Friday, August 31, 2012

Random Trip Pic

Rooftops of Rome

My Personal Message From Joe Biden, The Intellect of the Democratic Party

Darren --

If we win this election, it will be because of what you did in moments like this to help close the spending gap.

Because this is real: Just last week alone, Mitt Romney's campaign and his allies outspent our side by at least three to one in North Carolina, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, Colorado, and Pennsylvania, all states we need to win.

That could swing the election -- but it doesn't have to.

Tomorrow is our biggest fundraising deadline so far. Will you make a donation of $5 or more today and help this campaign hang in there for the final two months?

Tonight Mitt Romney will deliver a speech that millions of Americans will hear.

He's going to say a lot of things about Barack Obama, and belittle what we stand for.

When he does, remember the important role you play in the political process. Remember the kind of man our president is, and the tough choices he's had to make from that Oval Office.

Voters in some very important states are hearing distortions and lies from people who've invested a lot to see Barack Obama removed from the White House.

Fight back. Donate $5 or more and make sure your voice is heard just as loud:

https://donate.barackobama.com/August-Deadline

We wouldn't be here without you. Thank you.

Joe

P.S. -- Deciding that the stakes are high enough to do our part isn't a November 6th decision. It's one I'm asking you to make right now, before tomorrow's big fundraising deadline.

Joe --

No.

Darren

They'll Stop At Nothing

Can you believe the audacity?
On Thursday, in the shadow of the hurricane barreling down on the region, the Louisiana Federation of Teachers, a large teachers' union, launched an attack on the state's chapter of the Black Alliance for Educational Options, a nonprofit organization working to improve black educational achievement through education reform and school choice.  On its official Twitter account, the teachers' union ludicrously alleged that BAEO supports a "pro KKK curriculum," and sent out the statement to various followers.
The mind boggles.  Seriously.

Why I'm Blogging Today

California's budget is in a shambles, and the faucet of money that funds education is slowing to a trickle.  If the tax increase on the November ballot doesn't pass, and it probably won't (I'm certainly not going to vote for it), then that trickle will become a persistent drip.

Today is a furlough day in my district.  There's no school, I'm home, and I'm not getting paid.

Hypocrisy, Thy Party Is Democrat

I'll just quote the Instapundit post in full:
IT’S LIKE ALL THOSE WAR-CRIMES COMPLAINTS AND “HAVE YOU NO DECENCY” TROLLS DURING THE BUSH ADMINISTRATION WERE JUST POLITICAL BULLSHIT: The Reckoning: CIA Interrogation Investigation Closed Without Further Charges. “In the meantime, the Obama administration that once savaged President Bush for surveilling American citizens who abet the enemy tells us that there is no problem killing American citizens — with a straight face and without the slightest hint that some apology might be in order.” Including from some Obama-loving bloggers who have changed their tune since the White House became theirs.
Where is the anti-war left and their mass marches while this president kills American citizens by missile without giving them due process rights???

It's not that I have a problem with doing that; my problem is people who decry lesser activities when the president has an (R) after his name and sit silently by when a president with a (D) after his name goes even further.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

A Reason To Go To Manhattan

From the June 2012 Smithsonian magazine:
Click to read about the Museum of Mathematics.

Random Rantings

I need to make dinner and then get to my linear algebra course, so here are some topics I'd love to spend more time on but can't today!

Have you heard about the deaf 3-yr-old whose school said he has to change the way he signs his name because part of the gesture looks like the "bang-bang" gesture that all boys make with their hands?  Incidentally, the boy's name is Hunter:
A Nebraska school district wants a 3-year-old deaf boy to change the way he signs his name because they say the gesture makes his hands look like weapons, the boy's family claims.

The district, in Grand Island, about three hours west of Omaha, has a policy that forbids kids bringing to school "any instrument ... that looks like a weapon," local station KOLN reported.

According to the report, Hunter Spanjer signs his name by crossing his index finger and middle finger and then wagging his hands, which the school says is not appropriate. link
The school district denies this:
Grand Island Public Schools officials declined to discuss the case, but issued a statement to FoxNews.com in which they denied requiring any student to change how his or her name is signed...

Jack Sheard, a spokesman for the district, said district officials — who have reportedly received hundreds of angry phone calls, emails and even death threats — are working with Spanjer’s family.  link
Exactly how are they working with the family, if there's no problem?  If he can sign his given name, what problem is there to "work with"?

A few of us were talking about this at lunch today, and the consensus is that the school district will buckle by Friday.

Next topic:
Remember a few years ago when Eric Holder said that we as a nation were afraid to hold discussions of race?  Well, it's certainly not hard for certain people in a certain political party to talk about race, as they bring up every chance they get, but this is pretty much how we discuss race in a school environment:
Teachers can’t discuss intelligence or racial differences in “behavior, focus or drive,” Morrison writes. If black or Hispanic students score below average, it must be due to “racism, oppression, cultural differences and textbooks.”  White or Asian students who don’t learn must be victims of “poor teaching methods, run-down school buildings, or lazy and uncaring teachers.” Above all, “students are never to blame if they misbehave, fail to study, or can’t understand the curriculum.”
Poor performance is never caused by culture...or perhaps I'm judging poor performance from a white middle-class perspective.  Damn me.

And while we're on the subject of race, Instapundit first quotes Roger L. Simon:
Racism is stalking the Republican Convention in Tampa. But it’s not from the Republicans. It’s from the mainstream media.

First it was MSNBC treating convention speakers Artur Davis, Mia Love, and Ted Cruz like nonpersons. And now it’s Yahoo! Washington Bureau Chief David Chalian getting caught on an ABC webcast saying Mitt Romney would be “happy to have a party when black people drown.”

Chalian, not surprisingly, was fired almost immediately when the word got out, but the climate in which he would make such an insane statement is very much alive and well. Why would anyone dream of saying such a thing in a semi-public situation if he didn’t feel safe and among friends?

The left/liberal need to think Republicans and conservatives racists is more than just projection. At this point, it is nothing short of a mental illness. It is so far divorced from reality, it has to be pathological. No longer are these people able to observe reality with anything close to impartiality. We are not in the world of politics, ladies and gentlemen. We are in the world Freud, Jung, Adler, and people bouncing off walls.
Then Instapundit quotes from a reader who emailed him:
The sheer pathology that Roger Simon highlights may well be one of the biggest stories of this election season. It’s becoming hard to ignore it and becoming more apparent to a larger number of people. At the same time, intended victims are less likely to be cowed.

Democrats and the left have lazily relied on the power of ad hominem coupled with race for the better part of 40 years now. The power of that was bound to diminish with passing time and generations. We’re seeing it now and also seeing that Democrats, and the left generally, have done nothing to prepare for that day. They are desperate, because they have nothing else to offer as rebuttal in policy disputes. Nothing.

This is the price to paid for 40 years of intellectual stasis on the left.
When he jokes that NBC must stand for "No Black Conservatives", the days of playing the race card are indeed numbered for our friends on the left. They've been shouting "fire" in that crowded theater for 40 years now, it's time to make them stop.

Update, 8/31/12:  Hunter Spanjer's school district buckled sooner than we expected.  Good!






The Republican Convention

A friend posted the following on the Facebook:
Great quote from Twitter

You can judge how effective the convention is by how angry the anchors are on MSNBC. So it was a good night.
I just smile :)

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

My First Small Victory

#31.

My instructor assigned problem #31, which happened to be the first problem on page 34.  There were no problems like it in that section of the text.  None.  And I had absolutely no idea how to solve it.

In the textbooks out of which I teach, it would have been labeled a "critical thinking" problem.

So on Sunday I started thinking about it.  I had a brief idea and gave "part a" a shot--and when I checked the answer in the back of the book, it was right!  OK, on to part b.

Buoyed by my success in part a, I thought long and hard about how I might tackle part b.  Then I went on to the next section of the book because I can't spend the rest of the semester on page 34 without moving on.  But I kept coming back to #31b, just to see what intuition would buy me.  Last night (Monday) before going to bed I actually came up with an idea I thought I'd try today.  It was based on logic, but it was a complete and total guess.  I had no idea if I was anywhere near the right path or not.

So when I got home from school today I set to work on 31b.  I checked the section again, but no, no example problem had magically appeared in there.  I was going to have to give my idea a try.  So as I'm turning from pages 30 and 31 (the lesson) to page 34, on which resides problem 31, I passed page 33, which contained problems 29 and 30--both of which introduced concepts needed in #31.  As I said, #31 was the first problem on the page; I hadn't thought to look at previous problems, only the lesson itself, and besides, 29 and 30 weren't assigned.

So I spent a few minutes studying #29 and 30--and I'll be darned, all that thinking and intuition I'd done on parts a and b were definitely on the right track!  Armed with my new-found information in problems 29 and 30, though, I tackled #31, and I got the right answer! 

My goal is to have many more such feelings of victory in the weeks and months ahead.

Voter ID Requirements

Could he be any more correct? (said in best Chandler voice, from Friends)
Current voter-registration systems are flawed, with huge numbers of dead or disqualified voters still on the rolls. And, since voter-ID enforcement is poor, in many places a person can simply claim to be one of those people and vote in their name with no one the wiser.

(Sometimes it’s worse than that — one voting-rights activist, a twentysomething white guy with a pony tail in Washington, DC, managed to get a ballot in Attorney General Eric Holder’s name.)

You might call our system “Third World,” but that would be an insult to the Third World. As Fund and von Spakovsky note, to register to vote in Mexico a voter must provide a photo, a signature and a thumbprint. The Mexican voter-registration card includes holographic security, a magnetic code and a serial number. Before voting, voters have to show the card and have the thumbprints matched by a scanner.

Similar safeguards apply in many other countries, along with simple precautions to prevent repeat voting (remember those Iraqis with purple thumbs?) that America lacks.

In the United States, meanwhile, only 17 states even require identification in order to vote. Holder & Co., claim that requiring photo ID would be racist, because getting a driver’s license, etc., costs money. This claim has consistently been rejected by courts, and with good reason: If requiring photo ID to vote is racist, then what about requiring photo ID to exercise other constitutional rights, like buying a gun?

Of course, the real objection to requiring voter ID isn’t based in civil rights, but in civil wrongs.
To make such observations is probably raaaaaaacist to some people, but to those of us who love liberty, you can't flinch in the face of the truth.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Come On, ABC News, You Can Do Better

A second staffer, a school resource officer, was outside the cafeteria and rushed in to help the teacher subdue the suspect until cops arrived, police said.  link
"Cops"? Really?  ABC News is supposed to be a serious news outlet.  Let's cut down on the use of slang and refer to them as "police" or "law enforcement".

And no, that's not the most important thing I got out of a story in which a student was shot at school by another student, but since I don't really have any commentary to add to that story, I'll just write about something else that jumped out at me.

Humble Pie

Sometimes we bite off more than we can chew.  I did that, so now I have to eat some humble pie.

I thought that I could work, be a dad, have a life, and take 2 master's level courses at the same time.  After one week, in which some of the work was review and there was very little new material, I've found that that's just not so.  The time commitment is just too great.  I might be able to make it through the semester, but I think I'd be a very unhappy, unpleasant person by December.

So I made a decision.  I contacted my advisor--who a couple months ago warned me against taking 2 classes at once--and she concurs with my decision to drop one of the classes.  This morning I dropped statistical analysis.

My remaining class (linear algebra) will still take about 10 hrs a week, but I should still have time left over for the rest of what life has to offer.  I've confirmed with my statistical analysis professor that he'll offer that course again next semester so I'll take it then.

I'm a little embarrassed about being knocked down to size in an academic environment, but, as they say, "it is what it is."  Now I just need to do well in my remaining course so I can salvage some dignity out of this.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

The Soft Bigotry of Low Expectations

President Bush popularized that phrase, and it's been enshrined in Virginia's new educational standards:
Virginia's new achievement standards have raised eyebrows.

Part of the state's new standards dictate a specific percentage of racial group that should pass school exams, a move that has angered the Virginia Black Caucus. The caucus' chairwoman, Democratic state Sen. Mamie Locke, says the new standards marginalize students by creating different goals for students of various backgrounds...

The standards do not pose different pass rates for different groups: regardless of race, each student has to correctly answer the same number of test questions in order to pass. The difference lies in the expectation of passing from groups of different backgrounds. The new rules were designed as part of Virginia's waiver from No Child Left Behind, along with 31 other states and Washington, D.C.

For instance, only 45 percent of black students are required to pass the math state test while 82 percent for Asian Americans, 68 percent for whites and 52 percent for Hispanics are required to pass. In reading, 92 percent of Asian students, 90 percent of white students, 80 percent of hispanic students, 76 percent of black students, and 59 percent of students with disabilities are required to pass the state exam.
Can this possibly be correct?  I mean, who could possibly believe this is the right thing to do?

When You Can't Run On Your Record...

It's clear that the president can't campaign on his accomplishments, of which there have been none, so this is what he and his party are reduced to:
To win the “war on women,” the party’s general staff are planning their own Normandy invasion, adding to their convention line-up a host of stellar “pro-choice” speakers, including Desperate Housewife Eva Longoria, Planned Parenthood’s head honchette Cecile Richards, NARAL Pro-Choice America abortion supremo Nancy Keenan, and Georgetown Law’s contraceptive coed Sandra Fluke. President Obama’s lavishly remunerated strategists have presumably run the focus groups and crunched the numbers, but, if I were a moderate, centrist, eternally indecisive swing-voter in a critical state and I switched on the Democrat convention to find a bunch of speakers warning about the threat to your abortion rights I would find it a very curious priority in the summer of 2012.

None of us can know what the world will be like four years from now, but one thing can be said for certain: An American woman will still enjoy her “right to choose.” Whether one supports or opposes abortion, the practical reality is that the biggest “threat” to your “right” to one is that you might have to drive a little bit further for it. Still, one should never underestimate the peculiar lens through which “progressives” view reality: The “war” on women boils down to Sandra Fluke, a 30-year-old schoolgirl, demanding Georgetown Law should pay for its students’ contraceptives — notwithstanding that the entire cost of that four-year contraceptive bill works out to less than the first week’s paycheck of a Georgetown Law graduate’s first job (average starting salary: $160 grand per year). War is hell.

If you think Barbara Boxer’s right about General Romney’s war on woman, feel free to waste your vote. But what else is likely to happen between now and the next time you cast a presidential ballot? We’ve rehearsed the fiscal stuff in this space before: China becoming the world’s biggest economy, another American downgrade, total U.S. liabilities equivalent to about three times the entire planet’s GDP. A “non-partisan” Pew Research study says the American middle class faces its “worst decade in modern history” — and the first bump down starts on January 1: The equally “non-partisan” Congressional Budget Office now says that the tax and budget changes due to take effect at the beginning of 2013 will put the country back in recession and increase unemployment. This is a revision of their prediction earlier this year that in 2013 the economy would contract by 1.3 percent. Now they say 2.9 percent. These days, CBO revisions only go one way — down. They’re gonna need steeper graph paper. In a global economy, atrophy goes around like syphilis in the Gay Nineties: A moribund U.S. economy further mires Europe, and both slow growth in China, which means fewer orders for resource-rich nations. . . . Four wheels spinning in the mud, and none with a firm-enough grip to pull the vehicle back on to solid ground.
This president has never even signed a federal budget.  Would you want to put your signature on the mound of debt he's racked up?  You don't hear the president or his party addressing any of these topics on the campaign trail, and for that reason if no other he deserves to be fired in November.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

RIP, Neil

I just saw that Neil Armstrong has died.  He was my first hero.

Friday, August 24, 2012

The Road To Hell

The do-gooders thought they were saving Mother Gaia by banning DDT, and now many areas of our country are inundated with bedbugs and poor people throughout the world die from malaria.

I remember when grocery stores switched from offering paper bags to plastic bags because--wait for it--plastic was better for the earth because we didn't have to cut down trees!  Now in some jurisdictions they're not supposed to offer you any bag at all; you're supposed to bring your own, with entirely foreseeable (and foreseen) consequences:
Researchers examined these reusable totes and found significant amounts of dangerous bacteria, including, among others, E-coli. And there seems to be a correlation between plastic bag bans and increased illness, as bacteria-related deaths spiked immediately after San Francisco’s bag measure began. 
Liberals sometimes like to mockingly pray, "Lord, please save me from your followers."  I might paraphrase their prayer to, "Lord, please save me from those who try to save me from myself."

Thursday, August 23, 2012

I Found It!

Tonight while looking for something else I found a picture I've been looking for for months:
Sadly, in my scan, because it's black ink on a black section of the picture, you can't see the part that says "To Darren".  Darn it, there's got to be a way to scan it such that my name is visible!!!

Last year one of my students interned in the Capitol and got me a new autographed picture of the current, older Governor Brown. No, I'm no Democrat--and I wasn't in 1982, either--but this is still kinda cool, so I'm going to scan both of them and hang them up in my classroom.

Update, 8/26/12:  That was then, this is now:

Linear Algebra

Last night I spent close to an hour studying 2 sections of the book, then spent another hour watching the video lesson covering those two sections.  Today I spent about an hour on the homework on those two sections.

And that was just Linear Algebra.  Statistical Analysis is another animal entirely!

Yes, I brought this upon myself--I could be done with this degree in 10 months if I just wanted to jump through hoops at National or Phoenix, but that isn't the point of this post.

As an undergrad I took linear algebra while an exchange cadet at the Air Force Academy.  A recent retiree from my school was the course director for linear algebra at USAFA for a couple of years immediately before I got there--talk about a coincidence!  Anyway, I once talked to him about what a horrible course it was, how the book was horrible, and he was horrified.  He said it was a wonderful book, then pulled it out of his closet (!!!) and asked what was wrong with it.  "This isn't the book we used," I said.  The next day I brought in the book we had used, he glanced through it and said, "It's no wonder you didn't learn anything.  This is way above the head of anyone taking an introductory linear algebra course.  This is at least master's level."

I got the highest score in the class and there's an A on my transcript, but if I remember correctly, that score was maybe a 60% or something.  I could go through some motions but I didn't learn a thing.  Last night and today I learned Gaussian Elimination, how to manipulate matrices into reduced row-echelon form and solve systems of equations.

I've learned more in 3 hours of this course than I learned in a semester in my previous Linear Algebra course.

Now I need to tackle some of the other course.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

I Thought Getting A Master's Degree Was Supposed To Be Easy :-)

2 courses.
3 hrs of video lecture per course per week.
Plus homework.
Plus tests.
For an entire semester.

For 5 semesters.

What have I done???

Students Who Exercise Their Rights

Some people just don't like our Constitution.  Would this physics professor cancel class if he found out that people were going to exercise their 1st Amendment rights?
University of Colorado Chancellor Phil DiStefano notified the Boulder campus faculty Tuesday afternoon that professors "do not have the right to shut down a class or refuse to teach" should they learn that one of their students is lawfully carrying a gun under a concealed-carry permit.

And, DiStefano added, any faculty members who do so will be in violation of their contracts and face disciplinary action.

DiStefano's message comes a day after Professor Jerry Peterson, chairman of the Boulder Faculty Assembly, told the Daily Camera that, under his own "personal policy," he plans to cancel class if he ever learns any of his students are carrying firearms. A Colorado Supreme Court ruling this spring overturned CU's Boulder campus gun ban, and university officials say that students with conceal-carry permits are allowed to bring guns into classrooms and labs. ..

"On this issue, there can be no ambiguity: all CU-Boulder faculty, as CU and state employees, are expected to teach their assigned courses and to hold classes for all enrolled students," DiStefano wrote.
I'm impressed that Chancellor DiStefano's comments are as strong as they are. The ball is now in Professor Peterson's court.

Classes Have Started

Now that I have access to the first online courses of my master's program I feel so overwhelmed!  If I were in high school I'd go to my counselor and get my classes changed.  Holy crap!

Monday, August 20, 2012

Blogging's Going To Be A Lot Lighter For The Next Couple Years

Today begins my 2+ year odyssey of obtaining my master's degree.  I signed up for two courses this semester--and holy crap, at first glance I'm overwhelmed!  It's definitely not a program that will allow me hour upon hour of internet reading and blogging! 

I've toyed with just stopping blogging altogether--it's been almost 8 years.  But instead I'll keep it up, writing much more infrequently but just as passionately, and make a decision later as to whether or not to keep it going.  I could always use this space to complain about how difficult my classes are!

I'll keep you posted....

Sunday, August 19, 2012

California Dysfunction

I'm not naive enough to believe that this occurs only in California, or even only in liberal states, but combine this story with California's "Marianas Trench" budget issues and ask yourself how this could happen:
The state Department of Parks and Recreation routinely searched for ways to spend extra money each June despite facing the threat of park closures and forgoing upkeep at its 278 properties, based on newly released transcripts from an internal investigation.

Testimony from 30 interviews with state employees portrays parks administrators who appeared to have the opposite problem from one long described by Gov. Jerry Brown – excess cash left over and not enough ways to spend it...

Brown's administration revealed last month that the parks department had long hidden $54 million without reporting it to the Department of Finance and state lawmakers, who have constitutional authority over spending in California. In the past year, private donors and other government agencies have contributed under the impression the parks department did not have a dime to spare. Longtime state parks director Ruth Coleman and other top officials resigned last month.
There's much more at the link.  Make sure you have Kleenex on hand, because it's just sad.

So yes, I think we do need less government, and especially less bureaucracy.  You want to eliminate "waste, fraud, and abuse" in government?  I got your "waste, fraud, and abuse" right here.  What are you going to do about it?

Read more here: http://www.sacbee.com/2012/08/19/4738279/california-parks-officials-were.html#storylink=cpy


Read more here: http://www.sacbee.com/2012/08/19/4738279/california-parks-officials-were.html#storylink=cpy

Sacramento Area Looks Good!

Check it out, Sacramento junior colleges avoid the list of colleges facing sanctions, a rare bit of good news (or merely the absence of bad news) for the capitol region:
The Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges can issue three levels of sanctions if it does not reaffirm a college's accreditation. This year it has sanctioned the following California community colleges:

SHOW CAUSE (strongest sanction)
City College of San Francisco
College of the Redwoods
Cuesta College
PROBATION (midlevel sanction)
Los Angeles Harbor College
Los Angeles Southwest College
Modesto Junior College
Moorpark College
Oxnard College
Palo Verde College
San Jose City College
Shasta College
Ventura College
Victor Valley College
WARNING (low-level sanction)
Barstow College
Berkeley City College
College of Alameda
College of Marin
Columbia College
Evergreen Valley College
Fresno City College
Laney College
Merritt College
Merced College
Reedley College
San Diego Miramar College
Solano Community College
West Los Angeles College

Read more here: http://www.sacbee.com/2012/08/15/4726349/colleges-sanctioned.html#storylink=cpy

Read more here: http://www.sacbee.com/2012/08/15/4726349/colleges-sanctioned.html#storylink=cpy

No Double Standard This Time

Colleps is married and has three children. She turned herself in after a cellphone video of one encounter that involved multiple students emerged. That video was shown a(t) trial.

Three former students who testified Thursday said that they did not consider themselves victims and did not want to see their former English teacher prosecuted. The three were football and track athletes.  link
Feisty lady, no?  Still, she broke the law.
It took the jury less than an hour to conclude that Brittni Nicole Colleps, 28, of Arlington, was guilty of 16 counts of having an inappropriate relationship between a student and teacher. The second-degree felony is punishable by two to 20 years in prison per count.
Her husband, who was deployed overseas while the missus was doing the nasty with the boys, wants to stay married.  He says he firmly believes in "till death do us part", so you might believe he has a strong grasp on the sanctity of marriage, but I think that grasp is rather tenuous:
He said he was very angry and hurt by his wife's actions, but admitted the two of them have had group sex with other consenting adults in the past.
No one comes out a winner in this story, except maybe for the judge and jury.

Biden and the Press' Double Standards

Kudos to the Boston Globe editorial staff for recognizing the double standard being applied to Joe Biden by their compatriots in the press:
When Vice President Joe Biden warned a Virginia rally of hundreds of African Americans that Republican efforts to loosen bank regulations meant “They’re going to put y’all back in chains,” Stephanie Cutter, Team Obama’s deputy campaign manager, said the president would have “no problem with those comments.”

But imagine if Republican Paul Ryan uttered comments like that. Mitt Romney’s pick for vice president would be pilloried for racial insensitivity — and so would Romney. In the fight for civility and substance over pointless hyperbole, Biden may not be the worst offender. But he’s an offender nonetheless, and he should apologize.
Biden has a history of making remarks that would rile up liberals if they were spoken by a conservative politician. Back in 2008, when Biden was running against Barack Obama for the Democratic presidential nomination, he had to apologize for saying, “I mean, you got the first mainstream African American who is articulate and bright and clean and a nice-looking guy. I mean, that’s a storybook, man.”
I'll be honest, there's a perfectly reasonable, complimentary, non-racist interpretation of the "articulate/clean" comment, and I choose to believe that is what Biden meant.  In other words, that was a fake controversy ginned up by the usual race hustlers and their ilk. 

But the chains comment?  How much longer can the White House stand by that comment?  Come on, the man was making a slavery reference to a black crowd.  Get real.

The Poster Child For "Too Much Government"

Conservatives believe in community, charity, and decency.  This is the poster child for too much government--and note how it eliminates all three:
Lunch lady Angela Prattis thought she was just doing God's work, handing out free lunches to hungry children in a Pennsylvania neighborhood. But even acts of altruism, it seems, must bow to red tape.

National outrage has erupted after Prattis found herself running afoul of Chester Township zoning laws and threatened with a $600 fine if she continued, according to NBC10 Philadelphia.

Moreover, she faces a $1,000 fee if she wants to continue performing her good deeds, according to the Philadelphia Inquirer.

The lunch lady, who is also a youth pastor at her church, was told that she needed a township zoning permit continue to hand out lunches outside her home. And the approval process requires an official hearing. And that hearing would cost her $1,000, the Inquirer reported.
Government pays for the food.  Government inspectors had already OK'd her operation.

Sad.

Math

Get'cher bumper sticker here.

Vintage Trailer Rally

Took the Egg-terprise camping this weekend at a Vintage Trailer Rally.  Just so happened to be co-located with a vintage car rally, so enjoy a few pictures:
click to enlarge











Darned Brits Don't Know English!

I've often wondered why we in the US say "math" whereas the Brits and assorted Commonwealth types say "maths".    A small skirmish over the final 's' was fought in the Twitterverse; I'm not sure who won, but I agree with this sentiment:
“Physics” is just a word with an “s” at the end, not an abbreviation. “Econ” is an abbreviation for a singular concept, and doesn’t get an “s.” “Stats” is an abbreviation for a plural concept, and gets an “s.” Because “mathematics” is not the plural of “mathematic,” there’s no reason for its abbreviation to retain the vestigal “s.”
Darned Brits, learn some English!

Have I ever addressed on this blog why I assert that "data" (in English, not in Latin) is singular, or why I think it's entirely reasonable to split infinitives sometimes, or to end a sentence with a preposition?  If not, I'm armored up and prepared to do battle with the VLL's!  (that's Victorian Luddite Linguists)

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

It's All About The Kids (Except When It Isn't)

I've written about this before, but since it's that time of year again, I get to do an updated post on the subject.

My district and local union have agreed on a stupid policy regarding substitute teachers.  Because we had to lay off many teachers, those teachers get first dibs on any substitute assignment that occurs.  At first thought this sounds like a good idea--these laid-off teachers get some income as we determine if more full-time openings come available--but upon closer inspection it's the most anti-education plan that could be devised.

From what I understand, there are no math teachers among the laid-off teachers.  So if a math teacher calls in sick, he or she cannot request a math teacher (or, in my case, cannot contact an awesome retired math teacher) as a substitute.  Instead we get whatever laid off teacher is next "on the list".  If I were to call in sick, I'd get a laid off third grade teacher--who probably isn't capable of teaching trigonometry or statistics.  In other words, I'd get a babysitter, and my students wouldn't get any instruction that day.

And my district and local union agreed to this.

I can kinda see why the local union would want this, as their job is to "protect" teachers.  On the other hand, though, a union that always claims "education first" and "children are our special interest"--how can they justify a policy that clearly deprives children of instruction, for the benefit of teachers?  And why would the district, whose job it is to educate students, agree to this?  Why would they not stipulate an entirely reasonable condition about credential area? 

As someone who cares deeply about the education of the students in his charge (and who averages 3 missed days of school a year, except for the big ski accident), I am both mystified and mortified by this substitute teacher policy.  My students deserve better, and in fact we could do better--but neither the union nor the district wants to.

And that's sad.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Summer Vacation's Over

When I wake up tomorrow morning, it'll be because I have to go back to work.  Students show up the next day (Thursday).

Expiration Date

From Instapundit:
INVESTOR’S BUSINESS DAILY: Ryan’s Budget Is Radical? Far From It.

What’s radical is jacking up federal spending to near-World-War-II levels, and funneling much of the money into the pockets of cronies.

But even Obama didn’t think the Ryan budget was radical when it came out: FLASHBACK: Obama in 2010 on Ryan Roadmap: ‘This is an entirely legitimate proposal.’
Video at the link.

UPDATE: Reader Kenneth Nachbar writes:

Great work on the video of Obama legitimizing Ryan’s plan. But you buried the lede! At about 4 minutes in, he concedes that Medicare is the real problem, and that we must not attack opponents’ plans as “irresponsible” or trying to “hurt senior citizens.”
So I guess ads like this are off the table, right?
Only for those possessed of a conscience.
As Jim Geraghty noted, everything Obama says comes with an expiration date.  Every single thing.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Oh Yeah, Baby. I Entered.

Dinner With Barack

I'd give him something to chew on besides just chateaubriand, that's for sure.

Update, 8/14/12:  Today I started getting the junk mail from the Obama campaign....

Radical Left-Wing Activism At UCLA? No Way!

From Breitbart:
UCLA continues to back away from National Dream University, the partnership announced last week by the UCLA Center for Labor Research and Education and the National Labor College that will offer college courses to illegal aliens around the country.

The partnership is the brain child of two left wing activists, Kent Wong, Director of the UCLA Center for Labor Research and Education, and his superior, Professor Chris Tilly, Director of the UCLA Institute for Research on Labor and Employment (IRLE).  Together, Wong and Tilly have turned the UCLA Center for Labor Research and Education into a virtually independent rogue operation that engages in partisan political advocacy with little institutional control provided by UCLA...

This independence appears to have been abused with National Dream University, which has set commitment to a left wing pro-union political ideology as a condition for acceptance to its program, as its website specifies:
To be considered for admission to National Dream University you must ... demonstrate commitment to immigrant/labor rights and social justice; (emphasis added)
Reacting to the negative public response brought on by National Dream University's announced mission of offering subsidized college education to illegal aliens while imposing a political litmus test as a standard for acceptance to the program, officials at UCLA have tried to distance the school from the project. "The [National Dream University] initiative between the UCLA Center for Labor Research and the National Labor College was negotiated directly and independently by those two organizations," said Ricardo Vasquez, Senior Public Information Representative in the UCLA Media Relations Department.
So they're not stopping it, they're just trying to separate themselves from the public firestorm that would occur if Californians found out the universities they're funding were doing this.  Brave leaders, those in the UCLA administration.

As for so-called social justice, I demonstrate a commitment to it--but I think that what I consider social justice is a little different than what Wong and Tilly consider to be social justice.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

CTEN's YouTube Channel

Not only does the California Teachers Empowerment Network now have a YouTube channel, but yours truly is the star of the only two videos currently posted (yes, more are on the way)  :-)

It's Close Enough To The TSA For A 2-Minute Hate :-)

From Instapundit:
#TSAFAIL: Stranded jet-skier saunters through JFK safeguards. “A stranded jet-skier seeking help effortlessly overcame the Port Authority’s $100 million, supposedly state-of-the-art security system at JFK Airport — walking undetected across two runways and into a terminal, The Post has learned. Motion sensors and closed-circuit cameras of the Perimeter Intrusion Detection System, or PIDS, were no match for Daniel Casillo, 31, of Howard Beach, who easily breached the system meant to safeguard against terrorists. . . . Dripping wet and in a bright-yellow life jacket, Casillo climbed the perimeter fence, which is eight feet high, and walked across that runway and intersecting Runway 31L — and made it all the way to Terminal 3 without anyone noticing.” He’s been charged with criminal trespass — no, really — while the officials involved should be charged with criminal negligence. But it’s doubtful that anyone will even lose their job over this.

UPDATE: Reader Brian Medcalf says I’m wrong to blame the TSA, which isn’t responsible for airport perimeter security. That’s a fair point, I suppose.
When liberals/socialists and other assorted statists want to argue with me about the good government can do, they always start with "roads and bridges".  I agree with them.  Government can build static things well.  Dams.  Airports.  Military bases :-)  What government doesn't do all that well is run things:  social security, farm subsidies, drug war, border security, airport security.  Given this, why would you want to turn your health care over to the government?  What evidence do you have, seriously and honestly, that it would be an improvement?

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Getting Older

Some time in the past few weeks, the midpoint of the living graduates of West Point went through me.  I'm now in the older half!

Update, 8/22/12:  Sir, may I make a correction?  When last I checked, the midpoint was a woman graduate of my class whose last name begins with U, meaning the midpoint had passed me and I was in the upper half of all living graduates.  However, when she was a cadet her last name began with an H, so the midpoint hadn't gotten to me yet--and still hasn't!  As of today the midpoint is still in the H's in the Class of '87 so I'm still in the younger half of living West Point graduates.

Random Trip Pic

Hadrian's Mausoleum/Castel Sant'Angelo, Rome

Corporate Welfare/Giving Money To The Rich

If you say you're against "corporate welfare", what do you say about this form of it?
The Assembly Appropriations Committee unanimously supported a bill that would extend funding for California's film and television tax credit program. Funding for the program is due to expire next year.

California sets aside $100 million annually for dozens of projects applying for credits between 20% and 25% of qualified production expenses for movies and TV shows.
Talk about people making "too much" money.... You know, I might could enjoy this line of socialist thought :)

Teaching Math Correctly

There's nothing new in this piece, but it certainly gathers all the right ideas and puts them in one place:
In the never-ending dialogue about math education that has come to be known as the “math wars”,  proponents of reform-based math tend to characterize math as it was taught in the 60’s (and prior) as “skills-based”.   The term connotes a teaching of math that focused almost exclusively on procedures and facts in isolation to the conceptual underpinning that holds math together.  The “skills-based” appellation also suggests that those students who may have mastered their math courses in K-12 were missing the conceptual basis of mathematics and were taught the subject as a means to do computation, rather than explore the wonders of mathematics for its own sake.

Without delving too far into the math wars, I and others have written that while traditional math may sometimes have  been taught poorly, it also was taught properly.   In fact, a view of the textbooks in use at that time reveal that they provided both procedures and concept.  Missing perhaps were more challenging problems, but also missing from the reformers’ arguments is the fact that not only are procedures and concepts taught in tandem  but that computational fluency leads to conceptual understanding.  
I'm beginning to believe less and less in the "math for its own sake" mentality.  I don't know that that can be taught, and to be quite honest, I'm not sure there are enough people out there who are willing to put in enough effort to get to the point where they can see the beauty, wonder, and interconnectedness of the mathematical mosaic.  I now lean towards the "teach to fluency" mode,  which is "necessary but not sufficient" to get to the "beauty and wonder" mode.  Oh, I'll take my students to "beauty and wonder" if they want to go there, and plenty do, but that's not where I focus my classes.

Too much "beauty and wonder" and not enough "fluency" puts the cart before the horse.

Thursday, August 09, 2012

Do They Think This Will Make Them More Money?

Do they think there's some vast, homosexual train-riding demographic to be tapped?
Amtrak is joining the recent trend of companies taking sides in the fight over gay rights with a new marketing campaign dubbed “Ride With Pride.”

The campaign features a website, www.amtrakridewithpride.com, and advertisements showing same-sex couples aboard trains. It includes discounts to destinations like Martha’s Vineyard in Cape Cod, Mass., which Amtrak says is “extremely gay-friendly,” and a section called “out and about” that lists pride events.
Maybe they think that more people will ride Amtrak now that it's shown its true (rainbow) colors?

I'm all for gay-friendly, but in my humble opinion, Amtrak should spend less time on this political correctness and more on, oh, I don't know, how about turning a profit (see chart, p. 9).

Time For A Random Trip Pic

Condom dispenser outside a pharmacy in Venice.  It seems the Catholic Church is not as strong in Italy as it once was--saw a similar machine in Rome!

National Board Certification

Remember, half a dozen years ago or more, when National Board Certification was the end-all, be-all for teachers?  Well, Diane Ravitch has some concerns about what's become of National Board certification--which indicates to me that I was probably correct in dismissing it.

Notice how nobody pursued it once the stipends for it went away?  There's a reason for that.  No one thought it valuable enough, as a professional, to pursue unless they got paid for it.

Now I know that some reader will point me to some report somewhere that showed that National Board certified teachers are better, stronger, and faster than the rest of us.  I've read several of them, and my biggest concern with each of them was that they seemed to get things backward: it's not National Board-certified teachers that cause students to do well, rather it's just as likely that teachers who were good already (or who were willing to jump through the hoops and do the required dog-and-pony show) sought out National Board certification as another feather in their caps.  I haven't seen any definitive links between pursuing NB certification and improvements in student performance.

How's That "Content of Their Character" vs "The Color of Their Skin" Dream Coming Along?

From the San Francisco Chronicle (even though you'd think it actually came from The Onion):
State leaders should revise school testing and funding, extend health care coverage for those aging out of foster care, and make it harder for schools to suspend and expel - all to improve the odds of success for boys and young men of color in California.

Those are among dozens of recommendations from a state legislative committee that spent the past year and a half looking into why the state's minority youth are less healthy, have lower test scores and are more likely to be incarcerated than other young people.
Don't look at culture.  Don't look at communities.  Nope.  Look at watering down testing and letting kids act out in school more.  Because obviously that has a proven track record of success.

Who's Surprised? Not Me.

"If [then-Obama communications director] Robert Gibbs started running a [independent political expenditure group] and I called Robert Gibbs and said, 'Stop running ads on my behalf,' are you suggesting I would have no influence over Robert Gibbs?"
-- Then Sen. Barack Obama, as quoted by Politico, in West Des Moines, Iowa in December of 2007 attacking opponent John Edwards for negative ads being run by an outside group run by a former Edwards aide.

President Obama is now starting to pay the price for his intensely negative, very personal campaign against soon-to-be Republican nominee Mitt Romney.  link
So, is he going to disavow that "Romney killed the guy's wife" ad that has been so thoroughly discredited?  I doubt it.
Now, Obama finds himself with his campaign having been caught feigning ignorance about an unsavory ad produced by an organization he supports. For a sitting president whose pitch is so tied to reforming politics that he forgot to take a lamentation of "super PACs" out of his stump speech amid the controversy on Wednesday, this is not a good situation.
Update:  Now they admit everything but still try to blame Romney somehow.  They get maximum points for being brazen.
One day after claiming the Obama campaign had no knowledge of the story of the man included in a  pro-Obama super PAC ad,  spokeswoman Jen Psaki admitted the campaign had worked with him before...

“The Obama campaign acknowledged today that it ran a television ad and hosted a conference call that promoted the same despicable attack that was used in a discredited ad run by President Obama’s Super PAC,” Romney spokesman Ryan Williams said. “The Obama campaign has now admitted that it lied to the media and the American people in a disgraceful attempt to conceal their connection to this shameful smear. Americans deserve better – they deserve a president who’s willing to run an honest campaign and be honest about his own record.”

Fighting Fire With Fire?

An Indianapolis school fights cussing by having kids write on the board all such words they know.  Video here.

The Damage He's Wrought

Plenty of good reasons not to vote for Obama:
Unlike Carter, Obama is not incompetent in promoting his hatred for America's traditional values and in embedding it into our institutions, e.g., the ruinous Obamacare, the rapid expansion of the federal dole, the insistence on apologizing for our successes, the disastrous "stimulus" spending, the glorification of the "victim" culture, promotion of envy and cynicism, and denigration of individual effort and success ("You didn't build that!") That is the real threat posed by what Obama represents. Overcoming that threat will take years of sustained effort. It begins, of course, with voting Obama out of the White House next November, but does not end there.
I can't think of a good reason to vote for Obama.  Seriously and objectively, I cannot think of one.

UC and the First Amendment

Even when dealing with anti-Semitism, bans on certain types of speech are wrong:
In a letter sent today, FIRE warns University of California System (UC) President Mark Yudof against enacting unconstitutional "hate speech" policies on UC's campuses. FIRE’s letter responds to a recent recommendation from members of an official advisory body that, in response to alleged anti-Semitism on campus, UC “accept the challenge” of First Amendment litigation. FIRE urges President Yudof to reject the recommendation, reminding him that decades of legal precedent make clear that broad, content-based bans on student speech violate the First Amendment. 

"Many people on campus see speech codes as a noble solution that will eradicate ideas and thoughts we disdain. But censorship has never changed hearts or minds," said FIRE President Greg Lukianoff. "While the speech codes recommended here would not hold up in court, this belief that censorship is not just acceptable, but what 'wise and enlightened' people should do, is a long-term threat to our freedom."
Of course there's much more at the link.

Wednesday, August 08, 2012

No Surprises In Hypocrisy

Will people vote for him agreeing with this, or in spite of this?
It seems ages ago that President Obama delivered a speech in the early days of his presidency, suffused with self-righteousness and moral demagoguery, announcing he was closing the Guantanamo Bay prison. Unable to resist the temptation to smear his predecessor’s name with distortions and half-truths, the former law professor summoned all his reckless certainty to educate the American people: “Instead of building a durable framework for the struggle against al-Qaeda that drew upon our deeply held values and traditions, our government was defending positions that undermined the rule of law.”

So Obama, who supported the Supreme Court’s precedent-gutting Boumediene decision, which granted non-citizen enemy combatants habeas corpus rights, ordered the facility closed. Because that was an obviously empty promise, Obama added another executive order two years later establishing periodic review for detainees at the prison. And then the wheels came off the Moral Authority Express. It turned out instead of bringing enemy combatants to Guantanamo, where detainees are well-fed and have access to attorneys, Obama has been sending them to a disease-ridden hell-on-earth in Somalia. And the Obama administration began urging the Supreme Court to ignore the detainees’ appeals. And now it seems those periodic review boards were–what would the president call them? Just words....
Obama clearly didn't understand the complexities of foreign relations, war, or anything else, really--and still doesn't. 

He's been nothing but a failure all around.

9th Circuit Approves Warrantless Wiretapping

What was evil under Bush is applauded under Obama:
The federal government may spy on Americans’ communications without warrants and without fear of being sued, a federal appeals court ruled Tuesday in a decision reversing the first and only case that successfully challenged President George W. Bush’s once-secret Terrorist Surveillance Program.

“This case effectively brings to an end the plaintiffs’ ongoing attempts to hold the executive branch responsible for intercepting telephone conversations without judicial authorization,” a three-judge panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals wrote.
I didn't have a problem with eavesdropping on calls coming into or going out of the United States, but this ruling seems to allow any type of wiretapping the feds want.  Granted, the source is Wired so it may not be entirely accurate with regards to constitutional law, but on the face of it this seems mighty worrisome.

Now Don't Go Throwing Logic At Us!

Joanne reports:
Public policy always has determined spending, class size, subject matter and teacher qualifications. People notice it more now because there’s “substantial dissatisfaction with how schools are doing and with the effects of these older rules and regs.”
If you were an elected official and were responsible for elementary schools where only half of kids are reading at grade level and high schools where only fifty percent of students are graduating, it’d be pretty understandable (and laudable, even) to think you can’t simply trust the educators to do the right thing.
If you think educators should run public schools as they see fit, you have to believe that generals should set national security policy, police should write criminal law, doctors and pharmaceutical companies make health policy and bankers to regulate banking, Hess concludes.

Now This Is How You Burn Bridges

From TaxProf Blog:
After only one year as Dean at St. Louis University School of Law, Annette Clark resigned today and released two remarkable letters.
The excerpts from the letters are brutal.

Spacedock

In the shop for a few minor repairs before the (not quite 5 year) mission to TowerFest.

Update, 8/10/12:  The power drain was found!  I'd be out there painting right now if it weren't pushing 100 degrees....

Monday, August 06, 2012

Only Time Will Tell If This Is A Big Deal Or Not

From The Heritage Foundation:
When the fight for control over what is taught in American schools is won, Utah will be remembered for having fired the shot heard ’round the country’s classrooms and statehouses.

In a move that should inspire other state leaders concerned with the Obama Administration’s push to nationalize standards and tests through the Common Core State Standards Initiative, the Utah State Board of Education voted 12–3 to withdraw from the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC), the national testing consortium the state joined as part of the its agreement to adopt national standards.

While Utah still plans to implement the standards in the coming academic year, it will now choose from among various testing companies to measure the academic achievement of students, divesting the state from the federally funded testing consortium. As Washington’s overreach creeps further into the nation’s classrooms, Utah has wisely taken a step away from further federal intervention into its schools.
Dictating things from Washington seldom turns out as well as its supporters claim will be the case.

Hat tip to reader MikeAT.

Spending More On Pensions Than On Education

Uh oh:
The state of Illinois faces at least $83 billion in unfunded liability between its five pension systems, and is on track to spend more on its government pensions than on education by 2016, a new study released by Governor Pat Quinn’s office says.

The state budget office conducted the study based on a “district-by-district analysis” if the state does not enact comprehensive pension reform, the governor said in a statement. Governor Quinn released the study a few days after calling a special session dedicated to pension reform on August 17.
This is my concern about California and the underfunded retirement system into which I'm required to pay.  And lest you think I'm just jumping on some bandwagon here, notice that I've been writing about this topic since the very first year of this blog and now have several posts on the subject.

Interesting Story

Great story for a lazy Monday, huh?
A Lyon County brothel is the latest to try its luck offering male prostitutes alongside the working women...

Sheila Caramella tells the Reno-Gazette Journal her men will charge a minimum of $100 and negotiate prices with customers of either sex.
I was going to make a crack about furlough days, pay cuts, and the need for me to find a job next year, but then thought better of it :)

Cool Mathematician

I should be half so creative:
Kevin Short's career does not exactly sum up what you would think of when you hear “mathematics.”

The University of New Hampshire professor and Durham father of four is a Grammy Award winner, could be responsible for the country's first smartphone app, is responsible for the first startup company to come out of UNH, and is now using math to improve hearing aids so that people actually want to use them.

The perspective and creativity with which Short applies math to real-life problems also appeals to his students, whether it is an 8 a.m. calculus class, or a late-night seminar with graduate students.

By His Own Definition, This Guy Could Be A Teacher

He's Australia's education minister?  Really?
TEACHERS don't need to be smart or gifted as long as they are passionate, federal School Education Minister Peter Garrett says.
I hope his kids get the dumb, passionate teachers.

I don't even need to write about all the ways this guy is wrong. I just post this so that others see what a maroon he is.

Hat tip to Joanne Jacobs.

Coming Down From A High

This is my last full week without work.  But I don't get another paycheck until September 30th.

Sunday, August 05, 2012

How Those Of Us In Steerage Would Be Saved In The Event Of An At-Sea Disaster

You've seen the nice, fancy lifeboats on those cruise ships.  Notice them here, with their nice orange tops, just a couple decks above the water:
 (click to enlarge, because they're hard to see on the port side)
You might also notice that there aren't very many of those lifeboats.  What would the rest of us do, those of us in the 143 square foot cabins?  This:



No, none of that being lowered off the ship in a lifeboat for us po' folk.  We get to jump!

Students Say High School Is Too Easy

So again we have a report that students think high school is too easy:
This is the kind of report that makes teachers everywhere scratch their heads and wonder if the makers of the survey actually realize that people they are talking to are teenagers.  These are the same people that often hum “Call Me Maybe” while texting naked photos to each other before downing a 750 Grey Goose from their parents liqueur cabinet.  These are people that like Snooki and believe that Lebron James is one of the best basketball players ever to pick up the rock.

Why the skepticism of the report?  It’s probably the twelve years of teaching experience or something to that effect.  And while I’d agree that students want to be challenged to think, they want to do so on their own terms that are set up by their own work ethic built around their own values.  Basically they want to think like an adult while still acting like a teenager.
Coach Brown does a good job in his post discussing why we should take such reports with a bin of salt.

Let's Raise Taxes

Glenn Reynolds, who blogs as the Instapundit, has some proposals for tax increases that Republicans should all-out support:
For the past few years, there has been a drumbeat in favor of increased taxes from Democrats of all stripes. Make the rich pay their "fair share." Get rid of "loopholes." Make the fat cats "chip in a little more." Then Democrats hold up budgets and bills in an effort to extract some tax increases from Republicans.

It's no coincidence that much of the Democrats' base doesn't have to worry about taxes much, either because they work for nonprofits and public entities that don't pay taxes, or because they live off government benefits, or because they work in industries -- like the motion picture and recording industries -- with a long history of shady accounting and favorable tax treatment. Republicans, if they're smart, can nonetheless teach them that tax increases do, in fact, hurt.

They should head into the next budget battle with a list of proposals for tax increases that will sting Democratic constituency groups, but which will seem eminently fair to voters.

The first such proposal would be to restore the 20 percent excise tax on motion picture theater gross revenues that existed between the end of World War II and its repeal in the mid-1950s. The campaign to end the excise tax had studio executives and movie stars talking like Art Laffer (watch the video!), as they noted that high taxes reduced business income, hurt investment and cost jobs.

The movie excise tax was imposed in response to the high deficits after World War Two. Deficits are high again, and there's already historical precedent. Of course, to keep up with technology, the tax should now apply to DVDs, downloadable movies, pay-per-view and the like. But in these financially perilous times, why should movie stars and studio moguls, with their yachts, swimming pools and private jets, not at least shoulder the burden they carried back in Harry Truman's day -- when, to be honest, movies were better anyway.

For extra fun, they could show pictures of David Geffen's yacht and John Travolta's personal Boeing 707 on the Senate floor. You want to tax fat cats? I gotcher "fat cats" right here! Repeal the Hollywood Tax Cuts!
He has other suggestions in the article.

He'll Be A Racist Again Tomorrow

My congressman, that is, because all Republicans are racist when the liberals need them to be:
Rep. Dan Lungren (R-Calif.), chairman of the Committee on House Administration, introduced a bill yesterday joining forces with Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.) to have D.C.’s Frederick Douglass statue moved into the Capitol’s Emancipation Hall.

Remember When Democrats Weren't Batcrap Insane?

There was a time--in my lifetime--when Democrats and Republicans disagreed, but neither side was extreme.  And before my lifetime, Kennedy cut taxes and FDR was against public sector unions.  Until very recently, Democrats had been fans of businesses.

Let's see what Martin Peretz thinks of them today:
The 1972 election and the domestic drama surrounding the Vietnam War caused a major schism between Democrats. On one side were supporters of Mr. McGovern, the U.S. senator and presidential candidate who preached engagement and accommodation with communism. On the other were those who thought the rise of the McGovernites spelled disaster for Democrats and the nation, and who were determined to return the party to a responsible center on foreign policy.

Mr. Peretz, then a Harvard University lecturer and a veteran of the antiwar movement, was in the latter camp. Two years after Richard Nixon thumped Mr. McGovern in the election, he purchased the New Republic, the flagship liberal magazine founded in 1914. Under Mr. Peretz's ownership the magazine promoted a set of foreign-policy ideas that gradually reconquered the Democratic mainstream. Chief among these were a willingness to deploy military power to advance national interests and values, plus an abiding commitment to Israel as a mirror of American ideals in an unfree Middle East.

Since selling the New Republic to Facebook co-founder Chris Hughes in 2011, however, Mr. Peretz, now 73, has emerged as a vociferous critic of Barack Obama and much of the Democratic foreign-policy establishment. His break with the president he campaigned for in 2008 has been sharp and painful. The Obama administration's worldview, he now thinks, represents a radical departure from the "healthily hard-ass" foreign policy he has long championed on the left. Mr. Peretz is especially disturbed by Mr. Obama's failure to support Israel at a time when the Jewish state faces an unprecedented combination of threats.
There's plenty of detail at the link.

Government Gives Greens Gazillions

It's not just Solyndra, there are plenty of other solar companies that have gone belly-up after having their offices wallpapered with taxpayer dollars.  I'm not going to be so hyperbolic as to wonder if there's a single so-called green company out there that's the recipient of federal largesse that's actually doing something valuable because the probability that there's 1 is definitely non-zero.  What I would like to know, though, is, on balance, have we taxpayers gained or lost more money in "green give-aways" under this president?
Another green subsidy, another green scandal. The Wall Street Journal reports that a governent program meant to aid businesses that turn cooking oils into fuel may be guilty of serious fraud. The federal government now alleges that two of these businesses have been abusing the system, casting a pall over the entire program....

 The federal program that tried to subsidize this effort seems to have attracted some of the wrong types of people: the Tony Soprano kind of waste management company rather than an idealistic green recycling coop.

There are, of course, scandals in many areas of government. But greens seem to make unusually bad managers. Or maybe they just come up with policy ideas that are easily manipulated by less than honest people.  link
The list of these failed companies should be a constant reminder that government isn't as good as the market at picking winners and losers, and that government should stick to its enumerated powers and maybe even do them well before trying to branch out into other areas.  Then there's that whole Constitution thing....

Update, 8/10/12:  Carbon trading schemes are also doomed to failure--note they're created by bureaucrats, no matter what the level:
Behold a green failure so colossal even Via Meadia is surprised: a UN carbon-credit trading program intended to reduce global concentrations of greenhouse gases has instead led a handful of factories in the developing world to massively increase them.

The NYT explains....
Sometimes I'm forced to wonder if governments can do anything right.  I know they do, but their failures are so humongous....

Saturday, August 04, 2012

Random Trip Photos

click to enlarge
 Dubrovnik


Venice


 Venice (off color)


 Showing that the knee works, in Dubrovnik


 Rome


 Dubrovnik


 Vatican City and Rome

Athens



Rome

Jobs Reports

I just made my first "political" video on the Obama Administration's jobs reports--take a look on YouTube.

Friday, August 03, 2012

The Seriousness of College Entrance Exams

Like the Koreans and the Japanese, the Uzbekis take their college entrance exams seriously:
Uzbek authorities August 1 blocked text messaging and mobile internet use nationwide during nationwide university entrance exams from 8.30am to 1.30 pm, Uzmetronom reported...

Fergana News reported that the blockage is a routine Uzbek anti-cheating measure.
Hat tip to Joanne Jacobs for the story.

Public Education Headquarters

Washington DC, June 2010


Rome, July 2012


Costly Union Junkets--to Las Vegas, Of Course

One of the largest unions in the state has once again taken its annual conference Las Vegas.

The California School Employees Association's annual conference is taking place this week at the Paris Hotel, taking 1,900 attendees, and their money, out of California.  link and link
In my district, this union represents secretarial, custodial, and similar employees.

Might one argue that by taking all this money out of California, these union members are depriving the state of the very revenue it needs in order to better fund education and keep us from having furlough days?  I'm just saying....

Funky University Classes

Every time I read an article like this, my gut impression is, "Colleges aren't teaching anymore, they're doing crap like this!"  Of course, that's exactly the kind of kneejerk reaction the newspeople want to get out of readers with such a story!

So I think about it a little more, and then I come around to, "Are these classes absolutely worthless?  Is there nothing to be learned by studying these particular perspectives?"  After all, I doubt there's anyone taking all the classes on the list, what's wrong with one bohemian little class?

But then I read about this class and I think, "absolutely worthless":
WST 394, Desperate Housewives: Gender, Family & Pop Culture
A women's studies class that examines the fictional lives of the wealthy homemakers of Wisteria Lane ... anybody else thinking "easy A?"

My School District

According to EIA, since 2005 my school district's enrollment has gone down over 5%, the number of teachers has gone down over 6%, and while our per-pupil spending has gone up over 16%, we're still way below the state and national averages.

Starting Early on That Whole "Stealing The Election" Thing

Obama campaign sues to restrict military voting


Defense contractors told by Obama administration to skip pre-election pink slips

Chipping away at democracy, one election at a time....

Update, 8/5/12:  A little pushback:
Fifteen Ohio military groups have gone to court to oppose an “offensive” lawsuit filed by President Obama’s campaign that challenges a law allowing military members to vote on days when the rest of the state cannot.

“The Obama campaign’s and Democratic National Committee’s argument that it is arbitrary and unconstitutional to afford special consideration, flexibility, and accommodations to military voters to make it easier for them to vote in person is not only offensive, but flatly wrong as a matter of law,” the military groups — which include the Marine Corps League, the Association of the U.S. Army, and the Association of the U.S. Navy — argued in their filing.

Thursday, August 02, 2012

Who Gave This Quintessentially American September 11th Quote?

"But when you see a rattlesnake poised to strike, you do not wait until it has struck before you crush him."