Monday, June 30, 2014

You've Got To Be Freakin' Kidding Me!

There are no tickets available for the USS Arizona memorial until September 1st?  Really???

I Was Busy Today

The view from Diamond Head:
click to enlarge


'Iolani Palace


King Kamehameha


There's not a place to get a good view of the Capitol, the architecture of which is full of symbolism of volcanoes, palms, and ocean


Tomorrow I have reservations to go sea kayaking.  In upcoming days:  Bishop Museum and the USS Arizona.

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Waikiki

This is my first time in Hawaii, and of course I've come to Tourist Central.  There's nothing here but shopping, lodging, eating, and recreation.  Nothing!  It's tourist paradise--or is it just paradise?

click to enlarge





Being so single-mindedly devoted to tourists, and separating them from their money via entertainment, Waikiki kind of reminds me of the Las Vegas Strip.

My plan for tomorrow is to hit Pearl Harbor.

Friday, June 27, 2014

Blogging Will Be Light The Next Couple of Weeks

Why, you ask?  I'll give you a clue:  I've finished reading the requisite parts of this book :-)

This time, though, I'm not going to put up "best of" posts from the past.  There's a Starbucks near where I'm staying the first week, and the new Chromebook is convenient enough to take over there.  My second location has wifi.

Prepare to be jealous!

The original, which was pretty good:


The new and improved theme song.  Yes, I think it's even better.  Not too sure about the new video, although I like the homage paid to the original:


Free Speech on Campus


"It's not free speech if you're having to ask for permission to do it."

The college got sued, lost the case, and paid out.  Good.

God bless FIRE.

Sacramento's New Arena

Arco/Power Balance/Sleep Train Arena, where the Sacramento Kings have played basketball since forever, is on the way out, and for years Sacramento has been discussing building a new arena.

Let me state up front:  I don't care if the Kings stay in Sacramento or not.  I don't think having a pro sports team is what defines a city as being a "great" city, and if the Kings are the only thing between greatness and not, then it's pretty obvious Sacramento is "not".

But I absolutely do not want to pay for a new arena.  If a bunch of rich guys want to pay another bunch of rich guys to bounce a ball around a floor, let them pay for it.  Public financing of this type seldom pays off, and never pays off for the taxpayer.  Here's what I mean:  the taxpayer pays a higher tax to fund the arena, local businesses may or may not get a boost from the new arena, local tax coffers may or may not swell--but the taxpayer doesn't get to see any of that money in his pocket!  No, government officials will distribute that money to those that they see as more worthy.  So no, Darren doesn't want to pay a cent towards a new arena.  I'm still seething when, as a resident of Alameda County, my taxes went up to pay for the "Mount Al Davis" addition to the Oakland Coliseum to "lure" the Raiders back to Oakland.  Al Davis wasn't missing any meals, but back then I was having a tough time making ends meet.  What benefit did I get for paying to have the Raiders in Oakland?

I think I've been pretty clear on where I stand on this topic.  That having been said, I don't support this, either:
A group asking the Sacramento Kings to pay for affordable housing and assist small businesses downtown filed a lawsuit Thursday challenging the city’s approval of the environmental impact report for the planned downtown arena.

The Sacramento Coalition for Shared Prosperity said in a news release that the environmental report did not “disclose, analyze or mitigate impacts to local street traffic, air quality and climate change” created by an arena at Downtown Plaza. The group also said the arena “would disproportionately impact the health and safety of low-income residents"...

Members of the coalition that filed the suit include the Sacramento Housing Alliance and the Environmental Council of Sacramento. Those groups want the Kings and the city to sign a community benefits agreement that would fund $40 million worth of affordable housing and set aside money to help small businesses that might be affected by the construction of the new arena...

A separate lawsuit filed by a citizens group charged that the arena would lead to traffic disruptions and riots in downtown Sacramento.
Riots? Really? I'd love to see evidence for that claim.  And a new arena will affect climate change?  Who knew Sacramentans could affect the whole planet!

I can't see how it's the responsibility of the Sacramento Kings to pay for so-called affordable housing.  Hey, I have an idea!  Let's have the Kings pay for their own arena, and the City of Sacramento can spend its money, if it so desires, on low-income housing. That would seem to make sense.  Government shouldn't be involved in what is essentially a private business.

Full disclosure:  I don't live in Sacramento proper, but in an incorporated suburb.  If the City of Sacramento pays for that arena it will not affect me.  If Sacramento County decides to get in on the plan, though, then I'm screwed.  I want the Kings to pay for their own playground and leave me out of it.

Campus Rape

When you have to outright lie, or even exaggerate, to make your point, then your point must not be very strong in the first place:
The Independent Women’s Forum hosted a panel discussion at the Fund for American Studies to discuss the issue. The group included a former philosophy professor, a journalist, a former State Department official, and a lawyer...

Christina Hoff Sommers, a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute and former professor of philosophy, discussed the problems with the statistic that 1 in 5 women are sexually assaulted on campus that is often promoted by campus feminists. Sommers said the definition of sexual assault used to gather that statistic was far too broad. For example, any sexual experience that occurred while under the influence of alcohol or drugs was counted as a sexual assault.

Sommers said the promotion of false statistics only works against the problem. True cases of rape are diminished when sexual assault is defined so broadly.
True sexual assault and rape are bad enough, aren't they?  There should be no reason to try to make them seem worse than they already are.

Also, universities themselves should not be in the business of investigating actual crimes.  No one at a university is trained to do that even moderately well.  Law enforcement officers are the correct people to turn to in order to determine if a crime has potentially been committed, and courts of law are the best places to adjudicate guilt or innocence.  Get that?  Courts of law, not kangaroo courts a la Duke Lacrosse.

UpdateDo we really have a campus sexual assault epidemic?

Update #2:  A false woman-on-woman assault?

Received An Interesting "Notice of Proposed Settlement of Class Action" Today

Basic Information
1.             Why did I get this Notice?      After several mediation sessions before impartial mediators, the parties have reached the proposed Settlement for this case, which must be approved by the Court. If you have received this notice by email, it is because Ticketmaster’s records reflect that you are a member of the Class. You may also be a member of the UPS Subclass. The purpose of this notice is to inform you of the terms of the Settlement, the benefits available to you under it, how this lawsuit and the Settlement may affect your legal rights, important upcoming deadlines relating to the Settlement, and the steps you must take if you want to object to or opt out of the Settlement.
2.             What is the name of the case and where is it filed?    The case is Schlesinger, et. al. v. Ticketmaster, Case No. BC304565. It is pending in the Superior Court of the State of California – Los Angeles, Central Civil West Courthouse– Department 310.
3.             What is this case about?     Plaintiffs claim that some of Ticketmaster’s fees are deceptive and misleading. They claim that Ticketmaster’s description of its fees is deceptive and suggests that the fee for UPS delivery of tickets is a pass-through of the amount that UPS charged Ticketmaster for that delivery. Plaintiffs also claim that Ticketmaster's description of its fees caused customers to believe its Order Processing Fee was based on or related to Ticketmaster’s costs in processing orders, but was not based on those costs and was actually a profit generator which Ticketmaster required customers to pay.
4.             What does Ticketmaster say about the case?      Ticketmaster denied all of Plaintiffs’ claims, and has defended this litigation for more than ten years. In addition to denying the merits of Plaintiffs’ claims, Ticketmaster opposed Plaintiffs’ request that the Court certify this case as a class action. If the Settlement is not approved, Ticketmaster will continue to fight the case and the only way that you and the other Class Members will recover anything is if Plaintiffs ultimately win the case at trial or if the parties subsequently reach another settlement that is approved by court.
5.              Why is this case a class action and who is included?      After reviewing extensive evidence and legal arguments, the Court determined that the case should proceed as a class action. Plaintiffs asked the Court to certify the case as a class action. Ticketmaster vigorously opposed the case being certified as a class action. On February 5, 2010, the Court certified the case as a class action only on behalf of California residents who purchased tickets from www.Ticketmaster.com, including a subclass of consumers who also purchased UPS delivery for those tickets. Plaintiffs appealed that decision, to the extent the Court did not include consumers residing outside of California. In September 2010, the Appellate Court ordered that the case be certified as a nationwide class action. The trial court then issued an Order certifying a nationwide class covering purchases made from the Website from October 21, 1999 through May 31, 2010. For purposes of this settlement, Ticketmaster has agreed to expand the Class to include customers who purchased tickets through February 27, 2013. Specifically, the Class includes all consumers who (1) purchased tickets on Ticketmaster’s website from October 21, 1999 through February 27, 2013, (2) paid money to Ticketmaster for an OPF that was not fully refunded, (3) did not and do not opt-out of the Class, and (4) were residents of one of the fifty United States at the time of their purchase, including persons who placed, and then cancelled, a ticket order without obtaining a full refund of the OPF. Certain people are excluded from the Class. They are (a) Ticketmaster, (b) any entities in which Ticketmaster has a controlling interest or which have a controlling interest in Ticketmaster, (c) the officers, directors, employees, affiliates, and attorneys of Ticketmaster, or (d) any employee or officer of the Court or their immediate family members. If you also purchased UPS delivery for your tickets, then you are also a member of the “UPS Subclass.”
Good.  Will I still have to pay Ticketmaster's "convenience fee" to print my own tickets???

Now let's go after airline "baggage fees" and hotel "resort fees", and let's do it before restaurants start charging "silverware usage fees".

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Ultimate Hypocrisy

The purest, most vivid hypocrisy ever on display is that shown by unions towards their own staff employees--who are members of different unions:
While NEA is dealing with its own labor strife in Washington, DC, the professional staffers of the California Teachers Association aren’t seeing much progress in their own contract talks with CTA management. There is still plenty of time to cut a deal; their collective bargaining agreement doesn’t expire until August 31. But the rumblings have already begun.
Teachers unions sound like the management that they are when their own staff unions start picketing.  It's definitely popcorn-worthy.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

It's Good, But It's Not A Win

A win would be getting something you didn't have before; all the Supreme Court did in today's Riley v. California ruling is confirm what should have been common sense all along:
In 1973, the Supreme Court held that police officers did not need a warrant to look inside a pack of cigarettes that they found in the coat pocket of a man who had been arrested.  Those kinds of warrantless searches were allowed, the Court reasoned back then, to protect police officers and to prevent the destruction of evidence.

Forty years later, California and the federal government urged the Supreme Court to adopt the same rule for cellphones.  Once someone is arrested, they contended, police should be able to go through the entire contents of his phone without a warrant because cellphones are just like any other item that you can carry in your hand or pocket.  But today the Supreme Court emphatically rejected that argument.  Therefore, unless it’s an emergency, police need to get a warrant before they can search your cellphone.
I'm sure this has something to do with that whole "secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches" thing in the 4th Amendment.

My Tax Dollars Pay For This Weirdo

Her specific mention of "white men" is most telling.  Why did she immediately follow it up with "men of color and queer men"?


I choose not to dance not because it makes me look unmanly, but because it makes me look spasmodic.  I choose not to do other things for other reasons, none of which has to do with manliness.   And that's OK, I'm a big boy and can make my own decisions.

Maybe she's bananas.  And I pay her salary.

If You're Against This, You Must Be For Childhood Blindness

The anti-science zealots on the left harangue against so-called Frankenfoods with no evidence of harm whatsoever.  Their campaign against Golden Rice has meant that children all over the developing world continue to go blind because of Vitamin A deficiency.  Let me restate that:  the unfounded complaints of weirdos cause children to continue to go blind.

In this post I linked to a story about a worrisome banana plant virus.

What do those two paragraphs above have in common?  This:
Vitamin A deficiency kills hundreds of thousands of children worldwide; hundreds of thousands more go blind, says a researcher. That's why his team has developed a "super banana" it aims to grow in Uganda by 2020. Cooking bananas are an East African staple, so Prof. James Dale and his team in Australia genetically engineered a version of the food that's packed with alpha and beta carotene. The body converts the two into vitamin A, AFP reports. The super bananas are now being sent to the US for their first human trials, which will take six weeks and are backed by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Time notes; details of the bananas' impact on vitamin A levels are expected to be released by year-end.

"We know our science will work," Dale says. If the bananas get the green light in Uganda, the micronutrient-enriched crops could next be grown in Rwanda, Kenya, and Tanzania. One big difference between regular bananas and the super variety: The edible part of the latter is more orange than what we're used to.
Will unscientific complaints stop these bananas, too?  Will these bananas be able to resist the virus?  So many important questions.

Want To Be The Next Sal Khan?

Want to try your hand at teaching, maybe make a buck?
If you know mathematics well enough to teach it in a one-on-one setting, you have a real possibility to change the lives of a lot of young people.

There’s no question that Salman Khan has done a wonderful thing with his Khan Academy. His mathematics videos are very good. Well over a million students have taken advantage of these videos, and they are live all over the world. He has fundamentally changed the lives of more young people than any teacher in history. Yet he did this simply by posting YouTube videos on his site.

We know this much in education: “One size doesn’t fit all.” One teaching methodology doesn’t work for everybody. Anybody who thinks that there is a single theory of education that applies to as many as 80% of the population does not understand the findings of modern psychology. The learning process is astoundingly complex, and no one can get a handle on it.

There are a lot of homeschool mothers who fear the day when they must teach advanced mathematics to their children. They know that at that point, that they will have to turn over the instruction assignment to somebody else. This may be someone in a local homeschool cooperative. It may be a course on the Web. But the mothers know that they will have to bow out.

RAY’S ARITHMETIC
One of the ways that this can be done is to adopt Ray’s Arithmetic. This was widely used in the 19th century’s public schools. It is highly sophisticated. The textbooks are online free of charge. They are available to download on the Ron Paul Curriculum site.

If someone were to take these digital pages and create video lessons on them, he could post them on his own personal website. If they are any good, I will post them on the Ron Paul Curriculum site. They should be YouTube videos, the same way that the Khan Academy’s videos are.

Protecting the Medieval Guilds

Uber and Airbnb and the like aren't "regulated" enough for the University of California system:
University of California employees will from now on have to hail regular cabs and book standard hotel rooms when traveling on official business, as the system’s Office of Risk Services has decided to ban the use of peer-to-peer services such as Airbnb, Lyft and Uber.

Those and other service startups “should not be used because of concerns that these services are not fully regulated and do not protect users to the same extent as a commercially regulated business,” according to an email sent out to the University of California at Los Angeles campus. “As the market matures and these businesses evolve, the University may reconsider whether reimbursement of travel costs provided by peer-to-peer or sharing businesses will be allowed.”

The decision was made due to “insurance concerns,” a spokeswoman for the university system said in an email.

The ban is perhaps particularly ironic as many of the companies were established in California. In fact, some of the founders behind the startups even graduated from campuses in the university system. Logan Green, the CEO and co-founder of Lyft, attended UC-Santa Barbara, while Travis Kalanick, the CEO and co-founder of Uber, went to UCLA.
Yes, I'm sure that "insurance" is the big concern.  Because clearly my tax dollars aren't a concern.

BTW, it's already illegal to drive without insurance in California. (Oh, you mean people still do it?  How's that gun control working out?)

Too Many School Officials Are Idiots

Is there something threatening about posting your concealed-carry license on Facebook?  Or about being a soldier?  To wimps in the school system, there is:
The Richmond County, Georgia, school system has agreed to pay $1,000 and legal expenses to a mother who was barred from her child's elementary school after she posted a photo of her state weapon carry license on Facebook. Police gave Tanya Mount a criminal trespass warning after she tried to visit the school. She says they questioned her not only about her carry permit but about the fact she is in the Army.
Idiocy like this will stop only when there is a penalty associated with it.

A Good, Tiny Start

If the government actually complies with this judge's ruling, that would be a step in the right direction.  Then we can start getting rid of the TSA-holes:
In the first such ruling of its kind, U.S. District Judge Anna J. Brown in Portland said that “international travel is not a mere convenience or luxury in this modern world. Indeed, for many, international travel is a necessary aspect of liberties sacred to members of a free society.”

Therefore, she said, the government must change its procedures to allow U.S. citizens who find themselves on the no-fly list to challenge the designation.

She ordered the government to come up with new procedures that protect citizens’ due-process rights without jeopardizing national security. Passengers must be given notice of their inclusion on the list and a rationale for the designation and be allowed to submit evidence to challenge it, Brown said.
Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction. We need to win it back from those who seek to deprive us of what is naturally ours.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Have You Heard of Norah's Mom?

Norah's mom questioned the value of Obamacare--given that because of it, Norah lost her cardiologist.  Our good liberal friends are not showing sympathy to a doll of a toddler and her mama-bear.  Go read the tweets here, and prepare to be sickened.

Head Start Dealt Another Blow

More facts won't sway the Church of Head Start congregation:
Head Start’s benefits fade quickly and disappear by third grade. Advocates say that’s because the quality of Head Start programs varies significantly.

“How much does program quality really impact children’s learning and development in Head Start classrooms? asks Kristen Loschert on EdCentral.

Not much, concludes a recent study by the Department of Health and Human Services.

Monday, June 23, 2014

If It's Good For The Goose....

Remember this post on a stupid proposed law in California?  Here's a reasoned response to the idea (all boldface is mine):
Cathy Young has an excellent column in Reason.com about a bill in California that would require universities in that state to use an “affirmative consent” standard for evaluating sexual assault complaints in the campus disciplinary system for complaints involving students. Two obvious questions arise: (1) Why just on campus? If this is a good idea, why not make it part the tort system? If that’s too drastic, let’s start, with say, members of the California legislature. For internal disciplinary purposes, their sexual activity should be governed by the same standard they want to impose on students. What plausible grounds could they have for rejecting application of a standard they would impose on students to themselves? (2) If we’re limiting things to campus, why just students? Why should students be judged under this standard, but not faculty and administrators? It’s hardly unheard of for professors, administrators, and even law school deans to engage in sexual relationships of dubious morality. The answer is that it’s not a good idea, and it’s a product of the current moral panic over the hookup culture.
I guess the definition of modern liberalism is the fear that someone, somewhere, might be having fun. Or doing something of which you don't approve.  Isn't it ironic, don't'cha think?

Good Looking Dudes on the Cruise Ship





Saturday, June 21, 2014

St. Maarten, Dutch West Indies

Part of this small island is Dutch, the other part is French.  When you cross the "border" there's no passport check or anything.  Both my taxi drivers noted that the US dollar is the de facto currency, at least on the Dutch side; only government workers are still paid in (Netherlands Antilles) guilders.  In fact, no one I asked had any guilders on them that I could trade for!

I'd go back and visit any of the islands again, but St. Maarten will be the first on the list.  In addition to its just being beautiful, there's world-famous Maho Beach!  Sadly, when we got there we'd just missed a 747, but we did get a fantastic experience!


Jet over Maho Beach, St. Maarten from Darren Miller on Vimeo.



Me and jet take-off at Maho Beach, St. Maarten from Darren Miller on Vimeo.

Hanging out at Maho Beach is the most fun you can ever have for free :-)

Here are some other pictures from the Dutch side of the island:



Friday, June 20, 2014

I'm Sure That Some Is Incompetence, The Rest Was Plain Lying

'We did not know': 9 times the Obama administration was blindsided
1. Islamic militants gaining in Iraq
2. Russia's intervention in Ukraine
3. NSA spying on foreign leaders
4. VA waiting list scandal
5. IRS targeting scandal
6. Healthcare.gov failing
7. DOJ obtaining AP phone records
8. Fast And Furious scandal
9. Air Force One flyover in Manhattan

I Don't Want To Hear Any More About "Rape Culture"

Glorifying this scumbag?  Ew.  I don't even see how he's at all attractive, physically or otherwise.
Meet Jeremy Meeks. He's a 30-year-old felon who was arrested Wednesday on felony weapons charges during a sweep in the Weston Ranch area of Stockton, Calif., according to Stockton police.

He's also arguably the most popular suspect to grace the Stockton Police Department Facebook page.
Meeks' police mugshot generated 10,914 likes and 2,400 comments from Wednesday night to Thursday morning, many from women claiming to admire his looks.

"Hottttttt," Melissa Stiles wrote.

"Omg come to mama," Nicole Seba Lorena Elena commented.

"Holy [heck] i would arrest him too..hottest bad boy I've seen," Ellie Abbey wrote.

"He can kidnap me anyday... Hold me against my will lol," Jessica Gutierrez commented.

Crazies on the Water

In my Caribbean Cruise guide book, St. Thomas is listed as the "busiest cruise port of call in the world" yet, during our entire cruise, I saw only one other "cruise" ship, and it wasn't even in St. Thomas.  We were the only ship in port everywhere we went, even in San Juan, except in St. Kitts.  I didn't recognize this ship or line, thinking it must be one of those small ones that is so exclusive that I couldn't afford it in two lifetimes.

Turns out it's not for rich people, it's for Scientologists:
The Church of Scientology Flag Ship Service Organization ministers the highest levels of religious services, as well as other select services to help one on his route to Operating Thetan (OT). 

The Flag Ship Service Organization (FSSO) is a unique church of Scientology which is located aboard the Motor Vessel Freewinds, a 440-foot ship based in the Caribbean, with the home port of CuraƧao. The ship was acquired in the mid-1980s shortly before the release of the highest advanced auditing level currently available, New OT VIII.

Needing a safe, aesthetic, distraction-free environment appropriate for ministration of this profoundly spiritual level of auditing, this church of Scientology returned to the sea, far from the crossroads of the workaday world. And while the Flag Service Organization ministers the highest levels of training and auditing from the bottom of The Bridge up to New OT VII, the most advanced OT level—OT VIII—is entrusted exclusively to the FSSO.

Where's That $2500 Savings?

Remember that whole "bending the cost curve" (what does that mean, anyway?) and "lower premiums by up to $2500 for a typical family"?  I don't think lefties ever believed that, anyway; I think they wanted government-run health care no matter what.  It's an article of faith to them, results be damned:

3,137-County Analysis: Obamacare Increased 2014 Individual-Market Premiums By Average Of 49%


Was he lying?  Or just stupid and totally ignorant of economics?

What's This? WMD in Iraq?

I've been told for over a decade that there are and were no weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.  But if that's true, how can this be so?
The weapons that remain are probably useless

Militants who have advanced across large swaths of Iraq in the past week seized a complex that was once Saddam Hussein’s top chemical-weapons production facility.
The facility still contains a stockpile of old weapons, but they are contaminated and hard to transport, and officials don’t believe the militants could make a chemical weapon out of them, the Wall Street Journal reports. In the aftermath of the U.S. invasion a decade ago, the U.S.-impaneled Iraq Study Group determined that the facility was sufficiently dismantled and that the remaining chemicals were useless.
Huh.

St. Kitts and Nevis

Fun fact:  Alexander Hamilton was born on Nevis.

This "two-island confederation" showcases Brimstone Hill Fortress, the "Gibraltar of the West Indies".  Like the other stops, this beautiful country was full of beautiful people.

click to enlarge












Thursday, June 19, 2014

Doh!

This has got to hurt:
In case you think you're having a bad day, just listen to this:

CBS says, "A developer in Rhode Island is dealing with a very expensive mistake this morning. His company will need to move a new waterfront mansion or tear it down."

HLN says, "The developer apparently didn't know the land was part of a public park. They built the home on a public park."

The house is worth $1.8 million.

Starbucks To Pay For Barista Degrees?

I thought they all had "humanities" or "communications" degrees already :-)

Turns out that there's less here than meets the eye in Starbucks' recent announcement:
It turns out Starbucks isn't contributing any upfront scholarship money to an online college degree program it introduced this week.

The Seattle-based company unveiled a program Monday that included a scholarship it described as "an investment" between Starbucks and Arizona State University. The program is designed to allow Starbucks workers to earn an online degree at the school at a steeply discounted rate.

Initially, Starbucks said that workers would be able to offset the costs through an upfront scholarship it was providing with Arizona State, but declined to say exactly how much of the cost it was shouldering. The chain estimated the scholarship would average about $6,500 over two years to cover tuition of about $20,000.

Following the announcement, however, Arizona State University President Michael Crow told The Chronicle of Higher Education that Starbucks is not contributing any money toward the scholarship. Instead, Arizona State will essentially charge workers less than the sticker price for online tuition. Much of the remainder would likely be covered by federal aid since most Starbucks workers don't earn a lot of money.

Workers would pay whatever costs remained out of pocket for the first two years, and Starbucks would bear no costs.
If there's a hero here, it's more likely ASU and definitely not Starbucks.

Press Bias

If you genuinely expect the press to play its watchdog role in our republic then you must vote Republican.  When a Democrat occupies the White House the press plays a lapdog role.  That explains the difference between coverage of the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina and Storm Sandy:

Stories like this used to get a lot of ink when George W. Bush was in the White House and the press couldn’t say enough about the botched recovery after Katrina. But now that the greatest President since Lincoln occupies the Oval Office, trivial stories like agonizingly slow hurricane recoveries bore our enlightened press corps to tears. There is a clear message here: if you hate bad news, vote the straight Democratic ticket. True, bad things will still happen, but instead of rubbing your nose in them day after day, the press will say as little about them as is humanly possible.

Luscious St. Lucia

St. Lucia.

Try to leave the port terminal and the locals descend on you in a wolfpack, making Mexico seem tame and vying for Jamaica status.  And these were just the local taxi drivers and tour operators.  That was my first real shot of St. Lucia.  It didn't change too much as we went to different locations and encountered the local entrepreneurs with their souvenirs and soft drinks.

But I liked the island anyway.  Like the others it was beautiful, and like most people I have encountered, the inhabitants were a friendly, proud lot.  It was a nice place to visit.

click to enlarge
This was my only view of the Pitons--viewed through the porthole of my cabin as we sailed by about 6:30 am.








I returned home with a few things from St. Lucia:  a bottle of banana ketchup (it's orange in color and doesn't taste that different, to me, from tomato ketchup), a bottle of banana creme liqueur (the duty-free shop gave me a taste, so that's where I bought it), and some "sticks", for lack of a better term, of cocoa tea.  Bananas are big in St. Lucia, but I noticed the island nation wasn't specifically mentioned at all in this article:
Does all this mean the great "bananapocalypse" or "bananageddon" is here? Not yet. But it is getting closer. Currently, about 45 percent of world banana production is Cavendish, and the global export of the crop is growing by about 7 percent annually. As its monoculture spreads, the threat to both livelihoods and lives grows. (There is some good news for subsistence crops: Recent tests of Africa’s most-consumed varieties indicate they could be resistant to Foc-TR4, although researchers say more studies are required.)

For Americans worried about whether they’ll continue to have slices of banana floating in their cereal bowls, the question is when the disease will hit Latin America, which grows the bananas we consume. Mozambique brings disturbing news on that front: Farm managers there didn’t just get assistance from the Philippines, but also from Costa Rica and several other Central American nations. Those workers moved repeatedly between their home countries and Africa through 2011.

With an incubation period of about two to three years, it is possible that the same mechanism that likely caused the African outbreak—infected dirt, carried inadvertently—is already at work in our hemisphere. “The workers who set up those plantations are now back home,” says Randy Ploetz, the Florida-based plant pathologist who first identified Foc-TR4 in the 1980s. “So if we assume it is fairly easy to move this thing and soil from wherever it is—Southeast Asia or Jordan or Mozambique—then it is possible it is already in Latin America. Only time will tell.”

The Reality of Your Racism Must Cause Genuine Physical Distress

Too many don't want to admit it, whether it's in tech or in higher education:
So why does the “mostly white” meme persist about tech companies? I think it’s because those who are obsessed with diversity for diversity’s sake have a hard time reconciling one very inconvenient truth: If you want to equalize the races—be your concern tech companies or colleges, the two places this argument seems to pop up more than anywhere else***—you must do so at the expense of Asian Americans. Rather than saying “Ugh, these institutions are disproportionately Asian,” the diversity set says “Wow, these places are mostly white!” While accurate(ish), this kind of dodges the question, doesn’t it? Because it’s not so much the proportion of white folks as the proportion of black and hispanic folks that concerns them. It’s no fun for the diversifier to say “Geez, we need fewer Asians at these institutions to make way for blacks and hispanics.” Forcing them to acknowledge the costs—more blacks and hispanics means fewer Asians, if proportion is all that matters—creates a serious mental tension. That mental tension leads to a mental block. And that mental block leads to the brain spitting out the following formulation: “These companies are mostly white!”

Cognitive dissonance. It’s a hell of a drug.
I hope they OD on it.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Liberty Island's Conservative Fiction

I like what I see so far:
What is this conservative fiction, you ask? The most obvious answer is: anything that upsets the dainty, the easily offended, and the politically correct is something you'll find on Liberty Island. If the perpetually aggrieved feminist points her finger and tells us to "check our privilege" … that just means we're doing our job...

What the heck is "conservative fiction"?
Conservative fiction is not fiction that promotes a partisan ideology, agenda, or electoral outcome. Nor is it a genre unto itself. Rather it is a set of values that underlie the work we aim to publish across multiple genres. These basic tenets include a fundamental belief in American values and exceptionalism, a willingness to take on liberal taboos and flout political correctness, and an understanding that individual liberty is the paramount human right.

Oh, so this is a right wing plot.
Liberty Island's founders are conservatives but it is by no means a partisan enterprise. Nor do we apply a litmus test to members. Liberty Island's community is made up of self-described conservative, libertarian or independent writers and artists. Their views range widely from hardcore libertarian to religious conservative, and everything in between. Seek not here for any kind of ideological conformity. There are plenty of other sites for true believers.

Black-on-White Crime

Why have the nation’s first black president and his “nation of cowards” attorney general made virtually no attempt to attack this problem head-on?
The answer comes in the comments:
Because Racist. Because Shut up.
or
Because it's racial retribution time. That's why.
The entire story, about a news station that finally decides to point out the lawlessness that's resulting in racially-motivated crimes by blacks against whites, is here.

Don't Let The Liberals Erase and Rewrite History on Iraq


Notice the clips from 1998--when Clinton was president.  Some are now saying that Democrats believed the "lying" President Bush; if you want to go that route, perhaps the evidence says that President Bush believed a lying President Clinton.

I don't think those politicians lied, I think they truly believed what they said.  Every intelligence community on the planet believed it, too, which means the only liar was Saddam and his gang--and they paid the price for their lies.  The lying is taking place now, by Democrats who want to rewrite history so that President Obama doesn't look like the failure that he is.

Here's video of what President Obama said in 2009, after The Surge's success, and what both he and Joe Biden were saying when it was introduced by President Bush.

I say again:   The lying is taking place now, by Democrats who want to rewrite history so that President Obama doesn't look like the failure that he is.

Update, 6/19/14: Here's Slow Joe in 2010:


Old School Instruction At A New School

A woman didn't like her kids' school so she started one of her own.  Her philosophy of education makes sense to me:
When her family moved to Utah in 2001, Sharette decided the kids needed to have “a school that made sense.” So she got to work creating one. She is now the executive director of six American Preparatory Academy campuses—five in the Salt Lake City area and one in Zambia.

“I took everything I had learned and created the APA model based on classical education; we do everything, including music, art, humanities, English, STEM [science, technology, engineering and math], and we do all of it to a high level of excellence.”

The school’s philosophy, Sharette says, is based on classical education, the roots of which go back to the Ancient Greek trivium of knowledge—grammar, logic, rhetoric. Each third of the trivium represents a different phase of learning. In the grammar phase, students develop fundamental knowledge in the form of discrete facts (think multiplication tables, spelling, sentence diagramming). Next comes the logic phase, when they develop the ability to make linkages between those discrete facts. Finally, there’s the rhetoric stage—the ability to create new ideas and arguments based on those facts and linkages.

Children in kindergarten through second grade spend roughly 70 percent of their time in the grammar, or fundamental knowledge, phase, Sharette says. By the time they are seniors in high school, this basic knowledge instruction will take just 40 percent of their time. Synthetic and creative work becomes more important and is given more emphasis as students progress.

To deliver this curriculum, APA uses a rigidly structured, teacher-directed instructional model loosely grouped under the umbrella term “direct instruction” that emphasizes clearly defined roles. Teachers deliver standardized lessons using finely scripted plans constructed for them by an in-house curriculum development team that uses Saxon Math, Core Knowledge and Shurley English, all widely marketed programs that emphasize drill and repetition. The structure is further enforced through a classroom management system that explicitly states that during instruction, students will “look at the teacher or book,” “follow instructions immediately,” and will not converse, ask questions or move.
OK, that last part seems a bit extreme, but if it works I'm not going to question it.

Here's the school's idea of direct instruction:
Modern direct instruction is a classroom defined by constant teacher-student interaction, calling out for group and individual responses, and repetition. “Our classrooms are lively, and a little bit noisy, but it is all managed noise and they are giving cheers when good things happen, which is probably every few minutes"...

As you might expect, not everybody is on board with direct instruction. Public schools tend to emphasize “constructivist,” inquiry-based educational theory, which argues that students learn best when they are free to explore ideas. Teachers are facilitators and provide a general framework for student inquiry. Students work in groups, often using the “social seating” that Sharette rejects, and explore how best to approach problems. Students also often teach each other in peer groups, another nonstarter for APA. Supporters of inquiry-based pedagogy—perhaps most famously and broadly articulated and championed by Maria Montessori—argue that it produces innovators and fosters creativity.

One of the difficulties direct instruction encounters is the impression that it is synonymous with lecture instruction. Critics often refer to it as “drill and kill” linked to “teaching to the test” and intimate that students are just memorizing and regurgitating facts rather than truly engaging the material.

Advocates of direct instruction agree that peer-group problem-solving is important at the appropriate developmental level, but criticize its inclusion in the early stages of development. Sharette says that critical thinking and group problem-solving are important, but “if you miss [the grammar and logic] stages, you can’t be a critical thinker, so it is very silly to be thinking that first-graders need to be critically thinking most of the day.”

Sharette says that arguments against classical education and direct instruction are red herrings that distract from public education’s fundamental problems. “The resistance and opposition is not coming from parents; the resistance comes from the education industry,” she says. “They are anti-structure and anti-direct instruction because they feel like it puts too much pressure on their teachers. As a result, there are very low standards of accountability, and we can’t afford to maintain that. It is coming from our colleges of education, which actually don’t teach elementary teachers about direct instruction, which is malfeasance in my opinion, because that is the developmentally appropriate way to teach kids of that age. Because they have been philosophically turned against it.”
Does the school work for kids that aren't white and white?
But Sharette wanted to prove that the school’s model is portable to all demographics, so she “picked the toughest demographic we could find in Utah”: West Valley, another Salt Lake suburb but one with a median household income of $54,000 and with 34 percent of families speaking a language other than English at home. “American Preparatory isn’t about elitism,” she says. “It isn’t about rich white kids in the suburbs. A strong academic model works for all kids—most especially ESL kids, who need that extra repetition in the early stages, because that is what direct instruction provides.”

The West Valley campus scores 10 percent below the state average, and an average of 5 percent above its public school neighbors.
I assume the reporter means "percentage points", and either way, this model doesn't appear to be hurting kids at all--American Indian Public Charter School in Oakland, CA, comes to mind. I'd like to see more evidence from more schools with different philosophies to see if there is a silver bullet out there.

Barbados

Barbados, what a stop!  I had planned on going to the Mount Gay Rum Distillery, the oldest rum distillery in the world (I think), but instead got on a more "local" tour.  The rum punches were good and frequent, which explains the paucity of pictures and video from this island.  One of the things I do remember, though, was that the island was drier than I expected, not as "rain forest-y".





Garry's mango rum punch.  Gooooooooood!