timely quote

Patriotism means to stand by the country. It does not mean to stand by the president.

Theodore Roosevelt

Friday, March 27, 2009

So much for education in jolly old England

From the Guardian:

Children will no longer have to study the Victorians or the second world war under proposals to overhaul the primary school curriculum, the Guardian has learned.

However, the draft plans will require children to master Twitter and Wikipedia and give teachers far more freedom to decide what youngsters should be concentrating on in classes.

The proposed curriculum, which would mark the biggest change to primary schooling in a decade, strips away hundreds of specifications about the scientific, geographical and historical knowledge pupils must accumulate before they are 11 to allow schools greater flexibility in what they teach.

...
The plans have been drawn up by Sir Jim Rose, the former Ofsted chief who was appointed by ministers to overhaul the primary school curriculum, and are due to be published next month.

Well, I guess the liberals in England have really gotten their way. Take away the important parts of history and add in pop culture. No more real science, just science fiction.

The proposals would require:

• Children to leave primary school familiar with blogging, podcasts, Wikipedia and Twitter as sources of information and forms of communication. They must gain "fluency" in handwriting and keyboard skills, and learn how to use a spellchecker alongside how to spell.

• Children to be able to place historical events within a chronology. "By the end of the primary phase, children should have gained an overview which enables them to place the periods, events and changes they have studied within a chronological framework, and to understand some of the links between them." Every child would learn two key periods of British history but it would be up to the school to decide which ones. Schools would still be able to opt to teach Victorian history or the second world war, but they would not be required to. The move is designed to prevent duplication with the secondary curriculum, which covers the second world war extensively.

• Less emphasis on the use of calculators than in the current curriculum.

• An understanding of physical development, health and wellbeing programme, which would address what Rose calls "deep societal concerns" about children's health, diet and physical activity, as well as their relationships with family and friends. They will be taught about peer pressure, how to deal with bullying and how to negotiate in their relationships.

The six core areas are: understanding English, communication and languages, mathematical understanding, scientific and technological understanding, human, social and environmental understanding, understanding physical health and wellbeing, and understanding arts and design.

Ummm. Yeah.
John Bangs, head of education at the National Union of Teachers, said: "It seems to jump on the latest trends such as Wikipedia and Twitter. Then it has very traditional descriptions of chronological teaching of history. It seems to be about trends on the one hand, then political pressure on the other hand - the government didn't want to look like it is scrapping traditional education. Computer skills and keyboard skills seem to be as important as handwriting in this. Traditional books and written texts are downplayed in response to web-based learning."
I have no problem with web based learning. I take web based continuing education courses myself. Kids of this generation (including mine) grow up with computers in the house. more than one. I don't know any of my kids' friends that don't have their own personal computer. Having kids use a computer instead of a book is fine, as long as you're teaching some of the important things, like history. Maybe even science. but Twitter?

And this was done without the Teachers' Union.
The leak led to a row when it emerged unions had been excluded from the consultation about what should be included, and subject specialists were given only three days to respond. Bousted said: "It's entirely unacceptable that it hasn't come to the teaching unions. Our members have to teach this. We've responded at all other stages of consultation. I don't know why we have been missed out now."
I'd think that the union would be happier about all this. Just give the kids unrestricted internet access for 8 hours a day and go get a spot of tea.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Is free speech really protected?

There's a case in front of the SCOTUS right now about Citizens United's 90-minute documentary Hillary: The Movie. CU attempted to put it on a cable provider's On Demand function but the FEC decided that it was a political ad, "prohibited electioneering communication," and forbid the showing of the movie.

Of course CU has sued and they are now in front of the SCOTUS. This is going to be an interesting case, because the Supreme Court is going to uphold or strike down the First Amendment with their ruling.
The test "does not depend on the length or the way it's communicated," Deputy Solicitor General Malcolm Stewart said.
...

The government lawyer also suggested that books could be prohibited in the same way McCain-Feingold restricts the airing of certain political advertisements within 30 days of a primary or 60 days of a general election. That proposition did not sit well with the court's conservative members.
...

Justice Antonin Scalia who has consistently ruled against restrictions on campaign speech rhetorically asked the government lawyer if the First Amendment "cover[s] the right of any individual to -- to write, to publish?
So now it's books and movies (but not W, that's ok because it was about Bush).
So what's next? Flyers? magazine articles about candidates' gun stances? Blogs? If McCain-Feingold gets upheld, if the government can regulate free speech based on who is speaking and when they choose to speak then free speech in this country is truly dead.

The First Amendment to the Constitution is very clear:
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.
So all of you reporters out there who think that because this was a commercially produced product and isn't the same as what you do, putting your opinions out there as fact every day, look again. If they take out part of the amendment to keep it fair (?) then the entire amendment fails. You will have no real protection. If you speak out you can be targeted. God forbid you speak out during an election cycle.

"This sounds like campaign advocacy," Justice David Souter. "If that isn't an appeal to voters, I can't imagine what is," Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg added.

But Citizens United lawyer Ted Olson told the court that ruling and the law itself smothered his client's First Amendment rights to free speech. He added the government must have a "heavy burden" in limiting the speech.

"The government cannot prove and has not attempted to prove that a 90-minute documentary made available to people who choose affirmatively to receive it..." Olson said. "Indeed, this documentary is the very definition of robust, uninhibited debate about a subject of intense political interest that the First Amendment is there to guarantee."

God, I hope that the SCOTUS feels the same way about it. This was a bad law when it was passed and George W Bush lost a lot of my respect when he signed it in to law. This is one of the reasons I held my nose when I voted for McCain. There have been a lot of unconstitutional laws (like the Ex Post Facto, Bill of Attainder AIG bonus tax that made it through the house - see CoUS Article1, sec 9) passed recently but this is one of the worst.

Make your voice heard while you still can. Write your representatives and speak out. Tell them what you think of this bill and the case in the supreme court. Write the supreme court. If this is upheld you may not have much more time to speak your mind without concern. Also, I hope this story gets a lot more coverage than it has so far.

Awesome Op-Ed in the NY Post

AMERICA'S enemies smell blood and it's type "O."

by Ralph Peters

All new administrations stumble a bit as they seek their footing. But President Obama's foreign-policy botches have set new records for instant incompetence.

Contrary to left-wing myths, I wasn't a fan of the Bush administration. (I called for Donald Rumsfeld to get the boot in mid-2001.) But fair's fair. Despite his many faults, Bush sought to do good. Obama just wants to look good.

Vice President Dick Cheney was arrogant. Vice President Joe Biden is arrogant and stupid. Take your pick.

Don't worry about the new administration's ideology. Worry about its terrifying naivete.

Consider a sampling of the goofs O and his crew have made in just two months:

China: Secretary of State Hillary Clinton (you know that gal married to the Saudi hireling) crawled to Beijing to tell the party bosses that human rights don't matter. Our "relationship" is more important than freedom and human dignity.

Beijing's response? A staged military confrontation with an unarmed US Navy vessel; continued screw-America currency cheating; a renewed crackdown on dissidents and, yesterday, a call for a new global currency to replace the dollar.

Thanks, Hill. You're a sweetheart.

Pakistan: With viral corruption throughout and Islamist fanatics sweeping half of its territory, Pakistan's coming apart. Its Dem-adored prez tries to ban opposition parties and gut the judiciary. It has nukes and seethes with hatred of America. And Islamabad controls our primary supply route into Afghanistan, using it as an extortion tool.

Obama's response? Billions in new aid for Pak pols to pocket. We'd be better off handing the money to AIG to pay out more bonuses.

Afghanistan: Obama's Vietnam. Am I the only American who remembers that candidate Obama had a plan to capture Osama bin Laden and fix our previous "mistakes" in Afghanistan? President Obama doesn't have a clue.

Iran: Obama tried to reach out, to talk. After all, talking got him to the White House. But America-bashing is what keeps Iran's leaders in office, it's their political essence. After 30 years of fierce hostility, hasn't anyone figured out that the senior mullahs need us as an enemy? Without the Great Satan America to blame, they'd have some real explaining to do to their homies. So O got the left-hand finger.

He wanted to chat with the Taliban, too. They told him he could stick it where the sun don't shine.

North Korea: Obama wanted a fresh start. North Korea's response? Threats of war with South Korea and the kidnapping of two American journalists. And the renewed pursuit of weapons of mass destruction, along with rocket tests.

Cuba: Obama would like to liberalize our relationship. The Castro boys told him to kiss off. They need an enemy, too. (Dear Mr. President: It's not always about us or how evil America is.)

Venezuela: Guess who else needs an enemy?

Mexico: The good news: Obama knows where it is on a map and recognizes that Mexico's government faces a narco-insurgency that threatens our country, too. His first action? Cave to the Teamsters, violate a lawful treaty on cross-border trucking, reignite fading anti-Americanism and undercut President Felipe Calderon.

Poland: Obama's stance on our bravest ally on the European continent? The Russians are more important than you are. He's sending the same message to Ukraine and Georgia.

Russia: Bolshie Biden, the commuting commissar, knows he's the man who can turn Russia into our best pal. After "Friend of Bill" Strobe Talbott tried and failed disastrously. And after poor W saw into Putin's soul, only to get his butt handed to him. "Uncle Joe" Biden has nothing to learn from past failures, though: He's got a re-set button.

Moscow's response to the Obama administration's bid for a new start? It threatens NATO members it once occupied and continues to back Iran's nuclear program. Plus, it bribes Kyrgystan to kick us off the critical-to-Afghanistan Manas airbase (then offers to help replace that supply lifeline, giving Russia a choke-hold on our troops).

Next, the Kremlin threatens massive re-armament and demands the abandonment of the dollar as the international reserve currency.

Obama's response? Push that re-set button again. And again.

At what point does naivete become cowardice?

As for our allies, Obama apparently needs them less than Bush did. O treated Britain's prime minister like the deputy Paraguayan veterinary inspector, and he blindsided the leaders of the Czech Republic, Poland, Mexico and Canada on issues ranging from missile defense to trade. But he'd like them to take the Gitmo terrorists off our hands, please.

The one bright spot thus far has been Iraq, where Obama quickly tossed aside his campaign promises. The O-man doesn't want to be on the blame-line for snatching defeat from the jaws of victory in Baghdad. And his MoveOn.org supporters can throw all the tantrums they want. (Breaking news, folks: O's a professional pol, not the messiah . . . )

Apart from Iraq a success Sen. Obama did all he could to prevent his foreign policy's an instant wasteland. By comparison, the Carter administration is starting to look like a model of manly strength, courage and patriotism.

Thanks Ralph, you put it much better than I could.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

This is how you handle it

Kudos to FedEx who is saying that they will cancel their 30 plane, $7.7 billion order with Boeing if Congress passes a law that removes them from union protection under the Railway Labor Act. Since FedEx was originally incorporated as an airline, their truck drivers aren't allowed to organize with the Teamsters without a national vote. The Teamsters have been trying to get in to FedEx for years.
Commissioning the 30 planes — at a price tag of $225 million each — is expected to create thousands of jobs for Boeing employees, workers at General Electric Co. who make the jet engines and workers at hundreds of subcontractor companies.

...

FedEx might be particularly concerned about unions forming within its ranks as the company's new economic realities unfold. Thousands of employees have taken wage reductions or salary freezes as the company tries to adapt to deteriorating demand, and it warned last week that even more cuts are coming. The company has also frozen 401(k) contributions for a year.
The best quote is this:

"If the regulatory and congressional environment remains hostile, there is virtual uncertainty over how we'd proceed," FedEx spokesman Maury Lane said Tuesday.

The change would "stymie competition and create an economic roadblock to recovery," he said.

...

"This notice gives Congress a chance to protect jobs instead of killing jobs," spokesman Maury Lane told the Associated Press on Tuesday. "This is a prudent business decision based on a potentially devastating Congressional decision."

Read the story here and here.

The legislation has been approved by a House panel already. Getting in to FedEx would be quite the coup, and this bill will move FedEx under the National Labor Relations Act. Of course, UPS with 50% Teamster membership thinks the bill is a good idea because it will "level the playing field."

In a note to investors, Avondale Partners analyst Donald Broughton said the bill is "directed at making it easier for the Teamsters to try to organize FedEx Express workers."

"We find it more than a bit intriguing that now Congressmen will have to vote against Boeing, GE, and the creation of thousands of unionized jobs for machinists (and several other trade unions) in order to change the labor law status of FedEx in an attempt to possibly help the Teamsters union," he wrote.

It sounds like the administration is beginning the process of paying back the unions for their support. Took him long enough I guess.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Four days of shooting

I've been shooting and RO'ing the High Plain Shotgun Challenge over the last few days, and it's been taking up all of my time. The shooting, the competitors and the homebrewed beer has been excellent. The youth shooting division of the club came out and cooked lunch for the competitors on both days. This has been a first class match.

For you shooters out there, I highly recommend you look in to competitive shooting. It's a whole different game, and you'll meet a bunch of outstanding people.

Just to give you an idea, on one stage of fire we had 75yd slug shots and 10yd steel plates you shoot with birdshot. There's nothing quite like it. It is more fun with necessary, and any time you can get out and spend four days shooting and hanging out with your friends that shoot, that's a good time.