28 August 2009

The Value We Place on Teaching

A recent article from the Christian Science Monitor highlights American attitudes towards their public education system. I take specific note of a few ideas the article discusses.

First, it should come as no surprise that similar assessments apply to Congressional representatives as they do local public schools. Americans are more likely to think their local school (representative) is fairly decent, but that the education system as a whole nationally (Congress) is not. So, the question then becomes, how do we fix a national problem that doesn't seem to exist locally? The education system must be driven locally and must be held accountable to improve and not just be, as the article says, good. If we are to have the high expectations of teachers and the education system, we can't let it off the hook with "good". It isn't good.

Second, an overwhelming majority of American support pay raises and bonuses for teachers. I agree. But, along with that comes accountability, which teacher's unions have fought for decades. As a result, you have issues like Memphis City Schools recently outlawing the practice of failing a student because it may affect their self-esteem. Education is an objective practice. Either you're learning or you're not. The only way to determine that is through objective testing, because you certainly can't do it through a rough guess at how a 3rd grader is "feeling". You can't survey the emotions of elementary schoolkids to determine a teacher's "merit".

I've always said that in a just society, its members would place the highest value on the occupations of doctors/healthcare professionals, teachers, law enforcement/fire protection, and military. But who do we place at the top? Celebrities, athletes, congresspeople, and anyone who is determined to be notorious enough for time on TV. In order for us to justify paying teachers more, they MUST be qualified to teach the subjects they are entrusted with. They too, must be able to pass proficiency tests in order to receive merit raises or bonuses - you know, money that serves as a reward for excellence or going beyond expectations... But a blanket statement of paying teachers more isn't enough. If we paid teachers high wages, the field would be vastly more competitive and the best and brightest would be chartered with teaching our children. But that isn't how it works today...

Third, asking for more money for education is a political winner. After all, who can argue AGAINST funding education? But therein lies the final fallacy... the money that IS allocated is not well spent. It isn't even close. It's why the Republicans suggest that money should go back to taxpayers in the form of vouchers to send their kids to any school. But this too, ignores the problem and would create far more problems than it would solve. They're wrong on this one. They should demand accountability and become the champion of education. It's low-hanging political fruit!

We have too much time and money invested in public education to let it fail. It's time to step up and address the problems like adults for the good of our children and the future. It's time to demand the accountability that should accompany an article such as this. If people are interested in paying teachers more, then it should not just be a feel good venture. Let's get people who know what they are doing and actually care. Pay them competitively and give them the freedom to actually teach to produce learning instead of teaching to produce test scores. And to those of you who are in education today... it's time to lead, follow, or get out of the way because this is a battle you are not currently winning.

Americans from all walks of life have ALWAYS valued education and virtually every generation expects the next to be better off. However, we are seeing that fall away and future generations are not doing better. We are regressing. So, the real question now is are we going to continue to pay lip service to education and teaching, or are we going to put our money where our mouth is and demand accountability and significant improvements in results from our students, who are led by teachers who truly earn the money they deserve?

26 August 2009

Going Back on His Word Again...

Either this man cannot be trusted, or he is not in charge.

(credit: Michael Ramirez)

25 August 2009

Palin Flummoxes the Elites with Common Sense

Palin Flummoxes the Elites with Common Sense

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24 August 2009

TIME Magazine STILL Thinks Exercise is Useless

A while back I covered what has proven to be an ongoing issue for TIME magazine and their poor coverage of the benefits of health and exercise. Well, like any poorly edited rag these days, TIME is at it again... and wouldn't you know it... it's our old friend John Cloud.

The Cooper Institute has put out a scathing analysis to accompany the American College of Sports Medicine's press release that seeks to clean up the mess that TIME/John Cloud created with their out-of-context piece claiming scientific evidence that exercise really isn't all that beneficial to weight loss.

From The Cooper Institute via Facebook:

You might have read or heard about the brouhaha concerning the August 17th TIME magazine cover article titled, “The Myth About Exercise.” In it the author claimed that exercise doesn’t help you lose weight and may even cause you to gain weight. Oh my!!

The American College of Sports Medicine immediately sent out a press release to rebut the assertions made in the article. “The statement ‘in general, for weight loss, exercise is pretty useless’ is not supported by the scientific evidence when there is adherence to a sufficient dose of physical activity in overweight and obese adults” stated John Jakicic, Ph.D., FACSM one of the lead authors on ACSM’s position stand on physical activity in weight management. Click here to access this important position paper.

Dr. Tim Church, Professor at the Pennington Biomedical Research Center in Baton Rouge, Louisiana was heavily quoted in the article. Or rather, misquoted. After the story broke, he wrote an open letter to TIME magazine, stating, “I found the story to be full of gross inaccuracies and misleading statements, and the premise, as introduced by the title, entirely wrong.”

One of Dr. Church’s recent studies1 was mentioned in the article. In the study, women who exercised at a high level did not lose the amount of weight they were expected to lose based on their caloric expenditure. Church and colleagues were not exactly certain why this happened but felt that the women might have been consciously or unconsciously eating more than when they started the study. Or perhaps there was a physiologic change that compensated calorically for the extra calories burned. Dr. Church and others need more time to tease this out. In the meantime, remember that while some women in this study did gain weight, on average, the group lost weight.

So the journalist twisted the study results and said that exercise causes you to eat more and thus, will sabotage your weight loss efforts. But in his letter to TIME, Church stated, “The majority of people lose weight in response to exercise training even when no dietary advice is provided…The main point we are trying to make when addressing 'compensation' is that regular exercise is not a license to eat anything you want.”

So what's going on here? It’s a classic example of a journalist cherry-picking the science to create a sensationalistic/provocative story that will sell magazines. Well, telling people not to exercise if you want to lose weight will (and did) get people’s attention. Unfortunately, readers got an eye full of inaccuracies. Dr. Church was told by a health reporter that “it will take 10 years to undo the damage of this particular article.” He – and we – hope not.

Just as I pointed out back in May... As if it wasn't bad enough to disparage kids and PE before, they are now telling adults in an otherwise out-of-shape society that exercise isn't the answer. I guess they might as well start covering the benefits of taking Hydroxycut and Alli.

21 August 2009

The Future of Elections

Is it just me or does there seem to be a lot more attention paid to the process of deciding elections over the past few years?

I'd like to think this all started back in 2000 when Al Gore - on his way to concede the presidential election and show the world once again how civilized nations peacefully transfer power - suddenly decides on the advice of a staffer that he should win. This minor decision kicks off a race of epic proportions that has tainted virtually every election since then, both domestic and international. Let's call it the "If at first you don't succeed, sue for selective, inconsistent recounts in precincts where you are likely to add votes" strategy. Dare I say this is the ONLY election where Democrats lost - and even that one was in question. Ever since, they've counted until they've won and then claimed legitimate victory.

Here's a few examples of elections where Democrat candidates have opted not to lose without usurping voter intent through the courts:

2000 Washington Senate: Democrat Maria Cantwell narrowly defeats Slade Gorton by just .09% of the vote. Recounts in heavily Democratic precincts played a role.

2004 Washington Gubernatorial: Democrat Christine Gregoire selectively recounts King County until she overturns the win of opponent Dino Rossi, a Republican. 133 vote margin out of 2.8 million cast. Never mind the irregularities.

2004 Ohio Presidential: An expected battleground state, Ohio could have easily become the Florida of 2004. But this was only one state where the Democrats sought to count until they won - even though they still didn't after finding more votes for Kerry.

2008 Minnesota Senate: Democrat Al Franken sues, recounts using inconsistent standards, finds NEW votes, eventually overturns Norm Coleman's clear victory, and claims to be a legitimate winner after months of what can only be described as an inherently flawed process managed by Democrats. Ironic that the Wall Street Journal identified the same tactics being used as Washington 2004.

I could list many more examples of both national races and local races where candidates have claimed victory, and then argued and attempted to recount "irregularities" and selective ballots. We'd like to stop and thank Al Gore for making this all possible. But his actions in 2000 set the stage well beyond the US.

Latest news out of the 2009 Afghan elections is that BOTH candidates are claiming victory. This of course comes on the heels of the political unrest in Iran where both candidates also claimed victory - only to get mired in a sham of a recount even less reliable than ones orchestrated by Democrats.

But let's look at the larger picture...

In 2007, former exiled opposition candidate Benazir Bhutto was assassinated just 12 days before elections in Pakistan.

In 2008, thugs from the New Black Panther Party openly intimidated voters at a precinct in Philadelphia. Obama's Attorney General Eric Holder mysteriously dropped pursuit of that case. Interesting... nothing fishy going on there. In fact, the Obama DOJ now appears to be openly obstructing.

In Iraq this summer, elections were peaceful largely due in part to a continued US military presence protecting the process.

In Honduras, President Maneul Zelaya was ousted before the end of his term first by a military coup, and then by the nation's supreme court, because he sought to unilaterally change the nation's Constitution to follow a Chavez-style policy of eliminating term limits, thereby allowing himself to remain president. He even appeared to have winning election results BEFORE the election took place.

In Iranian elections, the "winning" party opted to clash with protesters and even killed to silence opposition.

And now, with renewed violence, we can only imagine what will become of the Afghan elections shortly depending on who is declared the winner.

What is more interesting is the Obama administration's varying responses to each of these situations... often uninformed and inconsistent, to say the least.

So, is this the future of elections? Rampant irregularity in recounting close races? A rewriting, or perhaps whitewashing of the process that leads to victory? Voter intimidation and/or using state police forces against opposing viewpoints? Assassination of opponents? The need for coups to remove arrogant leaders from office?

It appears as though the contentiousness of elections is getting worse, especially in two-party and developing systems. And while we normally have peaceful elections, we export our representative democracy, flaws and all, due to the "new" instant media. America sets the tone. If you think about it, we really didn't hear too much about this type of thing before 2000, but if it's now okay for the US goose, then it must be okay for the global gander.

Not even one year into the Obama presidency, the stakes have been raised so high, that the political fallout and implications of the 2010 elections are already being factored in to how congressional representatives vote on legislation NOW. Never mind what is actually good for the country. Focus on what will get you re-elected.

Once upon a time, there was a small group of men who felt that they were not being fairly represented in the election process. Those men took action, and the process got much uglier before it got better. My fear, with the unquenchable thirst some have for gaining and keeping power, is that we may be headed down a similar path. Town Hall meetings across the country illustrate the anger of the voters who, like those before us, are getting fed up with an elite minority who no longer represent, but seek to control. This type of system cannot survive.

If this is the future of elections, we are in deep trouble, at home and globally. But history bears this out time and time again... and as always, there are those who think that if THEY try it this time, it will finally work. November of 2010 will be a bellwether election in this nation's history... the biggest question is now, is there anyone who is interested in playing fair?

20 August 2009

Quick Hits

Cash for Clunkers: Is it any real surprise that the government screwed this up worse than we thought? Now, dealers who have errantly bet on the government program are dropping out by the dozens because they are owed hundreds of thousands of dollars that the feds are either slow to pay, or balking at paying because of technicalities. And just today, we hear the program is already in the red... Not surprising at all. We knew it was going to happen. Next up? What will they do when the organic auto sales for the next few months don't happen because they were all condensed into this month? This is what is wrong with government intervention. It is always shortsighted for political gain.

US to begin Off-shore Drilling: ...in BRAZIL. Yes, that's right. Brazil. Never mind that Cuba is bringing in foreign countries to drill within shooting distance of Key West, and that we are too damn stubborn to utilize our own resources here domestically... We are now giving Petrobras a $2 BILLION (yes, with a B) loan so they can advance their own off-shore drilling - and then sell that oil to us at market prices.

Can anyone at all tell me how this benefits: a) American consumers, b) our economy, c) our national security, and d) our presupposed shift to green technology? I think the administration wants to have their cake and eat it too. By doing this with Brazil, we expect to quietly keep oil flowing while placating the green movement with promises of wind and solar - and no drilling domestically. You know, so the deer and antelope can play.

Hope you'd Change: Rasmussen reports did an analysis of that uber-informed bloc of voters under age 30. You know the ones who thought Obama was hip and cool and helped put him in office based on his sound bite platform? Well, Micahel Barone slaps some sense into the "me" generation with a scathing analysis of just how much like every other politician before him the Chosen One is.

Interestingly enough, this has been going on for decades. Go back to the 60's. Young voters have traditionally voted based on little information and usually on non-substantive issues. 2008 was no different. But now we are stuck with their choice or 3 more years. What many of these voters fail to realize is that as they age, they begin to see the fruits of their labor and lean more moderate to conservative. If we could only get that message across much sooner in their coddled little lives.

In a Nutshell

For those of you who think the government is efficient at running programs and would be well-suited to run a public healthcare program, I present to you sentiment from across the country summarized on one sign:

(hat tip: Charlie Foxtrot)

And if I were Michael Steele or Mitch McConnell, I would come out VERY publicly and dare the Democrats to attempt to force healthcare legislation through by using Reconciliation... The GOP may be in the minority at present, but they are watching the left commit political suicide. Let's just hope that voters will finally learn that the Democrats cannot be trusted to effectively lead when given the chance. They are too ideologically driven and it clouds their judgment and thirst for power.

17 August 2009

Quick Hits

File Under Unnecessary: Okay. I'm a proud gun owner. However, I don't think the 2nd Amendment crowd is doing themselves any favors by openly toting guns near a presidential event.

I know they are seeking to make a political statement - one which I agree with. But regardless of your opinion of the president, there is no good reason to intensify what is always a tough job for the Secret Service to provide security for the President. Security of the President is something I think ALL Americans agree on no matter who is in office. I think that the protest/statement could have been handled differently - especially given the event was to discuss healthcare. Thumbs down on this one...

UN Chief Dabbles in Fear-Mongering: The science is settled. The science is settled.... NO. It isn't. That's the nature of science. It is NEVER settled. For the UN Secretary General to make such politically driven statements regarding the impending doom of climate change is beyond irresponsible, in my opinion.

But, we've known for years now that the UN is a politically driven organization, with many if not all of it's positions being detrimental to the US. How he can predict the costs in terms of "human suffering" is not only impossible, but reckless given his position. If UN member nations want to implement emission standards in their home countries... fine. But one size does not fit all when it comes to this topic.

I've mentioned before China and India's firm resistance to emission controls that would severely damage their economies, but now even our mates in Australia have rejected this type of nonsense. Hopefully we have enough members of Congress who also see that a unilateral implementation of controls on one country would bring disastrous results.

Brett Favre: Just stop it already! You've damaged your legacy as a great quarterback and your success with the Packers. I'm certain you don't need the money, and quite frankly, we're tired of your selfish antics. If you play, I wish you a sub-.500 season and hope you and your team miss the playoffs.

15 August 2009

Doing the Right Thing

Every once in a while you have to take a stand that may not set well with those who more often agree with you - or in this case me. Two examples in the news lately call to mind what it means to do the right thing:

Case #1

Al Sharpton & Newt Gingrich team up to tackle Education Reform

First of all, let me say this is an incredibly sore issue for me. It seems like every year on every ballot there are "education initiatives" that result in higher taxes for everyone. However, the quality of education continues to decline year after year. I first, and foremost, place the blame on unaccountable administrators and the unions that fiercely protect unqualified teachers. However, the GOP's notion that school vouchers are the answer simply ignores the problem and absolves them of any responsibility to address the failing public education system (which is a major source breeding government dependence!)

I think the message from this trio, including Arne Duncan - who I'm not entirely crazy about, is valid. I will wait to make any judgments on their sincerity until we see some concrete actions. However, having Al Sharpton demand accountability from parents is a step in the right direction! Education has always been a priority for those in the African-American community, but they've lacked the resources and discipline to demand accountability from their schools and teachers. I'm not expecting this to change overnight, but it is always good to hear people from opposite sides of the political spectrum agreeing on something that affects our kids and their education. If Obama can use his popularity to encourage kids to stay in school and desire to achieve academically, that is a worthwhile venture.

They are doing the right thing.

Case #2

The Philadelphia Eagles sign Michael Vick to a 2-year Contract

I'm certain that I'll be asking "Who let the dogs out?" as people start to question my sanity... BUT... I agree with this move. Originally, I thought it would be a PR nightmare for any team to bother with, and while I'm not entirely certain of the strategic motives related to football, I think Michael Vick deserves a second chance.

First of all, like the verdict or not, he has paid the debt to society the court demanded of him. The man is bankrupt, and most likely has no other way to earn a living. So, why should he be denied a chance to make further amends by using his status to send proper messages about rehabilitation as well as the opportunity to make a living in his chosen profession? He shouldn't.

Many will say he blew the opportunity the first time. But they say that about athletes who make second, third, fourth, and more mistakes. Drugs, alcohol, gambling, infidelity... you name it. They've done it... and they all get another chance. Are we to condemn Rick Pitino as well for his apparently lone mistake? How about young NHL star Patrick Kane? I can say unequivocally that I'd be upset if I was blacklisted in my profession for a serious personal mistake.

I cannot be any more against the terrible and inexcusable activities he was involved in. And in no way do I endorse them by saying he deserves another chance. But, what I have to hope for is that he has learned the value of surrounding himself with quality people who will not use him for his resources. Hopefully he understands the privilege he's being afforded this time and will make the most of it. If he fails and ends up in suspect activity again - on a short leash, no pun intended, then that's it. But otherwise, he has the chance to be a significant success story that illustrates how you need to make the most of your opportunities - especially the FIRST time.

So, while I'm no fan of the team, I say the Philadelphia Eagles are doing the right thing as well.

Doing the right thing is not always popular, but then again, doing the popular thing is not always right. It will be interesting to see how both of these issues play out as people analyze both and provide their own opinions on each. What do you think?

11 August 2009

White House is Violating Federal Law

I couldn't resist. Ms. Douglass is in over her head... But this snippet makes excellent points. And, as it also points out, you KNOW that the left and the media would be up in arms if Bush did the same.

(hat tip: Doug Ross, rightwingnews.com)

08 August 2009

Even Bloggers Need a Vacation

While there is plenty of political fodder to sift through and people to skewer, I'm going to be on hiatus to allow the mind time to regroup and recharge. It will involve lots of driving, but happy destinations. But I'll be back on Thursday with both guns blazing!

04 August 2009

Quick Hits

Project 2996: On September 11th, Project 2996 will flood the blogosphere with personal memorials of those who perished in the twin towers on 9/11. I have signed up to participate and have asked to be assigned up to 5 people. If you, or anyone you know has a blog, it would be one day out of the year to dedicate your space to the memory of fellow Americans who, like you and me, were not just earning a living by going to work that day, but making a life.

"Green" Birth Control: Originally, this idea was concocted by some left-wing loons who clearly think they know what's best for you. Ironic that many of the same folks who are pro-choice (meaning pro-abortion, they just don't like that word), are the very same ones who are now telling you to have fewer kids to save the planet. Well, now they've put a little more work into it and convinced researchers at Oregon State University that it is science worth looking into.

So, couple this with the climate-killing horrors of obesity and divorce (as the article also points out), and not only are those little ones spreading crumbs, but they are spreading greenhouse gases like that life-giving gas CO2.

How long before the progressives think Eugenics is a good idea again? They clearly seek to repeat as many failures of history as possible. I imagine this one has to come around soon.

(Side note: If the wacky environmentalists had any brains, they'd realize their cause is self-defeating. By limiting C02, which is the equivalent of oxygen to plant life, we kill trees. So, reducing greenhouse gases makes the planet LESS green.)

Tax Revenues FALL when Taxes Go UP: But for some reason, all that good information about the Treasury taking in record tax revenues under the Bush tax cuts escaped many Democrats who still believe that they can tax their way to prosperity. Well, Americans seem to think otherwise.

A recent study indicates that tax receipts are estimated to drop 18% this year. So, think of it this way... while tax revenues are dropping by 1/5th, the Democrats want to spend roughly the same amount on public healthcare (never mind that 40 basis point swing in revenue-expense ratio).

Who was in office in 2005? Oh, that's right... George W. Bush. And what tax policy is going to expire at the end of next year? The one that brought record revenues to the government while expanding the economy and GDP. And who's tax policies are already having a detrimental effect on the economy? I think the graph speaks for itself.

Oh, the article also points out that the last time our tax revenue outlook was this rosy, it was 1932... right in the Great Depression. Who is John Galt?

03 August 2009

Cash for Clunkers - Yet Another Example

It's always refreshing to hear other people say exactly what you are thinking. It means you aren't crazy or screaming into a void.

Here, a voter in Pennsylvania gets her shot at Arlen Specter (??-PA) and HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius. She asks them why Americans should trust them with a NEW government healthcare program when they have run Medicare and Medicaid into the ground and they can't even run Cash for Clunkers!?

The response is one of sheer indignation of having to tolerate these peasants and a clear intention to push this poorly crafted program ahead... voters be damned. (Besides, we don't know what's good for us anyways... right Andrea?)


01 August 2009

An Abundance of Arrogance

So much for that "teachable moment". It appears as though our president learned nothing from this episode except that it provided yet another opportunity for him to look like a regular guy on TV for his fawning masses.

Ever want to know who comes first with this President? This picture speaks volumes about being human and also the hubris-driven arrogance of the man in front.

If you ever think this man cares about you, look how he treats his "close" friends. And I seriously don't think there is any way this can be taken out of context... (hat tip: Sharla H.)