter of my best friend from West Point. She, another cadet, and a major took turns taking my son and me around West Point last Thursday. Anyway, she's (obviously) in the Cadet Pep Band, which plays at football games and such, and in this video they were up on the "Poop Deck" in the mess hall playing at a "spirit dinner" for the cadets down below. Because of her we were able not only to eat in the Mess Hall, but to watch and film while they performed. Hope you enjoy watching it! (Be sure to watch it in HD by clicking the blue logo in the lower right.)

These are all cadets in this video.

Why Liberals Can Be So Dang Unpleasant :-)

I've said for a long time that "Conservatives think liberals are wrong, liberals think conservatives are evil." That sentiment is included in this list:
Don't get me wrong. Not every conservative has a winning personality and not every liberal is a toothache in search of a mouth to inhabit. In fact, one of the single nicest people I know is a liberal (Hi, Julie Joyce!) Yet and still, it's not a reach to say that most liberals, especially the ones that are politically active, are just generally difficult to get along with.

It's not just me saying that either. I've interviewed more than one big name conservative who has told me that they moved over to the right in large part because the other liberals they were around were such insufferable human beings....
Let the whining begin!

Thankfully The Market Will Solve This "Problem", Not The Courts

Happy Meals are back!
A San Francisco judge has dismissed a proposed class-action lawsuit that sought to stop McDonald's Corp. from using toys to market its meals to children in the Golden State. The suit had been filed in late 2010 by Monet Parham, a California mother of two, and The Center for Science in the Public Interest, a consumer advocacy group based in Washington, D.C.

The suit had claimed that the world's biggest hamburger chain was violating consumer protection laws and exploiting children's vulnerability by using toys to lure them to eat nutritionally unbalanced meals that can lead to obesity. The lawsuit did not seek damages...

The Center for Science in the Public Interest said in a statement that it will discuss with Parham whether to appeal the case. The group called the use of toys to market food a "predatory practice that undermines parents, causes rifts in families and harms kids' health."
Any parent undermined by McDonald's' advertising, or who allows that advertising to cause "rifts in families", or who can't tell their child "no", has far bigger problems than toys in a Happy Meal.

Seriously.

Global Warming

It's only anthropogenic global warming when something bad happens:
The injection of politics into the global-warming hypothesis has made it difficult to know where facts end and falsehoods begin. While alarmists have been blaming their fellow man for every hurricane, tornado and other ill wind whipped up by Mother Nature, science is now concluding that the cause of these damaging storms has nothing to do with human activity.

The surprise absolution of human beings from the crime of triggering severe weather phenomena was handed down by none other than the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), leader of the campaign to sell the world on anthropogenic climate change. The IPCC’s Special Report on Extremes, released March 28, reads, “There is medium evidence and high agreement that long-term trends in normalized [property] losses have not been attributed to natural or anthropogenic climate change.” The breathtaking admission is a sign that objective science is reclaiming a leading role in the discussion.
Regarding the last sentence above--let's not get crazy here. One correct admission/conclusion doesn't mean that reality is starting to take over.

Happy Multiples Day!

It's 4/8/12....

Saturday, April 07, 2012

You Knew This Was Going To Happen

I wrote about them before, and now comes the bell--this round is over:
A California student who left school, her family and her friends to live with her teacher boyfriend has ended the relationship after the teacher was arrested on charges of sexually assaulting another girl 14 years ago.
I would've thought that the statute of limitations would have run out before 14 years, but whatever.

Update, 4/8/12: The legislature might make such actions a felony in the future:
But in the future, the bill would create a felony for any public school employee who begins a sexual relationship or has "excess and inappropriate communication" with a student of any age. The bill's inclusion of inappropriate communication, described in broad terms, is meant to deter teachers from starting down a path that could lead to an intimate relationship, Olsen said.

AB 1861 also would expel the school employee from the public pension system, though it would return employee retirement contributions back to the worker.

Olsen said she wanted to impose a felony charge in such cases because as many as 23 other states have similar penalties for teachers in the same circumstance as Hooker.

The bill would not pertain to college instructors, and it only applies to teachers and students at the same K-12 public school.
Everything about this law seems reasonable to me except for the pension part. That seems excessive to me.

Redistributionists, Beware the Taxing Power of the Federal Government

Here's what we learn in the Wall Street Journal:
While income distribution has become a source of protest and political debate, any analysis of taxes paid in high tax-and-spend countries shows that the U.S. has the most progressive income tax system in the world. An inconvenient truth for the advocates of higher taxes on America's rich is that big governments in developed countries are funded not by taxing the rich more than the U.S. does, but by taxing everybody else more.
You could take all of Gates' and Buffet's and Zuckerberg's wealth (as opposed to merely taxing their income) and not put a dent in our debt. We've got to stop spending so much.

Friday, April 06, 2012

Philadelphia, Day 4

OK, so this isn't Philadelphia either--but you can see Philadelphia across the river from the battleship USS New Jersey! (click to enlarge the pictures)



And then it was back to Philadelphia for food at the Bourse. And what's a trip to Philadelphia without seeing Betsy Ross' house?
Now the trip's complete :) We leave for home early tomorrow.

Thursday, April 05, 2012

Philadelphia, Day 3

OK, so it's not Philadelphia at all, but West Point! Yes, I returned to my alma mater and, thanks to meeting up with 2 cadets and a major, I got to show my son things most visitors would never see--and it never occurred to me before how 99% of the cool stuff to see is off limits to visitors!

Here are pictures of our "escorts" as well as a couple others:
Austin and I with Major Autin, who got us into the gym and into the barracks, standing near Eisenhower's statue and the Plain (parade field)

Tricia, daughter of my best friend at West Point. She got us into the Mess Hall to eat dinner with the Pep Band, and then up on the Poop Deck during dinner while the Pep Band performed there. What a treat!

Carson is a former student of mine. He took us into Thayer Hall, which is one of the academic buildings, and Grant Hall, which is a much nicer "cadet restaurant" than it ever was in my day. We also took a drive around post to see how much had changed.

Fort Putnam is a Revolutionary War-era fort that was part of the original fortifications at West Point. Access was closed, but here's a cannon peaking over its wall. If you don't know, Fortress West Point played a very important role during the Revolution, keeping the British from controlling the Hudson River and splitting the colonies; Benedict Arnold is a traitor because he tried to get the plans to Fortress West Point to the British (all for the love of a woman). Fort Putnam was just one of many fortifications there, but it's the only one that remains.

Washington's statue in front of Washington Hall, the lower half of which comprises the Mess Hall. It's also in the center of an imposing set of buildings that usually makes the tourists go "ooh" and "ahhh".

If I remember and find time, after I get home I'll try to post some of the video I took today--but it's been a long day, and now I need some sleep!

Update, 4/6/12: If you wonder why I need to go to sleep so early, well, it's not early! I keep the blog on Pacific Time but I posted from the East Coast, which is 3 hrs ahead.

Wednesday, April 04, 2012

Philadelphia, Day 2

OK, so the first pictures aren't exactly from Philadelphia--they're from Valley Forge, about 20 miles away (click on the pictures to enlarge them):

Soldiers' cabins. Each held 12 soldiers, and each brigade's cabins were together.

Definitely spartan, but maybe not so much by the standards of the day.


The artillery park.


General Washington's headquarters.

From there we went to the monstrous mall in King of Prussia, correctly thinking we'd find plenty of lunch opportunities there. And then we were back in the historic part of Philadelphia for a couple of iconic American shots:

Click and zoom to see whose grave this is :-)

These two are probably the best-looking guys in all of Philadelphia!

Tomorrow we're off to West Point.

Education Buzz

This week's is posted here and includes my post on getting more curious about all that math I was supposed to have learned back in college.

Tuesday, April 03, 2012

Philadelphia, Day 1

After a long redeye airplane flight, and a short amount of sleep,we made it to Philadelphia. We've had a full day of sightseeing (click on the pictures to enlarge):

The USS New Jersey, as seen through a porthole on the Olympia, Commodore Dewey's flagship during the Battle of Manila Bay in the Spanish-American War.

Olympia and the Becuna, a WWII submarine.

The bows of Olympia and the Becuna. The ship on the left is a restaurant.

Old and new merge in more ways than one in this picture.

An alley in Old Town Philadelphia.

Independence Hall. A couple weeks ago I paid $3 to reserve "free" tickets for a tour, which consisted of seeing two rooms. Seriously.

Cheap Trick played here.

Your intrepid blogger, next door to Independence Hall.

Another shot of Independence Hall.

Row houses in the Society Hill area.

Up for tomorrow: Valley Forge, the Liberty Bell, Franklin Court, and Ben Franklin's grave.