Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Texting in Class

I took phones away from 4 students today. How rude is it to be texting during class? More rude, or less, than it is against the rules?

One phone kept blinking on my desk, and I could see on the display that the owner's boyfriend was sending her texts. I looked the boy's schedule up on our computer system and emailed the following to his teacher:

Please tell [name] to put away his phone. I’ve already taken [name]’s away so she’s not getting any more of his text messages.

The messages stopped.

Update, 12/6/10: Some schools confiscate phones for weeks. I'd have to wonder about that from a legal standpoint. I wouldn't wonder about the legality of suspending someone for habitually violating the rules, though.

Tuesday Trivia

The answer to yesterday's question is:
You Better Run, by Pat Benatar, from the Crimes of Passion album (which I still have on vinyl).

Today's question is:
In West Side Story, which ethnic group made up the Sharks and which ethnic group made up the Jets?

Monday, November 29, 2010

Have California Democrats Turned Their Backs on Social Justice?


HMS Invincible, and The Trouble With Tribbles

Do you remember that scene in the original Star Trek series episode The Trouble With Tribbles when Scotty and some of the Enterprise gang were in a bar on Deep Space Station K7 and there were also some Klingons in the bar, and one of the Klingons suggested that the Enterprise should be hauled away as garbage? Scotty didn't take too kindly to that suggestion.

I wonder if he'd have reacted a little more gently if, instead, the Enterprise had been listed on a web site to be sold for scrap:
click to enlarge so you can read it

Monday Trivia

The answer to yesterday's question is:
Buster Crabbe.

Today's question is:
Everyone knows that the Buggles' Video Killed The Radio Star was the first video shown on MTV. What was the 2nd video, and who was the artist? And as a bonus, on what album was that song released?

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Sunday Trivia

The answer to yesterday's question is:

Today's question is:
What actor played Flash Gordon in the 1930's serial?

Violent Video Games Prompt Protest at Sacramento Library

From the major Sacramento newspaper:

About 20 people, some carrying signs that read "War is not a game," gathered outside the Sacramento Public Library's main branch Saturday to criticize the library for making war-themed video games available to the public.

The protest coincided with a session at the downtown branch in which anybody 17 and older could walk in and play the controversial and highly popular war-themed video game "Call of Duty: Black Ops."

Set during the Cold War, the first-person shooter game features intense gunbattles, torture scenes and an assassination attempt...

The library is hosting a "Black Ops" tournament on Dec. 11. It has already held tournaments of Super Mario Bros. and Nintendo Wii sports this year, and had an event that included another game in the "Call of Duty" series.

The goal of the video game tournaments is to show that the library "has something for everyone," said library director Rivkah Sass...

James Johnson, 20, of Sacramento was one of the first to grab a controller and start playing.

"Back in the day, I'm sure there were people protesting violence in books, then in movies," Johnson said. "Honestly, this is not anything wrong."

(President of the local chapter John) Reiger said Veterans for Peace will continue to protest the upcoming tournament.

I have only 2 points to make about this. First, Veterans For Peace can bite me, as the basis of their protest is ridiculous. Second, what the heck is a library doing hosting video game competitions?

Today's Schedule

Elliptical trainer. Concurrent with football.
75-min hot yoga class.
Write a statistics test.

Thanksgiving break is just about over. It's time to start inching back into teacher mode.

Better To Ask For Charity Than To Demand The Public Pay For Her Choices

From the Huffington Post, of all places:
Currently, Northeastern alum Kelli Space, 23, is $200,000 in debt because of her student loans. She must pay federal student loan agency Sallie Mae $891 per month -- and by next November, that figure will nearly double. And although she has a full-time job, she doesn't make nearly enough to pay off her massive debt. So she's is turning to the public for help.

Space started a website called Two Hundred Thou, which is devoted to telling her story and asking readers to chip in.

She's already raised 35 cents.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Not Liberals and Not Progressives

From Samizdata:

The statists who argue for the destruction of the dollar and for bank bail-outs (again) and for nationalised derangement of medical care and for green-inspired economic sabotage aren’t “liberals”. They do not believe in liberty; they believe in curtailing liberty. But neither do they believe in anything which it makes sense to anybody except them to call “progress”. Progress is the exact thing these statists are now trying and have always tried to destroy, and just lately have been doing a pretty damn good job of destroying. Progress means things getting better. These self styled “progressives” are only making things worse.

Saturday Trivia

The answer to yesterday's question is:
Amanda Krueger, aka Sister Mary Helena.

Today's question is:
What is the family name of the rulers of Monaco?


It hurts to have to concur with this:

Anyone who has dealt with a loved one deeply involved in some destructive behavior understands that there's only so much you can do until the person hits whatever low point is necessary to spark a commitment to turn things around.

I think of my beloved California in the same light. What a great state, but it remains on a collision course with reality. We can't keep spending money we don't have, punishing those who pay the bills and ignoring the advice of truth tellers. Californians are known for crafting new realities, but the financial markets are immune to Disney-like fantasies. Eventually, the fiscal self-destruction has to stop – and adults have to step in with an intervention to divert our state from its dangerous path.

My liberal friends insist that our once-and-future-governor Jerry Brown will be able to work with the legislature in a way that Schwarzenegger could not. While that may be so, I just don't see him convincing them to give up their profligate ways and returning to some sort of reality. He's going to convince them to give up their high? Well, only Nixon could go to China, or so they say, and I'll give Brown credit if he can pull this off, but don't think I'll be holding my breath.


Longtime friend and reader MikeAT once pointed out to me that I'm not an "environmentalist", I'm a "conservationist". Without giving detailed definitions of either, I accept his label wholeheartedly. Perhaps I'm what environmentalists used to be:
Before they were sucked into the giant vortex of global warming, environmentalists did useful things. They protested against massive Third World dams that would ruin both natural and human habitats. They warned about invasive species and diseases that could tear through our forests and wreck our water systems. They fought for national parks and greenbelts and protected areas. They talked about the big things too – such as how the world could feed another three billion people without destroying all the rain forests and running out of water. They believed in conservation – conserving this beautiful planet of ours from the worst of human despoliation – rather than false claims to scientific certainty about the future, unenforceable treaties and radical utopian social reform.

“How high a price must the world pay for green folly?” asked the thinker Walter Russell Mead. “How many years will be lost, how much credibility forfeited, how much money wasted before we have an environmental movement that has the intellectual rigour, political wisdom and mature, sober judgment needed to address the great issues we face?”

The answer is too high, too many and too much. Please grow up, people. You have important work to do.

Stopping The Portland Bomber

No one had to get felt up to go see the Christmas tree lighting in Portland, and still the would-be bomber was caught. Maybe the FBI should take over airport screening.

Friday, November 26, 2010

California's Version of "High" Speed Rail

It didn't cost the taxpayers $40 billion to build, either:

A sophisticated cross-border tunnel equipped with a rail system, ventilation and fluorescent lighting has been shut down by U.S. and Mexican officials — the second discovery of a major underground drug passage in San Diego this month, authorities said Friday.

Friday Trivia

The answer to yesterday's question is:
The 1975 movie Cornbread, Earl, and Me.

Today's question is:
What was Freddie Krueger's mother's name?

Does It Really Matter Who's In The White House When Determining If A Government Action Is Right Or Not?

Denver Post columnist David Harsanyi seems to argue that it does:

I'm thrilled so many of you are causing a commotion over the creepy, occasionally amorous and always-intrusive policies of the Transportation Security Administration. It's about time. All this nonsense about our patriotic duty to surrender the Fourth Amendment to (illusory) safety deserves all the scorn Americans can muster.

But setting aside the indignities of flying, this debate also helpfully illustrates the hypocrisy of partisans.

Not so long ago, the left positioned itself as the defender of innocents against the just-one-tiny-step-away- from-fascism of the Bush administration's war on terror. The Constitution was sacred, especially when we faced danger — and even more especially when a Republican was president...

Yet, today, left-wing pundits, typified by syndicated liberal columnist Ruth Marcus, implore Americans to grow up, become better automatons, get moving, and submit. The admired liberal columnist Michael Kinsley first offers us tales of TSA kindheartedness and then tells us the same.

Many left-wing publications that cautioned us against George W. Bush's ham-fisted intrusions now defend Barack Obama's ham-fisted intrusions.

We all remember when Democrats passed the Airline Passenger Bill of Rights (with bipartisan support) to ensure that travelers had a right to, among other things, sit in a plane with a "comfortable cabin temperature." Well, how about the right not to have a stranger prying into your granddad's testicular area? Or, how about making sure that the actual Bill of Rights is afforded at least the same deference as the Passenger Bill of Rights?

He doesn't offer as many details when trying trying to be fair and going after the right:

Now, certainly, not every Democrat is insincere on the topic, nor is everyone on the right innocent.

For nearly a decade, Republicans have compromised and surrendered liberty in the name more safety — sometimes equating their policies with patriotism. And I simply can't believe that we would be witnessing anywhere near the levels of conservative outrage regarding the TSA's new security measures were we sitting in, say, 2005.

That's it. Not a single example.

But it's a silly argument anyway. It's like that totally disingenuous argument that says, "Where was the Tea Party when Bush was running up deficits?" Bush was running up deficits 1/4 the size of Obama's; is it really surprising that people act differently now? And besides, people were complaining (thank you, Rick Santelli)--not in an organized manner, but they were complaining--and that helps explain the 2006 changeover in Congress. The argument that conflates Bush's deficits to Obama's weak, just as is the argument that conflates wiretapping of terrorists' phone calls with feeling up the traveling public.

Not Something I'm Interested In Doing

I'll be honest--there's not a lot I want to know about my students outside of their behavior and performance in school. Sure, I'll listen to their stories from band or sports or other classes or clubs or student government, and because I care about the kids themselves I'm actually interested in what they tell me, but there are certain things I just don't care to know about them. At all.

I don't want to know if they're having sex.
I don't want to know if they're doing drugs.
I don't even want to know if they're drinking.

I guess I can narrow down the field here: I don't want to know what things they're doing that can get them in trouble. "Oh." some will say, "you just want to ignore that stuff and keep your head in the sand!" To which I reply, "It's not my job to deal with it (unless it happens at school), and I already have a child for whom I'm a parent." My genuine caring for my students does not extend to wanting to be their parent.

So if I were put in this situation, I'd let the school administration do the button-pushing:
Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli, a Republican, issued a legal opinion Wednesday ruling that not only can school officials seize students' cell phones and laptops, but they can also read their text messages if there is "reasonable grounds for suspecting that the search will turn up evidence that the student has violated or is violating either the law or the rules of the school."

Cuccinelli was responding to a request from Republican Delegate Robert Bell who wanted to know when principals or teachers can seize the devices to battle cyberbullying and how school officials can address "sexting," or sexual messages sent via text, without violating the state law themselves.
I'm not interested in going through their text messages and learning about what they're doing outside of the idealized environment of my classroom. That's what our principal and vice principals are for.

I'm not sure how long this ruling will last anyway:
Cuccinelli's opinion lacks the legal force of a court ruling and his past opinions have been challenged before.

Of course, this ruling was issued in part to address the new"big bad" in schools, cyberbullying.

Education Buzz

This week's is posted here and includes my post about single-payer health insurance vs. single-payer education.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

My Annual Thanksgiving Post

Enjoy it again here, and augment it with this John Stossel column.

Read, enjoy, and have a happy Thanksgiving.

Thursday Trivia

The answer to yesterday's question is:
An October 3, 1863 proclamation by Abraham Lincoln made it so.

Today's question is:
In what movie do we read in the credits “introducing Laurence Fishburne III”?

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Wednesday Trivia

The answer to yesterday's question is:
Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, Jim Morrison, and Kurt Cobain.

Today's question is:
Given that the Pilgrims' Thanksgiving probably took place in October, how is it that the last Thursday in November became established as Thanksgiving in the United States?

My Daily TSA Post (Since It's Opt-Out Day)

Anything I want to write about the TSA today will be put into this post.

LA Times: Poll finds 61% oppose new airport security measures

Ars Technica: TSA saw my junk, missed 12" razor blades

Update: Do you think I'm just jumping on the anti-TSA bandwagon? Scroll down to the bottom of the page and type TSA in the search engine down there. The earliest such post I find using that technique is from January 1, 2006.

Update #2: These are the people feeling you up: TSA using pizza boxes to recruit new workers. I'm not kidding when I say they're minimum wage-caliber people given the full authority of the United States Government.

Update #3, 11/26/10: And this from the New York Times of all places: The Real Threat to America.

Not Far Enough

I'd hoped (against hope) that the ACLU would see this through to the end, but it looks like they're going to settle, in every sense of the word:

The American Civil Liberties Union, which sued the state in September in an effort to stop schools from charging illegal fees for uniforms, locks, gym clothes, athletic “spirit packs” and other dues, may settle the case this week.

Mark Rosenbaum of the Southern California Branch of the ACLU said he could not disclose details of the expected settlement, but said one option would involve the state Board of Education taking on an enforcement role.

There's so much more to this issue than PE costs. Lab fees in science, "material fees" in shop and art classes--these are just the tip of the iceberg. It costs over $2000/year to be a cheerleader at my school.

The Tyler Clementi Higher Education Anti-Harassment Act

From FIRE, about whom I haven't written in awhile:
An "anti-bullying" bill introduced in Congress last week gravely threatens free speech on America's college campuses. Despite the bill's admirable intention of preventing future tragedies, the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) has determined that the bill is at odds with the Supreme Court's carefully crafted definition of harassment and would require colleges to violate the First Amendment.

"Tyler Clementi was subjected to an unconscionable violation of privacy, but that conduct was already criminal and prohibited by every college in America," FIRE President Greg Lukianoff said. "For decades, colleges have used vague, broad harassment codes to silence even the most innocuous speech on campus. The proposed law requires universities to police even more student speech under a hopelessly vague standard that will be a disaster for open debate and discourse on campus. And all this in response to student behavior that was already illegal"...

"What happened to Tyler Clementi was already illegal. This bill cannot prevent future students from breaking the law, but it surely will provide students and administrators with new tools to punish views or expression they simply dislike. FIRE's experience demonstrates that when speech is not unambiguously protected, censorship and punishment of unpopular views follows," Lukianoff said.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Not Pulling Any Punches Regarding The TSA

The following was sent to an email list of which I am a member, and I have received the author's permission to post it in full here:

In the now-distant past I wrote a paper on the "psychological conditioning" of the German people that was effectively used in the first years of the Third Reich.

The process of transitioning an educated, highly productive, capitalistic, Christian-based nation containing a population that was proud of its history and traditions to a state where the media was controlled, opposition was neutralized, the people were subordinated and finally forced into acceptance of the new order by fear, is remarkably similar to what is occurring now in this country. Incidentally, spare me the ridicule about referencing any subject in its final throes to bringing up the Nazi regime. Unfortunately, the parallels are now too obvious to ignore.

The Constitution was established to protect the people from the excesses of their own government because our forefathers understood the basic truth that a free people had to fear their own government more than any foreign enemy. TSA is a government agency that is led and managed by people who have apparently no understanding of the document that certainly preceded the TSA. The IV Amendment of that document further states:

"The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized."

The TSA's argument is that we peasants can be secure only if we:

A. Subject ourselves to their intrusive and traumatic search techniques which many legal experts and even common peasants can recognize as little more than sexual assault that would put an LEO in prison if he/she did the same things to a suspect, or at the very least would subject him/her and his/her agency to a civil lawsuit, or .....

B. Not travel by air.

To carry out the mission under that criterion means that TSA will have to be expanded almost exponentially which will eventually make it one of the most powerful agencies in the government, meaning their budget will also grow and people and money equate to power in Washington D.C. Obviously, TSA has no incentive to adopt the Israeli system, unless it is ordered to do so by the courts, by the President or by Congress. Nor does it have any incentive to excuse specific personnel such as air crews, (ie: pilots, flight crew, etc.) frequent fliers, or previously cleared flying personnel. In fact, the only incentive it has is to continue expanding itself into a larger structure with more employees who will require more money to fund them, and through which they will exercise even more power.

Furthermore, their argument, if upheld by the courts, means that it can be extended infinitely to apply to the peasants or "sheeple" in other areas of American life as well. For example, in order to make streets "safe" it would appear that the police could conduct warrantless searches on persons with the option that if they objected, they could take some other route to wherever they were going. Or, continuing the "safe" argument searches could be justified on cars on the basis that if drivers didn't subject themselves to it, they could take some other means to travel. The ludicrosity (yes, I coined a new word) of such arguments clearly shows how spacious the TSA has become in justifying their unconstitutional actions. And they will continue to get away with this as long as the serfs continue to maintain their peasant state of mind justified on the false promise of being "safe."

Foregoing the argument that such searches are warrantless, can any sane individual with any semblance of self-respect argue that warrantless seizure of "fingernail" clippers is reasonable. Or for that matter seizing anything without a "warrant" specifying what is to be seized, is constitutional. The fact is that any LEO on the streets of America today is asking to be the subject of IAD investigations at the least, and litigation, loss of his job, and the threat of being subject to a federal law suit which can jeopardize not only his own resources but those of all of his supervisors and his agency, if he/she did a fraction of what TSA agents do every day with arrogant impunity.

Their attitude about the seemingly limitless power they possess has been documented by numerous witnesses and victims. It is undoubtedly reinforced by the uniforms their supervisors wear which have enough achievement bling on them that they would make a good Nazi proud. So they will continue to traumatize children, molest women, and assault men because neither they, their Secretary nor POTUS have the will to use their common sense because they have been neutered by fear of CAIR, the ACLU, political correctness, conflicting agendas, and yes, even gutlessness.

I trust that someone, anyone, will take the TSA, Napolitano and even POTUS to a court that will eventually determine the constitutionality of their actions. If what they do passes muster, then we are no better than the Germans, and in fact may well be worse because we knew what happened in the past and ignored it; we will undoubtedly have surrendered the freedom we inherited. From now on we will never again be in a position to blame the German people for permitting the Third Reich to rise to power.

The Nazis promised the German people "safety" from the alleged evil practiced by the Jews of Europe. Today, the TSA is promising us "safety" against Islamic terrorists. In both cases, all it took then and takes now is for "sheeple" to surrender their liberty, dignity, self respect and rights to the government.

And because this imposition on the Constitution and our dignity, self respect, rights, freedom and liberty as American citizens will not stop, we will eventually
look back and never have to wonder what happened to our country.

We will know. But by then, it will be too late.
What some will see as hyperbole, I see as fair warning.

Why Spending Must Be Brought Under Control

This chart slices government spending into four main areas: Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, interest on the debt, and other spending (which includes defense). As we can see, if we don’t get our deficit and spending under control, most of our budget will be used to finance the interest we owe on our debt. Note how this share of the spending grows significantly faster than the Medicare and Medicaid part. That being said, the best way to reduce the amount of interest we pay on our debt is to reduce spending on other fast-growing budget items, i.e. entitlement spending.

The article has a chart that must be seen in order to get the full impact.

Tuesday Trivia

The answer to yesterday's question is:

Today's question is:
Identify at least two famous musical artists since the 1960s who died at age 27.

TSA, Not Winning Any Public Relations Awards This Year

Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, who is expected to become chairman of the House oversight subcommittee responsible for the federal workforce, wrote President Obama demanding that he initiate a probe into why TSA officers followed around Luke Tait, a Utah Valley University student who on Friday recorded a young boy having his shirt removed by his father so that agents could confirm he was not carrying any contraband.

Click here to see the video.

According to an interview Tait gave to The Associated Press, he took the now-viral video of the boy subjected to the skin-baring search at the Salt Lake International Airport because he "realized something crazy was going on." The boy's father removed the child's shirt, apparently in order to prevent the TSA agent from touching the boy, who had been too shy to submit to a pat-down.

While the kid and his father were allowed to go through security, TSA agents came over and questioned Tait about his videotaping the incident and ordered him to delete the video. He refused, but was allowed to go to his gate where, Chaffetz says, TSA agents sat near him and communicated through walkie-talkies until he boarded his flight.

Read more: http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2010/11/22/lawmakers-seek-probe-tsas-pat-training-reported-misbehavior/#ixzz168cdB35j

Such heavy-handedness from minimum wage-caliber federal officials is worrisome. Attempts to intimidate someone acting lawfully--yes, that's what I want from my government.

Update, 11/24/10: You can always count on Eugene Robinson to carry water for a Democratic administration, even if when doing so he splashes it all over the place:
In other words, they want profiling. That's a seductive idea, I suppose, if you don't spend a lot of time worrying about civil liberties.

Worrying about the civil liberties of would-be terrorists is good, worrying about the civil liberties of the everyday people and their families is bad, eh, Eugene?

At least Thomas Sowell has it right, as he so often does:
Meanwhile, this administration is so hung up on political correctness that they have turned "profiling" into a bugaboo. They would rather have electronic scanners look under the clothes of nuns than to detain a Jihadist imam for some questioning.

Yeah, Eugene, what he said.

Online Schools Set To Open

Two different stories from the major Sacramento newspaper:

Camino Science and Natural Resources Charter School, which will be operated by the Camino Union School District, is accepting registration for the 2011-12 school year.

The new charter school will use science and the study of natural resources as the basis of its curriculum, according to a press release.
Read more: http://www.sacbee.com/2010/11/22/3202987/science-charter-school-set-to.html#ixzz168Ye4LA4

The Elk Grove Unified School District Virtual Academy is accepting applications for the 2011 spring semester.

The academy offers online instruction for students in kindergarten through 12th grade. Student learning is directed by an adult at home, called a learning coach. Learning coaches and students are guided by an Elk Grove district teacher.
Read more: http://www.sacbee.com/2010/11/23/3205831/online-academy-ready-for-students.html#ixzz168YtKP9U

Veteran Suspended For College Essay

From Joanne Jacobs and the Community College Spotlight blog:

An Army veteran, Charles Whittington got an A for an essay on the thrill of fighting and killing in Iraq. Then he was suspended by Community College of Baltimore County, reports the Baltimore Sun. College officials fear Whittington is a threat to his classmates...

Not all veterans on campus support Whittington. Mike Brittingham, a former Marine who is studying air traffic service, contacted campus safety officers and the president’s office after reading the essay. “Being in the military is certainly not about going out and being addicted to killing people,” he told the Sun.

Whittington, a full-time student who is considering a teaching career, has scheduled an evaluation with his Veterans Affairs psychologist, who he believes will confirm that he’s not a threat.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Mining For Gold In California

With gold prices at record highs, perhaps we should start mining for gold again in California, no? No:

Despite sky-high prices and the state's rich gold legacy, the industry here is mostly dormant. California trails the leading gold-producing state, Nevada, by a wide margin.

A California revival is hardly imminent. Companies trying to reopen old mines in Grass Valley and near Sutter Creek have slogged through years of red tape, and there are no guarantees of success. The Sutter Creek plan is at least a year away, while Grass Valley is several years from reopening.

Standing in the way: scarcity of capital and strict environmental standards...

In the Mother Lode, many mine shafts have filled up with water, adding to the environmental issues. And the partial urbanization of the region creates local opposition.

"If you are near civilization, it is difficult," said John Parrish, the state geologist.

Parrish said it can take seven to 10 years to assemble the needed permits for mining in California.

This...(said in best Lowell Thomas voice)...is California.

Monday Trivia

The answer to yesterday's question is:
Baja California Sur (south).

Today's question is:
According to the 2009 Star Trek movie, what was James T. Kirk's father's first name?

Another Reason To Oppose Tax Increases

I'm not reflexively anti-tax, as I recognize the government needs revenue to carry out its legitimate functions. There are two parts of the problem, though. The first is that the government, at both the state and federal levels, is spending money on functions in which it should not even be involved; no one wants their taxes raised so that more money can be wasted. The second is that when government does get more money from taxes, it always spends even more money than the taxes bring in:

In the late 1980s, one of us, Richard Vedder, and Lowell Gallaway of Ohio University co-authored a often-cited research paper for the congressional Joint Economic Committee (known as the $1.58 study) that found that every new dollar of new taxes led to more than one dollar of new spending by Congress. Subsequent revisions of the study over the next decade found similar results.

We've updated the research. Using standard statistical analyses that introduce variables to control for business-cycle fluctuations, wars and inflation, we found that over the entire post World War II era through 2009 each dollar of new tax revenue was associated with $1.17 of new spending. Politicians spend the money as fast as it comes in—and a little bit more.
Starving the beast seems the only way.

Yes, Because Government Pricing Has Always Worked In The Past

I'm still trying to figure out exactly where the federal government gets the authority to do this. Is this yet another "let's call it interstate commerce, even if it isn't" issue? Insurance companies operate within each state--heck, California even has an elected Insurance Commissioner. Guess we don't need that constitutional post anymore, now that Sebelius is on the job in Washington:

Health insurance premiums should go for actual medical care -- not insurers' overhead and profits -- the Obama administration said Monday in rules that for the first time require the companies to give consumers a rebate.

The regulation unveiled by the Health and Human Services Department calls for insurance companies to spend at least 80 cents of the premium dollar on medical care and quality. For employer plans covering more than 50 people, the requirement is 85 cents. Insurers that fall short of the mark will have to issue their customers a rebate.

Part of the new health care law, the rule is meant to give consumers a better deal. Administration officials said it will prevent insurers from wasting valuable premiums on administration, marketing and executive bonuses. "While some level of overhead costs is certainly necessary, we believe they have gotten out of hand," said Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius.

Some lefties will ask me why I would disagree with such a rule. What I think of the rule is irrelevant; what's relevant is the further injection of the federal government into the marketplace, and the power we allow the federal government to usurp from the states and the people (see the 9th and 10th Amendments). I fear the federal government with its firearms and prisons much more than I fear an insurance company.

ROTC and Gays In The Military

More from Stanford:
The faculty committee charged with considering ROTC’s return to Stanford has recently requested comments from the university community. The response has been a little underwhelming: less than 20 emails and 6 phone calls according to an article by the Stanford Daily. The contact information has been published fairly widely, both in the Daily and in the Stanford Review, as well as here on Fiat Lux.

Interestingly, it was noted that the majority of responses have been positive toward ROTC, a possible surprise given the recent spate of negative editorials condemning its return. It seems that students are quite apathetic about the issue – from both sides of the debate.

Two of my "pet peeve" issues are ROTC on college campuses and the forced overturning of "don't ask, don't tell" merely for political reasons (as opposed to actually determining beforehand that it won't materially affect readiness)--and the former is supposedly influenced by the latter. I believe that opposition to ROTC is anti-military and perhaps even anti-conservative, and that the gay issue is merely a cover; I don't see schools welcoming ROTC back with open arms when gays are allowed to serve openly. Oh, Harvard may have to open the door immediately, given the recent statements of its president, but if we accept my premise that opposition to ROTC in particular and to the military in general isn't based on the gay ban, then don't expect to see any changes in attitude once the ban is lifted.

And remember, it's not "the military's" ban, the military is following the law passed by Congress and signed by President Clinton.

Update, 11/23/10: One of the best comments I've read on the topic in a long time:
The opponents to ROTC need to be remembered next time some “anti-war” activist feigns concern that the sons and daughters of the rich aren’t in the military.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

One Of The Perks Of Teaching

I don't have to go to work tomorrow. In fact, I don't have to go to work all week. For about the last week I've been gorging myself, though, so I have 4 yoga classes scheduled this week. Interestingly enough, I'll be taking one of each of the 4 types of classes offered at my studio. Tomorrow's is the beginners' 60 minute "not so hot, not so long" class, which isn't a bad idea since I haven't gone in about 2 weeks.

I did check my school email today, though, although I'll save any heavy lifting until I get back to work next week. Also, I brought some materials home so I can craft the statistics test my students will take the day after we get back; it seemed more logical to test then than to try to cram everything into the week before Thanksgiving, knowing how many people wouldn't be at school on Friday anyway.

Sunday Trivia

The answer to yesterday's question, the last in the seemingly very unpopular or uninteresting TV Debut Season Week, was:

Today's question is:
What Mexican state is immediately south of Baja California?

How Is It, Again, That Socialism Is Supposed To Contain Costs?

Government "solves" one problem but exacerbates others--and it's not just me saying it, but the NYT as well:

When Congress passed the health care law, it envisioned doctors and hospitals joining forces, coordinating care and holding down costs, with the prospect of earning government bonuses for controlling costs.

Now, eight months into the new law there is a growing frenzy of mergers involving hospitals, clinics and doctor groups eager to share costs and savings, and cash in on the incentives. They, in turn, have deployed a small army of lawyers and lobbyists trying to persuade the Obama administration to relax or waive a body of older laws intended to thwart health care monopolies, and to protect against shoddy care and fraudulent billing of patients or Medicare.

Consumer advocates fear that the health care law could worsen some of the very problems it was meant to solve — by reducing competition, driving up costs and creating incentives for doctors and hospitals to stint on care, in order to retain their cost-saving bonuses.

Who might have foreseen this? Who, hmmmmmm....

Thoughts on the TSA Molestation Procedures

From Popular Mechanics:
Since 9/11, cryptology expert and security consultant Bruce Schneier has been one of the most pointed critics of the government's anti-terrorism security programs...

The machines have shown up in the wake of the so-called underwear bomber, who tried to blow up a plane with chemicals stored in his briefs. Would this technology have stopped him?
The guys who make the machines have said, "We wouldn't have caught that"...

Has there been a case since 9/11 of an attempted hijacker being thwarted by airport security?
None that we've heard of. The TSA will say, "Oh, we're not allowed to talk about successes." That's actually bullsh*t. They talk about successes all the time. If they did catch someone, especially during the Bush years, you could be damned sure we'd know about it. And the fact that we didn't means that there weren't any. Because the threat was imaginary. It's not much of a threat. As excess deaths go, it's just way down in the noise. More than 40,000 people die each year in car crashes. It's 9/11 every month. The threat is really overblown.

Do you think there's been an over-reaction, on the part of the government and the press, to the underwear bomber?
That case was really instructive. Nobody was injured, and the plane landed safely. It was a success! And it was pre 9-11 security that made it a success. Because we screen for superficial guns and bombs, he had to resort to a syringe and 90 minutes in the bathroom with a bomb that didn't work. This is what success looks like. Stop bellyaching!

What's the motive behind introducing this new level of security?
It's politics. You have to be seen as doing something, even if nothing is the smart thing to do. You can't be seen as doing nothing.

What does would-be President and current Secretary of State Hillary Clinton think of the procedures?
Those measures don't apply to Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, who said security experts "are looking for ways to diminish the impact on the traveling public." She, for one, wouldn't like to submit to a security pat-down.

"Not if I could avoid it. No. I mean, who would?" Clinton told CBS' "Face the Nation" in an interview broadcast Sunday.
Even the reliably-liberal LA Times has doubts:
Aviation security has bedeviled us since 2001, in part because we have reacted to past incidents instead of planning strategically for the future. After 9/11 we banned box cutters, scissors and nail clippers; after Richard Reed we started X-raying shoes; after the 2006 London airliner plot we banned liquids over 3 ounces. And now, after a would-be bomber last Christmas hid explosives in his underwear, we are starting to peer beneath passengers' clothes with scanners.

But what is our overall strategy? Such ad hoc reactions demonstrate a lack of strategic thinking. What we are doing is not completely ineffective. But is it effective enough? And are there better methods? We cannot say because we have not yet done a full analysis or adopted a comprehensive strategy.

The new procedures might have the perverse effect of killing more Americans:
As the nation readies for one of the busiest traveling holidays, Steven Horwitz, a professor of economics at St. Lawrence University, told The Hill that the probable spike in road travel, caused by adverse feelings towards the Transportation Security Administration’s (TSA) new screening procedures, could also lead to more car-related deaths.

“Driving is much more dangerous than flying, as you are far more likely to be killed in an automobile accident mile-for-mile than you are in an airplane,” said Horwitz. “The result will be that the new TSA procedures will kill more Americans on the highway.”

The 4th Amendment be damned:
The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.
I wish I had saved the link about the El Al security officer who said that these American procedures are useless.

Liberals screamed about certain provisions of the Patriot Act, but I don't hear those same liberals screaming now that American citizens are getting felt up by government agents. Which is worse: warrantless wiretaps of suspected terrorists who call from overseas to the US, or molesting the traveling public?

If this is how we're going to fight the War on Terror, we're doomed.

Update, 11/22/10: I didn't think to link this to the Arizona immigration law, but others have:

Remember how not long ago the President was so upset about the possibility of people being stopped and asked for “their papers” while going to get ice cream? It was the height of living in a police state. Yet we’ve not heard a peep out of him while TSA goons grope the general public (including nuns and little kids) on the way to grandma’s house.

If we are expected to put up with this, asking to see “your papers” suddenly seems a less onerous request.

And another:

Have Arizona pass a law saying that illegal aliens will be subject to these procedures as well! The federal government would immediately ask a judge to ban full-body scans.

And for grins, let's throw a little diversity into the picture:

We pass all passengers through the same, cumbersome screening because we want to pretend that all Americans are equally likely to be security threats. In short, we do it to avoid profiling. The effort does credit to the tolerance of American soceity. On the other hand, tolerance is not the only good. There are limits.

What we are seeing now is, I suspect, a reflection of a frustration Americans have with the worship of what is called diversity run amok.

Gov. Christie Tells of His Meeting With The Teachers Union President

I'm telling you, I like this guy. I've read that he has some policy views with which I'd disagree, but I respect his directness and his sense of right and wrong. Love his comments on the double standard.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Should I Get A Masters Degree?

If so, it should probably be sooner rather than later, as I don't see school districts taking away money they've been paying people for years--but they might not pay it to new people:

Every year, American schools pay more than $8.6 billion in bonuses to teachers with master's degrees, even though the idea that a higher degree makes a teacher more effective has been mostly debunked.

Despite more than a decade of research showing the money has little impact on student achievement, state lawmakers and other officials have been reluctant to tackle this popular way for teachers to earn more money.

That could soon change, as local school districts around the country grapple with shrinking budgets.

Not having a masters degree, I make less than the average pay for all California teachers and less than the average pay for teachers in my district.

Saturday Trivia

The answer to yesterday's question is:

Today's question, the last in TV Debut Season Week, is:
In what year did Masterpiece Theater debut?

College Degrees

From the major Sacramento newspaper:

While that may not seem like an earth-shattering revelation, a Bee analysis of new Census Bureau data lays out the stark contrasts between chosen disciplines in illuminating detail. Is your child, for instance, thinking about …

… a philosophy degree? Philosophy graduates in California last year were about five times as likely to be unemployed as nursing graduates.

… ethnic studies? Computer engineering graduates in California typically make twice as much.

… a drama degree? Theater majors were about eight times as likely to work in the food services industry as those with accounting degrees.

Any college degree is valuable. California college graduates in every popular discipline made more last year and were more likely to be employed than Californians with just a high school diploma. The income and employment gap between those with a college degree and those without continues to widen.

Plus, college isn't just about making money. A religion major might never be happy pursuing a career in engineering. And many students know the risks of pursuing an arts or humanities degree: Thousands have subsequently done well and are reaping the rewards, both spiritually and financially.

But others feel disappointed by the results of their choice of major, especially these days.

Does anyone really expect to make a living with a degree in oppressed minority studies or philosophy?

Friday, November 19, 2010

It's Taken Almost 4 Years....

...but tonight I got my 400,000th hit on my blog since installing Stat Counter. Why do I choose that number to celebrate? Because if memory serves, that's how many hits Instapundit got in a day when I installed my Stat Counter!

Loaded Language and Half-Truths

From The Nation:

Women fell two votes short on Wednesday to coming closer to getting paid the same as men for the same work. Senate Republicans decided that equal pay for women should not even be considered, as they blocked the Paycheck Fairness Act from moving to the floor.

It goes downhill from there.

I guess no one expects The Nation to give even the appearance of impartiality; in fact, they're pretty upfront about their biases. But as the old saying goes, you're entitled to your own opinion but not your own facts.

When someone can give me some evidence that women are not paid the same as men for the same work, perhaps I'll listen. When someone can show me that the two major federal gender discrimination laws already on the books are not working, perhaps I'll listen. When someone can show me that the recent study that shows that overall pay for women is slightly less than for men because of choices women make (lower paying fields like social work, more part-time work, more time out of the workforce to raise families), then perhaps I'll listen.

Until then, I'm not buying into the victimhood, gender warfare, and political shenanigans, and neither is this woman.

Friday Trivia

The answer to yesterday's question is:

Today's question is:
In what year did American Bandstand debut? (Hint: it's older than I am.)

Message In A Bottle

This morning, out of the ether, I received an email from myself, one I composed 5 years ago though Forbes.com and their E-Mail Time Capsule with a "don't send till 19 Nov 2010" tag on it.

I wrote about what happened that year professionally and personally. I wrote about my son, my job, my vacations, my net worth (which is about the same), my non-existent love life (which continues to this day!), and a variety of other topics, including politics:

I'm distressed that the Republicans have become a party that spends money like drunken sailors. I think President Bush is a good President. He's honest, direct, and means what he says and does what he says he's going to. I support the War on Terror and its sub-war, the War in Iraq. We can win both if we don't, as a country, lose our backbone.

What really jumped out at me? I now weigh slightly less than I did then, and can wear pants a size smaller than I did then!

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Teacher Retirement, the Big Picture

A newly published journal issue offers analyses of how reform of teacher retirement benefit systems could affect not only school finance, but also teacher quality.

University of Arkansas professor Robert Costrell co-edited the special issue of the journal Education Finance and Policy that focuses on teacher retirement benefit systems. Education Finance and Policy is the official journal of the Association for Education Finance and Policy, formerly the American Education Finance Association...

Previous research by Costrell and Podgursky shows that teacher pension plans provide strong incentives to follow a specific career path that may be well-suited to some teachers but not others. Benefits are typically structured to “pull” teachers to work until their early or mid-50s and then “push” them into retirement. Some teachers in their 40s may find themselves better suited to a career change but hang on for their pension, while some in their 50s may still have good years to offer but retire prematurely, Costrell and Podgursky wrote.

In their contribution to this special issue, Costrell and Podgursky show that the distribution of pension benefits is highly unequal: approximately half of an entering cohort's pension wealth is often redistributed from those who leave prior to their 50s to those who retire in their 50s, as compared to the uniform distribution under cash-balance plans. In addition, current systems impose large penalties – worth hundreds of thousands of dollars – on teacher mobility between states.

A number of states are trying to deal with large unfunded liabilities that threaten to absorb large shares of K-12 education budgets. Because this crisis may force policymakers to consider reforms for fiscal reasons, the authors suggest now is the opportune time to examine consequences of these systems on school staffing and educator quality.

Not exactly a page-turner, but so few of the truly important reads are.

ROTC Debate at Stanford

For the second straight day, an anti-ROTC op-ed has appeared in the pages of the Daily. This time, a student in the law school wrote in with an appeal clearly intended more for the moderates of Stanford’s population (unlike yesterday’s, which expressed a “radical queer” agenda — their words, not mine). link

As DADT fades away, this issue will only get hotter. It will shine the light on the lies the elite schools have told for so long: "We're not anti-military, we'll be happy to accept the military on our campus as soon as gays are allowed to serve openly."

Anyone else got a bridge for sale?

Update: Harvard's President continues to say that she'll bring ROTC back when gays can serve openly. Why this focus on gays? Handicapped people can't serve, either. Or fat people. You get the idea.

Thursday Trivia

The answer to yesterday's question is:

Today's question is:
In what year did Lost debut?

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

The Agency Fee

I received a check from the California Teachers Association today, for $383. Why?

I'm required under California law to tithe to the CTA since they're required by a stupid Supreme Court decision to represent me even if I don't want their representation. (This is called an "agency fee" or "fair share" situation, as opposed to the "right to work" laws in several states.) Since I'm required to pay them for representation, they are only allowed to charge me for my "fair share" of the costs of their oh-so-fine representation--which is why they've refunded $383.

The number was determined by an arbiter paid, coincidentally enough, by the CTA. This arbiter decided that the following amounts must be refunded:
NEA--56% of dues paid
CTA--32.8% of dues paid
Local union--32.8% of dues paid

Look at those numbers! Over half of all the money the National Education Association (the national teachers union) gets and spends is on "non-representational" activities such as politics. Almost a third of the state and local union money is spent on activities totally unrelated to representing my interests (or what they think and say are my interests) before my employer.

And remember, these are the percentages determined by an arbiter hired by CTA--meaning that these are only the most obvious, non-defensible charges. If I were the arbiter, I'm sure I'd find plenty of other activities that could be classified as non-representational.

"To compel a man to furnish funds for the propagation of ideas he disbelieves and abhors is sinful and tyrannical." Thomas Jefferson

Do People Respond To Tax Rates?

Yes, people do:

Migration from high-tax states to states with lower taxes and less government spending will dramatically alter the composition of future Congresses, according to a study by Americans for Tax Reform.

Eight states are projected to gain at least one congressional seat under reapportionment following the 2010 Census: Texas (four seats), Florida (two seats), Arizona, Georgia, Nevada, South Carolina, Utah and Washington (one seat each). Their average top state personal income tax rate: 2.8 percent.

By contrast, New York and Ohio are likely to lose two seats each, while Illinois, Iowa, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Michigan, Missouri, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania will be down one apiece. The average top state personal income tax rate in these loser states: 6.05 percent.

For probably the first time in its history, California is not expected to gain any seats.

Wednesday Trivia

The answer to yesterday's question is:

Today's question is:
In what year did The Tonight Show debut?

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Stimulus Spending

I have lefties try to tell me periodically that last year's stimulus bill did work, or perhaps it would have worked better if only we'd spent more. Well, lefties like Harvard, so let's see what these Harvard guys have to say, courtesy of Reason:

The stimulus isn’t working because it is based on faulty economics. Using historical spending data, the Harvard economist Robert Barro and recent Harvard graduate Charles Redlick have shown that in the best case scenario, a dollar of government spending produces much less than a dollar in economic growth—between 40 and 70 cents. They also found that if the government spends $1 and raises taxes to pay for it, the economy will shrink by $1.10. In other words, greater spending financed by tax increases hurts the economy. Even if the tax is applied in the future, taxpayers today adjust their consumption and business owners refrain from hiring based on the expectation of future tax increases, which worsen the economy today.

There are other reasons the stimulus bill has hurt rather than helped the economy. Four of every five jobs reported “created or saved” are government jobs. That’s far from the 90 percent private sector jobs the administration promised. Also, the Department of Education claims it has “created or saved” at least seven jobs for every job “created or saved” by any other agency. In other words, federal stimulus funds have been used to keep teachers on state payrolls. By subsidizing public sector employment, the federal government is getting in the way of addressing the issue of overspending in the states.

The Humanities, Then and Now

From John Ellis, one of the first bloggers I ever read (assuming it's the same John Ellis!):

College foreign language and literature programs have been in decline for some time, first shrinking, then being consolidated with other departments, and now in a growing number of cases actually closed down. But the recent decision to eliminate French, Italian, Russian and Classics at SUNY Albany appears to have struck a nerve, and caused an outcry: "Defend the Humanities!"

It's a cry that has been heard many times in the past. As the segment of the university that has no direct link to a career-providing profession, the humanities have regularly been called upon to justify their usefulness, but the justification is easy to make, and it is an honorable one that instantly commands respect...

There was a time when "save the humanities" would have been an appropriate cry, but that was years ago, when they were being dismantled in one department after another and replaced with the intellectual triviality and sheer boredom of endlessly repetitive Marxist identity politics, as cowardly administrators looked on and did nothing. The poverty of intellectual content was masked by an elaborate jargon, but that only made things worse: the remade programs became the laughing stock of their campuses. But now the day of reckoning has arrived. Enrollments have collapsed, to the point where the smaller departments face extinction. Those enrollments are sinking not because students don't value the humanities, but because they do.

Hard to fault his thesis.

Tuesday Trivia

The answer to yesterday's question is:

Today's question is:
In what year did Happy Days debut?

Monday, November 15, 2010

The Shadow Scholar

This article is making the rounds of the education (and other) blogs:

In the past year, I've written roughly 5,000 pages of scholarly literature, most on very tight deadlines. But you won't find my name on a single paper.

I've written toward a master's degree in cognitive psychology, a Ph.D. in sociology, and a handful of postgraduate credits in international diplomacy. I've worked on bachelor's degrees in hospitality, business administration, and accounting. I've written for courses in history, cinema, labor relations, pharmacology, theology, sports management, maritime security, airline services, sustainability, municipal budgeting, marketing, philosophy, ethics, Eastern religion, postmodern architecture, anthropology, literature, and public administration. I've attended three dozen online universities. I've completed 12 graduate theses of 50 pages or more. All for someone else.

You've never heard of me, but there's a good chance that you've read some of my work. I'm a hired gun, a doctor of everything, an academic mercenary. My customers are your students. I promise you that. Somebody in your classroom uses a service that you can't detect, that you can't defend against, that you may not even know exists.

I work at an online company that generates tens of thousands of dollars a month by creating original essays based on specific instructions provided by cheating students. I've worked there full time since 2004. On any day of the academic year, I am working on upward of 20 assignments.

It's as well-written and entertaining as it is terrifying.

Changing the Educational Paradigm

One man's view:

Monday Trivia

The answer to yesterday's question is:

Today's question is:
In what year did The Sopranos debut?

All Sorts of Things I Want To Write About But Don't Have Time To

California Air Resources Board
The California Air Resources Board has adopted a mandate that utility companies produce 33 percent of their electricity from so-called renewable resources by 2020. That's a drastic increase over the previous 20-percent requirement, which the state still is nowhere near achieving. For some perspective, Congress, firmly controlled by a Democratic majority, refused to hike its renewable requirements even to the 20-percent level.

Compounding the state air board's error is its arrogance. Even the state Legislature, controlled by left-leaning Democrats, failed this year to impose such an over-the-top requirement. But neither Congress nor the state Legislature's reluctance dissuaded the Air Resources Board's unaccountable bureaucrats from going where elected representatives fear to tread.

In the spirit of bipartisanship and sanity, I propose that the first thing on the chopping block should be an ineffective organization that wastes money, violates our rights, and encourages us to make decisions that imperil our safety. I’m talking about the Transportation Security Administration.

Bipartisan support should be immediate. For fiscal conservatives, it’s hard to come up with a more wasteful agency than the TSA. For privacy advocates, eliminating an organization that requires you to choose between a nude body scan or genital groping in order to board a plane should be a no-brainer.

But won’t that compromise safety? I doubt it.

More On The Kid With The Flag On His Bike
School officials apologized after finding themselves the target of national anger following the news that a student was told to remove an American flag from his bike.

Denair superintendent Edward Parazz took full responsibility for what he called a big mistake, saying he understands why the furor erupted after 13-year-old Cody Alicea was told to leave his flag-decorated bike at home.

"Apologies to all the veterans, all the Americans," Parazz said. "This is all on me. I didn't want this to happen to the community, the veterans, the whole country."

In-state Tuition For Illegal Aliens
The California Supreme Court weighed in Monday on the politically charged immigration fray when it ruled that illegal immigrants are entitled to the same tuition breaks offered to in-state high school students to attend public colleges and universities...

A unanimous state Supreme Court, led by politically conservative Justice Ming Chin, said the California provision was constitutional because U.S. residents also had access to the reduced rates...

[T]he state Supreme Court noted the California law says nothing about state residency, a distinction that foes of the plan said shouldn't matter. The Sacramento-based Pacific Legal Foundation, which supports numerous political efforts, said the spirit of federal law was to deny tuition breaks to illegal immigrants.

Foundation attorney Ralph Kasarda, who submitted a friend-of-the-court brief in the case, said California was not in sync with the federal mandate against showing favoritism to illegal immigrants.

"California's policy is also atrocious financial stewardship," he said.

The state law also requires illegal immigrants who apply for the in-state tuition to swear they will attempt to become U.S. citizens. The applicants are still barred from receiving federal financial aid.

So-called Elite Colleges and Veterans
When Princeton undergraduates discuss history, political science or foreign policy, they won’t hear the views of a classmate who’s fought in Iraq or Afghanistan, writes Wick Sloane on Inside Higher Ed. Not a single Princeton undergrad is a veteran. The same is true at Williams College, labeled the best liberal arts college by U.S. News. Harvard enrolls only two veterans; Yale has another two.

Sloane teaches “young men with canes” at Bunker Hill Community College in Boston, which enrolls 367 veterans. He proposes that elite colleges admit as many veterans to undergraduate programs as they admit varsity football players.

A melange, to be sure.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Sunday Trivia

The answer to yesterday's question is:

Today's question, the first in TV Debut Season Week, is:
In what year did American Idol debut?

Still Considered a Minority?

I'll both enjoy and be disgusted by the contortions of logic that will justify calling white students "majority" and Hispanic students "minority":

Latinos now make up a majority of California's public school students, cracking the 50 percent barrier for the first time in the state's history, according to data released Friday by the state Department of Education.

Almost 50.4 percent of the state's students in the 2009-10 school year identified themselves as Hispanic or Latino, up 1.36 percent from the previous year.

In comparison, 27 percent of California's 6.2 million students identified themselves as white, 9 percent as Asian and 7 percent as black. Students calling themselves Filipino, Pacific Islander, Native American or other total almost 7 percent.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Saturday Trivia

The answer to yesterday's question is:
Calvin Coolidge, in 1924.

Today's question is:
How many dimples are on a regulation golf ball?

It's been awhile since we've had a theme week, so tomorrow starts TV Debut Season Week!

I Thought Liberals Believed That Medical Decisions Should Be Between Patient and Doctor

Unless, of course, liberals now believe that, as with socialist health care, medical decisions should be between patient and government:

The Board of Supervisors just banned toys in Happy Meals, which drew worldwide attention.

Now the latest ban being proposed in San Francisco is on male circumcision.

A proposed ballot measure for the November 2011 ballot – when voters will be electing the San Francisco’s next mayor – would amend The City’s police code “to make it a misdemeanor to circumcise, excise, cut or mutilate the foreskin, testicle or penis of another person who has not attained the age of 18.”

Doing so would result in a fine of up to $1,000 and up to one year in jail, according to the proposed measure submitted to the Department of Elections.

Let's depart from the sickness that is San Francisco for a moment. Does anyone else find it extremely hilarious that this column is listed in the City Hall Politics section, which is called Under The Dome?

Friday, November 12, 2010

Sad? Pathetic? Criminal?

Eight of 10 public high school juniors in Illinois weren't considered ready for college classes in all subjects based on ACT testing last spring — and many students missed the mark even at posh suburban Chicago schools that graduate some of the state's brightest kids...

The Tribune calculated college readiness figures from student ACT scores released for the first time by the state under the Freedom of Information Act. They reveal a less-flattering picture of schools accustomed to high rankings and raise questions about the rigor of high school classes...

High schools typically offer rigorous honors and Advanced Placement classes for top students, followed by regular classes and then lower-level classes for struggling students.

"We all know that Algebra 2 is not always Algebra 2," said Weeks of ACT. In reality, he said, rigor differs from classroom to classroom. link

Standards are supposed to be just that, standard.

And teachers wonder why there's such a push for some form of accountability.

Bjorn Lomborg on Hugh Hewitt

I've written about Lomborg before (just do a search at the top or bottom of this blog for "Lomborg"), and hearing him on the drive home today on Hugh Hewitt's show was very informative. He's what I'd call a straight shooter--no ideologue, he. He tackles global warming/climate change/global climate disruption as an economist, and his views are most interesting. His new movie is "Cool It", an alternative way to look at the hyperbole from Al Gore's movie, and it's web site is linked at the above.

As of the time I write this, no transcript of Hewitt's interview with Lomborg is posted. I'd really like to show how even-handed he is on this topic, even when I disagree with him.

That Was A Fast Turnaround

This morning longtime friend and reader MikeAT sent me this news story which happened pretty much in my own backyard, relatively speaking:

13-year-old Cody Alicea rides with an American flag on the back of his bike. He says he does this to be patriotic and to honor veterans, like his own grandfather, Robert. He's had the flag on his bike for two months but Monday, was told to take it down.

This story is dated today, although it took place on Monday.

I got home to post about it, and look what I find:

The 13-year-old walked into a clutch of news crews, drawn to Denair Middle School after a school employee’s request that Cody remove an American flag from his bike attracted national headlines. The district reversed its stance Friday.
Those cockroaches sure will scurry in the daylight, won't they? This is really the part that gets me:

Edward Parraz, superintendent of the Denair Unified School District, said that a campus supervisor asked Cody to remove the flag earlier this week out of concern for his safety.

Those concerns arose from a dust-up among students last school year after some racial tensions arose when Latino students brought Mexican flags to school around Cinco de Mayo.

Anyone who has a problem with a US flag at an American school in the US--they are the problem, not the person with the US flag.

Friday Trivia

The answer to yesterday's question is:
General Robert E. Lee, after the Confederate victory at Fredericksburg.

Today's question is:
Who was the first US president to appear on film with sound? (Yes, the answer is ironic!)

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Thursday Trivia

The answer to yesterday's question is:
Missouri, in Springfield.

Today's question is:
Who was quoted as saying, “it is well that war is so terrible, we should grow too fond of it”?

Not The Brightest Bulb In The Chandelier

He whipped his players in order "to save these young men from the destruction of self and what society has accepted and become silent to the issues our students are facing on a daily basis." Is that a coherent statement? I think I know what he's trying to say; perhaps there should be a comma after "silent to". But without any further ado, here's what happened:

Three Murrah High School basketball players have sued their coach and the school system over alleged whippings.

The lawsuit was filed Tuesday in federal court in Jackson by attorney Lisa Ross.

Ross contends that a video clip shows a basketball player bent over as a man swings a belt, hitting him three times. The video was made available to Jackson media outlets.

Ross says the man in the video, which was recorded on a cell phone, is boys basketball coach Marlon Dorsey.

In the lawsuit, which gives only one side of the legal argument, the players contend they were physically and verbally abused by the coach.

Dorsey, who has admitted to whipping players, has been on leave since late October. On Oct. 28, school and district officials met with about 30 parents about the matter, but there has been no official word from JPS on Dorsey's status.
Now that he's been caught, he's "deeply remorseful".

I Love Thinking Like This

In 2008, the largest number of voters in American history gave the Democrats their largest share of the presidential vote in 44 years and big majorities in the House and Senate.

How did Republicans react? They held their ideological ground, refused to give an inch to the new president, and insisted that persistent opposition would eventually yield them victory. And on Nov. 2, it did.--E. J. Dionne

Before last week Democrats had such overwhelming majorities that, in moves similar to the passing of the 1993 budget, which was passed without a single Republican vote, Democrats passed a three-quarters-of-a-trillion dollar porkulus package, getting not a single Republican vote in the House and only 3 in the Senate, as well as the much-touted health care reform bill, without a single Republican vote in either chamber. And the problem was Republican intransigence? You liberals passed the bills you wanted, you celebrated them, you taunted and demeaned those who opposed them--and last week, you lost because of them.

The problem, Mr. Dionne and other liberals, is not the Republicans, and neither is it the American people--whose intelligence and greatness you were praising two years ago when they were smart enough to elect your guy to the White House. No, the problem is your ideas. The voting public doesn't like them.

But please, keep on keeping on:

Democrats who stand up to say they were right to reform health care and stimulate a staggering economy are told they "don't get it" and are "in denial." Liberals who refuse to let one election loss alter their commitments are dismissed as "doubling down" on a bad bet.

In early January there will be more Republicans in the House than there were 5 years ago. There's a reason for that. But please, keep encouraging Democrats to flout the expressed will of the people! It's worked wonderfully for you so far. From the president's telling House Republicans "I won" to Nancy Pelosi's walking through a crowd of health-care-bill protesters while carrying an oversized Speaker's gavel, the Democratic supermajority has shown nothing but arrogance. You want them to keep showing that? I support you in your endeavors.

Democrats still control the White House and the Senate. They have skin in the game, unlike the Republicans in the dark days of 2009. Both parties will now have the responsibility to govern, and the Democrats had better learn to listen to Republicans instead of trying to steamroll over them. Why? Because there's an election in another two years.

The Very Definition of Unsustainable

If you look up "unsustainable" in the dictionary, you see a picture of California:

Now, while California focuses on wind turbines, solar panels and electric cars, vast offshore oil resources remain undeveloped and nuclear power is ignored. Consequently, the energy-starved state's employment and economic future is bleak. A 2009 Milken Institute study showed a recent loss of nearly 400,000 manufacturing jobs...

The regulatory environment has turned dreams of good lives into nightmares for many who are leaving in hordes, taking much of the state's tax base with them. About 2.14 million people fled to other states between 2005 and 2007, while only 1.44 million moved in. Meanwhile, the state's debt rises at a rate of about $25 million per day. Some 2.3 million Californians (12.5%) are without employment, and factory jobs plummeted from 1.87 million to 1.23 million (34% of the industrial base) since 2001. California, with 12% of the U.S. population, has nearly a one-third of the nation's welfare recipients--15.3% of all Californians live in poverty. Its budget gap for 2009 to 2010 ($45 billion) equaled 53% of total state spending. This occurred despite having the nation's highest state sales tax and third-highest income tax.

As Margaret Thatcher famously said, the problem with socialism is you eventually run out of other people's money. And when you chase away the people with money, the problem spirals.

Update: Then there's this from the major Sacramento newspaper:

In what has become a somber November tradition, the nonpartisan Legislative Analyst's Office projected Wednesday that California must close a $25.4 billion shortfall next year, twice as large as legislative leaders predicted.

And California just elected even more Democrats to Sacramento.

The Arrogance That Comes With Tenure

Yet again it's from New Jersey, where a teachers union official once openly stated that he prayed for the governor's death:

An unflattering video made during a New Jersey Education Association leadership conference this summer has had repercussions for at least one union member: A Passaic special education teacher was suspended for nine days and will be docked a pay raise after making crude comments to an undercover videographer.

Alissa Ploshnick’s unintentional starring performance in the "Teachers Unions Gone Wild" video included, among other things, using the "N" word and joking about how hard it is for tenured teachers to be fired. It was all caught on tape at a hotel bar during the weeklong conference in August.

Passaic Superintendent Robert Holster, who said he considered bringing harsher punishment of tenure charges, said the discipline was a "difficult decision," because "some people believe what’s said outside the school system is someone’s right."

But he said Ploshnick’s comments — which he called "professionally insulting" and not "the responsible behavior of a professional person employed by the Passaic Board of Education" — merited the response. He said the tape created "kind of an outrage" in Passaic.

"The character of an educator has to be beyond the school bell. It doesn’t take place only in school," Holster said...

Ploshnick earns "probably in the high 90s" and teaches a class of seven or eight special education students, Holster said. Wollmer said Ploshnick once was named "Teacher of the Year."

The video was one of three targeting the NJEA that was released by self-styled muckraker James O’Keefe. Taped largely at the East Brunswick Hilton, it included teachers chanting things against Gov. Chris Christie, who has been in an on-going battle with the union. Ploshnick was one of few identified teachers in the video.

Wollmer said an "operative" bought her drinks and secretly recorded her at the bar, engaging her in what she thought was a "social" conversation.
Where and when does a teacher's job end? Does a teacher give up 1st Amendment rights by virtue of being a teacher?

The video is from a teachers union powwow, so I can see how someone can legitimately argue that the teachers on the video were acting in some capacity as teachers and that their actions and words are not entirely free. Again, I can see how someone can legitimately argue that, I'm not saying that I necessarily agree with it. It's an interesting topic to me--when, exactly, can I be busted for what I say and do on my own time, or on my own blog?

Reading About Slavery Supposedly Traumatizes Student

When we even entertain silliness like this solely because of someone's skin color, I have a hard time accepting there's any "privilege" in being born white:

The father of a black student has sued a Detroit-area school district claiming that his daughter was racially harassed by a fifth-grade teacher's reading aloud from a book about slavery.

The suit claims Jala Petree's teacher at Margaret Black Elementary School in Sterling Heights read excerpts from Julius Lester's "From Slave Ship to Freedom Road" that contain racial epithets and racist characterizations, The Macomb Daily reported.

The suit against Warren Consolidated Schools was filed Nov. 3 in Macomb County Circuit Court in Mount Clemens, according to court records. It was filed by Jala's father, Jamey Petree, and seeks more than $50,000 in damages...

The lawsuit claims the reading has "affected the conditions of learning duties and the advantages of her further education, and seriously affected her mental and emotional well-being, past, present and future."

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Waterboarding of Terrorists? No. Fondling the Genitalia of Ordinary People? Sure!

That seems to be the logic of some, that's for sure.

In making the decision to elect Barack Obama as president, voters in 2008 considered all that President Bush had done while President and projected that onto John McCain, rightly or not.

And after careful consideration, McCain was rejected in favor of hope and change.

We were never told that the Obama Administration would stop water-boarding terrorists in favor of fondling the genitalia of all who refused naked body scans.

Obama and the Democrats decried the humiliation thrust upon terrorists in Abu Ghraib Prison as torture and humiliation, yet these same people believe the same humiliation and forced nudity thrust upon the traveling public is somehow OK.

At least none of the Abu Ghraib prisoners had their genitalia violated by the guards.

Yes, the post engages in some hyperbole, but not so much.

There's a link in that post to a picture of someone in one of those machines. She may as well be standing there naked.

And yes, I'll forgive the mispelling"genetalia" in the linked post. :-)

Wednesday Trivia

The answer to yesterday's question is:
Benjamin Harrison (although the recording post-dates his presidency.)

Today's question is:
In which state is the National Cemetery, the only one in which Union and Confederate forces are buried side by side?

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

How Much Money Did Teachers Unions Spend On Just The Propositions In California in Last Week's Election?

EIA has the numbers and they're staggering, especially considering that not one of the propositions had anything to do with teacher pay, benefits, or working conditions--the very topics on which unions should focus.

Diet Update

For a couple of weeks I hovered between 178 and 180 pounds, and now I seem to be hovering between 177 and 179 pounds. Not bad, but not much movement, either. Still, I'm not going to minimize a 20 lb loss, especially now that I can fit into pants that I haven't worn in a couple of years (and that last 10 lb I want to lose should get me down one more size!).

I'm considering switching to this diet :-)

Twinkies. Nutty bars. Powdered donuts.

For 10 weeks, Mark Haub, a professor of human nutrition at Kansas State University, ate one of these sugary cakelets every three hours, instead of meals. To add variety in his steady stream of Hostess and Little Debbie snacks, Haub munched on Doritos chips, sugary cereals and Oreos, too.

His premise: That in weight loss, pure calorie counting is what matters most -- not the nutritional value of the food.

The premise held up: On his "convenience store diet," he shed 27 pounds in two months.

White Privilege

I hear a lot about it from my more "enlightened", liberal friends, but I don't buy into it. You know what I do buy into? The ideas put forth in this post. Many of the comments afterward are enlightening, too.

Tuesday Trivia

The answer to yesterday's question is:

Today's question is:
Who is the earliest US president for whom a recorded voice exists?

The Fates Want Them To Stay Home

Remember the friends I wrote about in this post, the ones who got to slide down the evacuation chutes after a "hard landing" at Sac International? Well, they're scheduled to be on the Carnival Splendor this Sunday!

Hypocrisy, or Stupidity?

Sometimes I wonder if the vice president can do anything right:

Joe Biden update: The VP meets on government transparency today. But that meeting is closed

Harmless Prank, or Meriting Expulsion?

You decide:

Two honor roll students at a Yuba City high school are facing expulsion and criminal charges in connection with a streaking incident at a football game that was recorded and posted to YouTube.

The two best friends and fellow seniors at River Valley High School, Allie and Angie, walked onto the school's football field during halftime, stripped off their clothes and started running.

They had seen the stunt on a reality show and thought it looked like fun, Allie told CBS13...

Both girls were suspended for three days and could be expelled, and they both are due in court to face charges of indecent exposure.

Suspension I can understand. Expulsion seems a bit much to me.

Monday, November 08, 2010

Monday Trivia

The answer to yesterday's question is:
Bethel, NY.

Today's question is:
What was Shakespeare's longest play?

Sunday, November 07, 2010

Sunday Trivia

The answer to yesterday's question is:
Poet Ben Jonson.

Today's question is:
In what town was the original Woodstock concert held?

Qualified Congratulations

From the major Sacramento newspaper:

A team of four Sacramento State students has won a national engineering competition, beating out teams from UC Berkeley, Stanford and UCLA.

Ariana Castillo, Manuel Ramirez, Felix Ortiz and Phillip Booker, all juniors at California State University, Sacramento, won first place in an academic competition last week at the national gathering of the Society for Hispanic Professional Engineers in Cincinnati.

As I wrote in a comment on that article: While I congratulate the students on their success, I wonder why a race-based organization for "professional engineers" even exists. What insight does being Hispanic bring to the engineering field?

This begs the question: are they not good enough to compete against white, black, Asian, or any other engineers?

13-year Lawsuit Thrown Out

Are Waldorf Schools religion-based or not?

A federal judge has thrown out a lawsuit that has kept the Sacramento City Unified School District in court for nearly 13 years fending off a challenge to the Waldorf teaching method used in two district schools.

People for Legal and Non-Sectarian Schools, or PLANS Inc., sued the district in 1998, claiming the method is inextricably linked to anthroposophy – the philosophy of Waldorf method founder Rudolf Steiner. The suit contended anthroposophy is a religion and that its use in public schools violates the First Amendment's establishment clause, which precludes mixing religion with government institutions...

In a 20-page order issued Friday, Damrell agreed that Bush had failed to show that anthroposophy is a religion, and he dismissed the lawsuit.

My limited knowledge of Waldorf schools tells me that they're a bit flaky, but not every belief structure is a religion. I've said it before and I'll say it again: public schools aren't sacred, but universal public education is. If parents want to send their kids to Waldorf schools, or to performing arts magnet schools, or to technology centers--as long as the schools are teaching the state-approved curriculum, for the most part I'm OK with having such schools.

And before you ask: no, I would not support publicly funding schools that seek to subvert our Western way of life, that advocate the overthrow of the US government, etc.

Saturday, November 06, 2010

Saturday Trivia

The answer to yesterday's question is:
North America: Denali
South America: Aconcagua
Europe: Mount Elbrus
Africa: Mount Kilimanjaro
Asia: Mount Everest
Australia: Mount Kosciuszko
Antarctica: Vinson Massif

Today's question is:
Who is buried standing upright in Westminster Abbey?