Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Let's Play "What Party Is This Racist a Member Of?"

Marie Strumolo Burke, a Democrat who is running for mayor in Belleville, New Jersey, was allegedly caught on tape making some extremely racist remarks...

“This is terrible. This is terrible. This is gonna be a f—— n—– town,” Burke is allegedly heard yelling in the background, as Papa is heard discussing tax changes.
While Burke has denied that the voice on the tape was hers, a forensic test found that it is indeed her voice...

If nothing else, this should serve as a wake-up call that there are racists on all sides of the political spectrum. Just because a party’s members make a habit of being the first to point fingers and yell “Racist!” does not mean that they are themselves without fault.  link
When you lie down with dogs, you're gonna get fleas.  When you call everyone who doesn't agree with you a racist, people are going to respond and point out your hypocrisy.

White Privilege

He’s 20, he’s white, and he’s a freshman at Princeton University.

According to the ethnic and feminist studies college students and professors who frequently and vehemently complain that this country is steeped in racism and sexism and is only fair and just and equal for white, heterosexual males – he is the poster child for so-called “White Privilege.”

His name is Tal Fortgang, and just eight months into his Ivy League experience, he’s been told on numerous occasions to “check his privilege” – a phrase that has taken social media social justice campaigning by storm.

It is meant to remind white, heterosexual males that they have it so good because they’re white, heterosexual males. They haven’t faced tough times, they don’t know what it’s like to be judged by the color of their skin.

Oh, but they do.

Those sick of being labeled are the very same ones doing it to others, and Tal Fortgang has a powerful message for them...
There is absolutely *nothing* I can add to what he wrote—except, as Instapundit said, “This is an eloquent response, but ‘don’t be an asshole’ is an entirely adequate one.”

Update, 5/5/14:  I don't have anything to add, but Joanne Jacobs does:
In the Columbia Spectator students Dunni Oduyemi and Parul Guliani wrote that Fortgang shouldn’t take “check your privilege” personally. “Recognizing the fact that white men benefit from the kinds of racist and sexist structures on which American society is built isn’t meant to diminish his accomplishments,” they write. “It’s meant to remind us that white men don’t have an inherent predilection for success — the odds have just been stacked in their favor.”

I think those two sentences contradict each other.  If the odds were stacked in his favor that diminishes his accomplishments.

And it ignores the real privileges he enjoyed: He was born in the U.S., healthy and intelligent, and raised by loving and supportive parents. That’s a huge advantage in life, but not one reserved for white males.
Sarah Hoyt has some thoughts, too:
Apparently there’s more to people than skin color, gender and orientation.  Who knew?  Oh, yeah.  Everyone sane.  Which is to say, none of the people telling us to “check your privilege.”
Update #2, 5/7/14Check your argument:
This ubiquity of “check your privilege” suggests that political correctness is now entering a second generation and gaining a second wind.  While political correctness previously concentrated on race and gender, the new focus on inequality seems to have emboldened the campus left to put class back on the list of identity politics.  Of course, using the phrase “check your privilege” to cut off debate on campus is not nearly as destructive as what communists did to people who were from the “wrong” class. Many children of privilege then were sent to reeducation camps to reflect or were even silenced never to speak again.  But it stems from the same impulse to replace reason with power.

This new form of an old disorder also shows that despite the orthodoxy on many campuses many left-liberals remain very afraid of classical liberal and conservative dissent.  Just as students who protested Condi Rice’s prospective graduation speech at Rutgers showed strength in numbers but weakness in intellectual confidence, so do those who parrot this new campus slogan.  If your underlying argument is flawed, you do need a force other than logic and evidence to sustain your position.  Political correctness is an admission of intellectual frailty.
Update #3, 5/8/14:  Yet another good point:
The point of Mr. Fortgang’s essay — the part that drives the Left to rage — is that such advantages as this particular young man from suburban Westchester County enjoys are much more the product of the sort of family he comes from, and the opportunities that they enjoyed in the United States, than they are of ethnic and sexual features.
Update #4, 5/9/14:


Update #5, 5/13/14:  "Check your privilege" is kind of an a-holish thing to say, so some of the responses in this piece are appropriate:
The proper response to the privilege gambit is laughter. The super-serious zealots of progressivism hate being laughed at, but there’s really no other appropriate response outside of a stream of obscenities. The privilege game is designed to circumvent arguments based on reason and facts and evidence, so the way to win it is to defeat it on its own terms.

Call: “Check your privilege!”

Response: “What you call ‘privilege’ is just me being better than you.”

They won’t like it. It will make them angry. Good. Because tactics like “Check your privilege” are designed to make us angry, to put us off-balance, to baffle us and suck us down into a rabbit hole of leftist jargon and progressive stupidity...

The plain fact is that what they understand to be “privilege” is really just what regular people understand is a “consequence.” It is a consequence of hard work, of delaying gratification and of sacrifice...It’s not a function of skin tone or the number of vowels in your name; it’s a function of character...

What’s particularly amusing when you push back on these clowns is that they are so surprised to experience resistance to their petty fascism. Many of them, being the special snowflakes that they are, have never had anyone express to them the notion that they might be wrong...

Check my privilege? I just did, and it’s doing great.

2nd Amendment Application of Math

I programmed one of my first computers (in BASIC, no less) to do this very type of simulation:
Imagine the following scenario. The end of civilization has occurred, zombies have taken over the Earth and all access to modern technology has ended. The few survivors suddenly need to know the value of pi and, being a mathematician, they turn to you. What do you do? According to a couple of Canadian mathematicians, the answer is to repeatedly fire a Mossberg 500 pump action shotgun at a square aluminum target about 20 meters away. Then imagine that the square is inscribed with an arc drawn between opposite corners that maps out a quarter circle. If the sides of the square are equal to 1, then the area of the quarter circle is pi/4. Next, count the number of pellet holes that fall inside the area of the quarter circle as well as the total number of holes. The ratio between these is an estimate of the ratio between the area of the quarter circle and the area of a square, or in other words pi/4. So multiplying this number by 4 will give you an estimate of pi. That's a process known as a Monte Carlo approximation and it is complicated by factors such as the distribution of the pellets not being random. But the mathematicians show how to handle these too. The result? According to this method, pi is 3.13, which is just 0.33 per cent off the true value. Handy if you find yourself in a post-apocalyptic world.

Why People Should Know Math

When you know math you can tell when your politicians are lying to you and pandering to others who aren’t as smart as you are:
Team Obama is now aggressively targeting campus sexual assaults with a new White House Task Force led by Joe Biden, see news reports from the Washington Post, the LA Times and NPR. Unfortunately, it’s another White House effort with good intentions – to help women (and get their votes) – but is a campaign that is based on inaccurate, misleading and false data about the frequency of campus sexual assaults...

But there’s a big problem here. Taken together, those two claims above from the White House, if both are accurate, mean that nowhere near 1 in 5 women are sexually assaulted while in college...

So let’s do some math using actual crime statistics from the University of Wisconsin-Madison for the four years from 2009-2012 (summarized in the table above) and the White House’s under-reporting assumption of 12%. Over that four year period, there were 137 reports of sexual assault on the Madison campus, in university residence halls, on nearby non-campus property, and on public property adjacent to campus. We’ll assume that 100% of the sexual assaults victims were female. Using the White House claim that only 12% of sexual assaults get reported, there would have been slightly more than 1,000 unreported sexual assaults at UW during that period, bringing the total number of sexual assaults (reported + unreported) to 1,141 (see table).

The University of Wisconsin-Madison has a student body of 43,275 students, of which 51.6% are female. Dividing the 1,141 sexual assaults over a four-year period by the 22,329 UW female students would mean that only 5.1% UW women (or about 1 in 20) would be sexually assaulted while in college. Certainly that’s still too high, but nowhere close to the White House claim of one in five female students being assaulted while in college.

An analysis of crime data from the University of Michigan shows a similar 1-in-18.5 chance (5.4%) of a female student being a victim of sexual assault during four years in Ann Arbor. At the University of California-Berkeley, crime data suggest that the chances over four years of a female student being sexually assaulted are only 3.1%, or one in 32 women. Do the math yourself (and share with me if possible) with crime statistics from any other college campus, along with the White House under-reporting assumption of 12%, and I’m confident that there’s no college campus in America where anywhere near 1 in 5 women are sexually assaulted while in college.
What possible reason could the president have for repeatedly offering such bogus numbers?  And why would any woman go to college if there truly were a 1 in 5 chance of such an attack?

I guess if you repeat a lie often enough and loudly enough...

Are You Against Racism?

Of course you are.  But are you really, or do you just say you are?
Racist rants by federal lands moocher Cliven Bundy and vile comments attributed to Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling have put old-school racism back in the news.

But let’s get real. However contemptible, Bundy and Sterling aren’t what’s holding down blacks and other minorities in today’s America.

Here are three policies that, whatever their original intentions, systematically screw over poor blacks and other minorities.

Let's Play "Who's The Racist"--Yet Again

Do people even try to justify this with some reasoning, or is it just "might makes right" anymore?
California’s Latino Legislative Caucus is operated with state government funding, and has an official website that is paid for by California taxpayers. The Caucus does not identify itself as a partisan organization beholden to either Democrats or Republicans. Its legislative activities are also managed by legislature employees. So it’s far more than a club. Taxpayers pay for it.

But all of its members are Democrats. And when one Latino Republican sought to join, he was summarily denied.
Remember, this happened in the People's Democratic Republic of California.

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

If He Were A Republican This Would Lead Every Newscast

At one time nobody had ever heard of Larry Craig, either, and this guy’s transgressions are exponentially worse than Craig’s:
Former state Rep. Keith Farnham traded child pornography online — and even boasted that he’d molested a 6-year-old girl — according to federal prosecutors.

The Elgin Democrat, 66, emailed to what he believed was a fellow pedophile videos of children who appeared to be as young as six months old being molested, according to a criminal complaint filed Monday...

If the allegations against Farnham are true, they are at odds with two pieces of legislation he co-sponsored that aimed to toughen penalties against those who possess child pornography.

Monday, April 28, 2014

Gotta Like Tony Blair In This One

On the argument that we created more jihadis by invading Iraq, and that by invading Iraq we took our "eyes off the prize" of al-Qaeda:
"If it were the case, for example, that the reason why they were engaged in this terrorism in Iraq was because of the presence of American troops or British troops, you would expect when we'd get out (that) the terrorism would stop.  It doesn't.  And it doesn't because it's not coming from us.  It's coming from this ideology (radical Islam) and we aren't going to defeat it until we liberate ourselves from the attitude that somehow we're the cause of it."


This video is less than 4 minutes--and very worth your time.  I like his point that the jihadis were the destabilizing element, that it was clear that the Afghan and Iraqi people wanted the free elections (democracy) and the lack of dictatorship that we'd provided and it was the jihadis who were the extreme minority.

"Raising Awareness"

If you have to fake an attack on yourself to "raise awareness" because no one's ever going to attack you, then what, exactly, are you raising awareness about?  You're admitting that the problem is extremely rare!
Police at Montclair State University have charged a student with filing a false report after an investigation determined that his claim that he was assaulted outside a residence hall was untrue, the school said Monday.

Navjoat Aulakh, 18, of Carteret allegedly said three white men assaulted him and called him an “Islamic terrorist” outside Whitman Hall Thursday night. An alert was issued to students and staff.

But in an email on Friday, Police Chief Paul Cell said an investigation determined Aulakh’s story was “fabricated.”
That's a polite way of saying he's a liar.

Does Race Matter, Or Not?

This quote from The Nation has my head spinning:
The point here is not that only minorities or the poor can run organizations that advocate on issues that primarily affect minorities and the poor. That way madness lies. There is nothing inherent in an identity or a circumstance that automatically makes someone a better leader. Michael Manley, John Brown, Joe Slovo—history is not teeming with examples of the wealthy and light providing leadership for the poor and dark, but they do exist. People have to be judged on what they do, not who they are. This is not simply about optics. What an organization looks like is relevant; but what it does is paramount.
Why is what an organization looks like relevant at all? If the mission is paramount, if it's the most important thing, why would you care who accomplishes it?  Would you rather succeed under someone who doesn't look like you or fail under someone who looks like you?  If the mission is paramount, then you want to succeed--and it shouldn't matter who does the leading.

The reason lefties keep spinning and spinning and triangulating and explaining and clarifying is that fundamentally, their core philosophies don't make any sense.

The President Is An Idiot, Exhibit 8 Zillion

Six years later, Obama’s still blaming everything on Bush. But it wasn’t Bush that gave Sergei Lavrov a reset button and then canceled the missile-shield program in eastern Europe, and it wasn’t Bush who asked Dmitri Medvedev to transmit a promise to Vladimir Putin of “more flexibility” after his next election. It seems the only people Obama will challenge are Republicans and straw men.
You get the idea, but the rest is here.

Back to the Future?

I myself don't want our society to return to the days of Negro ball leagues and/or a Negro press, but basketball great Larry Johnson seems to want to:
Knicks executive and former player Larry Johnson had a decidedly different but still strong reaction to the racially insensitive remarks Clippers owner Donald Sterling is alleged to have made.

On Saturday night, Johnson tweeted: “Black people your Focusing on the wrong thing. We should be focusing on having our own, Own team own League! To For Self!!’’

The initial indication was Johnson was calling for an all-African-American league complete with black ownership. It wasn’t the first time Johnson, who is black, concerned himself with the fact the NBA’s ownership is mostly white while its players are mostly black.
Maybe we could have our own little bifurcated society, hmm, Larry?  I know what we could call it.  It's a great little word that doesn't get much use anymore.  We could call it...

Apartheid.

Capital Punishment

Why is being strapped to a gurney and poisoned quickly considered “cruel and unusual punishment” by some, but a lifetime in prison is not?

And do these two deserve to live, anyway?
Jonathan and Sarah Adleta's children were doomed to a life of perverse cruelty before they were even born.

Jonathan Adleta, a former Marine officer, dreamed of the day he could have "daddy-daughter sex." After Sarah Adleta became pregnant with a daughter, he said he would marry her only if she agreed to let him carry out that desire. When the couple had a son, Sarah Adleta was expected to have sexual encounters with him.

In an Orlando federal courtroom this week, prosecutors and witnesses described, in disturbing and graphic detail, the heinous exploitation and abuse the couple's toddlers endured at the hands of their parents — even after they divorced.
Based on his age I doubt the man was a Marine officer, but that's besides the point.  Both he and his ex-wife deserve to die.  They're not going to be reformed in prison, so why should we pay for them there?

We're Against His Type, But He's On Our Side--Right, Lefties?

I don’t hear lefties in general complaining about this guy, despite their wailing and gnashing of teeth over the Citizens United decision. Perhaps they want to have their cake and eat it, too:
The Laborers International Union of North America, with about 570,000 members, wants the Obama administration to approve construction of the Keystone XL pipeline. The union has a lot of clout in Democratic circles; according to the Center for Responsive Politics, it has contributed $38,089,860 to political candidates since 1989, with just seven percent of it going to Republicans.

Tom Steyer, the hedge-fund billionaire, wants the Obama administration to block construction of the pipeline. Although a relative newcomer to the political game, he has pledged to give Democrats $50 million, and raise $50 million more, to get his way.

Who has more clout on this issue, the longtime Democratic labor union that has contributed $38 million over the past quarter-century, or the guy who can come up with $100 million for this election cycle alone? The question answers itself. And so no one should be surprised that President Obama has again postponed a decision on the pipeline, and left the Laborers unhappy one more time.
The oil is going to be drilled and refined, whether we do it here in the US or if they do it, with much more pollution, in China. Which one's better for Mother Gaia, lefties?

We're going to use oil whether we get it from mean desert people who slice off heads, hang homosexuals, and require women to be covered from head to toe, or whether we get it from a people among whose biggest faults is adding "eh?" at the end of a sentence.  Where would you rather buy from, lefties?

Have You Noticed The Racist, Misogynist Democrats Lately?

I'm going to ignore the LA Clippers owner.  I've read he's a registered Republican, but the only politicians to whom he's given money have been Democrats--whaddayagonnado?  I heard his "discussion" on the radio this morning, and whatever his political leaning, it doesn't surprise me that someone of his generation might be a bit more racist than you or I.  And the way he spoke that that girl (she's early 20's?)--he's not going to be getting any awards from the NOW gang.  I'm sure the NAACP will rescind the Lifetime Achievement Award they were going to award him (really, thy were!) in just a few weeks.

So let's ignore that old coot and look at a couple others.  Complete with links that even lefties can't dismiss (that means the SF Chronicle!) we get Woman-Beating Obama Donor Gets Fired, Whines About Being the Victim:
His Democrat connections kept him out of prison, but he won’t get to keep his job... Seems like a real class act. Beat the woman senseless, then basically calls her a slut.
But who is he?  He's just a nobody who donated enough money to get his picture taken with President Obama; I'm sure there's a Republican out there somewhere who beat up a woman, so "both sides do it", right?  Uh huh.

How about a California legislator?
The year Alejo was preparing for law school, voters altered his prospects by passing Proposition 209, California’s ban on race-inclusive admissions policies. Alejo and others unsuccessfully fought the initiative, a losing battle that he described as a formative political experience.

“’All our fears came true,’ said Alejo, a Democrat from Watsonville. ‘Once it went into effect, we saw dramatic drops in the numbers of students of color being able to attend some of our most prestigious graduate and professional schools.’”

But of course there haven’t been overall “dramatic drops” of “students of color” if you include Asian-Americans. They are the largest ethnic group at UC campuses — 35 percent at UC Berkeley and 33 percent at UCLA...

What makes it obnoxious is that Alejo acts as if he holds the moral high ground in advocating for a return to UC admissions policies that punished Asian-American students with de facto quotas — in the name of atoning for white racism.

Racial justice? Social justice?

Joke justice.
Asians aren't "minorities" if they "succeed".  So isn't this Hispanic legislator saying, essentially, that blacks and Hispanics just aren't as smart as whites and Asians?  That they're just not as capable?

If you don't agree that that's the meaning, how else can you possibly twist his words to get some other, liberal-approved meaning?

This is what happens when the only play in your playbook is to divide people by race.  Pretty soon your circular firing squad will start firing at members of your own coalition.

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Cast Your Vote!

Soon I'll have an empty white wall that will need something on it. I look around when I shop, perhaps I'll see a picture or painting that will go there.  The room is "comfortable", with olive, brown, tan, and black furnishings, so I need a wall decoration that will complement those colors.

Another thought I've had, since so many of my wall pictures are of places I've been,  is to blow up one of my own pictures, and perhaps have it printed on canvas and framed.  Here are the candidates I've chosen:



Placer County Courthouse in Auburn


Bodie State Park



Mono Lake



Dubrovnik, Croatia



Acropolis, Athens, Greece



Olympia, Greece



Grapes in Ostia Antica




Boards at Lake Tahoe



Valley of Fire State Park, Nevada


If you think any of those are nice enough to hang on a wall, cast your vote in the comments!

Update, 5/2/14:  I also really like these from Amazon:
3-Panel Tropical Palm Tree Sunset
4 Panel Brown Rome Coliseum Premium Cascade Canvas Print
3-Panel Palm Tree Sunset Beach Hawaii

Update, 8/16/14:  This morning I had the wall painted and in a few hours the 3-Panel Tropical Palm Tree Sunset pictures will be hanging.   And just a few minutes ago I ordered prints of the Bodie and Dubrovnik pictures on aluminum to hang in my new guest room.

One of the Disadvantages of Being a Teacher

I can't go on "repositioning cruises", which usually take place in April and October.  On such cruises, the cruise lines move ships to more "weather appropriate" locations--in April they move some ships north, and in October they move them back south (at least, that's the way it goes here in the Northern Hemisphere!).  The bummer is that as a teacher I can never go on such cruises, which are very often offered at extreme bargains.

How I would love to go on this trip!


Linked from here.

It leaves in two days.

Affirmative Action and the Benefits of Diversity

I don't see a flaw in his logic, do you?
In 1995, when the University of Michigan was mechanically granting 20 extra “points” to minority applicants based only on race, black students were nearly 9% of Michigan undergraduates. After that admissions practice was ruled to be unconstitutional in 2003, and following the decision by Michigan voters in 2006 to ban racial profiling in college admissions, black students currently represent only 4.6% of Michigan undergraduate students.

The reduction by one-half in black students at Michigan as a share of undergraduate from 8.9% in 1995 to 4.6% raises a few questions:

1. Proponents of affirmative discrimination and racial profiling in college admissions must now conclude that the value of the educational experience at Michigan has been eroded due to the reduction in racial diversity. If prospective and current students, along with their parents agreed that racial diversity has significant education benefits, and that those benefits have now been reduced, shouldn’t that be reflected in fewer applications to Michigan, and an increase in students transferring to other universities with greater racial diversity?

2. If employers value the educational benefits of racial diversity while earning a college degree, shouldn’t we see a decline in the number of employers willing to hire Michigan graduates, in favor of the graduates of other universities with greater racial diversity?

3. Overall, shouldn’t the reduction in racial diversity at Michigan lead to a devaluation of a Michigan degree by students, parents and employers?

Bottom Line: Following the reduction by half in the share of black students at Michigan, I don’t think the number of students applying to Michigan has decreased, I don’t think employers have decreased their demand for Michigan graduates, and I don’t think the value of a Michigan degree has changed. Perhaps that means that administrators, regents, and minority students assign some theoretical value to the educational benefits of racial diversity, but that most students, parents and employers realistically and practically value the academic reputation and standards of a university, and place little value on the educational benefits of racial diversity?
Read the whole thing here.

Where Do People Like This Come From? And Why Do Civilized, Intelligent People Tolerate and Accommodate Them?

Ah, the aggrieved Ivy League students.  Don't you just feel sorry for the pampered little darlings?

I've written before about the poor little one-percenters from Dartmouth here, here, and here, among others.  In that second link I quoted the following:
The point is that the Dartmouth students themselves are creations of the very exploitation they project onto others. They and their faculties enjoy privileges undreamed up by 99.9% of the population. DeVry and Phoenix trade schools cannot afford to offer Dartmouth-like race, class, and gender courses to contextualize their accounting, computer programming and nursing programs because none of their students have the cash for such psychodramatic indulgences. Our aggrieved .01% can play act that they are embattled, precisely because free market capitalism gave them those dramatic opportunities in a way unknown in Mexico or the Congo. (all boldface mine--Darren)
So here we go again:
Another ridiculous politically-correct brouhaha has broken out at Dartmouth College, America’s most hopelessly and disturbingly fragile Ivy League school.

This time, the fracas is over a fundraiser for cardiac care that the Phi Delta Alpha fraternity and the Alpha Phi sorority had planned to jointly sponsor, reports Campus Reform.

Problems arose because a single student, junior Daniela Hernandez, was offended by the party’s theme of “Phiesta.”

As a result, the soiree, which was scheduled for Saturday, has been canceled by the presidents of the respective Greek organizations.

Had the party happened, it would have included a live band as well as virgin piña coladas and strawberry daiquiris. There would also have been burritos, chips and salsa, and guacamole.

The cash raised at the event would have gone to benefit cardiac treatments.

However, Hernandez’s deep offense about racial insensitivity was enough to call it off.

The self-proclaimed “Mexican-born, United-States-raised, first-generation woman of color” declared in an angry email that “there are various problematic structures and ideologies regarding a Cinco de Mayo-inspired event,” according to Campus Reform...
Did you catch all that?  I'd say she's got the trifecta there, but she's actually got 4 (in her eyes) irrefutable "qualifications"--Mexican-born, first-generation, woman, of color.  Let me see if I get this straight.  We should give a damn what she thinks because of 4 attributes over which she had no control whatsoever?  Isn't that a little like judging people by the color of their skin, or something?  But let's continue with the story.
Phi Delt president Taylor Catchcart explained why the Greek organizations folded.

“We felt that the possibility of offending even one member of the Dartmouth community was not worth the potential benefits of having the fundraiser,” he said.
What a wuss.  I'd have told her to go grab some chips and salsa and have a good time.  And quit whining.  And celebrate diversity or something.  No one is mocking Mexico by having some Mexican food and wearing sombreros. 

So back to the title of this post.  Where do people like this come from?  They come from the left-leaning among us right here in our own country, and civilized, intelligent people tolerate and accommodate them because they fear the (threatening and sometimes violent) responses of those lefties who pretend to be offended.  We'll restore a little balance to our society, a little "live and let live", when the right starts using the same intimidating and personal tactics of the left.  Then, like an armed society, perhaps we'll all be a little more polite to each other.

Saturday, April 26, 2014

100-Year-Old Gets High School Diploma

I was all set to do a feel-good post on this:
They're doing something right in Hayward, because Mildred Principe - at age 100 - looks better than most people do... well, ever.

With silky honey-blond hair, an infectious smile, practically zero wrinkles and flashy new red sweats, she fit right in with the students at Hayward High School on Wednesday. Not surprising, because she's one of them. Class of 2014, to be exact.

Hayward High bestowed a diploma to Principe at a ceremony on campus Wednesday, eight decades years after she dropped out to get married. 
You know what I didn't read in the story? Anything about what she did to earn the diploma.  There's no indication in the story that it was an honorary diploma, and there's no indication that she decided to finish her studies.
Hayward schools Superintendent Stan Dobbs invited Principe as a way to boost students' pride in their school and community, he said.
I had hoped there was something inspirational and educational in this story.  It was nothing more than a feel-good stunt.  Nice thing to do for a little old lady--but how, I ask, does this act "boost students' pride in their school and community"?

How Bad Must It Be?

How bad does the state site have to be if the federal site is actually better?!
The Obama administration is getting ready to rescue the failing Oregon state health care exchange, which has been hit by technical glitches from the start.

On Friday, the Cover Oregon board will take up a recommendation made Thursday by a partial panel to hand over the state- run exchange to the federal government.

The move comes nearly seven months after Oregon’s online system was supposed to go live, but never did so completely.
Update, 5/5/14:  Doomp, doomp, doomp, another one bites the dust:
Massachusetts is scrapping its Obamacare exchange, following on the heels of Oregon.

Rewriting History

Sometimes on Facebook I see some witty leftie share a quote that says something like, “Enjoying your weekend?  Brought to you by the labor movement.”  If we’re talking about something that happened a hundred years ago or more, I expect we will soon see those same lefties posting the following quote:  “Enjoying that lack of slavery?  Brought to you by the Republican Party.”  I’m not going to hold my breath, though, as consistency is *not* a strong suit of the left.

Then there are the distortions and outright lies:
The general thrust of left-wing pundit Richard Cohen’s syndicated column of April 17, 2014 is an attack on Rand Paul’s (and other prospective GOP presidential candidates’) lack of experience. Given Barack Obama’s thin résumé before becoming president – which, to his credit, Cohen acknowledges -- assailing Rand Paul’s (or Ted Cruz’s, or anyone else’s) meager public record is ludicrous.

Bad as Cohen’s attack on Paul (and others) is, his sly effort to rewrite the history of the Republican Party’s (and by implication, the Democrat Party’s) role in the struggle for blacks’ civil rights is even worse.  Unhappily, however, Cohen’s historical revisionism typifies the American left’s all-too-successful efforts to change Americans’ memories of the roles of the two major political parties on behalf of blacks’ civil rights...

Three points should be made. First, leftists rewrite the history of Republicans’ record on civil rights for blacks. Second, vile charges that “Republicans are racists” cost the GOP votes, especially among low-information voters. Third, unless, even at this late date, Republicans forcefully dispute these lies and set the record straight, they should expect to lose votes (and maybe elections) in the future.

Didn't Some Smart Guy Once Say Something About Judging People Not By The Color of Their Skin, But On The Content of Their Character?

If we followed that smart guy's advice we'd talk about what a lousy president Barack Obama is, instead of sputum like this:
A bill that passed the Assembly with unanimous bipartisan support Thursday encourages California schools to teach students about the racial significance of Barack Obama’s presidency.

The Assembly approved AB1912 with a 71-0 vote and no debate or discussion. It now heads to the state Senate.

The bill by Assemblyman Chris Holden, D-Pasadena, asks state education officials to include Obama’s election in history and social studies standards laying out what students are expected to learn.

High school history students already learn about recent presidents. But Holden says lessons about Obama also should focus on what his election meant for racial equality and civil rights.
Are black Americans better off today than they were 5+ years ago, when President Obama took office?  Are race relations better today than they were 5+ years ago, when President Obama took office?  How are those civil rights coming along, NSA?

This is pure political claptrap.  This is California.

Why Is The White House Involved In This At All?

What possible reason could the White House have for wanting to get involved in teacher preparation?  Has the concept of federalism completely disappeared?
The Obama administration announced on Friday that it put out a draft of new teacher preparation regulations this summer.

“We’re talking about new efforts that this administration is pursuing to better support our teachers and meet the urgent mission of elevating and strengthening teacher education and preparation,” White House Policy Director Cecilia Muñoz said in a call for reporters.

Education Secretary Arne Duncan said too many teachers say they weren’t well prepared for teaching. “Our nation’s children pay the price,” he said.

Final regulations are expected within the next year after a comment period.
I'm amazed at the blatant ignorance of, or ignoring of, the Constitution.

Friday, April 25, 2014

Oldies But Goodies

While looking through Statcounter today I saw that visitors had viewed these two posts.  After having written over 9000 posts since 2005 I didn't remember the content of these particular ones--but after reading them again, I liked them enough to share again :-)  They're unrelated, but whatever--I hope you enjoy them.

Lunchtime conversation yesterday:
But that isn't the point. This discussion about institutionalized racism--it's paternalistic, it's condescending, and worst, it offers no hope. And of course, it's up to the world to prove that it doesn't exist. How do you prove a negative?

The next post isn't as good as the comments that follow it.

Gay Pride T-shirts At School?
What's the difference in these two cases? Either they're both protected by the 1st Amendment, or neither is. I need someone to try to parse this so that one is OK at school and the other isn't, because I just don't see it.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

More Common Core

More reasons not to like it:
Five of the 29 members of the Common Core Validation Committee refused to sign a report attesting that the standards are research-based, rigorous and internationally benchmarked. The report was released with 24 signatures and included no mention that five committee members refused to sign it, according to a new study published by Pioneer Institute.

No member of the Validation Committee had a doctorate in English literature or language and only one held a doctorate in math. He was one of only three members with extensive experience writing standards. Two of the three refused to sign off on the standards...

Stanford University mathematician R. James Milgram, the only member of the Validation Committee with a doctorate in mathematics, said that Common Core is two years behind the math standards in the highest-performing countries. Milgram also wrote that Common Core fails to prepare students for careers in science, technology, engineering, and math.
You can't hide the smell of doggy-doo forever.

Should Every Kid Go To College?

If college is supposed to represent some sort of advanced or more demanding level of education, why has it become a national priority to send every kid to college? Wouldn’t the nation be better off if at some point it said to these young people, “you can go to college if you want, but we’re not paying for it”?
Read the whole thing here.

How Could Race Possibly Matter In This Case?

I received an email at school the other day.  Here's a snip:
On behalf of the Commission on Teacher Credentialing (CTC), I am pleased to share with you an opportunity for practicing educators and educator preparation faculty to participate in standard setting activities for the following CSET tests that have been updated to align with the Common Core State Standards:

* CSET: English
* CSET: Mathematics
* CSET: Multiple Subjects

We are currently in the process of establishing three independent Subject Matter Advisory Panels to convene in Sacramento in September/October of 2014. During these conferences, pre-K-adult educators and educator preparation faculty will make recommendations that will be used by the Commission on Teacher Credentialing (CTC) in setting the passing standards for the updated tests, CSET: English, CSET: Mathematics, and CSET: Multiple Subjects...

The involvement of California educators who are representative of the state's diversity is critical to the success of each examination program. This involvement helps to ensure fair and accurate testing that confirms candidates have the knowledge and skills needed to perform the job of an educator in California public schools.
We all know that "diversity" means race--it certainly doesn't mean political persuasion!  Is the implication here that people of different races somehow need different "knowledge and skills...to perform the job of an educator in California public schools"?

Raping Mother Gaia

I consider myself a conservationist, not an environmentalist.  I don't know what this guy is, but his letter to his daughter's teacher is very interesting:
A US economics professor has published the letter he wrote to his daughter's schoolteacher explaining why he doesn't want his girl indoctrinated in the green religion. Steven Landsburg, a professor at Rochester, NY, included it as part of a longer essay in which he calls environmentalism a "coercive ideology" targeted specifically at children...
I quote now from his letter:
When we lived in Colorado, Cayley was the only Jewish child in her class. There were also a few Moslems. Occasionally, and especially around Christmas time, the teachers forgot about this diversity and made remarks that were appropriate only for the Christian children. These remarks came rarely, and were easily counteracted at home with explanations that different people believe different things, so we chose not to say anything at first. We changed our minds when we overheard a teacher telling a group of children that if Santa didn't come to your house, it meant you were a very bad child; this was within earshot of an Islamic child who certainly was not going to get a visit from Santa. At that point, we decided to share our concerns with the teachers. They were genuinely apologetic and there were no more incidents. I have no doubt that the teachers were good and honest people who had no intent to indoctrinate, only a certain naïveté derived from a provincial upbringing.

Perhaps that same sort of honest naïveté is what underlies the problems we've had at the JCC this year. Just as Cayley's teachers in Colorado were honestly oblivious to the fact that there is diversity in religion, it may be that her teachers at the JCC have been honestly oblivious that there is diversity in politics.

Let me then make that diversity clear. We are not environmentalists. We ardently oppose environmentalists. We consider environmentalism a form of mass hysteria akin to Islamic fundamentalism or the War on Drugs. We do not recycle. We teach our daughter not to recycle. We teach her that people who try to convince her to recycle, or who try to force her to recycle, are intruding on her rights.

The preceding paragraph is intended to serve the same purpose as announcing to Cayley's Colorado teachers that we are not Christians. Some of them had never been aware of knowing anybody who was not a Christian, but they adjusted pretty quickly.

Once the Colorado teachers understood that we and a few other families did not subscribe to the beliefs that they were propagating, they instantly apologized and stopped. Nobody asked me what exactly it was about Christianity that I disagreed with; they simply recognized that they were unlikely to change our views on the subject, and certainly had no business inculcating our child with opposite views.

I contrast this with your reaction when I confronted you at the preschool graduation. You wanted to know my specific disagreements with what you had taught my child to say. I reject your right to ask that question. The entire program of environmentalism is as foreign to us as the doctrine of Christianity.
He's not saying you shouldn't recycle if you want to. He's saying you shouldn't force it on him.  In this case I don't see the harm of "live and let live".

I'm Surprised It Took This Long

The San Francisco Bay isn't so large, I'm surprised it took over 120 years to come upon this wreck:
The first images of the newly discovered wreckage of a steamship that sank in San Francisco Bay in 1888, killing 16 people, were released Wednesday by federal ocean scientists.

The iron and wood steamship City of Chester went down on Aug. 22, 1888, after it was struck in dense fog by a larger ship...

More than 125 years later, a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration team found the shipwreck in 217 feet of water just inside the Golden Gate Bridge while the scientists were charting shipping channels.
I wish the article had linked to the images!

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Global Warming

A couple days ago I wrote this post, which attracted the usual rantings of the lefties.  I pause, sigh, and move on.

Today I came across two related articles.  The first, from Gallup:
Over the past decade, Americans have clustered into three broad groups on global warming. The largest, currently describing 39% of U.S. adults, are what can be termed "Concerned Believers" -- those who attribute global warming to human actions and are worried about it. This is followed by the "Mixed Middle," at 36%. And one in four Americans -- the "Cool Skeptics" -- are not worried about global warming much or at all.
After more than a decade of beating the drums louder and louder, why are the members of the Church of Global Warming not having a greater impact on changing the minds of Americans?  Maybe because, for far more than a decade, we've heard the same Chicken Littles too many times:
On the 30th anniversary of the first Earth Day in 1970, Ronald Bailey wrote an excellent article in the May 2000 edition of Reason Magazine titled “Earth Day, Then and Now.” In that article, Bailey noted that around the time of the first Earth Day, and in the years following, there was a “torrent of apocalyptic predictions” and many of those predictions were featured in his Reason article.  Well, now that more than 40 years have passed, how accurate were those predictions around the time of the first Earth Day? Wrong, spectacularly wrong, and here are 18 examples...
I wrote here about several apocalyptic scares that have occurred just in my lifetime.  Here's why I'm skeptical about apocalypes:
What do they all have in common? Several things.

1. They all required immense, immediate governmental action,
2. action favored by leftists,
3. action that would have a seriously adverse effect on the global economy and prosperity,
4. to forestall apocalyptic consequences.
5. None of them happened.

Is it any wonder I'm skeptical about the claims of the Church of Global Warming?

NOT The Recommended Way To Become A Math Wiz

Some are born with it.  Some have to work at it.  Some are both.  But a bar fight?
Padgett’s world is bursting with mathematical patterns. He is one of a few people in the world who can draw approximations of fractals, the repeating geometric patterns that are building blocks of everything in the known universe, by hand. Tree leaves outside his window are evidence of Pythagoras’ theorem. The arc that light makes when it bounces off his car proves the power of pi.

He sees the parts that make up the whole. And his world is never boring, never without amazement. Even his dreams are made up of geometry.

“I can barely remember a time,” the 43-year-old says, “when I saw the world the way most everyone else does.”

Flash back 12 years: Padgett had dropped out of Tacoma (Wash.) Community College, and was a self-described “goof” with zero interest in academics, let alone math. The only time he dealt in numbers was to track the hours until his shift ended at his father’s furniture store, tally up his bar tab, or count bicep curls at the gym.

With his mullet, leather vest open to a bare chest, and skintight pants, he was more like a high-school student stuck in the 1980s — even though it was 2002, and he was a 31-year-old with a daughter...

Party time came to end the night of Friday, Sept. 13, 2002, at a karaoke bar near his home. There, two men attacked him from behind, punching him in the back of the head, knocking him unconscious.

He fell to the ground as the two men punched and kicked him, stopping only when he handed over his worthless jacket...

The next morning, while running the water in the bathroom, he noticed “lines emanating out perpendicularly from the flow. At first, I was startled, and worried for myself, but it was so beautiful that I just stood in my slippers and stared.”
Wild.

Hat tip to reader MikeAT.

Monday, April 21, 2014

Poetry

I'm not saying that, if I were elected world dictator, I'd ban poetry, but I myself certainly never really understood it:
However, discussing a poem can turn into an “in-class disembowelment of a poem’s meaning,” Simmons concedes.  Teachers are encouraged to teach a “process of demystification” rather than “curating a powerful experience through literature.”
Just say what you mean.   If people have to try to divine what you mean, then you're not communicating clearly.  You can communicate using imagery and emotion, but your meaning should still be clear.  Sheesh.

Global Warming Consensus

You can kick and scream, call him a denier, and make faux appeals to authority--but where is this guy wrong?
But these are my personal opinions and I preside over an organization that takes no official position on climate change. The National Association of Scholars isn't a body that can weigh the substantive merits of competing scientific models. We are referees, concerned that all sides play by the rules, not goalkeepers, much less goalmakers. And we have members who have diverse opinions about whether, how much, and where from climate change happens.

That diversity, of course, is nearly unheard of in the academy itself, where a hardened orthodoxy is enforced with increasing determination. The enforcement itself tells a story. No one has to enforce an orthodoxy on plate tectonics, quantum theory, or Andrew Wile's proof of Fermat's Last Theorem. All of these were once controversial. Wile's original proof was shown to be defective. He fixed it. The theories advanced by the accumulation of hard evidence and the rigor of the analysis.

In my own field, anthropology, I have lived through the replacement of "consensus" on the idea that the makers of the so-called Clovis spear points, which go back 13,500 years, were the first Native Americans. The "Clovis First" theory always had doubters but it dominated from the 1930s until 1999, when archaeologists in large numbers accepted the evidence of older populations. Likewise, there was a long-established consensus that Neanderthal and modern Homo Sapiens did not successfully interbreed--though here too there were always some dissenters. We now know for a certainty (based on the successful sequencing of the Neanderthal genome) that our species did indeed mix, and modern Europeans carry a percent or two of Neanderthal genes.

In time, scientific controversies get resolved, often by the emergence of new kinds of evidence that no one originally imagined. Views that are maintained, to some degree, by a wall of artificial "consensus" die hard. That, of course, was one of the lessons of Thomas Kuhn's The Structure of Scientific Revolutions (1962), which inaugurated the long vogue for the word "paradigm" to describe a broadly accepted theory. Kuhn's work has often served as a warrant for those who see science as a social project amenable to political manipulation rather than an intellectual endeavor with strict standards of evidence and built-in mechanisms for correcting mistakes.

Thus when the "anthropogenic global warming" (AGW) folks insist that they command a "consensus" of climate scientists, they fully understand that they are engaged in a political act. They intend to summon the social and political dynamics that will create a "consensus," by defining the skeptics as a disreputable minority that need not even be counted. It is a big gamble since a substantial number of the skeptics are themselves well-established and highly respected scientists, such as MIT's Richard Lindzen, Princeton's Will Happer, and Institute of Advanced Studies' Freeman Dyson. But conjuring a new "paradigm" out of highly ambiguous data run through simulation computer models is tricky business and isn't likely to produce a "consensus" all on its own.

What's needed is the stamp of authority. And if that doesn't work, just keep stamping. Or stomping.
The author is president of the National Association of Scholars.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Female Vocalist CD

I never did get around to making a "summer music" CD last year, but oh well, I'm on to a new project.  I'd like to make a "women vocalists" CD, and here are the songs I'm tentatively considering:

Lorde--Royals
Cranberries--Zombie
10000 Maniacs--These Are Days
Adele--Set Fire to the Rain
Tracy Chapman--Change

Any recommendations in a similar vein?

Update, 5/2/14:  I think this is the final list:
Lorde--Royals
Cranberries--Linger
10000 Maniacs--These Are Days
Adele--Set Fire to the Rain
Tracy Chapman--Change
Pink--Try
Martika--Toy Soldiers
4 Non Blondes--What's Up
Heather Small--Proud
Til Tuesday--Voices Carry
Sarah McLachlan--(In The Arms of the) Angel
The Motels--Suddenly Last Summer
Concrete Blonde--Joey
The Sundays--Summertime
Roxette--It Must Have Been Love
Mazzy Star-Fade Into You

Thank you for all the input!

Update, #2, July 22:  I have a couple of these songs together on another mix cd.  If space is a consideration I may replace either 10000 Maniacs or Tracy Chapman with Wilson Phillips' Hold On.

Economics

Good points:
Economics is organized common sense. Here is a short list of valuable lessons that our beautiful subject teaches.
1. Many things that are desirable are not feasible.
2. Individuals and communities face trade-offs.
3. Other people have more information about their abilities, their efforts, and their preferences than you do.
4. Everyone responds to incentives, including people you want to help. That is why social safety nets don’t always end up working as intended.
5. There are tradeoffs between equality and efficiency.
6. In an equilibrium of a game or an economy, people are satisfied with their choices. That is why it is difficult for well-meaning outsiders to change things for better or worse.
7. In the future, you too will respond to incentives. That is why there are some promises that you’d like to make but can’t. No one will believe those promises because they know that later it will not be in your interest to deliver. The lesson here is this: before you make a promise, think about whether you will want to keep it if and when your circumstances change. This is how you earn a reputation.
8. Governments and voters respond to incentives too. That is why governments sometimes default on loans and other promises that they have made.
9. It is feasible for one generation to shift costs to subsequent ones. That is what national government debts and the U.S. social security system do (but not the social security system of Singapore).
10. When a government spends, its citizens eventually pay, either today or tomorrow, either through explicit taxes or implicit ones like inflation.
11. Most people want other people to pay for public goods and government transfers (especially transfers to themselves).
12. Because market prices aggregate traders’ information, it is difficult to forecast stock prices and interest rates and exchange rates.

Legos and Statistics

How well are Lego's designed?  And how constant is that design over the last 40 years?  This article answers all!  Means, standard devs, histograms, and regression lines--cool!
Here is the plan. Use a micrometer (the tool, not the unit) to measure the width of 2 bump LEGO blocks. Plot a histogram of the different sizes. Just to be clear, the micrometer is a tool that measures small sizes – around a millimeter to 20 millimeters. This particular one has markings down to 0.01 mm – for my measurements, I will estimate the size to 0.001 millimeters. Oh, one more point. There are lots of pieces that are two LEGO dots. For this data, I am mostly using 2 x 1 and 2 x 2 pieces. I will assume that both have the same size in the 2 bump direction.

Here is my first set of data...

Saturday, April 19, 2014

What Killed Off The Mastadons?

Mastodons roamed North America within human history.  What, in the absence of SUVs and coal-fired power plants, killed them off?
Mastodons -- elephant-like beasts that lumbered across North America more than 10,000 years ago -- are long extinct, but apparently it wasn't tooth decay that did them in.

A 9-year-old Michigan boy stumbled across something -- literally -- that, it turns out, is a mastodon tooth.
Something killed them all off.  I wonder what it could have been.

Climate changes.  It just does.  Sucks to be a mastodon.

Graduation Speakers

I get tired of stories of graduation speakers who get "disinvited" because some group of whiners decides that person isn't "worthy" enough to speak to them.  In other words, they disagree with something that person did or said, they pitch a fit, and then they get the (usually a) university to disinvite that person and choose someone else.

On my CNN phone app this morning I saw an article about Michelle Obama's planning to address high school graduates on the 60th anniversary of the Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka ruling.  Oddly enough I can't find that article after the briefest of searches on CNN's web site, but I found it on FoxNews.  It's from the AP, though, so it should satisfy lefties:
If expanding the guest list to include Michelle Obama at graduation for high school students in the Kansas capital city means fewer seats for friends and family, some students and their parents would prefer the first lady not attend.

A furor over what the Topeka school district considers an honor has erupted after plans were announced for Obama to address a combined graduation ceremony for five area high schools next month an 8,000-seat arena. For some, it was the prospect of a tight limit on the number of seats allotted to each graduate. For others, it was the notion that Obama's speech, tied to the 60th anniversary of the U.S. Supreme Court's decision in Brown v. Board of Education outlawing segregation in schools, would overshadow the student's big day.

"I'm a single mother who has raised him for 18 years by myself," said Tina Hernandez, parent of Topeka High School senior Dauby Knight. "I've told him education is the only way out. This is one of the biggest days of their lives. They've taken the glory and shine from the children and put on Mrs. Obama. She doesn't know our kids."
I view this as a legitimate concern of parents.  Graduation is about parents and their kids and their families; if having a certain speaker detracts too much from that, then that speaker should be cut.

In addition to the reduction in seats, can you imagine the other issues involved?  For example, having to arrive hours early just to get through labyrinthine security?  Parking and traffic?  What about anti-Obama protesters outside your kid's graduation?

No, this isn't the place for Michelle Obama.  It's reasonable that she should make a speech honoring the anniversary of Brown, but this is not the best venue in which to give that speech.  And before some whiny leftie throws out that I'm just anti-Obama and that's why I'm against her speech, let me share a little bit of my own history.

During my three underclass years at West Point, President Reagan never addressed a graduation.  I think we had Vice President Bush twice, but not President Reagan.  We thought for sure it was our turn.  The date and time of our graduation had been planned for years, and with that all the flight, train, and hotel reservations and days off work for the families and friends of over 1000 graduates.  President Reagan couldn't make our scheduled graduation date, though, but could if we rescheduled graduation for a few days later.  It was put up to us to decide, and we voted overwhelmingly to keep graduation when it was.  We got the retiring Army Chief of Staff as a speaker instead.

Our families came first.  That's what graduation is for.

Update, 4/20/14:  I take back the line above about "anti-Obama protestors".  We can't let protestors have a heckler's veto over graduation speakers--that's what I usually deplore, and should not have included it here.  In fact, protestors should be kept far enough away so that they do not disrupt the event.  They can have their free speech but they cannot prevent the free speech of others.

Update #2, 4/24/14This is the right decision:
First lady Michelle Obama is scrapping her plans to deliver a graduation speech for high school seniors in Topeka, Kan., after hundreds signed a petition in protest.

Instead of delivering a graduation speech, Obama will speak before the school district the day before graduation, and will deliver remarks at a "Senior Recognition Day."

More than 1,750 people had signed a petition protesting the first lady's appearance at the graduation ceremony, angered that security concerns would limit the number of friends and family who could attend...

The first lady's address is meant to commemorate the anniversary of the landmark Brown v. Board of Education desegregation ruling.

Friday, April 18, 2014

Spring Break Is Almost Over

A friend and I went up to the Gold Country today.  I didn't take any pictures at Empire Mine State Park but did get a couple in Grass Valley and Nevada City:
click to enlarge
 Old-school movie house in Grass Valley


Art deco in tiny Nevada City.  I love the "Pac-man font"!




Spring has definitely arrived in Nevada City.

More art deco Pac-man.  I'll bet these buildings were Depression-era public works projects.

Nevada City's own little version of San Francisco's Painted Ladies....

Thursday, April 17, 2014

How Ineffective Is This President?

His frequent "pivots" to jobs and/or the economy are proof that his "pivots" haven't worked:

He's as effective as Ross is here:

"I don't think it's gonna pivot anymore."  "You think?"

The Fundamental Division In US Politics

In a 2006 interview, Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer said the Constitution is “basically about” one word — “democracy” — that appears in neither that document nor the Declaration of Independence. Democracy is America’s way of allocating political power. The Constitution, however, was adopted to confine that power in order to “secure the blessings of” that which simultaneously justifies and limits democratic government — natural liberty.

The fundamental division in U.S. politics is between those who take their bearings from the individual’s right to a capacious, indeed indefinite, realm of freedom, and those whose fundamental value is the right of the majority to have its way in making rules about which specified liberties shall be respected. 
George Will is a pretty bright guy.
The argument is between conservatives who say U.S. politics is basically about a condition, liberty, and progressives who say it is about a process, democracy. Progressives, who consider democracy the source of liberty, reverse the Founders’ premise, which was: Liberty preexists governments, which, the Declaration says, are legitimate when “instituted” to “secure” natural rights. 

Creativity

It's not that I think creativity is overrated--it's vitally important.  However, except in some forms of art, creativity without any knowledge is kind of a waste, don't you think?

I don't know if the author of the tweet below intended to be ironic or not, but I found the comment not only funny but deep.  The idea on the thread was to come up with the plotline for education-related movies, here's one that made me laugh:
"The world's scientists are debilitated by disease; laypeople race against time to cure them using only creativity."
When it's important we care about genuine content knowledge, don't we?

Blame The School?

I have this conversation with students sometimes:  is it the school that compels you to take 4 AP classes at the same time?  Is it the school that schedules so many non-academic activities?  Is it the school that has you compete in multiple sports?

I have no doubt it's the school, backed up by the parents, that tells you that you must go to college.  But the school only provides opportunities for pressure, for the most part it's others who apply that pressure.

That's why I get fired up when people talk about the school when kids kill themselves:
His death is one of six apparent suicides at Fairfax’s W.T. Woodson High School during the past three years, including another student found dead the next day. The toll has left the school community reeling and prompted an urgent question: Why would so many teens from a single suburban school take their lives?
I don't think it's the school.  I think it's the community.
“There is too much stress in my life from school and the environment it creates, expectations for sports, expectations from my friends and expectations from my family,” Jack wrote. He ended with a simple: “Goodbye.”
School is the focus of a teenager's life.  Perhaps we need to clarify what is meant by "the school".  When I use that term, in general I'm referring to the adults who run it as opposed to the students who inhabit it.  Jack's list above indicates to me that school was a nexus for expectations from everybody in his life, not just the adults at his school.
Many wonder if there is a common thread. A number of parents and students said they worry about the fierce competition for limited spots in the state’s prestigious public university system.
This college arms race has got to stop.  We, the adults at school as well as the adults in the community, have got to stop insinuating, or even saying outright, that if you don't get into such-and-such a university, or any university at all, you won't be successful in life.  We've got to stop this masquerade of "college and career prep" wherein everyone has to go to some type of college, and some have to go to a Tier 1 school or be left behind.  That last one falls firmly on "the school's" shoulders

Kids get involved in that arms race because of adults.  Adults can look around all day and try to figure out why kids are killing themselves, but in this community it seems clear to me that the answer lies in the mirror.

Hat tip to Joanne Jacobs.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Welcome, Visitors!

It's interesting to check the Statcounter sometimes and see where visitors are coming from.  Consider these two:
click to enlarge

At first I thought, could these two places be any more different?  Then I realized they both involve "goofy".

Thank you ladies and gentlemen, I'll be here all week!  Be sure to tip your waiters and  waitresses.

The SAT and Intelligence

Having a high enough SAT score from "back in the day" can get you into Mensa, so the smart people have some faith in the SAT as an intelligence test.  There's plenty of evidence that such faith is merited:
The College Board—the standardized testing behemoth that develops and administers the SAT and other tests—has redesigned its flagship product again. Beginning in spring 2016, the writing section will be optional, the reading section will no longer test “obscure” vocabulary words, and the math section will put more emphasis on solving problems with real-world relevance. Overall, as the College Board explains on its website, “The redesigned SAT will more closely reflect the real work of college and career, where a flexible command of evidence—whether found in text or graphic [sic]—is more important than ever.”

A number of pressures may be behind this redesign. Perhaps it’s competition from the ACT, or fear that unless the SAT is made to seem more relevant, more colleges will go the way of Wake Forest, Brandeis, and Sarah Lawrence and join the “test optional admissions movement,” which already boasts several hundred members. Or maybe it’s the wave of bad press that standardized testing, in general, has received over the past few years.

Critics of standardized testing are grabbing this opportunity to take their best shot at the SAT. They make two main arguments. The first is simply that a person’s SAT score is essentially meaningless—that it says nothing about whether that person will go on to succeed in college. Leon Botstein, president of Bard College and longtime standardized testing critic, wrote in Time that the SAT “needs to be abandoned and replaced"...

Along the same lines, Elizabeth Kolbert wrote in The New Yorker that “the SAT measures those skills—and really only those skills—necessary for the SATs.”

But this argument is wrong. The SAT does predict success in college—not perfectly, but relatively well, especially given that it takes just a few hours to administer. And, unlike a “complex portrait” of a student’s life, it can be scored in an objective way. (In a recent New York Times op-ed, the University of New Hampshire psychologist John D. Mayer aptly described the SAT’s validity as an “astonishing achievement.”) In a study published in Psychological Science, University of Minnesota researchers Paul Sackett, Nathan Kuncel, and their colleagues investigated the relationship between SAT scores and college grades in a very large sample: nearly 150,000 students from 110 colleges and universities. SAT scores predicted first-year college GPA about as well as high school grades did, and the best prediction was achieved by considering both factors. Botstein, Boylan, and Kolbert are either unaware of this directly relevant, easily accessible, and widely disseminated empirical evidence, or they have decided to ignore it and base their claims on intuition and anecdote—or perhaps on their beliefs about the way the world should be rather than the way it is.

Furthermore, contrary to popular belief, it’s not just first-year college GPA that SAT scores predict. In a four-year study that started with nearly 3,000 college students, a team of Michigan State University researchers led by Neal Schmitt found that test score (SAT or ACT—whichever the student took) correlated strongly with cumulative GPA at the end of the fourth year. If the students were ranked on both their test scores and cumulative GPAs, those who had test scores in the top half (above the 50th percentile, or median) would have had a roughly two-thirds chance of having a cumulative GPA in the top half. By contrast, students with bottom-half SAT scores would be only one-third likely to make it to the top half in GPA.

Test scores also predicted whether the students graduated: A student who scored in the 95th percentile on the SAT or ACT was about 60 percent more likely to graduate than a student who scored in the 50th percentile. Similarly impressive evidence supports the validity of the SAT’s graduate school counterparts: the Graduate Record Examinations, the Law School Admissions Test, and the Graduate Management Admission Test. A 2007 Science article summed up the evidence succinctly: “Standardized admissions tests have positive and useful relationships with subsequent student accomplishments.”

SAT scores even predict success beyond the college years...

The second popular anti-SAT argument is that, if the test measures anything at all, it’s not cognitive skill but socioeconomic status...It’s true that economic background correlates with SAT scores. Kids from well-off families tend to do better on the SAT. However, the correlation is far from perfect. In the University of Minnesota study of nearly 150,000 students, the correlation between socioeconomic status, or SES, and SAT was not trivial but not huge. (A perfect correlation has a value of 1; this one was .25.) What this means is that there are plenty of low-income students who get good scores on the SAT; there are even likely to be low-income students among those who achieve a perfect score on the SAT.
A correlation of .25 is very small.
What this all means is that the SAT measures something—some stable characteristic of high school students other than their parents’ income—that translates into success in college. And what could that characteristic be? General intelligence.
As the SAT is changed from an intelligence test to more of an achievement test, its primary usefulness is diluted.

There's plenty more in the article, including much about IQ and intelligence, and I encourage you to go read the whole thing.  Very interesting.

'Murica

I have a foreign exchange student who is just great to have in class.  He's very bright, very interesting, and fun to be around.

Several months ago I suggested that if he truly wanted to experience America, he should shoot some firearms.  Today we went to the range :-)  He was a pretty good shot on the .22 rifle we took--but what was cool was that the guy on the range next to us let him fire off a few shots on a 9mm pistol and a .357 Magnum!

Afterwards we went to Marie Calendar's and had some apple pie.  We did not, however, contrary to my previous plans, sing God Bless America.  I still think he had an American experience today.

If his host doesn't take him, perhaps some weekend I'll take him to the Gold Discovery Site at Coloma.  It's California in a way that San Francisco and Hollywood and surfing are not.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

It's One Thing To Think About It, It's Another To Do It

We've probably all had that thought; sometimes, some people just need a butt-kicking.  And while that atavistic thought is no doubt normal, most of us are smart enough not to act on it:
Florida’s St. Lucie County School Board officially fired veteran teacher Dru Dehart after their investigation found that she encouraged six 8th grade students to beat up 7th grader Radravious Williams, WPTV NewsChannel 5 reports...

Darrisaw (the boy's mother) added, "[Dehart’s] remarks was, 'I got my eighth grade boys on you. You're not so tough now"...

WPEC CBS 12 spoke to Radravious’ parents about the board’s decision. “Through the entire situation and even when I got the news, I wasn’t, it’s no congratulations on ether side, because she's suffering and my son is still suffering," said Latasha Darrisaw. “As a person, as any parent, you want some kind of apology. But I guess we’ll get that whenever she’s ready.”

You Think Martin Bashir or Keith Olbermann Are Nice People?

I guess it's possible, but I don't see any stories like these about them.  Then again, they don't allow conservatives on MSNBC:
In the fall of 2013, I gave a TED talk on what I learned as a progressive, on-air talking head at Fox News, where I worked for two years before leaving and joining my current home, CNN. After all, one of the most frequent questions I was asked during my time at Fox was how I did it, how I was a fox in the henhouse – or a hen in the Fox house, if you will.

The questions came mostly from fellow liberals who had not watched much Fox News but had seen the most outlandish clips of Bill O'Reilly or Sean Hannity that had made it to "The Daily Show" or YouTube. They perhaps imagined that walking down the hallway outside makeup, Mr. O'Reilly might yell then, too, instead of just saying hello. That's a funny notion, but it couldn't be further from the truth.
 
My time at Fox News was marked by meeting and working with some of the kindest, smartest, and most talented people I've had the pleasure of meeting in life. As I said in my TED talk, Sean Hannity is one of the sweetest people you'll ever meet – and even now that I've parted ways with Fox, he remains a good friend and mentor.

For a radical progressive who once harbored negative stereotypes about folks on the right, it was a turning point for me to meet people such as Mr. Hannity, Karl Rove, Monica Crowley, Sarah Palin, and so many others, and see that – though we certainly disagree profoundly on political issues – they're personable and kind and human. Just like me.