Tuesday, December 31, 2013

CTA Steps Into A Lawsuit

Larry Sand, president of the California Teachers Empowerment Network, writes in his usual style:
If successful, this lawsuit will remove the tenure, seniority and arcane dismissal statutes from the California education code and render them unconstitutional, thus making it easier to get rid of incompetent and criminal teachers while outlawing seniority as a method of teacher-retention. (It’s worth noting that the Students Matter lawsuit doesn’t ask the court to devise specific policy solutions, leaving those decisions to local districts as they are in 33 other states.) While this litigation will help all students in the state, inner-city kids would benefit the most...

Though not named in the lawsuit, the teachers unionsrefusing to sit by and accept a change in rules that would benefit students at their expense intervened as defendants. In the recent edition of California Educator, the California Teachers Association’s bimonthly magazine for teachers, the union tries to explain to its members that the lawsuit is the work of the devil; in doing so, it manages to haul out every platitude it could muster from its amply furnished cliché closet, attempting to convince all concerned that they are a beleaguered but scrappy David fighting against a corporate Goliath.

Yes, people with money are behind the suit. Lawyers don’t work for free and the poor children who have been victimized by the current system don’t have deep pockets. And what corporate agenda is he talking about? Usually this scare statement refers to the allegation that corporations want to take over and privatize education. This lawsuit is attempting to do no such thing; it is simply trying to make public education better. And his last point is a real howler. CTA does not, I repeat, does not fight to have qualified teachers in every classroom. They fight to keep every teacher – qualified or not – on the job to ensure their bottom line is not affected. Unfortunately this means that in addition to good and great teachers, the union also fights to keep stinkers and pedophiles alone with your children seven hours a day, five days a week.
You might want to read the whole thin--especially the end, where Larry describes what it takes, and how much it costs, to fire a bad teacher.

Monday, December 30, 2013

The Laziest Day Ever

I went to an early New Year's party last night but still had to get up early to go to breakfast with a former student.  Not long after that I picked up my son and we met my mother and her guy at the theater to see Grudge Match.  (I didn't hate it, but can't recommend it.)

I've spent most of the rest of the day on top of my bed, finishing up the 30-hour audiobook John Adams by David McCullough.  A slight headache has bothered me for hours.  I may go to bed now.

I'll probably put away the Christmas decorations tomorrow.

Sunday, December 29, 2013

How Does This Make Sense?

I understand that the author is using the English language, but I don't understand the meaning as he's strung them together and drawn a conclusion:
On average, cities and counties in California pay about 35% of every police and fire salary dollar as the employer contribution to CalPERS. Employees themselves contribute an additional 8% to 12%. This is why California's pension system is not in a crisis, despite what the anti-union critics say. Our local governments and their employees are making contributions totaling 40% to 50% of salary to keep the state's pension system solvent.
What percentage of salary are such employees retiring with?  I'll bet it's over 40-50%.  How is the shortfall being dealt with?  Answer:  it's not.  That's why it's a shortfall.

Saturday, December 28, 2013


It wouldn't be hard, as some of have done, to suggest that this guy check his class privilege at the door.  It's Christmastime, though, and I can afford to be a little more sympathetic:
The blog's anonymous author graduated from a law school that was in the top 50 ranked by U.S. News and World Report. He was on law review and even got a summer position at a firm after his second year. He didn't get a job offer though.

This grad still hasn't found legal work and took a job selling cologne just before the holidays to make ends meet. Now he says he's "liveblogging the loss of my last shred of dignity."
I've never liked it when people talk down about being a janitor.  Our soon-to-be-ex-superintendent threatened a district administrator by saying he'd demote her to janitor.  I get that it's not a glamorous job, and certainly not one I'd enjoy, but I think that implicit in such talk is that being a janitor is beneath your dignity, that some are too good to be a janitor and some are not.  I'm very uncomfortable with that kind of elitism.  Honest work shouldn't be beneath anyone's dignity, no matter what the job.

So the blog writer mentioned above could be mocked, or chastised, because he talks of losing his dignity.  No one takes that from you, you give it away.  People have faced a lot worse than a retail job and managed to retain their dignity.

But we all understand his point.  He wanted "more" than a retail job.  He worked for more.  And he currently doesn't have it.  Whether it be prestige or pay or whatever else, he wanted more, and he can rightly feel disappointed for not yet having achieved it.  I can sympathize with that.  And I respect his decision to take the (honest) job he took in order to support himself.  That's admirable.

On the other hand, his current situation is temporary; I can't imagine that he'll still be selling cologne in a few years.  Instead of whining about his dignity, he should continue working towards the profession for which he's trained.  Instead of talking down about customers or the people he works with, he should take some pride that his fellow employees come to him expecting him to know the answers to their questions; perhaps he can gain some empathy by working amongst the people he seems to look down upon.  He doesn't look down on them as people--he feels a kinship for working the same "dehumanizing" and "soul-crushing" job with them--but since he doesn't think anyone should have to work retail, and some of the people he writes about do have to work retail, it's hard not to come to the conclusion that he does think he's better than they are, at least in the abstract.

He's looking at his current condition as a glass-half-empty.  He could choose to look at it in a different way.

Friday, December 27, 2013

Does The Left Hand Know What The Right Hand Is Doing?

Long-time readers of this blog know that, in general, I'm a fan of Michelle Rhee, and have been since she addressed us at the CEAFU conference a few years ago.  I don't understand the purpose of this proposed law, however:
A ballot measure submitted by a political consultant for education advocate Michelle Rhee seeks to remove seniority as a factor when California school districts lay off teachers, requiring instead that decisions be based on performance and student test scores.

That approach has been at the core of Rhee’s advocacy efforts as head of StudentsFirst, a national group headquartered in Sacramento. Rhee, who is married to Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson, has said she established the group to try to counter the influence that teachers unions have in decisions about public education. Unions generally reject the idea that teachers should be rated based on their students’ test scores, and prefer contracts that call for the most recently hired teachers to be the first let go during layoffs.
It's not that I'm against the idea, I just don't see how it will work.  Under the new testing regime with the Common Core standards, I understand that students will only be tested a few times throughout their K-12 experience.  In high school they'll be tested in the 11th grade.  Given that, how do you determine who the lousy teacher(s) is (are) and ditch them if there are to be layoffs?

I don't like ideological solutions to problems, I like practical ones.  Yes, it turns out that I often see practicality in solutions that conform to my ideology, but definitely not in this case.  I'd want to see how this would work in practice before I'd support it.

It's About Darned Time

I have no idea if Mr. Yu is, in general, a sinner or a saint, but I absolutely believe the foundation of his lawsuit:
Yu, a U.S.-educated Chinese citizen, is now going after the Poughkeepsie, New York, school in federal court, claiming not only wrongful expulsion and irreparable personal damage but sex discrimination. His complaint argues that he was the victim of a campus judicial system that in practice presumes males accused of sexual misconduct are guilty. His is one of three such lawsuits filed last summer. St. Joseph's University in Philadelphia is being sued by an expelled student, New York state resident Brian Harris, who likewise claims he was railroaded by a gender-biased campus kangaroo court. And in August college basketball player Dez Wells sued Ohio's Xavier University for expelling him in the summer of 2012 based on a rape charge that the county prosecutor publicly denounced as false.

How I Spent Christmas

After my son and I did Christmas morning together, we both took off--he to his mother's house, I to San Francisco.

It's hard to believe, but I have a friend who had never before been to San Francisco.  He couldn't get anyone to take his shift at work today, so he flew in Christmas afternoon and flew out of Sacramento early this morning.  This gave us somewhat over 24 hours in The City.

December in San Francisco is Northern California's best-kept secret, and I can say that knowing that no one will remember or believe me anyway.  In fact, the weather there the last couple days was better than what they usually get in June--clear skies and 60's, no wind, no fog.

You want proof:
click to see complete picture
Only in SF would you need a 20 minute time limit and the first "rule" at a public toilet!

View from Telegraph Hill

Who doesn't love Ghirardelli chocolate?!

I could tour this submarine over and over again--and in fact have done so!

Fort Point, a Fort Sumter-like garrison at the entrance to the Golden Gate.  That's the Golden Gate Bridge towering over it.

Alcatraz, with the cell block on top

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Spending Christmas Eve

My son and I did the family thing at my sister's tonight, and right now he's at church with his mother. 

At 10 pm I think I'll go watch the first hour and a half of a Frontline episide on The First Christians:
The impact of the Gospels after the First Revolt; Christianity spreads and conversion takes place in the Roman Empire in the second and third centuries.
At 11:30 I'll switch from PBS to NBC to watch the Christmas Eve mass from St. Peter's.  I might be up late enough to see Santa!

My plan is to take Wednesday and Thursday off of blogging, so don't be surprised if you don't see any new content then.  May you enjoy Christmas and apres-Christmas with people you love :)

Monday, December 23, 2013

What I'll Be Doing Tomorrow Night

I'm not a Catholic, but I'll probably spend several Christmas Eves between now and my dying day watching the midnight mass from the Vatican.  I was so enthralled with St. Peter's that I'm not interested in turning down an opportunity to see it live.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Christmas Party

Got home not too long ago from a Christmas party where we played that game where you can "steal" presents from others...

I came home with something I've wanted for years but never have bought myself--a termometro lento.

Saturday, December 21, 2013

I Like Khan Academy, But...

This is pretty funny :)

Florida Straits

I don't know what prompted me to remember this movie while making waffles for my son and me this morning, but remember it I did.  After breakfast I rushed to Amazon to check it out--and it's not available on DVD.

As a guy in my 20's I thought it was freakin' awesome, not at all "pedestrian" (to use a description in the comments).  When you look at all the crap that is released on DVD nowadays (20 old westerns that no one has heard of, 50 sci-fi movies from the 50's that are so bad they're not even campy), I can't imagine why a decent movie like Florida Straits can't be.

Friday, December 20, 2013

A Tornado of Treats, A Tsunami of Snackies

I'm always happy to be reminded of just how thoughtful are the students and parents at the school at which I teach.

In the not-so-distant past, the first semester ended in mid-January.  That meant that the last day of school before Christmas break was a "party" day, and at my school the gifts to teachers were legion.  Now that we start school in mid-August our semester ends before Christmas break, which means that the last day of school before break is scheduled for final exams.

Even so, the generosity of my students and parents is quite humbling.  I received many homemade gifts, including jam and a candle, as well as a multitude of varieties of chocolate in its many forms, among other nice presents--which were, remember, given to me on final exam day!

As is my way, I'll write out an individual thank-you note to each of those students and give them out when we return to school in a couple weeks.  I think that writing thank-you notes may be a dying grace but it's one I want to keep alive for awhile.  Each year students seem genuinely surprised to receive one.

Let the Christmas break begin!

Thursday, December 19, 2013

What Is Wrong At Harvard?

A few days ago I posted about "Harvard Syndrome", the belief that if you're good enough to get into Harvard then you're good enough to get an A (or even good enough to graduate).  Perhaps this guy didn't expect his A:
The Harvard sophomore who feds say admitted to emailing the bomb threats that threw the campus into exam-day disarray is “a smart guy,” his roommate told the Herald — even though investigators say his digital footsteps led them directly to his dorm room within hours of the hoax.

Eldo Kim, 20, was face-to-face with investigators inside his Quincy House quad about 9 p.m. Monday, his roommate said — slightly more than 12 hours after feds allege Kim emailed police, administrators and the student newspaper warning of “shrapnel bombs” in four buildings.

Federal investigators said in an affidavit that Kim was set to take a test at 9 a.m. Monday in Emerson Hall, one of the buildings referenced in the email, and that Kim told an FBI agent and a Harvard campus cop that “he was motivated by a desire to avoid a final exam.”

He's Also Been Accepted to MIT

Yes, the younger generation is lazy, stupid, entitled, lacking manners, etc etc etc, but there are still some good ones out there.

I'll leave it as an exercise for the reader to determine why I posted this :)

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Final Exam Tomorrow

Send good thoughts my way!

Update, 12/19/13:  Assuming a 90% allows me to keep an A (or A-), I only needed 40-something percent on the final today to get such an A in the course.   I'm fairly sure that I scored at least that much!  And now I don't have to think of my own education for a few weeks.  Whew.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Classroom Management

This lady nails it.  In my credentialing program one of the few classes with which I was genuinely pleased was the course on classroom management, but I have no doubt that most such courses are drivel:
My teacher-education program had sporadically and ineffectively preached what I called the mommy/best friend philosophy of classroom management. The idea was to coddle and entertain students into engagement, creating a bordering-on-party atmosphere to get kids actively learning.

Traditional methods of conveying authority in the classroom -- such as arranging desks in rows with assigned seating instead of in peer pods or giant circles -- were frowned upon. A classroom was not a teacher’s to run, we were told; it was ideally a collective of learners wherein everyone had equal standing.
Are there any other fields wherein common sense is so easily dismissed?  The article continues:
The only solid piece of “advice” on the topic of classroom management I can recall from my teacher-training program was to ignore the old high-school teacher rule-of-thumb to never smile until Christmas. Not exactly a wealth of effective techniques, but the prevailing attitude was that trial and error in the trenches was simply how classroom management was learned.

According to a new report by the National Council on Teacher Quality (NCTQ), an analysis of 122 teacher-prep programs found that while effective research-based classroom management strategies exist, most programs don’t draw on or share this research with prospective teachers.
A consultant was brought in to teach us classroom management techniques.  Not only did her practices and advice make sense, she brought in video of her using them in classrooms she was paid to come into and get under control--we got to see what the "practice" looked like for real.    Prior to taking her class I had always thought I did a pretty good job of keeping a lid on the volcano; after her instruction I implemented several of her suggestions and no longer had a volcano to worry about.
Is it any surprise, then, that so many teachers flame out after their first, harrowing, year? They’re sent in to tackle what is a tough job, even under the best of circumstances, with few tools for managing the most fundamental prerequisite for student engagement and learning.

Part of the reason is the deeply ingrained belief that teaching is an art, a craft and, above all, a calling that can’t be reduced to agreed-upon techniques and strategies. It is a passion that is supposed to separate good teachers from bad.
What other profession can you think of that, effectively, tells its graduates that they can “live on love”?
What other profession relies so heavily on theory and fad and not on common sense and data?
“Regrettably, while we found some programs which did quite well on certain aspects of classroom management, we did not find any one program that did well across the board: teaching the … most proven strategies and creating opportunities for practicing them with plenty of strong feedback,” said Kate Walsh, president of NCTQ. “The field’s leadership continues to send strong signals that teachers who can deliver a sufficiently engaging lesson will never have a behavior problem they have to solve. Any teacher can tell you that just isn’t the case.”
Any administrator who says that is, at the very minimum, lazy.  I'll leave it at that.


If you were a university administrator would you trust this idea from the president?
The U.S. Department of Education will hold a public forum at UC Davis from 10 to 11:30 a.m. today in the Mondavi Center as part of a national effort to gather feedback to President Barack Obama’s proposed college rating system.

Obama’s plan would rate colleges on a variety of factors, including tuition, graduation rates, student debt loads and how much money graduates earn. Performance on those indicators could eventually determine how federal financial-aid dollars are divvied up, though Obama would first have to secure congressional approval.
I would be suspicious, at the very least.

Read more here: http://www.sacbee.com/2013/12/16/6003233/this-week.html#storylink=cpy

Sunday, December 15, 2013

My Old Frenemy

I went to hot yoga tonight.  I haven't been in a few weeks, but I've been doing it off and on for a few years now.  Never has there been an issue.

Tonight, though, I didn't make it 20 minutes into the class.  The deep, fast breathing, the "vibrating" sensation in my hands--ah yes, I knew the signs.  It has been a couple decades, probably, since I've had to deal with heat exhaustion, but I knew exactly what was going on in that yoga class.  The sensations were so familiar, if so distant in time.

I got out of there with a quickness, and it took quite some time and lots of cold water to feel anywhere near normal.  I even called some folks for a ride home, just in case.

It's a horrible feeling.  And now that I'm home I have to study for my final exam!

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Oh, Good. No Reason For Me To Worry!

A federal bankruptcy judge in Michigan says Detroit's pension obligations aren't written in stone, despite what any local or state law says, but I'm told that our state laws here in California are such that I shouldn't worry about California becoming insolvent and taking away the retirement I've worked for:
But CalPERS officials, facing their own potential showdown in U.S. Bankruptcy Court, said Friday they doubt the Michigan ruling constitutes a threat to public employees and retirees in California.

In their first extensive comments on the landmark decision in Detroit, lawyers with CalPERS said California pensions carry major legal protections not found in Detroit.

“The differences between Detroit and the state of California and CalPERS are substantial,” said Gina Ratto, the pension fund’s interim general counsel, in a conference call with reporters.
I'm so comforted by this news.

(My retirement is in a system parallel system to CalPERS.)

Read more here: http://www.sacbee.com/2013/12/13/5998696/calpers-officials-detroit-pension.html#storylink=cpy

Bilingual Education

I don't support it.  There's no evidence it works.  I've written on this subject since the earliest days of this blog, and even before.

My best friend at West Point was from Nogales, Arizona, a border town.  I wouldn't have paid any attention to this article had I not seen that it featured Nogales, but it's good that I read it:
Then, again ahead of the times, NUSD decided to teach all in English from kindergarten on. Students receive Spanish language classes starting in middle school, and Nogales High School offers a full range of classes including Spanish literature in both Advanced Placement and International Baccalaureate.

Dozens of students, even monolingual-English speakers, score high enough to completely meet the two years of Spanish needed for most college programs, earning as many as 16 credits before even starting.
The proof is in the results. The AIMS scores for all grade levels have increased from percentiles in the 40s to the 80s. Last year Wade Carpenter Middle School was the top Title One school in the state and this year Francisco Vasquez de Coronado Elementary School won one of four National Blue Ribbon awards given to Arizona.

While the vast majority graduate with a conversational fluency in both languages, many are not academically bilingual, especially the handful of Anglo students who only take conversational Spanish. Those who opt to take Spanish classes beyond the required minimum have soared, but only because they had a solid foundation in English and not a mishmash of “visionary” curricula. 
I'm not a fan of pull-out bilingual classes, or transitional bilingual programs, or any of the other fads that ebb and flow amongst the bilingual ed types.  I'm also not in favor of sink-or-swim.  What makes sense to me, and what has evidence showing it works, is "structured immersion"; immersion, as in sink-or-swim, but with enough structural assistance built into the instruction that the student isn't going to sink.

I've written much on the topic, you can get a good background here and here.

A Conservative Is A Liberal Who's Been Mugged

Is that an old saying?  Either way, it applies here:
Many in New York’s professional and cultural elite have long supported President Obama’s health care plan. But now, to their surprise, thousands of writers, opera singers, music teachers, photographers, doctors, lawyers and others are learning that their health insurance plans are being canceled and they may have to pay more to get comparable coverage, if they can find it. 
The jokes write themselves. 

"The Science Is Settled"

When it doesn't support their Church of Global Warming dogma, it's "weather".  When it does, e.g. "Superstorm Sandy" (when did we start naming storms, anyway?), it's "evidence":
#NARRATIVEFAIL: Five Years Ago Today: Al Gore Predicted the North Pole Will Be Ice Free in 5 Years. “Today Cairo had its first snowfall in 100 years.”
Instapundit has a wit that I enjoy.

(You don't believe Saint Al said this?  You want video evidence?  I got'cher video evidence right here.)

Friday, December 13, 2013

I Should Perform an Observational Study

Earlier this week, when the temperature during my prep period was in the 30s, I noticed no "roamers", no students in the halls during class time.  (For those of you *not* from California, we don't have many "indoor" schools here.  Our classroom doors open to the outdoors.)  Today, the temperature could have been in the low 50s--and the roamers were out.

I wonder what the temperature cutoff point is at which students would rather stay in class than wander about.

Thursday, December 12, 2013


We have a very outspoken teacher at school who definitely wants our school to change to a later start time.  This was proposed a year or more ago, a parent group really wanted it, but for a variety of reasons (which I won't go into here) the proposal didn't pass.

Today that teacher again offered a proposal at our staff meeting.  In a nutshell it was this:  start all classes a half an hour later.  In addition, we'd offer more "zero period" classes that would start at 7:20 (instead of the few we currently have, that start at 6:50) and our 1st period classes would start at 8:20 instead of 7:50.  Teachers would get to choose if they wanted to teach a "zero through 5th" track or a standard "1st through 6th" track.

On the surface it sounds like a great idea; however, think a little about it and all sorts of issues arise.  It's not my purpose here to debate the pros and cons of the proposal or each of the impacts, but just to give an idea of how many impacts there are, I'll state a few:  busing for special ed students, janitorial support, administrative presence, athletic practices, scheduling students into 0 period courses whether they want them or not, cafeteria worker scheduling, secretarial staff, instructional aides (who, if present for 0 period, wouldn't be available for 6th period), after-school detention, "roamers" on campus during 6th period, families with younger siblings at other schools on other schedules--I'm sure there are other considerations that were brought up that I'm not remembering, but you get the idea.

The point is that changing our start time by a half an hour impacts so many different people; we're not an island, we're part of a community.  Change the start time by 30 minutes and look at all the dominoes that fall.  Come up with a fix for one, and unintended (or unconsidered) consequences ensure another domino falls.

It occurred to me that this is why command economies and big government don't work--because no one person has all of the information needed to make a good, informed decision.  It gets even worse if you don't care about the fallen dominoes, as long as the person in charge gets what he or she wants.  When you have to consult with others you get "problems", which is why some people prefer to dictate rather than to solicit input from others; some people do not want to be presented with "problems".

I saw government in the microcosm of our staff meeting today.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

It's Happened Kinda Early This Year

I found out today that one of my students will not be allowed to participate in graduation exercises this June.

It's too early to be racking up enough offenses of sufficient magnitude to make that happen.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Life, Through Christmas Cards

I've always been big on sending out Christmas cards.  Since getting out of college and being "on my own" as an adult, I've sent out cards each year.  Some years I was so organized that I would mail them out on the weekend after Thanksgiving so mine was often the first card that people received.  Now I just try to get them out before the Army-Navy game so I don't have to bring the subject up to my navy uncle or my navy friends.  (Here's hoping that this weekend breaks an 11-game losing streak against Navy.)

This past weekend I was addressing cards and I noticed that I was seeing life's progression in the way I addressed the cards.  In my early 20's, most of my cards, except those to family, were addressed to individuals.  As the 20's started giving way to the 30's and my friends got married, cards started getting addressed to Mr. and Mrs. So-and-so, and then to The So-and-so Family. 

It's been a long time, but now the addresses are starting to change again.  Kids are graduating and leaving the nest, and card addresses are starting to tilt back towards Mr. and Mrs. So-and-so.  Even divorces are showing up, as in Adult So-and-so and Family.

Maybe a decade from now (hopefully more) I'll start addressing cards to individuals again, as the years start catching up to my circle of friends and family.

Monday, December 09, 2013

ZoNation on the Common Core-based Political Assignment That Has Gone Viral

Lefties, Pay, and Hypocrisy

Enjoy the juxtaposition of these two posts linked from Instapundit:
WAR ON WOMEN: Gender wage gap in Obama’s White House: Female staffers earn less than 87 cents on the dollar compared to men. “So I guess some obvious questions for Obama would include: Did you know that women working in your White House are paid less than men? Specifically, are you aware that female White House staffers earn 87 cents on the dollar compared to your male staffers? And shouldn’t your targeted initiatives to close the gender wage gap start in your own White House?”

Yeah, I’m sure the White House Press Corps will ask these hard-hitting questions real soon now.  link

For example, Organizing For Action, that kind of creepy newfangled 4H political arm of President Obama, is looking for talented, hard-working, ambitious folks to fill 14-week unpaid intern positions.
Among the work you might perform there free of charge? Agitating for an increase in the minimum wage!

Similarly, among those fabled dens of journalistic rabble rousing that do so much to stoke the rage against evil huge employers like Wal-Mart, Subway, McDonald’s and so many others, there are plenty of outlets looking for bright young people to man the barricades.

Again, for little or no pay.

The left-wing heroes at Mother Jones, bothered by the appearance of having unpaid interns, raised the job status to “fellows” and began paying them the royal wage of $1,000 a month. Assuming a normal work-week, alas, that’s well below the minimum wage mandated in its California editorial home.

Across country, in the cheap space of Manhattan, editorial interns at Salon are, alas, unpaid. That hasn’t stopped the magazine from publishing pieces excoriating the allegedly underpaid masses.

Well, at least former Clinton Labor Secretary Robert Reich is one man who won’t stand for that sort of thing. At the left-wing American Prospect magazine he helped found, interns get a healthy $100-per-week stipend. That’s less than a third of what some exploited slob would get working 40 hours at minimum wage, but, hey, are you only in it for the money?
Hey, rules are for the little people.  link

One thing's for sure, you can always tell a leftie.


It's not uncommon for me to go for a short walk during my prep period, or even just to walk across campus or to the office; in any event, I get outdoors en route from Point A to Point B, and often I'll see several students roaming the halls.  Yes, they have their pass; they also have their phones out (usually), or are just standing around talking to someone else, or not seeming headed in any particular direction.

The Sacramento area has set some new record-low-temperatures-for-the-date recently, with temperatures in the thirties or forties throughout the day.  Today on my trek to the office I didn't see a single student out of class.  Funny, that :-)

Sunday, December 08, 2013

Where Does This Antipathy Towards Men Come From?

How is it that too many of our schools have lost any sense of fairness, decency, and justice?
Mr. Strange was cleared on both counts. On Feb. 3, 2012, a grand jury handed up a "no bill" indictment on the sodomy charge, meaning the evidence was insufficient to establish probable cause for prosecution. On May 24, when the simple-assault case went to trial, the accuser didn't show up. "I don't have a witness to go forward with, your honor," said city attorney Michael Short. Case dismissed.

So Mr. Strange got his day in court and was treated fairly. But he had already been punished for the unproven crimes. Auburn expelled him after a campus tribunal found him "responsible" for committing the catchall offense of "sexual assault and/or sexual harassment." A letter from Melvin Owens, head of the campus police, explained that expulsion is a life sentence. If Mr. Strange ever sets foot on Auburn property, he will be "arrested for Criminal Trespass Third," Mr. Owens warned.

Joshua Strange, now 23, is a civilian casualty in the Obama administration's war on men. In an April 2011 directive, Russlyn Ali, then assistant education secretary for civil rights, threatened to withhold federal money from any educational institution that failed to take a hard enough line against sexual misconduct to ensure "that all students feel safe in their school." The result was to leave accused students more vulnerable to false charges and unfair procedures. The prospect of losing federal funds has left university administrators "crippled by panic," Robert Shibley of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education told me. "The incentives are pointing toward findings of guilt, not accurate findings"...

Mr. Strange still should not have been convicted. The grand jury found there wasn't even probable cause, a looser standard than preponderance of the evidence. But the university hearing that yielded his expulsion was a travesty of a legal process.

The most striking quality of the 99-minute proceeding is its abject lack of professionalism. Imagine a courtroom with a jury and witnesses, but no judge or lawyers. Mr. Strange and his accuser had lawyers present—the only people in the room with legal training—but they were forbidden to speak except to identify themselves at the outset.

Presiding was an Auburn librarian, Tim Dodge, the committee's chairman. The other members were two students, a staffer from the College of Liberal Arts and a fisheries professor from the Agriculture College. Mr. Dodge was confused and hesitant throughout. At one point he got lost and admitted: "I can't find the script here." On multiple occasions an unidentified voice—Mr. Strange believes it is Mr. Frye—can be heard on the recording whispering stage directions to Mr. Dodge.
Kangaroo courts and drumheads are supposed to be relegated to the darker corners of history.

One of the worst parts, though, is the insidious nature of such proceedings, with impacts not unlike those of affirmative action:
Thus Ms. Taylor's testimony amounted to a claim that in principle a woman's tears are sufficient to establish a man's guilt—an inane stereotype that infantilizes women in the interest of vilifying men.
How did we get to this stage?

Two Math Problems

Sometimes I get very frustrated with the master's program I'm in.  Students who actually go to the university, as opposed to my taking classes by watching videos over the internet, have three advantages that I don't:
1)  they can ask questions in class,
2)  they can work with other students in the class to clarify things, or
3)  they can go to the professor's office hours.
I can't do any of those things.  I'm supposed to be able to learn everything just by watching videos of class sessions--and was told this by my adviser.  It's not quite what I thought I was signing up for, but it's what I have.

I have really struggled the last month or so.  I understood the last week's material reasonably well, but everything before that is just a mess in my mind.  I emailed my instructor for some clarification on a specific topic but received no response.  Lacking that big picture understanding, I'm reduced to memorizing some formulas (while not really knowing what they mean or do) and hoping I can figure out how to apply them, and correctly.  I'll be honest, I think the stress of this is partly what caused my shingles outbreak several weeks ago.

Two of the problems from Homework #9 really had me stumped.  So clueless was I that I didn't submit Homework #9.  Instead I kept moving, watched more classes, and completed Homework #10.  Until today I hadn't touched those two problems for about a week.

This morning, though, I decided to try them again; after all, I have to take a test over this material after school on Monday the 9th, and the professor mentioned that one of the test problems would be directly lifted from one of the four homework assignments covering the test material.  Wouldn't it just be my luck that that problem would be one of the two I couldn't do at all?  I had to give it one more go; if I couldn't do them I'd submit the homework assignment incomplete.

One of the problems was an odd-numbered problem so the answer was in the back of the book; I saw no freakin' way to get that answer.  I couldn't even figure out how the variances of the random variables got involved in the answer!  But remember, I've had a week to mull this problem over in my subconscious, and when I looked at it an idea popped into my head.  And when I'd rewritten the problem utilizing that idea, I saw that I could take another step.  But then I stopped, where to go from here?  A few more minutes of scanning the textbook and my class notes didn't reveal anything obvious I'd missed, but then I had another "creative" thought--what if I rewrote it this way?  In effect I added a quantity and then subtracted the same quantity, but this allowed me to do some factoring--and that brought the variance into play!  A few simple algebra steps after that and I had the same answer as in the back of the book!

Where did those "leaps" come from, those ideas, those "let's try this completely new tack" epiphanies?  I don't know.  Maybe we're born with the ability, maybe after some point we've done enough math that they're available to us in the back of our minds.  Maybe it's all just luck.  I don't know, but it took me a couple weeks of trying, and then a week off, before I was able to make those leaps.

So I went to the other problem.  It was an even-numbered problem so I didn't have the actual solution to jump-start any thoughts I hadn't already had.  I stared, I searched for clarification, I did all the things I'd done previously that had failed me.  Then I decided to try some brute force and ignorance.  I went back to a definition, which can sometimes be a very difficult way to solve a problem, but it got me a step further than I'd been able to go beforehand.  It looked like progress!  I kept going, sticking to the definition.  I got an answer of 1, which just doesn't look correct to me, but I'm sure the work I was able to do today got me closer to the answer than I was when I had quit for a week.

I scanned Homework #9 and #10 and emailed them in for grading.  It's a partial victory. 

Friday, December 06, 2013

Doesn't It Make You A Racist If You Think You Should Feel Safe Intentionally Offending White Males?

She got a reprimand:
discussion of structural racism lead to a reprimand for Shannon Gibney, who teaches Intro to Mass Communications at Minneapolis Community and Technical College. Three white male students complained they were singled out by Gibney, reports City Pages...

The vice president of academic affairs found it “troubling” that Gibney “alienated two students who may have been most in need of learning about this subject. . . . While I believe it was your intention to discuss structural racism generally, it was inappropriate for you to single out white male students in class. Your actions in [targeting] select students based on their race and gender caused them embarrassment and created a hostile learning environment"...

“I don’t feel safe in the class anymore,” Gibney told City College News.
“I definitely feel like I’m a target in the class. I don’t feel like students respect me,” she continued. “Those students were trying to undermine my authority from the get-go. And I told the lawyer at the investigatory meeting, ‘You have helped those three white male students succeed in undermining my authority as one of the few remaining black female professors here.’”
That she feels safe even saying that says more than we need to know not only about her attitude towards white people, but about the environment in which she operates.

Thursday, December 05, 2013

Is College Necessary?

It's not for not-insignificant fraction of the people who enroll; that's my opinion.  Here's another:
Lately the question “Is College Necessary?” has been under debate. One factor sparking the debate is the record 85 percent of recent college grads living with their parents. While economists and academics argue about the benefits of a college education and the loan debt incurred by many students, what are recent college grads thinking, especially those who can’t find jobs or if they do, cannot support themselves?

In this guest post, Cristina Schreil, a 2011 graduate of New York University who majored in English Literature and Journalism, investigated how her generation feels about the expectations they had and what they feel now—diplomas in hand. Like many of her peers, she admits, “in no way am I supporting myself 100 percent, but I am still pursuing the goal of working in journalism full time. I think it's going to be a long journey.” Here is what Cristina learned about her peer’s attitudes and struggles....
A common theme in the first several paragraphs is that students were encouraged to do what they wanted, that they were entitled to "pursue their dreams" and could expect a well-paying job upon completion of their degree.  This is why, if I were ever to give a graduation address, this is one of the things I would say:
Many will expect me to stand up here and tell you to “follow your dreams”. Don't do it, it's horrible advice. Find what you're good at, and do that. You'll be happy—who doesn't like doing what they're good at? And by pursuing what you do best, you'll be making the best imprint you can on the world.
Notice I don't say they'll make oodles of money.  I tell them that they will, in the words of the 80's US Army commercials, "be all they can be".

An Interesting Perspective on West Point, In The New York Times, Of All Places

Don't worry, though, liberals, it's written by one of you:
Terry Babcock-Lumish, founder of Islay Consulting LLC, teaches economics at the United States Military Academy at West Point. She has worked in local, state and federal government, most recently in the President’s Council of Economic Advisers. Upon leaving the White House in 2001, she served as a researcher for two books by former Vice President Al Gore.
I enjoyed reading it--especially her little "experiments" in invisibility!

Wednesday, December 04, 2013

If You're Good Enough To Get Into Harvard You've Already Proven Yourself A Success, Right?

That's the message they seem to be sending out:
Dean of Undergraduate Education Jay M. Harris told the Harvard Crimson this week A is the most frequent grade and A- is the median grade. Harvard released the grades in response to a question by professor Harvey C. Mansfield, who has long disparaged “grade inflation.”  The professor was quoted in the Crimson as saying the high grades are “indefensible” and represent “a failure on the part of this faculty and its leadership to maintain our academic standards.”

Harvard confirmed the report to ABC News today and said in a statement that the university is more focused on learning than grades.

A Warning Sign For California--Who Will Heed It?

From the major Sacramento newspaper:
In a case with major implications for California, a judge in Michigan ruled that the bankrupt city of Detroit can impose cuts to its municipal pension plans.
Just like California's, Michigan's constitution states that pension obligations cannot be discharged.  That's cute, says the federal bankruptcy judge that isn't bound at all by state law.

Why does this cause me to worry?  Because every year I get a letter from CalSTRS, the State Teachers Retirement System, stating that I shouldn't worry that STRS is underfunded because the state constitution guarantees that the taxpayers will just pick up any shortfall.  Good planning, that.

They Pretend To Think They Represent "the People"

And by "they" I mean Democrats:
We keep hearing about how the Republican Party is full of radical Tea Party crazies. But our latest IBD/TIPP Poll shows that it's Democrats who are out of touch with reality and well outside the mainstream.

The public overwhelmingly believes the country is headed in the wrong direction, that current economic policies aren't working, that President Obama is doing a bad job, that government should be smaller and that ObamaCare should be repealed. But not Democrats.

On issue after issue, in fact, Democrats are the outliers by wide margins, according to an analysis of the December IBD/TIPP survey.

Tuesday, December 03, 2013

You Lie!

With apologies to Congressman Joe Wilson, is the president lying again or still?
President Obama has yet to make good on the administration's promises that he would sign up for health insurance on the new government exchanges, the White House acknowledged on Monday.

White House press secretary Jay Carney said that Obama has not signed up for Obamacare and that he did have a reason for the delay...

Shortly after Obama signed the new health care law in March 2010, a White House official said the president planned to walk the walk and sign up for the insurance exchanges his law created.
“The president will participate in the exchange,” an administration official told USA Today at the time.

If he follows through with the pledge, Obama will be opting to pay for the insurance without receiving a taxpayer subsidy because the law doesn't provide the tax benefit for those with access to generous coverage through their employers.
It's good enough for the peons, but not the people who passed it.

No Surprise In These Poll Results

More data to chew on:
A new Gallup poll finds that those who know the least about Obamacare tend to be the ones who gave Barack Obama both of his terms in the presidency.
The young, and Democrats.  Perhaps they know the least about Obamacare because they don't want their heads to explode due to the cognitive dissonance that would result.

Monday, December 02, 2013

This Is What Feminism Has Become

I'm all for equality before the law and equal pay for equal work--what used to be the basic tenets of feminism.  Today's feminism, though?  Ew.  This is what it's devolved into:
One of the Movember mantras is: “Real men, growing real moustaches, talking about real issues”. The slogan is as misguided as its campaign: Movember is divisive, gender normative, racist and ineffective against some very real health issues.
As the Instapundit said:
Update, 12/3/13Round two:
Nancy Silberkleit is accused by her male employees of gender discrimination such as referring to them as 'penis' instead of by name, but Silberkleit contends that the case should be tossed out because white males are not 'a protected class'.
I found the link here.


It's almost quaint to look back as recently as World War II, when the Ivy League prided itself on ROTC programs and how many of their graduates went on to serve in the war.  Later, ROTC was shamed and harassed and, in some cases, expelled from campuses across the country, but generally not in "the heartland" or the South, where pride in service has always run high.  Now ROTC is closing some programs in order to consolidate and perhaps even expand recruiting:
Instead, it was part of an Army effort to redirect its resources and money to areas where it wants to broaden its recruiting, including major cities.

To underwrite the transformation, the Army chose to close R.O.T.C. programs at 13 universities, more than half of them in the South. Tennessee alone will lose R.O.T.C. offerings at three of its public universities, the most of any state. 

The Army selected the universities after a review found that the programs were typically yielding fewer than 15 commissioned officers annually, although the military acknowledged it granted exceptions to dozens of schools because they met other standards. 

The Army Cadet Command, which oversees R.O.T.C. and its approximately 33,000 aspiring soldiers, said that by shuttering the 13 lagging programs, it will be able to shift resources to 56 other markets, including Los Angeles, New York and Chicago. In many instances, existing programs will grow. 
This isn't good news.  I hope this plan works.

Sunday, December 01, 2013

The Air Force Just Can't Get It Right

I'm a fan of the Air Force Academy.  It was my first choice of colleges and the only one I applied to where I didn't get in.  I spent the first semester of my junior year as an exchange cadet there from West Point.  I've had one former student graduate from there and a second will this next May.

Yes, I'm a fan.

But there's always been something wrong there.  Even when I was there in 1985 there were problems with the way they enforced their Honor Code and there were problems with leadership.  Here we are, 28 years later, and the problems are so bad that we learn about this from the local Colorado Springs newspaper:
Facing pressure to combat drug use and sexual assault at the Air Force Academy, the Air Force has created a secret system of cadet informants to hunt for misconduct among students.

Cadets who attend the publicly-funded academy near Colorado Springs must pledge never to lie. But the program pushes some to do just that: Informants are told to deceive classmates, professors and commanders while snapping photos, wearing recording devices and filing secret reports.

For one former academy student, becoming a covert government operative meant not only betraying the values he vowed to uphold, it meant being thrown out of the academy as punishment for doing the things the Air Force secretly told him to do...

Through it all, he thought OSI (Office of Special Investigations) would have his back. But when an operation went wrong, he said, his handlers cut communication and disavowed knowledge of his actions, and watched as he was kicked out of the academy...

The records show OSI uses FBI-style tactics to create informants. Agents interrogate cadets for hours without offering access to a lawyer, threaten them with prosecution, then coerce them into helping OSI in exchange for promises of leniency they don’t always keep. OSI then uses informants to infiltrate insular cadet groups, sometimes encouraging them to break rules to do so. When finished with informants, OSI takes steps to hide their existence, directing cadets to delete emails and messages, misleading Air Force commanders and Congress, and withholding documents they are required to release under the Freedom of Information Act.

The program also appears to rely disproportionately on minority cadets like Thomas...

While the informant program has resulted in prosecutions, it also creates a fundamental rift between the culture of honesty and trust the academy drills into cadets and another one of duplicity and betrayal that the Air Force clandestinely deploys to root out misconduct...

In fall 2010, Thomas, a sophomore, went to a house party near Divide. It was a typical college bash, he said, with pounding music, beer and cadets on the back porch smoking pot and a synthetic marijuana called spice...

Thomas said he wasn’t nervous. He was a straight-laced athlete from a strict home who had never done drugs and drank very little. The agent told him he was there only as a witness. He wanted to know who did what at the party. At first, Thomas gave vague answers, but Munson pressed harder, Thomas said, grilling the cadet for more than three hours: OSI had witnesses. They had proof Thomas knew more than he was saying. It was the cadet’s duty to tell the truth. Under the honor code, not turning in spice smokers was the same as smoking spice.  (I'm not sure that's true about the honor code--Darren)

The academy teaches cadets not to question superiors, Thomas said. When OSI asked him to do things, he thought he had little choice.

“Eventually I told them everything I knew,” Thomas said.
Thomas agreed to help OSI.

Agents made him sign non-disclosure papers and told him he could be thrown in a military prison if he talked about his work. He could not even tell his commanders, they said. OSI would notify them instead. As Thomas left that life-changing meeting with OSI, he remembers the agent saying, “Wait to be contacted. And remember, don’t tell anybody"...

“The whole time I was like, ‘OK, I’m getting told how to roll a blunt by a federal agent; this is a different cadet experience that is not in the brochure’,” Thomas said....
The story is much longer and much more detailed than what I've sampled here.   This is some quality journalism here.  But the meat of the story is just sickening.

Of course I don't condone drug use in the military.  Even less, though, do I condone such tactics to root it out.  This kind of behavior is just foul.  How do you expect to build leaders this way, Air Force?

OSI.  The "S" probably stands for Stasi.  Their tactics are identical.

Saturday, November 30, 2013

Always Been At War With Oceana

There's always got to be a bad guy, and even though I find smoking to be vile and disgusting, I think political calls against it are to be resisted:
UC Davis officials announced in June that tobacco use will be banned starting Jan. 1 on all university property, including UC Davis Medical Center in Sacramento, as part of a University of California systemwide policy...

One campuswide ban being considered by CSUS President Alexander Gonzalez would prohibit all smoking, tobacco chewing and use of electronic cigarettes on school property except within a personal vehicle as soon as 2015. Smoking is now allowed on campus as long as it isn’t within 20 feet from buildings, in Hornet Stadium or on major walkways...

“We are supposed to be a community that works together, and we are ostracizing students that are making legal decisions as adults,” he said...

A survey conducted in 2011 by the Sacramento County Department of Health and Human Services found that 14 percent of CSUS students smoked, according to the task force report.

Henthorn points to the low number as evidence that new restrictions aren’t needed. Proponents of the ban say the data show a small number of smokers are impacting the vast majority who must endure secondhand smoke...

At Sacramento State, smokers were hard to find Wednesday. Senior Julie Martinez said she isn’t happy about the possibility of a tobacco ban. “I pay a fortune for tuition,” Martinez said. “There are nothing but adults here. … It’s not the school’s job to tell me to stop smoking.”

Martinez said that some of the areas on campus where smokers congregated in the past now have “No Smoking” signs. “I’m glad I’m graduating,” she said.
What group will be next?

Read more here: http://www.sacbee.com/2013/11/29/5957665/csus-looks-at-smoking-ban.html#storylink=cpy

If Standardization Is The Problem, How Can A Czar Be The Solution?

Joanne asks this question in response to former NEA President John Wilson's contradictory article:
Well, one of my favorite Southern sayings may be even truer as it relates to those implementing Common Core State Standards: "A bureaucrat can screw up a two-car funeral procession!"

Who would have thought the "powers that be" could make such a mess of what started out as a powerful and game-changing idea...

The problem is not the standards; it is the implementation and the bureaucratic desire to standardize everything about the education process from lesson plans to testing. This must stop. Policy needs to change. Administrators must adjust practices. Teachers must be respected. The accountability system has to be overhauled or Common Core State Standards are doomed for failure.

To deal with the chaos, we desperately need a single authority to oversee the implementation, call out bad practices, and recommend policy changes to the politicians. We need a Common Core Czar. 
A "central planner" can solve any problem, right?  Those union types sure do like to think that way.

The TSA-holes Have Got To Go

Is the TSA doing anything of value that couldn't be done better, and more inexpensively, by private companies?
U.S. airport screening is run by the unionized Transportation Security Administration, which has a reputation for intrusive pat downs and inept management. Former TSA chief Kip Hawley called the agency "hopelessly bureaucratic." And studies have found that TSA security performance is no better, and possibly worse, than private-sector screening, which is allowed at only a handful of U.S. airports.

The TSA has a penchant for wasting money on useless activities, leaving it less to spend on things that benefit travelers, such as more screening stations. For example, a new Government Accountability Office report finds that TSA spends $200 million a year on a program to spot terrorists by their suspicious behavior — yet the program simply does not work.

Congress should move responsibility for screening to the airports, and allow them to contract out to expert security firms. Private firms would be able to flexibly adjust their workforces to reduce congestion, and they would end low-value procedures that wasted passenger time.
Is there anyone out there who truly believes that the TSA is making air travel safe?  Passengers have done more to stop terrorists (underwear bomber, shoe bomber) than the TSA has--unless you genuinely worry about Disney World snowglobes and shampoo.

Is there anyone out there who truly believes that keeping a paraplegic out of the country keeps us safe?
Ellen Richardson went to Pearson airport on Monday full of joy about flying to New York City and from there going on a 10-day Caribbean cruise for which she’d paid about $6,000.
But a U.S. Customs and Border Protection agent with the Department of Homeland Security killed that dream when he denied her entry.
“I was turned away, I was told, because I had a hospitalization in the summer of 2012 for clinical depression,’’ said Richardson, who is a paraplegic and set up her cruise in collaboration with a March of Dimes group of about 12 others.
The Weston woman was told by the U.S. agent she would have to get “medical clearance’’ and be examined by one of only three doctors in Toronto whose assessments are accepted by Homeland Security. She was given their names and told a call to her psychiatrist “would not suffice.’’
At the time, Richardson said, she was so shocked and devastated by what was going on, she wasn’t thinking about how U.S. authorities could access her supposedly private medical information
How is our "homeland security" enhanced by such stupidity?  Only in government....

It's A Small Start

The welfare state is dying--at least in one European country:
In an address to the people of the Netherlands earlier this year, the Dutch King Willem-Alexander declared the welfare state ‘dead,’ and said that the people of the Netherlands needed to look more after themselves in a ‘participatory society’ without depending so much on government.
The graphic showing public-debt-to-GDP is interesting:
It's about -3.8% in the Netherlands.

Friday, November 29, 2013

On A Lark

I was out Christmas shopping with a friend today, when out of the blue, it hit me:  want to go to Reno?  He'd never been, so off we went.

The drive over the summit was beautifully clear, and Reno itself was crisp and enjoyable.  Great way to spend an afternoon/evening!

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Republicans, The Party of Civil Rights

From National Review Online:
This magazine has long specialized in debunking pernicious political myths, and Jonah Goldberg has now provided an illuminating catalogue of tyrannical clichés, but worse than the myth and the cliché is the outright lie, the utter fabrication with malice aforethought, and my nominee for the worst of them is the popular but indefensible belief that the two major U.S. political parties somehow “switched places” vis-à-vis protecting the rights of black Americans, a development believed to be roughly concurrent with the passage of the 1964 Civil Rights Act and the rise of Richard Nixon. That Republicans have let Democrats get away with this mountebankery is a symptom of their political fecklessness, and in letting them get away with it the GOP has allowed itself to be cut off rhetorically from a pantheon of Republican political heroes, from Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass to Susan B. Anthony, who represent an expression of conservative ideals as true and relevant today as it was in the 19th century. Perhaps even worse, the Democrats have been allowed to rhetorically bury their Bull Connors, their longstanding affiliation with the Ku Klux Klan, and their pitiless opposition to practically every major piece of civil-rights legislation for a century. Republicans may not be able to make significant inroads among black voters in the coming elections, but they would do well to demolish this myth nonetheless.

Even if the Republicans’ rise in the South had happened suddenly in the 1960s (it didn’t) and even if there were no competing explanation (there is), racism — or, more precisely, white southern resentment over the political successes of the civil-rights movement — would be an implausible explanation for the dissolution of the Democratic bloc in the old Confederacy and the emergence of a Republican stronghold there. That is because those southerners who defected from the Democratic party in the 1960s and thereafter did so to join a Republican party that was far more enlightened on racial issues than were the Democrats of the era, and had been for a century. There is no radical break in the Republicans’ civil-rights history: From abolition to Reconstruction to the anti-lynching laws, from the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments to the Civil Rights Act of 1875 to the Civil Rights Acts of 1957, 1960, and 1964, there exists a line that is by no means perfectly straight or unwavering but that nonetheless connects the politics of Lincoln with those of Dwight D. Eisenhower. And from slavery and secession to remorseless opposition to everything from Reconstruction to the anti-lynching laws, the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments, the Civil Rights Act of 1875, and the Civil Rights Acts of 1957 and 1960, there exists a similarly identifiable line connecting John Calhoun and Lyndon Baines Johnson. Supporting civil-rights reform was not a radical turnaround for congressional Republicans in 1964, but it was a radical turnaround for Johnson and the Democrats.
You should read the whole thing.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

California's High-Speed Rail Derailed?

If this boondoggle fails for the "wrong" reasons, I'm still ok with that:
California’s bullet train boondoggle was sucker punched yesterday, as a Sacramento Superior Court judge blocked $68 billion in bond funding. The same case saw a separate ruling allowing the state to spend $3.4 billion in federal cash for the project, while a second case (same judge) rejected the rail authority’s request to issue $8 billion in bonds that voters approved in 2008. The judge ruled the project would need to meet various mandates, compliances and environmental clearances before the funding stream can be allowed to flow.

The convoluted rulings are yet another sign that California’s toxic regulatory and legal environment makes any public works project slow, expensive and Pyrrhic...

We’ve long argued that the train is an awful idea, but it looks like it’s starting to fail for all the wrong reasons. It would be good to see some common sense shape a consensus that the project’s exorbitant costs and marginal utility make it not worth the while. But no, the train is being derailed by red tape.
Hoist by their own big-government petard, some might say.

The judge didn't give the "derail it!" side everything it wanted, though:
By rejecting the state’s specious legal arguments, refusing to validate the issuance of state bonds, and insisting on a complete financial plan as the law requires, Kenny signaled a strict attitude that could bode ill for the project in another big legal challenge next year...

One of Kenny’s rulings says, in effect, that the state can’t build that short stretch in the San Joaquin Valley without a plan that lays out how a much longer stretch from Merced to Southern California can be financed.

Since the state has barely enough money for the first stretch, the barrier to meeting the larger financial standard is very high.

The judge’s strict constructionist attitude toward the law governing the project could bite again when he weighs another suit that alleges other ballot measure standards are being ignored – such as requiring a 160-minute ride from downtown San Francisco to downtown Los Angeles.
So it could still happen, although the likelihood is now less.

This, California voters, is what happens when you vote what feels good instead of what makes sense.  Kinda like that stem cell research vote a few years ago; how much is that costing us, and why is it so important that California pay for that?

Let's close with some common sense:
Brown should acknowledge that the project as now planned is doomed and either kill it or go back to the voters with a revision that includes realistic routes and costs and lays out how it will be financed.

If it’s worth doing – a debatable point – it’s worth doing right and not with legal sleight-of-hand and pie-in-the-sky financing.
California doesn't need high-speed rail.  If it needs rail at all, it needs a car-train (and not one run by the government).  There are vast distances to be covered out here in the West, and putting your loaded car on a train one day and being in Portland or Seattle the next day sounds like a winner to me--at least, judging by the traffic on I-5 it does.

Update, 11/30/13Not surprised:
These are immense obstacles. Yet instead of acknowledging their seriousness, rail authority board Chairman Dan Richard depicted them as predictable “challenges,” and a spokeswoman said the authority would proceed with its plans to seize land for the project in the Central Valley via eminent domain.

So Many Interesting Points In One Article

From nearby UC Davis, aka Berkeley-lite:
A sustainability-focused UC Davis housing community is generating 87 percent of its own electricity, short of the university’s ambitious goal that the development produce all of the energy it consumes.

The $300 million West Village campus project opened to much fanfare two years ago, riding on the hope that it would serve as a model for future construction.

Touted as the largest planned “zero net energy” community in the nation, West Village elicited great interest from politicians and newspapers alike. Millions of taxpayer dollars went into the private project, including $17 million from UC Davis for infrastructure and $2.5 million from the California Energy Commission...

Though West Village is producing the amount of energy that models predicted, resident consumption is significantly higher than expected, according to the report. Residents at The Ramble Apartments consumed 131 percent more energy than expected, while those at Viridian Apartments consumed 141 percent more, including 306 percent more in common areas.

The clubhouse, which includes a pool, gym and theater, exceeded consumption projections by 178 percent...

Another problem lies in the way residents are charged for utilities. Energy costs are built into the rent rather than based on usage, eliminating one financial incentive to conserve. Residents also say high rental rates discourage conservation.

“I take pretty long showers and always keep the lights on,” said resident Meghna Bhatt, 21, who pays $850 a month for a single bedroom. “There’s no incentive to conserve. Of course they’re not getting zero net energy.”

England explained the complex cannot charge for electricity based on usage due to state utility regulations. Carmel Partners said it is exploring ways to encourage residents to reduce their usage...

Braun pointed to conflicting missions at West Village as part of the hurdle in achieving zero net energy. Student tenants can exercise at the gym, print for free at the business center or take a dip in the resort-style pool.

“This a real estate development. It has a purpose to not just house students, but also attract them,” he said. “Meanwhile, the university also has a sustainability goal.”
So we have conflicting goals, no real reasons to conserve (other than to be a "good person"), even more taxpayer money subsidizing some of the state's most privileged (to use a favorite term of lefties) young people who probably haven't signed up for Obamacare and are still on their parents' insurance--and surprise that these good, young, liberal students are wasting electicity.  Amazing.

But there's hope:
Despite the setbacks, England expressed hope that zero net energy is within reach. He predicted West Village would realize its goal in two years. A “biodigester” that would convert waste into energy is slated to go online in the next few months after being delayed.
How long will the solar panels last?  Will they recoup their cost?  How much does it cost to maintain this type of community; is it more or less than a "standard" community?  So many questions.

Read more here: http://www.sacbee.com/2013/11/26/5949323/uc-davis-west-village-progresses.html#storylink=cpy

Read more here: http://www.sacbee.com/2013/11/26/5949323/uc-davis-west-village-progresses.html#storylink=cpy

Read more here: http://www.sacbee.com/2013/11/26/5949323/uc-davis-west-village-progresses.html#storylink=cpy

Read more here: http://www.sacbee.com/2013/11/26/5949323/uc-davis-west-village-progresses.html#storylink=cpy

Read more here: http://www.sacbee.com/2013/11/26/5949323/uc-davis-west-village-progresses.html#storylink=cpy

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

California Is Losing Its Edge In Higher Education, But Not For The Reason Gavin Newsom Says

From the major Sacramento newspaper:
More attention must be paid to the California State University system and to the state's community colleges if California is going to produce the educated workers its economy needs, Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom says in a report set to be issued Tuesday.

The report commissioned by Newsom argues that the state is losing its place as a national leader in higher education.

The report, prepared by the nonpartisan Committee for Economic Development based in Washington, D.C., finds that the percentage of young adults earning associate and bachelor's degrees in California already is below the U.S. average and predicts the trend will persist unless the system is overhauled to serve an increasingly diverse and low-income population.
Perhaps we could start improving higher education by not brainwashing our K-12 students into believing that they'll only be successful in life if they go to college.  Perhaps we could start improving higher education by refusing admittance to our universities to students who need remedial math or English classes, and requiring them instead to attend community colleges until they meet university standards.

Cut down on the number of university students.  Restore importance to the bachelor's degree, and don't treat people who choose not to get one as pariahs.  When everyone gets a trophy, a trophy has no value.

And then let's cut all the absolutely useless courses and degrees.  I'm not saying there shouldn't be some fun, interesting, cool classes at universities, but let's not pretend that all courses, or all majors, deserve the taxpayer's consideration.

Are You Surprised? I'm Not.

For all I know I'm just as guilty as anyone else, but at least I don't "round up" grades at the end of the semester just so a kid can get a higher grade:
The average college student’s GPA rose from 2.52 in the 1950s to 3.11 in 2006. At many universities, the most common grade is an ‘A.’

These and other statistics show that American four-year educational institutions have massively shifted their grading systems to award ‘A’ and ‘B’ grades to most students, according to USA Today.

Is it a problem if the average college student receives above average grades? Stuart Rojstaczer, a former Duke University professor who studies grade inflation, thinks so.

“In a fair grading system, you reward people for their outstanding achievements,” said Rojstaczer. Grade inflation “lowers the intensity and intellectual level in many classes.”

Of course, grade inflation is not even across the board. Elite and private universities inflate more heavily, while community colleges give comparatively honest grades and even flunk students. Yale University, for instance, gave an ‘A’ grade 62 percent of the time last year.
Lake Wobegon.

Monday, November 25, 2013

The Collective Mindset

"We are the Borg. Lower your shields and surrender your ships. We will add your biological and technological distinctiveness to our own. Your culture will adapt to service us. Resistance is futile."

Here's another, if you need it:

That's really all the commentary you need from me about this story:
A plan to squeeze most residents of the San Francisco Bay Area into multifamily housing offers a test case of whether land-use bureaucracies nationwide, encouraged by the Obama administration, should be allowed to transform American lifestyles under the pretext of combating climate change...

Owning a single-family home has long been part of the American dream, but Plan Bay Area embraces a dramatically different vision of the ideal community: crowded rows of high-rises and mass-transit platforms.

Population density in the region’s urban areas would increase by 30 percent during the next two decades under the plan. Nearly 80 percent of all new housing and 62 percent of new jobs would be located in just 5 percent of the region’s surface area.

Planners admit this will make single-family housing in the already high-priced Bay area even less affordable.
Who would want to live like that? And of those who do, why would you want to compel others to live that way?  The answer to the 2nd question is simple:  compulsion is central to the liberal way of thinking.