Sunday, August 31, 2008

How Each Side Sees The Other

Here's a YouTube video of some liberals' mocking/satirical view about how conservatives think. When the URL was posted on an email list of which I am a member, the following was posted as a rebuttal:

*I'm voting Democrat because I believe the government will do a better job of spending the money I earn than I would.

*I'm voting Democrat because freedom of speech is fine as long as nobody is offended by it.

*I'm voting Democrat because when we pull out of Iraq, I trust that the bad guys will stop what they're doing because they now think we're good people.

*I'm voting Democrat because I believe that people who can't tell us if it will rain on Friday CAN tell us that the polar ice caps will melt away in ten years if I don't start driving a Prius.

*I'm voting Democrat because I'm not concerned about the slaughter of millions of babies so long as we keep all death row inmates alive.

*I'm voting Democrat because I believe that business should not be allowed to make profits for themselves. They need to break even and give the rest away to the government for redistribution as IT sees fit.

*I'm voting Democrat because I believe three or four pointy-headed elitist liberals need to rewrite the Constitution every few days to suit some fringe kooks who would NEVER get their agendas past the voters.

*I'm voting Democrat because I believe that when the terrorists don't have to hide from us over there, they'll come over here, and I don't want to have any guns in the house to shoot the terrorist invaders.

*I'm voting Democrat because I love the fact that I can now marry whatever I want. I've decided to marry my horse.

*I'm voting Democrat because I believe oil companies' profits of 4% on a gallon of gas are obscene but the government taxing the same gallon of gas at 15% isn't.

Hard to argue...

(Note: I received the author's permission to reproduce the above comments here.)

Old News, But Good News

From the Army Times:

The Defense Department has announced a new get-tough policy with colleges and universities that interfere with the work of military recruiters and Reserve Officer Training Corps programs.

Under rules that will take effect April 28, defense officials said they want the exact same access to student directories that is provided to all other prospective employers.

Students can opt out of having their information turned over to the military only if they opt out of having their information provided to all other recruiters, but schools cannot have policies that exclude only the military, defense officials said in a March 28 notice of the new policy in the Federal Register.

The Defense Department “will honor only those student ‘opt-outs’ from the disclosure of directory information that are even-handedly applied to all prospective employers seeking information for recruiting purposes,” the notice says...

The new policy is, in part, the result of a 2006 U.S. Supreme Court decision that upheld the federal government’s ability to use funding as a means of forcing equal access for military recruiters and ROTC units on campuses.

See, my leftie friends? It's all about equal access. You believe in equal access, don't you? You think the federal government should have whatever power it wants over citizens, don't you?

MythBusters On Science Education

The opinions expressed in this piece aren't well formed, but they're a nice starting point for discussion.

What Happens To NCLB In The Next Presidential Administration?

Of course, real changes will be made by the Congress; the President will either sign or veto those changes. But what have the candidates said about the future of the law?

From Barack Obama's web site:
Reform No Child Left Behind: Obama will reform NCLB, which starts by funding the law. Obama believes teachers should not be forced to spend the academic year preparing students to fill in bubbles on standardized tests. He will improve the assessments used to track student progress to measure readiness for college and the workplace and improve student learning in a timely, individualized manner. Obama will also improve NCLB's accountability system so that we are supporting schools that need improvement, rather than punishing them.

From John McCain's web site:
No Child Left Behind has focused our attention on the realities of how students perform against a common standard. John McCain believes that we can no longer accept low standards for some students and high standards for others. In this age of honest reporting, we finally see what is happening to students who were previously invisible. While that is progress all its own, it compels us to seek and find solutions to the dismal facts before us.

So is either one of them saying anything substantive here? If so, I'm not seeing it.

I looked these positions up months ago, back when the Hildebeast was still in contention, in consideration of writing a post comparing the educational platforms of the three major candidates. Never got around to writing that post, but decided to write this post after reading this EdWeek post:

At the Republican National Convention in St. Paul this week, President Bush was expected to anoint Sen. John McCain as his successor and the new leader of the party.

But it remains far from clear whether Sen. McCain—and other top Republicans—will continue to embrace the federal mandates on school accountability at the center of the No Child Left Behind Act....

I guess we'll have to wait and see.

THIS Just Dropped Off The Radar Screen, Didn't It?

Remember all the brouhaha about Michigan and Florida and whether or not their delegates at the Democratic National Convention were going to have any votes, because the states moved their primaries to a date before the national dems said they could? Remember how that was a big deal a few months ago?

And then it disappeared.

What happened? Well, here's what happened. And if you don't want to follow the link, look at the labels I've attached to this post and see if you can figure it out.

NOW Press Release

I guess there's a positive in this press release from the National Organization of Women. Apparently it's not enough to be a woman (Sarah Palin) to get their support; no, you have to hold the correct views.

Good job, NOW. You've finally learned that it isn't the plumbing that matters. Welcome to the latter half of the 20th Century. When you're ready to join the 21st Century, please let us know with another whiny press release.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

A Sad Day For Trekdom

Tomorrow, Star Trek The Experience closes down after a 10-year-long run at the Las Vegas Hilton. I enjoyed it every time I went.


Governor Schwarzenegger's Algebra Initiative

I just received a PDF file containing state Superintendent of Public Instruction Jack O'Connell's press release about implementing the governor's Algebra Initiative. I cannot find this press release on the Department of Education web site, but I assume it will be there shortly after the 3-day weekend.

We need more teachers, blah blah blah. The CSUs and UCs need to produce more math teachers, blah blah blah. We need to increase math instructional time, blah blah blah. Smaller class sizes, blah blah blah. Specialized classes for struggling students, blah blah blah. Extend AVID, STEM, and MESA programs, blah blah blah. Et cetera, et cetera, et cetera.

There's a dollar figure attached to each proposal. Total cost: $3.1 billion.

There's not a single thing new here. Same old ideas.

There's not one suggestion about studying successful programs in other states, both math programs and poor/minority achievement programs, and adapting them to California. We know there's more to this problem than just incompetent teachers and schools, and there's not one suggestion about addressing the family component of education. There's not one suggestion about looking at those countries which successfully teach algebra to 13 and 14-year-olds, and seeing how they accomplish it.

No, we just throw more money at the same old time-worn ideas and hope they'll work this time.

$3.1 billion. That's about $100 for every person in the state, in addition to already spending half of our state budget on education. In fact, this represents about 6% of our entire state education budget, for more of the same old, same old.

Sometimes it's scary having number sense.

Friday, August 29, 2008

The "Education Angle" of McCain's VP Choice

From Joanne Jacobs:

Sarah Palin, daughter of a science teacher and a school secretary, appears to be the only one of the four (VP and presidential candidates) educated at the local public schools.

How could the NEA be against her? :-)

Student's For McCain

If there's only one student, there's nothing wrong with this pen.

McCain's Vice Presidential Pick

I've said for years that the Republicans needed to get a woman vice presidential candidate, if for no other reason than to blunt the liberals' claim of the party as a "good old boys network". I'm glad we now have such a candidate.

How funny, though, that she's running in the same election as the first black (major party) candidate!

The cynical libs will claim that Palin was chosen only because she's a woman. Or are they smart enough not to suggest she's an "affirmative action" candidate?

Stay tuned!

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Community Service For All High School Students

Let Barack Obama say he wants middle and high school students to perform 50 hrs of community service a year, and he's a saint to the left.

Is it just me, or does anyone else think that if a white man wanted people to perform involuntary servitude...well, you get the idea.

Also, if 50 hrs a year of community service sounds good for high school students, how good does military conscription sound for 19-yr-olds?

An Interesting Boarding School, To Say The Least

This gives a new meaning to "down under".

Dallas McInerney, 35, condemned the Bathurst school — which only this week was allegedly encouraging its students to read Penthouse magazine — for retaining the Vincentian Fathers as governors while police investigated claims up to four staff were involved in abuse of students.


Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Obama's Nomination

Fifty-one years ago, President Eisenhower ordered the 101st Airborne Division into Little Rock to protect nine black students who wanted to attend Central High School. The majority didn't want them there, but ours is a system of laws, not a lawless rabble, and US Army soldiers marched into the city to enforce a court order. Such turbulent times. I wrote extensively about it here, in a post that links to this Army slideshow.

Barack Obama hadn't been born yet then, and now he's one election away from being President of the United States. I hope he doesn't win, but the significance of his nomination is not lost on me. It's a sign of how far we've come as a nation.

If I find any disappointment today, it's that so many people still cling to racial identity and politics that we still have to celebrate the first "black" person do something. Many view Obama's nomination as a victory for black people; I view it as progress for America.

To me, we are still that shining city on a hill, our best days are ahead, and we are still a beacon of goodness and of liberty in the world. We are not perfect--no person or country is--be we've come closer than any other nation in history, and we're getting better.

I love my country.

Entitlement Complex at School

Cheerleaders' uniforms show too much bod during the school day:
Parents of cheerleaders at an Ohio high school are frustrated with administrators for uniforms they say come up short in the classroom...

"The skirts that the cheerleaders wear are very short, and they're very tight and they're slit so they can do the gymnastics that are required of a cheerleader," (Superintendent) Lolli told

You can agree or disagree about a dress code, but if you're going to have one, I say it should be enforced.

Some people, though, seem to have an entitlement complex. These are the parents that teachers can't stand:

"My daughter is a senior, this is her last year," Daniel told the station. "We paid for uniforms and they should be able to wear them on game day."

Yes, because it's all about you and your daughter.

I have more to say, but this is a family blog.

The Political Bent of Teachers

You think our US schools are too politically charged? It's all a matter of perspective, I guess.

GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip — The ruling Hamas movement on Wednesday replaced hundreds of striking teachers with its own supporters, purging Gaza's education system of its political rivals and deepening its control of the coastal territory...

During the takeover, Hamas routed forces loyal to the rival Fatah movement. The local teachers' union, one of the last remaining Fatah strongholds in Gaza, called its strike this week to protest the transfers of dozens of educators to new schools. It said Hamas forced the transfers to give its supporters key posts in the education system.

Hamas denied this, but then installed hundreds of new teachers almost immediately after the strike began.

As a well-known blogger always says, "Let's give these people a country!"

Carnival of Education

This week's Carnival is here and includes my Troops To College post.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

I Despise The Stupidity of the TSA With Every Fiber of My Existence

A 4o-minute delay because of a woman's bra?

Nancy Kates, who wore a large underwire bra, told the San Francisco Chronicle the security check by a female TSA agent before JetBlue flight 472 at Oakland International Airport was too invasive.

"The woman touched my breast," Kates said, according to the report. "I said, 'You can't do that.' She said, 'We have to pat you down.' I said, 'You can't treat me as a criminal for wearing a bra'"...

Kates said the incident took 40 minutes, causing her to miss her flight. She arrived in Boston four hours late, the San Francisco Chronicle reported.

I feel much safer, don't you?

English Use Required At Catholic School

Clearly this is an opinion piece, but I agree with the author's comments:

Thank goodness U.S. District Judge J. Thomas Marten showed some common sense when he ruled last week that a Wichita, Kan., Catholic school policy requiring students to speak only English did not break any civil rights laws. Three Hispanic families had tried to end this practice at St. Anne's Catholic School on the grounds that Spanish-only students were harassed and ostracized by other students. I remember a time when Hispanic parents insisted that their children speak English...

Multilingualism has increased illiteracy and balkanized communities, but that hasn't stopped proponents from trying to make it mandatory. What part of "this doesn't work" don't they understand?

Can you really argue with the fact that English is the language of success and opportunity in this country? If you argue with this, how do you explain that English is the most common "foreign language" in the world?

Homosexual Hypocrisy

I have nothing to add to this LA Times piece, except that I could not agree more with the last 5 paragraphs. I like the whole thing, actually, but the ending is right on target.

The comments afterward are frightening in their anger and their justification for intolerance. As Instapundit, on whose site I first learned about this opinion piece, said, "Is it just me, or does it seem that the people who are the most demanding of tolerance tend to be those least likely to display it themselves?"

Local Teachers Protest At "Back To School Night"

I don't have any heartburn with this.

But Darren, you say, this is a union activity! I don't have a problem with union activities, I have a problem with being compelled to financially support a union. I believe that people should be allowed to form and join unions if they want to, and to act like blue collar workers if they want to. They'll reap what they sow, however, when they later turn around and want to be treated like professionals.

The comment I often hear/read when it comes to teachers and union activities is that teachers shouldn't do anything that might hurt students. In my district during "rough" negotiations a few years ago, for example, we were chastised for refusing to sponsor school clubs, which is an unpaid activity. That hurts students. Picketing in front of schools makes students "uneasy".

This is crap.

As much as I care about my students, I care about my own son even more. I'm not going to put myself out for your kid while my kid has to do without. That's the argument I would use against someone who says that teachers shouldn't protest or complain--and I say that as someone who doesn't support many union tactics and some teacher complaints.

But let's be honest. Teachers aren't "using kids" when we, for example, refuse to sponsor clubs. We're refusing to do extra work for free. It's unfortunate that kids are "caught in the crossfire", so to speak, but we're not setting out intentionally to hurt kids during such protests--any more than the district is intentionally hurting my kid by not giving me a raise this year. It just happens.


Not that I find delight in such things, but you have to wonder if there's some kind of karmic payback going on here:

A body found in an Iowa City park has been identified as a missing University of Iowa professor accused of offering higher grades to female students in exchange for sexual favors.


Monday, August 25, 2008

Go Out And Play

This piece in the LA Times struck home with me.

Reader, if you're much over 30, you probably remember what it used to be like for the typical American kid. Remember how there used to be this thing called "going out to play"?

For younger readers, I'll explain this archaic concept. It worked like this: The child or children in the house -- as long as they were over age 4 or so -- went to the door, opened it, and ... went outside. They braved the neighborhood pedophile just waiting to pounce, the rusty nails just waiting to be stepped on, the trees just waiting to be fallen out of, and they "played."

"Play," incidentally, is a mysterious activity children engage in when not compelled to spend every hour under adult supervision, taking soccer or piano lessons or practicing vocabulary words with computerized flashcards.

During the winter months my requirement was "be home before the street lights come on". Think about it--that required some responsibility on my part.

And rightly so. That's how we learn.

Rough Day For Education Unions!

As Chancellor (superintendent) of the DC Public Schools, Michelle Rhee has a difficult job. Type her last name into the search box at the top of the page to read what I've previously written about her and about my respect for her.

Then read this story:

So far, Rhee has streamlined Washington's central office by firing nearly 100 employees. She dismissed 36 principals she considered ineffective, including one at the elementary school her two daughters attend. She also sent termination letters this summer to 750 teachers and teacher's aides who missed a certification deadline...

By soliciting donations from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and other groups, Rhee wants to make Washington's teachers among the nation's best-paid with salaries that could reach $131,000.

However, teachers would have to give up seniority and spend a year on probation, exposing them to the possibility of being fired.

Weingarten, whose national organization includes the D.C. teachers' union, said there's nothing inherently wrong with pay-for-performance plans. But she doesn't believe they should be based on standardized test scores _ something Rhee has indicated she supports. Negotiations with the union are ongoing.

So while Chancellor Rhee is kicking butt and taking names, we have the president of the American Federation of Teachers admitting that there's "nothing inherently wrong with pay-for-performance plans".

If that isn't enough to put a smile on your face, Mickey Kaus at Slate (not a conservative publication by any stretch) points out that some prominent Democrats are badmouthing teachers unions! But wait, it gets better:

The party would "have to admit as Democrats we have been wrong on education." Loud applause!

Gotta love that. There may be hope after all.

Update, 8/26/08: It just gets better.

American Federation of Teachers’ President Randi Weingarten told me today she is “really pissed” about the anti-union bent of yesterday’s Education Equality Project event.

While the Democratic National Convention here in Denver is supposed to be about uniting the party, Weingarten said that yesterday’s “Ed Challenge for Change” forum, sponsored by the Democrats for Education Reform, and a press conference before promoting the Education Equality Project, was more about creating division than showing leadership on school reform.

Nothing like admitting your union is an arm of the Democrat.

By the way, Randi: as my grandmother used to say, "It's better to be pissed off than pissed on." She really used to say that!

Union Shafts College Students

I have a hard time feeling sorry for union stooges, but perhaps these college students have learned a lesson from their experience about how unions truly operate. If you think it's about the workers, you're wrong. It's all about money, and the power money brings.

SEIU, the nation’s fastest growing union, has about 1.7 million members, many of whom work in cafeterias and dining halls on college campuses. On some of these campuses, students have organized rallies and even hunger strikes in support of workers’ rights.

The letter alleges that SEIU officials encouraged students at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill to help organize food services workers, while at the same time entering into a deal with the workers’ employer that would insure there would never be a union at North Carolina.

Live and learn.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

A Presidential Candidate I Can Support

And you should, too!

NEA Members: Is This Where You Want Your Dues Money To Be Spent?

I wouldn't want my money spent this way, which is why I'm not an NEA member. Of course, they still spend part of my extorted dues money/agency fee on this crap anyway.

DENVER, Aug 23, 2008 /PRNewswire-USNewswire via COMTEX/ -- The National Education Association will play a key role in getting Sen. Barack Obama elected the next president of the United States. NEA's $50 million election campaign strategy....

So-called Diversity at Berkeley

I didn't say it. A recent UC Berkeley graduate did.

I cannot reflect upon my four years at UC Berkeley without mentioning the word "Diversity." When one's college experience is oversaturated by incessant lessons in racial and ethnic awareness, the word becomes unavoidable in any mention of Berkeley. Berkeley's particular concept of diversity seemed to avoid the basic goal of fostering cultural tolerance and understanding. Instead, it appeared to encourage a divisive culture of victimhood and entitlement.

As Chief Justice Roberts wrote for the court in the Louisville and Seattle "desegregation" cases, Parents Involved v. Seattle School District (05-908) & Meredith v. Jefferson County Board of Education (05-915), "The way to stop discrimination on the basis of race is to stop discriminating on the basis of race." Berkeley, you might stop encouraging racial divisions, too.

Universal Preschool

I'm on record as being completely against mandatory/universal preschool. It's nice to have some more facts to back up my position.

But is strapping a backpack on all 4-year-olds and sending them to preschool good for them? Not according to available evidence....

Why don't preschool gains stick? Possibly because the K-12 system is too dysfunctional to maintain them. More likely, because early education in general is not so crucial to the long-term intellectual growth of children. Finland offers strong evidence for this view. Its kids consistently outperform their global peers in reading, math and science on international assessments even though they don't begin formal education until they are 7. Subsidized preschool is available for parents who opt for it, but only when their kids turn 6.

If anything, preschool may do lasting damage to many children. A 2005 analysis by researchers at Stanford University and the University of California, Berkeley, found that kindergartners with 15 or more hours of preschool every week were less motivated and more aggressive in class. Likewise, Canada's C.D. Howe Institute found a higher incidence of anxiety, hyperactivity and poor social skills among kids in Quebec after universal preschool.

The only preschool programs that seem to do more good than harm are very intense interventions targeted toward severely disadvantaged kids.

I have no problem targeting "severely disadvantaged kids". That wouldn't be "universal", and neither would it be "mandatory".

Kids with loving and attentive parents -- the vast majority -- might well be better off spending more time at home than away in their formative years. The last thing that public policy should do is spend vast new sums of taxpayer dollars to incentivize a premature separation between toddlers and parents.

Hear hear.

College Students and Off-Campus Behavior

I've stated many times on this blog that (public) universities and colleges should butt out of students' off-campus lives. If their conduct doesn't directly affect the school, then it is none of the school's business. While I've found at least one opinion piece that agrees with me, plenty of institutions of higher education seem not to.

I'm not sure which I enjoyed more, the column linked above or the 2nd comment at that column (added by one Occams Beard).

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Schools--Social Service Centers?

This piece was a little more gentle than I'd be on the topic, but I agreed with so much of what was in there:

The issue is, are schools the best institutions for providing these (social) services? Even if schools could provide them, it still makes no sense to provide them through schools if other institutions could provide the same services better. Like, say, institutions whose core mission is to provide those services.

Even if we stipulate everything the unions might ask us to stipulate — that these services are needed, and that they can be provided effectively by a big new spending program, and that schools can provide them effectively — the idea that a bunch of non-educational services should be handed over to schools makes no sense. Unless, of course, the real goal is to build up the government school bureaucracy and its attendant gravy train — such as the unions who are making this proposal.

The really funny thing is, we’ve tried bringing social services into schools before. Fifty years ago, schools didn’t serve breakfast and provide teams of guidance counselors. Providing these and other social services in schools was originally justified on grounds that the kids needed these services to do well in school. How has that worked out?

I'll agree that our society has certainly changed, and that makes life extra hard on us educators. But that doesn't free us from the responsibility of teaching.

Friday, August 22, 2008

The Stupidity of a Lawmaker

Nebraska has recently passed a law that allows parents to drop off "unwanted" children at local "safe havens", such as hospitals. Many states have such laws for newborns, but Nebraska's law includes all minors--up to age 19.

"All children deserve our protection," said Sen. Tom White, who helped broaden the measure. "If we save one child from being abused, it's well, well worth it."

I'm not for children's being abused, of course, but the lack of logic in that statement is astounding. I'm not for children's dying, either--but couldn't we agree that forbidding driving in the state of Nebraska would save at least one child's life? Should we ban driving? (And it would have the added benefit of cutting down on greenhouse emissions!)

Where Does Obama Stand On Education Reform?

Probably everywhere, depending on which audience he's addressing at the time.

A bitter rift inside the Democratic Party over testing, teachers, and No Child Left Behind will be exposed this weekend as the party's convention kicks off in Denver, putting to a test Senator Obama's promise to bridge differences and bring diverse coalitions together.

Although everyone says the goal is to improve schools, one group of activists favors keeping No Child Left Behind mostly intact and pressing even more aggressive measures, such as firing teachers whose students do not score well on tests. Another group argues for overhauling the law, is less supportive of testing, and says failing schools need support, not punishments...

The mystery to some is where Mr. Obama stands in the fight.

I guess Iraq isn't the issue the Dems thought it would be, so they may as well squabble about education.

Ten Worst Union-Protected Teachers

The Center for Union Facts has chosen the winners of its "10 Worst Union-Protected Teachers" competition.

The contest allowed anyone 13 and older to nominate the worst union-protected teachers in America through CUF's website After receiving over 600 nominations, CUF has identified the ten worst and offered each of them $10,000 to quit the profession forever. The purpose of the contest was to illustrate that unions have made it so difficult and costly to get rid of bad teachers that it can be easier to pay them to quit.

"Unsurprisingly, none of the 'winners' chose to take the prize money," said CUF Executive Director Richard Berman. "When your job security is virtually guaranteed -- due to outrageous union tenure rules--regardless of your performance, why would you quit for $10,000?"

Had one of the chosen "ten worst" opted to take cash and quit teaching, he or she would also have had to allow his or her name to be made public. In the absence of any "winners" agreeing to take the money, the CUF will not be publicizing their names.

When Michelle Rhee spoke to us at the Concerned Educators Against Forced Unionism conference this summer, she talked about an employee who cost the district in excess of $150,000 because of a mistake. She couldn't get rid of this employee immediately, but did change the employee's responsibilities--figuring the district would be better off paying just a salary rather than a salary plus costs of mistakes. And yes, she started monitoring this employee's performance for possible removal some day....

Thursday, August 21, 2008

College Costs

Everyone has heard how tuition over the last couple decades has risen significantly faster than inflation. The same is true of textbook prices.

The rising cost of college textbooks has driven Congress and nearly three dozen states -- including Maryland and Virginia -- to attempt to curtail prices and controversial publishing practices through legislation. But as the fall semester begins, students are unlikely to see much relief...

Pavel Zemliansky, associate professor of writing and rhetoric at James Madison University, put a textbook he wrote online after a fallout with potential publishers. He said most of the curriculum in his introductory classes, such as grammar and citation, is available free on the Internet.

"It's not clear to me anymore whether university bookstores and educational publishers exist to support education or whether students exist to support those businesses," he said. "It just seems there is a lot of very aggressive marketing going on."

Is this a problem that a Kindle could solve? There wouldn't be a need for actual printers anymore--just publish the book digitally and see downloads. It's worked for iTunes and music!

And once you've paid for tuition, housing, and textbooks, what about everything else?

You thought you were finished with the college bills when you figured out how to pay the tuition. But you hadn't reckoned on buying the microwave, the mini-refrigerator and, of course, those extra-long sheets.

Once your kids head off to school, you may face other financial emergencies. What if they get sick, lose the laptop or overdraw their checking account? Here's how to handle those situations with a minimum of pain to your pocketbook, and your child's.

A parent's work is never done, and his wallet is never closed.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Libertarian Quotes

While I agree with all of them, #5 is my favorite:

5) It is not the business of government to make men virtuous or religious, or to preserve the fool from the consequences of his own folly. Government should be repressive no further than is necessary to secure liberty by protecting the equal rights of each from aggression on the part of others, and the moment governmental prohibitions extend beyond this line they are in danger of defeating the very ends they are intended to serve. – Henry George

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Troops To College

Last week I had the privilege of traveling to Sacramento State University to interview two men about the university's Troops To College Program. When I first wrote about Troops To College, I had only the vaguest idea of what the program entailed. Having now met and spoken with the people responsible for running and growing the program, allow me to share with you what I have learned.

Jeff Weston is the Veterans Affairs Coordinator, running the program. Jody Policar is the university's Director of Development, and supports Jeff and the program by promoting and seeking funding for the program. They are both very proud of Sac State and its position as a leader among the CSU's in promoting the Troops To College program.

Sacramento State currently has close to 28,000 students, over 1,000 of whom are identified as veterans or children of qualified veterans. Clearly that latter number can and will grow, and Jeff is on hand to smooth the way for veterans who wish to attend college.

California has a three-tiered higher education system: our community colleges, the California State University system, and the University of California System. While the Troops to College program exists at all levels, the CSU system has taken the lead in promoting and developing the program. In fact, the CSU system is such an avid supporter of Troops to College that it produced not only its own CSU brochure (front page shown below) for the program, but also paid to produce the overall program brochure (second below).
click to enlarge
the front of CSU's Troops to College brochure

The front of California's overall Troops to College brochure

So what does this program do? It supports California's veterans (and dependents of qualified disabled veterans) in transitioning from the military to a university environment. It would be a long laundry list if I listed every little thing they do; a list of Sac State's Troops to College Committee members will give an idea of the type of support our California veterans receive. The Committee consists of a representative, or representatives, from the following on-campus organizations:
  • Financial aid
  • Outreach (recruiting)
  • Admissions
  • Services to Students with Disabilities (Academic Affairs)
  • Psychological Services (Student Services)
  • Career Center (e.g., resume building)
  • Academic Advising
Most of the veterans who attend Sac State work part or full time, and this added support at the university level goes a long way to getting them started and helping them succeed. The average veteran at Sac State maintains a 3.18 GPA, certainly a credit to themselves and to the program that assists them.

Here is just one example of how the program supports veterans: school starts in early September, but students won't receive their first GI Bill check until October. Sadly, money is so tight for some that they wait until that check arrives to buy books. Sac State's T2C program has enough financial support to offer scholarships and/or grants of $500 a semester so that the student veterans can afford their books and supplies on time. The program also supports student-led groups for socializing, cameraderie, and an empathetic ear.

I stated previously that the CSU system leads California's higher education program in supporting the T2C (can I use that abbreviation?) program, and that Sac State (OK, and San Diego State) lead the CSU program. A T2C program exists at each of the 23 CSU campuses, and these campuses continue to work more closely together to create a cohesive, uniform program throughout the system. T2C coordinators have monthly conference calls and meet in person twice a year. Each campus has a veterans' web site, and most have already started student veteran groups.

Sacramento State has a reputation, not entirely unearned, of not being friendly towards veterans and the military in general. From what Jeff and Jody explained, though, this reputation belongs in the past. According to them, the university community from the President down to the faculty is exceedingly supportive of the program. As an example, Jeff has had no trouble at all in working with academic departments to seek additional support for individual students who might be close to going on academic probation. He was adamant that all departments and schools on campus support the program and the veterans themselves, and is proud to be part of a university that has such a welcoming climate towards the T2C program and its veterans.

While Jeff is running the program on a day-to-day basis, Jody works to keep it afloat financially. It was he who wrote the article in Sac State Magazine that alerted me to this program, and it is he who seeks donors to help fund it. So far SAFE Credit Union and the University Foundation are the two biggest donors, and I'm proud to say that I've made a humble donation to assist my fellow veterans. If you'd like to make a donation, instructions on how to do so can be found here.

Our veterans are fairly savvy people, gravitating to the money! The largest number of them are majoring in business, followed by criminal justice and nursing. The nursing program is "impacted"--there aren't near as many slots as there are applicants--and veterans automatically get a preference in acceptance into the nursing program. I was disappointed to learn that there are only 5 teachers-to-be in Sac State's T2C program.

So what successes can this program trumpet? First, it's a model for T2C programs at other CSU and even UC campuses. The formal program has been supplemented by a student-led student group/club. And the numbers tell their own story--there has been a 20% increase in T2C enrollment in just the last year. Coming soon is the "Summer Bridge Program", allowing veteran students a "head start in their transition to college. Here, they would begin to learn how to navigate the campus and various services available at the University, meet other veteran students, connect with a mentor, and register for classes", according to a T2C Program flier.

The last person drafted into the US military received that "honor" 35 years ago; there can only be a handful left on active duty. Accordingly, the vast majority of our young veterans today were volunteers, and many joined in the aftermath of the September 11th terrorist attacks. As a group they have served our country admirably, freed two other countries from the grip of tyranny, and demonstrated that they, too, have laid claim to the title "the greatest generation". Their sacrifices in the name of freedom and liberty have earned them this small token of gratitude from the State of California, this Troops to College Program.

I can attest that at Sacramento State, the T2C program--but most important, the veterans in that program--are in good hands.

And according to this article from the major Sacramento newspaper, veterans are in good hands at a nearby community college as well.

Monday, August 18, 2008

I Didn't See This One Coming

College presidents from about 100 of the nation's best-known universities, including Duke, Dartmouth and Ohio State, are calling on lawmakers to consider lowering the drinking age from 21 to 18, saying current laws actually encourage dangerous binge drinking on campus.

When I got to West Point, I think any cadet could drink--I certainly don't remember being carded. Remember, military facilities are not bound by state law, and the DoD could make whatever drinking policy it wanted. My junior year, though, the local policy changed--you had to be 21 and a senior to drink.

Stupid change.

Video Gamers Make Better Surgeons?

This article says so.

Drinking and Dancing

Apparently we have a new rule at school this year: get caught with (or under the influence of) drugs or alcohol at a dance, and you do not attend dances for one calendar year.

This rule from Connecticut, while including a breathalyzer, doesn't seem to have the punishment mechanism that my school's rule does.

Where Your NEA Dues Are Going

Does Senator Obama send his kids to public school? I'm just asking. According to Bloomberg, via EIA:

Seven unions, including the American Federation of Teachers and the National Education Association, have stepped in to help pay for the Democratic National Convention in Denver after the host committee announced in June it was $10 million short of its fundraising goals.

I think that sentence speaks for itself, don't you?

More On The California Homeschooling Case

The CTA comes out smelling like a rose here. Not.

In a case that provoked outrage across the country, lawyers for the Los Angeles Department of Children and Family Services earlier this year invoked the state's truancy laws to place two homeschooled children into public schools after reports of abuse by their father. The California Teachers Association then accepted the court's invitation to take part in the case, arguing that "parents do not have an unfettered right to dictate the terms of their children's education." The court agreed, at least at first, broadening a case about the well-being of two children into an overreaching statement about the adequacy of homeschool environments across the state.

Fortunately, the right to homeschool has been reaffirmed. I've written about this previously.

College Suicide News

This is news?

A comprehensive study of suicidal thinking among college students found more than half of the 26,000 surveyed had suicidal thoughts at some point during their lifetime.

To this I can only say "duh", and marvel that the percentage isn't significantly higher. Seriously, only half of people averaging 20 years old had ever thought of suicide? Really?

So much for how bad life is here in the United States.

But the article goes on to say:

"Suicidal crises are a common occurrence on college campuses," says Chris Brownson, director of the University of Texas Counseling and Mental Health Center in Austin and one of the study's researchers.

If all these suicidal thoughts are happening at college, that would be something to consider. Barring that, though, I don't see how those two quotes above can be reconciled.

California Supreme Court Rules Doctors Cannot Refuse To Treat Gays On Religious Grounds

Quoting the major Sacramento newspaper:

California's highest court on Monday barred doctors from invoking their religious beliefs as a reason to deny treatment to gays and lesbians, ruling that state law prohibiting sexual orientation discrimination extends to the medical profession...

Justice Joyce Kennard wrote in the ruling that two Christian fertility doctors who refused to artificially inseminate a lesbian have neither a free speech right nor a religious exemption from the state's law, which "imposes on business establishments certain antidiscrimination obligations."

Must doctors also perform abortions now? Or does this ruling merely mean that if you perform abortions for some, you must perform them for all--making this ruling merely an anti-discrimination case?

Some Christian pharmacists did not want to stock certain abortion drugs (RU486?). I don't know how that situation was resolved, but are pharmacists required to sell specific drugs? Are car dealers required to sell specific cars?

Association of American Law Schools Caves In To Lefties

The owner of a hotel donates money to promote a politically conservative ballot proposition, and the AALS boycotts his hotel.

If conservatives did this, liberals would scream about diversity and the 1st Amendment--or perhaps McCarthyism.

An Omen?

This morning I woke up and began to get ready for the arrival of our students today. Two hours before school began I walked into my living room--where I found my dog had not only committed the cardinal sin of crossing from the wooden floor onto the carpet, but he'd left me a rather large present, only the second time in three years he's done this.

Is it an omen? If so, what does it foretell?

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Patriotism Is Good Enough For Kobe Bryant

I don't follow basketball at all, but everything I've heard about Kobe Bryant tells me that he's not your stereotypical elitist rich guy or a thug, that he's one of the good guys in the sport. This post, and its included link to this video, in which Bryant explains to commentator Chris Collinsworth why patriotism is cool, seems to back up what I've heard.

I don't see the negativity in Collinsworth's question that is put forth in the first link above, but Bryant's words stand on their own.

I've discussed patriotism in several posts, most notably here and here.

Friday, August 15, 2008

More English Nanny State

I don't think the government, any government, is going to do any better at raising children than parents do.

DANGEROUSLY fat kids could be taken from their parents and put into care, council chiefs declared yesterday.

They warned that the worst cases of obesity will be increasingly seen as evidence of "parental neglect."

{sarcasm on} I'm sure the English government will do a bang-up job raising children. {sarcasm off, snark on} Maybe it could start by offering them dental care. {snark off}

Drinking Liquid Nitrogen at Princeton?

I'm not sure what I can add to this. I'll just let it speak for itself.

A gifted 15-year-old student from India had to be rushed to the hospital after drinking liquid nitrogen during a science class at Princeton University.

The class was part of a program run by the Connecticut-based Summer Institute for the Gifted. It isn't affiliated with the university.

Parents of Dead Gay Boy Blame School

Talk about a lose-lose situation for the school:

The family of a gay teenager who was fatally shot in class blames the school district for allowing their son to wear makeup and feminine clothing to school — factors the family claims led to the death.

The parents and brother of 15-year-old Larry King of Oxnard filed a personal injury claim against the Hueneme school district seeking unspecified damages for not enforcing the dress code, The Ventura County Star reported...

King was a ward of the court and living at a shelter for abused, neglected and emotionally troubled children at the time of the shooting.

If they didn't let him "express his individuality", they'd be accused of being homophobic. I have no doubt there were well-meaning people at that school who "wanted to help" that boy and who lobbied to let him dress as he did.

What are the parents of the shooter thinking, not only of their son but also of themselves?

How guilty must the parents of the dead boy feel, considering where he was living at the time of his death?

I can find nothing good in this story. Nothing but screaming, wretching sadness.

How is it that some people can think homosexuality is worth killing over?

I've said it before and I'll say it again: tolerance. Not necessarily acceptance, but tolerance. Live and let live. Why is that such a difficult proposition for some?

Update: I called it perfectly, at least according to the parents' suit. Via a link at Joanne's site:

Assistant Principal Joy Epstein, the only person named in the complaint, is accused of encouraging the boy to wear "women's clothing, shoes and makeup." She created an environment of "perceived safety" for King when "in fact she could not and did not protect Larry from the threats and ultimate death," the claim says.

The school should have enforced the dress code on everyone, although I wonder if it forbade boys from wearing makeup.

Gay Cruise From Beijing Olympics To San Francisco???

Some headlines just need to be rewritten:

Look both ways! Bolt, Powell, Gay cruise to 100 SF

The way I read it, it sounds like Bolt and Powell will be very happy together :-)

In case the link eventually dies, it's a story about three sprinters who "cruise" to the 100 meter dash semifinals.

Update, 8/16/08: I see the headline's been changed. Here's a screen shot from just to show that I didn't make this up!

The Last Day of School Before The First Day of School

Today was our "teacher work day" wherein we, finally being free of two days of so-called staff development and department meetings, were given time to get our classrooms prepared for the onslaught of students coming this Monday.

I got some new(er) student work up on the walls, got my seating charts created (even though I know I'll be adding and dropping kids like crazy the first couple weeks), and have begun planning with other teachers so that we're all kinda sorta on the same sheet of music in each subject area.

There have been some changes around campus. In addition to new faces and new classroom assignments, there are other changes. We replaced one big, powerful copier with two powerful copiers, and we can send things to copy directly from our computers! Some of our small courtyards have had most of the grass replaced with concrete, which is fine because everyone just walked across the grass anyway; also, I hated it on Thursdays when the groundskeeper would drive the mower into our little courtyard, right in the middle of classes, just to mow a couple hundred square feet of grass.

We have a new PE class, Adventure Sports. I've heard it will include orienteering, kayaking, archery, and several other sports. Sounds quite interesting to me. Too bad it doesn't take place during my prep period!

I taught three trig classes last year but have only one this year. While that might seem like I ticked someone off, I actually come out OK on the schedule this year. In addition to my one trig class I have three Algebra 2 classes, making four upper-level classes in all. I have one lower level class, and it's in the morning.

I don't have any teacher's aides yet, but I'm sure that'll happen eventually. I've found that two really good ones are all that I'll need. But they've got to be really good.

We had some fun today. I organized a "theme" for our teacher yearbook pictures--hats. Almost everyone wore a hat in his/her picture. We also had a whole-staff picture, the organization of which was comical due to the cat-herding aspects of making it happen. And our PTSA hosted a fantastic lunch for us. (No, I didn't bring home a doggie bag--but I should have.) Our PTSA does very generous things like that for us; it's one of the nice things about working where I do.

I left shortly after quitting time today. I'm about as ready as I can get.

Bring 'em on.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Military (Academy) Coup

I'm very proud to report the following from Forbes Magazine:

The best school in the nation? Princeton University, followed closely by the California Institute of Technology, Harvard, Swarthmore and Williams. The U.S. Military Academy at West Point came in sixth on our rankings, spearheading a generally strong showing by all the service academies.

A "generally strong" showing by the service academies? They were three of the top four public universities! Additionally, the Virginia Military Institute was #9, the Coast Guard Academy was #17, and the Citadel was #18.

We Americans should be proud of our service academies and of the graduates they produce, who even today stand on the front lines of freedom.

Voting For McCain

I had previously vowed not to vote for McCain because I don't like or trust the man. I guess I'm a flip-flopper. Or perhaps the "facts on the ground" have changed, which seems to be the latest acceptable reason to flip-flop.

No, I still don't like or trust McCain. I honestly don't think he's strong on the First Amendment. But, sometimes in the playoffs, you have to root for your rival because if they win, your team actually advances. So it is in this election. I guess I'm rooting for both the Broncos and the Cowboys here. I'll probably cast a ballot for McCain.

This column says it all regarding my change of heart:

In other words, Republicans indicated that they are almost all ready to vote for McCain – but only while holding their noses...

But the fact that they’re still lining up with him despite this lack of enthusiasm indicates just how powerful their almost-primal fear of Obama has become. In practical terms, it suggests that McCain can take more steps aimed at winning over moderate and independent voters without blowing up his base of support on the right. At the end of the day, he’s not Obama – and, at the end of the day, that’s probably enough for the right...

I'll probably vote for the man, and then come home and take a shower because I'll feel dirty. I've never voted against anyone before; I've always voted for my candidate. But since I cannot vote for McCain in this election, I'll have to cast my vote against Obama. How sad to be in that position of having to choose the lesser of two evils.

Socialist Teacher

Some of you readers must think I'm kidding, or out on the fringe, when I tell you about how some teachers and their unions support socialism.

I was talking to a teacher yesterday and I mentioned "my money." His reply was, "It's not your money, it's ours. You didn't make it on your own, we all had a part. Society made it possible for you to earn that, so it belongs to everyone."

He wouldn't empty his pockets and give me our money, though. But he really believes what he said.


How does someone, especially someone who grew up in the United States, come upon such a belief structure?

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Are Teachers Unions Un-American?

The NEA and CTA certainly are, and Larry Sand, President of the California Teachers Empowerment Network, calls them out on it in this FrontPageMag piece.

Carnival of Education

Joanne Jacobs, one of two bloggers whose work inspired me to start edublogging, is hosting this week's Carnival of Education (bless her heart). It includes my post about anti-military activists who want access to schools to fight against JROTC and to turn students against the military.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Newsweek On Teach For America

It's a short article that's light on analysis, but go take a read anyway.

Math Errors Abound

One of the entertaining pamphlets given to me at the Cancun airport was the brochure for all the goodies I could buy at the duty-free shops there. But as I was trying to savor the thoughts of all the tequila, Grey Goose, Lucky Strike, Ray Bans, and perfumes I could buy--duty free!--a horrible thought struck me: math incompetence isn't solely the domain of Americans.

Every page, it was the same.

Nancy Pelosi Wants To Save The Planet?

Nancy Pelosi says that she is trying to save the planet and prevent global warming, but the reality is that, according to disclosure statements, in May 2007 she invested in T. Boone Picken’s clean energy fuels corp., CLNE, which is the sole sponsor of a proposal in California to funnel $5 billion in state funds and $5 billion in Federal funds to this corporation which will indirectly help them create a giant wind farm in the Texas panhandle.

Conflict of interest, anyone?

Thought For The Day, About Money and Evil

In addition to Vuelo Magazine, in the seat pocket of every seat on the plane, Mexicana Airlines also had newspapers available, in both English and Spanish, for passengers to pick up as we boarded the aircraft. The English paper is called, simply, The News (

Not a bad little paper, and I thought this quote from an opinion piece in the August 9th issue from Mexico City to be especially good:

People often misquote the Bible saying, "Money is the root of all evil." But the biblical verse actually states, "The love of money is the root of all evil." Money is not evil. Material goods are not evil. Marketing is not evil. The evil is when we replace a love of people with a love of things. The evil is when we base our self-worth on the worth of what we own. The evil is when we judge ourselves based on what we wear on our heads rather than what we have in our heads and in our hearts.

Ultimately, our goodness is in us, not in our goods.

Your thought for the day.

Another Leftie Conspiracy Theory Down The Tubes

Not that this will deter them at all, but it is entertaining:

A U.S. appeals court on Tuesday dismissed former CIA analyst Valerie Plame's lawsuit against Vice President Dick Cheney and several former Bush administration officials for disclosing her identity to the public...

Plame and Wilson sought money damages from Cheney, Libby, former White House aide Karl Rove and former State Department official Richard Armitage for violating their constitutional free speech, due process and privacy rights.

But a three-judge panel of the appeals court upheld a federal judge's ruling that dismissed the couple's lawsuit.

Plame and Wilson are losers, kept afloat only by fawning anti-Americans who suffer from BDS.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Nuking Japan

I had committed to myself to ignore the anti-American hatefest that comes with the anniversaries of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, but found a column so full of wisdom that I have to quote from it here.

The stories of survivors are harrowing — flames everywhere, people walking by whose flesh had been ripped off their bodies by heat and the blast, the inability to find loved ones. All the ghastliness of Dante’s Hell and a Gothic horror novel rolled into one. We pity them and ache for what they went through that horrible day.

But once –just once– I would like to hear the horror stories of the men and women of Pearl Harbor as counterpoint to the suffering of the Japanese and a reminder of who started the war and how they did it. I want to hear from those who can tell equally horrific tales of death and destruction. How Japanese aircraft strafed our men with machine gun fire while they were swimming for their lives through flaming oil spills, the result of a surprise attack against a nation with whom they were at peace. Or how the hundreds of men trapped in the USS Arizona slowly suffocated over 10 days as divers frantically tried to cut through the superstructure and rescue their comrades.

Perhaps we might even ask surviving POWs to bear witness to their ordeal in Japanese prison camps — surely as brutal, inhuman, and gruesome an atrocity as has ever been inflicted on enemy soldiers.

While we’re at it, I am sure there are thousands of witnesses who would want to testify about how the Japanese army raped its way across Asia. This little discussed aspect of the war is a non-event for the most part in Japanese histories. But the millions of women who suffered unspeakable mistreatment by the Japanese army deserve a hearing whenever the tragedy of Hiroshima is remembered.

Yes, no more Hiroshimas. But to take the atomic bombing of Japan totally out of context and use it to highlight one nation or one city’s suffering is morally offensive. The war with Japan, with its racial overtones on both sides as well as the undeniable cruelty and barbarity by the Japanese military, should have been ended the second it was possible to do so. Anything less makes the moral arguments surrounding the use of the atomic bomb an exercise in sophistry.

A previous post on Hiroshima can be found here.

Update, 8/12/08: The Japanese National Archives has just released some of Tojo's diaries:

Japanese World War II leader Hideki Tojo wanted to keep fighting even after U.S. atomic bombs destroyed Hiroshima and Nagasaki, accusing surrender proponents of being "frightened," a newly released diary reveals...

The stridency of the writings is remarkable considering they were penned just days after the U.S. atomic bombs incinerated Hiroshima and Nagasaki, killing some 200,000 people and posing the threat of the complete destruction of Japan. At the time, Japan had begun arming children, women and the elderly with bamboo spears, in addition to the aircraft and other forces it had marshaled, to defend the homeland against a ground invasion...

The diary shows Tojo remained convinced of the justice and necessity of Japan's brutal march through Asia and its disastrous decision to draw the United States into the war by bombing Pearl Harbor.

How anyone can argue against dropping the bombs, and do so with a straight face, is beyond me.

Update #2, 8/6/16:  Here's a better link to the Tojo's diary article.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Appeals Court Rules Homeschooling Legal In California

As of now, as I type this, I can find no story about this on,, or at the web site of the major Sacramento newspaper. The SF Chronicle, though, has the story, and here's the link to the ruling.

A state appeals court lifted the cloud it had cast on the homeschooling of 166,000 California children and ruled Friday that parents have a right to educate their children at home even if they lack a teaching credential.

After an outpouring of protest from homeschooling advocates and politicians, including Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, the Second District Court of Appeal in Los Angeles reversed its Feb. 28 ruling that could have reclassified most homeschooled children as truants.

I first wrote about this here, and more recently here. As I said in the previous links, I never thought that the ruling requiring parents to send their kids to "regular" school would ever stand, which is why I didn't really get worked up about it.

Cindy Sheehan Qualifies For Ballot Against Pelosi

I'm not sure if I'm done laughing at this woman yet or not, but if nothing else she's certainly a gift that keeps on giving.

"The next part is going to be exciting," she said. "I want at least one debate with all four candidates so that Nancy Pelosi has to answer for her record."

In case you don't get it, Sheehan is attacking Pelosi from the left. Pelosi isn't nutjob enough to satisfy Sheehan and her followers.

She's not going to beat Pelosi, but it might be an entertaining spectacle to watch.

We Thank God For Men Like This

While on vacation I had heard that a helicopter carrying firefighters had crashed here in California, and as we all know, people generally don't survive helicopter crashes.

This time, though, 4 of 13 did.

"I feel like God has his hand wrapped around me," said Brown, who suffered second-degree burns to his face, in addition to numerous facial fractures. "I feel like I lost my brothers, but they're in a better place now."

"I love my job," Brown added. "And I will be a firefighter."

He's 20. A fellow survivor was only 18.

A Nice Little War In Georgia

Are our friends on the left anti-war, or just anti-Bush?

Naked Imperialist aggression? Check!

Indiscriminate bombing and killing of civilians? Check!

Designs on another nation's energy resources? Check!

Remember all those breathless, and wholly incorrect, charges leveled at he U.S. at numerous "peace" protests concerning the war in Iraq? Well now all those charges are *actually* happening in South where are the calls for vast marches on the National Mall, or in Paris or Berlin, to protest this *actual* imperialist aggression??

That's one view, one I support.

Also consider this, outlining the differences between McCain's and Obama's responses.

Advice For New Teachers

Under normal circumstances I'd say any list entitled 50 Things New Teachers Need To Know is way too long. However, I found myself agreeing as I went through the list.

It probably is too long for new teachers, but even we veterans can use some advice and reinforcement once in awhile. In that regard, I'm forwarding that list to my principal!

A Lack of Math and Science Knowledge

I was reading this article, originally from AFP, about new research into why some sea turtles dive so deep into the ocean. And then I read the following, and my heart sank to those same depths:

The mystery deepens. Not only are the turtles equipped with myoglobin-rich blood ideal for stocking oxygen, they sometimes plunge more than a kilometer (three-quarters of a mile) below the surface.

A kilometer is about .62 miles, or 5/8 of a mile. They overstated the distance by about 21%.

Secret Union Ballots

I wrote before about George McGovern, who seems to be coming around to a more conservative way of viewing things. Or maybe he's just an old-style Democrat, before that party turned anti-war and anti-American.

Anti-American, I said? Yes, you bet. Because when you spit on the sanctity of the secret ballot, and choose instead intimidation, trickery, and pressure, you're being un-American. And with the "card check" proposal that the Congressional Democratic majority wants (to pay off its union backers), the latter is exactly what we'll get with an Obama presidency.

McGovern, at least, is man enough to call his own party out on this disgrace.

There's no question that unions have done much good for this country. Their tenacious efforts have benefited millions of workers and helped build a strong middle class. They gave workers a new voice and pushed for laws that protect individuals from unfair treatment. They have been a friend to the Democratic Party, and so I oppose this legislation respectfully and with care.

To my friends supporting EFCA I say this: We cannot be a party that strips working Americans of the right to a secret-ballot election. We are the party that has always defended the rights of the working class. To fail to ensure the right to vote free of intimidation and coercion from all sides would be a betrayal of what we have always championed.

Some of the most respected Democratic members of Congress -- including Reps. Marcy Kaptur of Ohio, George Miller and Pete Stark of California, and Barney Frank of Massachusetts -- have advised that workers in developing countries such as Mexico insist on the secret ballot when voting as to whether or not their workplaces should have a union. We should have no less for employees in our country.

I worry that there has been too little discussion about EFCA's true ramifications, and I think much of the congressional support is based on a desire to give our friends among union leaders what they want. But part of being a good steward of democracy means telling our friends "no" when they press for a course that in the long run may weaken labor and disrupt a tried and trusted method for conducting honest elections.

If unions are such a good deal for employees, they'll vote for them in private. Given the option, they might even join them or support them financially--even in those states in which they're not legally required to.

Union Protest At Politician's House and Neighborhood

At what point does it become acceptable (not legal, but reasonable and justifiable) to protest someone's professional activities by driving a truck-mounted billboard through their neighborhood?

I ask because that's what a local community college district union did.

And before you lefties say "always!", I remind you that there are a lot more Democrats to protest in this state than there are Republicans. Do we really want to make professional differences into personal vendettas? My previous post, in which I commented on Leonard Pitts' column, addresses this issue somewhat.

A Sense of Decency

I've both agreed and disagreed with Leonard Pitts before, but even when we disagree I find him to be an honorable and decent man. I cannot help but agree with the sentiments expressed in this column, and hope others take it to heart:

When the news broke a few days ago that Novak had a brain tumor and would retire, I was not made prostrate by grief. What I felt was that whisper of common mortality, that sense of there-but-for-the-grace-of-God one usually feels when tragedy strikes someone who is known to you, but not too closely. I felt sorry for the man and for his loved ones. It did not occur to me to celebrate their misfortune.

In this, I am evidently different from a number of observers who have infested Internet websites with exultation over the columnist's diagnosis...

The intention, I imagine, is to debase those with whom one has political disagreements. The authors of this sort of abuse evidently don't realize that what they really debase is themselves -- and political discourse as a whole.

Yes, it is fair, even now, to offer a harsh critique of Novak's politics. But there is something fundamentally indecent about celebrating his grave illness. Osama bin Laden, I might understand; he's a mortal enemy. Robert Novak is just a columnist with whom some of us disagree...

That's the mentality you're seeing here -- politics as war -- and it is not pretty. The thing is, there are truths above politics and one of them is that you do not laugh at the other guy's tragedy. How estranged are you from your own humanity, how deficient was your home training, when you need to be reminded of that?


Saturday, August 09, 2008

Time To Go Home...

...and start blogging about education again!

But before I do, allow me to indulge, in the 50 minutes I have left, in one last post from Cancun.

Based on my posts from the last week it should be clear that I had an exceptional time here. In fact, I'd consider coming back again. But I wonder if this is the right place for me. Cancun is designed around sunning yourself all day, either at the pool or on the beach, and partying at night. I'm not overly enamored with either of those activities. I probably spent a grand total of under two hours in the last week soaking up the rays; I spent my days touring, shopping, and exploring, and as for my nights--well, I don't need to party all the time party all the time party all the time =) If I come back maybe I'd bring a book instead of a bunch of magazines and try to devote more time to worshiping the sun god Helios. I do want to go parasailing as well, something I did not fit into my schedule during this visit. I'm thinking that if I were to spend a week here again, I'd spend a few days on Isla Mujeres and a few days at an all-inclusive resort in the Zona Hotelera.

One last goodie from the timeshare "gift that keeps on giving" is my airport transportation, that will be here in less than 30 minutes. Then I'm off to Mexico City, then to Guadalajara, and finally Oakland. I hope to be home by midnight.

I've paid attention to most of my usual blogs, noted a little bit of the news, and I have some stories I plan to blog about. Stay tuned!!!

Update, 8/10/08: I walked into the house just a few minutes before midnight--and went straight to bed.

Friday, August 08, 2008

Friday's Pictures of the Day

These are the last; sadly, I leave tomorrow.

click on the pictures to enlarge
Here are our jungle tour boats tied up at the marina.

I took video as we rode across the lagoon, through the mangroves, and into the Caribbean. Here is the snorkling area.

As you can see, we're not that far from the shore in the Caribbean! And there were plenty of other snorkling groups here as well.

Friday's Notes

If England is a nation of shopkeepers, Mexico is a nation of beggars. I say that matter-of-factly, not with any denigration. And yes, I have some anecdotal evidence to back that statement up.

Today, after the jungle tour (which I'll describe below), the tourguide made sure to mention that we could tip if we like. We have a "buffet" breakfast each morning, and there's a bowl out with a note soliciting tips. I've spent the last two evenings buying gifts for friends and family; at the cashiers, where people ring up my purchases, there are bowls asking for tips--for putting my souvenirs in a bag? I treated myself to a fine "last night here" dinner this evening, and in big letters across the $30 USD bill was stamped TIPS NOT INCLUDED. On the bus ride back from Chichen Itza, the bus "waiter" spent the last 20 minutes talking about tips; I kid you not, he went on for 20 full minutes. One of the English guys next to me tuned him out for awhile and then asked me, "Is he still talking about a tip?" When I answered in the affirmative he replied, "They did a good job. Don't you think at some point they'd let the service speak for itself?" The guys working the ferry boat to and from Isla Mujeres passed around a hat. Everywhere you turn, someone is asking for a tip. I'm not against tipping a food server or even a hotel maid (for whom the hotel has conveniently left me an envelope), but everyone and his brother here wants a handout. And that's a lot of amigos.

But now let's talk about the jungle tour.

Like everything else around here, it started late. However, zephyring across the Laguna Nichupte was muy bien. When the bowspray started hitting me, I decided that was the time to put the video camera away. Aside: maybe I'll post a little video when I get home and process it. We had so slow down as we hit the mangroves at the south side of Cancun Island, at the entrance to the sea. I was in the boat with one of the tourguides and he pointed out a falcon or hawk in a tree; I got it on tape. There were beautiful birds in those trees.

And then the waters got calm, and we were in the Caribbean. When we finally stopped we weren't more than 100m off shore, but the reef was nice. Drab colors, not like what I saw off Grand Cayman 19 years ago, but still nice. I saw three types of fish: the first was about a foot long, very vertically oriented and skinny, and dull gray; the second was everywhere, and they were maybe 6" long, vertically oriented, had white bottom-halves and yellow top-halves and had black stripes; and the third I saw only one of, and it was cylindrically-oriented and was colored in "desert camouflage".

I don't like oceans. I don't like fish. I don't trust many animals, and those I do trust are mammals. As in Grand Cayman, the water was comfortable and as soon as I got into it I felt like I was hyperventilating. I don't think I was the only one, though, because when I was still above water I could hear people making strange vocal sounds and yelps through their snorkels. It didn't take long to calm down, though, and enjoy the underwater view.

It's a strange world under water. The three dimensionality there is richer than what we experience. I can throw a ball through the air but it only travels in that third dimension; it will come down to the ground. Under water, everything moves in three dimensions. I was engrossed watching small sticks suspended in space there, not going up or down. After I calmed down I slowly reached out and tried to touch the yellow, white, and black fish, but they casually moved away as my hand approached. I started out panicky, became calm, and finished enthralled. I'm glad I did it.

I never did find time to go parasailing. I regret that, but perhaps I'll come back here again some time. Parasailing will be first on my list then.

But tonight I have to pack--and hope my suitcase doesn't go over the weight limit for the aircraft.

Thursday, August 07, 2008

Thursday's Pics of the Day

I didn't carry my camera around today, so I added a picture to this post and present you with a bonus Chichen Itza picture here.
click picture to enlarge

Thursday's Notes

I woke up this morning a lot more pink than when I went to bed. Too much sun, not enough sunscreen, on Isla Mujeres. So what to do today?

The timeshare presentation.

After all, it's only 90 minutes, and who (my age) doesn't like seeing fancy hotel rooms and imagining staying there?

Oh, before I go on, it was not a timeshare presentation. It was a private membership club, or something like that. I'm still iffy on the difference between that and a timeshare. I think it's just the name.

That 90 minutes, though, morphed into 4 mostly-air-conditioned hours. The numbers started at over $80,000 (plus hundreds for the week I would stay at the facility!!!) and got down to $3,000 (plus a couple hundred each week I stay) for 25 weeks over the next 10 years. The last one wasn't bad on a per-week basis, even after adding in the per-week cost, but I don't know that I'm going to come to Costa Maya 25 times in the next 10 years. I might almost feel bad, too, because the last deal comes courtesy of a fellow Californian who, because of the mortgage fiasco back home, needs to sell the remainder of his membership blah blah blah....

After touring the facilities (yes, plural), my "guide" and I went into a room filled with people either selling or potentially buying. There must have been 25 tables in there, with a sales presentation occurring at each one. It was very comical to me. One would raise a hand, and a "manager", or perhaps a "developer's representative", would come over and apply a little harder sell. Sometimes they'd even sweeten the pot, lowering the price here, the interest rate there, offering a studio instead of the two-room package.

This is the second timeshare presentation I've attended in the last decade, and I've watched others from a distance. They all share several qualities, but the one that interests me most is this: is there some school where timeshare salespeople go to learn to write jibberish-y numbers, figures, and words randomly on a page? If you've ever been to one of these presentations you know what I'm talking about. What, exactly, is the point of that, to confuse you? No, it couldn't be, because they only want to make sure I get the best vacation package for my money. They're concerned about me. There must be some other explanation for this disorganized jumble.

I toured two of their facilities here in Cancun, and they're building one on Isla Mujeres =) I must admit, the rooms were exceptional, perhaps extravagant by my standards, but my room here at the Holiday Inn Express more than meets my needs. I even have wireless internet access in my room here--I didn't think to ask if their resorts had such amenities!

It wasn't a waste of 4 hours, though. At the first facility I got a strawberry daquiri. I kid you not, I watched the bartender spoon strawberry Smucker's jelly into the blender, but at least I have the satisfaction of knowing the rum wasn't watered down when I saw him open a new bottle and start pouring.

From there we took a boat ride across the lagoon to get to the second, bigger facility. A nice lunch and a couple banana daquiris welcomed me there. But let there be no doubt, the place was grand.

And for attending this personalized presentation, I received a voucher for a "jungle tour", which normally run from $50-60 depending on where you purchase them. The tour involves taking a 2-person boat through the Laguna de Nichupte and the mangrove forest (the "jungle") and going out into the Caribbean, where a half hour of snorkling over a reef awaits. I go on the jungle tour tomorrow.

So, all in all, not a bad way to spend the midday recuperating from a slight sunburn.

I'm doing the siesta thing right now, and will head towards the action in another hour or so.