Sunday, February 24, 2013

Back ... sort of ... by popular demand (yeah, right)

It has been nearly two months since I last posted here, which is way too long to remain in limbo.  One should either give the thing a merciful natural death or return to writing on some predictably regular basis, particularly if one wants to play fair with the (very) small cadre of loyal regular readers.

But, of course, there is always real life, which keeps intervening with increasing energy, and the need to use precious time to do other things with family, friends, and professional endeavors ...

Yet there has been no shortage of topics that need commenting upon.  The gun control debate has seemingly degenerated to the point where instead of discussing the role and limits of constitutional rights we are not throwing stones over whether firearms are (statistically speaking) a useful defense against rape (therefore making possession and carry a women's rights issue).  In this "debate" within Delaware were have recently been treated to the local spectacle of the same person arguing for a woman's "right to carry" as a rape-preventative, while at the same time he argues that women inherently cannot be trusted to be truthful about social/sexual relationships and whether or not they were really being threatened by an assailant.

There's education, of course.  kilroy has had all the debates (and mud-slinging) over the Pencader closure as well as all the sustained idiocy of increased Federal control of our schools while at the same time the sequester is getting ready to make millions of dollars of Federal money disappear.  Today we have the perfect example of that in the News Journal.  RTTT money is poised to evaporate, but we are still being required by Governor Markell to install a completely idiotic evaluation system for new teachers, based on the improvements in test scores of their students.  Here's the wonderful statement from the Markell administration:

The state promised to evaluate the performance of teacher preparation programs as part of its federal Race to the Top funding, and a new system must be implemented, said Rebecca Taber,Markell’s education policy adviser. 
State officials say they will listen to the colleges’ concerns and consider modifications to the assessment system accordingly. But the overall goal of using student test performance to judge the quality of teacher preparation programs is not up for negotiation. 
“What matters most now is how we do it, not whether we do it,” Taber said. “We want to be fair to the colleges, and we’ll make adjustments to be fair.”
The irony here:  we've already committed or spent the RTT money.  There's no more coming, and we're going to have to complete a lot of the mandated initiatives out of already diminished state and local funds.  So what we're going to do now is create another worthless teacher evaluation system.

Why is it worthless?  Because it will be absolutely useless in any meaningful form for districts considering the hire of new in-state graduates or the retention of first-year teachers from out-of-state schools, that's why.  Out-of-state grads won't have to undergo such evaluation, and any principal who based a re-hiring decision for a second- or third-year teacher solely (or even heavily) on such test scores ought to be fired.  Pretty much that simple.  (Except for the fact that if you did actually let go a Delaware-trained teacher over this evaluation system that other teachers are not required to take, you might as well name the building after him/her, because after the discrimination lawsuit she/he will own it.)

Of course, in my absence it is fascinating that nobody in the local blogosphere ever wants to talk about the continuing administration practice of shredding the US Constitution over drone attacks (including the possibility that the administration might use the same justifications as currently employed to kill journalists as well as terrorists) or the fact that--at least in terms of reducing Pentagon spending--the sequester might be a great thing after all.

How about this one, out of Egypt, where the US Department of State routinely tells the new government it must be peaceful in its response to protest?
On Thursday, US State Department spokesperson Victoria Nuland told the press, "Whether we’re talking about Egypt or any other country on the planet, frankly, we support the right of peaceful protest as one means for citizens to express themselves to their government. But protest has to be peaceful and the response to protest also has to be restrained and peaceful on the part of the government."
So, Victoria, that means that the US wouldn't, like, sell huge quantities of tear gas to the same Egyptian government for putting down peaceful protests, would it?  Well, no, not exactly, she mutters.  It means that when we sell them tear gas canisters we will remove the labels that say they were made in the USA and exported to Egypt with the State Department's permission.  You really cannot make this shit up.

Then we have the US Department of Justice (I smile ironically every time I type that title) using Aaron Swartz's "Guerilla Open Access Manifesto" to hound him into suicide.  It's fascinating the limits which are now placed on free speech, and it is even more fascinating that nobody cares.

Oh, and for the hyperbole of the year award, Kids Prefer Cheese co-honcho Angus would nominate Paul Krugman on the above-mentioned sequester:

And here's the inevitable Krugman chiming in with his bosses:
 the “sequester,” one of the worst policy ideas in our nation’s history... a fiscal doomsday machine that would inflict gratuitous damage on the nation.
People, the sequester only lowers spending relative to baseline growth.  That is to say, it doesn't actually cut spending in the sense a regular normal person would view it.  Over the full 10 years of "deep" cuts, after the "doomsday machine" ravages us, Federal spending will be higher than it is now.  I am not making this up!

Federal spending is over 3 trillion dollars. We are talking about cutting 85 billion from its growth.  That's like a pimple on your pimple.  Calling this "one of the worst policy ideas in our nation's history" is just amazing hackery.

Slavery was one of our nation's policies. Interning Japanese Americans with no cause in WWII was one of our nation's policies. The war on drugs is one of our nation's policies.
Extra-legal drone killings of Americans (and non-americans) is one of our nation's policies. I'd say that the sequester is actually an above average policy for our nation. If we can't cut 85 billion from our planned spending growth four years after the recession ended, we are pretty much doomed.

No, for better or worse I don't know how often or how regularly I will be back, but we'll see.  I think I plan (ambiguous enough for you?) to write fewer but more in-depth posts when time and energy allow, rather than simply commenting on everything every day or so.  Or not, if it doesn't work out.  We'll see how it goes.


tom said...

Welcome back Steve.

Just a quick note on drones. While not local, Laizzez Faire has taken up the subject of drone use, both domestic and abroad. their latest post is

They also have a Petition

kavips said...

I'm thinking "not throwing stones" should be "now throwing stones"?

That line took me awhile and several readings to come to that conclusion.... Just a heads up.

And welcome back. :)

pandora said...

Welcome back! You were missed.

Jesse McVay said...

I wanted to welcome you back. I see I'm not the only one.

delacrat said...

Blog on, Sir.

Delaware needs you.

Tyler Nixon said...

"Back ... sort of ... by popular demand"

If for nothing else won't you please for God's sake think of the chillruns...and never leave us again like that!

Really glad you're back Steve and hoping I can maybe add a little something too, sooner than later.

NCSDad said...

I'm rarely with popular opinion, but your absence left my demand unfulfilled. Welcome back.

Dana Garrett said...

So glad your back. I hope your reemergence is an indication that all is well or, at a minimum, better. I missed you.