Monday, April 30, 2012

Princeton Mexican Migration Project discovers . . . tighter border enforcement keeps illegal immigrant IN, not OUT

Douglas Massey runs the Mexican Migration Project at Princeton, compiling and sharing the best available data sets on that most elusive population--illegal or undocumented workers.

Recently, Reason summarized his conclusions:

• We are not being flooded with illegal Mexican migrants. The total number of migrants from Mexico has varied very little since the 1950s. The massive influx many have written about never happened.

• Net illegal migration has stopped almost completely.

• Illegal migration has not stopped because of stricter border enforcement, which Massey characterizes as a waste of money at best and counterproductive at worst.

• There are indeed more undocumented Mexicans living in the United States than there were 20 years ago, but that is because fewer migrants are returning home -- not because more are sneaking into the country.

• And the reason that fewer Mexican citizens are returning home is because we have stepped up border enforcement so dramatically.

My friend John Young consistently makes the point, with regard to education, that we need to base policies decisions on the basis of data vetted through the peer-review process.  I have some issues with that position, which I will take up another day, but it is worth considering the law of unintended consequences.

With respect to illegal immigration, if Professor Massey is correct,

1.  We have been debating policy throughout the past decade based on the erroneous assumption that hordes of people are trampling down our borders.

2.  We have exacerbated our own immigration problems by making it more difficult for them to leave, not more difficult for them to get here.

3.  Knowing what the research says probably will not change anything.

If you are going to leave a comment suggesting Professor Massey is incorrect, please reference the inadequacies you have noted in your study of at least one of his databases, or don't bother.

Gary Johnson's path to 1,000,000 votes: testing the Dondero approach

Strategic voting works:  in the recent elections in Canada's Alberta Province, strategic voting managed to keep the Libertarian-oriented Wildrose Party from becoming the largest party in the legislature.

My friend (and often nemesis, but hey that's life) Eric Dondero has proposed a strategic voting idea for the upcoming presidential election.  Eric supports Mitt Romney for President, but he also has a deep attachment to the Libertarian Party, and seeing the LP crack the million-vote ceiling this year.

In a nutshell, Eric proposes that in states where that are already considered "safe" Romney states, Libertarians and Libertarian-minded Republicans should feel free to cast a strategic vote for the Gary Johnson/Jim Gray ticket.  He identifies SC, GA, AL, TX, AZ, UT, AK, WY, ID, and (maybe) CA as his target states.

What I'm going to do is analyze that strategy and also a few alternatives.

Who is Judge Jim Gray (and why both Gary Johnson and you should care)

The Daily Caller suggests that Libertarian Presidential hopeful Gary Johnson will soon name anti-Drug-War activist Judge Jim Gray as his VP running mate:

“Gary had liked him from the very beginning,” the Johnson adviser said. “Every time we would bring up somebody else, Gov. Johnson would say ‘what about Jim Gray?’ He was Johnson’s favorite from the beginning.”
Gray was a conservative Republican who later became a Libertarian after deciding that the nation’s drug laws did more harm than good. He is the author of several books about law, politics and the drug war, and helped spearhead Proposition 19 in California, which would have decriminalized marijuana in the Golden State had it passed.

Former JAG Officer and Federal Prosecutor, Jim Gray is now a Superior Court Judge in California, where he crusades from the bench against drunk driving and the US drug war.

He was also the Libertarian candidate for US Senate in 2004, in which he garnered 216,522 votes (1.8%), and in 2010 helped spearhead the fight for Proposition 19, which would have legalized marijuana use in California.  Prop 19 failed, but achieved over 4.6 million votes (46.5%) and raised over $3.4 million in support of the cause.

Of course known for his signature stand in favor of ending the Drug War and legalizing marijuana, Judge Gray also has a position on public education that would make even Kilroy smile:

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Testing to destruction? The EPA accused of Tuskegee-like human experimentation

This is at

Which do you find more shocking: that the Environmental Protection Agency conducts experiments on humans that its own risk assessments would deem potentially lethal, or that it hides the results of those experiments from Congress and the public because they debunk those very same risk assessments? recently obtained through the Freedom of Information Act the results of tests conducted on 41 people who were exposed by EPA researchers to high levels of airborne fine particulate matter – soot and dust known as PM2.5.
If we are to believe the congressional testimony of EPA Administrator Lisa P. Jackson, these experiments risked the lives of these 41 people, at least one of whom was already suffering from heart problems.
Ms. Jackson testified in September before the House Energy and Commerce Committee, “Particulate matter causes premature death. It doesn’t make you sick. It’s directly causal to dying sooner than you should.” Just to clarify what Ms. Jackson meant by “sooner than you should,” deaths allegedly caused by PM2.5 are supposed to occur within a day or so of exposure.
Got that? Airborne dust and soot don’t make you sick, they just kill you – virtually upon exposure.

Not quite sure how to parse this one.  You have to read the entire article, and additional material is difficult to find.

But if it's true (whichever part might be true, that PM2.5 is dangerous or not, that EPA did human tests with it or not), it is profoundly disturbing.

Star Trek Discovery, The Voyages of the Marie Curie, Episode One, Chapter Two

In which we discover what happens when a Tellarite gets into a bar fight with a Kzinti . . .

Star Trek Discovery: The Voyages of the Marie Curie, Episode One, Chapter One

This was actually the first segment of this work that I finished.  The illustrations are cruder than I am happy with, but I am satisfied with the storyline, and decided not to go back and revise it.

In this chapter we meet Lieutenant Commander Mitena Haro:

A thought for independents, libertarians, and Castle Republicans in Delaware in Election 2012 . . . .

Mitt Romney cannot win Delaware's three electoral votes.

So maybe it's time to think about a more creative way to waste your vote . . . .

It's pretty simple math:

2008:  Obama 62% McCain 37%

2004:  Kerry 53% Bush 46%

2000:  Gore 55% Bush 42%

1996:  Clinton 52% Dole 37% Perot 11%

1992:  Clinton 42% Bush 36% Perot 22%

The very best that a GOP Presidential candidate has done in Delaware over the past five elections is to get within 6%--and that hasn't been done since 1992.  Pretty much every organization doing predictions places Delaware in the "safe" column for President Obama.

Not the least reason for expecting the President to capture at least 58-60% of the vote again this year is the state of dissarray in the Delaware GOP.

As kavips recently put it, in Delaware if you want your vote to count toward the Electoral College results, you need to switch your registration to Democrat.

On the other hand, the strong Perot finishes in 1992 and 1996 suggests that at least in the past there have been a lot of folks willing to desert the two major parties, at least for a protest vote.

Which brings me to Gary Johnson, the presumptive Libertarian candidate for President, and the opportunity to put a dent in the two-party system.

I know all the Nader-type arguments (he cost Gore Florida and therefore the election), but they aren't in play here.  There is literally nothing that the Delaware GOP could do this year to put this state into play for Mitt Romney, given that only 16% of registered Republicans turned out to vote in the recent primary.

So now would be a great time for all the Moderate Republicans, Libertarians, and Progressive Democrats to contemplate a vote that might make sense, not in electing a President, but in nudging the two-party system a little closer to functionality if not reform.


As he gets closer to the Libertarian nomination, Gary Johnson discovers . . .

. . . that the criticisms of a candidate don't have to make sense, they only have to fill up a news column.

Thomas Mullen, writing in the Washington Times Community pages, thinks Johnson is not really a libertarian, and that the Libertarian Party's

. . .  chief benefit has always been that it nominated candidates that libertarians could actually believe in, even if they weren’t going to win. 
I'd quote more, but Mullen is downright surly about threatening people who might reprint his words.

Anyway, Johnson's not enough of a purist for him, because even though he would cut the defense budget by over 40%, the former two-time New Mexico Governor won't actually make campaign statements forever explicitly ruling out the idea that he might someday under some circumstances actually use military force somewhere in the world.

Meanwhile, in the Las-Crucas Sun-News, Walter Rubel laments that Johnson didn't get enough done during his two terms (other than leaving a budget surplus) and that he wasn't blindly faithful to the idea of building the GOP:

"He never worked to build the Republican Party when he was governor," former state Rep. Richard P. Cheney of Farmington told Simonich. "From my viewpoint, he was more closely aligned with the Libertarian Party."
Ironically, Mr. Rubel's article is the perfect counterpoint to Mr. Mullen's, because Rubel inadvertently makes the point that Gary Johnson, ah, governed from a libertarian perspective.

So Gary Johnson both is and isn't a libertarian.

As far as I can see, this primarily means that Johnson is actually starting to draw some significant attention.

You can tell that when pundits start looking for any critical angle they can find, once they stop ignoring you.

With a little help from my friends . . . .

Took a break from posting much of anything for most of yesterday because (pretty much the only important thing) we discovered that my twins' favorite uncle had to be rushed to the hospital when he collapsed, and was diagnosed with Stage 4 abdominal cancer.

Puts things in more perspective for you.

But Dana Garrett makes me smile by sending me the link to this cartoon about the varieties of Libertarians.

John Young pointed out to me that CSD school board candidate Shirley Saffer has in fact denounced the anti-Val Harris hate site.

Mrs. Saffer's statement is here; the only truly odd thing about it is Mrs. Saffer's apparent penchant for writing in the third person, but--hey--we all have our quirks, and given that Mrs. Saffer has done the right thing, who am I to throw participles?  Perhaps Ms. Harris will get the idea.

Thanks also to John for a really nice shout-out on Transparent Christina.

Kilroy and I are going through a really rocky time in our relationship, having ended up on different sides in the Red Clay election.  I should point out two things:  (1) I have never offered him a cup of coffee after the election; I don't drink the stuf, so that's not me; and (2) he did Charter School of Wilmington a great service by prompting the board to update its minutes' page in the interest of transparency.  And today he has the best assessment of the Pencader tragedy that I've read anywhere.

Blogging and elections, unfortunately, create gigantic but hopefully temporary chasms between passionate people, but I'm still not drinkin' coffee.

My friends at Kids Prefer Cheese capture the essence of why higher education costs are skyrocketing, a lesson that both UD and DSU could stand to examine.

And while we are in constant angst over little things like the future of public education, Hube reminds us that there are truly important issues out there to be considered, like why the last Star Trek TV show (Enterprise) bombed, and why that means we'll probably never see the original Trek universe on TV or in the movies again.

Which is as good an awkward segue as I can imagine for saying that my own little fan production, Star Trek:  Discovery--the Voyages of the Marie Curie, will be presenting its second installment (chapters 1 and 2 of episode 1) later this evening--for the four or five people in the country who might actually care.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Comment rescue: how do we end Delaware's Education Civil War?

Coolspringer's comment deserves greater play (re:  The Delaware Education Civil War):

And do we stop sniping, get more people to move from following (passively and/or aggressively) to really thinking, and start seeing productive conversations that then lead to workable policies that function and get followed...? That's a lot of change.

But, I'm a pragmatic idealist...there has to be a light at the end of the tunnel.

If I had the answer to this one, I'd be one hell of a lot more influential than I am.

But I do have some ideas that might lead to a discussion of how to begin a process that might lead to the start of an initial dialogue about public education.

(Contest of the week:  count how many qualifiers I could fit into that last sentence.)

Here are three modest suggestions:

I have always wondered about this: does diversity training work?

Leaving aside whether or not one agrees with the concept of diversity training, does it actually work?

Is there research-based evidence that diversity training makes people more tolerant of cultural, religious, gender-based (etc. etc.) differences?

A strong body of emerging research is starting to suggest that diversity training as it is currently practiced in the United States actually reinforces existing prejudices rather than reducing them.

Which, if it is correct, would explain a lot.


Gary Johnson, Libertarian, is looking more like my candidate

I've experienced profound disappointments with "Libertarian" candidates in the past, from Ron Paul to Bob Barr.

Gary Johnson, the former two-term Governor of New Mexico, is looking a lot better.

I've already blogged about his principles in refusing the appear on stage with what he considered to be a Tea Party extremist, and his criticism of Mayor Bloomberg's unconstitutional "Stop and Frisk" policy.

Today, let's take a look at some Gary Johnson answers in an interview reported by The Daily Caller:

On abortion rights:

“I leave abortion to the woman,” he said. “I just fundamentally end there.”
When it comes to abortion, Johnson said, “I absolutely support a woman’s right to choose.”
And on the question of whether a man should have a say in it, Johnson replied, “When it comes to that bottom line decision, no.”
However, the former New Mexico governor said he’s for restricting public funding of abortion because “it’s libertarian” for someone to say what they don’t want their taxes spent on.

Friday, April 27, 2012

John Kowalko shoots from the hip . . . and gets it wrong

You can visit Transparent Christina to view a copy of the letter that John Kowalko has dispatched to the National PTA, complaining about the Delaware PTA's school board candidate survey, and accusing DE PTA President Yvonne Johnson of attempting to interfere in the Red Clay School Board election.

In this letter, Mr. Kowalko portrays himself as the defender of the apolitical status of school board elections in Delaware, and is shocked to discover that the Delaware PTA has a position of education-related issues.

In reality, the letter is a thin tissue of political self-interest on Mr. Kowalko's part, cynically filled with half-truths, inaccuracies, and misrepresentations.

He should be embarrassed to have written it, but I suspect that in the politically charged Delaware Education civil war that's way too much to ask for.

So we'll have to do it for him.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Gary Johnson: Challenging "Stop and Frisk"

These days you cannot actually find a presidential candidate willing to defend American civil liberties, at least not in the two major parties.

Possibly that's why the ACLU lists Libertarian Gary Johnson (two-time governor of New Mexico) as the best presidential candidate for protecting civil liberties.

Here's Johnson on Mayor Bloomberg's Arizona/TSA-like "Stop and Frisk" policy in New York City:

In a statement released in New York, the two-term New Mexico governor said, “Last year, almost 700,000 people on the streets of the city were stopped and subjected to TSA-style invasions of their privacy and fundamental civil liberty.  87% of those people were black or Latino.  But these folks weren’t trying to get on airplanes; they were walking down the street. 
“The America we need to reclaim is a place where you can leave your home and not fear being stopped by the police and patted down because of the way you look." Said Johnson, “I think this stop-and-frisk policy violates the Constitutional protection against ‘unreasonable search.”
“Two years ago, Mayor Bloomberg was one of the most aggressive critics in the country of Arizona’s immigration law – a law many, myself included, considered ill-advised and likely to result in profiling.  At the time, he said that law was “bad for the country” and rhetorically asked, “Who wants to visit the Grand Canyon if you could end up getting hassled by the police?”. 
“He was right about the Arizona law. And if profiling is a problem for Arizona, what about a policy that appears to be resulting in precisely the same thing on the streets of New York?," said Johnson, whose campaign for President will likely qualify for federal campaign matching funds this week.

As I begin to look more closely at Johnson, first examination suggests something really strange:  he's sane.

Ah the winds of Arab Spring in Egypt: Is that necrophilia I smell on the breeze?

Yes, I believe it is.

From The Daily Mail:

Egyptian husbands will soon be legally allowed to have sex with their dead wives - for up to six hours after their death.
The controversial new law is part of a raft of measures being introduced by the Islamist-dominated parliament.
It will also see the minimum age of marriage lowered to 14 and the ridding of women's rights of getting education and employment.

Bank of America sues itself . . .

. . . which is less amazing than the fact that this apparently happens all the time.

From Overlawyered:

A story about Bank of America suing itself in a foreclosure action got a bit of publicity recently, from sources like Credit Slips blogger and lawprof Alan White, but the snark was misplaced, says Kevin Funnell. Banks serve in various capacities in the real estate context and that makes such situations inevitable: “The bank is agent for the owner of the first lien loan and is also the owner, in its individual capacity, of the second lien loan. It has to name itself. This is ‘Foreclosure 101.’”

Best used car ad . . . ever

Morning round-up of the local and the just plain bizarre

The Delaware DREAM act is back in the news now.  It's controversial, and it is one of the few areas I disgree with my own university.  Delaware State University needs a plan to help high-performing undocumented students like both UD and Del Tech have.

Bullying in Brandywine School District remains in the news, as the brutal video of a 7-year-old being beaten by an 11-year-old on a school bus goes viral.  Unfortunately, the News Journal uses a misleading headline that suggests the school district has taken far more sweeping corrective action than has actually been the case.

There is a non-event, sort of protest (that only draws five people) at Lewis Elementary School in Red Clay.

The Wilmington City Council rediscovers due process.  Sort of.

And in national news, President Obama and the Agriculture Department introduce legislation to tell farm parents what chores they may and may not assign to their own children.  Seriously.

But in international news, the Prime Minister of Iceland is convicted of . . . not having enough meetings.

Strange, strange world.

Smear tactics and school board campaigns: part 2 . . .

. . . in which we learn that negative campaigning in the Delaware Education Civil War has now become the classless norm for all sides . . .

You will recall that yesterday I went into great detail on the character assassination of Valene Harris, candidate for Christina School Board.

Today, Voices 4 Delaware Education PAC's mailer in support of Ms. Harris started hitting mailboxes:

To be clear:  I think the flier is going to end up costing Ms. Harris votes (although you never know), but I also think that the publication of such a flier was inevitable.  More on that in a moment.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

62% of college students are a lot more perceptive than I am . . .

. . . because they can apparently tell--just by looking--if a potential partner has an STD.

Oh, and if you were interested, the same survey notes that, over the course of a year, 14% of the women depending on condoms to protect them from pregnancy . . . will get pregnant.

My new career with CSI is assured . . . for only $495 online

And for an additional fifty bucks, they'll send me a white lab coat.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Smear Tactics and School Board Campaigns

The Delaware Civil War over education continues, and the evidence suggests we have reached the point where any civility (or common sense) has left the building.

The case for the prosecution, a garbage hate site called:

Vote No on Val Harris 4 Christina School Board

Now, for truth in advertising purposes, I think I have met Ms. Harris once, with a large group of other people in an event at Delaware State University, hosted by our President, Dr. Harry Williams.  I have no idea about what she believes, who is funding her campaign, or exactly what she's done to so aggravate one WEEGEESQEEGEE to engage in this type of tactics.

What I do know is that this blog engages in character assassination, pure, simple, and vomitously vile.

Something to keep in mind: the impact of negative campaigning

Politicians "know" that negative campaigning "works," although they publicly deplore its "necessity."

But, as Steve Pearlstein (via The Monkey Cage) points out, the effect of negative campaigning is probably somewhat of a mixed bag:

There is a vigorous academic debate over whether negative advertising depresses or increases voter turnout. I suspect it does both, depressing turnout among moderates and independents while stimulating it at the ideological extremes. In that process, what has changed is the composition of the turnout rather than its overall level.

In large-scale elections, Pearlstein notes,

My guess is that if negative advertising demobilizes the middle but mobilizes the extremes, it does so mainly at the margins.
But what about campaigns in which there are nothing but . . . margins.

In the average Red Clay School Board race, in a good year, maybe 2% of eligible voters turn out.  In most other districts around the State that turn-out is significantly lower.

Which means that the impact of garbage sites like this one the political process may be quite significant . . . in terms of convincing many parents that the most rational thing they can do in a mud-slinging election is . . . just stay home.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Principles are good things: Gary Johnson and gay marriage

Johnson Withdraws from Tea Party Event Due to Differences With Anti-Gay Marriage Speaker

The Delaware education civil war . . . complete with victims

There are too many "sides" in Delaware public education.

Part of the reason is that there is no consensus surrounding exactly what the mission of public education in  Delaware was, is, or will be.  Are we creating entry-level employees for our corporations?  Prepared college freshmen?  Better American citizens?  Literate individuals?  Are we using the schools to lift up an entire generation of the downtrodden children and their families.  There is no consensus, and all too many people willing to say, "Yes.  All of the above."

Part of the reason is that we have tied ourselves in knots for two decades trying to figure out how to measure our success in doing . . . whatever it is we are doing (if we only agreed).  Performance Assessment.  Authentic Assessment.  Assessment drives instruction.  High-stakes testing.  DSTP.  NAEP. DCAS.  DPAS.  DPAS 2.  NCLB.  RTTT.  Teacher work samples.  Data coaches.  Teachers drive instruction.  Data drives instruction.  The General Assembly wants to mandate CPR and the History of Labor Unions.  Charter schools.  Magnet Schools.  School choice.  Neighborhood schools.  Vo-Tech schools.  Rodel.  Vision 2012 2015.  Delaware PTA.  Chamber of Commerce.  DSEA and associated PACs.  NEA.  Bloggers.  The News Journal.  University of Delaware.  School board elections.  State School Board.

I feel like I am doing some awful reprise of Billy Joel's "We didn't start the fire."

You will notice that somewhere in there how we measure our success got mixed up with "who is in charge" and "who pays."

But that's not as bad as the other distinction we have drawn between us:  the idea that people on the wrong "side" [whatever that is] are enemies of children, God, and chocolate desserts, rather than people who want to do what's right for education as they define it.

Thus we engage in naming, shaming hyperbole, coarsened dialogue, and ludicrous allegations.  [I should know:  as a blogger I have done all of the above.]

Yet what has gotten completely ridiculous is the emphasis on the "sides"

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Star Trek Discovery: A Fan Production

OK many of you know (certainly Hube) that I am not only a longterm SF fan (and wannabe author), but also a longtime diehard Star Trek fan.

It's a hobby.

I don't have the resources or the talent necessary to deal with fan films or audio productions, but when I started playing with it I wanted to have a visual aspect, and to do something new.

So working with the massive photo-archives available at Trek Core, I started playing with the idea of using modified, re-purposed images to create a comic-like experience.

This opening section (which will appear over the next several weeks in six parts--a prologue and five chapters) represents the introductory attempt to create a new set of adventures based on a Saber-class vessel, the Marie Curie, which is a science-research ship which (or there wouldn't be any story) contrives, of course, to fall continually into trouble.

A number of minor figures from the Next Generation era have roles in this series, including

Moriarty--the sentient hologram
Bettina Haro--the Bolian whose identity was once usurped by an alien to try to dupe Picard
Nella Daren--Picard's brief love interest he had transferred off the Enterprise
Vash--Picard's ongoing "bad girl" love interest
Phillipa Louvois--Picard's "old flame" who had to decide if Data was just a machine

Plus, I borrowed stole some elements from Darker Project's Section 31 and Dark Frontier audio dramas, incorporated Larry Niven's donation of the Kzinti to the Star Trek universe, and--as usual in these kinds of fan productions--include puns and indirect references to all sorts of things (check out the name of the very first planet mentioned below).  I also consciously tried to give the comic-like lay-out the feel of the early to mid-1970s Marvel comics I enjoyed so much.

It's a patische, I'm an amateur, and I'm learning as I go, so if you comment, be gentle.

Necessary disclaimer:  Paramount owns the rights to Star Trek; this is a totally not-for-profit little project and no copyright infringment is intended.

That said, go below the fold if you'd like to experience my version of Star Trek:

Star Trek Discovery:  Episode One:  Legacies and Lovers--the Prologue

Are we actually teaching evolution in Delaware classrooms?

Recently I posted on the fact that, in Biology classes across the nation, evolution is taught as a major staple of science and the scientific method in only 28% of American classrooms.

Given that in Delaware we have a large constituency of folks who are aggressively creationist, and who even managed to push a creationist candidate onto the ballot for US Senate two years ago, it is appropriate to look at what the Delaware Science Standards actually say is supposed to be taught in our schools.

I quote the high-school science standards (#7, which you can download here), focusing on those elements deemed essential in the document:

Libertarian Presidential candidate Gary Johnson hits 6% in national poll

Former New Mexico governor Gary Johnson, whose campaign never caught fire in the early GOP primaries, is pursuing the Libertarian Party nomination.

I know, I know, you're thinking Bob Barr all over again.

But Johnson, while considerably more libertarian (though you can always find some libertarians to say that other libertarians aren't really libertarian) than either Obama or Romney, is an actual two-term governor whose positions are considerably more developed (one might say, "more mainstream") than prior libertarian candidates.

See them here.

What's interesting is not so much that recent poll reported by Hot Air shows:

Obama 47%
Romeny 42%
Johnson 6%

. . . because we can all generally depend on 5/6 of that early libertarian leaning to disappear as voting nears.  Right now he's probably the surrogate for "neither" rather than really collecting votes based on his record or what he stands for, because I doubt that 6% of the likely voters have ever heard of him.

But what's intriguing about this poll is that the internals suggest that Johnson is not so much drawing the Paul Ryan/Ayn Randist vote, but from folks who characterize themselves as "very liberal" and "somewhat liberal":

And, yes, granted, Gary is only polling a single point above undecided, but one can only hope that it is indicative of a growing number of people fed up with the limits of two-party choice.


If interested, see Gary's Delaware Facebook page.

h/t Independent Political Report

Steve Ditko's "The Question"

I have been working on some projects involving the old Charlton Comics, which was best described as my "guilty pleasure" when not spending money on Marvel or DC as a kid.

More about my Charlton projects later.  Today I am interested in highlighting the fact that the single most Libertarian superhero ever was Steve Ditko's "The Question."

And not Libertarian, but hardline Ayn Randist, which Ditko himself was to a large extent.

The Question was crusading TV journalist Vic Sage, who use a synthetic skin mask and a morphing gas developed by Dr. Aristotle Rodor, to fight big-city crime.  He was a Ditko labor-of-love that appeared once in Mysterious Suspense but was mostly a secondary feature behind the Blue Beetle, which Ditko also drew.

A few years after the original run, the equally legendary Alex Toth contributed one Question story to Charlton Spotlight.  DC bought the Question with other Charlton heroes, and he had a short run for them in the 1990s (with which I have absolutely no interest); and, of course, the Question became the inspiration for Rohrshach in The Watchmen.

There are multiple segments of Ditko's run with the Question that have Vic or his alter ego cribbing liberally (pardon the pun) from Ayn Rand, but the most controversial element of Ditko's Randist orientation was the 1967 scene where the Question knocks two criminals into the sewer and leaves them there to die.

[A note for purists:  as part of the aforementioned Charlton project I have been reformatting and enhancing the artwork a bit.  The dialog and the art is unchanged, but the panel layout is not, obviously, the original.]

So without further ado:  Ayn Rand as superhero:

10 rules to the "War on Terror"

Jacob Hornberger is an unremitting critic of militarism and American expansionism, but the points he makes in this post are worth thinking about, especially if you are a believer in American Exceptionalism.

Here's one that really struck me:

4. No foreign regime or foreign citizen is permitted to resist or oppose with force a U.S. invasion or occupation of their country. Anyone who resists the invasion or occupation will be taken captive but will not be treated as a standard prisoner of war. Instead, the resister, whether he wears a uniform or not, will be considered to be a terrorist, thereby being subjected to indefinite incarceration, torture, and possibly execution. The resister can also be prosecuted for terrorism before a kangaroo military tribunal. If, on the other hand, U.S. soldiers are taken captive, the captor must treat such soldiers under the principles of the Geneva Convention and must also release such soldiers immediately given that taking them captive is considered an act of terrorism. Agents of the CIA are not required to wear a uniform.

CSW and NCS entrance policies: a comparison and a reponse

Not because it will satisfy Hube--who is, strangely enough going on his "feelings" in his last comment on my post about the NCS--but because it is a legitimate question. . . .

What is the difference between Newark Charter School and Charter School of Wilmington with reference to their entrance requirements, and have I personally been a hypocrite by criticizing NCS while my own children attend CSW?


1.  I have never made any secret about which school my kids attend, just like I haven't ever made any secret about who I am when I am blogging.  So the question is legitimate, but implying that I'm hiding something is disingenuous.

Stupid Comics . . . what to do if it rains this afternoon

A couple months ago I found Stupid Comics and slowly worked my way through the entries.

It is literally a temple of praise for the idiotic in classic comics.

The romance comics section is one of my favorites.

Try DC Comics Eating Disorder Clinic/Charlton Art Swipe File for a starter.

If you like that, try Bible-Thumpin' Betty for a look at creationism in Archie Comics.

Political foresight . . . and bananas

From an Economist blog via the Liberty Papers:

To say that most American political discourse takes place at the intellectual level of baboons would be an insult to baboons. Baboons are capable of handling two-factor reasoning problems: if I eat all the bananas now, I’ll have none left for later; better eat enough to quell my hunger now, but leave some for later. In contrast, political discourse generally takes place at the one-factor level that could be handled by, say, flatworms: Banana yummy! Hunger bad!

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Because there is no longer any such thing as history . . .

. . . you can now go on Google and discover that . . .

Abraham Lincoln was a . . . gay . . . black . . . muslim.

And people take this stuff really seriously.

Personally I'd rather go with Abe Lincoln . . . Vampire Hunter.

What?  That was the wrong picture?  Sorry.  Just trying shamelessly to keep your attention on a slow day.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Newark Charter School, diversity, and lotteries, or . . .

. . . explaining why we want to keep those people out.

Warning:  this post is going to piss a lot of people off, because I'm going to stop beating around the bush and address a very difficult topic directly.

Over at Kilroy's there is a lot of discussion about how NCS might use its lottery system to diversify its student body.

Here was my suggestion:

Hold an opt-out rather than an opt-in lottery. All CSD students in 5 mile radius automatically entered, and if they win a slot must confirm in two weeks or the slot moves down the list.
Now obviously in two sentences I laid out a suggestion, not a full operational program with the details of how people would be notified, etc. etc.  But my point is that if a public good (taxpayer funded education at what its advocates contend is one of the best schools in the nation) is going to be distributed via a geography-bounded lottery, then we need to take steps to insure that all children have equal access to the chance of winning.

In other words, 5-year-old children living within five miles of NCS should not be denied their opportunity to compete for a shot at the best education deal of the millenium even if their parents are not upper-middle-class people who read their newspapers every day and surf the net every night.

The responses interested me.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Transparent Christina discovers that the sun actually rises in the East . . .

. . . which is about as astounding as John Young's abrupt realization that

@RodelDE and Delaware PTA cozy up to shape school board elections. #netDE

John, like Louie, the Vichy French inspector in Casablanca, is astounded to discover that there is gambling at Rick's--that the DE PTA would speak favorably of Rodel, or Innovative Schools, Voices 4 Delaware Education, or Edison. . . .

John, this ain't a great new discovery, son.  The Delaware PTA has been working with Rodel and Vision 2015 and Governor Markell and all those folks for, like, years.

They've been carefully hiding evidence of this dastardly conspiracy . . . on the DE PTA Facebook page!!!  How clever.  Nobody would look there.

And, of course, they neglected to phrase their questions to school board candidates like you wanted them, and instead asked questions that related to the concerns and interests of their members.  Kinda like the dastardly pandora did at Delawareliberal, or the WNJ did with its questionnaire, or (here's a thought) the various local incarnations of the DSEA when interviewing potential candidates.

These are first-class subversives, sure.

They've carefully hidden the fact that they've invested $40,000 into making parents aware of Common Core Standards, that they've supported Race to the Top, or that the PTA has a national legislative agenda.

What, I put links to the stories on their official website in that last sentence?  Oh my God, I've broken the secret that was never to be revealed . . . the PTA as an organization has a position on education in Delaware, and that they publicly discuss that with other like-minded individuals and organizations.

That Yvonne Johnson, she's so crafty to have kept this all under wraps for so long.

But nothing stops intrepid investigative journalists from "revealing" materials openly mailed to every school board candidate in the state, and--strangely enough--committing to publishing the answers of every candidate, unedited, whether they are positive or negative.

Here's the deal:  you may love or hate anything the DE PTA advocates, and I have my own issues with part of it, but to suddenly "discover" a relationship that has been public and transparent from the beginning, and then strongly imply that there is untoward backroom collusion is . . .

. . . well, we'll leave that as an exercise for the reader.

Meanwhile, if you want to read about organizations in the State that have routinely attempted (with hundreds of thousands of dollars funneled through PACs with ever-changing identities just to make tracking down their investments difficult) to shape school board elections for the past 5-6 years, go here.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

President Obama's ever-enlarging police state . . .

Yep, civil liberties are in good hands these days . . .

. . . the hands that are groping your crotch in airports are coming to a bus, train, or highway near you, and Janet Napolitano sez if you don't like it just stay home ....

From the Guardian

Ever since 2010, when the Transportation Security Administration started requiring that travelers in American airports submit to sexually intrusive gropings based on the apparent anti-terrorism principle that "If we can't feel your nipples, they must be a bomb", the agency's craven apologists have shouted down all constitutional or human rightsobjections with the mantra "If you don't like it, don't fly!"
This callous disregard for travelers' rights merely paraphrases the words of Homeland Security director Janet Napolitano, who shares, with the president, ultimate responsibility for all TSA travesties since 2009. In November 2010, with the groping policy only a few weeks old,Napolitano dismissed complaints by saying "people [who] want to travel by some other means" have that right. (In other words: if you don't like it, don't fly.)
But now TSA is invading travel by other means, too. No surprise, really: as soon as she established groping in airports, Napolitano expressed her desire to expand TSA jurisdiction over all forms of mass transit. In the past year, TSA's snakelike VIPR (Visual Intermodal Prevention and Response) teams have been slithering into more and more bus and train stations – and even running checkpoints on highways – never in response to actual threats, but apparently more in an attempt to live up to the inspirational motto displayed at the TSA's air marshal training center since the agency's inception: "Dominate. Intimidate. Control."

The balloon will be absorbing you for a quick return to the village very soon

I remember Patrick McGoohan in "The Prisoner."

And I remember thinking, that could never happen here. . . .

Of course I was wrong:

The Republican House of Representatives may soon follow the Democratic Senate and give the IRS the power to confiscate your passport on mere suspicion of owing taxes. There's no place like home, comrade.
'America, Love It Or Leave It" might be an obsolete slogan if the "bipartisan transportation bill" that just passed the Senate is approved by the House and becomes law. Contained within the suspiciously titled "Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act," or "MAP 21," is a provision that gives the Internal Revenue Service the power to keep U.S. citizens from leaving the country if it finds that they owe $50,000 or more in unpaid taxes — no court ruling necessary.
It is hard to imagine any law more reminiscent of the Soviet Union that America toppled, or its Eastern Bloc slave satellites.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

While everybody's worried about Iran's potential nukes . . .

. . . it would be important to note that the five nations in the world with the most nuclear warheads will soon be . . . .

1.  United States
2.  Russia
3.  China
4.  France

. . . and . . .

Pakistan has nearly doubled its nuclear arsenal to more than 100 weapons and appears on track to soon surpass Britain as the world's fifth largest nuclear power. 
Wonder if Kilroy thinks we should bomb them, too?

Cheeseburgers as the pinnacle of civilization?

Not exactly, but close, as Waldo Jaquith observes:

Further reflection revealed that it’s quite impractical—nearly impossible—to make a cheeseburger from scratch. Tomatoes are in season in the late summerLettuce is in season in spring and fallLarge mammals are slaughtered in early winter. The process of making such a burger would take nearly a year, and would inherently involve omitting some core cheeseburger ingredients. It would be wildly expensive—requiring a trio of cows—and demand many acres of land. There’s just no sense in it.
A cheeseburger cannot exist outside of a highly developed, post-agrarian society. It requires a complex interaction between a handful of vendors—in all likelihood, a couple of dozen—and the ability to ship ingredients vast distances while keeping them fresh. The cheeseburger couldn’t have existed until nearly a century ago as, indeed, it did not.

Life (and death and death and death) in a North Korean labor camp

There has only been one successful escape on record from a North Korean labor camp.

This remarkable and almost inconceivably painful narrative comes from that single individual.

Here is a brief excerpt, from Voluntary Xchange.  Do not visit the link and read more if you are at all depressed.  On the other hand, you should know this:

One day in June 1989, Shin's teacher, a guard who wore a uniform and a pistol on his hip, sprang a surprise search of the six-year-olds. When it was over, he held five kernels of corn. They all belonged to a slight girl Shin remembers as exceptionally pretty. The teacher ordered the girl to the front of the class and told her to kneel. Swinging his wooden pointer, he struck her on the head again and again. As Shin and his classmates watched in silence, lumps puffed up on her skull, blood leaked from her nose and she toppled over on to the concrete floor. Shin and his classmates carried her home. Later that night, she died.
On a hillside near Shin's school, a slogan was posted: "All according to the rules and regulations." The boy memorised the camp's 10 rules, and can still recite them by heart. Subsection three of Camp 14's third rule said, "Anyone who steals or conceals any foodstuffs will be shot immediately." Shin thought the girl's punishment was just. The same man continued to teach Shin. In breaks, he allowed students to play rock, paper, scissors. On Saturdays, he would sometimes grant children an hour to pick lice out of each other's hair.

Misunderstanding the point of unions . . . .

The New York Times has a story up regarding all the teachers who have committed gross misconduct in the classroom, but who have--by the hook and crook of unions and arbitrators, it would seem--been allowed to keep teaching:

A health teacher at a high school in Manhattan, joking about life for homosexuals in prison, forced a male student to bend over a desk, lined up behind him to simulate a sex act, then quipped, according to an Education Department investigative report, “I’ll show you what’s gay.”

A high school science teacher in the Bronx who had already been warned about touching female students brushed his lower body against one student’s leg during a lab exercise, coming so close that she told investigators she could feel his genitals through his pants.

And a math teacher at a high school in the Bronx, investigators said, sent text messages to and called one of his female students nearly 50 times in a four-week period and, over the winter holidays, parked himself at the McDonald’s where she worked.

The New York City Education Department wanted to fire these teachers. But in these and 13 other cases in recent years in which teachers were accused of inappropriate behavior with students, the city was overruled by an arbitrator who, despite finding wrongdoing, opted for a milder penalty like a fine, a suspension or a formal reprimand.

This is always fun stuff, because any one or all of these teachers may have done whatever they've been accused of . . . .

But the real point of the story is to bash the union representation and arbitration system that protects teachers in the New York City schools:

“As I was reviewing these cases, I said, ‘Huh? How could this person go back to the classroom?’ ” Mr. Walcott said in an interview Thursday. “It’s very frustrating. Definitely my hands are tied because the arbitrator made a ruling, because I would not have put these people back in the classroom.”
Unfortunately, this story reflects a profound misunderstanding of the purpose of unions, arbitration, and due process, the explication of which will not make me popular with many libertarians, even though it is clearly founded in the sanctity of contract.

And (not surprisingly) the major culprits in these perceived miscarriages of justice will include the same bureaucrats now hollering "foul" and the Federal Department of Education . . . .

Monday, April 16, 2012

Surprise, surprise! Administration not accurate on the Buffett Rule . . .

According to

In their zeal to pass the “Buffett Rule,” President Obama and Vice President Biden leave the false impression that many, if not most, millionaires (people who earn $1 million or more a year) are paying a lower tax rate than the middle class. The fact is that even without the Buffett Rule “more than 99 percent of millionaires will pay” a higher tax rate than those in the very middle of the income range in fiscal year 2015, according to the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center.

So, gee, now that we know that, of course everyone will stop grandstanding about the stupidest plan since Hermann Cain's 9-9-9 now-I-cheat-on-my-wife economic plan, right?

Yeah.  Sure.

Oh, and the Annenberg Foundation also discovered that they've been distorting how much money it would shave off the deficit, too.

Who'd a thunk it?

Absurd advice for parents with school children . . .

. . . courtesy of

I'm all for sitting down and eating as a family.  We do it in my house every single night.  The oldest person home, whether 55, or 30, or 16, is expected to have dinner on the table, and everyone in the house will sit down and discuss their day.

In that I am in complete agreement with this article:

Families who chow together bond better than those who eat at separate times and spaces. Sitting around the table -- or even just grating carrots in the kitchen -- encourages kids and parents to relax and share what's on their mind (keep the TV off!). The benefits of this quality mealtime are long-lasting: Kids from families who dine together frequently are 31 percent less likely to smoke, drink, or do drugs later on as teenagers, according to a study of 2,000 youngsters by the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University.
However, this next part threw me for a loop:

If your schedule doesn't allow for family dinners as often as you'd like, consider bonding over breakfast. The Geddes family of New York City manages to have dinner together a few nights a week, but they make sure to sit down to eat every morning. "Sure, it can be hectic," says Jennifer Geddes, mother of two girls, ages 18 months and 4 years, "but we count on that time together before we go our separate ways."
Obviously Jennifer does not know what's in store for her when the kids hit school.  Let's take a typical weekday morning at our household over the past year, and you tell me when we get to have breakfast:

6:10 The twins out the door to catch the CSW bus.

6:34 The neice out the door to catch the Conrad bus.

7:05 The eldest daughter out the door to work.

7:55 The grandson out the door to catch the Linden Hill bus.

8:05 My wife and I out the door to work.

Obviously, among its other many evils, the Red Clay School District wants to keep families from having breakfast together by staggering bus schedules.

What, oh, really?  Happens everywhere?

Somebody should tell

I've always said that corporations were tax-farmers for the State. . . .

. . . but this is more than I suspected.

Many libertarians take issue with the fact that I personally fear/dislike/disdain BIG CORP as much as BIG GOVT and see both as potentially dangerous to human freedom.

This, however, is mind-numbing.

Apparently, the States are now allowing many corporations just to keep the State income taxes that their workers have withheld from their paychecks.  Nothing like cutting out the middle man when handing out corporate welfare, is there?

From David Cay Johnston at Reuters:

Across the United States more than 2,700 companies are collecting state income taxes from hundreds of thousands of workers – and are keeping the money with the states’ approval, says an eye-opening report published on Thursday.
The report from Good Jobs First, a nonprofit taxpayer watchdog organization funded by Ford, Surdna and other major foundations, identifies 16 states that let companies divert some or all of the state income taxes deducted from workers’ paychecks. None of the states requires notifying the workers, whose withholdings are treated as taxes they paid.
General Electric, Goldman Sachs, Procter & Gamble, Chrysler, Ford, General Motors and AMC Theatres enjoy deals to keep state taxes deducted from their workers’ paychecks, the report shows. Foreign companies also enjoy such arrangements, including Electrolux, Nissan, Toyota and a host of Canadian, Japanese and European banks, Good Jobs First says.
Why do state governments do this? Public records show that large companies often pay little or no state income tax in states where they have large operations, as this column has documented. Some companies get discounts on property, sales and other taxes. So how to provide even more subsidies without writing a check? Simple. Let corporations keep the state income taxes deducted from their workers’ paychecks for up to 25 years.

John Scalzi's rules for conducting a political argument on blogs

If you don't know, John Scalzi is a really significant SF writer, whose blog Whatever is easily among the top 100 in the country.

His take:

1. One is entitled to one’s own opinions, but not one’s own facts. Commensurately, anecdote may be fact (it happened to you), but anecdote is usually a poor platform for general assertions, since one’s own experience is often not a general experience.
2. If you make an assertion that implies a factual basis, it is entirely proper that others may ask you to back up these assertions with facts, or at least data, beyond the anecdotal.
3. If you cannot bolster said assertion with facts, or at least data, beyond the anecdotal, you have to accept that others may not find your general argument persuasive.
4. This dynamic of people asking for facts, or at least data, beyond the anecdotal, is in itself non-partisan; implications otherwise are a form of ad hominem argument which is generally not relevant to the discussion at hand.
5. If you offer evidence and assert it as fact, you may reasonably expect others to examine such information and to rebut you if they find it wanting and/or find your interpretation incorrect in some manner.
All of which is to say that asserting from anecdote without being able to bolster said assertion with actual facts is likely to get your assertion discounted; if you present facts without rigor, you’re likely to see those discounted as well. Again, this is neither here nor there as regards one’s personal politics; this is simply about making a robust argument.

The education achievement gap and income. . . .

Sean Reardon has done the nationwide research on the extent to which the achievement gap in education has widened based on differences in income.

Here's the abstract (with some key points highlighted):

In this chapter I examine whether and how the relationship between family socioeconomic characteristics and academic achievement has changed during the last fifty years. In particular, I investigate the extent to which the rising income inequality of the last four decades has been paralleled by a similar increase in the income achievement gradient. As the income gap between high- and low-income families has widened, has the achievement gap between children in high- and low-income families also widened?
The answer, in brief, is yes. The achievement gap between children from high- and low-income families is roughly 30 to 40 percent larger among children born in 2001 than among those born twenty-five years earlier. In fact, it appears that the income achievement gap has been growing for at least fifty years, though the data are less certain for cohorts of children born before 1970. In this chapter, I describe and discuss these trends in some detail. In addition to the key finding that the income achievement gap appears to have widened substantially, there are a number of other important findings.
First, the income achievement gap (defined here as the income difference between a child from a family at the 90th percentile of the family income distribution and a child from a family at the 10th percentile) is now nearly twice as large as the black-white achievement gap. Fifty years ago, in contrast, the black-white gap was one and a half to two times as large as the income gap. Second, as Greg Duncan and Katherine Magnuson note in chapter 3 of this volume, the income achievement gap is large when children enter kindergarten and does not appear to grow (or narrow) appreciably as children progress through school. Third, although rising income inequality may play a role in the growing income achievement gap, it does not appear to be the dominant factor. The gap appears to have grown at least partly because of an increase in the association between family income and children’s academic achievement for families above the median income level: a given difference in family incomes now corresponds to a 30 to 60 percent larger difference in achievement than it did for children born in the 1970s. Moreover, evidence from other studies suggests that this may be in part a result of increasing parental investment in children’s cognitive development. Finally, the growing income achievement gap does not appear to be a result of a growing achievement gap between children with highly and less-educated parents. Indeed, the relationship between parental education and children’s achievement has remained relatively stable during the last fifty years, whereas the relationship between income and achievement has grown sharply. Family income is now nearly as strong as parental education in predicting children’s achievement.

This raises an interesting question for Delaware, because the income-based achievement gap has clearing been growing for 50 years.

So has charter/choice in Delaware (a) speeded that growth; (b) slowed that growth; or (c) had no effect on a much larger pre-existing trend?

Answer:  we don't know, and most opinions you will see expressed locally are based on anecdote and ideology rather than data analysis.

You'll have to find the money clause here yourself . . .

. . . because I'm not going to put it in bold print or anything for you.

For years the Southern Poverty Law Center has been issuing alerts about "hate groups" in the US that have been used fairly uncritically in the mass media.

Now, in an upcoming edition of Social Sciences Quarterly, 
  • Stephan J. Goetz, 
  • Anil Rupasingha, and 
  • Scott Loveridge point out that the SPLC methodology leaves, ah, a bit to be desired.

  • The abstract:

  • Objective
    The recent surge in hate group activity is a concern to many citizens and policymakers. We examine the roles of socioeconomic factors measured at the county level that are hypothesized to account for the presence of such groups, including social capital and religious affiliations.
    We estimate a Poisson regression model using counts of hate groups provided by the Southern Poverty Law Center for each of the over 3,000 U.S. counties. Our regressors include a wider set of variables than has been considered in previous studies, such as Jefferson and Pryor (1999).
    Our approach produces a better statistical fit than that in Jefferson and Pryor's paper, and the additional regressors contribute significantly to our understanding of hate groups.
    Both social capital stocks and religious affiliation exert an independent and statistically significant influence on the number of hate groups, as does the presence of Wal-Mart stores, holding other factors constant.

    If you got it, give yourself a gold star and get back to work handing out that shopping cart.