Thursday, January 30, 2020

Letting Felons Vote

To ensure they win future elections, the left wants to allow children to vote and also allow convicted felons to vote.

Does that include felons convicted of hate crimes?
Sen. Bernie Sanders's (I., Vt.) support for extending voting rights to violent felons such as Dylann Roof, the racist gunman who murdered nine people at a black church in South Carolina, could prove problematic as the Democratic presidential candidates set their sights on the Palmetto State primary on February 29.

Roof, who recently filed an appeal challenging his conviction and death sentence, is a widely despised individual.
Good. He should be.
So is Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, the Boston Marathon bomber who killed 3 and injured nearly 300 others in 2013. Like Roof, he is on death row. Sanders would not only spare their lives by abolishing the death penalty but would also grant them voting rights in prison.
What about rapists? What about gay bashers?

I'd ask if lefties ever thought through their proposals, but that would imply that they think.

Wednesday, January 29, 2020

"High" Achievers

From ERIC, the Education Resources Information Center:
This paper investigates how legal cannabis access affects student performance. Identification comes from an exceptional policy introduced in the city of Maastricht which discriminated legal access based on individuals' nationality. We apply a difference-in-difference approach using administrative panel data on over 54,000 course grades of local students enrolled at Maastricht University before and during the partial cannabis prohibition. We find that the academic performance of students who are no longer legally permitted to buy cannabis increases substantially. Grade improvements are driven by younger students, and the effects are stronger for women and low performers. In line with how THC consumption affects cognitive functioning, we find that performance gains are larger for courses that require more numerical/mathematical skills. We investigate the underlying channels using students' course evaluations and present suggestive evidence that performance gains are driven by improved understanding of material rather than changes in students' study effort. [This paper was produced as part of the Centre's Education Programme. The Centre for Economic Performance is financed by the Economic and Social Research Council.]
The March 2015 paper can be downloaded free in PDF form here.  Applied statistics, baby.

A Good Move At Stanford

“We are very fortunate to have Condoleezza Rice assume the helm of the Hoover Institution,” (Stanford President) Tessier-Lavigne said. “Her accomplishments as a scholar, strategic thinker, and public servant and her deep commitment to Hoover make her the ideal leader for defining the next chapter in Hoover’s long and distinguished history. She is also an exceptional teacher and is strongly committed to Stanford, having served as the university’s provost for six years and a member of our faculty since 1981. I and many other leaders at Stanford have greatly valued her wisdom and counsel and look forward to welcoming her to our executive leadership team.”  link
An essay by Dr. Rice about the Soviet Union was part of the reading in a national security seminar course I took during my senior year at West Point.

Tuesday, January 28, 2020

What's Old Is New Again

The Civil Rights Era in the United States, when do you date it?  Starting with Brown v. Board of Education, 1954?  Rosa Parks and the Birmingham Bus Boycott, 1955?  And "ending" with the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and/or the Voting Rights Act of 1965?  All of that happened before I was a few months old.  Equal rights has been the law of the land for my entire memory.  I grew up agreeing with Thurgood Marshall that there was no legitimate reason for government to classify people by race, and agreeing with King Jr that we should judge people on their character vs their color.  I supported Proposition 209 in California, which prohibited "public institutions from discriminating on the basis of race, sex, or ethnicity."  While I obviously don't believe that everyone in our society will be free from all racism or discrimination, I do agree with Chief Justice Roberts that the "way to stop discrimination on the basis of race is to stop discriminating on the basis of race" (pp 40-41 of this ruling).  These are the values I was taught and have believed in all my life.

So you can imagine how odious it is to me to see our universities voluntarily and with gusto return to a funhouse-mirror reflection of "segregation now, segregation tomorrow, segregation forever".  Here are some:
The University of Alabama, for example, is endorsing a Goldman Sachs-backed “diversity” program that benefits black, Hispanic, Native American and LGBT students, but excludes other groups. White? Asian? Straight? You’re not welcome.

At the University of Colorado Boulder, a special retreat is available only to students "whose identity community/ies have been minoritized" in science, technology, engineering and math. Nor was it about special problems faced by “minoritized” students...

Meanwhile, at Portland State University, the Women’s Resource Center holds meetings "solely for people of color"...

And the University of Nevada, Las Vegas offers special race-based housing. The University of California, Berkeley, meanwhile, offers four orientations based on race in addition to the main orientation.
There are other examples given in the article, and I've discussed similar issues over the past 15 years on this blog.  Sadly, the author of the linked article correctly concludes:
As we were just reminded on Martin Luther King Jr. Day, progress on race in America used to mean seeing past color and race, not sorting people based on external characteristics. And, actually, it still means that. It’s just that the people running the show on campus seem less interested in progress than in division.

Monday, January 27, 2020

Battlespace Prep?

a)  Is he making up excuses in anticipation of not being able to get a job in what is arguably the best economy of my adult lifetime?
b)  Is he trying to show off his liberal bona fides?
c)  Is he writing just to complain about something?
A senior from Tulane University recently took to the pages of his student paper to proclaim that dressing and acting “professional” is racist … and “rooted in white supremacy"...

 From the piece:
... Punctuality centers whiteness. It is far easier for white men to get to work on time than Black people who are having to change their hair to fit the workplace’s professionalism standards. Nonwhite people have to spend significantly more time than their white counterparts on molding themselves to a white Western lifestyle before work.
“Coming from a Brown and immigrant family, I know that this country was not made for me,” Uddin concludes. Nevertheless, he says feels obligation to penetrate these professional (white) spaces in order to “make them better” for people like him.  link
The stupid, it hurts.

Sunday, January 26, 2020

38 Words With No English Equivalent

I really enjoyed this post about 38 words in other languages that require an exposition to express in English.

#5: Backpfeifengesicht.  AKA a "Schiff".
#18:  Layogenic.  Related to a "butterface".  Somewhat related to #19, Bakku-shan.
#29:  L’esprit de l’escalier.  We've all done that before.
#36:  Luftmensch.  Roughly translates as "Democratic candidates for President."
#37 and 38:  Explains part of the theme song for Laverne and Shirley.

Saturday, January 25, 2020

And We Know Who To Thank For This

Thank you, Mark Janus:
Government-union membership fell again in 2019, continuing a decade-long decline. Workers in public-sector unions now number 7.066 million, representing a drop of nearly 100,000 in one year and the smallest government-organized labor membership in 20 years. Since 2009, when the ranks of government-union members peaked at 7.896 million, public-labor groups have lost more than 10 percent of their membership. The percentage of government workers belonging to unions has dropped to 33.6, the smallest proportion of the government workforce since 1978. The most recent numbers illustrate how government unions continue to suffer from the hangover of the recession of 2008-2009, in part because of a slow rebound in government employment during the economic expansion that began in 2010. The numbers may also reflect some losses that unions have suffered in the wake of the 2018 Supreme Court Janus decision, which gave public-sector workers the right to opt out of joining a union or paying fees...

Even the most heavily unionized, labor-friendly states have seen sharp declines in unionization. Government-union membership in California fell by 164,000 between 2009 and 2018, though the state has as many public-sector jobs as it did before the crash. About half of all government workers in California now belong to a union, down from more than 57 percent. New York has lost 123,000 union members over the same time period. Government-union membership has shrunk by 45,000 in Illinois, by more than 42,000 in New Jersey, and by more than 13,000 in Connecticut. link
I was there, standing next to Rebecca Friedrichs:

If She (or her handlers) Were Serious...

If Grumpy Greta, or more importantly, her adult handlers, were truly serious about climate change caused by pollution, they'd all be in India and China rather than Switzerland:
Teenage environmentalist Thunberg gave another hysterical speech at the global confab yesterday in which she claimed, “Our house is still on fire. Your inaction is fueling the flames by the hour. We are still telling you to panic, and to act as if you loved your children above all else.”

“We don’t want these things done in 2050, 2030, or even 2021,” Thunberg said. “We want this done now.”

Ferguson, Senior Fellow at Stanford University’s Hoover Institution, questioned why Thunberg isn’t directing her message to the biggest polluters on the planet.

“60% of CO2 emissions since Greta Thunberg was born is attributable to China… but nobody talks about that. They talk as if its somehow Europeans and Americans who are going to fix this problem… which is frustrating because it doesn’t get to the heart of the matter,” said Ferguson.

“If you’re serious about slowing CO2 emissions and temperatures rising it has to be China and India you constrain,” he added, noting that while Greta travels to New York and Davos, “I don’t see her in Beijing or Delhi.”
The graph at the link, and the text immediately following it, are striking.

Anyway, the left has attached itself to a 16-year-old high school dropout.  And they don't even understand why that seems crazy to us normal people.

Thursday, January 23, 2020

Reining In What's Gotten Out of Hand

The idea of "emotional support animals" has gotten out of hand.  Common-sense rules and decency have been abused to the point that the true needs of the disabled are diminished by what has become a mockery, and I'm glad there's progress at putting an end to it:
Airline passengers might soon have to leave their emotional support animals at home.

A new rule proposed by the U.S. Department of Transportation would permit airlines to stop accepting emotional support animals on planes, allowing only service dogs that are professionally trained to perform tasks or assist passengers with disabilities, including psychiatric disorders...

The agency’s proposed rule, which would be open for public comment for 60 days, would also allow airlines to impose additional restrictions on service animals. Such limits could include requiring passengers traveling with a service animal to arrive at the airport an hour earlier than others to verify their animal’s credentials, capping the number of service animals a single passenger can travel with and requiring a service animal be leashed and harnessed.
On a related note, I was very pleased to see the following sign in the Grand Sierra Resort in Reno last summer:

click to enlarge

Too many people are treating pets as accessories.  When did it become OK to bring your pet into the grocery store, or a restaurant, or a casino, or a bank?  

Note:  that picture is hard to read even after clicking on it.  The four categories in the white strip are:
Comparison, Service Dogs, Therapy Dogs, Emotional Support Dogs

The six "comparisons" are:
  • ADA covered rights to bring animals into public establishments, including food establishments
  • Needs to tolerate a wide variety of environments and people 
  • Specifically trained to assist just one person
  • Primary Function to provide emotional support through companionship
  • Provides support and comfort to many people
  • Allowed to ride in shopping carts or sit on tables and chairs

15th Blogiversary

It was 15 years ago today that I started Right On The Left Coast with this post, and here we are over 12,000 posts later.  Wow!

I still consider this post my best one yet.

Congratulations to the United Kingdom

They've taken the first step to improvement as a nation and a society, almost 4 years after voting to do so:

Wednesday, January 22, 2020

February Break

Instead of 2 3-day weekends for Washington's and Lincoln's birthdays, we get a week off--which I call Ski Week even though I can't ski anymore.  I'm thinking of travel for that week, and I'd like to leave the country and go somewhere warmer that I haven't been to before.

I had narrowed my choices down to 2, but the cruise is now sold out.  Ugh.  I want choices, so now I need an alternative to Panama (which is surprisingly quite inexpensive, even with airfare).

My first-world problems are truly overwhelming.

Tuesday, January 21, 2020

Jordan Peterson Educates Climate Activist

"I'm suggesting that people who don't have their own houses in order should be very careful before they go about reorganizing the world...I think that generally people have things that are in their personal purview that are more difficult to deal with that they are avoiding and generally the way they avoid them is by adopting pseudo-moralistic stances on large-scale social issues so they look good to friends and neighbors."
--Jordan Peterson, psychologist

Monday, January 20, 2020

The Trees Really Are Big

Today is the Dr. King holiday, and thus we had a 3-day weekend.  Some friends and I hauled our trailers up the hill to Angels Camp on Saturday, and yesterday we went to Calaveras Big Trees State Park.  Very impressive place.

Fun time.

Friday, January 17, 2020

Abuse of the ADA

I myself may or may not have ever watched porn online, but I'm led to believe that dialog in such productions is not considered to be of high quality.  Allow me to create an acronym here, but (again I'm told) the top 3 reasons to watch porn are the TAGs:  torso, ass, and groin.

In general I'm a supporter of the Americans with Disabilities Act.  As much as I support that law, I equally detest abuse of that law--and that's exactly what's going on here:
A deaf man has reportedly filed a lawsuit against a popular adult video website for alleged rights violations because he says it doesn't provide closed captioning on its videos.

Yaroslav Suris is suing Pornhub, which hosts millions of adult videos, claiming the site's lack of subtitles violates the rights of deaf and hearing impaired under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)...

Suris argues that the deaf and hearing impaired can't understand the audio portions of the videos on the site, thus denying them similar access to the content, according to TMZ.

Thursday, January 16, 2020

Just What This Country Needs

Less-prepared teachers:
In an attempt to relieve Illinois’ severe teacher shortage, state lawmakers last year voted to remove a requirement known as the “basic skills test.” That test has proven to be a stumbling block, especially for people pursuing the profession later in life, as a second career.
California's "basic skills test", the California Basic Educational Skills Test, is at about the 8th grade level for reading, writing, and math.

But back to the story.  So much wrong here:
But even after earning a degree in educational studies, she couldn’t pass the state’s Basic Skills Test. The math portion, with 60 story problems, gave her the most trouble. That’s partly because, at age 52, McConohy hasn’t taken a rigorous math class in decades. But it’s partly because the test is tough. Only 31 percent of college students pass the math portion on the first try.
University students (at most schools) need to have passed Algebra 2 to get into said university.  Exactly what topics are covered on this test, such that so many fail?  It can't be that hard if every teacher in the entire state has passed it.  Back to the wrong:
In order to focus on preparing for that test, McConohy quit her part-time job, which was, somewhat ironically, working in an after-school program as a math tutor.
Words fail me.

OK, I have a few.  Someone who wants to be a teacher, someone who knows a test is coming up, can't prepare sufficiently for a basic skills test and the problem is the test?  So much for setting the example.

Wednesday, January 15, 2020

Of Two Minds

I understand why they had to be arrested, but part of me is sympathetic to them:
A California couple was arrested last week, for allegedly luring in thieves with an unguarded bicycle and then beating them with baseball bats when they tried to steal it.

Corey Cornutt, 25 and Savannah Grillot, 29, claimed they were robbed the first night they spent in their Visalia home after a burglar broke into their car. A few nights later, another burglar allegedly broke into their car again.

They both became hyper-vigilant and decided to take a proactive stance in defending their home, using the bike as bait. After beating on the perpetrators who came to steal it, Cornutt and Grillot would later post the videos to Youtube.

Tuesday, January 14, 2020

The Advantage of Teaching Financial Math

My largest classes are my two Financial Math classes.

At my school, Financial Math, and its predecessor Real Life Math, were considered "dumping grounds."  Students, especially seniors, who needed more math to graduate, but weren't capable of progressing, were put into Real Life Math or Financial Math.  There, the teacher watered down enough arithmetic that students could pass and graduate.

This year I've taken over teaching Financial Math.  I have two full periods of it this year and am pretty sure I'll have three next year.

My first goal when assuming the reins was to eliminate the "dumping ground" belief.  I want to make it into a course that students at all math levels can and want to take.  Yes, there will be calculations involved, but if students haven't learned how to operate with percentages, for example, I'm not going to attempt to reteach 4th grade math.  I have calculators available for students to use in class.

I may never get rid of the "dumping ground" mentality completely, but I'm working on it.  And I'll continue to work on it.  Word is getting around to the rest of campus that Financial Math is a valuable course to take.

Last semester I used a 1-semester "financial literacy" curriculum from Junior Achievement.  I don't recall that there was any math at all, but students learned, for example, such things as the difference between a bank, a credit union, and a savings and loan; the difference between gross pay and net pay, and between withholdings and deductions; the difference between a Roth IRA and a Traditional IRA; the difference between saving and investing; the different functions of a checking account and a savings account; and the mechanics of budgeting.  We talked about good and bad uses of credit cards, about debt, about interest and fees.  They can even tell you about Chapter 7 and Chapter 13 bankruptcies!

This semester I have a textbook to use.  It's not horrible, but it's not great.  It does a reasonable job presenting some material that should be simple but, for many of my students, isn't--for example, calculating your gross pay.  For us adults that's nothing, but for a kid who's never held a job, trying to keep straight such concepts as straight hourly pay, overtime, piecework, commission, graduated commission, and salary can be a little daunting.  You won't believe this, but we'll be spending the lion's share of January on the topic of gross pay.  I want to give them every opportunity to learn and understand.

Last semester my students learned about "tax season", and that their employer has until January 31st to get them their W-2.  I've had a couple students ask me if we're going to learn how to do taxes.  Yes, yes we are.  Another teacher I know found a great W-2/1040 Federal Tax packet online.  It walks students step by step through filling out a 1040.  So starting at the end of January, they'll look at several of yours truly's pay statements (dated 1990 through 2010).  They'll learn how to read pay statements in a variety of formats, as each of my employers did pay statements a little differently.  Now that they'll have seen pay at the micro level, we'll do the macro level--the W-2 and how it relates to the 1040.  I anticipate that in order to do this well enough that students will get something out of it, and keeping in mind that we get a week off in February for Presidents' Week/Ski Week, we'll spend most of February on paychecks and taxes.

The beauty of this is that Financial Math isn't a class anyone (except me and my students) looks at.  The state and district care only about Integrated Math 1 through 3, which roughly correspond to Algebra 1, Geometry, and Algebra 2.  No one's looking at what I do, so I can essentially teach whatever I want.  That's the advantage of teaching such a class--I can make it my own.  Teach what I want.  Augment it however I want.  Grade it however I want.  Yes, there are some official standards, but no one cares if I teach to them or not (for the most part, I will).  My school administration trusts me to teach a high-quality class, and they leave me alone to do it.

Anyone who knows me knows that I won't make this a watered down, automatic-pass course.  I decide what I want to teach and the standards to which students will be held--and then the chips will fall wherever they fall.  Most of my students are seniors who need to pass this class in order to graduate, and I don't hand out passing grades just because someone "needs" to pass.  I set the standards, I teach well, I give students plenty of opportunities to demonstrate learning.  After that, it's on them.  Last semester, the vast majority of them rose to that challenge.  This semester is a little more "math-y" and we don't have our first quiz until later this week, but I'm confident my students will do fine.

I genuinely believe that my students are learning valuable information in this course.  From what I hear through the grapevine, my students also think they're learning valuable information in the course.  I hope it serves them well.

Monday, January 13, 2020

Hide the Decline

If Grumpy Greta watched the video at this link, maybe she'd feel better about life.
In this short (20 minute) film, historian Dr. John Robson takes a chronological look at the original IPCC investigation into global temperature changes, revealing how it was compromised by a desire to reach a certain conclusion, with senior scientists deliberately downplaying contradictions in the underlying data in order to present a tidy narrative. This is a devastating summary of how the climate change scientific sausage was made. Not one person in a thousand knows what is authoritatively revealed here about the data series underlying the now iconic “hockey stick chart.” Some of this was highlighted in a recent lawsuit, which was lost by climate change advocates.

I Love Canada, But Stories Like This....

I've said it before and I'll say it here again--Canada is culturally much closer to Europe than it is to the United States, despite our sharing a couple-thousand-mile border. 

I can't believe anyone would think this is OK:
According to a release from the Justice Center for Constitutional Freedoms, the case at hand regards a situation from 2015  where students from John Howitt Elementary School were required to sit through a Native American (First Nations) “smudging ceremony.”

This ritual features “smoke from burning sage […] fanned over the classroom,” and in a letter sent to parents the school noted the purpose is to “cleans[e] the children’s spirits of negative energy.”

Later that year, a prayer was recited at a (mandatory) student assembly...

The school district contended the smudging was “cultural,” not religious, in nature. Witnesses for the defendants even agreed  it’s not “consistent with First Nation’s practice” to force anyone into a smudge ceremony, and that the ritual is “unnecessary” to teach about Native cultures.
Opting out was not allowed.

You'd think a lawsuit would be a 1st Amendment slam dunk in this country, right?  Not so much up north:
The Supreme Court of British Columbia ruled last week that schools can require students to attend religious and/or spiritual ceremonies which may be contrary to their beliefs.
Cool.  Now do Mass.  Or a bris.

Paying for College

Joanne has a great post about parents' paying for their children's college.  There are two quotes in it that struck me.  The first:
To set limits on children’s college ambitions “is to fail at middle-class parenting." writes Warnick. As a result, student debt has ballooned to $1.6 trillion.
The first sentence was presented as a common parental belief, the second its consequence.

The next quote is absolutely true:
“If you want to be an artist and you graduate with a ton of student loan debt, you can’t afford to be an artist, anymore,” I told her, explaining that you become a creatively stymied wage slave instead.
Have the talk. Have the "money talk" with your kids.  Tell them what you can afford, tell them that they don't have to go to MoneyPit U in order to get a great education.  Have them start their adult lives with realistic financial expectations, both for you while they're in school and for them after they graduate.

Sunday, January 12, 2020

They Will Be Ignored

Their experience does not support the narrative:
When Jorge Galicia and Andrés Guilarte tell college students socialism is no utopia, they speak from experience.

The two young intellectuals were born and raised in Venezuela and over the last decade saw their country transformed into a place they barely recognize.

As exiles seeking asylum in America today, they’re telling any young person who will listen: the virus is socialism.

“No one else can know what happened in Venezuela but a Venezuelan, and we are experts on that,” said Guilarte, 25.

Galicia, 24, adds “I definitely see America committing a lot of the same mistakes Venezuela committed.”

Galicia and Guilarte are currently visiting college campuses nationwide warning young people against socialism, and told The College Fix in a joint telephone interview on Wednesday their message could not be coming at a more critical time.
Of course they'll be ignored. 20-year-olds raised in middle-class America know better than these foreigners.

Read the whole thing.

Friday, January 10, 2020

Like I Said, It's The Parents

A couple months ago I wrote about all the stupid stuff we do in schools because of crazy parents.  We might have had a new winner in the Crazy Olympics this week.

I kid you not, this is true.  I confirmed it with the horse's mouth.

A parent came into the office and began ranting--and I do mean ranting--to one of our vice principals.  You see, the signs we have in front of school (including the marquee) are discriminatory against people who can't read.

Can't make this stuff up.

Thursday, January 09, 2020

Makes Sense To Me

Even a country as large as the United States truly needs only one or two such programs:
In an effort to restore curricular and administrative sanity to university education, Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban and his Fidesz Party have passed legislation to abolish Gender Studies as an area of official study. Hungary’s Deputy Prime Minister Zsolt Semjen has stated that such programs “ha[ve] no business in universities” as they represent “an ideology, not a science,” with a market profile “close to zero.” Similarly, Orban’s Chief of staff Gergely Gulyas said, “The Hungarian government is of the clear view that people are born either men or women. They lead their lives the way they think best [and] the Hungarian state does not wish to spend public funds on education in this area.”  link
An ideology, nothing more.

Who Could Possibly Have Foreseen This?

Anyone with at least half a brain, that's who.
On January 1, a law went into effect in California known as AB5 that is intended to reclassify many of the state's independent contractors as regular employees and give them the workplace benefits they deserve, such as unemployment and disability insurance. Perhaps even more importantly, as employees, these gig workers will have access to the full body of rights under labor and employment law. Without those rights, contractors — Uber and Lyft drivers, freelancers and other gig workers — are being exploited. As employees under the new law, it is hoped, they will enjoy job stability and decent wages. The unstated assumption of lawmakers here is that companies will simply comply with the law and convert those gig jobs into full-time positions.

The reality is less promising.
Uber and Lyft drivers. Postmates/Grubhub delivery drivers. Newspaper delivery people. Medical transcriptionists.  Independent truckers.  Translators.

And don't forget about the freelance journalists I wrote about a week ago.

To use a made-up phrase from the Vietnam era, I guess AB5 has to destroy these people's livelihoods in order to save them.

Update, 1/14/20:  Throw musicians into the mix:
However, the law has created a tangle of red-tape and administrative expense for large portions of California’s cultural sector.

To illustrate: In 2019, San Jose Jazz presented more than 1,000 musicians across 326 different performances. The vast majority were independent musicians and singers from California, the nation, and around the world.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics defines musicians under code, 27-2042 Musicians and Singers. This is distinct from the category for Fine Artists, 27-1013 Fine Artists Including Painters, Sculptors, and Illustrators.

For some big name acts, we contract with their corporate agent and pay the agency for the band’s performance. However, for most musicians, we work directly with the band leader to agree on a price and terms, providing them payment as independent contractors. They, in turn, pay their band members in accordance with IRS Schedule C filing rules.

Under AB 5, we will be required to inform all U.S.-based musicians that they must now become employees of San Jose Jazz, or incorporate themselves before they will be allowed to perform for us.
If band leaders choose to pursue incorporation, they will then need to take on the responsibility of payroll and HR administration for the rest of their band.
This is the state that fancies itself leading the country.

Update #2, 1/16/20:   People like this run California:
California Asm. Lorena Gonzalez (D-San Diego) authored the terrible anti-liberty bill, AB5, that effectively outlaws any kind of independent contracting. Tens of thousands of Californians have either seen all of their income immediately dry up or severely decrease as companies instead opt to contract with people in the 49 states where it’s not such a risky proposition for them to do business.

As we covered previously, when confronted by Californians who have been severely harmed by her legislation, Gonzalez has displayed a condescending, communistic, “let them eat cake because it’s for the good of the collective” attitude. Though she’s been dragged on social media for nearly a month now, her “performance” during an interview on San Diego’s KUSI Friday night showed that she learned absolutely nothing from the experience...

Based on accounts of eyewitnesses in the station who were there with other interviewees that night, the atmosphere was extremely tense from the moment Gonzalez and her handlers entered the station. KUSI has been giving voice to a number of freelancers from various industries who have been harmed by AB5. Princess Lorena wasn’t too happy about that, resulting in a petulant outburst near the beginning of the 20-minute-long interview.

She started off by calling the interviewers liars after they introduced the story by saying they’d heard from thousands of people who had lost their “jobs” (contracts,really)...
There's video, and lots more, at the link.

Wednesday, January 08, 2020

FAFSA and the Draft

When I first learned about registering with the Selective Service, I was in junior high.  I knew I didn't have to register until I was 18 but I didn't care, I registered anyway.  I didn't even ask anything in return:
After a U.S. airstrike killed Qassem Soleimani, the head of Iran's Quds military force, in Baghdad on Thursday, Iran vowed "crushing revenge" against all responsible. Now, with #NoWarinIran, #TrumpsWar and #WorldWarIII trending on Twitter, users are looking into the draft — particularly college students about how the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) could play into their potential future military service.

Hundreds of Twitter users posted messages and memes insinuating that the draft, or selective service, will be put into place within the next few months. They also suggested that college-age students would be prioritized for service.

Concerns over an active draft and FAFSA's role in the service even shut down the Selective Service System's website because of the sudden surge in traffic.

The Selective Service System said on Twitter, however, that there's no reason for panic. They assured Twitter users that there is no active draft at this time and that the department is conducting business as usual. The government, they said, "would need to pass official legislation to authorize a draft."

Here's how the draft actually works...
No, you self-indulgent cowards, there's not a draft. You can now safely return to protesting the very country that gave you so much and in the process made you so soft and pathetic.

Tuesday, January 07, 2020

Just A Reminder

I've been guest blogging over at Joanne's place while she's been zipping around Munich. Go take a look there if you'd like to read education-specific posts!

How Much Did He Get?

The figure is not being released yet:
CNN agreed Tuesday to settle a lawsuit with Covington Catholic student Nick Sandmann.

The amount of the settlement was not made public during a hearing at the federal courthouse in Covington, Kentucky.

Sandmann’s lawsuit sought $800 million from CNN, the Washington Post and NBC Universal.

Trial dates are still not set for Sandmann’s lawsuit against NBC Universal and the Washington Post.

The Washington Post suit sought $250 million. A federal judge let a portion of the suit go forward after The Post filed a motion to dismiss it.
If he got more than a buck-fifty, he got more than CNN is worth.


I've Long Wondered About This

To many on the left, a child isn't a child until it's born (and sometimes not even until after that)--it hasn't drawn its first breath.

So, lefties, is this loser guilty of vehicular homicide, or just leaving the scene?
A 24-year-old Mississippi teacher lost her unborn baby eight months into her pregnancy after she was hit by a driver with a history of DUIs while driving home from her baby shower, and the driver promptly fled the scene and left the woman "fighting for her life," according to police...

Harper, a fourth-grade teacher, had been celebrating the upcoming arrival of her first child with family and friends in Soso, Mississippi, on Saturday when her car was struck by the vehicle. The driver, 33-year-old James Gilbert, fled the scene on foot, according to The Laurel Leader-Call.

Gilbert was charged with leaving the scene of an accident that caused death or injuries and is being detained on a $100,000 bond. The charge could increase after the results of an impending blood test are released, District Attorney Tony Buckley said...

Monday, January 06, 2020

Teacher Workday

Today was the last day of the 1st semester.  Students didn't show up today, it was a teacher workday.  I spent the day grading my last class of final exams (one students scored 100% and a few others scored above 96%), submitting grades, and preparing for the new semester.  I created and posted seating charts, updated my web site with the homework assignments for the next couple weeks, and got my grading program set up and ready to go.  When kids show up tomorrow, we'll hit the ground running--because I'll be as organized and on top of it as they've grown to expect from me.

The day started of slowly.  Our librarian offers a periodic "pop-up cooking" class at lunch, and today she was at the grill making pancakes, bacon, and sausage.  Some of us brought food, others of us brought cash, and it was a nice way to ease back into work.

Saturday's party offered up plenty of leftovers--chicken enchiladas, cheese enchiladas, refried beans, and beverages.  Several of us enjoyed a nice hot lunch today, with Diet Dr. Pepper and Martinelli's cider!   I have a few more large bottles of soft drinks left over, and I'll take in one a day so we'll have something to drink at lunch the rest of the week.

My low classes got bigger, my upper classes got smaller.  I think that overall I'm starting with just a couple more kids than I ended last semester with--so not bad overall.

Sunday, January 05, 2020

The Freedoms We're Losing

In my 54 laps around the sun, I've learned that valuing freedom of speech is not natural for humans.  We all want it for ourselves, of course, but our atavistic instinct is to crush or silence views and people we don't support.  Belief in freedom of speech for everyone has to be learned.

I used to believe that all humans yearned to be free, that people didn't want to be oppressed.  I knew the Iraqis did not want to be under Saddam Hussein's boot, and was not surprised when American troops were welcomed as liberators.  "Democracy, whiskey, sexy", indeed.  What I've since learned is that, while no one wants to be oppressed, our natural instincts allow us to easily oppress others. 

Since the founding of our country, Americans lived the ideal of individual freedoms.  These freedoms were actively promoted, and even though we didn't always agree with what people said, there was still a strong pillar of support that they had a right to say it.  For generations, these civic virtues--unnatural and rare, but oh so valuable--were taught in our schools.

Ronald Reagan was right when he said, "Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction. We didn't pass it to our children in the bloodstream. It must be fought for, protected, and handed on for them to do the same, or one day we will spend our sunset years telling our children and our children's children what it was once like in the United States where men were free."  I'm concerned that the freedoms cherished since the founding are not being universally taught in our schools anymore, and we're approaching that generation that will have to be told what it was like to live free.

The tenets of so-called social justice elevate some and diminish others.  Cancel culture, triggering, safe spaces--these run roughshod through popular culture and didn't even exist when I was in school; then again, my teachers had been trained by the World War 2 generation.  Voltaire's quote about defending to the death your right to say something was something they lived by, but that isn't the case in our culture, or our schools, today.

Because we had these freedoms so long, it's perhaps possible that some people think they can never go away.  They abuse these freedoms, not understanding what Reagan said.  Or perhaps, since most haven't had to fight for these freedoms, they don't value them--they weren't taught to value them, and let their own emotions and instincts hold sway.

I lay some of the blame at the foot of public education.  Government schools are where American students for generations have learned the "civic culture" of our country (did anyone learn the Pledge of Allegiance or the Star Spangled Banner at home?), and that link is in the process of being broken.  I don't know how to fix this problem, though, because I don't see how the very teachers who are causing the problem can be expected to stop on a dime and start fixing it.

I thought of all this while reading Freedom of Speech and Liberal Education.

Update, 1/7/20I'm not the only one who thinks so:
Free speech…free expression generally…is under attack in America and throughout the Western world to a degree not seen in a long time. I think there are some specific phenomena and (partially-overlapping) categories of people which are largely driving this attack–I’ve written about this subject previously, here, but the situation has gotten even more serious since that post, and some of the important factors were underemphasized.  Here are the current fronts, as I see it, in the war (not too strong a word, I’m afraid) on free speech.

Saturday, January 04, 2020

Home Ownership

The first home I bought was a condominium. I was in my late 20s and lived in Newark, CA. It was an upstairs unit and I had a covered parking spot, a fireplace, a nice master suite, and a pool. Life was pretty good.

In 1997 I sold that condo when I moved to the Sacramento area. Shortly thereafter I bought a townhouse. Two covered parking spots, a pool, 2 bedrooms and a bath upstairs, den and a half-bath downstairs. Not bad.

In 2005 I sold the townhouse and bought my grandparents' house. A garage, a fireplace, living room and family room, 3 bedrooms and 1 1/2 bath. For a few years I had a hot tub in the backyard.

I had a family Christmas party here in 2005, celebrating my keeping the house in the family. About 8 years later I held a happy hour here after work one day. That was about it as far as I've gone when it comes to hosting parties. Until today.

A month ago I wrote my last mortgage check, the house is now mine. I'm throwing a party this afternoon and about 50 people have RSVP'd to drop by. In 2 hours I'll pick up several trays of Mexican food from a restaurant down the street, mix the few adult beverages I'll provide, and wait for the guests to show up. This is a big deal for me.

So when I read things like this, my first thought is "screw you":
An assistant professor of urban planning at UCLA argues in the far-left magazine The Nation that California is doomed as long as people keep owning homes.

“If we want to keep cities safe in the face of climate change, we need to seriously question the ideal of private homeownership,” says Kian Goh, who researches urban ecological design, “spatial politics” and social mobilization “in the context of climate change and global urbanization"...

To prevent catastrophe, Americans must reconsider their ideas about “success, comfort, home, and family,” particularly the single-family homes that followed in the wake of the Homestead Act of 1862 and federally backed mortgage insurance, the professor argues.

These policies benefited white middle-class families and “became synonymous with freedom and self-sufficiency” even though they represented “[e]xpansionist, individualist, and exclusionary patterns of housing.”
When did our universities go off the rails?

Update, 10:15 pm:  Many of my family, friends, and friends/coworkers  showed up tonight, and the last of the bunch just left.  Great way to spend a Saturday evening.

Friday, January 03, 2020

The Numbers Don't Lie

It's not proof, but it's exceedingly strong evidence:
A few months ago, controversy broke out in the poker world. Mike Postle, a relatively small-time player in a local poker room in Sacramento, California, ignited the controversy by systematically accumulating a string of wins, replete with mind-boggling displays of brilliant lay-downs, heroic river and all-in calls, and, in poker parlance, “God-mode” instinct and insight into his opponents’ hole cards.

Many of his sessions were televised on “Stones Live,” a live poker feed streamed from Stones Gambling Hall on Twitch, and eventually caught the eye of a number of poker video bloggers, who took one look at his unlikely victory string and smelled a rat. They then concentrated on his sessions, examining every hand—every hero fold, call, and raise—and particularly noticed his habit of placing his phone in his lap during the sessions. They noticed that he routinely pulled his hat down to shield his eyes as he glanced down at his phone.

They noticed an usual feature—a bulge—on the side of his baseball cap, which he occasionally wore when he wasn’t looking down at his phone. They located similar-looking caps online and found that the bulge in these caps was caused by a device that transmitted audio signals through bone conduction.

In short, they busted him. It could have been anything—smoke signals from across the room, blinking lights, bone-conducted audio signals—whatever. It didn’t matter how he was cheating, what mattered was that his success at the table was such a statistical anomaly in a game and profession guided in large part by micro mastery and manipulation of statistical risk and reward. So there was no question that he was doing something to gain unfair advantage over the other players at the table.

What put these bloodhounds on the trail of the alleged cheat wasn’t the phone in his lap, or the strange shape of the side of his cap. It was the numbers. The percentages. The law of averages. The wholly improbable, unprecedented, all but impossible string of perfect decisions and corresponding cash-outs that could not possibly be accomplished without, well, cheating.

To the veteran poker players, it was simple: The cards are meant to fall randomly, and the cards for this guy always seemed to fall the same way. The man was cheating.

If you’ve read the Department of Justice inspector general’s report on the Carter Page FISA application, be it the executive summary or the whole thing, you may have come away with the same feeling those poker bloggers had when they took their first look at Postle’s win record at the casino. This isn’t right. This can’t be.

There’s no way the cards can all fall one way, no way every “mistake” can redound in support of the government’s “case” against Page. There’s no statistical way every single oversight, clerical error, unchecked box, unread file, misplaced document, unread email, uncorroborated assumption, unverified assertion, omission of exculpatory evidence, and inclusion of false allegations can all fall against Page, and in favor of the FBI’s goal of providing probable cause to convince the court to believe he was an agent of a foreign power.

There’s no way 17 glaring omissions, mistakes, mischaracterizations, and straight-up lies can make their way, undetected, unquestioned, and uncorrected, through the now-legendary labyrinth of supervisory coordination, from line agents to Woods Procedures to FBI supervisors to DOJ reviewers to FBI counsel, FBI deputy director, FBI director, DOJ general counsel, deputy attorney general, and attorney general certification.

There’s no way none of those people caught one of those 17 mistakes. No way each link in the chain—every single one of them—simply assumed this one time that the previous link had carried out all of their supervisory and verification responsibilities and blindly affixed their certification mark on the package without review. No way it all falls one way.

Unless. Unless this wasn’t actually the most statistically improbable perfect storm of innocent oversights and clerical errors, all of which worked in favor of the government’s case and adversely to Page. Unless the percentages here were so outlandish and unlikely—a demonstration of abject, systemic incompetence carried out, quite literally, against all odds—that there is a logical explanation for all of this, after all.

To anyone capable of reasoned and objective analysis, that explanation is simple: The cards are meant to fall randomly, and the cards for this guy always fell the same way. The FBI was cheating.
Read the whole thing.

Even The Pentagon Doesn't Always Get It Right

It's 2020, and you know what that means--gotta point out how some silly prediction about 2020 didn't come true.  This time the target is the Pentagon:
In 2004, The Guardian reported on a Department of Defense climate-change report that would prove "hugely embarrassing" for President George W. Bush. The report predicted that climate change could be America's greatest national security threat. Yet these climate-change predictions, like so many others, proved nearly the opposite of the truth. Among other things, the report predicted nuclear war, endemic conflict over resources, and European cities underwater by 2020.

None of these things happened.  link
Another story about the same report:
Summary: In February 2004, headlines in The Guardian and other news media told us of a secret DoD report predicting a climate catastrophe by 2020. Read the study and gain perspective about today’s warnings of a Climate Emergency.  link
Part of the reason I don't believe the preachings of the Church of Global Warming is because they've been wrong every. single. time. without exception.

Thursday, January 02, 2020

Free Transit in KC

The road to Hell is paved with good intentions, and these are certainly very good intentions:
Kansas City, Missouri, made national headlines last week when its city council voted to make bus rides free, becoming the first major metropolis in the U.S. to provide no-fare public transit starting next year. The cost to the city will be $9 million, which is roughly what the Kansas City Area Transportation Authority brings in annually from the current $1.50 bus fares and $50 monthly passes.

The hope among lawmakers and transportation officials is that the city will recoup that expense, and more. By increasing mobility overall, KC is looking to boost economic activity. And proponents of the plan say that helping marginalized communities move around more easily will translate into deeper benefits...

A number of news articles pointed out that free fares aren’t a panacea for ailing ridership or service gaps, citing a 2019 report from the think tank TransitCenter that warned as much. “This will reduce barriers to access to people, which is great, but very few routes run frequently,” TransitCenter spokesman Ben Fried told Streetsblog. “If you reduce barriers to access to a system that doesn’t do a great job connecting people where they need to go, it’s only helping people so much.”
Will the desired goal materialize, or might the Tragedy of the Commons come into play?  It will be interesting to see what happens in 1, 2, 5 years.

Wednesday, January 01, 2020

Reality Doesn't Care About Your Ideology, Part 2

The Church of Global Warming strikes out again:

Top 5 most outrageous 2020 doomsday predictions that didn't pan out
In 1990, The Washington Post reported in a front page story: "Carbon dioxide is the gas most responsible for predictions that Earth will warm on average by about 3 degrees Fahrenheit by the year 2020."

The outlet further warned: "The United States, because it occupies a large continent in higher latitudes, could warm by as much as 6 degrees Fahrenheit."

Thirty years later, 2020 has finally arrived. The Earth has warmed approximately 1 degree Fahrenheit according to NASA. The United States also warmed roughly 1 degree.

Elliott Negin, a spokesman for the Union of Concerned Scientists, declined to comment.
Of course there's more at the link.

Climate Prediction Swings and Misses: A Decade of Alarmist Strike Outs, 2010-2019
What follows are climate predictions forecast to come true during the 2010s - one for each year. A few timely missed predictions for 2020 are also added as a bonus feature. WATCH THE VIDEO VERSION AT THE BOTTOM OF THIS POST.

Why should I believe them when they're wrong every single time?

Yep, Still The President!

Reality Doesn't Care About Your Ideology

"Democracy is the theory that the common people know what they want, and deserve to get it good and hard."
H. L. Mencken

What's Wrong With Doing Well In School?

I did well in high school (I was my class valedictorian).  I did well in college (I graduated in the top 3% of my class).  I earned A's in all my master's degree courses.  I'm proud of how I've done academically.  Why shouldn't I be?
For high-achieving high school students, nothing is more validating than a report card full of straight A’s. These hallowed grades promise salaried rewards aplenty in the working world. Even more importantly, contemporary culture tends to treat educational success as a sign of moral worth: Parents and grandparents and teachers are proud of kids who do well in school. They shouldn’t be. 
Here we go.
But amidst all the worrying over how genetics could influence the way we think about a person’s success in school lies a fundamental, unquestioned assumption: That such an intelligence-based meritocracy should exist in the first place. We are so invested in the idea that academic achievement is a de facto good that we fail to consider whether intelligence should be rewarded in the first place.  
Grades and intelligence are not signs of moral superiority and shouldn't be treated as such, but neither should they be derided.  All other things being equal, I'd rather associate with smarter people than dumber people, and why not?  I'd rather associate with more attractive people than less attractive, more athletic people than less athletic, and with nicer people than boorish.
If we didn’t associate intelligence with personal worth, there would be as little controversy as the genetics of education as there is over the genetics of height. And yet we use educational success as an indicator of personal value—despite the fact that many of the factors that determine our experiences in school are beyond our control.
I disagree with that point.  I don't think we associate intelligence with personal worth at all, but I'd guess that most people would rather have more intelligence than less.  Why not prefer more of any specific commodity, trait, or attribute?  Should athletes not be proud of their accomplishments?  Who else does the author believe should minimize their accomplishments?
Of course pursuing knowledge is a valuable endeavor. But you can gain knowledge whether you’re studying for a final or working in kitchens, farms, concert halls, and railways. The notion that rewards should go to the most intelligent isn’t a sign of a fair society, but a truly unjust one.  
The author repeats the unsupported claim that "rewards should go to the most intelligent".  I get the idea that she definitely has an axe to grind.  Is she not smart?  Or perhaps does she think she's smart but has missed out on all those "rewards" she feels she's due?