Thursday, January 30, 2014

The So-called War on Women

I disagree with nothing that Krauthammer said in this article:
What is it about women that causes leading Republicans to grow clumsy, if not stupid? When even savvy, fluent, attractively populist Mike Huckabee stumbles, you know you’ve got trouble. Having already thrown away eminently winnable Senate seats in Missouri and Indiana because of moronic talk about rape, the GOP might have learned. You’d think...

In any case, why go wandering into the psychology of female sexuality in the first place? It’s ridiculous. This is politics. Stick to policy. And there’s a good policy question to be asked about the contraceptive mandate (even apart from its challenge to religious freedom). It’s about priorities. By what moral logic does the state provide one woman with co-pay-free contraceptives while denying the same subvention to another woman when she urgently needs antibiotics for her sick child?

The same principle of sticking to policy and forswearing amateur psychology should apply to every so-called women’s issue. Take abortion, which is the subtext of about 90 percent of the alleged “war on women,” the charge being that those terrible conservative men are denying women control of their reproductive health...

Yet there is a very simple, straightforward strategy for seizing the high ground on abortion in a way that transcends the normal divisions and commands wide popular support: Focus on the horror of late-term abortion — and get it banned...

Conservatives need to accept that no such consensus exists regarding early abortions. Unlike late-term abortions, where there are clearly two human beings involved, there is no such agreement regarding, say, a six-week-old embryo...

This doesn’t mean that abortion opponents should give up. But regarding early abortions, the objective should be persuasion — creating some future majority — rather than legislative coercion in the absence of a current majority. These are the constraints of a democratic system.  (boldface mine--Darren)

Not so regarding a third- or late-second-trimester abortion. Here we are dealing with a child that could potentially live on its own — if not killed first. And killing it, for any reason other than to save the mother’s life, is an abomination. Outlawing that — state by state and nationally, as was done with partial birth abortion in 2003 — should be the focus of any Republican’s position on abortion.
Regarding the lying Texas gubernatorial candidate Wendy Davis:
Talk policy — specifically, the issue that brought Davis to national prominence.
What was her 11-hour filibuster about? Blocking a state law whose major feature was outlawing abortions beyond 20 weeks. Make that the battlefield. Make Davis explain why she chose not just to support late-term abortion but to make it her great cause.

Stay away from the minefield of gender politics. Challenge the other side on substance. And watch them lose.
Krauthammer is suggesting a way to win politically.  Therein lies compromise, sometimes with principles, and I understand that there are those who will never compromise on principles.  Krauthammer isn't suggesting giving up principles, he's suggesting settling for one piece of pie rather than trying for the whole pie and getting none of it.  In that regard I'm reminded of one of the quotes on my "favorite quotes" list (although the link doesn't work anymore):
“To draw an analogy from metallurgy and apply it to morality--pure morals may be more valuable, but alloys are more useful.”

Does Fox Do This?

Here's a recent roundup of the vileness on MSNBC:
MSNBC President Phil Griffin apologized Thursday for what he called an "offensive" network tweet, which suggested that conservatives may “hate” a Cheerios Super Bowl ad featuring a racially mixed family.

Griffin said the person responsible for the tweet was fired...

"We can have our political disagreements with MSNBC," (Republican National Committee Chairman) Priebus said in an email blast earlier Thursday. "But using biracial families to launch petty and ridiculous political attacks is low, even by MSNBC's standards. It only coarsens our political discourse. This is more than just a tweet or an offhand comment. This is part of a pattern of behavior that has gotten markedly worse."

The Cheerios commercial features the same biracial family that appeared in an ad for the cereal brand last year. The ad sparked controversy after highlighting a family with a white mother and a black father.  Priebus also noted a string of other controversies MSNBC has faced for criticizing Republicans.

In his complaint to MSNBC, Priebus referenced Alec Baldwin and Martin Bashir, who were both let go from the network after they made offensive comments about homosexuals and Sarah Palin, respectively.

Melissa Harris-Perry, host of a weekend show, also apologized this month after a panel on her program made jokes involving Mitt Romney's adopted black grandchild.
It's clear there's a culture of such filth and vilification of "others" at MSNBC, but at least the sunlight had enough of a disinfectant quality that they felt the need to fire those responsible.

Liberals always need someone to hate.

Update:  We get a two-fer on the subject today:
But making broad and essentially pejorative generalizations about giant swaths of non-Democrats is hardly the exclusive domain of the racist-chasers at MSNBC and Journalistic outlets at the highest levels have been making non-jokey versions of the same accusation throughout the Obama presidency, ever since the twin ascension in 2009 of the Tea Party and opposition to the Affordable Care Act.

For an example, check out this passage in New Yorker Editor David Remnick's extraordinarily long and often insightful recent profile of the president...

This isn't just bad journalism, it's bad tolerance. Attributing a single set of personality traits to scores of millions of people whose only commonality is age and race is the opposite of judging people not by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character. It's also a cheap way to wave off the substance of anti-Obama criticism—why bother figuring out why a majority of Americans have consistently disliked the flawed Affordable Care Act when you can just roll your eyes and assert that the real reason is white anxiety and worse? There is nothing tolerant about assuming that those who have different ideas than you about the size and scope of government are motivated largely by base ethnic tribalism.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

How Will Teachers React?

I think California teachers are soon to take two financial hits.

First, I've posted about a zillion times that the California State Teachers Retirement System--in other words, the pension that I've been promised--is in deep financial doo-doo.  There was talk early in the Schwarzenegger administration about increasing the amount paid into it by teachers, school districts, and the state, but that talk came to nothing as it was poo-pooed by those on the left.  Now that someone on the left is bringing it up, it may happen, and that's a good thing.  On the other hand, California teachers (so many of whom vote for the Democrats) may scream when those same Democrats reduce their take-home pay as well as the ability of the school districts to offer raises:
With California facing a massive teacher pension shortfall, Assembly Speaker John A. Pérez, D-Los Angeles, unveiled an effort Wednesday he hopes would fully fund the system.

An influx of revenue has allowed California to emerge from years of yawning deficits and protracted budget fights, and the pressure is mounting for the state to do something about an avalanche of liabilities that runs into the hundreds of billions.

Of those looming obligations, a substantial chunk comes from the gap between how much the California State Teachers Retirement System takes in and how much it will owe retired educators. Gov. Jerry Brown estimated in his budget this year that the liability has grown to $80.4 billion and would require a $4.5 billion annual infusion to balance the books.

"While we know our revenues will fluctuate up and down, our long-term liabilities are enormous and ever growing," Brown said in his State of the State speech earlier this month.

Pérez calculates the liability at $71 billion, somewhat lower than Brown. And on Wednesday, the speaker called for a plan that potentially includes increased contributions from all three contributors to the system -- the state, school districts and individual teachers (boldface mine--Darren)...

"Since the contribution rates for CalSTRS are set by the Legislature and not the retirement board," as is the case with the California Public Employees Retirement System, "it is the responsibility of the governor and the Legislature to determine the best way to address the funding shortfall," (Assemblyman) Bonta said.
The second big hit will be Obamacare.  My W-2 has some interesting new additions on it, including a 5-digit number that I believe is the value of the cost of my health/dental insurance that my school district pays.  I think we're to be taxed on that, if not this year (I'll soon find out, as I'm ready to start my taxes) then soon.

If I'm correct it would amount to a 20% increase in my taxable income, which would surely be a serious hit to me come tax time.

You Democrats brought this on us; remember, not a single Republican voted for Obamacare in either the House or the Senate.  This debacle, and the financial hit we'll all take because it, is your fault.

Update:  According to this article the health insurance tax doesn't kick in until 2018:
Excise Tax on Comprehensive Health Insurance Plans($32 bil/Jan 2018): Starting in 2018, new 40 percent excise tax on “Cadillac” health insurance plans ($10,200 single/$27,500 family). For early retirees and high-risk professions exists a higher threshold ($11,500 single/$29,450 family).  CPI +1 percentage point indexed.
There's still time to repeal the entire disaster before that provision kicks in.

How's That Global Warming Going For You?

It's a dead issue for the president:
President Obama came to office promising significant action to fight climate change, and Tuesday night’s State of the Union indicates this administration fully recognizes any action on that issue over the next three years will come not through legislation but through regulations and executive actions.
Rather than call for a “comprehensive energy and climate bill” as he did in 2010, Mr. Obama on Tuesday focused on much smaller goals and touted the controversial efforts of his Environmental Protection Agency to cut down on carbon emissions from power plants.
And after all I've heard about a "polar vortex", here's a little reminder of all those Democrats who tried to convince us that weather=climate:

Here's another fun video, just to annoy liberals:

Conclusions start at 8:45.

7 Weeks

It was 7 weeks ago when the Sacramento Valley last had rain.  That was before Christmas.

Here in the Valley we only have 2 seasons:  the one where rain is possible, and the one where rain isn't at all likely.  We're in the middle of the one where rain is possible, and the last rain was 7 weeks ago.  Around these parts we call that a drought--just like we did in 1976, back when the leading scientists of the day were telling us we were heading towards another ice age.

This morning when I got to work I stepped out of the car and smelled that ozone smell, that smell associated with rain.  I remained hopeful.

As students came into one of my morning classes they were chattering about rain; I went outside yet saw and felt none.

Helios the Sun God had deserted us the day before, but it wasn't until after lunch that Hydros the Water God made his presence known.  We may rack up a quarter inch or so of rain here in the Valley, but at least it will help turn some of the lawns green.  I heard on the news a couple weeks ago that either our season rainfall total or our water storage, one or the other, was at 20% of normal for this time in the season.  That's just gruesome and it'll make for a bad summer, especially when the temperature hits the triple digits.

It's probably a good year to want to become a firefighter, yaknowwhatImean?

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Common Core, the New "New Math"

After Sputnik, math education in the US changed--we had to catch up to the Russians!  I've read that one of the big "deep understanding" topics that was introduced in the "new math" was set theory and intersection/union; I also remember doing sets, and intersections of sets, and unions of sets, quite often in elementary school.  I also remember learning about different bases other than base-10.  In elementary school.

People eventually figured out that such instruction just wasn't going to work.  Here we are, 40 years later, and we're going to do it again:

In 1961, New Math “was supposed to transform mathematics education by emphasizing concepts and theories rather than traditional computation,” as this article shows.
Flash forward 50 years, and Common Core is today making the same promises:
The standards are designed to be robust and relevant to the real world, reflecting the knowledge and skills that our young people need for success in college and careers. With American students fully prepared for the future, our communities will be best positioned to compete successfully in the global economy.
New Math, Sequential Math, Math A/B, and the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics Standards also “promised to transform (America’s children) into young Einsteins and Aristotles,” writes Bonagura. It didn’t work out that way...

With so much focus on teaching students the “why” of math, teachers will have little time to teach the “how,” Bonagura predicts.
Mathematical concepts require a high aptitude for abstract thinking — a skill not possessed by young children and never attained by many. What will happen to students who already struggle with math when they not only are forced to explain what they do not understand, but are presented new material in abstract conceptual formats?
“Instead of developing college- and career-ready students, we will have another generation of students who cannot even make change from a $5 bill.”
I believe Mr. Bonagura, a fellow teacher, to be correct. 

Additionally, I agree with this statement from the linked post:

Despite claims that Common Core doesn’t tell teachers how to teach, the new standards come with a flawed pedagogy, Bonagura charges. “Common Core buries students in concepts at the expense of content.” 
Repeat after me:  would you like fries with that?

Global Warming and the State of the Union

What more need be said?
Barack Obama is not at a great moment in his presidency.  His numbers are terrible.  Obamacare, his signature legislation, is a fiasco.  His attempts to make peace in the Middle East — let’s be charitable here — have not borne fruit.  The labor participation rate is at a thirty year low.  Things are pretty bad for the president (and for the country, I am sad to say).

At moments like this people do strange things. Word is that President Obama is going to ignore the freezing weather and say something about “global warming” or “climate change” or “stormy weather,” or whatever the euphemism of the moment may be, during the State of the Union address Tuesday night.
It’s a sign of desperation — fewer people believe in this now than ever — an attempt to change the discussion and a sop to his left wing.  Also, it’s a power grab, in concert with his desire to circumvent a supposedly do-nothing Congress.

Monday, January 27, 2014

Whither Diversity--or Wither, Diversity

I can understand the diversity argument in some situations--sometimes, people want or need to see people who look like they do.  Humans are tribal, we like to be around members of our own tribe, and sometimes our tribe concerns skin color or sex.  I can imagine that under certain conditions, that would be important; I can understand people wanting to see doctors of their same sex, or if social workers are involved, people might feel more comfortable around social workers that they perceive as part of their tribe.

But why would you, why should you, care if an engineer is a racial or ethnic minority?  Why does it matter if the scientist working on a cancer cure is Hispanic, deaf, or a lesbian?
All this race-based activity by a government agency raises two fundamental questions not addressed in the Chronicle article: Why is it necessary, and Why is it legal?

It is certainly necessary for the NIH not to discriminate against minorities, but why is it necessary to discriminate in favor of them? The only justification for race-based preferential treatment that has survived Supreme Court review is "diversity," i.e., that whites, Asians, and others must be exposed to the "difference" embodied by blacks and Hispanics in  order to get a good education. But how, as I have asked here and here, will having a few more black mathematicians or engineers "enrich research and scholarship"? To whom will they provide exactly what "diversity"? Despite the NIH having a new officer in charge of "scientific-work-force diversity," these programs, like so many "diversity" efforts, have nothing at all to do with diversity and everything to do with simply targeting blacks for preferential treatment to get their numbers up.

The Real War

The so-called War on Women is one of those made-up boogeymen that the Left uses to divide and conquer the electorate.  I admit, they're quite adept at it.  If the Republicans were any good at fighting dirty that way, and they're absolutely not, they'd talk about the real war--on our young:
VICTOR DAVIS HANSON: Eating Our Young. “It is popular now to talk of race, class, and gender oppression. But left out of this focus on supposed victim groups is the one truly targeted cohort — the young. Despite the Obama-era hype, we are not suffering new outbreaks of racism. Wendy Davis is not the poster girl for a resurgent misogyny. There is no epidemic of homophobia. Instead, if this administration’s policies are any guide, we are witnessing a pandemic of ephebiphobia — an utter disregard for young people. . . . In truth, no administration in recent memory has done more to harm young people.”

Sunday, January 26, 2014

All That's Left Of Democracy?

I'd like for our system of government to work as the law says it's supposed to work.  Since that doesn't seem feasible anymore, perhaps Professor Reynolds' reference to Irish Democracy is the only tool we have left to save ourselves:
Writing in the Washington Post back in November, Jennifer Rubin observed:
It is a coin flip, at best, for the president as to whether his signature achievement, his only achievement, will fail. It will be repealed in essence by a popular referendum: The mass refusal of people to go along with Obama's top-down, compulsory system that was set to transform a sixth of the economy. That possibility should traumatize and probably is traumatizing the White House. ... The political implications of this are almost too enormous to calculate.
Now, as February draws near, things don't look much better. Far fewer than half the number needed by March 31 have signed up. And, as it turns out, most of the people signing up for Obamacare aren't the uninsured for whom it was supposedly enacted, but people who were previously insured (many of whom lost their previous insurance because of Obamacare's new requirements). "At most," writes Bloomberg's Megan McArdle, "they've signed up 15% of the uninsured that they were expecting to enroll. ... Where are the uninsured? Did hardly any of them want coverage beginning Jan. 1?" It looks that way...

If the program fails, it won't be because Republicans stopped it, despite all the House votes and defunding efforts. It will be because millions of Americans' passive resistance brought it to its knees. Irish Democracy, indeed.
Utopia does run on unicorn farts, despite the assertions of the Utopians.

This president is a failure.  What an embarrassment.

Unemployment Benefits

I've been on unemployment 3 times in my life, the longest time for about 6 months--during the recession of late 1990 to early 1991.  During that first stint, when I had just gotten out of the army, I kept the heater in my Colorado Springs apartment set to 55 degrees so I wouldn't freeze to death but wore sweatclothes (what is the current term for such athletic wear?) to stay warm.  I ate ramen so much that I didn't eat it again for about 20 years.  My apartment complex had a swimming pool and a restroom/changing area, and I would shower each day in there so that I didn't have to pay extra to heat my own water; a long shower was luxury I afforded myself whilst looking for work in the pre-internet days.  My last day of actual work in the army was August 1st; I was on "terminal leave" until September 15th, burning up the leave (paid time off) I had accrued.  I didn't find another job until March, over 7 months since I'd last actually worked.  In the interim I'd already moved back to Sacramento (in December) and to the Silicon Valley (in March, where I found a low-paying job within a week of my arrival).  I've been on unemployment twice since then, neither time for more than perhaps 6 weeks.

No one can ever accuse me of not being sympathetic with the unemployed.  I've been there.  I know the feeling of despair that comes with not supporting yourself financially.  I know how much of a man's ego is tied up in productive work.  I know the shame.  I am not unsympathetic.  I can empathize.

Two years of unemployment benefits, though?  That just seems so extreme.  I don't know where the line is, but it seems that two years is beyond the "temporarily unemployed" phase.  At some point it's time to admit that you're not "temporarily unemployed" anymore, that the situation itself isn't all that temporary, and that you belong on some other type of public assistance.  We shouldn't pretend, even though pretending makes the politicians feel better.

Neither should we pretend, a la Nancy Pelosi, that paying and extending unemployment benefits helps the economy.  The money certainly helps the individuals and families to whom it is paid, but using Pelosi's logic, why would anyone work?  If giving money to some is good for the economy, giving it to everyone would be awesome, wouldn't it?  Not necessarily:
New academic research released last week showing that extending unemployment benefits is a net economic drag could strengthen the conservative case against extending those benefits at the federal level.

Congress allowed benefits for the long-term unemployed to expire at the end of 2013 as part of a larger budget deal. Democrats have offered proposals to extend the benefits.

The latest legislation, a 10-month extension with budget offsets, was held up in the Senate on Thursday after Majority Leader Harry Reid (D., Nev.) blocked Republicans from offering amendments.
The liberal case for an extension of benefits for the long-term unemployed rests on the supposed simulative effect of greater disposable income for the unemployed.

The new study, conducted by economists at the University of Pennsylvania and the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, contends that any such stimulus is dwarfed by the economic damage done by extending jobless benefits.
Welfare was limited in the mid-90s with positive results.  There should be similar considerations made here.

Lefties and Their Protests

I'm not one of those bloggers who merely lifts other people's work--I lift specific pieces and add commentary, under the auspices of "fair use".  What commentary could I possibly add to this, though, except to say that it doesn't surprise me that it's happening in the SF Bay Area?
SO LEFTIES WERE ALL OVER TWITTER RIDICULING this letter in the Wall Street Journal, mostly on the grounds that its author is rich, and has a fancy penthouse place. (Ironic, given the digs some of said lefties enjoy.)

But then there’s this: Protesters show up at the doorstep of Google self-driving car engineer. “Protests against tech giants and their impact on the San Francisco Bay Area economy just got personal. According to an anonymous submission on local news site Indybay, an unknown group of protesters targeted a Google engineer best known for helping to develop the company’s self-driving car.”

More here: “Is the anti-tech worker sentiment nearing a boiling point? And are tech workers and companies responsible for the world’s ills? Protesters have now reportedly targeted an individual Google employee, not just the buses carrying workers like him. And whereas previous protests by other groups have addressed complaints such as gentrification in San Francisco, a flier accompanying the protest at the Google engineer’s Berkeley house is basically a diatribe against capitalism. . . . That means this has gone past the stage where people roll their eyes at the quaint protesters. Google has reportedly hired security guards for its shuttles, and Brandon Bailey wrote that the company has also launched a private ferry service.Could things get worse? Let’s go back to Lennard’s mention of the animal-rights activists’ protests against biotech companies: One of those activists, Daniel Andreas San Diego, is believed to have been responsible for the 2003 bombings of Chiron in Emeryville and Shaklee in Pleasanton. No one was injured, but San Diego remains on the FBI’s Most Wanted Terrorist list.”

When Tea Partiers show up at somebody’s house to protest, I don’t want to hear any complaints about civility. But you can bet that the press will act like nothing of the sort has ever happened before.

UPDATE: From the comments:

“Throughout history, poverty is the normal condition of man. Advances which permit this norm to be exceeded—here and there, now and then—are the work of an extremely small minority, frequently despised, often condemned, and almost always opposed by all right-thinking people. Whenever this tiny minority is kept from creating, or (as sometimes happens) is driven out of a society, the people then slip back into abject poverty.
This is known as ‘bad luck’.”
More and more of late I’ve been getting this ominous feeling that we are about to have an extended period of bad luck.
When you adopt policies that promote stagnation and make the economy more of a zero-sum game, jealousy becomes much greater. And many commenters note that the Google crowd, via its generally left-leaning politics, has enabled such. True enough.

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Voter ID

From National Review:
This week, the Presidential Commission on Election Administration issued its report on improving voting in the U.S., and here’s hoping Americans pay attention to it. Our sloppy and archaic voting systems leave us tottering every election on the brink of another Florida-style electoral meltdown like the one we had in 2000. The president’s commission says that it’s finally time to address the systemic defects.

One of its recommendations is earlier voting registration, including allowing people to register online. With proper safeguards, such as requiring that people be already listed in some existing government database through which they can verify their identity, such reforms are laudable. The commission also recommended greater use of technologies that compare registration lists across state lines and that allow purges of ineligible voters. A 2012 Pew Foundation study found, for example, that 2.2 million dead people are still listed as being registered to vote...

We were reminded just this week of problems associated with absentee ballots. Guerrilla videographer James O’Keefe released an undercover video of a meeting of Battleground Texas, a leftist group working to elect Wendy Davis, the Democratic candidate for Texas governor. The video shows the Davis supporters ignoring questions about whether forging a signature on a relative’s absentee ballot was legal. “People do that all the time,” said Lisa Wortham, pretending to cover her ears. Wortham is an attorney and a deputy voter registrar working with the group. A volunteer from the group adds her opinion: “I don’t think that’s legal, I’ll do like Lisa did — I didn’t hear you say that.” Other Battleground Texas workers agree but jokingly cover their ears and also pretend not to hear.
This is why the subject is so important (and yes, I genuinely believe this is true):
Democrats, as matter of electoral strategy, rely on a lot of voter fraud, so it’s best for them to pretend it doesn’t exist, and to loudly scream racism when people point out that it does.

About 12 Hours of Sleep Last Night

School, both teaching and learning, must wear me out more than I realize.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

"Managing" An Economy Without Statistics

One way to do it is just to do it:
Cowperthwaite was a humanist in a field that had fallen victim to social science. I have no great confidence that Chairman Yellen will follow his lead—even if I advise her to do so—and banish statisticians from her cold marble temple on Constitution Avenue. As a highly decorated economist, she has reached the top of a trade that considers statistics indispensable to its own functioning. 

But Cowperthwaite didn’t believe it. Stripped of his numbers an economist would have to resort to the old home truths about how the world works: If you tax something you get less of it; as a general rule an individual manages his own affairs better than his neighbor can; it’s rude to be bossy; the number of problems that resolve themselves if only you wait long enough is far larger than the number of problems solved by mucking around in them. And the cure is often worse than the disease:
In the long run, the aggregate of the decisions of individual businessmen, exercising individual judgment in a free economy, even if often mistaken, is likely to do less harm than the centralized decisions of a Government; and certainly the harm is likely to be counteracted faster.
Somehow the most successful practical economist of the twentieth century knew this was true, and he didn’t have to work out a single equation.

Where It All Began

My introductory blog post, 9 years ago today.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Time For Compromise If We Want To Win

I don't want the Republicans to nominate any more John McCains or even more Mitt Romneys--they were definitely squishy compromise candidates--but I think I can agree with this piece:
While I respect and recognize people’s religious traditions, what concerns me is this — this issue will be used effectively as a wedge to sabotage a whole lot of change at a time when it couldn’t be more necessary  It dovetails perfectly with the mythological “war on women,” which we all will be sure to hear about incessantly.

Now I readily acknowledge I have been pro-same-sex marriage for many years.  So I am not a perfectly honest broker.  But  as an observer of society,  and as a writer that’s what I’m paid to do, I have to say in all candor that political opposition to same-sex marriage is the Achilles Heel of the right going into 2016.  Social conservatives who intend to make a serious issue out of it should realize that the fallout from their views could adversely affect all of us in a catastrophic way.

No one is going to be happy here. SoCons who continue to press this issue on the political (not the personal or religious) stage have to realize that they are damaging many of us who have other concerns domestic and foreign, many of which we would probably agree on more easily.

This is a great moment.  A seriously smaller government is a real possibility with electoral victories in 2014 and 2016.  Let’s not jeopardize them by emphasizing an issue more properly, and unquestionably more successfully, dealt with in the private realm.
I don't like the idea of calling gay marriage "marriage", but I'm perfectly content with civil unions/domestic partnerships.  Whatever, though; it's not an issue on which I'm willing to plant my standard and fight to the death when there are bigger issues out there.

I'd rather keep politics pretty much out of the social arena anyway, wherever possible; I'd prefer to go back to the big(ger) tent of advocating for smaller, limited government and strong national defense.  In that regard I am a proud Tea Partier. 

I Can't Believe A School Would Suspend A Kid For This

What a kid does outside of school is no business of the school's, and they have no business disciplining a student for out-of-school behavior (with very few, delineated exceptions, and this is not one of them):
An 18-year-old Florida student is set to return to class Wednesday after he says he was suspended when school officials learned of his pornographic online photos and videos.

Robert Marucci, a senior at Cocoa High School in Cocoa, Florida, told CNN affiliate WKMG that he picked up his X-rated gig to help his mom pay the bills.

His mom, Melyssa Lieb, said when students discovered the explicit material online, her son became a target. "He was bullied, he was threatened."

Then, according to Lieb, her son was suspended, because the principal didn't approve of his after-school activities.

Lieb told CNN affiliate WPLG, "I think that it is Dr. (Stephanie) Soliven's morals and her personal beliefs and I don't think that this is anybody's business except for my son's. The children at the school found (the porn), and she didn't do anything to stop it."

State Worker Civics Test

So far I'm on the fence about this:
A measure that would require the state to develop an online civics curriculum for state workers is on the Thursday agenda for the Senate Appropriations Committee. The bill, authored by Sen. Leland Yee, D-San Francisco, would require that employees take the online course when they are hired, promoted or reclassified after July 1, 2015.

Yee, a candidate for California secretary of state, wrote the bill last year after learning that only a third of Americans can name the three branches of U.S. government.
Of course it would be nice if more people, especially those who work for our government, understood how government is supposed to work.  But in this case I worry about the potential for politically-motivated, heavily-biased curriculum.  I’m not sure this would be a good expenditure of state money.  I'm willing to be convinced otherwise, though.

Some Still Won't Believe It

Standardized testing can be important:
A study from Case Western Reserve University last year showed that standardized testing scores are excellent measures of general cognitive ability. And they continue to play a role in the competitive college admissions process.
The standardized tests discussed in the report are the SAT and ACT, not K-12 standardized tests.  Still, that won't matter to some; the SAT/ACT are sexist or racist or something.

No! Not Target!

It’s the store we’re allowed to like that’s not Walmart!  What to do now?
Target Corp. (TGT) will end health insurance for part-time employees in April, joining Trader Joe’s Co., Home Depot Inc. and other U.S. retailers that have scaled back benefits in response to changes from Obamacare. 
Who could possibly have foreseen this?  :-)

Killing A Child

For those of you who don’t believe in the death penalty, does even a monster like this not change your mind?
Even in a city accustomed to the rhythm of crime and violence, this stood out. A 4-year-old boy, dead, prosecutors said, after a caregiver beat, tortured and starved him. 

The caregiver, prosecutors said, whipped the boy with an electric cord, seared his legs with an oven rack, fed him little, and forced him outside in his underwear as New York’s temperature dropped near zero.
Suzanne Vega's Luka.

Pat Benatar's Hell Is For Children.

Do We Really Need To Teach This In School?

From Joanne's blog, complete with video :-)
A poster listing sex acts isn’t appropriate for 13-year-olds, says a Missouri father. The school says it’s part of the sex education curriculum.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

This Is What Classy Looks Like

Former First Lady Barbara Bush talks about her and President Bush's relationship with former President Bill Clinton in an exclusive interview with C-SPAN for its First Ladies series. 

Only The Green True Believers Are Surprised

The citizens of first-world countries want reliable, reasonably-priced power, and solar and wind just aren't going to cut the mustard:
The EU's reputation as a model of environmental responsibility may soon be history. The European Commission wants to forgo ambitious climate protection goals and pave the way for fracking -- jeopardizing Germany's touted energy revolution in the process...

But now it seems that the climate is no longer of much importance to the European Commission, the EU's executive branch, either. Commission sources have long been hinting that the body intends to move away from ambitious climate protection goals. On Tuesday, the Süddeutsche Zeitung reported as much.

At the request of Commission President José Manuel Barroso, EU member states are no longer to receive specific guidelines for the development ofrenewable energy. The stated aim of increasing the share of green energy across the EU to up to 27 percent will hold. But how seriously countries tackle this project will no longer be regulated within the plan. As of 2020 at the latest -- when the current commitment to further increase the share of green energy expires -- climate protection in the EU will apparently be pursued on a voluntary basis...

But in the future, European climate and energy policy may be limited to just a single project: reducing greenhouse gas emissions. The Commission plans also set no new binding rules for energy efficiency.

In addition, the authority wants to pave the way in the EU for the controversial practice of fracking, according to the daily Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung. The report says the Commission does not intend to establish strict rules for the extraction of shale gas, but only minimum health and environmental standards.
Praise the Lord and pass the sauerkraut, the Europeans are figuring out that you can't power successful economies with unicorn farts.

North Korean Geometry Lesson

Linked from Joanne's blog, here's a pleasant video from the peace-loving people of the Democratic Socialist People's Pleasant and Happy and Prosperous Republic of North Korea:

They don't even try to be subtle with that propaganda.

Monday, January 20, 2014

Latest Audiobook

I've written before about how I got involved in listening to audiobooks while doing my morning run on the elliptical trainer. 

The first book I listened to was the 30-hour book John Adams, on which the HBO miniseries was based.  When that was finished I listened to Longitude, about the 18th century search for an accurate method of determining longitude at sea; I just finished that book this weekend.

I've downloaded Augustus and will spend the next couple weeks learning about the Roman Empire's first emperor.  If I listen to it only while on the elliptical I'll be listening to it into March!

For Those Who Think Unions Are The Answer To Their Prayers

The AFT is very strong in New York.  How was it that this principal was allowed to stay in her job for so many years without so much as an investigation?
Former teachers gave The Post 10 letters sent since 2005 to Condon, Klein, Lloyd-Bey, Fariña and former Queens Superintendent Kathleen Cashin — now a member of the state Board of Regents. Most of the letters are anonymous, because the teachers feared retaliation by Sills. Some kept a “harassment log.”

The teachers also showed more than two dozen letters and e-mails to reps at the United Federation of Teachers, including then-President Randi Weingarten, now a national union president, but said even she could not help.
If a union cannot even deal with pay, benefits, and working conditions, why do people want to pay them?

Go to the link and read about all the crazy things this principal did.  Then tell me you still believe in a government monopoly over education.

I Did Not Know This About Dr. King

One of the Facebook groups I'm a member of is the Things I Remember Growing Up In Sacramento group, and today there was a reference to a visit to CSUS/Sacramento State by Dr. King in 1967.  I haven't been able to find much about his talk there except here, a bulletin from over 6 years ago:
King visited the campus Oct. 16, 1967 after receiving an invitation from the University’s Cultural Programs Committee. He spoke to a crowd estimated at 7,000 at what was then the soccer field and is now the Alex Spanos Sports Complex.
More hometown history of which I was completely ignorant. I'd love to see video of the event, or at least read contemporary accounts.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Could You Imagine If Business Could Get Away With What These College Students Are Trying To Get Away With?

Actually, under Obamacare, the insurance companies already can get away with this--wait till they raise their rates this year!  The difference between Obamacare and this story out of local UC Davis (aka Berkeley-lite) is that under Obamacare, at least citizens have a choice about which insurance company they want to pay!
As a generation of students raised on the Internet takes hold, UC Davis’ campus newspaper faces the real possibility of going extinct before its 100th anniversary next year.

The California Aggie has already gone from a daily to a weekly, eliminated staff positions and imposed across-the-board pay cuts. Now, in a desperate measure, it wants undergraduate students to finance its operation through an annual $9.30 campus fee.

“In a school that doesn’t have a journalism program, the Aggie is a learning laboratory for future photographers, writers and editors,” Editor-in-Chief Elizabeth Orpina said Friday at her office in Lower Freeborn Hall. 
If people valued their product they'd pay for it.  What does it say about UC Davis and its student paper that they have to compel students to subsidize this paper?
Miles Thomas, Senate president pro tempore at UC Davis, backed the student fees and described the Aggie as “one of the most critical institutions on campus.”

“They keep student government accountable and the administration of UC Davis accountable. Look at the pepper-spray incident,” Thomas said, referring to the 2011 event that gained international notoriety after campus police pepper-sprayed demonstrators protesting tuition hikes on the university quad.

“A fee referendum is the only way the Aggie could keep its integrity as a newspaper,” Thomas said.
How many people recorded the pepper-spraying incident with their phones, and published the videos to YouTube, before the Aggie ever got an issue to press?
The precipitous decline of the publication began seven years ago as the Aggie struggled to cope with the digital age. Orpina and past editors said financial mismanagement, combined with slumping ad revenue and decreasing readership, forced the paper last year to slash print publication from four days a week to one day.

The paper has tried to cut costs in other ways. Writers and photographers are not paid for their work. Managers receive a stipend averaging $50 a week.

Marc Cooper, a professor of journalism at the University of Southern California, criticized the proposed student fee, suggesting it was primarily driven by nostalgia.

“When you’re dying at this rate, it’s like asking people to donate to keep you on life support,” Cooper said. “If you can’t sell enough ads to sustain one or two days of publication, what kind of force are you in the community?” 
It's obvious that the Aggie isn't valued, at least as a printed paper.  How much did the paper cost before this request for subsidizing?  Or was it printed and distributed and students could pick one up for free?
In the face of economic realities and the changing habits of student consumers, the Aggie has struggled to find its place on campus. Cooper said the money would be better spent on retooling the Aggie’s website, which could be maintained for very little compared with the cost of printing papers.

“There’s an inherent danger of falling behind the ecology of news,” Cooper said. 
It seems to me that Professor Cooper has the right idea.  And if even that doesn't work, then Davis doesn't need a student-run paper.  Trying to require all students to subsidize the pastime of a few students who call themselves a newspaper staff but can't support their own hobby?  What an admission of failure!

They are, however, learning the lessons of liberals well.

Update, 3/18/14:  Forgot to link the outcome here, so here's the outcome!

Read more here:

Read more here:

Read more here:

Read more here:

Yet Another Tax On People Who Don't Understand Economics

Why not just raise the minimum wage to $100/hr?  Then we'd all be rich:
Think $4 toast is bad? Try $6 toast, with no one to serve it to you.

A survey on one major Bay Area city's minimum-wage hike and its negative impact on businesses could be a warning sign for San Francisco leaders who are seeking to boost the nation's already-highest minimum wage.

In San Jose, a 25 percent minimum-wage hike last year led to higher prices for consumers and fewer hours for workers at restaurants, according to a survey conducted by the Employment Policy Institute, a conservative Washington, D.C.-based think tank.

Meanwhile, leaders in San Francisco -- which has a $10.74 minimum wage -- are calling for The City's lowest-paid workers to take home even more, possibly $15 per hour. And House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-San Francisco, has repeatedly called for an increase to the federal minimum wage.

"It's just bad public policy," said Michael Saltsman, the EPI's research director. "It's a warning for San Francisco -- and it's a warning for Congress"...

Out of the 163 South Bay restaurants surveyed, 108 -- or two-thirds -- raised prices after the $10 minimum wage took effect. Another 73 reduced workers' hours, and 69 restaurants cut staff entirely.

The notion of increasing San Francisco's minimum wage to $15 an hour is getting more traction. The influential San Francisco Labor Council recently called for such a figure.
It amazes me that lefties still haven't figured out that you can't merely legislate people into prosperity.

Who's The Most "Authentic" Feminist Of All?

White women need not apply:
There was not enough popcorn growing in the States of Iowa and Nebraska combined to cover this outbreak of intra-feminist racial greivances.

Saturday, January 18, 2014

What's Good For The Anti-Free-Speech Goose...

From the Daily Beast:
The Supreme Court heard oral arguments Wednesday for McCullen v. Coakley, a case in which anti-abortion activists argue that their First Amendment rights have been violated by a 2007 Massachusetts law that bars any person from entering or staying in fixed 35-foot-buffer zones around entrances to abortion clinics...

Mark Rienzi, who argued the case against the buffer zones, told the Court that the zone is, “a place where the government claims it can essentially turn off the First Amendment” for some people but not others. Justice Scalia described it as a “dead speech zone.”

What is perhaps most disturbing is that the Massachusetts law was created by people who call themselves liberal.  It is also being defended by an assortment of liberals from the ACLU to Planned Parenthood. Which raises an obvious question:  Is it now liberal to oppose free speech...

The state has argued that this law is necessary to prevent obstruction and congestion going into the abortion clinics.  But obstructing an entrance is already a crime. Abortion rights supporters have also argued that women need to be protected from violent acts of anti-abortion rights protestors.  But violent acts are already illegal and anyway, it’s hard to imagine that a painted line around an entrance is actually going to stop a violent maniac.  What about someone screaming in the face of a woman entering the clinic, causing her to feel fear?  That’s already illegal under anti-harassment statutes...

Now, if you are an abortion-rights supporter you may still be thinking, “I don’t want anti-abortion advocates bothering women going into abortion clinics, so I’m okay with this.”  That’s an understandable sentiment. But even if this law was constitutional—and it isn’t—one has to consider the implications of accepting the government exercising such a broad power that infringes on constitutionally protected free speech...

If the Supreme Court were to uphold the Massachusetts law, it’s not hard to imagine businesses lobbying to create zones where union members are not allowed to speak, but workers for the business are. Businesses could use the same logic used in McCullen:  the picketers are disrupting business and upsetting customers. So, government, please silence them—even though they are standing on a public sidewalk...

What goes around, comes around. Which is why it’s always best to stick to first principles and avoid “ends justifies the means” reasoning.  The first principle here is that the government does not have the right to control the content of speech, no matter how uncomfortable that speech may make certain people. Abandon that principle and your free speech may be next.
Nobody likes having their arguments or actions turned against them, which is exactly why the goose/gander warning is so effective.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

If This List Is Any Indication Of What We Can Expect From Textbooks Aligned To Common Core, It's All Over

Here's the opening of the press release from the California Dept. of Education announcing Common Core-aligned math textbooks:
School districts now have a list of more than 30 instructional materials to choose from that are aligned to the Common Core State Standards for mathematics, State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson announced today.
I don't know much about elementary school math programs but I'm more than a little familiar with algebra programs.  Since these texts are aligned to the CC standards they're new enough that I don't know many of them, but 2 jump out at me with flashing red lights and extremely loud klaxons.

The 4th text on the Algebra 1 list is from College Prep Math, CPM.  CPM published an integrated curriculum that was widely used in the 1990s; it was horrible.  I did some subcontract work when I was a relatively new teacher, and that work required me to match up CPM Course 1 to California's relatively newly-adopted math standards (adopted in 1997).  Turns out that what they claimed was an integrated Algebra 1 and Geometry program in CPM 1 aligned quite well not with Algebra 1 or Geometry, but with California's math standards for 5th, 6th, and 7th grades, and a smidgen of Algebra 1.  This program was so bad that it wasn't even submitted for adoption in California after the state adopted its 1997 standards.

Needless to say, I'm suspicious of anything put out by CPM.

Two down below it on the list is JRL Enterprises' I CAN Learn Algebra 1.  I've previously written about the crook John Lee and his ineffective I CAN Learn program; should you be interested, please click here.  Sadly, the link in that post to the Fort Worth Weekly article about JRL is no longer active, but you'll still get a sense of what I CAN Learn is all about--and now it's approved here in California.  I wonder who Lee bribed, and how much, to get his crap on the approved list.  But Darren, you say, that was 9 years ago; what if the product is improved now?  Read the link about how he got his crappy product approved, and tell me you think that he has any interest at all in mathematical education.  The word "shyster" comes to mind, and rightly so.

Needless to say, I'm suspicious of anything put out by JRL.

With these two organizations on California's approved list, watch out for a disaster in math education.

Is This What You Want For A President?

Is this what you want as a president?  Can you give an example where President Bush did this?  Do you want a Republican president, and there will be another one eventually, to conduct himself as President Obama has?
The Constitution, many of us learned in grade school, assigns the legislative power to the legislative branch, not the executive. The Constitution also commands that the president “take care that the laws be faithfully executed.” Unfortunately, President Obama either missed that lesson or considers it inapplicable to his own administration. Thus, his promise-cum-threat, made in the heat of last year’s campaign: “Where Republicans refuse to cooperate on things that I know are good for the American people, I will continue to look for ways to do it administratively and work around Congress.”

Obama has delivered on his promise and worked around Congress with breathtaking audacity. In his signature legislative achievement alone, the Affordable Care Act, the president has unilaterally amended the law multiple times, including delaying the employer mandate and caps on out-of-pocket expenses, waiving the individual mandate for certain people, extending tax credits to individuals who purchase insurance through the federal health insurance exchange and ignoring a statutory requirement that Congress and their staff participate in the exchanges. But the president’s audacity doesn’t stop with Obamacare. He has also suspended immigration law, refusing to deport certain young illegal aliens—a major reform that Congress has refused to enact. Similarly, with the stroke of a magisterial pen, he has gutted large swaths of federal law that enjoy bipartisan support, including the Clinton-era welfare reform work requirement, the Bush-era No Child Left Behind law and the classification of marijuana as an illegal controlled substance.

So much for the separation of powers.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Voter ID Laws

I received the following from a reader and am happy to pass this information along:
I and several others have been working for over a year to get an Initiative addressing Voter ID to the ballot. We need your help in spreading the word. I have read your blog for 3+ years and know that you occasionally write about voter ID. Our web site is and we have a Face Book page as well titled Guard My Vote. Our petitions are being printed today and we need people to collect 504,760 valid signatures before May 30th. This is a total grass roots effort and donations will be needed to sustain this effort…. so any help you can provide by spreading the word will be appreciated. We hope that you will also post some of your opinions and articles on our Face Book page. Mexico even has a better voting system than CA and they require an ID.

America's Tech Future

This is interesting:
The pipeline of students who will be tomorrow's tech leaders is alarmingly vanilla.

According to a new analysis of test-takers, not a single girl, African-American or Hispanic student took the computer science Advanced Placement test in Mississippi or Montana last year. More than a third of the population in Mississippi is black...

There are 11 states where not a single African-American took the test, and eight states where no Hispanics sat for the exam.

We're not talking here about people who passed or didn't pass, either. We're talking about people who simply took the test, which means African-Americans, Hispanics and girls aren't enrolling in AP computer science classes in the first place.
I'm sure there are some ready to cry racism here but feel compelled to echo Newsalert's snark:
The "diversity experts" tell us a companies can't succeed without diversity in gender and skin color: so someone will have to program those computers even if they are "alarmingly white". No word yet on whether the National Journal feels that public school teachers are "alarmingly female". Since, we all know registered Republicans control inner city public education: this must be a plot by Republicans to steer minorities away from the computer science field. 
Yeah, what he said :)

The Evils of Capitalism

I smile, knowing that I'm not the progenitor of the expression "capitalism is the worst economic model ever created by man, except for all the others."  Lefties hate hearing some of the truths about capitalism, and I'm happy to share some:
As F. A. Hayek points out in Capitalism and the Historians, an extraordinary collection of essays he edited and published in 1954, “The widespread emotional aversion to ‘capitalism’ is closely connected with this belief that the undeniable growth of wealth which the competitive order had produced was purchased at the price of depressing the standard of life the weakest elements of society.” This picture of economic depredation, notes Hayek, is “one supreme myth which more than any other has served to discredit the economic system [capitalism] to which we owe our present-day civilization"...

Not a day goes by without lamentations about the evils or limitations of capitalism emitted by some of capitalism’s most conspicuous beneficiaries. Barack Obama, for example, speaking in Kansas a couple of weeks ago, chided the “certain crowd in Washington” that believed “the market will take care of everything.” Of course, that is rhetorical overstatement; we all know what he means. Do we want big government, high taxes, and intricate regulation, or do we want lean government, low taxes, and the minimum regulation consistent with public safety? Or consider Does Capitalism Have A Future? a collection of essays by “a global quintet of distinguished scholars,” published by Oxford University Press, arguing that the capitalist system is teetering on the brink of collapse and it’s a good thing, too, because the socialist system that may ensue will be far better. It’s an hysterical (not in the sense of “funny”) volume, full of tired Marxoid clichés about the “internal contradictions” of capitalism and impending ecological crisis, but it is also a thoroughly typical product of the comfy intellectual caste that has enjoyed all the benefits of capitalism without bothering to understand what has made those benefits possible.

Despite this anti-capitalist narrative, however—a narrative we hear repeated by “progressive” politicians and iterated in more barbaric, polysyllabic strains by academics everywhere — the capitalist system has made possible over the last century, and especially in the last several decades, the greatest accumulation of wealth in the history of the world.  England was the crucible of this modern prosperity in part because of the freedom of economic activity that it, unlike the states of continental Europe, enjoyed.  And that freedom, in turn, and again unlike the continent, was underwritten by the limited government England also enjoyed. “The rapid growth of wealth” in England in the early nineteenth century, Hayek observes, “is probably in the first instance an almost accidental byproduct of the limitations which the revolution of the seventeenth century placed on the powers of government.”  We’ve been working diligently in this country to remove those limitations.  How far will we have to sink before the people once again rise up and repudiate the elites who wish to fetter them in manacles forged by statist overreach?
Read the entire piece for details and clarifications.

Using Academic Credentials To Cover Partisan Hatred

Dr. Helen Smith, wife of the Instapundit, received a press release:
A Psychologist Diagnoses the Tea Party-and other extremists threatening our world. In “The Polarized Mind: Why It’s Killing Us and What We Can Do about It,” Kirk J. Schneider Ph.D., calls for a new and deeper psychological understanding of our greatest political and social conflicts and those who drive them...

“You can see gradations of the ‘polarized mind’ at work in virtually all destructive political movements from Nazi Germany to Maoist China to our very own Tea Party. In fact, it is the pervasive malady of the 20 and 21st Centuries,” says Schneider.
She responded thusly:
How DARE YOU send me this trash associating law abiding American citizens with Nazi Germany and Maoist China. I am a psychologist who has sympathy for my fellow Americans who are so “extremist” that they believe in lower taxes and the Second Amendment. Horrors!

What is “killing us” are polarized minds like Kirk J. Schneider Ph.D who is so narrow-minded that he thinks those who have different political beliefs than himself are the enemy and seeks to assign them with a “diagnosis.” What is truly extremist and scary to those of a more conservative or libertarian persuasion is that so many psychologists such as the one below are such political hacks for the Democratic Party.

Please take me off your list of hate.

Helen Smith, PhD
Good for her.

To Those Of You Who Say/Said Benghazi Was A Made-Up Republican Scandal...

...screw you:
The Senate Intelligence Committee has released a bipartisan report on the Benghazi attack that finds that the assault could have and should have been prevented. The Obama administration should have stepped up security at the facility, but failed to do so. The committee concluded that the threat environment in Benghazi leading up to the attack should have caused the State Department to make up for the known security shortfalls at the U.S. facility in the city before the attack. The report does not explore or explain why the State Department consistently denied field requests to beef up security...

News broke Tuesday that despite the Obama administration’s claim to have had a security meeting including top military personnel leading up to September 11, 2012, there was no meeting. Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, testified in classified session before the House that there was only a conference call, followed by no force repositioning, despite knowledge within the administration that the al Qaeda threat had been building in Benghazi for months....
Remember that the Senate is run by Democrats, so to say as much as they did is fairly damning.  Left unaddressed, however, is why the Administration stuck to the "caused by a YouTube video" lie for so long, why military assets in Tripoli were told to stand down rather than rescue, and why there is no effort to go after the people who did this even though one of them lives in the open in Libya.  Why did the
Administration refuse to say this was al-Qaeda?

Still, to say that an attack on an embassy, in which an ambassador and 3 others were killed, is a made-up or phony scandal, is sickening.  Were the Kenya and Tanzania embassy attacks in 1998 also made up by Republicans to embarrass a Democratic president?  Was the Tehran embassy attack in 1979 made up by Republicans to embarrass a Democratic president?  It takes a sick person to suggest such things.  Sick and exceedingly, blindingly partisan.

Update, 1/19/14: Downloaded from Facebook:

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Absolutely True, Downloaded From Facebook

I Gotcher Fast Food "Living Wage" Right Here

With a seemingly endless line of talking-heads willing to ignore essentially every study that has been undertaken with regard the effects of raising the minimum-wage; and propose what is merely populist vote-getting 'benefits' for the ever-increasing not-1% who benefitted from Ben Bernnake's bubbles - we thought the following burger-flipping robot was a perfect example of unintended consequences for the fast food industry's workers. With humans needing to take breaks, have at least 4 weekend days off per month, and demanding ever-increasing minimum-wage for a job that was never meant to provide a 'living-wage', Momentum Machines - a San Francisco-based robotics company has unveiled the 'Smart Restaurants' machine which is capable of making ~360 'customized' gourmet burgers per hour without the aid of a human. First Jamba Juice, then Applebees, next McDonalds...
Link is here.

I Didn't Have Anything To Do With This, But...

...this guy has been a student of mine the past two years.  Local boy makes good :)

Monday, January 13, 2014

Is History Repeating Itself?

I've quoted from this article before:
Two UCLA economists say they have figured out why the Great Depression dragged on for almost 15 years, and they blame a suspect previously thought to be beyond reproach: President Franklin D. Roosevelt.
After scrutinizing Roosevelt's record for four years, Harold L. Cole and Lee E. Ohanian conclude in a new study that New Deal policies signed into law 71 years ago thwarted economic recovery for seven long years.
"Why the Great Depression lasted so long has always been a great mystery, and because we never really knew the reason, we have always worried whether we would have another 10- to 15-year economic slump," said Ohanian, vice chair of UCLA's Department of Economics. "We found that a relapse isn't likely unless lawmakers gum up a recovery with ill-conceived stimulus policies."
In an article in the August issue of the Journal of Political Economy, Ohanian and Cole blame specific anti-competition and pro-labor measures that Roosevelt promoted and signed into law June 16, 1933.
Huh.  You don't say!  Might there be any similarities between that situation and today?
But the debate hasn’t focused on the academic literature on the subject – including an important, surprising new paper from the National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER), perhaps the most respected economic research institution in the world. (The NBER is the organization tasked with determining when recessions officially begin and end.) The study’s finding: “Most of the persistent increase in unemployment during the Great Recession can be accounted for by the unprecedented extensions of unemployment benefit eligibility.”

In the aftermath of the financial crisis, the federal government has dramatically expanded the length of the unemployment insurance program from the typical 26 weeks, the period states more or less have the funds to offer, to as long as 99 weeks. That program has helped millions of people get by, but the NBER study suggests it’s also kept the labor market much much weaker than it would have been otherwise — in fact, they calculate, unemployment is 3.6 percentage points higher than it would be if benefits hadn’t been extended.
You should go read the whole thing.

You Keep Hearing The Stories and Still You Don't Believe In Voter Fraud?

Lefties think (or say they think) that conservatives want voter ID laws in order to suppress minority votes.  To counter that, I'd be happy to have free state-issued ID cards to anyone who has proven his/her citizenship.  I say they say they think that is because they really don't; look at any list of tasks that require a state-issued ID and tell me that minorities use none of those services.  What are the ID requirements for Obamacare?  :-)

Conservatives believe that lefties don't want voter ID laws because lefties like to cheat; "vote early, vote often" isn't a saying that comes out of a conservative city.  Church groups aren't as likely to help people violate election laws as labor unions are.  Just sayin'.

But lefties often cry that there's never been any evidence of voter fraud; that's patently false, but even if it weren't, how would such evidence be gathered on a large scale?  It would require ID in order to prove!  It's like the millions of children who mysteriously disappeared on year when you had to start listing social security numbers of dependents on your federal income tax returns in order to claim a deduction for them...

So they won't allow us to gather the evidence of their wrongdoing, but sometimes it comes to us anyway:
But New York City’s watchdog Department of Investigations has just provided the latest evidence of how easy it is to commit voter fraud that is almost undetectable. DOI undercover agents showed up at 63 polling places last fall and pretended to be voters who should have been turned away by election officials; the agents assumed the names of individuals who had died or moved out of town, or who were sitting in jail. In 61 instances, or 97 percent of the time, the testers were allowed to vote. Those who did vote cast only a write-in vote for a “John Test” so as to not affect the outcome of any contest. DOI published its findings two weeks ago in a searing 70-page report accusing the city’s Board of Elections of incompetence, waste, nepotism, and lax procedures.
When word of this got out, guess who and what "the establishment" complained about!

Go read the whole thing.

You Fear For The School Choice Movement? It Could Be Worse

From PJMedia:
Things are different in the Fatherland of Germany, where a judge recently ordered that parents may not have custody of their children because “the family might move to another country and homeschool, posing a ‘concrete endangerment’ to the children.”

Got that? Let me repeat it just in case. A German judge took children away from their parents because “he family might move to another country and homeschool, posing a ‘concrete endangerment’ to the children.”

In August, 20 armed police, equipped with a battering ram just in case, arrived at the door of this Darmstadt family and forcibly took four children, ages 7 to 14.

Was there anything wrong with the children? Nope. The judge — whose name, by the way, is Marcus Malkmus, in case you have a voodoo doll handy or wish to burn him in effigy — the judge admitted that the children were 1) academically proficient and 2) well adjusted socially.

He just didn’t like homeschooling.

Why? Pay attention now: this takes us deep into the heart of a leftist: because he feared that “the children would grow up in a parallel society without having learned to be integrated or to have a dialogue with those who think differently and facing them in the sense of practicing tolerance.”

The invocation of “tolerance” is especially cute, don’t you think?
Wow.  Just, wow.

Media Bias? What Media Bias?

From Breitbart via Newsalert:
At a Television Critics Association event on Friday, Zucker alleged that "the Republican Party is being run out of News Corp. headquarters masquerading as a cable news channel" without acknowledging that he runs a network that accused former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin of being responsible for the attempted murder of Gabby Giffords without any evidence whatsoever. CNN has been repeatedly called out for its left-leaning biases that masquerade as "objective" news, which is why the network's primetime ratings hit a 20-year low last year.
And let's not forget about "Bridgegate":
That’s juicy, just as Bridgegate is juicy. It’s something we can all understand, it speaks to our greatest fears, and it’s the sort of thing TV newspeople could gab about for days on end without needing a fresh piece of news to keep it going.

And yet, according to Scott Whitlock of the Media Research Center, “In less than 24 hours, the three networks have devoted 17 times more coverage to a traffic scandal involving Chris Christie than they’ve allowed in the last six months to Barack Obama’s Internal Revenue Service controversy.”

Why? Oh, come on, you know why. Christie belongs to one political party. Obama belongs to the other. You know which ones they belong to. And you know which ones the people at the three networks belong to, too: In surveys going back decades, anywhere from 80% to 90% of Washington’s journalists say they vote Democratic.
Was ABC/CBS/NBC/CNN harping every night during the government so-called shutdown on Obama's barricading of highway turnouts so that people couldn't even stop on the side of the road to look at Mt. Rushmore?  Or the barricading of a federally-owned parking lot at Mt. Vernon so that visitors couldn't park and tour?  Did you hear about those every night on the legacy media?  No?  Me, either.

A Compliment

I volunteered to attend a meeting after school today at our district office.  There's a suggestion out there that our district should switch from a traditional pathway to integrated math, and of course the reason given is Common Core.

Fewer than 20 math teachers from across the district attended this meeting--three of us were from my school, and there were at least two high schools that I don't think were represented at all.  Still, much to my surprise, the overwhelming agreement seemed to be to keep the traditional Algebra 1--Geometry--Algebra 2 pathway; several reasons were given for this, and spanned the gamut from practical to legal to pedagogical to financial.

I was talking to one of my school's teachers outside after the meeting had adjourned, and a few minutes later another participant walked up to join us.  We offered to move because we thought that might be her car we were blocking in there in the parking lot, but she said she'd come to speak to me specifically.

She mentioned how she not only liked what I had to say, but liked the way I got my points across.  She said several nice things for which I thanked her, and then she gave what is among the highest compliments one teacher can give to another:  I think I'd really enjoy being in your class.

That alone made going to the meeting worthwhile :-)

Saturday, January 11, 2014

First Positive Thing I Will Say About Torlakson

From a fluff piece in the major Sacramento newspaper about state Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson and the implementation of Common Core standards:
Parents and teachers said Wednesday they were hoping that new standards would mean fewer tests. Torlakson said his department is interested in embedding the California High School Exit Examination into the Smarter Balanced tests. 
I won't hold my breath for that bit of common sense to materialize.

Am I Supposed To Cheer This?

It's sad that school idiocy has reached a point where a state lawmaker feels compelled to craft this:
Schoolchildren in Oklahoma could not be punished for chewing their breakfast pastries into the shape of a gun under a bill introduced this week by a Republican legislator.

Rep. Sally Kern said Wednesday her measure dubbed the Common Sense Zero Tolerance Act was in response to school districts having policies that are too strict or inflexible.

Kern cited a recent Maryland case that gained national media attention where a boy was suspended after his teacher accused him of chewing his Pop Tart into the shape of a gun.

"Real intent, real threats and real weapons should always be dealt with immediately. We need to stop criminalizing children's imagination and childhood play," Kern, Republican from Oklahoma City told

"If there's no real intent, there's no real threat, no real weapon, no real harm is occurring or going to occur, why in the world are we in a sense abusing our children like this."

How Tired Was I?

I just finished the first week of school after Christmas break and I'll admit it, I've felt a little tired this week.  I didn't realize, though, how tired I've been.

After school I went to the local watering hole with a few others for "7th period", got home around 5:30, and laid down on top of my bed.  A half an hour ago I woke up!  After feeding the dog (poor Boomer!) and puttering around the house doing little things for a bit, I'm now going to bed for real.

It should be a great weekend :-)

Wednesday, January 08, 2014

Limiting The Reach of Schools

I've long written on this blog that schools' ability to punish student behavior should not extend beyond the campus, except for the "bus stop" rule (which, here in California, gives jurisdiction while students are en route to or from school).  Penalizing students for posting on Facebook pictures of themselves drinking, for example, is not the school's business--at least, it shouldn't be.  I've written plenty of posts where schools undertake to do extend that reach, though, and I wonder why school administrators want to go after behavior that doesn't take place at school or even affect the school.  Don't they have enough work to do with at-school behaviors?
While FIRE focuses on student and faculty rights at our nation’s colleges and universities, some cases in the K–12 context have the potential to affect our work as well. On December 27, a federal judge in Tennessee refused to throw out a First Amendment claim against a public school district that punished students for out-of-school social media posts. With many colleges striving to expand their jurisdiction over offenses committed off-campus, this ruling is a helpful affirmation that even K–12 schools—which may legally restrict student speech in a way that public colleges cannot—may not punish speech without actual evidence that such speech had an impact on the school’s activities or environment.
As the post points out, this particular case is K-12 but some colleges try to do the very same thing.

Tuesday, January 07, 2014

EIA's Public Education Quotes of the Year for 2013

These are classic, and I post them here in full in case, for some reason, the EIA site were ever to go away; these quotes need to be preserved for posterity in more than one location:
EIA is proud to present the 2013 Public Education Quotes of the Year, in countdown order. Enjoy!
10) “A lethargic membership is more cancerous than reforms, charter schools, and excessing. Members’ expectation of any president must be tempered with what they are willing to do for themselves.” – Nathan Saunders, outgoing president of the Washington Teachers Union. (July 31 letter to members)
9) “We’re not about picking a mayor. We’re about making a mayor, making the winner. And that’s what we’re gonna do…. I talk to them (the mayoral candidates) constantly. All of them. I know all about all of their families. I know about their dogs and this and that.” – Michael Mulgrew, president of the United Federation of Teachers, two weeks before the union endorsed Bill Thompson for mayor of New York City. (June 4 Politicker)
8) “Once at City Hall it became clear that the union — especially under its current leadership — was an enormous impediment to reform. Watching the parade of candidates genuflecting before the UFT and pledging fealty to its positions is an embarrassment. The prospect of the next mayor handing the keys of Tweed over to Michael Mulgrew makes me fear for the future of the city.” – Howard Wolfson, deputy mayor of New York City and former consultant to the United Federation of Teachers. (June 19 Capital New York)
7) “Where is the line in terms of how far the government gets involved in the operation of a private business, which is what MEA in its essence is.” – Doug Pratt, the Michigan Education Association’s temporary director of member benefits, testifying before a state senate committee about the union’s compliance with the right-to-work law. (December 5
6) “As we celebrate the 150th Anniversary of CTA, we must remember that we were founded for one reason – and one reason only – and that was to engage in politics. We were founded to engage in the political process in order to create an organized system of public instruction and to elevate the profession of teaching in California.” – Carolyn Doggett, executive director of the California Teachers Association, in a January 27 speech to the union’s State Council. 
5) “Anytime there’s an audit of Title I dollars, you’re going to see errors at the school level because schools spend money for what they need, and then sometimes they worry about if it fits the parameter of the grant later.” – Andres Alonso, CEO of the Baltimore City Schools, after a federal audit revealed that Title I and stimulus dollars were used for dinner cruises, meals, theater performances and a mother/daughter makeover. (May 23 CBS Baltimore)
4) “We don’t blame the firefighters when there’s a fire, and we don’t blame the police for crime! Why would we? Then why are educators being blamed for the struggles of our public schools? Let’s look at the policies and the policymakers instead of the people doing the work every day.” – Earl Wiman, current member of the National Education Association Executive Committee. (April 12 speech to the Virginia Education Association Delegate Assembly)
3) “It would be akin to making you and your wife redo your marriage license every year.” – John Havlicek, president of the La Crosse Education Association, describing Wisconsin’s annual recertification requirement for teachers’ unions. (November 27 La Crosse Tribune) 
2) “Because maybe these teachers have an ungodly fear of interviews. Or maybe they’re on vacation in the Netherlands and don’t want to return for an interview. Or maybe they think interviews are a sham. It doesn’t matter.” – Lynn Nordgren, president of the Minneapolis Federation of Teachers, explaining to school district negotiators why unplaced tenured teachers who refuse to show up for job interviews should not be dismissed. (September 27 MinnPost)
1) “Since a teacher’s working conditions are a child’s learning conditions, attacking teachers is the same as attacking children.” – Randy Mousley, president of United Teachers of Wichita. (February 9 Wichita Eagle)