Wednesday, February 23, 2005

I love stories like this XVIII

[Sigh!] More zero-tolerance in the schools. This story details the pending suspension/expulsion of a 13-year-old boy for tossing a rubber band on his science teacher's desk. The justification offered by the school? He could've shot her eye out!
"They said if he would have aimed it a little more and he would have gotten it closer to her face he would have hit her in the eye," mother Jenette Rojas said.

Rojas said she was shocked to learn that her son was being punished for a Level 4 offense -- the highest Level at the school. Other violations that also receive level 4 punishment include arson, assault and battery, bomb threats and explosives, according to the Code of Student Conduct.

The district said a Level 4 offense includes the use of any object or instrument used to make a threat or inflict harm, including a rubber band.

I love stories like this XVII

Can you imagine yourself in the place of Pfc Rob Jacobs in Korea during mail call? He gets the largest packet of letters from the States and wonders if somebody hasn't made a mistake. No, they're all addressed to him. His buddies kid him about all the girlfriends he's left hanging back home and now the chickens have come home to roost. Very funny.

Now he opens the first letter and reads, "I strongly feel this war is pointless." Who's writing this? Hmmm, the penmanship is like a kid's. It is a kid, a sixth-grader from some school in Brooklyn. What do these others say?

One letter says that because President Bush was re-elected, "
only 50 or 100 [soldiers] will survive." Another decries that Jacobs is "being forced to kill innocent people." Still another says that soldiers are "destroying holy places like mosques." Mosques? There aren't any mosques in South Korea!

It was a class project headed by sixth grade teacher, Alex Kunhardt, at JHS 51 in Park Slope, New York. Pfc Jacobs hopes that the kids were coached by the teacher or by their parents. I predict that if the parents are ever interviewed about the letters their children wrote that they'll be proud as can be of the national attention.

Monday, February 14, 2005

Recent commentary: Tax Freedom Day

What special week or day of recognition would you declare?

(published 14-Feb-2005, Appleton Post-Crescent)

A very sad day for me: Tax Freedom Day. A day when I can hardly get out of bed. The day when the average American's federal and state tax obligations are fulfilled. I hate that day. My only consolation this year is that it comes a few days later: April 14th. 2004 was a terrible shock to my system. I had to give up sending money to the federal and state governments by April 11th, the earliest it's been since 1967! You'd think they could give extra money to starving artists in Greenwich Village or something. During the Clinton years Tax Freedom Day advanced from April 20th to May 2nd! A record! Then Bush got in somehow and immediately cut taxes. What good did that do? I feel like I'm letting the National Endowment for the Arts down. I say make Tax Freedom Day a national day of mourning.

Thursday, February 10, 2005

Tax Freedom Day

Here's a superb graphic from the Tax Foundation showing the advance of Tax Freedom Day over the past few decades. Tax Freedom day is the day that the average American taxpayer stops working for the guvmint and starts working for himself. Check out what happens after 2000:

Tax Freedom Day, 1963 - 2004

Tax Freedom Day graph

Tax Freedom Day went from a record late date of May 2nd in 2000 all the way back to April 11th in 2004. Note that that's the earliest it's been since Lyndon Johnson's Presidency.

Tuesday, February 08, 2005

Wiio's Laws of Communications

A blast from the past. These "laws" come from a book called, "The Official Explanations," published in 1980.
  1. Communication usually fails -- except by chance. Corollary: If you are satisfied that your communication is bound to succeed, then the communication is bound to fail.
  2. If a message can be understood in different ways, it will be understood in just the way that does the most harm.
  3. There is always somebody who knows better than you what you meant by your message.
  4. The more communication there is, the more difficult it is for communication to succeed. Corollary: The more communication there is, the more difficult it is for communication to succeed. Corollary: The more communication there is, the more misunderstanding will occur.
  5. In mass communication it is not important how things are; the important thing is how things seem to be.
  6. The importance of a news item is inversely correlated with the square of the distance.
Compiled by Prof. Wiio, Director of the Institute for Communications Research, University of Helsinki.

Saturday, February 05, 2005

My kind of guy!

Donald E. Simanek is a professor of physics at Lock Haven University in Pennsylvania. He has a lively interest in pseudo-science, science frauds, flat-earth societies, etc. His web site has a wealth of material on debunking science hoaxes as well as a "Museum of Unworkable Devices." He gave a couple lectures in the mid 90s that I came across today. These lectures dealt with education; specifically its decline. His lectures are based on decades of observation of students in his physics courses at LHU. A sample:
I've even had students ask, with some indignation, "Why must we work so hard in a physics course to get a measly C when we can get A's in non-science courses without ever studying?" I respond, "Why should there be any course on campus you can get an A in without studying?"

I once taught a course where one student scored nearly 100% on every one of my exams, while no one else could score above 50%. Several students got up courage to confront me and complain that I was making the course "too hard for anyone." I pointed out that it was obviously not too hard for the student doing nearly perfect work. They responded, "That's not fair--he studies all the time!" They were not at all happy when I suggested they try copying his method for success.
Well worth your reading.

Fabulous VDH piece

From National Review Online: this rip-roaring column by military historian Victor Davis Hanson, senior fellow at the Hoover Institute of Stanford. There are so many good bits from this column. Here's a choice one (emphasis mine):
Communism and Marxism are dead. Stalin and Mao killed over 80 million and did not make omelets despite the broken eggs. Castro and North Korea are not classless utopias but thugocracies run by megalomaniac dictators who the world prays will die any minute. The global Left knows that the Cold War is over and was lost by the Left, and that Eastern Europeans and Central Americans probably cherish the memory of a Ronald Reagan far more than that of a Francois Mitterrand or Willy Brandt.
Do yourself a favor and read this column.

Tuesday, February 01, 2005

I love stories like this XVI

It appears that high school students think that the First Amendment is too lenient:
when told of the exact text of the First Amendment, more than one in three high school students said it goes "too far" in the rights it guarantees. Only half of the students said newspapers should be allowed to publish freely without government approval of stories.
And here's the absolute killer (emphasis mine):
The study suggests that students embrace First Amendment freedoms if they are taught about them and given a chance to practice them, but schools don't make the matter a priority.

Prof who stepped in it steps aside

It's interesting to see how quickly things happen these days. University of Colorado professor Ward Churchill wrote an essay immediately after 9-11 in which he said that the people that hijacked those jets and flew them into the Pentagon and the World Trade Center were "combat teams." Yesterday, as a result of the furor raised by the essay -- as well as a number of "credible death threats" -- Churchill resigned his position as chairman of the school's ethnic studies program.

The most interesting thing to me in all of this is that Churchill claimed that the 9-11 attacks were in direct retaliation for the actions of the U.S. in Iraq in the early 90s; specifically the economic sanctions imposed on Iraq and the killing of Iraqi children in a 1991 bombing raid.