Tuesday, February 03, 2015

Cruising the Web

The New York Post exposes how reluctant the city's authorities are to fire an incompetent teacher.
Six strikes and she’s not out.

The city Department of Education has failed to fire a teacher rated “unsatisfactory” for six consecutive years. Ann Legra, 44, a first-grade teacher at PS 173 in Washington Heights, racked up “six years of failing her students,” the city ­argued in a 16-day termination hearing.

Hearing officer Eugene Ginsberg upheld charges of Legra’s “inability to supervise students,” excessive lateness and absence and poor lesson planning in the 2012-2013 school year.

But Ginsberg dismissed evidence that Legra was a lousy instructor, saying she didn’t get enough coaching.

He imposed only a 45-day suspension without pay. Legra keeps her $84,500-a-year salary, but is now assigned to a pool of 1,400 teachers who serve as substitutes.
Here is a description of her classroom on the day she was being observed.
In one example of her poor management, PS 173 Assistant Principal Kevin Goodman found Legra’s classroom in “chaos.”

“Students up out of their seats, at least one was running, another was demonstrating karate moves on the closet door and the majority of the students were not involved in anything instructional — an issue that has repeatedly plagued your tenure as a classroom teacher,” he wrote at the time.

Three of her 6-year-olds were injured in a classroom melee that day, he added.

Amid the “mayhem,” Goodman wrote, Legra was “buried in a corner at a computer table” where she could not monitor all the kids.
If a teacher can't do better when an administrator visits her room, imagine what she's doing when she's not being observed. But mere competence seems to be secondary when it comes to NYC's policies for getting rid of a tenured teacher. That is why charter schools will continue to surpass such public schools.

One more example of how common sense has left our nation's schools.
A Texas boy was suspended from school after bringing a "Lord of the Rings" toy to school.

The New York Daily News reported 9-year-old Aiden Steward was suspended from Kermit Elementary School after the schools says Steward threatened a fellow student with the "one ring."

School officials say Aiden told a classmate he could make him disappear with the ring. Aiden's family says they had just watched "The Hobbit" days earlier, inspiring the young boy's imagination.

Jason Steward told the Daily News the kids were just playing make-believe when the incident occurred.

“Kids act out movies that they see. When I watched 'Superman' as a kid, I went outside and tried to fly,” Steward said.

In the movie, anyone wearing the ring becomes invisible. Last week, Aiden told a friend he could put the ring on the friend's head and make him invisible.

"I assure you, my son lacks the magical powers necessary to threaten his friend's existence,” the boy's father later wrote in an email. "If he did, I'm sure he'd bring him right back."

The school is not commenting on the matter. Aiden's family says the boy has been suspended three times this school year. Once for referring to a classmate as black and another for bringing the book "The Big Book of Knowledge" to school.

“He loves that book. They were studying the solar system and he took it to school. He thought his teacher would be impressed,” Steward said.

His family says the book depicted a pregnant woman in an illustration, which led to the suspension.
When did school administrators become so silly that they suspended kids for acting out make believe? I blame the litigiousness of our society that makes administrators fear being sued over the silliest thing. And then there are the parents ready to storm the office in defense of their poor darling trembling in fear that he will be made invisible.

Think of this child's rap sheet. One suspension for saying he would make another child invisible. Another for calling a child black. Isn't that what he would hear any time on TV? We don't know the context for that comment, but simply using the word should rate suspension. And now for bringing a book with a picture of a pregnant woman? Gimme a break. What happened to simply talking to the child to point out problematic behavior and then just let kids be kids. Why is an elementary school student being suspended for such infractions? Administrators just don't have any common sense any more. Or they're not allowed to.

The National Journal looks at how Marco Rubio looks to become the new Paul Ryan. That's a good model to emulate.

Michael Austin examines the Democrats' plan to attack Scott Walker.
Now, after eight years of what objective observers must describe as the most divisive presidency in American history — a presidency marked by IRS targeting of conservatives, by explicit appeals to minority groups, by a chief executive telling those who oppose law enforcement that he is “their” president, by the tarring of financiers as “fat cats,” by the smearing of religious folk as “bitter clingers” — the Democrats seek to pull an act of political legerdemain and paint Scott Walker as the divisive danger to America’s future.
And they will win, if Republicans and Walker don’t fight back.

Scott Walker has a long way to go before winning the GOP nomination, but Democrats have rightly identified him as a threat. His impressive early start, his proven record of accomplishment in Wisconsin, and his electoral prowess show he is serious. He is no popular media sideshow like Sarah Palin or Donald Trump. Nor does he have the electoral or familial baggage of Mitt Romney and Jeb Bush. He is the real deal, a Midwestern conservative who has successfully taken on public unions and governed a center-left state.
And that is why the Democrats must try to destroy him. And it won't matter if they have to totally twist reality to do it.

President Obama is just living in a fantasy world if he believes that "99.9 percent of Muslims" are looking for just what we want - order, peace, and prosperity, and aren't interest in radical Islam.

Byron York explains how Obamacare will still weigh down Democrats in 2016. The thing isn't getting more popular.
The basic problem is that Barack Obama promised his healthcare plan would benefit everybody. It doesn't. Under Obamacare, the government subsidizes the health coverage of some Americans while making it more expensive for others. People who have faced higher premiums, higher deductibles, and narrower choices of doctors know they're getting a bad deal.

Obamacare was designed to win the loyalty of a large number of Americans by offering subsidies not just to the lowest-income bracket but also to those with an income of over $90,000 a year for a family of four. But a lot of middle-class people aren't feeling much benefit.

So it is no surprise that the only group of Americans who like Obamacare in the latest Kaiser poll are those who make less than $40,000 a year — and even they aren't all that enthusiastic about it. Forty-two percent of Americans in that income range have a favorable opinion of Obamacare, while 38 percent have an unfavorable opinion and 19 percent don't know.

There is pretty intense disapproval in the next bracket up, those Americans making between $40,000 and $90,000 a year — a group that supposedly would benefit from Obamacare. A solid 57 percent have an unfavorable opinion of the law, while 33 percent have a favorable opinion and ten percent don't know.
And remember how Obama postponed part of the employer mandate until after the 2014 election because the administration recognized that getting letters about the increase in their health insurance would not make voters look favorably on Democratic candidates in 2014. Well, that won't improve in 2016. And Hillary Clinton will be stuck defending something that most Americans dislike. Don't expect the issue to go away.
In the new poll, Kaiser asked whether voters are "tired of hearing about the debate over the healthcare law and think the country should focus more on other issues" or whether they "think it is important for the country to continue the debate over the healthcare law." Fifty percent of those polls want the debate to continue, while 45 percent are tired of it.

That means the debate will go on, and not in the Democrats' favor.

That emerging Democratic majority that John Judis and Ruy Teixeira told us was coming? Well, never mind.

Union pension funds are facing severe problems in meeting their promised obligations. How soon before Democrats are proposing a bailout?

The Republicans have a couple of proposed bills to rein in the runaway administrative state.

President Obama has abandoned Race to the Top. So there goes the major incentive that states had to adopt Common Core.

Explaining why the American military doesn't trust President Obama.
Americans love their soldiers—they have turned out in droves to see American Sniper—because they are grateful to them for, in a sense, playing their dangerous role as sheepdogs: taking great risks to defend those at home who are not directly in harm’s way. I would wager that most in the military enjoy seeing themselves this way, too.

For Obama and the doves in the White House, this very way of understanding the world is the problem. There are no real wolves out there. Iran and Russia don’t really want domination for its own sake. They want peace, and the only reason they act out is because those who insist on seeing themselves as sheepdogs insist on behaving provocatively.

There are many factors that contribute to Obama’s unpopularity as commander-in-chief—but high up on the list must be the fact that those who have chosen the defense of America as their profession sense that they are being led by a man who sees the very instinct to defend the interests of a nation such as ours as problematic.

No number of stories in the Washington Post will fix that.

Rand Paul, apparently, tanked at the Koch Brothers gathering. Though I would never have thought that he was the sort of candidate they would have backed in the first place.

Jay Cost, who has just written a book on political corruption, explains how the insurance industry has been bought off to get their support for Obamacare.
Whether or not the insurers actually opposed Obamacare back in 2009, the fact remains that it is enormously valuable to them. Think of it this way. Obamacare provides millions of people with health insurance through the individual exchanges. We the citizenry are compelled to participate, but the insurers’ entrance into the marketplaces is entirely voluntary. This means, in turn, that the insurers have leverage over the government. They can always threaten to bail if they aren’t turning a profit. Thus, the government is effectively acting as a backstop for the insurance companies’ bottom lines.

There is “a moral certainty of gain to the Subscribers with scarce a physical possibility of loss,” as Madison put it. No wonder they are defending it, despite their earlier protestations against it. Back then, they were just trying to negotiate for themselves the best deal they could. Now, they are endeavoring to defend the (very nice) deal they ended up getting.

This is a specific example of a general problem at the heart of American government. Our government subcontracts its jobs quite a lot. It relies on doctors and hospitals for Medicare, and on insurers for Obamacare. It relies on private businesses for economic growth. It relied on the ratings agencies for regulatory oversight in the run-up to the financial crisis -- and so on and so forth.

In every instance where it does that, the relationship is almost always voluntary. Nobody is coerced into contracting with the government, which means they only do it if they are made better off. And this gives them every incentive to lobby the government to ensure their revenue streams persist, regardless of whether they are in the public interest. That is, perhaps, the principal pathway of modern corruption. It is the massive, unbelievable, shocking conflict of interest at the heart of America’s body politic. It is why our government never seems to do much of anything very well.

And it is on full display with Obamacare and the insurers.

Conservative talk show hosts really, really dislike Jeb Bush. And he's not too fond of them either. That's a problem for any GOP candidate.

Bjorn Lomborg explains how climate alarmists are hurting their own cause by exaggerating what is going on.
It is an indisputable fact that carbon emissions are rising—and faster than most scientists predicted. But many climate-change alarmists seem to claim that all climate change is worse than expected. This ignores that much of the data are actually encouraging. The latest study from the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change found that in the previous 15 years temperatures had risen 0.09 degrees Fahrenheit. The average of all models expected 0.8 degrees. So we’re seeing about 90% less temperature rise than expected.

Facts like this are important because a one-sided focus on worst-case stories is a poor foundation for sound policies. Yes, Arctic sea ice is melting faster than the models expected. But models also predicted that Antarctic sea ice would decrease, yet it is increasing. Yes, sea levels are rising, but the rise is not accelerating—if anything, two recent papers, one by Chinese scientists published in the January 2014 issue of Global and Planetary Change, and the other by U.S. scientists published in the May 2013 issue of Coastal Engineering, have shown a small decline in the rate of sea-level increase.

We are often being told that we’re seeing more and more droughts, but a study published last March in the journal Nature actually shows a decrease in the world’s surface that has been afflicted by droughts since 1982....

This is important because if we want to help the poor people who are most threatened by natural disasters, we have to recognize that it is less about cutting carbon emissions than it is about pulling them out of poverty.

The best way to see this is to look at the world’s deaths from natural disasters over time. In the Oxford University database for death rates from floods, extreme temperatures, droughts and storms, the average in the first part of last century was more than 13 dead every year per 100,000 people. Since then the death rates have dropped 97% to a new low in the 2010s of 0.38 per 100,000 people.

The dramatic decline is mostly due to economic development that helps nations withstand catastrophes. If you’re rich like Florida, a major hurricane might cause plenty of damage to expensive buildings, but it kills few people and causes a temporary dent in economic output. If a similar hurricane hits a poorer country like the Philippines or Guatemala, it kills many more and can devastate the economy.