Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Coast Guard Academy?

A few months ago I met a Coast Guard Academy admission officer at my school, just happened to be in the counseling office when he finished speaking to one of our counselors. Since my son is interested in enlisting in the Coast Guard, and since I attended a military academy, he and I spoke for over half an hour. He mentioned an "educators and influencers" conference to be held in the spring, and today I received my invitation--it takes place in 3 weeks!

I hope my principal lets me attend and that I don't have to use my own paid leave time to participate in a program designed to help my school's students.

Monday, February 27, 2012

I Should Quit My Pity Party

I sometimes lament how "blue" California is, and how Republicans essentially have no say in how this state is run. While that's true, I can't wear it like a crown--so says Tim Pawlenty:
But after a grueling California Republican Party convention dominated by doubts about the continuing viability of the Golden State’s GOP, Pawlenty’s final-night speech to about 200 party faithful turned out to be the only address that fit the occasion. Rather than denying or rationalizing the party’s looming extinction in the country’s most populated state, the erstwhile Republican presidential candidate merely encouraged the depleted GOP to buck up.

After reciting a long history of Democratic–Farmer–Labor Party dominance in Minnesota – a history that stretches dismally from Hubert Humphrey and Eugene McCarthy through Walter Mondale and into the glorious present of Al Franken – Pawlenty concluded, “So don’t whine to me about how hard it is for Republicans in California.”
Buck up. I like that. (Only because I say it a lot.)

Sunday, February 26, 2012

A New Calculus Book To Check Out

I don't teach calculus so I don't have a good frame of reference on whether this new book is effective, but I'd like to hear from those who do!

Yesterday In San Francisco

My son and I spent the day in SF yesterday, and what a beautiful day it was! The weather could hardly have been more ideal, and it's only February!

We first went to the Old San Francisco Mint for a coin show; I was more impressed by the building than by the coin show. From there we went up to Twin Peaks to take some video, most of which didn't make it to the video below but the footage itself is fairly impressive. We then drove past the Painted Ladies to Pier 39, ground zero for tourists. Not too far from Pier 39 we saw a private charter conducting 60-minute bay tours, and since the price was right we went. Pulled into our driveway around 8:30 last night.

My new video camera came with video editing software with which I'm not exactly thrilled (I can't even tell if it has the capability to have transitions between scenes), so I tried a demo version of different software. It worked quite well but $60 is a bit steep for the non-watermarked, full-capability version!

See what you think here, after Vimeo has worked its magic rendering the video.

Update: the video's all set, go take a look!

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Coming Sunday...

Video of today's day trip to San Francisco! The son and I had a great time, although there were a couple times shortly after I got there where I said, "Gawd I hate this f***ing city." Fortunately after those first several minutes things went great until we tried to make our way back to the freeway at the end of the day. How do people live like that? How much of their lives do they spend fighting traffic on those streets?

All in all, though, a great time. You'll see.

Update: OK, I give in. You want a taste? Yeah you do....

That's the UC Berkeley campanile across the bay. Then there's this:

It's a water tower they're restoring so that it doesn't just tumble over.

Friday, February 24, 2012

When Is Free Not Free?

When it's a "surcharge charge". This from the web site for visiting Independence Hall in Philadelphia:
In planning your visit to Independence National Historical Park during March through December, we recommend that you reserve your Independence Hall tour tickets in advance online or by phone.

Ticket Reservations - Tickets may be reserved up to one year in advance through the National Park Reservation system.

In advance reservations:

Visit www.recreation.gov There is a $1.50 per ticket surcharge charge when you order online or by Phone.
Thankfully, though, the tickets themselves are free. The "surcharge charge" is extra.

Might We Actually Get A Short Winter In Sacramento?

If you want to see what a glorious day it was here in the capital yesterday, check out my video here. While we had high winds yesterday, the sky had only wispy clouds and the temperature was in the 70s.

Last year our winter was so long that skiing lasted into July instead of the usual May. This year we haven't really had a winter, but the magic of correlations says we might:
There's strong historical evidence that Sacramento's dry February could be followed by a wet March.

The National Weather Service noted on its website today that since 1878 in Sacramento there have been 25 months of February with an inch or less of rain.

The following March in 23 of those 25 cases was wetter than usual. The average March precipitation following the dry months of February was 2.54 inches, forecasters stated.
Let's hope for #24!

Should Schools Really Be Doing This?

Now we have schools in Sacramento serving dinner. That means all three meals a day for some students come from school. I think it's a bad idea.

Darren, you heartless conservative! How can you even think of starving these poor children?

I don't think they're hungry. And rather than just allowing bad choices on the part of (some of) their parents, we're enabling those bad choices with these programs. The linked article mentions "food security" much more often than it mentions actual hunger, and here's what it says:
The number of Americans who lived in households that lacked consistent access to adequate food soared last year, to 49 million, the highest since the government began tracking what it calls “food insecurity” 14 years ago, the Department of Agriculture reported Monday.

The increase, of 13 million Americans, was much larger than even the most pessimistic observers of hunger trends had expected and cast an alarming light on the daily hardships caused by the recession’s punishing effect on jobs and wages.

About a third of these struggling households had what the researchers called “very low food security,” meaning lack of money forced members to skip meals, cut portions or otherwise forgo food at some point in the year.

The other two-thirds typically had enough to eat, but only by eating cheaper or less varied foods, relying on government aid like food stamps, or visiting food pantries and soup kitchens...

Though researchers at the Agriculture Department do not use the word “hunger,” Mr. Obama did. “Hunger rose significantly last year,” he said...

The report measures the number of households that experienced problems at any point in the year. Only a “small fraction” were facing the problem at a given moment. Among those with “very low food security,” for instance, most experienced the condition for several days in each of seven or eight months.
Again, we're not talking about actual hunger, we're talking about being concerned about food or having to constrain what you buy. (Heck, I've been there, although admittedly not for many years.) Schools are now starting yet another program that will never go away.

Would it be reasonable for "our betters" to say something like, "We're feeding your kid, so you have to do this"? In other words, is government's feeding your child a right, an entitlement, or a gift for which you must pay by somehow living "better" in a manner determined by the governing class? It seems I just wrote a post on this topic.

On the other hand, if the school is feeding kids then we'd never have to worry about the wrong kind of lunch sent from home.

Why I'm Not A Socialist, Why I Don't Support Obamacare

You and I can decide that some people live "unhealthy" lifestyles or make "bad" decisions, but outside of very limited circumstances, who are we to tell others how to live their lives? The answer to that question is one of the fundamental differences between a liberal and a conservative, between a socialist and a freedom-lover.

But Darren, what does this have to do with socialism, a cradle-to-grave nanny-state? This:
“If Congress can force activity under the Commerce Clause, then it could force individuals to receive vaccinations or annual checkups, undergo mammogram or prostate exams, or maintain a specific body mass,” argues Koster’s brief in the case that the Supreme Court will hear in March.
You're too fat. You must go to the gym. Sorry, you can't buy those chips, eat this kiwi instead. No elevator for you, take the stairs.

Government shouldn't dictate how we live our lives. When it does, we've lost our freedoms. Those inalienable rights granted by our creator become treats doled out by the ruling elite here on earth.

Are we free individuals, or just pawns in someone else's idea of utopia?

A Little Late, But I'm Glad He's At The Party

Washington Post writer Jay Mathews no longer supports the Common Core Standards while California embraces them like a long-lost child:
Common Core standards are the educational fashion of the moment, but your child’s teacher can name many similar plans that went awry. I was impressed at first with the brain power and good intentions behind the Common Core standards, launched by nongovernmental groups with the support of the Obama administration and governors of both parties. I thought the change would elevate instruction and end the distressing difference between what defined student proficiency in Massachusetts (pretty high) compared with Mississippi (quite low.)

But I have been talking to Brookings Institution scholar Tom Loveless, a national expert on this topic, and read his latest research paper: “Predicting the Effect of Common Core Standards on Student Achievement.” He reviewed the research. He assessed the chances of the Common Core standards making a difference. It turns out this is another big disappointment we should have figured out long ago.

No Child Left Behind merely required that states set standards and test to determine if students were meeting them, whereas now we have national standards. What's that pesky Constitution say in the 9th and 10th Amendments?

What a debacle.

Hat tip to Joanne Jacobs.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Old Sacramento

I bought a new video camera for my upcoming trips and thought I'd try it out today in the historic part of downtown, Old Sacramento. Except for the wind it could hardly have been a nicer day--if you want to take a 12 minute vacation to one small corner of California's capital, click here.

Teaching The Global Warming Controversy

How do you "teach the controversy" at K-12? You'd have to have teachers get out of their "I know it best" comfort zones, that's for sure. Here's how it's done at one university:
However, I do have some insights and experience with regards to teaching the controversy at the college level. Let me share some of the things that we have been doing at Georgia Tech in the School of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences (EAS).

Climate and Global Change

Peter Webster teaches a course on Climate and Global Change, that is taken by senior undergraduate students and also graduate students. More than half of the students from the class come from other fields (mostly engineering and biology). The course is primarily the science of climate dynamics.

The last two weeks are devoted to the climate change problem as framed by the IPCC. The students were shown 6 online (youtube) presentations: 3 from the consensus perspective, and 3 from the skeptic side: Pat Michaels, Bob Carter, Vincent Courtillot. I led a discussion on the movies. The general opinion of the students was that none of the presentations were wholly convincing, and that each had at least some good points. I asked which “side” did you find more convincing, the consensus or the skeptics? Most said “somewhere in the middle.”
The post continues after a few paragraphs:
Last week, Randy Olson, scientist turned film maker, visited Georgia Tech for a series of workshops, a lecture, and screening of his movie Sizzle: A Global Warming Comedy.

This is the most balanced treatment of the global warming debate that I’ve seen. Its done in ‘mockumentary’ style, its funny yet insightful. It has a number of features that would appeal to high school and college audiences, including the hip-hop photographers and the flaky producers. It has a number of important, yet subtly made points: that there is a scientific debate, it is very easy to get distracted from the global warming issue to deal with more immediately relevant issues, and finally that the U.S. doesn’t know how to deal with such challenges (as exemplified by continuing problems in New Orleans).

People interviewed from the ‘warm side’:

Dr Jerry Meehl, NCAR climate scientist
Dr. Richard Somerville, Sripps climate scientist
Dr. Naomi Oreskes, History of Science Professor
Dr. Megan Owen, San Diego Zoo Research Dept
Julia Bovey, Natural Resource Defense Council

People interviewed from the ‘cool side:’

Dr. George Chillingarian, Professor of Petroleum Eng.
Dr. Bill Gray, Emeritus Professor of Atmospheric Sciences
Dr. Steve Hayward, American Enterprise Institute
Dr. Pat Michaels, CATO Institute
Marc Morano, former staff member of Senator Inhofe
Dr. Fred Singer, Science and Environmental Policy Project

There are two different Trailers, see here and here. The Pat Michaels scene is here. The Marc Morano scene is here.

UNFORTUNATELY, the movie is not available on DVD or in movie theaters, apparently it is shown in special screenings. But this is an excellent example of teaching the controversy.
I don't have a problem with teaching the controversy. I think my side of this issue is stronger and would carry the day.

Update: In teaching the controversy, would you mention the environmental groups "in the pay of big oil and energy"??

Update #2, 2/25/12: In teaching the controversy, might you include this guy's views?
Professor Richard Lindzen is one of the world's greatest atmospheric physicists: perhaps the greatest. What he doesn't know about the science behind climate change probably isn't worth knowing. But even if you weren't aware of all this, even if you'd come to the talk he gave in the House of Commons this week without prejudice or expectation, I can pretty much guarantee you would have been blown away by his elegant dismissal of Catastrophic Anthropogenic Global Warming theory.

Dick Lindzen does not need to raise his voice. He does not use hyperbole. In a tone somewhere between weariness and withering disdain, he lets the facts speak for themselves. And the facts, as he understands them, are devastating.

Here's what he says about man-caused global warming:
Stated briefly, I will simply try to clarify what the debate over climate change is really about. It most certainly is not about whether climate is changing: it always is. It is not about whether CO2 is increasing: it clearly is. It is not about whether the increase in CO2, by itself, will lead to some warming: it should. The debate is simply over the matter of how much warming the increase in CO2 can lead to, and the connection of such warming to the innumerable claimed catastrophes. The evidence is that the increase in CO2 will lead to very little warming, and that the connection of this minimal warming (or even significant warming) to the purported catastrophes is also minimal. The arguments on which the catastrophic claims are made are extremely weak – and commonly acknowledged as such. They are sometimes overtly dishonest.
As they said on Battlestar Galactica--All this has happened before, and it will happen again.

We On The Right Don't Protest As Much As Our Friends On The Left, But When We Do....

I find this entertaining:
Concerned parents and their supporters will be having a ‘lunch-in’ on Freedom Plaza in Washington, D.C. at noon on Thursday, February 23 to protest federal school nutrition guidelines that allegedly forced at least one student to forgo her mother’s home-packed lunch in favor of chicken nuggets. Thursday’s protest is part of The National Center for Public Policy Research’s ‘Occupy Occupy D.C.’ events at Freedom Plaza. The National Center obtained a five-week permit from the U.S. Park Service that forces the Occupy D.C. encampment to share the park between February 12 and March 15.
I wrote about "nuggetgate" here.

Hat tip to Instapundit.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

I Need To Quit Booking Vacations

I've got a 2-week trip planned this summer, booked and paid for. I'd tell you all about it, but right now the plan is not to take the laptop with me, so I've come up with a nifty way to keep the blog going in my absence. Part of that plan is keeping my readers in the dark until the trip begins :)

I just booked a trip with my son to Philadelphia over spring break, only a few weeks from now! He's going to be a junior next year, taking US History at school, and I want him to see some of the places he'll be learning about so that it'll be more interesting to him. I'd like to take him to the Coast Guard Academy, but that's a 4-hr drive each way from Philadelphia, and that's just too long of a day trip! Instead I'm working on taking him to the Coast Guard headquarters in Philadelphia, we'll see how they respond to my email!

I can't afford any more big trips, so my 25th West Point reunion in September is probably off the table now. That's a big deal, but the Philly trip is more important.

Kindergartners' Obama Chant Canceled

How could anyone have thought this was acceptable behavior in the United States?
The people have spoken in Houston and forced a school to change a its decision to use an over-the-top poem praising President Obama.

Just last week The Blaze brought you the story of Tipps Elementary School in Houston that sent kindergarteners home with an assignment to learn a poem that lavished praises on the president as part of Black History Month.
The school is trying to downplay their mistake, but have no doubt it was a mistake.

Just Stumbled Upon This Old Post...

It's a great post. Check the labels and see if it might interest you. Teaser: it's about Joe Hicks and his discovery of the meaning of Dr. King's words....


I'm not one for holding presidents responsible for the price of gasoline. I'm a conservative who believes in the power of the market--as opposed to a liberal who believes that "government", personified by the president, need merely pull a lever or pass a law to "fix" things.

On the other hand, I am a big fan of hoisting people by their own petard:
When gas prices hit $4 a gallon in 2008, candidate Barack Obama said it was due to previous failed energy policies. Now that prices are heading still higher, President Obama calls it progress.

Already, pump prices are higher than they've been in previous years, suggesting they will top $4 soon and possibly reach an unprecedented $5 this summer. link

In his book Earth In The Balance, Al Gore called for higher gas prices (via taxation) in hopes of making gas so expensive that other technologies would become economically feasible. Our current energy secretary has said the same thing:
In 2008, Steven Chu, Obama's (and, sadly, our own) future secretary of energy (sic) lamented, "Somehow we have to figure out how to boost the price of gasoline to the levels in Europe." The president, when asked whether he thought $4-a-gallon gas prices were good for the American economy, said, "I think that I would have preferred a gradual adjustment."

How gradual? Like, what, four years? Or is it eight?
Gas was under $2/gallon when President Obama was inaugurated.

Above I quoted Candidate Obama's view on oil prices. What is President Obama's view?
Under fire from Republicans over rising gasoline prices, the White House on Tuesday highlighted factors beyond its control for gains in global oil markets, as it sought to deflect blame over a potentially damaging election-year issue...

Obama, a Democrat, acknowledged the risk posed by higher gas prices as he welcomed congressional approval of a payroll tax cut extension. The White House later argued that it was unfair to single out the administration over prices at the pump.
Unfair? Really? I'd have more respect for the guy if he would just admit he was wrong--as he's been wrong on so many things. His supporters elected a guy who was going to provide peace in our time, was going to close Guantanamo Bay, was going to stop trampling the Constitution, was going to pay everyone's mortgage and put gas in their car, and was going to conduct smart diplomacy. None of that has worked out. He knew nothing when he was running for president, and he's learned nothing after three years of being president.

I hope he's a one-termer, and for so many more reasons than just the price of gasoline. But if that's what turns him out, I'm ok with that.

By the way, here's the cheapest gas I saw yesterday:

Update: Looks like I should have bought gas yesterday, as here's today's price:

Update #2: Now this is a bit extreme:
The swiftness at which those gas prices continue to climb was crystal clear Wednesday night during the broadcast of ABC News' "World News with Diane Sawyer."

As ABC News' Cecilia Vega introduced her piece on high gas prices, the sign at the downtown Los Angeles gas station behind her showed the price of regular gas at $4.99 a gallon. However when the piece concluded nearly two minutes later the price of regular gas had jumped 10 cents to $5.09 a gallon.



Even Vega seemed truly surprised to see such a drastic change in such a short period of time, telling Sawyer that "it is almost too unbelievable to believe."

"It went up 10 cents?" asked Sawyer, herself shocked at what just had occurred.

"Ten cents during that two minutes while we were on the air," confirmed Vega.
Update #3, 2/24/12: Good that Nancy Pelosi is so consistent:
Pelosi 2008: Bush to Blame for High Gas Prices; Pelosi 2012: Wall Street to Blame for High Gas Prices
She's consistent, all right--the Democrats are never at fault.

Update #4, 2/27/12: Here's video from 6 years ago, with Obama, Pelosi, and Clinton attacking President Bush because gas was $3/gallon. But Darren, you say, that was 6 years ago, and gas is (only) $4/gallon now! To which I reply, most commodities--at least the ones I buy!--haven't gone up by 1/3 in 6 years.

Update #5, 2/28/12: It wasn't just those knuckleheads.

Update #6, 3/4/12: Yesterday I bought gas at Sam's, whose sign is in the pictures above, for $4.089/gallon. If the $69.38 I spent wasn't the most I'd ever spent on a single fill-up in any vehicle I've ever owned, it was darned close.

More Global Warming Fakery

Instapundit is all over the Peter Gleick story. Here's a pithy comment with link:
RAND SIMBERG: FakeGate: Can’t Hide This Decline. “Peter Gleick adds yet more fraud to the warmists’ resume.” It seems to me that people who were confident in the science would behave differently.
Then there's a Megan McArdle quote:
"When skeptics complain that global warming activists are apparently willing to go to any lengths–including lying–to advance their worldview, I’d say one of the movement’s top priorities should be not proving them right.”

Plus this: “After you have convinced people that you fervently believe your cause to be more important than telling the truth, you’ve lost the power to convince them of anything else.” Indeed.
There are too many people with too much invested in this sham to give it up now, even everyday people who just believe. They can't admit to being suckered, so they'll probably double-down instead.

Update, 2/24/12: Heartland responds with a thorough Fisking of the NYT.
Hat tip to NewsAlert.

It's A Religious Freedom Issue, Not A Contraception Issue--What Could Result From This Decision?

The subject has been so much in the news lately that it hardly needs no introduction from me.

The president is wrong to force this issue. Why did he go against the advice of so many of his advisers, including the vice president? I believe it was solely to score political points. His defenders are making this a battle over contraception but that's just red meat for his leftie base. No one is talking about denying contraception or abortion to anyone; this case is about having to pay for someone else's contraception or abortion. For many who view abortion as akin to murder, that's asking too much.

Some argue that this decision is like others that impact on religious freedom--rules against polygamy, for example. The difference is that in that case an activity is banned, while in this case individuals and groups are compelled to take an action. The difference is more than semantic.

Employers providing health insurance is a market response to government's ham-handed meddling in World War II, specifically wage controls. Company A, which produced ships for the war effort, wasn't allowed to pay employees a higher wage than Company B, which produced bullets for the war effort--employee mobility might cause one company not to be able to ship war materiel on time. Shipbuilder Henry Kaiser got around that law by offering health care to his employees, as "bennies" weren't affected by the law. Smart people will always find loopholes in laws, and exploit them.

Today we're left with the detritus of that bad law, built upon piecemeal for the past 70 years. Today it's just assumed that employers provide health insurance, even though we'd never expect them to provide car insurance or homeowners insurance, and now the government wants employers to provide specific services that go against the conscience of many.

Socialism, or corporate fascism? In this instance there's not much of a choice, really.

So how might some universities respond to this horrible requirement attached to a horrible law that has its genesis in a ridiculous law from 70 years ago? Here's how:
"The Department of Health and Human Services hardly seems like the appropriate place for such a determination to be made," wrote Mark Benedetto, the president of the University of Sioux Falls in South Dakota, a school founded by Baptists in 1872. "I am concerned that the regulations as written will violate the conscience of our institution as it relates to the health care plan that we offer to our students--the exemption is for employer plans, as written it does not appear to also include the student plans. Not only would this force our institution to violate our religious convictions by offering emergency contraceptives to our students, it would put us in the awkward position of offering a health care plan to our employees that is consistent with their religious convictions while offering another to our students that violates their religious convictions."

Some schools have already made the decision to revoke insurance to students not covered by their parents. A spokesman from Colorado Christian University, an interdenominational school in Denver that has filed a lawsuit opposing the rule, said students will be forced to seek insurance options elsewhere if the administration does not change course.
I don't think anyone argues that colleges should provide health insurance to students (at least, I haven't heard anyone seriously propose that), so one effect will be that religious colleges and universities could drop their student health plans completely.

What was it I said earlier, about smart people's finding loopholes in laws?

Halfway Done Already???

It's Wednesday, and Ski Week is halfway over. Wow!

I haven't accomplished much besides watching a bunch of Rick Steves videos for my trip this summer, and buying a new video camera. My son and I are going to San Francisco this Saturday to go to a coin show at the Old Mint and to test out the camera.

I need to go to the gym 3 more times before school starts next Monday. Will I make it???

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Can't They Make Up Their Minds?

One thing I often hear from "education progressives" is that teachers should lecture less, involve their students more. To use the cheesy rhyme, teachers should be a "guide on the side, not a sage on the stage".

So I turn to page 15 of the February issue of California Educator, and what do I find listed as a "pitfall" of online learning--complete with a "thumbs down" graphic? "Makes the teacher less a lecturer and more a 'guide' helping students navigate online courses."

So the CTA thinks good teachers should lecture more? Who knew?!

But wait, it gets better. Turn to pages 16-17 and read about great teachers who conduct online classes! "Virtual schools still need real teachers and structure". Looks to me like CTA's trying to have it both ways on this issue--it's a bad practice, but with great teachers :-)

Monday, February 20, 2012

Predictions: Will This Work, Or Not?

Governor Andrew M. Cuomo, New York State Education Commissioner John King, and New York State United Teachers President Richard C. Iannuzzi today announced a groundbreaking agreement on a new statewide evaluation system that will make New York State a national leader in holding teachers accountable for student achievement.

The agreement gives significant guidance to local school districts for the implementation of a teacher evaluation system that is based on multiple measures of performance including student achievement and rigorous classroom observations. The agreement follows through on the state's commitment to put in place a real and effective teacher evaluation system as a condition of the $700 million granted through the federal Race to the Top program. link
I'm betting "not".

Education Regulations Under Fire

I don't have enough understanding of the situation to know whether the regulations are good or typical bureaucratic molasses, can anyone illuminate this issue for me?
House Republicans are looking to move legislation as early as next week that would repeal two Education Department regulations that the GOP say intrude on the authority of states to set education policy.

The Protecting Academic Freedom in Higher Education act, H.R. 2117, was placed on the Rules Committee agenda late last week, a signal that the committee will soon meet to write a rule for floor consideration of the bill.

Overreaction, or Abuse?

I'm inclined towards the former, but you make your own call:
Valerie Borders, an Arkansas mom, made her 10-year-old son Nequavion walk to school after being suspended (for the fifth time) from riding the school bus. Was she congratulated? Nope. As per ABC News, Mom was charged with child endangerment and faces one year in jail and a $1,000 fine.

Let's unwrap the child abuse charges. KAIT says walk to school was longish (4.5 miles). A compassionate, public-spirited (or nosy, bored) bank security guard spotted the lad trudging to school and called the police. The tween boy implored the officer, "Please sir, don't take me home or my mother will beat me." So very Dickensian...

Admittedly, Nequavion's walk was long, but that's what made it consequentially perfect.
I got kicked off the school bus in 8th grade. That particular time it was unjust, but I recognized that I'd done enough on other occasions to deserve it and didn't raise a stink about it. My mother didn't punish me, I just walked to school (maybe 2 miles) for a week. Natural consequences.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Congressman Does Good

Almost two weeks ago I contacted my Congressman and asked him to request, through the White House Greeting Office, a letter for my grandfather, who turns 100 years old in about 2 weeks. I just heard from a cousin that grandpa received the letter today.

I'm still waiting to hear back from my senators on my request. Perhaps they know of my party affiliation....

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Off School For A Week

Rather than having a day off for Washington's and Lincoln's birthdays, my district takes an entire week off for "Presidents Week"--or, as I like to call it, Ski Week. Before you get all bent out of shape, though, we just go longer in June when everyone else is already enjoying the summer vacation.

My school is so spread out that we have 3 different staff lounges, and yesterday in the lounge I frequent we had a potluck--in our parlance, a "Try Mine"--during lunch. No organizing took place other than the person who suggested we have one; everyone brought what they wanted to bring, and we had a great mix of entrees, side dishes, and desserts. Having my prep period immediately before lunch (and failing to bring anything), I nuked what needed to be nuked and set up the "buffet" so that everything was ready to go when lunch started. A few minutes before lunch was over, a couple people started grabbing plates and washing them in the sink.

Such is the caliber of people I'm privileged to work with.

By the by, did you catch that I said people were washing the plates? That's right, we keep a (donated) set of very nice dishes in our staff lounge, along with more coffee cups than you can shake a stick at! And at the beginning of the year each of us brings in plastic cups or flatware or napkins or something so that the lounge is fully stocked.

With only 2 classes after lunch between us and a week off, you might expect that there were movies a-plenty being shown in our classrooms--but not in mine! Good thing, too, because in the middle of my instruction on Linear Equations In Polar Form, in walked all three of our school administrators. In 6th period. The day before a week off. And my class was knee-deep in instruction.

I'm sure they saw some good things and they might very well have seen some things on which I can improve. I hope to get some feedback from at least one of them, as it's always nice to have another set of eyes in the classroom.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

How Can School Officials Possibly Think This Is Acceptable or Appropriate Behavior?

I just shake my head in sadness, disgust, and amazement when I read stories like this:
A Georgia middle school student claimed in a lawsuit Wednesday he was humiliated and traumatized when he was brought to a vice principal's office and forced to strip in front of classmates who said he had marijuana...

While the three classmates watched, D.H.'s pockets and book bag were searched but didn't find anything, the lawsuit said. One of the students told school officials he had lied about D.H. having drugs, but administrators continued the search as D.H. begged to be taken to the bathroom for more privacy, according to the lawsuit.

D.H. was ordered to strip and again, no drugs were found...

The student's attorney, Gerry Weber, said a 2009 U.S. Supreme Court ruling found school officials can't perform even a partial strip search of a student, even if they have probable cause.
Here's an appropriate section of California education code:
49050. No school employee shall conduct a search that involves:
(a) Conducting a body cavity search of a pupil manually or with an instrument.
(b) Removing or arranging any or all of the clothing of a pupil to permit a visual inspection of the underclothing, breast, buttocks, or genitalia of the pupil.
As I wrote in a recent post:
It's probably a bad idea, but sometimes I think that school and university administrators should be held personally liable when they so blatantly disregard the rights of students. Might that put a damper on these little martinets?

Student Quits Choir Over Song Praising Allah

If schools are to be microcosms of their communities, and are to reflect community standards, then this student is probably right to quit in protest (since he's not living in Dearborn, MI):
A Colorado high school student says he quit the school choir after an Islamic song containing the lyric "there is no truth except Allah" made it into the repertoire.

James Harper, a senior at Grand Junction High School in Grand Junction, put his objection to singing "Zikr," a song written by Indian composer A.R. Rahman, in an email to Mesa County School District 51 officials. When the school stood by choir director Marcia Wieland's selection, Harper said, he quit.

"I don’t want to come across as a bigot or a racist, but I really don’t feel it is appropriate for students in a public high school to be singing an Islamic worship song,” Harper told KREX-TV. "This is worshipping another God, and even worshipping another prophet ... I think there would be a lot of outrage if we made a Muslim choir say Jesus Christ is the only truth."
Nothing the kid says is wrong. On the other hand, though:
At an upcoming concert, the choir is scheduled to sing an Irish folk song and an Christian song titled "Prayer of the Children," in addition to the song by Rahman.

"The teacher consulted with students and asked each of them to review an online performance of the selection with their parents before making the decision to perform the piece," Kirtland said, and members who object to the religious content of musical selections aren't required to sing them.
Membership in the choir is voluntary.

Update, 2/18/12: Does he really deserve death threats over this?

Had A White Guy Said This, They'd Say He Was A Racist

He'd be right, though:
Freshman Rep. Allen West (R-Fla.) on Wednesday evening praised the Republican Party for consistently fighting for individual freedom over the last 150 years, and criticized Democrats for pursuing "handouts" to the less fortunate that he said are a modern form of slavery.

"Our party firmly believes in the safety net," West said in a late Wednesday floor speech. "We reject the idea of the safety net becoming a hammock.

"For this reason, the Republican value of minimizing government dependence is particularly beneficial to the poorest among us," he continued. "Conversely, the Democratic appetite for ever-increasing redistributionary handouts is in fact the most insidious form of slavery remaining in the world today, and it does not promote economic freedom."
They didn't like it when Bill Cosby said such things, either. And do you remember the firestorm when a Cal Poly student posted fliers about a talk by the author of this book?

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

The Fiery Sword Is Visible In The Distance

About a week and a half ago I posted on the rumors that are leaking out of the district office:
Next year, though, will be a bloodbath. There will be smiting with fiery swords. Ten furlough days is what I've heard is being discussed, and who knows what other cuts are in the offing.

Our district has now released the list of potential job cuts for next year, and you can almost feel the heat from the sword's flame. Only 9.4 jobs in the Central Office, but 432 teaching positions. We don't even have 2000 teachers anymore, so that gives you an idea of the cuts we're facing for next year. We have 9 regular high schools and a similar number of middle schools, and they're envisioning 15.2 math jobs (some are less than full time, hence the .2) gone. Combining that with this being my 10th year in the district, I'm probably safe from a pink slip.

In prior years the layoff notices fell most heavily on the 7-12 teachers because K-3 classes were capped at some low (20? 25?) number. That's gone away recently, and now the cuts are falling more heavily on K-6--165 of the cuts are listed as "multiple subject/self-contained". Still, I have to believe the K-6 teachers outnumber the 7-12 teachers, and yet they get fewer than half of the cuts.


And the CTA will continue to exhort teachers to vote for the Democrats that have brought this upon us, and they will celebrate themselves and congratulate themselves on their wisdom and righteousness.

Why I'm Not A "Progressive" or a "Liberal"

I believe in evidence:

Imagine a city where all the major economic planks of the statist or "progressive" platform have been enacted:

  • A "living wage" ordinance, far above the federal minimum wage, for all public employees and private contractors.
  • A school system that spends significantly more per pupil than the national average.
  • A powerful school employee union that militantly defends the exceptional pay, benefits and job security it has won for its members.
  • Other government employee unions that do the same for their members.
  • A tax system that aggressively redistributes income from businesses and the wealthy to the poor and to government bureaucracies.

Would this be a shining city on a hill, exciting the admiration of all? We don't have to guess, because there is such a city right here in our state: Detroit.

Why Is This A Big Deal?

I'm not a Mormon but I could never understand the brouhaha about this, uh, interesting aspect of Mormon belief:
Mormon church leaders apologized to the family of Holocaust survivor and Jewish rights advocate Simon Wiesenthal after his parents were posthumously baptized, a controversial ritual that Mormons believe allows deceased people a way to the afterlife but offends members of many other religions.
If you think the Mormons are wrong about God, then what they do has no impact on you at all. So they "baptized" your ancestors. So what? If they're wrong, the worst that's happened is they wasted their time. If they're wrong, then your ancestor isn't a baptized Mormon, which should make the complainers happy.

If the Mormons are right about God, then they saved your ancestor. You may not believe in Hell, but if the Mormons are right, there is one and your ancestor was going there--but isn't now, thanks to the Mormons. And if the Mormons are right, Hell isn't going to be a place of fun and partying, so no one truly wants to go there. They did your ancestor a solid, why are you complaining?

If you're offended because you don't like it that the Mormons think your ancestor (and perhaps you) are going to Hell--you don't like the Mormons anyway, why do you care if they think you're going to Hell? You probably think their religion is kookie.

This (to my mind) strange belief of the Mormons harms no one at all and it makes Mormons feel good for doing something to help the unfortunate. In all seriousness I ask, where is the harm? I don't believe in perpetuating a medieval superstition by saying "bless you" when someone sneezes, but I don't get all bent out of shape is someone says it to me when I sneeze.

Snow In The Sierra

Last year there was so much snow that there was skiing in the Sierra on the 4th of July weekend--usually April/May is as late as you get. This year is like "the year without a winter" here in the Sacramento Valley, with lighter than normal snowfall in the Sierra. Climate change, you say?
Have you noticed lately how many stories that are reaching the “mainstream” media debunking the whole global warming/climate change scam? A sure sign this hoax is headed toward history’s dustbin is the virtual irrelevance of chief scammer Al Gore and the growing evidence of data refuting the wild-eyed claims of Gore and his leftwing accomplices.

Well, there’s another breakthrough today as the San Francisco Chronicle is reporting snowfall in the Sierras has remained consistent over a 130-year span despite the hysterical claims of those who’ve perpetrated this massive fraud on a gullible public.
The picture of Saint Al at the link is pretty good.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Downloaded From Facebook

Do We Really Want Government Going This Far, Especially With Children?

I don't want a "lunch police":
A mother in Hoke County complains her daughter was forced to eat a school lunch because a government inspector determined her home-made lunch did not meet nutrition requirements. In fact, all of the students in the NC Pre-K program classroom at West Hoke Elementary School in Raeford had to accept a school lunch in addition to their lunches brought from home.

NC Pre-K (before this year known as More at Four) is a state-funded education program designed to “enhance school readiness” for four year-olds.

The mother, who doesn’t wish to be identified at this time, says she made her daughter a lunch that contained a turkey and cheese sandwich, a banana, apple juice and potato chips. A state inspector assessing the pre-K program at the school said the girl also needed a vegetable, so the inspector ordered a full school lunch tray for her. While the four-year-old was still allowed to eat her home lunch, the girl was forced to take a helping of chicken nuggets, milk, a fruit and a vegetable to supplement her sack lunch.

The mother says the girl was so intimidated by the inspection process that she was too scared to eat all of her homemade lunch. The girl ate only the chicken nuggets provided to her by the school, so she still didn’t eat a vegetable.
Get your nose out of my kid's lunch. Sheesh.

Cheerleading Coach Fired

One rant, probably not the first, got her fired:
As first reported by Houston TV network KPRC (and brought to Prep Rally's attention by the folks at Larry Brown Sports), the Cypress Woods (Texas) High cheerleading coach is no longer in charge of the program after a recording emerged on which she called her team "highfalutin heifers."

"Who do you think you all are?" the coach said in the recording. "Highfalutin heifers. You can just come and go as you please. Fire me!"

The "heifers" line was part of a much longer screed the coach made against her team, with the cheerleader who recorded the rant claiming it was just one of a number of aggressive rants the coach had launched against the team. Her name has not been released because she is not facing any criminal charges in the rant, even if it might be concerning that she would deem it appropriate to compare impressionable young women to female cattle.

Name-calling isn't the best approach to take when dealing with students, but I have a hard time getting upset over "highfalutin heifers". I've heard much worse!

And, "I'm sorry, dumplings, but your behavior just isn't meeting standards" is too silly to contemplate. Some middling ground?

Monday, February 13, 2012

Not Paulo Freire Again

This author wants high school students to have read Freire's Pedagogy of the Oppressed in high school, presumably so she can continue with the Marxism at the university. I've written about Freire a few times, and challenge Freire's thesis with a single statement attributed to Bertrand Russell: The first task of education is to destroy the tyranny of the local and immediate over the child's imagination.

If you want to read more about the Tucson situation--with a viewpoing that doesn't quite jibe with the first link above--I've written about it here. Notice that it was a judge who said the program was illegal, not the schools superintendent, as the author above stated.

Why iBooks Might Not Be Such A Great Deal Regarding Textbooks

Here's why, according to one person:
Apple recently unveiled its digital book-authoring program, iBooks Author, and I’m scared.

The last three years that I have dedicated to pursuing my Ph.D. in instructional design & technology, which centers on interactive digital text, have given me a new perspective on the delicate balance that is necessary for classroom technologies to be productive and fruitful rather than novel and superficial. The seemingly endless hours that I have spent reading journal articles, writing papers, reading book chapters, taking in lectures, reading conference proceedings, and reading some more, have left me feeling as though I have earned some sort of badge that licenses me to make qualified observations about new educational technologies.

But that’s just the problem; you don’t need to be qualified. iBooks Author allows any Apple user to design and develop an interactive, multitouch textbook. No design experience necessary.

I should be ecstatic that a layperson is able to design instructional products with applications that, until recently, required a personal computer programmer to develop. The digital revolution is finally upon us!

Not exactly. I’m concerned that the act of creating a digital book for students will impede the learning benchmarks that are expected of them. Let me put it this way: When was the last time you saw a well-designed, engaging PowerPoint presentation, where the speaker did not read the words directly off of the slide, verbatim? This is my point. We have allowed everyone to become an instructional designer.
Could he have stumbled upon a better example? I think not.

There are plenty of people who are capable of writing textbooks--in fact, a physics teacher at my school has done much work in this arena. And he's even an Apple fanboy, so iBooks should be right up his alley! The concern, though, is that he would be the exception, not the rule, if every Joe with a computer were to start writing textbooks. It should be incumbent on the the author-to-be to demonstrate competence, not on others to demonstrate why the author might not be competent.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Why He Chose The Tea Party Over "Occupy"

This kid has his head screwed on straight:
The Occupy Wall Street movement touts itself as a movement powered by youth, particularly youth frustrated with the higher education bubble and high unemployment. As a 22 year-old that finds himself between schools (hopefully for just a short time) and between jobs, I fit that niche. Why, then, do I find myself far more at home with the Tea Party movement than the Occupy movement? It’s about the future...

The Occupy movement focuses on short-term issues and believes in antiquated ideas of the 1960s and 1970s...

Occupy is all rage and no vision...

A true youth movement embraces the rebellion in the human spirit. What personifies this better, a movement based on “Don’t tread on me” or one based on asking the government to bail out their lives...

I choose the Tea Party movement because it ultimately asks me to do more for myself, my (future) family and my country. The Occupy movement asks me to admit I can’t face this world, as past generations faced and conquered their world. I am too optimistic to give in.

I Teach A Lot Of Truants

If this is how we define truancy, then I teach plenty of truants:
In California, truancy is defined as missing three days unexcused or being tardy more than three times during a school year.

Read more here: http://www.sacbee.com/2012/02/12/4257106/school-districts-launch-efforts.html#storylink=cpy
I have students who meet that standard in a week.

So Cold, They're Burning Money In Hungary

OK, they're not burning "money", they're burning "former money". Still, it's a pretty cool report.

It's cold in Hungary; spring-like conditions reign here in the Sacramento Valley.

Just Because You Go To A University, You're Not Automatically God's Gift To The World

Lots of education, even more hubris, not a lot of common sense?
As summer analyst recruiting season continues and superdays near, Wall Street has been having a laugh with one New York University applicant who, to say the least, took a surprisingly dogged approach with his cover letter.

He wrote:

"I am unequivocally the most unflaggingly hard worker I know, and I love self-improvement. I have always felt that my time should be spent wisely, so I continuously challenge myself ... I decided to redouble my effort by placing out of two classes, taking two honors classes, and holding two part-time jobs. That semester I achieved a 3.93, and in the same time I managed to bench double my bodyweight and do 35 pull-ups."

Since Thursday, February 2, when a Bank of America Merrill Lynch director forwarded the cover letter out to his entire team, offering drinks "to the first analyst to concisely summarize everything that is wrong with" the note, it has passed through more than a dozen firms.
"You'd be lucky to get me" isn't usually the best sales pitch, especially in this economy.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Off-Campus Speech

If I've said it once I've said it a million times--schools have no business trying to regulate the off-campus speech of their students. Universities have even less business trying to regulate the speech of their students, who are mostly adults, but some still try:
Hard cases, as Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes cautioned in a 1904 Supreme Court opinion, make bad law. What ­Holmes meant is that cases with distasteful facts and unlikeable parties tempt judges to back into the desired outcome without regard for the broader legal principles at stake. When that happens, future parties with more sympathetic cases become collateral damage.

Tatro v. University of Minnesota is one of those hard cases. If the justices of the Minnesota Supreme Court lose sight of the larger constitutional issues, the outcome in the case could give colleges virtually limitless authority to silence speech critical of their programs, no matter where it is uttered...

What is important about the Tatro case is not what Amanda said, but why the University of Minnesota believes it may regulate what students say on social-networking pages on their personal time...A speaker on school premises is talking exclusively to a school audience. On Facebook, the audience may include hundreds of outsiders. Enabling a college to dictate what is acceptable on Facebook means that it may interfere with messages that no student ever sees. What's more, speech on a social-networking page—unlike in a classroom—is entirely avoidable. Offended audience members may easily avert their eyes...

The ruling that colleges seek—that they may punish speech, on campus or off, that they deem likely to undermine donor support—should alarm all of us...

While colleges clearly may discipline students for off-campus criminal behavior, the idea that colleges have free-floating good-citizenship authority to punish lawful behavior that administrators subjectively deem "disruptive" is breathtaking in its potential for abuse...

If colleges genuinely believe that students' writing indicates violent intent, then the proper response is, of course, to investigate. But once the investigation is complete and the speech is found to be an unthreatening joke, discipline not only is unjustified, but self-defeating.
It's probably a bad idea, but sometimes I think that school and university administrators should be held personally liable when they so blatantly disregard the rights of students. Might that put a damper on these little martinets?

So You Didn't Like No Child Left Behind (NCLB)

Yes, Ted Kennedy's NCLB law (voted for by this list of luminaries in the Senate) had some flaws, but claiming it harmed students is wrong. How does it harm students to have a standard that they be able to read and calculate, and to determine if they're actually making progress towards those goals? This president has figured out how:
President Barack Obama on Thursday will free 10 states from the strict and sweeping requirements of the No Child Left Behind law, giving leeway to states that promise to improve how they prepare and evaluate students, The Associated Press has learned...

A total of 28 other states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico have signaled that they, too, plan to seek waivers — a sign of just how vast the law's burdens have become as a big deadline nears...

No Child Left Behind requires all students to be proficient in reading and math by 2014. Obama's action strips away that fundamental requirement for those approved for flexibility, provided they offer a viable plan instead. Under the deal, the states must show they will prepare children for college and careers, set new targets for improving achievement among all students, develop meaningful teacher and principal evaluation systems, reward the best performing schools and focus help on the ones doing the worst.

In September, Obama called President George W. Bush's most hyped domestic accomplishment an admirable but flawed effort that hurt students instead of helping them (boldface mine--Darren)...
What will really hurt students is forcing states to accept Obama's favored Common Core Standards, which aren't as rigorous as the state standards in many states, and then not really making an effort to see if students are meeting even those lesser goals. But hey, maybe the kids will have better self-esteem?

Here's a post I wrote on the topic last summer. Here's one from two years ago. Both identify good parts of the law--determined by the not-quite-right-leaning New York Times and Los Angeles Times--parts that will be thrown out along with the baby and and the bath water. As I scroll through my 90+ NCLB posts, I see many wherein I link to stories about how the law is having a positive impact. Yes, there are parts I'd tinker with, but wholesale rewriting (a la RttT) is the wrong course of action.

Are our schools doing better 3 years into an Obama presidency? After all, that's what we were promised in the union rags--I know, I quoted them on this blog! Here's one of them, which ends with this Cassandra-like statement: "I don't see a Golden Age of Public Education occurring under the next president, despite the choirs of angels at California Educator."


On A School Day?

A union of professionals, indeed:
(Monday) March 05, 2012

Occupy the Capitol

Location: Sacramento

Thousands of students, parents, teachers, and workers will flood into Sacramento. How long we stay will be up to you.
Join us to demand that Wall St. and the 1% pay to refund education, jobs, and essential services!

10 am - Mass March * Location TBA
11 am - Rally at the Capitol Building
12:30 pm - Lunch at the Capitol Building
1:30 pm - March on Wall St. lobbyists from the Capitol building
4 pm to ? - General Assembly and Speakout! at the Capitol Building
It's bad enough they're a day late and a dollar short, trying to "me too" a movement that's already died out, but to do this on a day when school is in session and teachers will have to take a day off? Such great role models. Disgusting.

CTA is an embarrassment. I couldn't be more proud not to be a member of that union.

Update, 2/13/12: Turns out ACORN is involved:
A re-branded ACORN branch in California is raising money to help fund an upcoming "Occupy" protest in Sacramento, FoxNews.com has learned.

The Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment sent out letters this month pleading for contributions of up to $20,000 for buses, food, printing, sound and other supplies for an upcoming event dubbed "Occupy the Capitol."

Didn't The Soviets Used To Lock Dissidents Up In Psychiatric Hospitals?

This is just creepy:
A study in the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry has concluded that distrust of the government is a treatable mental disorder. Known as "AGP" or "anti-government phobia," the study claims: "...that unfounded fear of government is a recognizable mental illness, closely related to paranoid schizophrenia. Anti-Government Phobia (AGP) differs from most mental illnesses, however, in that it is highly infectious and has an acute onset. Symptoms include extreme suspiciousness, conspiracy-mongering, delusional thought patterns, staunch 'us against them' mentality, withdrawal from reality, and often religious fanaticism..."
I'll believe this "disorder" exists when there's no outcry upon its acceptance by a Republican president.

Update: a parody, and I bought it. The best parodies are the ones that could be true, but I still don't like being suckered. Details are in the comments.

Thursday, February 09, 2012

Guess Who's Checking Out My Blog?

click to enlarge
I'm not paranoid, they are watching me!

Father Teaches Daughter Lesson About Facebook

Teenage girl smarts off about her parents on Facebook, thinking they won't find out.

Wrong answer.

Of course I think it's hilarious, but at least one commenter at that link is correct:
So, your daughter gets over rebellious and says some mean things about you to her friends. Be angry? Sure. Punish her? I expect. But then what? You take it 10 steps further and try to humiliate her over the internet. Now, how the (expletive deleted) is that any different than what she did to you? Hell, that's worse if you ask me!
As I said to another teacher today, some people need a butt-kicking, and it's hard to feel sorry for them when they get it. Same with this situation; I'm conflicted.

But it's still pretty funny!

Wednesday, February 08, 2012


That would be the current social security model:
In its latest projection, the Congressional Budget Office found that the Social Security Trust Fund had $1 trillion less than expected. Seems it always happens this way. When will Washington recognize that the problem is the model?

In an A1 story Friday by IBD's Jed Graham, the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office said it now expects the supposedly vaunted and unsinkable trust fund to peak in 2018 and then decline to $2.7 trillion by 2022.

That's a trillion dollars less than what was projected to be in the pot last year...

The question remains what to do about it:

Continue on as if nothing has happened — which is President Obama's "solution"?

Tuesday, February 07, 2012

Old News

John Rosemond, a writer I used to follow, sounds like this is new and he just discovered it:
Objective research isn't used when determining educational methods

...If school-reform fads had paid off, today's achievement levels would be higher, and classroom behavior would be better than it was in the 1960s. The opposite is the case. The taxpayer is catching on, evidenced by a growing revolt against public education's never-ending cry for more money. Accountability can be a painful thing.

Monday, February 06, 2012

The Latest Rumors

California's state budget is a disaster, but with the exception of pay freezes, cutting the number of school site vice principals, and dropping most school busing, our district hasn't fallen over a cliff.

Secret word leaking out of the district office, though, tells us this tale: for the rest of this school year, things won't change much and there will be no furlough days. Next year, though, will be a bloodbath. There will be smiting with fiery swords. Ten furlough days is what I've heard is being discussed, and who knows what other cuts are in the offing.

We can only keep our head in the sand for so long, I guess.

Remember When We Had A Cowboy For President, And War With Iran Was Imminent?

Oh what a difference a D after your name makes:
Nearly half of likely voters think the United States should be willing to use military force to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon, according to this week’s The Hill Poll...

“Let there be no doubt: America is determined to prevent Iran from getting a nuclear weapon, and I will take no options off the table to achieve that goal,” the president said in his State of the Union address.

Oppressive San Francisco Ordinances

Can we all agree that this is too much regulation?
The NYT's Scott James recounts the insane red-tape endured by Juliet Pries, an entrepreneur who decided to open an ice-cream parlour in San Francisco's Cole Valley. She had to pay rent on an empty storefront for over two years while the necessary permits were processed, and tens of thousands of dollars in fees (including the cost of producing a detailed map of nearby businesses, which the city itself seemed not to have). If the story sounds familiar, it's because it was the subject of a notorious Xtranormal-produced Hello City Planner video that used it as an example to lampoon the planning bureaucracy in San Francisco.

Pries's restaurant, the Ice Cream Bar, is a popular hit, and employs 14 people, but “Many times it almost didn’t happen," as she says, due to the incredibly administrative hurdles she faced in opening it...
I'm sure someone will try to justify, excuse, or explain this, but for the life of me I can't figure why they'd try.

What Can The Politicos Do For Me?

Fifteen years ago, one of my grandfathers died. He'd spent 20+ years in the air force and another 20+ years as a civilian working for the air force so the Veterans Administration was to provide a small marker for his plot. Unfortunately, at the time of his death the VA was backed up and was taking several--I don't remember how many, but certainly a lot more than a few!--months to provide headstones. This, of course, gave nana an opportunity to be dramatic and to complain about his being in "an unmarked grave".

Our local congressman was Democrat Vic Fazio, whom grandpa, a Republican, referred to as "Fazio the Wop". In earlier days, I guess, you called it like you saw it, without all the need for eggshell-walking political correctness. Anyway, I wrote Congressman Fazio and explained the situation, asking if there was anything he could do. A staffer contacted me periodically, kept me informed, and within a couple weeks notified me that a marker was on the way. I got the impression that grandpa wasn't just moved to the front of the line, but that a fire had been lit under the appropriate section of the VA.

Upon getting that news I penned another letter to the congressman, thanking him for his efforts on nana and grandpa's behalf. The staffer contacted me again solely to tell me thanks for sending a thank you, as entirely too many constituents ask for help and after receiving it, are never heard from again.

I joked with nana that grandpa would be spinning in his grave if he knew I'd asked Congressman Fazio for anything, especially something for him!

That's a fairly long lead-in to this story. My other grandfather turns 100 in a few weeks. I don't know why it didn't occur to me before, but I suddenly thought to ask the White House for greetings from the president. I looked it up and found they do that for people who are 80 or above (yeah, grandpa beats that one!), but that they're months behind schedule. Additionally, the best way to solicit a greeting is to have a senator or congressman make the request.

So tonight I contacted my senators, both Democrats, and my congressman (not my grandfather's, though, I don't think), a Republican, and made the request on grandpa's behalf. The senators also offer greeting letters, so I requested theirs as well as one from the White House. I'm pretty sure that grandpa hasn't cast too many votes for Democrats, but that doesn't change the impact of getting greetings from the White House.

We'll see if the politicos come through.

Sunday, February 05, 2012

Socialism Is Un-Christian

Jesus never once told us how we were to govern ourselves here on Earth; instead, he instructed each of us how we should conduct our own lives such that we can go to Heaven. Invoking Jesus to support higher taxes is about as sacreligious as one can get:
During a speech on National Prayer Breakfast at the National Cathedral, President Barack Obama went partisan (shocker!) in what is usually a bipartisan event by invoking Jesus Christ to justify his push for higher taxes:

President Obama offered a new line of reasoning for hiking taxes on the rich on Thursday, saying at the National Prayer Breakfast that his policy proposals are shaped by his religious beliefs.

Obama said that as a person who has been “extraordinarily blessed,” he is willing to give up some of the tax breaks he enjoys because doing so makes economic, and religious sense.

“For me as a Christian, it also coincides with Jesus’s teaching that for unto whom much is given, much shall be required,” Obama said, quoting the Gospel of Luke.

I’ll admit upfront that I believe raising taxes is a terrible idea. It’s even worse of an idea in economy that just now seems recovering from an severe downturn, a point that the Congressional Budget Office recently echoed. But President Obama’s invocation of Jesus and religion to push tax hikes is sickening and it makes him no different from someone like Rick Santorum, who frequently uses his faith to justify authoritarian social policies.
A related quote from PJ O'Rourke, as well as links to two other posts on this same topic, here.

Saturday, February 04, 2012

Stupid College Activities

Remember this post I did yesterday, on a new funding model for universities? Well, this genius is Exhibit A on why it won't work:
A college student claims he was injured when a fraternity member in a "drunken stupor" decided "that it would be a good idea to shoot bottle rockets out of his anus," and did so, "but instead of launching, the bottle rocket blew up in the defendant's rectum, and this startled the plaintiff and caused him to jump back," and fall off the fraternity's deck.

Louis Helmburg III sued The Alpha Tau Omega Fraternity Inc., of Huntington, West Virginia, and Travis Hughes, a fraternity member, in Cabell County Court...

Helmburg says Alpha Tau negligently failed to supervise its guests and members, "such as defendant Hughes, and other under age persons, from consuming alcohol on its premises, which leads to stupid and dangerous activities, such as shooting bottle rockets out of one's own anus."

As for Hughes, Helmburg says, "Defendant Hughes also owed plaintiff and others on the ATO deck a duty of care not to drink under age, or to fire bottle rockets out of his anus."
Louis Helmburg III. Good ole Lou Helmburg. Think this kind of publicity is going to help you get a job one day, Lou?

At least he's not the guy lighting bottle rockets in his butt. That would be one Travis Hughes.

The Latest Internet Meme--How Thick Is Your Bubble?

Go here to read about it online. The author's thesis is that we now have a ruling class so insulated from the experience of everyday Americans that they "make their judgements about what's good for other people based on their own highly atypical lives."

I took the 25-question quiz and scored 54:
Here are the scores that you could expect to get if you fit the following descriptions.

A lifelong resident of a working-class neighborhood with average television and moviegoing habits.
Range: 48–99. Typical: 77.

A first-generation middle-class person with working-class parents and average television and moviegoing habits.
Range: 42–100. Typical: 66.

A first-generation upper-middle-class person with middle-class parents.
Range: 11–80. Typical: 33.

A second-generation (or more)upper-middle-class person who has made a point of getting out a lot.
Range: 0–43. Typical: 9.

A second- generation (or more) upper-middle-class person with the television and moviegoing habits of the upper middle class.
Range: 0–20.Typical: 2.

I'm somewhere between the 2nd and 3rd categories, and my score matches that. This quiz is worth every cent you paid for it, and it's good if it causes you to think about your life experiences as they relate to others'.

I'm Sure They'll Say This Is Racist, Or Something

Any piece of art against President Bush was heralded as some great truth-to-power demonstration, and proof of the "courage" of the artist to stand up to The Big Evil. I doubt we'll be hearing about 1st Amendment rights and artistic expression regarding the painting shown here:
In front of the White House a man is sitting on a park bench in the throes of depression. He is surrounded by all 43 presidents. In the forefront, purposefully ignoring the depressed man is President Obama, whose right foot is stepping on the Constitution. James Madison is next to Obama, pleading with him to stop.

This tableau is called “The Forgotten Man”, a painting by Jon McNaughton, an artist who is known for his politically-charged work.

The painting, which uses objects such as discarded dollar bills as symbols and scraps of paper with individual constitutional amendments scrawled onto them, has been making the rounds across the Internet.
I don't think it's a big secret that most artists of any stripe are liberals, that's why this is so novel.

Friday, February 03, 2012

Why I'm Not A Socialist, A Quote For The Day

“There is no virtue in compulsory government charity, and there is no virtue in advocating it. A politician who portrays himself as “caring” and “sensitive” because he wants to expand the government’s charitable programs is merely saying that he’s willing to try to do good with other people’s money. Well, who isn’t? And a voter who takes pride in supporting such programs is telling us that he’ll do good with his own money — if a gun is held to his head.”
-- P.J. O’Rourke

This is also why socialism is un-Christian.

How Fast We've Fallen

From universal preschool to this in just a few years:
Sherry Tam doesn't know where her son will go to school next year.

The Elk Grove boy, who is 15 days too young to start kindergarten in August, was signed up for transitional kindergarten, a new grade level slated to start in the next school year.

But Gov. Jerry Brown pulled the multicolored classroom carpet out from under thousands of California families when he proposed permanently eliminating funding for the program in next year's state budget.
We can no longer pretend we can afford whatever we want.

A New Funding Model For Universities?

From InsideHigherEd:
With public university administrators continually arguing for tuition increases to counter state appropriations cuts, it seems far-fetched that their budget problems could be solved by eliminating student tuition and fees altogether.

But that’s the idea put forth by a group of students from the University of California at Riverside, who in January proposed a new funding model for the University of California system that seeks to solve two of the system’s biggest problems: unpredictable and large decreases in state appropriations, and the steady increase in tuition costs.

Under the students’ plan, called the UC Student Investment Proposal, students in the system would pay no upfront costs for their education but would agree to pay 5 percent of their income to the system for 20 years after graduating and entering the workforce.
I'm reminded of the Popeye character Wimpy, who would say, "I'll gladly pay you Tuesday for a hamburger today."

When Ravitch Made Sense

Here's a little somethin'-somethin' that Diane Ravitch wrote 7 years ago, something that makes as much sense today as it did when she wrote it. Contrast those words with her talk which I attended a couple weeks ago.

What caused her to lose her mind?

Seven years ago, she was worried about "ethnomathematics", about trying to bend math from a pure science to support liberal social science claptrap. It's reasons like that, Diane, that people turned to charter schools, the testing of at least basic skills, vouchers, and the rest of the school reform movement. It had nothing to do with trying to privatize and deprofessionalize public schools; the former is a response, and the latter we did to ourselves, in part by creating such sputum as "ethnomathematics".

Why I'm Not A Statist

On the topic of why sugar should be classified a controlled substance:
Once Demon Sugar has been properly classified alongside Demon Rum, these super-nannies recommend “using taxation, controlling access to sugary products and tightening licensing requirements to sell sweet snacks and drinks in schools and workplaces.”

But don’t worry – they say they’re “not advocating a major imposition of the government into people’s lives.” They will be “gentle” when they set about making “sugar consumption slightly less convenient.”
Let's remember what Daniel Webster is quoted as saying:
“Good intentions will always be pleaded for every assumption of authority. It is hardly too strong to say that the Constitution was made to guard the people against the dangers of good intentions. There are men in all ages who mean to govern well, but they mean to govern. They promise to be good masters, but they mean to be masters.”

Here's One From The "Let's Hope So" List

I mentioned in this post that paycheck deduction was what the unions were really fighting in Wisconsin. Let's hope it becomes illegal everywhere in this great land:
It’s no secret that Big Labor is dependent on dues and fees automatically withdrawn from the payroll checks of union members and non-members alike.

The automatic deductions funnel millions of dollars into public sector union coffers each year, with a portion frequently going toward partisan political causes and liberal candidates who promise to preserve or expand the unions’ forced dues racket.

But this vicious cycle is finally being challenged in states and municipalities around the nation. Perhaps the most important challenge, Knox vs. Service Employees International Union, was heard earlier this month by the justices of the U.S. Supreme Court.

Wednesday, February 01, 2012

A New Light For Freedom Shines

It shines in Indiana, the 23rd state to pass a right-to-work law, which means that Indiana workers now have a right to work without having to financially support a union as a condition of employment. This is in contrast to California, a so-called "fair share" state, wherein employees (like me) can be compelled as a condition of employment to give money to a union even if they choose not to be union members.

Good Assignment, Or Bad?

It could be either, depending on how it was conducted:
Jessica Gibson says she won't let her 11-year-old son complete a school assignment that she says took a lesson about slavery too far.

"Pretend that you are a slave in the southern United States," says the assignment. "Write a journal/diary memoir about your life."

Gibson, 27, of Melvindale, Mich., said her sixth-grade son, Taylan, received the social studies assignment from a Strong Middle School teacher last month. But her son hid it from her, later telling her he didn't want to do it. Gibson found out about it last week.

"He's never had a master nor will he ever have a master, so why should he have to pretend to have a master?" Gibson said. "That really disturbed me"...

Taylan had been learning about slavery when he got the assignment. He said it embarrassed him.

"I'm black, and it was a slave assignment," he said.

His mother, who is biracial, said she doesn't think anyone should be required to complete the assignment, regardless of race.

"For him to pretend to be something he's never been or never will be, that's going too far," she said.
Should the child be allowed to complete an alternate assignment if a parent finds an assignment inappropriate? I assert that the answer is yes, sometimes. A parent who finds one assignment exceedingly inappropriate, well, accommodate that. If a parent finds too many assignments inappropriate, then teachers would be going beyond providing alternate assignments and would be being asked to provide an alternate curriculum for a particular student. At that point, the parent is out of line and either needs to accept the approved curriculum or find a different school for their child.

Membership Criteria For College Groups

If a bunch of frat boys want to join and "take over" the Lesbian Club, is that acceptable or not? When freedom of association conflicts with school policies, which should win out?
Christian student organizations at Vanderbilt University may be forced to go underground or meet in secret after university officials doubled down on a policy that bans student religious groups from requiring their leaders to hold specific beliefs, according to a law professor at the university.

Vanderbilt said their nondiscrimination policy ensure that campus groups are open to all students. But opponents said the ban restricts their freedom of speech and could force some nationally-known groups off campus.
This is exactly why colleges and universities should not financially support student clubs at all. These clubs should support themselves, and should get no support or interference from their respective schools.

Have We Ever Heard This Story In California Before?

Yes, yes we have. It's an annual thing these days, if not more frequent than that:
California will run out of cash by early March if the state does not take swift action to find $3.3 billion through payment delays and borrowing, according to a letter state Controller John Chiang sent to state lawmakers today.

The announcement is surprising since lawmakers previously believed the state had enough cash to last through the fiscal year that ends in June.

But Chiang said additional cash management solutions are needed because state tax revenues are $2.6 billion less than what Gov. Jerry Brown and state lawmakers assumed in their optimistic budget last year. Meanwhile, Chiang said, the state is spending $2.6 billion more than state leaders planned on.
Chiang's a Democrat, but he speaks the truth about our screwed up budgeting and he calls it like he sees it. I will probably vote for him if he runs again.