Tuesday, January 31, 2017

The Great Depression and the New Deal

Roosevelt campaigned against Hoover's meddling in the economy, and once elected he became Hoover On Steroids.  His actions extended the Great Depression seven years.  That's not my opinion, it's the opinion of two UCLA economists.

What did Uncle Milton have to say about the Great Depression?

Here's some more information on the subject.  Lefties might call this information "alternative facts".  It's certainly an alternative to their mythology--but the rest of us just call this information "fact".

Monday, January 30, 2017

What To Do About California

The last time Democrats didn't like a Republican president and seceded from the US, things didn't go very well for them.  That's not stopping a bunch of liberals in California from showing their "I hate Trump (and any other Republican)" bona fides and talking about secession.  The author of this article doesn't think that's a good idea for progressivism:
Imagine if President Trump announced that he wanted to oust California from the United States. If it weren't for us, after all, Trump would have won the popular vote he so lusts after by 1.4 million. Blue America would lose its biggest source of electoral votes in all future elections. The Senate would have two fewer Democrats. The House of Representatives would lose 38 Democrats and just 14 Republicans. The U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, among the most liberal in the nation, would be changed irrevocably. And the U.S. as a whole would suddenly be a lot less ethnically diverse than it is today...

For decades California has exerted more influence on American politics and culture than vice versa. Secession would not improve our values. But it would practically ensure that the rest of the U.S. would drift farther away from our laid-back tolerance and easygoing diversity. And they'd still be our neighbors, geographic reality unchanged by political independence.
His thesis:  California as the savior of the United States.  I can't be the only person who finds that ludicrous, on any number of levels.  Perhaps, if California were to take over the US, we could have a bullet train from Stockton,CA, to Ottumwa, IA, instead of wherever our currently-designed route from nowhere to nowhere is.

I've long said that California's natural division is between Coastal California and Inland California, and the author of this article agrees:
Efforts to divide California into more manageable and homogeneous parts are as old as the Bear Flag that was raised over the state capitol at statehood in 1850. When I was a legislative staffer in Sacramento in 1980, a state assemblyman named Stan Statham had a serious proposal that attracted bipartisan support. He recognized that California’s people (now 40 million) would be better served if its competing constituencies had more in common.

Lots of people have their favorite maps for new states. For decades, the natural dividing line ran due east from the coast, just north of Bakersfield; it emphasized the differences between northern and southern California. My favorite design was for three states: one centered on Los Angeles, one centered on San Francisco, and everyone else in a third state. More recently, in 2009, then GOP assemblyman Bill Maze proposed creating two states: a Coastal California state and an Inland California state. The big population centers of San Francisco and Los Angeles would be in the first, but the inland state would include some large coastal counties such as Orange (home of Disneyland) and San Diego.
Instead we'll just bumble along, latching on to every crazy liberal talking point and policy, completely disregarding common sense, history, or human nature, pretending that unicorn farts smell like roses.

Sunday, January 29, 2017

California Teachers Pensions

Recently I wrote about CalSTRS, the California State Teachers Retirement System, and its plans to build yet another building with my retirement money despite being underfunded.  Well let's see what the major Sacramento newspaper has to say about STRS:
CalSTRS will consider lowering its official investment forecast in a move expected to require higher contributions from state taxpayers once again for the teachers’ pension fund. The cost to the state could be an additional $153 million starting with the next fiscal year.

The board of the $196 billion California State Teachers’ Retirement System will consider the change to its “discount rate” at a meeting next week in San Diego.

A staff recommendation released late Wednesday, citing economic conditions and other factors, calls for lowering the rate from 7.5 percent to 7.25 percent. Keeping the rate at 7.5 percent “is not recommended since the probability of achieving this return is less than 50%,” the report said...

Public pension funds have been lowering their investment forecasts in recent years to reflect expectations of reduced returns. But the moves have come slowly and somewhat reluctantly because of political concerns: The less money they make from investments, the more the pension funds need from taxpayers and employees. That could intensify calls for pension reforms that could result in lower retirement benefits.

Three years ago, the Legislature agreed to raise contributions to CalSTRS by billions of dollars a year. Assembly Bill 1469 affected the state, local school districts and teachers themselves. For example, the annual contributions from school districts is growing from $2 billion to $6 billion, although the increases are being phased in over several years.

The 2014 law does give CalSTRS some latitude to impose higher rates on state taxpayers without going back to the Legislature for permission. According to the staff report, Gov. Jerry Brown’s budget proposal for the new fiscal year includes an additional $153 million for CalSTRS, bringing the annual contribution to $2.8 billion.
California teachers: how confident are you that you'll get the retirement you've been promised, the one that you've paid into on the expectation that you'll get what you've been promised? I would suggest that we should all be a little less confident today than we were last week.

Saturday, January 28, 2017

When All You Have Is A Hammer, Every Problem Looks Like A Nail.

When you're a liberal, every problem is caused by sexist males:
A Democratic state senator said that the sexism of union workers is to blame for Missouri’s passage of right to work.

The Republican-controlled state Senate voted 21-12 on Thursday to ban coercive unionism. Missouri is on the verge of becoming the 28th right-to-work state, as newly elected GOP Gov. Eric Greitens has pledged to sign the legislation, which prohibits businesses from making union membership a condition for employment.

The swiftness of the bill’s passage in the statehouse angered state Sen. Jamilah Nasheed (D.), who took to the Senate floor to blame union workers for giving Republicans control of the state. Nasheed said that the GOP sweep of in the gubernatorial, U.S. Senate, and presidential races reflected that male union members “don’t like a woman ruling the world.”
Nothing else explains it, eh, Jamilah?

Republicans have been, are, and hopefully always will be the party of individual freedom.  The choice not to join or financially support a union, currently a right in a majority of states, will hopefully some day be a right all Americans--men and women, Jamilah--can enjoy.

Training People To Hate

If you want to build a team, if you want cooperation, if you want people to get along, you focus on what they have in common, not what makes them different.  Perhaps this explains why the left wants to divide Americans along race, gender, and any other lines they come across.  This certainly explains why leftist university administrators have turned their schools into cauldrons of boiling hate:
A freshman at Princeton University, an Ivy League school in New Jersey, penned an article in Quillette​ discussing the hostile climate that the university fosters in 21st century America. Titled "Diversity for the Sake of Democracy," Carrie Pritt started the article with the following words: “Stand up if you identify as Caucasian.” Pritt follows this hook by explaining how the leaders of an orientation event deliberately divided people into various demographics.
Pritt follows that this was part of a "diversity" event:
This mandatory orientation event was designed to help us appreciate our diversity as a student body during the first week of classes. But what did it really accomplish? In compressing us into isolated communities based on our race, religion or gender, the minister belittled every other piece of our identities. He faced a crowd of singular young adults and essentially told them that their heritage outweighed their humanity.  The message was clear: know your kind and stick to it. Don’t risk offending people from other backgrounds by trying to understand their worldviews.
She continues by explaining how Princeton has become "disturbingly homogenous" in its political leanings from faculty and students, citing political correctness and walk-outs from non-progressive speakers on campus. In addition, she mentions how professors and students openly referred to Donald Trump supporters as "uneducated bigots" and said anyone who opposed Hillary Clinton is sexist. Pritt further explains that this is not only dangerous for college campuses, but also the United States as a whole.

Friday, January 27, 2017

Cool Currency

I remember exchanging dollars for this 2000 lire note on Elba when I visited Italy in 1976.

click to enlarge

Imagine, celebrating science on your currency!  The 1000 lire note celebrated opera, having Giuseppe Verdi on the obverse and the Teatro Alla Scala on the reverse.

Thursday, January 26, 2017

Who Could Have Seen This Coming?

Anyone who's passed Economics 101, that's who:

Restaurants are rapidly going out of business in the Bay Area, after San Francisco passed a $15 minimum wage law in 2014 and the State of California followed suit in 2016. Yet the media are struggling to make the connection between high minimum wages and restaurant closures.

The East Bay Times, for example, asked Tuesday: “What’s behind the spate of recent Bay Area restaurant closures?” It barely mentioned new minimum wage laws, brushing them aside as if they were largely insignificant.

It is true, of course, that merely because one thing follows another does not prove that the second was caused by the first. The “post hoc, ergo propter hoc” fallacy that is familiar to first-year economics students would apply to this case as well. Yet that does not mean the prior factor should be excluded as a cause. But that is largely what the Times seems to have done, even though the closure of businesses and the loss of restaurant jobs is exactly what critics of the minimum wage hikes predicted.
Fewer restaurants, fewer jobs.

Die? Really?

It shouldn't come as any surprise to my regular readers that I was not President Obama's biggest fan.  I've been quite clear that I consider him an abject failure as a president.  That being said, though, I never wished him death.  That would be a bit, uh, over the top, no?  Wishing death on a president?

It's pretty clear that not every teacher agrees with me:
When you send your child off to school in the morning, especially on a historic Inauguration Day, is there ever a moment when you imagine something like this could happen in front of the class? At W.H. Adamson High School in Dallas, Texas, art students were treated to an epic meltdown by their teacher, Payal Modi, who screamed "DIE!" and shot President Trump's image with a water gun while students watched his inauguration by video. Someone filmed it and Modi posted it to her Instagram account. She has since removed the video, but it is traveling around Twitter.
Initially she wasn't ashamed of her behavior, as she posted the video to her own Instagram account.  But since it took place during school, I wonder what, if anything, will happen:
The school released a statement saying, “The teacher has been placed on administrative leave and the district has opened an investigation. This is a personnel matter and, as such, we cannot comment."
Of course they can't.

I don't think she should be fired.  No one got hurt, no one could have gotten hurt.  It was poor judgement, nothing more, and should be treated that way.  Hopefully the shame of having everyone know she acted like an immature idiot will be part of the punishment.  Hopefully that shame was at least partly responsible for her having removed the video from her account.

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

One Reason Why So Many People Don't Trust Public Education

From the National Council on Teacher Quality:
Since 2009, the number of states requiring school districts to incorporate evidence of student learning as at least a significant part of teacher evaluations has grown to 30 states. Despite clear legislative intent, rules or guidance in 28 of these 30 states allow a teacher to earn an overall rating of effective or higher, even if a teacher scores poorly on student learning.

The report, Running in Place: How New Teacher Evaluations Fail to Live Up to Promises, released today by the National Council on Teacher Quality (NCTQ), shows how regulations and guidance from state educational agencies allow schools to continue to rate nearly all teachers effective.

Even if teachers receive the lowest possible score on their ability to increase student learning, they can still earn a rating of effective in 16 states. Two more states allow teachers who receive the second lowest score on the student growth component of their evaluation to earn an overall rating of effective or higher. Another 10 states leave scoring up to districts to determine.

“State legislators made a big deal about their changes to teacher evaluations. They claimed new laws ensure that only teachers who proved their ability to raise student achievement would be rated effective or better,” said Kate Walsh, President and Founder of NCTQ. “Unfortunately, state education agencies preserved the status quo by creating giant loopholes in the criteria for how teachers can earn an effective rating.”

Of the 30 states that require student growth to be at least a significant factor in evaluations, only two —Indiana and Kentucky—have clear policies that require teachers to meet specific goals on student learning in order to be rated effective.

In the remaining 28 states, a teacher who earns a poor score on student growth measures may be rated as effective, as long as that teacher has high scores on observations and other non-growth factors. This essentially negates any real influence of the student growth component.

“As a result, the percentage of teachers rated effective or higher has been relatively consistent,” said Elizabeth Ross, Managing Director of State Policy at NCTQ. “Despite state efforts, nearly all teachers continue to earn ratings of effective or higher, despite student test scores and research which indicates that these ratings are unlikely to accurately reflect teachers’ performance.”

“Retaining the status quo prevents schools, districts, and states from reliably basing key personnel decisions on evaluation ratings,” said Ross. “States should not, as a matter of policy, strive to give more teachers poor ratings; however, if all teachers are labeled effective, then schools, districts, and states cannot use evaluation results to intervene to support teachers who would benefit from more help.”

An emphasis on student growth is important because evidence shows that teachers who increase students’ learning positively influence students’ immediate and long-term outcomes.

The report calls on states to strengthen their current evaluation policies. NCTQ suggests that states prevent teachers from earning an effective rating if they are ineffective at increasing student learning. At the very least, states should ensure that teachers cannot be rated effective if they receive the lowest possible rating on the student growth component of their evaluation.

NCTQ’s report, Running in Place, also suggests that states have an opportunity under ESSA, the new federal education law, to carefully consider the impact of student growth in their teacher evaluation systems. As states continue their work to improve teacher quality, teacher evaluation must evolve from an exercise of compliance to a process that identifies an individual teacher’s strengths and weaknesses in an effort to support continual development.

NCTQ also recommends that states track the results of the components within the evaluation framework and offer districts technical assistance where student learning measures and observation measures are significantly misaligned. Tennessee is a strong example of a state that tracks this misalignment and publishes the results.

To read the study, click here.
Those of you who were so happy when the Every Child Succeeds Act replaced the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act, note that the new law allows for teacher evaluations based on student tests.

Monday, January 23, 2017

A New Procedure

The current master's course I'm taking--my last one ever!--doesn't have abstract algebra as a prerequisite, but it should.  Terms and ideas are tossed around so casually with the obvious assumption that the students understand. 

I was an applied math major.  Until this master's program I'd never taken a math history course or an abstract algebra course.  I'm feeling a bit behind the 8 ball.

My alarm goes off at 5:00 each morning, but I don't really need to be out of bed until 6.  I set the alarm so early so I have plenty of time to wake up and to get on my elliptical trainer.  I can't help being old, I can help being fat.

But I don't.  I just lie in bed till 6 am and then get up.

I try to spend 90 min a day on my master's course--but then I also have to study for the cumulative final exam which covers 6 of the 10 courses I've taken over the past 5 years.  That's a lot of time per day.  It just is.

This morning, though, I hit upon the idea of getting up before 6 and putting in some studying for the cumulative exam.  Even at just 15-20 min per day, I should have an excellent review completed by the time the exam rolls around in April!  While I'm a fat lazy slug and can't motivate myself to get out of bed to exercise, I should be quite able to motivate myself to get out of bed to study.

So that's my new plan.


Twelve years and over 10,700 posts ago, I started this blog.

Holy crap!

The Sky, Part 2

If there was any rain today it fell before I woke up.  The weather is supposed to be clear through next weekend.

As I drove home today, the sky to the west was starting to clear.  Blue was visible, and actual sunlight!  To the east, though, the sky appeared not only ominous but vicious.

That last storm isn't done with the mountains just yet.

Sunday, January 22, 2017

The Sky

A friend came over yesterday morning to help me with my abstract algebra class.  I might almost possess the conceit that I'm beginning to understand something.

As he was leaving, I looked into the sky above the houses across the street--and it looked ominous.  The storm that was supposed to hit Saturday night looked like it was already brewing.  I don't know about the mountains, but last night's rain didn't seem to be much.

This morning there was actual blue sky and sun!  By afternoon it began to give way, and it's already looking kind of dark outside with a few raindrops falling.  Accuweather says rain tonight and tomorrow, and then clear for the rest of the week.

I guess we'll see.  I myself am not done with rain yet, whether or not the reservoirs are full.  Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow in the mountains, as that is our spring and summer water.

I'm tired of living in a drought.  At least I should be able to water my lawn more than 2 or 3 days a week this summer.

Saturday, January 21, 2017

A Tale of Two States

Here's Wisconsin, run pretty much by Republicans the last several years:
Wisconsin's biennial budget picture got $714 million brighter Wednesday, with a projected deficit turning into a small surplus, according to the nonpartisan Legislative Fiscal Bureau.

Fiscal bureau director Bob Lang reported tax revenues are expected to be $455 million higher than what the Department of Administration projected in November. Also, spending in the current fiscal year that ends June 30 is expected to be $226 million lower — largely due to lower-than-expected Medicaid enrollment — and other revenues are expected to be $33 million higher.

Here's California, run overwhelmingly by Democrats the last several years:
Gov. Jerry Brown’s administration miscalculated costs for the state Medi-Cal program by $1.9 billion last year, an oversight that contributed to Brown’s projection of a deficit in the upcoming budget, officials acknowledged this week.

The administration discovered accounting mistakes last fall, but it did not notify lawmakers until the administration included adjustments to make up for the errors in Brown’s budget proposal last week. The Democratic governor called for more than $3 billion in cuts because of a projected deficit he pegged at $1.6 billion...

Brown’s deficit projection was driven by more than just the accounting error, Palmer said, noting that California tax collections came in below expectations for most of the first half of the fiscal year.

The massive hole in the Medi-Cal budget surprised state lawmakers.
Are there any states that are run by Democrats that are in good financial shape, even in the short term?

Teaching Math

I was a big fan of Liping Ma's Knowing and Teaching Elementary Mathematics.  She asserted that Chinese elementary teachers had PUFM (profound understanding of fundamental mathematics) and too many American elementary teachers did not. (I've written several posts mentioning Liping Ma.)

There is a big difference between Shanghai teacher training and US/UK teacher training, just as there is a big difference between Shanghai elementary student math expectations and US/UK elementary student math expectations.  I was reminded of this after reading a BBC article:
When the Chinese city of Shanghai took part in the three-yearly Pisa test of 15-year-olds' academic ability in 2009 and 2012 it topped the table in maths, leaving countries such as Germany the UK and the US - and even Singapore and Japan - trailing in its wake. What is its secret?

The life of a teacher in a Shanghai primary school differs quite a bit from that of teachers in most other countries. For one thing each teacher specialises in a particular subject - if you teach maths, you teach only maths.

These specialist teachers are given at least five years of training targeted at specific age groups, during which they gain a deep understanding both of their subject and of how children learn.

After qualifying, primary school teachers will typically take just two lessons per day, spending the rest of their time assisting students who require extra help and discussing teaching techniques with colleagues.

"If you compare that to an English practitioner in a primary school now, they might have five days of training in their initial teacher training year, if they're doing the School Direct route, for example," says Ben McMullen, head teacher of Ashburnham Community School, London...

There are other differences too. School days are longer - from 07:00 until 16:00 or 17:00. Class sizes are larger. And lessons are shorter - each is 35 minutes long, followed by 15 minutes of unstructured play.

There is no streaming according to ability and every student must understand before the teacher moves on. In the early years of school basic arithmetic is covered more slowly than in the UK, says McMullen, who has travelled to Shanghai in one of the groups of British teachers sent every year by the Department of Education to watch and learn.

"They looked at our curriculum and were horrified by how much we were trying to teach," he says.

"They wouldn't teach fractions until year four or five. By that time, they assume that the children were very fluent in multiplication and division.

"This is essentially a 'teaching for mastery' approach: covering less and making smaller incremental movements forward, ensuring the class move together as one and that you go over stuff again and again until it's truly understood."
There's something to be said for this approach.  And if you believe that all children should learn, and you believe that education is the most likely approach to alleviating or eliminating the effects of poverty, then this should make sense.

"Spiraling" and "exposure" don't work as well as mastering it the first time.  On the other hand, I'm entirely against not allowing the brightest students to move forward at a faster pace.  While I want every student to have mastered the basic curriculum, I don't want every student to exit the curriculum at the same exact spot.

Friday, January 20, 2017

Women's March--Let's Start Making Fun Of It Early, Before Everyone Else Chimes In

It was blasted 38 years ago--by Monty Python:
The Women’s March on Washington—ostensibly about feminism, but not-so-subtextually intended as a demonstration against the Trump presidency—has run into issues, if not problems.
Black feminists have turned off white women with calls to check their privilege. The march’s inclusion of a pro-life group as a partner in a march that cites abortion rights as one of its “unity principles” was proven controversial and “horrified” the usual suspects. The march has now disowned the pro-life group. Given the march’s problems with alienating women, it is not surprising that the enterprise has had some difficulty attracting men.

The New York Times helpfully explains that “[t]his brand of feminism — frequently referred to as ‘intersectionality’ — asks white women [and presumably everyone else] to acknowledge that they have had it easier.” Moreover: “[T]hese debates over race also reflect deeper questions about the future of progressivism in the age of Trump. Should the march highlight what divides women, or what unites them? Is there room for women who have never heard of ‘white privilege’?”

In the wake of these stories, Heather Wilhelm and Noah C. Rothman have written about the self-devouring ouroboros of intersectionality. However, it may be up to a British comedy troupe to demonstrate the more basic political problem. In “Monty Python’s Life of Brian,” a man born next door to Jesus Christ endures mistaken identity problems. Along the way, for personal and political reasons, Brian attempts to join the People’s Front of Judea, a group rebelling against the Roman occupation of Judea...

This sketch-within-a-movie did not come out of nowhere. In the video commentary for the film, John Cleese (Reg) explains that the scene was a satire on the proliferation of left-wing revolutionary parties in the United Kingdom during the period when the movie was written and shot.

Incidentally, no one will mistake Cleese for a Tory, let alone an American conservative. He has, for example, cited Fox News as an example of the Dunning-Kruger effect, which is the theory that the incompetent fail to realize their own incompetence or accurately estimate the skills of others. Yet Cleese and his fellow white, male comics (now old and some dead, not just resting) understood that splinter parties of any ideology generally start off as counter-productive and usually end as just plain silly.
Here's the clip:

Cool Currency

Who doesn't admire this pre-euro note from Greece?

click to enlarge

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Make Math Great Again

Today one of our administrators told me that principals in our district had all been sent an email regarding tomorrow's inauguration.  There were to be no displays of partisanship or anything that might possibly conceivably cause any student not to feel "welcome" or "safe" in our schools.  When a nearby teacher suggested that I put "Make Math Great Again" on the board as a joke, this administrator--who is usually as cool as a cucumber--was pointed in his (we only have men as administrators at my school) response, and it was a big fat NO.  I got the impression from our subsequent conversation that our district was looking to jump on someone even for something so innocuous.

Does anyone think that such an email would have gone out had Clinton won?  Me, either.  In fact, I asked that question of one of our very liberal teachers today, and he stated in very strong terms that he didn't think so, either.

The message being sent out, and it's not a subtle one, is that there's a "right" and a "wrong" outcome to this past election, and the "wrong" outcome is what we got.  Those Americans who support the "wrong" outcome are "bad" people.  The left decries "othering" people, except when it suits them.

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Lest Anyone Forget

I've written many times about what an abject failure Barack Obama has been as president.  What's less often identified, however, is how much of a failure he has been by his own standards:
Ten years ago today, then-Sen. Barack Obama of Illinois announced he was taking the first steps to run for president in 2008. In a three-minute video, he explained why — and what he hoped to accomplish.

It's remarkable as a historic artifact — God bless YouTube! — but if you watch the whole thing (it's only 187 seconds long!), you are reminded of the central reason Obama ran for president: to fix  broken politics.

Here's the key passage in Obama's exploratory committee announcement:
America's faced big problems before. But today our leaders in Washington seem incapable of working together in a practical, common-sense way. Politics has become so bitter and partisan, so gummed up by money and influence that we can't tackle the big problems that demand solutions. That's what we have to change first. We have to change our politics and come together around our common interests and concerns as Americans.
The big idea at the heart of Obama's candidacy was that he — because of his background, proven résumé and the historic nature of his candidacy — was uniquely suited to solve the partisan gridlock that had seized our politics under Presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush. That he could bring us all together through an appeal to our better angels and our shared values — and, in so doing, create a government that worked for all of us.

Looking back now, Obama's announcement video feels almost quaint.
Quaint is one word for it.

Given his history there was no reason to believe that Obama would be anything other than what has shown himself to be--arrogant, inflexible, exceedingly partisan, incompetent.  Very early on in the Obama presidency, Instapundit Glenn Reynolds would state that a repeat of the Carter administration would be the best case scenario, and he would repeat that statement periodically--because he turned out to be not only correct, but prescient.

I have a friend who voted for President Obama at least once, certainly in 2008.  He was convinced that Obama was uniquely positioned to help race relations in this country, and on that basis alone voted for him.  Today that friend doesn't have much that's good to say about Obama, and with good reason--he turned most everything he touched into a disaster, especially race relations:
There is little doubt, except to his die-hard supporters (which includes a vast majority of the mainstream media), that his failures are legion.  Perhaps the most telling and egregious of which is the current state of race relations in the United States.  As President and a man of African descent, Barack Obama was in a position to permanently mend fences and end the racial politics bubbling beneath the surface over the past few decades.  However true to his quasi-Marxist upbringing as well as being steeped in racial identity politics, he chose to exploit and exacerbate racial tensions for political objectives.  The end-product of this nihilistic approach is revealed in a poll taken by Washington Post/ABC News in July of 2016 wherein 64% of Americans believe race relations are generally bad as compared to 66% who thought race relations were generally good in April of 2009.

Barack Obama, and virtually all of his fellow travelers, both white and black, on the Left (i.e. the Democratic Party), view the African-American population as both useful pawns in their quest for power and as helpless mascots to be pitied, paraded about and bought off whenever useful to either the overriding political or societal cause...

That the President of the United States would deliberately and with malice be party to this exploitation and extortion is beyond the pale and will forever be a stain on what tattered shreds of his legacy remains.
I'm just going to say it.  This is what you get when you vote for a person solely because of his/her skin color (or sex, or religion).  This is what you get with an Affirmative Action vote, a vote for someone's physical appearance over any reasonable qualifications.

I'm sure some of you are horrified at that, but you shouldn't be.  You know it's true.  If Obama weren't black, would anyone have voted for him, a minor politician and community organizer--especially over the vaunted Dowager Duchess of Chappaqua?  Of course not.  And thus my point.

He was going to disappoint.  He was going to fail.  That he failed so spectacularly--well, I guess that's something to marvel over.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

President Obama's Legacy

This one is so good that I have to lift it in its entirety from Instapundit:
Peter Berkowitz:
Chait’s case for Obama largely ignores the case against. It is one thing to defend the utility of deficit spending in a recession; it is quite another to blink away doubling American debt in eight years to a staggering $20 trillion and growing. It is appropriate to credit Obama for expanding access to health care, but it is deceptive to gloss over his repeated deceptions concerning insurance cost, keeping one’s doctor, and keeping one’s insurance. The reduction of greenhouse gas emissions is good, but no excuse for undermining constitutional government by extravagant exploitation of executive orders to skirt the people’s representatives in the legislative branch. And while the Middle East was unstable and dangerous before Obama, it is negligent to overlook how his determination to circumscribe America’s international role has emancipated the forces of chaos and destruction in the region.

Overreach and underperformance have consequences. Not the least part of Obama’s legacy is a shrunken and enfeebled Democratic Party in the states, a successor in the White House he tried hard to derail, and Republican majorities in both houses of Congress who are determined to overturn his signature domestic and foreign policy achievements.
Obama’s real legacy will be sworn into office on Friday.

Monday, January 16, 2017

Proposed Boondoggle

I don't pay into Social Security; rather, I pay into the California State Teachers Retirement System, or CalSTRS.  This pension fund is in such bad shape that the state, the school districts, and the teachers themselves all now have to pay higher amounts into it--in order to fund the retirements we were promised at the lower contributions.  In other words, we're paying more for the same amount.

I guess that's not horrible, from an economics standpoint, if that's what it takes to keep the fund solvent.  After all, as the Instapundit always says, "Something that cannot go on forever, won't."  However, this should tell us that CalSTRS isn't run very well, as we were promised what is not affordable at the lower rates.

Less than a decade ago STRS built a tall, shiny glass building just across the river from Old Sacramento.  I missed the story when it came out, but just saw on the Education Intelligence Agency web site that STRS claims to be running out of room already and wants to build another tower:
CalSTRS is considering building a second office tower, adding to the growing skyline along West Sacramento’s riverfront but raising fresh questions about the financial state of the teachers’ pension fund.

The 10-story building, expected to cost $181 million, would be erected alongside CalSTRS’ 20-story headquarters on the Sacramento River. CalSTRS officials said they need more space; they expect to outgrow the headquarters building, which opened in 2009, about three years from now...

Construction of the tower is not a done deal, however. CalSTRS board members, meeting last month, expressed concerns about spending $181 million when investment returns are weakening and the pension fund is barely two years removed from a financial rescue plan approved by the Legislature. The bailout, designed to erase a long-term funding gap, is costing the state, school districts and teachers billions of dollars a year in additional contributions to CalSTRS. The California State Teachers’ Retirement System controls $193 billion in assets and is about 69 percent funded.

“We’re in a low-return environment probably for quite some time to come, and we’re going to be asking more, frankly, of the state and our employers and our employees,” said state Controller Betty Yee, a board member, during last month’s meeting. “I’d like to wait a couple of years to evaluate our funding status and our staff space needs.”

CalSTRS doesn’t need legislative approval to build the tower and would fund the project itself.
Are teachers the agency's priority, or not?  How much space does managing assets require?

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Posts Like This, If Misinterpreted, Can Make Me Sound Like A Class-Envy Liberal

I lived in Alameda County when Al Davis moved the Raiders from Los Angeles back to Oakland.  I didn't live in Oakland, I lived in the Fremont/Newark area, about a half an hour drive away.  Still, though, my taxes went up to build "Mount Davis", an addition to the Oakland Coliseum that allowed for more people to attend Raiders games.

Sacramento has just finished building the Golden 1 (Credit Union) Center for the Sacramento Kings.  Living in suburban Sacramento County in a different incorporated city, I'm glad the county didn't decide to tax me to build that arena so that rich people could get richer.

This position is actually very conservative.

This is how such things are sold:  they'll raise the sales tax, for instance, a half a cent for 15 years to raise the needed revenue that the city (or whatever governmental level is kicking in) will put towards the new stadium/arena.  The justification is that this will be good for the city/county, as it will bring in tourists and diners, etc., and their expenditures will help the economy and their sales taxes will be good for the government.  This is called an "investment".

If I'm paying for this investment, when do I get my return?  Here's how it should work, if government is going to kick in money at all:  You raise the sales tax half a cent for 15 years.  At the end of that 15 years, not only does that half a cent tax go away, but so does another half a cent--after all, all that tax money that the stadium/arena is bringing in should have the governmental coffers overflowing, shouldn't it?  Shouldn't government--the people--get back that money they "invested"?  Keep the sales tax a half a cent lower than it was originally, and do it for the same 15 year time period.  If this isn't justified economically, then the government shouldn't be helping fund private entities like sports leagues in the first place.  (But I'd say don't do it anyway, because that's not the purpose of government at any level.)

But Darren, you say, you just don't like the Kings!  You want Sacramento to go back to being a cow town!  To which I reply, if the Kings are the only thing keeping Sacramento from being a cow town, then we're already a cow town--with a basketball team.  Honestly, I don't care if the Kings stay in Sacramento or not, they don't impact my life in the slightest, but I'd resent having to pay more in taxes to keep them here.

I didn't get anything out of my paying more taxes for Mount Al Davis.  I wouldn't get anything out of paying more taxes for the Golden 1 Center, had Sacramento County (not City) wanted to tax me more for it. 

I'm not the only person who thinks this way:
The people of San Diego won by losing.

Chargers owner Dean Spanos did the corporate equivalent of taking his ball and going home Thursday, bolting for Los Angeles because San Diego residents had balked at building his team a fancy new stadium. Imagine the nerve of those people! Refusing to spend millions for a stadium that, studies have shown, would likely end up costing taxpayers more than what is originally estimated while providing less in return...

But he (Dean Spanos) and pretty much every other owner think they’re owed civic welfare as a show of gratitude for their benevolence in owning a sports franchise. Franchises that already line owners’ pockets with millions of the public’s money each year in the form of merchandise, ticket sales, concessions and parking, mind you...

Yes, it’s devastating to lose a team that has been part of the city’s identity for more than a half-century, and Chargers fans were understandably outraged at being jilted. In the hours after Spanos made his announcement, fans littered the sidewalk in front of the team’s headquarters with jerseys and other now-unwanted merchandise.

But if there’s anything that has become clear in all of these money grabs – and stay strong, Oakland, because you’re next – it’s that teams really don’t give a damn about their fans. So long as there are suckers in another town so blinded by the prospect of having a professional franchise that they don’t read the fine print, teams will view their fans as little more than lines on a balance sheet.

That’s not being part of the fabric of a community, that’s blackmail.
Yeah, what she said.

Saturday, January 14, 2017


Protesting is one thing, but stopping someone else's freedom of speech is un-American:
Milo Yiannopoulos, the alt-right-friendly media figure and Breitbart tech editor who is permanently banned from Twitter, was scheduled to speak at the University of California-Davis on Friday, but student-protesters mobbed the scene, forcing event organizers to cancel his appearance.

Given the unruly state of the protesters, university officials informed Yiannopoulos's hosts, the Davis College Republicans, that they could no longer guarantee anyone's safety. This prompted the CRs to cancel the event before Yiannopoulos had a chance to speak.

Martin Shkreli was supposed to speak as well, but because of the actions of irate students, his lecture did not take place, either.

The university initially remained committed to letting the event go forward, despite the administration's fervent opposition to Yiannopoulos's message. But fights broke out, according to local news reporters. Someone even poured hot coffee on a photojournalist.
Leftists are the fascists they decry.

Update, 1/16/17: Milo went to UC Davis on Saturday, stating that the College Republicans only canceled his talk because the administration said the CR's would be responsible for any damage done by protesters.  View video here if you cannot below.

Liberty on Coins

On current and previous coins, Liberty has appeared either as white or Native American.  These new representations will be welcome additions to our numismatic heritage.
The 2017 American Liberty 225th Anniversary Gold Coin design is unique in that it portrays Liberty as an African-American woman, a departure from previous classic designs.  The obverse (heads) design depicts a profile of Liberty wearing a crown of stars, with the inscriptions "LIBERTY," "1792," "2017," and "IN GOD WE TRUST."  The reverse (tails) design depicts a bold and powerful eagle in flight, with eyes toward opportunity and a determination to attain it.  Inscriptions include "UNITED STATES OF AMERICA," "E PLURIBUS UNUM," "1OZ. .9999 FINE GOLD," and "100 DOLLARS."

The obverse was designed by Mint Artistic Infusion Program (AIP) Designer Justin Kunz and sculpted by Mint Sculptor-Engraver Phebe Hemphill, while the reverse was designed by AIP Designer Chris Costello and sculpted by Mint Sculptor-Engraver Michael Gaudioso.

The 2017 American Liberty 225th Anniversary Gold Coin will be struck in .9999 fine 24-karat gold at the West Point Mint in high relief, with a proof finish.  The one-ounce coin will be encapsulated and placed in a custom designed, black wood presentation case.  A 225th anniversary booklet with Certificate of Authenticity will accompany each coin.

The 2017 American Liberty 225th Anniversary Gold Coin is the first in a series of 24-karat gold coins that will feature designs which depict an allegorical Liberty in a variety of contemporary forms-including designs representing Asian-Americans, Hispanic-Americans, and Indian-Americans among others-to reflect the cultural and ethnic diversity of the United States.  These 24-karat gold coins will be issued biennially. A corresponding series of medals struck in .999 silver, with the same designs featured on the gold coins, will also be available.

Sulu, So Low--Doesn't Like Trump

OK, let’s be honest.  Sulu was a “bit part”.  He wasn’t a big deal.

He was a bigger deal that George Takei is, though...

Friday, January 13, 2017

Cool Currency

You might recall that I started this "cool currency" theme in a post in which I denigrated the appearance of US money--I think it's drab and uninspiring--and said I should post pictures of some of the beautiful notes I have from around the world.  This one from Bhutan certainly fits that requirement, no?

click to enlarge

Actually, as with most of the currency scans I've posted, the colors are more vivid in person than they appear to be here.

Thursday, January 12, 2017

One More Data Point In Support of Right-to-Work Laws

Last weekend I wrote about Kentucky, poised to be our country's 27th right-to-work state.  Here's some good news we supporters of right-to-work laws can point to:

States with right-to-work laws and no income taxes grew fastest in the Obama years

Math Stuff From Today

If you want to learn about so-called imaginary numbers, you could do a lot worse than watching the thirteen short videos from Welch Labs (the first is here).  I've watched only the first 11 so far, and I'm still not convinced that the parabola graphic in Video #1 is correct, but my department chair--who, incidentally, turned me on to these videos--assures me that I'll be convinced after I've watched the last one.  Anyway, if you're at all interested in the so-called imaginary numbers, then give the videos a watch.  I thought it interesting how they showed multiplication of complex numbers and, by extension, DeMoivre's Theorem.  The integration of algebra and geometry was exceptional.

And completely unrelated.... Yesterday in pre-calculus I introduced converting from degrees/minutes/seconds to decimal degrees, and vice versa.  Here is a paraphrase of the class starter problem I gave today:

Prior to 1969, Great Britain didn't use a decimal system for money like they do (and almost every other country does) today.  Their system was:
12 pence = 1 shilling
20 shillings = 1 pound
If an item cost £3 5s 4p, how many decimal pounds did it cost?
No, pre-decimal British money has nothing to do with angles, but the method of calculation is the same as that of degrees/minutes/seconds to decimal degrees.  I just wanted to see if my students could make the connection, and to my delight, most did.

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Running Out of Someone Else's Money

Socialism not only isn't cheap, it isn't even affordable:
Less than four years after declaring California’s budget balanced for the foreseeable future, Gov. Jerry Brown on Tuesday said the state is projected to run a $1.6-billion deficit by next summer — a noticeable shift in the state’s fiscal stability that could worsen under federal spending cuts championed by President-elect Donald Trump.

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Motes and Beams

This author is so biased that he cannot see his own biases.  He can't comprehend how anyone can possibly think differently than he does.
A vote cast for Trump is kind of like a murder; there may be context to consider — a disadvantaged background, extenuating circumstances, understandable motives — but the choice itself is binary and final, irrevocable. There's a case to be made that it's indefensible; that his supporters have forfeited any right to be respected or taken seriously. The conservatives of the heartland have lashed back against the coastal elites' condescending, classist prejudices by defiantly confirming them: that they're pathetically dumb and gullible, uncritical consumers of any disinformation that confirms their biases, easy dupes for any demagogue who promises to bring back the factories and keep the brown people down.

Ignorance and bigotry are actually the best possible motives for having voted for Trump — they are at least honest, if not honorable. But I don't believe all Trump voters are ignorant, or bigoted; most of them are just evil — evil being defined not as anything so glamorous as beheading journalists or gunning down grade schoolers, but simply as not much caring about other people's suffering. They're willing to consign someone else — someone Mexican, or Muslim, or trans, not anyone they know — to exile, arrest, or second-class status, in exchange for... what? A tax break? To send a message to Washington, or the mainstream media? Just out of spiteful, petulant rage?
How many conservatives does this author know?  Or, to have a little more fun, does he know anyone who owns a pickup?

Well, a little later in the column he "admits" to knowing 2 Trump voters.   "One of them is from Texas and the other's a Marine, so they both have their excuses."  Not reasons, not justifications, excuses.  This guy is a gift that keeps on giving.

Go read the whole thing.  He thinks he's being magnanimous in allowing 2 Trump supporters into his life.  Marvel that anyone could be so lacking in introspection.

If You Cheered Harry Reid in 2013...

Live by the sword, die by the sword.

Sorry, lefties.  You started it.  The Republican Congress is going to continue it.

Media Narratives

Yep, this is how narratives are made:
"should we slip in somewhere high up a ref to the attack this weekend. i think we should.  showing how the city is already a place of high tension blah blah -- Yes..."

Monday, January 09, 2017

Don't Have The Tools To Do The Job?

It's been a week and half now since I lost my voice.  It's coming back very slowly but also surely, but the problem is that I have to teach tomorrow.

Today was a teacher work day.  I finished up grading finals and submitting semester grades, and planned at least the next couple days of instruction.  Also met with a student and parent.  To be honest, it was a moderately productive day.

The problem is that I make my living talking, and there's no way I'll be able to talk all day tomorrow--not if I want to be heard by all of my students, even those in the back of the room, after teaching for 5 periods.  I don't think that's going to do my voice much good.

Last year we had a teacher who was, uh--what's the right word?  She wasn't "a dominant force" in the classroom.  She was so--timid?--that she used a speaker system to be heard in her closet-sized classroom.  I asked my principal if we still had that speaker system.  Turns out we don't, as it belonged to the district.  He called the district to see if they could provide me with one.

They asked if I had a doctor's note.  If I did, they'd be required to get me one, but that could take weeks, by which time hopefully my voice will have returned in full.  Not having a doctor's note, though, I'm out of luck, as they don't have any left to lend me.

My principal had a suggestion.  He asked if I'd consider using the huge speakers/microphone we use in the gymnasium during rallies.  Yes, that big and that loud.

Later this afternoon the night-shift custodian brought over 2 monstrous speakers and a mic.  He set it all up, showed me which buttons to push, and checked that everything worked.  I'm still concerned about having to talk all day, but hopefully this setup will at least keep me from experiencing a retrograde.  I may not have much of a voice for the job, but this will help.

Check.  Check one two.  Sibbilance.  Sibbilance.

Update, 1/10/17:  I got through the day and my throat isn't shredded.  I hope that I won't need that speaker system by the end of the week, though.

Update, 1/15/17:  I can talk now but the sound is gravelly and not very loud. I can't hit a single note if I try to sing, it's almost as if the voice I have isn't my own.  I may need the speaker system for a few more days.

Sunday, January 08, 2017

Who's Against Illegal Immigration?

Everyone, at one time or another.  Even Democrats, if the timing is right.  There was a time when Americans agreed that illegal immigration was bad, now apparently only Republicans do:
All Americans, not only in the States most heavily affected but in every place in this country, are rightly disturbed by the large numbers of illegal aliens entering our country. The jobs they hold might otherwise be held by citizens or legal immigrants. The public service they use impose burdens on our taxpayers. That's why our administration has moved aggressively to secure our borders more by hiring a record number of new border guards, by deporting twice as many criminal aliens as ever before, by cracking down on illegal hiring, by barring welfare benefits to illegal aliens. In the budget I will present to you, we will try to do more to speed the deportation of illegal aliens who are arrested for crimes, to better identify illegal aliens in the workplace as recommended by the commission headed by former Congresswoman Barbara Jordan. We are a nation of immigrants. But we are also a nation of laws. It is wrong and ultimately self-defeating for a nation of immigrants to permit the kind of abuse of our immigration laws we have seen in recent years, and we must do more to stop it.
--President Clinton's 1995 State of the Union Address
Democrats remember that we are a nation of immigrants. We recognize the extraordinary contribution of immigrants to America throughout our history... Today's Democratic Party also believes we must remain a nation of laws. We cannot tolerate illegal immigration and we must stop it...
--1996 Democratic Party Platform 

And here's a couple videos.  When I find more, I'll post them. 


How Far Left The Democratic Party Has Moved

The following are excerpts from the 1996 Democratic Party Platform.  Do they have any relation to the Democratic Party of today?  Do you think this is what we could have expected from a 2nd President Clinton?  Do you think Barack Obama agrees with any of this?  This was only 21 years ago.
That is what today's Democratic Party offers: the end of the era of big government...

In the last four years we worked to get the American economy going: cutting the deficit, expanding trade, and investing in our people. In the next four years we have to make the new economy work for all Americans: balancing the budget... The only deficit left today is interest payments on the debt run up over the 12 Republican years before fiscal responsibility returned to the White House. President Clinton is the first President to cut the deficit four years in a row since before the Civil War.

Now the Democratic Party is determined to finish the job and balance the budget...

Today's Democratic Party believes in a government that works better and costs less. We know that government workers are good people trapped in bad systems, and we are committed to reinventing government to reform those systems...

We believe that if we want the American economy to continue strong growth, we must continue to expand trade, and not retreat from the world...

In the next four years, we must do even more to make sure America has the best public schools on earth. If we want to be the best, we should expect the best: We must hold students, teachers, and schools to the highest standards... Teachers in this country are among the most talented professionals we have. They should be required to meet high standards for professional performance and be rewarded for the good jobs they do. For the few who don't measure up to those high standards, there should be a fair process to get them out of the classroom and the profession...

Today's Democratic Party knows that the era of big government is over. Big bureaucracies and Washington solutions are not the real answers to today's challenges. We need a smaller government...

Today's Democratic Party believes the first responsibility of government is law and order...Today's Democratic Party stands with America's police officers...We believe that people who break the law should be punished, and people who commit violent crimes should be punished severely. President Clinton made three-strikes-you're-out the law of the land, to ensure that the most dangerous criminals go to jail for life, with no chance of parole...

We must keep drugs off our streets and out of our schools. President Clinton and the Democratic Party have waged an aggressive war on drugs...

Democrats remember that we are a nation of immigrants. We recognize the extraordinary contribution of immigrants to America throughout our history... Today's Democratic Party also believes we must remain a nation of laws. We cannot tolerate illegal immigration and we must stop it...

Today's Democratic Party knows there is no greater gap between mainstream American values and modern American government than our failed welfare system...Now, because of the President's leadership and with the support of a majority of the Democrats in Congress, national welfare reform is going to make work and responsibility the law of the land. Thanks to President Clinton and the Democrats, the new welfare bill includes the health care and child care people need so they can go to work confident their children will be cared for. Thanks to President Clinton and the Democrats, the new welfare bill imposes time limits and real work requirements -- so anyone who can work, does work, and so that no one who can work can stay on welfare forever. Thanks to President Clinton and the Democrats, the new welfare bill cracks down on deadbeat parents and requires minor mothers to live at home with their parents or with another responsible adult...

Four years ago, the North Koreans were operating a dangerous nuclear program. Today, that program is frozen, under international inspection, and slated to be dismantled...

Today's Democratic Party is unwilling to surrender to the voices of retreat and indifference. We believe the only way to ensure America's security and prosperity over the long run is to continue exerting American leadership across a range of military, diplomatic, and humanitarian, challenges around the world...

Strengthening our military. Over the past four years, the Administration has undertaken the most successful restructuring of our military forces in history. Even as the size of our forces has decreased, their capabilities, readiness and qualitative edge have increased. The Administration has ensured that America is prepared to fight alongside others when we can, and alone when we must. We have defeated attempts to cut our defense budget irresponsibly...

The Democratic Party remains committed to America's long-standing special relationship with Israel, based on shared values, a mutual commitment to democracy and a strategic alliance that benefits both nations. The United States should continue to help Israel maintain its qualitative edge. Jerusalem is the capital of Israel and should remain an undivided city accessible to people of all faiths...

President Clinton and Vice President Gore have led the fight to help parents control what their children see on television. Because of their leadership, Congress passed a law requiring all new televisions to include a device called a V-chip that will block violent programs when it is activated by an adult...

Today's Democratic Party knows that governments do not raise children, parents do...

We believe everyone in America should learn English so they can fully share in our daily life...

Today's Democratic Party understands that all Americans have a right to express their faith. The Constitution prohibits the state establishment of religion, and it protects the free exercise of religion. The President fought for and signed the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, to reaffirm the great protection the Constitution gives to religious expression, and to recognize the historic role people of faith have played in America. Americans have a right to express their love of God in public, and we applaud the President's work to ensure that children are not denied private religious expression in school. Whenever the religious rights of our children -- or any American -- are threatened, we will stand against it...

(APP Note: The American Presidency Project used the first day of the national nominating convention as the "date" of this platform since the original document is undated.)
Again, this was the Democratic Party less than 21 years ago.

Go back one more year and read Bill Clinton's 1995 State of the Union Address.  The same themes are present.

There Aren't Enough Rich People To Pay For Your Utopia

Those taxes will hit the poor the hardest, as they always do.  But you tree-huggers can feel good about yourselves, so screw those poor and middle-class people:
The carbon tax will cost Alberta school boards an extra $8 million to $12 million this year, and as much as $18 million next year, according to a government briefing note obtained by the official Opposition.

“The numbers are just huge,” Wildrose education critic Leela Aher said Friday.

Ultimately, the higher cost of heating schools and transporting students will be borne by parents paying higher school fees, Aher said.

In rural school divisions, where children sometimes spend hours each day on school buses, the costs will be even more substantial, Aher said. The additional expenses may stop cash-strapped families from enrolling kids in school band, sports teams or other activities that require travel, she said.
And here's a comment from a typical liberal:
The tax, intended to encourage a reduction in fuel consumption, is an environmentally responsible step students expect from government, she said.

Here's what I don't understand. Later in the article we're told that schools will be "first in line" for the money from the new taxes.  So, how is the carbon tax helping the environment?  Sounds to me like money's just being redirected from the taxpayer to schools.  Oh, but there will be "a reduction in fuel consumption", you say, and that will help the environment!  But won't a reduction in fuel consumption mean that there will be a reduction in the revenue generated by this tax and sent to schools, and thus, the taxpayers will just be out that money and the schools will just be paying more for gas for schoolbuses?

Who wins here, except the people who like to force everyone to live in their Utopia?

Saturday, January 07, 2017

Forced Unionism

As far as unions are concerned, in the United States there are two types of states:  "right to work" states, wherein workers have a right to work without paying a union, and "fair share" or "forced unionism" states, wherein workers can be compelled to pay a union even if they choose not to be union members.

(It probably doesn't surprise you to learn that California is a "forced unionism" state.  I've got two blog labels that relate to this:  "agency fee" and "CTEN".  Click on them--currently in the left-most section of the blog--and read more.)

Forced unionism was probably going to disappear this year, and then Justice Scalia died--the remaining justices split 4-4 in the Friedrichs v. CTA case.  Still, forced unionism has probably already reached its high-water mark as yet another domino is set to fall:
Kentucky is poised to become the 27th right-to-work state in the country after the state’s House of Representatives passed legislation on Thursday evening.

The Republican-controlled House voted 58-39 to end coercive union dues just a day after a House committee advanced the bill. Though Kentucky has long sent Republicans to Washington, D.C., Democrats controlled the statehouse for nearly a century before the GOP won majorities in both houses in 2016. John Cox, spokesman for Senate President Robert Stivers, said the party sees right to work as part of the mandate it received from voters.

The Value and Importance of a Textbook

"The textbook isn't the curriculum."  My principal repeats this like a mantra.  He's a good principal, and I admire him greatly, but on this topic he and I do not agree at all.  I guess he's correct, literally, but his statement implies that the choice of textbook doesn't determine how well students perform in a class--that's up to the teacher (and the student).  In this he is just plain wrong.

The following comes from a "member-supported public radio" site, and it shows how important the choice of textbook is:
If you were tasked with buying textbooks for a school, and your four best options essentially cost the same, how would you decide which one to buy? Wouldn't you ask, "Which of these textbooks will do the most to help kids learn?"

In reality, educators don't always get an answer to this question. Only a handful of states collect data on which textbooks schools choose, much less the effect of these choices on students' test scores...

Their takeaway: the textbook a school chooses can have a pretty big impact on students’ test scores, at least in math...

Also, education reformers, take note: (USC researcher) Polikoff said the measurable impacts of adopting this textbook on student test scores were as significant as — if not more significant than — the impacts of other commonly-touted-but-controversial policy changes, such as using teacher evaluations in layoff decisions or expanding school choice. 
Common sense should tell us that the choice of textbook is important, but clearly some people have other influences beyond common sense.

Two Algebra 2 textbooks ago, I taught Algebra 2.  After the results of our standardized tests came in, my vice principal called me into his office.  He wanted to show me my students' results.  On a bar graph there was a very tall rectangle--it was the performance of my Algebra 2 students.  Next to it was a significantly shorter rectangle, and it represented the performance of all Algebra 2 students at my school (including mine).  Next to that was a very short rectangle indeed, and that represented the performance of all Algebra 2 students in our suburban district.  Needless to say, I was pleased to have some objective evidence related to my teaching abilities.

Shortly after that our district purchased new Algebra 2 books.  I was mortified when I saw the results of the next round of standardized tests.  My rectangle was about the same height as my school's rectangle, and those weren't significantly higher than our district's rectangle.

Don't tell me that textbooks don't matter.  If your reply is "you should get outside sources so that you can continue to teach at the high level you used to", then that's recognition that the current textbook isn't satisfactory.  If your reply is that perhaps I got lucky that one year, that perhaps I wasn't as good a teacher as I had thought, then explain how my entire school's performance dropped so much.

Don't tell me that textbooks don't matter.  I can do great things with good tools.  Crappy tools don't work so well.

Textbooks matter.

So Many Names For California, None of Them Good

Ecotopia.  The Iron Pyrite State.  The Land of Fruits and Nuts.

Liberal Californians just keep liberalin', ignorant of, or not caring about, the damage they're doing to California's residents and economy:
California’s recent economic success seemingly makes it a compelling “alt-America.” After a severe decline in the Great Recession, the economy  has roared back, and since 2010 has outpaced the national average.  But if you go back to 2000, metro areas such as Austin, Dallas, Houston, Orlando, Salt Lake City and Phoenix -- all in lower-tax, regulation-light states -- have expanded their employment by twice or more than that in  Los Angeles.

Indeed, a closer examination shows that the California “boom” is really about one region, the tech-rich San Francisco Bay Area, with roughly half the state’s job growth recorded there since 2007 even though the region accounts for barely a fifth of the state’s population. Outside the Bay Area, the vast majority of employment gains have been in low-paying retail, hospitality and medical fields. And even in Silicon Valley itself, a large portion of the population, notably Latinos, are downwardly mobile given the loss of manufacturing jobs.

According to the most recent Social Science Research Council report, the state overall suffers the greatest levels of income inequality in the nation (boldface mine--Darren); the Public Policy Institute places the gap well over 10 percent higher than the national average. And though California may be home to some of the wealthiest communities in the nation, accounting for 15 of the 20 wealthiest, its poverty rate, adjusted for cost, is also the highest in the nation (again, boldface mine). Indeed, a recent United Way study found that half of all California Latinos, and some 40 percent of African-Americans, have incomes below the cost of necessities (the “Real Cost Measure”). Among non-citizens, 60 percent of households have incomes below the Real Cost Measure, a figure that stretches to 80 percent below among Latinos.
I used to be proud to tell people I was from California.

Update, 1/11/17:  New Geography tells us:
Tucked away in the bottom corner of the San Francisco Bay, tech royalty make themselves at home in their silicon castles. Santa Clara County is the wealthiest county in California, and 14th in the nation, boasting an average median household income of $96,310. However, where there are kings, there must be subjects. Despite its affluence, Santa Clara remains one of the most unequal counties in the United States. The combined forces of enormous wage gaps, exorbitant housing prices, and shifts in the regional economy have compounded over recent years, resulting in a shrunken middle class and increased poverty levels.

The Science Is Settled, And We're Doomed

The following was written eight years ago, and if it's correct, then Obama must be considered a failure of universal proportions:
Barack Obama has only four years to save the world. That is the stark assessment of Nasa scientist and leading climate expert Jim Hansen who last week warned only urgent action by the new president could halt the devastating climate change that now threatens Earth. Crucially, that action will have to be taken within Obama's first administration, he added.
Yet the sky hasn't fallen, Chicken Little.

Friday, January 06, 2017

Cool Currency

This note from Singapore shows history on one side, modernity on the other.

click to enlarge

Thursday, January 05, 2017

Got Home A Few Minutes Ago

Where does a wild and crazy math teacher, one who lives the rock-and-roll lifestyle, go on a Thursday night?  I'll tell you where.

To the side of the freeway, out near the airport.

OK, that sounds kinda creepy. The actual story isn't creepy at all.

My son is a soldier, stationed in Washington State.  His unit, as well as many others, is deploying to the National Training Center at Fort Irwin, California, a place I've been three times.  600,000 acres of real estate, prime maneuver area and a full-time OPFOR (opposing force).  In my day, the OPFOR had Soviet-looking vehicles and uniforms and used Soviet tactics.  It probably wouldn't be too hard to determine how times have changed.

Anyway, to get from Washington to Fort Irwin, you have to pass right through Sacramento on Interstate 5.  I can't let him pass through his hometown and not have a greeting, right?  So I kept in touch with him via a phone app that let each of us see our respective locations in real time.  When he told me they had stopped for a fuel break, I headed towards the airport to get a little closer.  Then I crossed back over the freeway, pulled off to the side, put my flashers on, and waited.

When I saw his bus crossing the river, I knew he was only a couple minutes away.  I got out of the car and stood where the taillights and flashers would illuminate me.  When I saw what were obviously buses, and the only buses around, I knew those were the right ones.  And my son had told me he was in the first one.  Just before they passed I stood at attention and threw up a salute.

He saw me.  He knows his dad loves him.  And then I drove home.

Great way to spend a Thursday night, if you ask me.

Why I've Never Been The Biggest Fan Of Poetry

A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away, I had a friend who got an MFA in Creative Writing.  He was a poet.  Part of the MFA program was "workshopping", where students took the "rough drafts" of their creative work to a group of fellow students and as a group they worked on improving the writing.  He used to tell me what other students would say about his poems, what they'd "get" from his writing.  I'd ask, "Is that what you meant to convey?", and more often than not he'd say something like "No, but poetry is about what you get out of it."  I would counter with, "As the writer, aren't you supposed to be conveying your thoughts, what you want the reader to get from it?"  The discussion would usually devolve from there.

*Sigh*.  Clearly I'm just not artsy enough.

That story came rushing back to me today as I read this piece in the Huffington Post, of all places:
When I realized I couldn’t answer the questions posed about two of my own poems on the Texas state assessment tests (STAAR Test), I had a flash of panic – oh, no! Not smart enough. Such a dunce. My eyes glazed over. I checked to see if anyone was looking. The questions began to swim on the page. Waves of insecurity. My brain in full spin...

Dose of reality: test makers are for-profit organizations. My poems are a whole lot cheaper than Mary Oliver’s or Jane Kenyon’s, so there’s that. But how would your vulnerable, nervous, number two pencil-gripping seventh grade self have felt opening your test packet to analyze poetic lines such as this: I’m just down with a sniffly case/of sudden-self-loathing-syndrome…an unexpected extra serving/ of just-for-now-self-hate.
Seriously? Hundreds of my poems in print and they choose THAT one? Self-loathing and self-hate? Kids need an extra serving of those emotions on testing day?...

Teachers are also trying to survive as they are tasked with teaching kids how to take these tests, which they do by digging through past tests, posted online. Forget joy of language and the fun of discovery in poetry, this is line-by-line dissection, painful and delivered without anesthetic. One teacher wrote to me last month, working after 10 p.m., trying to figure out the test maker’s interpretation of my poem MIDNIGHT, This poem isn’t quite as jarring as A REAL CASE, simply symptomatic of aforementioned neuroses: It’s about insomnia...

These test questions were just made up, and tragically, incomprehensibly, kids’ futures and the evaluations of their teachers will be based on their ability to guess the so-called correct answer to made up questions.

Then I went online and searched Holbrook/MIDNIGHT/Texas and the results were terrifying. Dozens of districts, all dissecting this poem based on poorly formatted test prep materials.

Texas, please know, this was not the author’s purpose in writing this poem.
I KNEW IT! I knew the author was supposed to convey his/her own purpose in poetry!  But let's continue:
Meantime, here is my question:

37. Does this guessing game mostly evidence:

A the literacy mastery of the student?

B the competency of the student’s teacher?

C the absurdity of the questions?

D the fact that the poet, although she has never put her head in an oven, definitely has issues.

Let’s go with D since I definitely have issues, including issues with these ridiculous test questions.
The author then goes on an anti-standardized-testing rant, with which I cannot entirely concur.  But I like the conclusion, which is completely supported by the facts at hand:
My final reflection is this: any test that questions the motivations of the author without asking the author is a big baloney sandwich. Mostly test makers do this to dead people who can’t protest. But I’m not dead.
I protest.
That the author completely supports my side of the argument in the discussion with my friend of long ago is entirely ancillary.

On the other hand, because of that friend I understand the "head in an oven" reference, so all is not lost.  Perhaps I'm artsy enough after all.