Wednesday, January 19, 2022

When The Left Has Lost Jonathan Chait...

I know some die-hards who will disagree with this because they cannot allow their tribe to be attacked, but any objective observer knows this to be true:

The furnace-hot backlash seemed to be triggered by Silver’s assumption that school closings were not only a mistake — a possibility many progressives have quietly begun to accept — but an error of judgment that was sufficiently consequential and foreseeable that we can’t just shrug it off as a bad dice roll. It was a historic blunder that reveals some deeper flaw in the methods that produced it and which demands corrective action.

That unnerving implication has a mounting pile of evidence to support it. It is now indisputable, and almost undisputed, that the year and a quarter of virtual school imposed devastating consequences on the students who endured it. Studies have found that virtual school left students nearly half a year behind pace, on average, with the learning loss falling disproportionately on low-income, Latino, and Black students. Perhaps a million students functionally dropped out of school altogether. The social isolation imposed on kids caused a mental health “state of emergency,” according to the American Academy of Pediatrics. The damage to a generation of children’s social development and educational attainment, and particularly to the social mobility prospects of its most marginalized members, will be irrecoverable.

It is nearly as clear that these measures did little to contain the pandemic. Children face little risk of adverse health effects from contracting COVID, and there’s almost no evidence that towns that kept schools open had more community spread.

In the panicked early week of the pandemic, the initial decision to close schools seemed like a sensible precaution. Authorities drew on the closest example at hand, the 1918 Spanish flu, which was contained by closing schools.

But in relatively short order, growing evidence showed that the century-old precedent did not offer much useful guidance. While the Spanish flu was especially deadly for children, COVID-19 is just the opposite. By the tail end of spring 2020, it was becoming reasonably clear both that remote education was failing badly and that schools could be reopened safely.

What happened next was truly disturbing: The left by and large rejected this evidence.

Read the next few paragraphs if not the whole thing.

We Can't Have An Exchange Of Ideas Here, This Is A University!

This sounds nice, but I won't hold my breath:

Students’ tendency to overvalue perspectives based on experience over knowledge, facts and logic can harm classroom discourse and university culture, according to a new report penned by a group of bipartisan scholars and administrators.

To resolve this, professors should teach students to rely on discipline-based norms of evidence, “so that students are neither unfairly burdened with expectations to speak nor excluded because of their experience and identity.”

The advice was among several suggestions in the report, titled “Campus Free Expression: A New Roadmap,” a guide for college leaders to foster academic freedom and open debate.

The Scale

Until this morning, I hadn't stepped on my scale in over a year.  I didn't want to know what it would tell me.  I know I've put on pounds, a lot of pounds.  And it's not the 'rona's fault or the shutdown's fault or any other fault but my own.

I've been wondering what it would take for me to do something about my weight, what "rock bottom" would be.  I don't know if I've reached it, but last night I came close enough--I saw my profile in the mirror.  The fat roll, the sagging.  It was undeniable.  And devastating.

I'd resisted the scale, even as I began to outgrow my big-boy clothes.  Oh, I had a number in mind, what I probably weighed.  It was enough to be bad, but not bad enough to be outrageous.  But after seeing that profile last night, I knew I needed eat a little better and start doing something besides watching TV when I get home from work each day.  I have a workout app on my phone; it's not much, but at least it would get me moving in the mornings, so I decided to start it this morning.

But to know if I'm making any progress, I'd have to step on the scale.  So I did.  And the number was worse than I thought.  Much worse.

I'm 58 pounds over what I'd like to weigh, and what I'd like to weigh is a few pounds over what I probably should weigh.

Back in 2010 it took me 4 months to lose almost 25 pounds, and I was going hard core back then.  I don't even know if I have it in me to work as hard now as I did then, but I've got to do something.  I spent most of my life either thin or of reasonable weight, I don't want the last third of my life to be spent fat and unhealthy.  I've really let myself go.

The sign goes on the refrigerator today:  Are you hungry or just bored?

Tuesday, January 18, 2022

You Do You. Don't Expect Others To Do You.

Whose responsibility is it to protect you from the 'rona?  Yours:

The usual sources of outrage are all atwitter over the fact that Justice Sotomayor isn’t a queen with the authority to demand that other justices wear face gags at her behest. Apparently, the overweight and diabetic Sotomayor wants everyone around her to take extra precautions to care for her after she didn’t care for herself, which puts her in a higher risk category for COVID complications. While her Type 1 diabetes was not avoidable, Sotomayor’s weight problem is surely manageable through diet and exercise. She isn’t hiring a personal trainer or going on a diet; oh no, that would require personal responsibility. Instead, she is demanding that everyone around her wear masks or she will stay in her office and zoom into hearings...

Anyone at this point, when there are vaccines and therapeutics available to deal with COVID, who is still demanding that you do something to keep them safe should be given a hard “no.” Justice Gorsuch has done just that and is refusing to wear a mask. Good. Let the hypochondriacs live a life confined inside, alone, separated from all society, and ordering from Grubhub. The rest of us have things to do.

Life is risk, your highness...

Why is the media making a big deal about this, calling it “absolutely shameful” that Gorsuch won’t wear a mask? Why aren’t they asking why Justice Sotomayor won’t go on a diet and start an exercise regimen? Why is it Gorsuch’s problem that Sotomayor doesn’t look after herself?...

The Libertarian Party of New Hampshire makes a good point. “Gorsuch’s refusal to wear a mask didn’t ‘force’ Sotomayor to work remotely. Sotomayor can also: 1. Quit or 2. Have remotely sane risk tolerance practices.” Hear, hear...

Scott Morefield opined, “If triple-vaxxed Sotomayor is still frightened, she has the freedom to wear four masks and a HAZMAT suit. It’s time to stop catering to tyrannical hypochondriacs. Neil Gorsuch is a hero.” 

I cannot disagree with any of this--and I'm several dozen pounds over what I should weigh. 

Update:  An unnamed FoxNews source says the original story is completely bogus, adding:

According to Bream’s source, “there has been no blanket admonition or request from Chief Justice Roberts that the other Justices begin wearing masks to arguments. The source further stated Justice Sotomayor did not make any such request to Justice Gorsuch.”

Thus, “given that fact, there was also no refusal by Justice Gorsuch.”

Bream concluded by pointing out that every justice is vaccinated, boosted, and that they get tested before gathering for arguments.

The original story came from Nina Totenberg, so who knows?  My one encounter with Nina did not show her to be a very fair person.

Update #2, 1/19/22:  FoxNews points out NPR's fake news:

Supreme Court justices Neil Gorsuch and Sonia Sotomayor issued a joint statement Wednesday disputing a recent NPR report as "false" after the liberal media organization claimed the conservative justice refused to wear a mask on the bench despite requests to do so. 

"Reporting that Justice Sotomayor asked Justice Gorsuch to wear a mask surprised us. It is false. While we may sometimes disagree about the law, we are warm colleagues and friends," Gorsuch and Sotomayor said in a joint statement to the media.

"I did not request Justice Gorsuch or any other Justice to wear a mask on the bench," Chief Justice John Roberts said in a separate statement...

NPR’s report, which was published on Tuesday morning, was addressed on that evening’s edition of "Special Report with Bret Baier," when Fox News chief legal correspondent and "FOX News @ Night" anchor Shannon Bream’s sources shot down the report before the justices called it false themselves.

How Much Longer Can Democrats Play The Race Card?

The Civil Rights Act of 1964 was passed before I was born.  The Voting Rights Act of 1965 was passed when I was a few months old.  Let's stop pretending that systemic racism against Black Americans exists today:

Civil rights attorney Leo Terrell ripped Democrats for continuing to promulgate claims that opponents to their election federalization legislation, the John Lewis Voting Rights Act, are rooted in racism, and that there is somehow a portion of the population that still lacks the right to vote.

In a Fox News interview on Monday, Terrell referenced the fact the right to vote for all American citizens has been enshrined in federal law for 50 years, despite apparent claims to the contrary.

On "Hannity", host Sean Hannity laid out how several top Democrats, including Sen. Raphael G. Warnock of Georgia – who is the pastor of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s former church in Atlanta – claimed some of his fellow Senators "no longer have to ask what we would have done then."

"We're doing whatever we would have done then right now. This is a moral moment. This is a 1965 moment," claimed Warnock, in reference to a landmark year in voting rights legislation.

Elie Mystal, an attorney and writer for "The Nation" magazine, further claimed on MSNBC that critics including moderate Democratic Sens. Joe Manchin III of West Virginia and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona are "the White people that Martin Luther King warned us about."

I assume this is a reference to the "silence of our friends", but I don't know for sure.  But let's continue:

Terrell ripped those assertions, telling host Sean Hannity that Democrats have "lied to people of color for 50 years" on various fronts including their claims of oppression by the American system:

"They are in a 1965 Time Warp," he said. 

"Let me just give you two areas where they lie: Schools and crime. Look at the democratic cities and they have played the race card for over 50 years… I want to be clear there is no systemic racism in this country."

Terrell said that, contrary to claims by folks like Warnock, systemic racism was eliminated with the passage of the Voting Rights Act and the latter editions of Civil Rights legislation in the 1960s, as well as the Fair Housing Act of 1968.

"But the Democrats will keep reinventing the race card," he said. "What it is now is critical race theory."

Parental Input Regarding What's Taught In Schools

Instapundit nailed it with this one, slamming an editorial in the Atlanta Journal Constitution:

All your kids are belong to us.

Monday, January 17, 2022

Dr. King Holiday

Four years ago.

It's hard to tell how tall the monument is, no?  Here's some perspective:

Sunday, January 16, 2022

In California, We're Still Playing Pandemic!

I haven't heard about this happening in my district yet, but I have to believe it's only a matter of time:

Sacramento City Unified is set to receive a shipment of close to 150,000 N95 respirator masks, which it will begin distributing to teachers and other staff, and expects to receive a shipment of different respirator masks for students next week...

“N95 masks offer the best face covering protection (against COVID-19) that can be provided, blocking 95% of particles when worn properly,” Victoria Flores, a district student support and health services director, said in a statement. “We will be educating our staff on proper fitting and handling of these N95 masks to assure they are used effectively as possible.”

The district said a separate shipment of KF94 masks for students in the district is “expected to arrive as soon as next week.” 

“KF94 masks differ from the N95 masks by using design elements of a cloth mask that contours toward the face with an adjustable band over the nose that filters 94% of particles,” the news release continued.

 The shipments come as the Sacramento region, like the rest of California and most of the nation, sees record-setting COVID-19 transmission due to the highly contagious omicron variant. The California Department of Public Health also recently recommended that people upgrade from cloth masks to surgical masks or respirators in order to provide the best protection.

C.S. Lewis had it right:

Of all tyrannies, a tyranny exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It may be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber baron’s cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated; but those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end for they do so with the approval of their own conscience.

Showing Their True Colors, All Right

The following comes from a Salt Lake City Tribune editorial:

(Governor) Cox and others have correctly said that the best tool for fighting the spread of the virus, individually and collectively, was to get two — then three — doses of the vaccine. That is absolutely the correct advice.

But Cox and so many others have not carried the courage of their convictions. Cox, state legislative leaders, our congressional delegation and Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes have so proudly stood against the kind of vaccine mandates that civilized society has used for generations to effectively wipe out everything from polio to diphtheria to the measles...

Were Utah a truly civilized place, the governor’s next move would be to find a way to mandate the kind of mass vaccination campaign we should have launched a year ago, going as far as to deploy the National Guard to ensure that people without proof of vaccination would not be allowed, well, anywhere.

There aren't enough National Guardsmen to keep all the unvaccinated in their homes. Maybe it would be easier if we concentrated them all in one place--I don't know, like in a camp or something.
Scratch a leftie, and a totalitarian bleeds.  Every. Single. Time.
Update, 1/18/22:  But wait, there's more

While many voters have become skeptical toward the federal government’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic, a majority of Democrats embrace restrictive policies, including punitive measures against those who haven’t gotten the COVID-19 vaccine.

A new Heartland Institute and Rasmussen Reports national telephone and online survey finds that 48% of voters favor President Joe Biden’s plan to impose a COVID-19 vaccine mandate on the employees of large companies and government agencies. That includes 33% who Strongly Favor the mandate. Forty-eight percent (48%) are opposed to Biden’s vaccine mandate, including 40% who Strongly Oppose the mandate. (To see survey question wording, click here)...

– Fifty-eight percent (58%) of voters would oppose a proposal for federal or state governments to fine Americans who choose not to get a COVID-19 vaccine. However, 55% of Democratic voters would support such a proposal, compared to just 19% of Republicans and 25% of unaffiliated voters.

– Fifty-nine percent (59%) of Democratic voters would favor a government policy requiring that citizens remain confined to their homes at all times, except for emergencies, if they refuse to get a COVID-19 vaccine. Such a proposal is opposed by 61% of all likely voters, including 79% of Republicans and 71% of unaffiliated voters.

– Nearly half (48%) of Democratic voters think federal and state governments should be able to fine or imprison individuals who publicly question the efficacy of the existing COVID-19 vaccines on social media, television, radio, or in online or digital publications. Only 27% of all voters – including just 14% of Republicans and 18% of unaffiliated voters – favor criminal punishment of vaccine critics.

– Forty-five percent (45%) of Democrats would favor governments requiring citizens to temporarily live in designated facilities or locations if they refuse to get a COVID-19 vaccine. Such a policy would be opposed by a strong majority (71%) of all voters, with 78% of Republicans and 64% of unaffiliated voters saying they would Strongly Oppose putting the unvaccinated in “designated facilities.”

– While about two-thirds (66%) of likely voters would be against governments using digital devices to track unvaccinated people to ensure that they are quarantined or socially distancing from others, 47% of Democrats favor a government tracking program for those who won’t get the COVID-19 vaccine.

How far are Democrats willing to go in punishing the unvaccinated? Twenty-nine percent (29%) of Democratic voters would support temporarily removing parents’ custody of their children if parents refuse to take the COVID-19 vaccine. That’s much more than twice the level of support in the rest of the electorate – seven percent (7%) of Republicans and 11% of unaffiliated voters – for such a policy.

 Every. Single. Time.

Saturday, January 15, 2022

The Left's Redefining of Words

A friend sent this from Twitter:

Don't ever forget that "diversity" has become enforced conformity and political quotas, "inclusion" means speech suppression, and 'equity" the unequal treatment of individuals because of their race.  Once you get this, wokeness ceases to be a riddle.

Thursday, January 13, 2022

A Clear Description of the American Left

Reading this comment on a post at New Neo, I couldn't help but copy/paste it here in toto.  It's a perfect description of the American Left today:

Evergreen … from C. S. Lewis:

Of all tyrannies, a tyranny exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It may be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber baron’s cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated; but those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end for they do so with the approval of their own conscience. They may be more likely to go to Heaven yet at the same time likelier to make a Hell of earth. Their very kindness stings with intolerable insult. To be ‘cured’ against one’s will and cured of states which we may not regard as disease is to be put on a level of those who have not yet reached the age of reason or those who never will; to be classed with infants, imbeciles, and domestic animals.

This is what we get when a faction is so full of their self-righteous selves that they think they alone are the possessors of the One True Way, and therefore see the world as Normal vs. the Evil Other …

… forgetting the wisdom of one Harry Callahan: a man’s got to know his limitations.

These days, fascism doesn’t come in jackboots and armbands … it comes in academic and judicial robes that drip with such condescending arrogance.

The Progressive Left have become the blind fundamentalists that they sneer at.

Wednesday, January 12, 2022

In The Parking Lot

I don't have a single student this semester that I actively dislike.  I don't have a single class that causes me anxiety in the minutes leading up to the time they come through the door.  I have smaller classes now than I've ever had teaching.  The bottom line is that I pretty much am living every teacher's dream right now.

So why, when I parked this morning, did I just sit in my truck and not want to go to my classroom?

I'm pretty sure it all goes back to what I wrote in this post.  And we have so many teachers who have tested positive for the 'rona and thus are out for a week or two--even though most show no symptoms--that district staff are showing up as substitutes.  Heck, our former principal has been a science teacher a couple times this week!  There aren't enough substitute teachers, even though in the last year or two our district has raised substitute pay from $100/day to $250/day.  And still, we don't have enough subs.  California has lowered requirements for emergency substitutes--and still, we don't have enough subs.

I heard my principal ask his secretary this afternoon what the trigger was regarding the number of classes without substitute teachers--I was down the hall, but I got the impression he was asking if she had heard the point at which we just can't keep the school open.  We're told there's a plan, but no one seems to know what it is (or they have been told not to share as much as its existence).

In order to do my best as a teacher, I need to ignore those outside issues as much as I can, as I have no control over them at all.  I need to focus my energy as well as my thoughts on my great classes and awesome individual students, whom I genuinely enjoy teaching.  I'm an good teacher, even more so in person than via distance teaching--I need to focus on continuing to be effective as long as I have students in class.  I need to get back to the philosophy I adopted a couple years ago:  The problem isn't usually the problem; the problem is how you react to the problem.  I don't need to worry about those other classes, I need to be the best teacher I can be for the students I have.

Doing that should allow me to open the door as soon as I park the truck, and not just sit there stressing over externalities I can't affect.

Update, 1/13/22:  This morning I parked, shut off the engine, and opened the door.  :-)

Tuesday, January 11, 2022

We'll See How It Turns Out!

What is it with pillows?  Why can I never find a pillow that I think is comfortable, even when a hotel puts 7 different types of pillows on my bed?  I don't know which one to choose!

I've been seeing My Pillow commercials for years, and for both political and practical reasons, I decided now was the time to order.  Even with a discount, the two pillows I ordered probably cost me more than all the other pillows I've ever ordered in my entire life combined (seriously!), but I can afford a one-time expense under $100.  And My Pillow even asked a couple questions (e.g., do I sleep on my back or side or stomach?), and based on my answers they recommended a specific type of pillow for me.

They were supposed to arrive last Tuesday, but last Tuesday Fedex switched my arrival date from January 4th to "we'll just have to let you know".  It was a few days after that when they finally set today as my date of receipt, and I rushed home after work today to find the small package on my porch.

The pillows were rolled and vacuum-sealed, and the instructions said to put them in the drier for 15 minutes before use.  I'm glad I followed those instructions, as they puffed up much larger than I anticipated!  

I'm looking forward to a wonderful night of sleep.  I'll give the pillows a few nights and then update you on what I think of them.

Update, 1/15/22:  So far I like them a lot!

Monday, January 10, 2022

Are Electric Vehicles A Sham?

Unless the electricity that charges the batteries comes from nuclear power, my answer is yes, if you're claiming to they're "green". They're fun novelties, and my teaching neighbor who has a Tesla--I love riding in it, it's fun.  It may, or may not, be cheaper than a vehicle with an internal combustion engine, I don't know.  But given how electricity is produced right now, it's just as likely that such vehicles are powered by unicorn farts as by "zero emissions" technology:

I’ve never been a big fan of electric vehicles. Oh, I know everybody says they are “the future” but studies now show the yearly cost of operating an EV versus a gas-powered cars is roughly the same. The people I know who drive EVs say they love them. A huge battery plant is opening in Chattanooga and the auto industry is tripped over itself in a quest to build the biggest and brightest but, nope, not me … I am a gasoline guy.

Earlier this week I received a compelling, make-sense story about battery power and normally I would not read such a thing. This time I am glad I did because it makes “going green” sound more like a sham. 

Read the story he received here.

Sunday, January 09, 2022

The Unasked Question

Both of my father's parents served in the military in Britain in World War 2.  Grandpa was an aircraft mechanic, nana served in a mixed-sex anti-aircraft artillery unit.  Each in their own way, they were fighting the Nazis.  I don't support Nazis--or any other kind of fascist or socialist, either.

So let's read an excerpt about Nazi symbols from the major Sacramento newspaper from December 23rd:

A rural Northern California high school is investigating student social media posts, a superintendent said this week, after photos showing teenagers with swastikas drawn on their bodies began circulating online over the weekend. 

Wheatland Union High School in Yuba County “is investigating multiple social media posts made by students of our school,” district superintendent Nicole Newman wrote in a statement posted to the school’s website and Facebook Monday morning...

But in an update posted Thursday, Newman described the incident as “a recent social media post depicting students with swastikas painted on their chests.” She also said she can “confirm that the students in the picture are Wheatland Union High School students.” 

“As a result of that confirmation, my team and I are in close communication with district legal counsel, as we take disciplinary action,” Newman continued in a letter sent Thursday to students, family and other stakeholders.

I have a long and consistent history on this blog of being against schools' trying to regulate or penalize student behavior off campus and away from student functions.  Schools have a hard enough job educating California's students--especially now, given the 'rona stupidity--to worry about what kids are doing on their own time.

Nowhere in the article is there any indication that the pictures were taken on campus (in fact, it says they were taken at a party) or that they caused a "disruption in the educational process" (a flimsy, catch-all excuse for school martinets) to merit this so-called investigation.  Did the reporter leave out some important fact that ties the student behavior to the school, or did the reporter not even think to ask about it?  The closest we come is this:

In response to an emailed inquiry from (the major Sacramento newspaper) asking if the incident is being investigated under the district’s policy on “hate-motivated behavior,” Newman responded, “Absolutely.”

Unless something serious is happening at school or at a school-related function, it's not the school's business.  This is overreach by people who are failing at their jobs.  How do I know they're failing?  Because here's Wheatland Union High School's academic "dashboard" linked from the California Dept of Education  web site:

That school and district should improve the academic performance of its high school students, and leave policing social media posts to the parents.

And the major Sacramento newspaper should improve its education reporting by hiring reporters who can ask intelligent questions.

Update, 1/10/22:  The article linked above is a couple weeks old, and today I thought I'd do a follow-up.  The major Sacramento newspaper has the follow-up behind a paywall, so I found another story at what is obviously not a completely disinterested site:

The head of Wheatland High School, north of Sacramento, has confirmed that the school has disciplined students who posted a picture of themselves covered with swastikas and SS symbols on social media.

In a video statement posted to Facebook on Dec. 30, Wheatland Union High School District Superintendent Nicole Newman said while she was “legally precluded from sharing details regarding their disciplinary action, I can share with you that we took immediate action.”

On what authority does a school district generalissimo administrator punish off-campus behavior?   Absent hearing from the honcho herself, I'll tell you why--so she can look tough, like she's doing something.  It doesn't matter if the behavior has anything to do with school (it doesn't), for her it's all about the feeeeelz.  She can feel like she's done something a good person would do.

At least the author of this article put a smidge more effort into writing this that the original article I quoted:

The incident has resurfaced questions about whether and how schools can punish students for out-of-school behavior. Last June, the Supreme Court ruled that a school in Pennsylvania that punished a cheerleader for a vulgar remark made on social media had violated her free speech rights. But the decision did not establish a ban on schools regulating what and how students can say outside school.

The Anti-Defamation League, whose regional director Seth Brysk tweeted about the Wheatland photo, responded following the Supreme Court ruling. “It is noteworthy that the Court also recognized that public schools may have a special interest in regulating some particular types of off-campus student speech,” the ADL said in a press release, “including ‘serious or severe bullying or harassment targeting particular individuals.’ This appropriately reflects the need to balance free speech protections against the ways in which social media can be used to inflict real harm on others.”

"Speech I don't like" isn't sufficient to allow a government entity--especially a lowly school district--to act.  Nobody in this situation was bullied or harassed.  That doesn't stop Superintendent Karen, though; no, that little authoritarian will do whatever she can get away with.

Here's the crux of the matter in my eyes:

“There is no denying that the choices made by the students in the picture were hurtful and deeply troubling,” she said at the time. “Their actions do not represent who we are as a school district and community.”

She doesn't even indicate how the behavior relates to the school.   She just didn't like it.  It was "hurtful".  What specific school rule did they break?  By what authority can she punish these teenagers, just because she has limited authority over them in a completely unrelated situation?  This is absurd, and I question why there aren't threats of a lawsuit from at least one of the parents due to overreach.

There's no doubt the teenagers did something distasteful.  So did young Brandi Levy, the foul-mouthed teenager who won her Supreme Court case last year.  In both cases, though, the school penalized the students when it was not the school's purview to do so.  In the Bong Hits 4 Jesus case, the Supreme Court correctly decided that student speech could be restricted as the student was at a school-sanctioned activity.  If something happens at school or a school-sanctioned activity, or if something materially affects events at school, then I'm ok with the school's getting involved.  Otherwise, the school administrators should curtail their petty impulses and focus on what they get paid to focus on.