Common Core and Common Sense – The Orange County Board of Education Hearings- Round One

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Last night the Orange County Board of Education held the first of two special meetings to discuss the concerns of parents and educators with the Common Core curriculum now being introduced around the country. A standing room only crowd attended.

This first exchange featured a panel of speakers, each given an initial 5 minutes to discuss support for the introduction of Common Core and opposition to same.

The first comment was by Trustee David Boyd, who looked something like Gregory Peck’s Captain Ahab with a bad haircut and bad attitude. He launched into a tirade against the Tea Party and called for the meeting to be suspended. The meeting then proceeded.

Next came pro and con appeals from 4  selected attendees from each side. One of them, representing an organization of charter schools, strongly supported the curriculum. Another, against, pointed out that the curriculum has not been tested or proven and that California has ranked #1 or #2 nationally in math and language skills using the proven curriculum.

A mother told the story of her straight “A” daughter now struggling with her math lessons. “There are no books, and the teachers themselves are confused.” she said.

The first panelist speaking on the “pro” side was Dr. Claire Cavallaro of Cal State Fullerton, who pointed out that 1/3 of college freshmen in California require remedial English and Math. (note: that would not seem to jibe with California’s ranking). She said that Common Core is new and misunderstood and threatening. She asked that the curriculum be allowed to roll out further and that the bugs be fixed.

The next was Celia Jaffe from the PTA. She stated the state PTA’s support of Common Core and that it represented the latest in and most up to date thinking in education. It’s focus on critical thinking is essential for our changing economy and learning becomes more robust to paraphrase.

The third pro CC panelist was Dr. Glen Thomas, who began the process of introduction of Common Core while State Secretary of Education under Arnold Schwarzenegger. His statement was  a history of the process of introduction that was foreshortened by the 5 minute time limit.

Last came Glen Warren, one Orange County’s Teachers of the Year for 2014, who spoke from a classroom perspective about empowerment and collaboration and creativity and information literacy. Powerful buzz words.

The can the prepared remarks counseling caution.

Robin Eubanks, a corporate counsel from Georgia spoke first, cautioning that the purpose of Common Core in the words of its developers is to shape the values, attitudes and perceptions of students. Underlying this are agendas far beyond simple education. Phrases such as “change of consciousness”, “positive social identity” and “identity, orientations and dispositions” are a subtext that runs through the core of Common Core. It is no longer about teaching our children how to read and write and prepare them for the next grade from Ms. Eubanks perspective, and she cited the very word’s of the curriculum’s developers to substantiate her claims.

Next came Hugh Hewitt, a constitutional law professor and nationally syndicated conservative radio show host . He was brief and to the point. He noted that when United States Secretary of Education Arne Duncan tied federal funding to the implementation of Common Core it constituted the biggest power grab by the Federal government in 100 years. An issue of local and state control was federalized by fiat against the express wishes of Congress.

Dr. Gary Thompson, a clinical psychologist specializing in early childhood development and special education then spoke. He opened by recounting the series of errors committed by psychologists in experimenting on their patients and cautioned the Board of Trustees not to institute and unproven and potentially detrimental syllabus on the children of Orange County. He presented a binder with multiple peer-reviewed articles on the effects of various parts of the Common Core curriculum on children.

Last came Lydia Guiterrez, a Master Teacher and program director at UCLA, who emphasized the lack of transparency and lack of data on the success of Common Core to date. She spoke of the difficulties seen in school districts around the country that have had significant issues with implementation. She emphasized the lack of flexibility in adapting the standards to local needs because of federal requirements.

Next came questions from the Trustees themselves.  The first was from Trustee Lindholm who asked “why is the math in Common Core so hard and complex?” One of the pro-Common Core panelists stated that there is no evidence of this.

Next came Trustee Beskell, who was to the point. He asked if Common Core was pre-Obama. Yes, stated one of the panelists. “Which states have opted out so far? ” Indiana came the response.

Trustee Williams asked Ms. Eubanks about data mining. There are significant concerns about who has access to the data and how it is used and how extensive that data is in light of the NSA scandal and the efforts by companies such as Google and Microsoft in this field.

Another question by Trustee Williams was “what is the effect of the gaming used in the classroom today and of virtual reality”. Dr. Thompson expressed deep concerns and noted that several of the medical papers he had earlier submitted indicated detrimental psychological effects.

Trustee Hammond asked two very pointed questions of each panelist. “Would you enforce a law that was unconstitutional?” was the first. The second was if there is a federal law that allows control of local education. The responses were interesting. While the pro Common Core were both uncomfortable and mixed in their response, those expressing concern were unanimous in their desire to challenge the legality of such a mandate.

Lastly, Trustee Boyd lectured Mr. Hewitt specifically on the cost of such litigation. Mr. Hewitt responded by suggesting that there are law firms and attorneys that might act on a pro-bono basis and that this might be investigated. What Mr. Boyd may not have known was that the Pacific Legal Foundation participated in a press conference just prior to the hearing in which they offered to take the case at no cost to the Board of Education. Oops.

I am not an expert, but I do know that when the jargon clogs the language clarity is lost. When agendas are developed without transparency there is suspicion. When someone connects the dots on those promoting that agenda along with their financial interests and political dogmas,  those suspicions are raised further.

Editorials and polls indicate that trust in government is at an all time low regardless of one’s ideology.

Just the other day President Obama joked that he could no longer help with his children’s math homework. Anecdotal evidence of major structural problems within Common Core is building rapidly.

One thing is certain. The science is not settled.

Math meme

 

 

 

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The Deafening Silence on Leftist Corruption

The headlines have been full of the arrests of Democratic politicians on charges ranging from bribery to corruption to gun running and yet the opinion pages have been silent.

In 2006, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi made the Republican “culture of corruption” a major campaign issue. The daughter of one of the most corrupt politicians in Maryland history, Thomas D’Allesandro, she hammered the Republicans for their support of legislation she and her allies deemed corrupt. It worked.

Then, in January of 2007, immediately after her election as Speaker of the House  the minimum wage was increased from $5.15 to $7.25. Pelosi had American Samoa exempted from the increase so that Del Monte Corporation would not have to pay the higher wage. Del Monte is based in her congressional district and at the time her husband held $17 million in shares in the company.

Democratic Senator Dianne Feinstein is famous for the influence she has peddled for her husband, Richard Blum. A few years ago she engineered a land swap that landed her husband’s company Pentagon held land that mining experts call perhaps one of the largest gold formations in the world in exchange for worthless rangeland in northern California. This is also the same man entrusted with the famous “Train to Nowhere” multi-billion dollar boondoggle.

So the recent arrests and convictions of a number of California politicians who happen to all be Democrats might come as a bit of a shock after such transparently obvious self dealing. Let’s look at the list, shall we?

San Diego Mayor Bob Filner – False Imprisonment & Battery

San Francisco Supervisor Ed Jew – Extortion & Perjury

State Senator Leland Yee – Arms Trafficking, Money Laundering, Murder for Hire, Drug Dealing, Bribery, Corruption and being a member of a Chinese Tong.

State Senator Ron Calderon – Bribery & Corruption

State Senator Rod Wright – Voter Fraud & Perjury

All of these politicians are on the far Left of the political spectrum. They are the ones who regularly accuse their political opponents of corruption, greed, racism and base motives. But time and again it seems that the ones who cry “Injustice” the loudest are in fact the most unjust.

Yee is one of the most vocal opponents of Second Amendment rights in America and yet he was caught on tape discussing the sale of automatic weapons and shoulder mounted rockets to terrorists in the Philippines, where U.S. Special Forces have been working side by side with the Philippine Army fighting those same terrorists.

Calderon was even more of a crook. Michael Drobot, who owned Pacific Hospital in Long Beach, bilked the state and federal governments of over $500 million in a sophisticated medical equipment scam. The same type of scam that our president promised to stamp out when selling Obamacare. Calderon facilitated Drobot’s  corrupt empire that included crooked doctors, medical equipment companies, and hospital personnel.

But the corruption of the left goes far beyond California. It is especially strong in Illinois; in New York and in a number of other blue states. In New York it even includes some of the Republican leadership.

On a national level the Obama Administration is open for business. The green energy scandals cost the taxpayers over $1 Trillion and much of the stimulus bill was parceled out for projects of very dubious utility. The GM and Chrysler bailouts benefited primarily the unions.

Crony capitalism is everywhere one chooses to gaze and yet the media is virtually silent. It even includes some Republicans and yet the thought leaders have chosen to ignore the problem because it does not fit the narrative. Just as the Nomenklatura pillaged the Soviet Union with their special privileges and dachas today’s Leftist politicians are carving their own “fair share” at the expense of the people.

In his 40 year career as a professional politician, Willie Brown was able to avoid indictment despite a highly flamboyant lifestyle and several investigations. He was admired by many for his style but he was dogged by corruption and favoritism charges throughout his career. Today, there are a thousand Willie Browns and Leland Yees and Ron Calderons and Dianne Feinsteins and Nancy Pelosis.

Now, indictments are coming fast and furious. You would think there is an opportunity for a Pulitzer, even.

And yet the same grifters in the press, in academia, the unions and the special interest groups are silent. For they too are part of the gravy train. Spout the proper slogans and steal all that you can that’s not nailed down and some of what is.

When I was a kid California was known as a “clean government” state. Starting back in the 1890’s the Populist Party was a disorganized amalgam of small businesspeople, workers, farmers, and political leaders. Activists such as Theodore Roosevelt rose in opposition to the “Reckless Decade” of the 1890’s.The clean government movement was founded to stamp out the rampant political corruption in many states. California was seen as a leader in good government. Now it is a banana republic as are so many of the “blue” states.

The map speaks for itself. From the wars on charter schools in Chicago and New York and Washington to the checkbook legislation in Washington our politicians are sitting behind the cash register and don’t give change.

We are in a new Reckless Decade where the oligarchs and the crony capitalists have been allowed to pillage. And because the disease is overwhelmingly on the Left today the country suffers. Our faith in justice is corrupted, and this is a very dangerous thing for our republic.

 

The budget negotiations – We’ve seen this movie before

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We are about to enter week three of the shutdown in which despite the name 87% of the federal government is in operation as “indispensable’. Payments to the Corporation for Public Broadcasting for close to half a billion dollars and to a supplier of mechanical bulls for $40,000 were made and the spectacle of World War II veterans in their late 80’s and 90’s being turned away at the World War Two Memorial made Fox News but few other networks.

The president has hunkered down at 1600 Pennsylvania to emerge occasionally to state the he will be happy to negotiate as long as Congress gives him 100% of what he has demanded.

This movie is getting old quickly, though. We have seen it before. In 2011, when there was a dire prediction of disaster, Bob Woodward was the fly on the wall as the President careened towards disaster.

Members of Congress from both sides described the President as arrogant and incompetent in “The Price of Politics”. As one political blog called it at the time, “The Price of Politics is a stark recollection of the collapse of cooperation in government during Barack Obama’s first — and potentially only — presidential term from the inside out.”

The president survived that debacle and was re-elected only to have his administration riven with scandal after scandal. I am sure there are many in the Administration deeply grateful that Fast & Furious, the IRS Scandal, the DoJ/AP Scandal, and the Benghazi Scandal have been driven off of the front pages.

The shut down is a Godsend to Obama. He can remain intransigent and claim to hold the high ground on Obamacare and demonize the Republicans and the Tea Party all the while staving off accountability for his ever-growing record of incompetence, extralegal activities, and malice.

Woodward was very instructive. The President’s arrogance was legend, whether it was one day after promising shortly after his election telling House Minority Whip Eric Cantor “Elections have consequences, and I won”  the day after pledging a bipartisan administration or as The New Republic describes:

“The most vivid scene takes place in February of 2009, as Congress is laboring to ward off an economic collapse. Nancy Pelosi, the Democratic speaker, is hunkered down in her office with Harry Reid, her Senate counterpart, to negotiate a stimulus bill that can pass both chambers. This is no easy task. The bill must be modest enough to survive a Republican filibuster, but ambitious enough to satisfy Pelosi’s liberal caucus. But, then, these are veteran legislators—born deal-makers at that. They get to work with all the seriousness you’d expect.

At which point the president calls in via speaker phone and starts droning on about “unity of action” and “unity of purpose” (Woodward’s paraphrasing). It’s the kind of blather that can wow a stadium full of college students but means nothing in the power corridors of Washington. Pelosi and Reid thank the president coldly, and yet he doesn’t take the hint. Finally, Pelosi reaches over and hits the mute button. “They could hear Obama, but now he couldn’t hear them,” Woodward writes. “The president continued speaking, his disembodied voice filling the room, and the two leaders got back to the hard numbers.”

Very harsh indeed. The President’s frosty relations with both sides of the aisle are well documented. And today it is doubtful we will have a Boswell like Woodward to document the process. After the publication of his book he was vilified and attacked by the President’s minions. I don’t think he has been allowed back in on this one.

The White House staff have repeatedly been described as an unruly, callow political machine akin to a herd of cats. And now that the “A” listers in the administration have left the building, the cats are a tad more out of their league and unruly. Obama has always been a more successful campaigner than president and governs accordingly.

And yet the vitriol has been directed overwhelmingly against the opposition with the assistance of a supine media that simply takes the president’s dictation. The President’s press conference the other day was an especially low point where no questions that might discomfit a most vulnerable president were asked. Perhaps, like Cristina Kirchner, he is allocating newsprint. Or perhaps the media are simply fellow travelers.

The stories of the incompetence of the Obama Administration during the 2011 budget negotiations are legend. The Republicans have their own share of the burden to bear. It always takes two sides to negotiate.

From Woodward’s description it was wrestlemania with actors jumping in and out of the ring and the Sequester as the primary product. A sequester suggested by the President and never intended to have been executed. It was a stop-gap intended to allow more time for real structural improvements. And here we are at the cliff again.

But today the stakes are even higher. The Sequester has had barely any effect on our economy. Today we face a shutdown of which the primary images are of National Parks and Monuments closed to spite the public.

The debt ceiling is once again the central flash point. The President has refused to address our out of control debt nor his health care fiasco. Every day that now goes by without an agreement is squarely on his shoulders. In the meantime I expect the President to revert to the same “No Pasaran” tactics he has used time and again.

We have seen the movie before, but like many Hollywood movies these days, there alternative endings on the Director’s Cut DVD,. In this case almost none of them good for the American People.

 

 

Obamacare, Death Panels and the end of life

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A friend of mine posted a very thoughtful article on end of life care written from a physician’s reflections upon his own demise. Doctors know the odds and some of them sometimes choose to forego further treatment and make their peace.

In the case of many diseases the probability of remission is poor. And as we approach the implementation of Obamacare, one of the key takeaways is that many of us will no longer receive the level of care that we had under our old policies.

We are seeing corporations limiting coverage and limiting working hours in a desperate drive to reduce exploding insurance costs. Already, the insurance companies battle every step of the way in approving many treatments. This is done in the name of cost management.

Now the government is stepping in adding another layer of cost and more roadblocks between patient and doctor. As a part of Obamacare, the Independent Payment Advisory Board is being formed to control costs. In the UK, the Liverpool Care Pathway has caused an uproar with the abuse of its principles by doctors and bureaucrats. Worse, the British bureaucracy has a direct function in approving and denying specific treatment.If a patient is determined to not deserve a certain treatment, it is not performed, resulting in death in many, many cases. It is not isolated and it a part of the system. There is extensive evidence.

And this is what is now being implemented here. Both Howard Dean and Paul Krugman have fessed up to this reality. Costs are out of control and growing exponentially. People are living longer. The technology to help resist disease and prolong life has grown immeasurably, along with costs.

And within all of these arguments and issues, the relationship between the patient, their doctor, and with the Great Beyond has become lost in the shuffle.

In the end the decisions must be between patient and doctor; not between patient and bureaucrat.

I had two friends who were told they had pancreatic cancer within a year or so of each other. Peter used every tool in the toolbox to fight back. He had radical surgery and highly aggressive treatment. He came back to work eventually, but 18 months later he was dead. He had bought himself two years and lived those years well knowing the eventual outcome.

Not too long thereafter I found out my friend Paul also had contracted pancreatic cancer. He was diagnosed in August and by mid-October he was dead. He had made his peace with God and chose palliative care and the first his friends knew of his condition was when we received a call or an e mail inviting us to the funeral.

Each of them chose their path as they saw fit. each of them were faced with difficult and life threatening choices. They made these decisions without bureaucratic intervention.

These are the most personal and agonizing of choices. And sometimes the patient is unable to choose as when they are on life support and unconscious.

In “The Ends of Human Life” Ezekiel Emanuel examines medical ethics on a spreadsheet and posits communitarian examination of the issues and the just distribution of medical resources. He discusses the politics and the justice of medical care. But he does not discuss how to frame the discussion that matters the most in the end. The ethical discussion. The discussion of choices to be made. As with the NHS and Obamacare, the assumption is the rationing of resources by the state.

The governmental medical bureaucracy has grown from the implementation of Medicare in 1965 to a behemoth today. Include programs such as the military TriCare program and the Veteran’s Administration hospitals and state programs and one can readily agree that there is already a massive public sector bureaucracy in place. This will be layered over by more indirect costs from the new bureaucracy being built. And the patients will get even more lost in the system.

How is this beneficial to our society and to the individual?

Today’s health care system is driven by spreadsheets and first, second and third tier case management. How does this deliver the best care at the lowest unit cost?

End of life care is expensive. CBS News stated that care in the last 2 months of life in 2010 cost the nation $50 Billion. The total size of the Medicare budget alone for 2012 is estimated at $536 Billion. Medical spending was estimated by the UN at 17.9% of the GDP of the United States in 2011; $2.8 trillion. So why are we having this conversation in the first place?

There are many problems to discuss about health care management. But government intervention in end of life care is not one of them. The issues are bureaucratic and administrative and there are many, many fingers in the pie. The other issue is control. Holding Grandma hostage is a powerful weapon. Statists like control. Single payer health care has been the stated goal of the left-wing of the Democratic Party for the past 50 years.

The conversation is really about control. And when doctors start talking in spreadsheets and when bureaucrats in both the public and private sector have financial stakes in the game and the decisions are made by corrupt and venal politicians who do not live by the same rules, it is wise and prudent to be very, very skeptical.

 

 

 

The Death of Old Media?

There have been some major headlines in the past week that have largely been ignored for their meaning by the same denizens of the world they live in. Newsweek has been killed off. The Boston Globe, which was purchased for $1.1 Billion, was sold off for $70 Million by the New York Times, a staggering 93% loss. And just a short while ago it was announced that Jeff Bezos is buying the Washington Post’s primary newspaper operations for $250 Million in cash.

It is deeply ironic that the Times chose to run a crocodile tears article about Newsweek this morning. But then, the problems and cluelessness at the Times have been evident for many years.

In visual media, CBS and Time Warner Cable are at daggers points over programming fees, the ones that continue to inflate your cable bill as viewers seek refuge with Netflix, Roku and other alternatives.

Tina Brown, the publisher of Daily Beast/Newsweek said “It doesn’t matter how talented you are right now. You used to be judged by your performance, but now it doesn’t matter what you do,” she said. “It is quite a business.”

Except that in each case these media empires have run themselves into the ground. The first step was in alienating huge swathes of the demographic base. A merchant, whether of news or other products, must appeal to the most profitable audience it can in order to survive. In the case of the newspapers the alienation was political in nature.

The newspapers and magazines simply stopped caring about presenting objective news. Their political views seeped from the editorial pages to the hard news sections. It is hard to recover when almost 50% of your potential audience will not purchase your product.

The networks face the problem of poor content and poor return on investment. There are a very few winners but with hundreds of channels, most of those networks are scraping by. And with each of them adding a surcharge onto the customer’s bill, the wheat must eventually be separated from the chaff.

Hollywood is crying the blues as well. Spielberg, Lucas and Clooney decry what Hollywood has become and yet their entire careers have been made on big money productions including some very expensive vanity projects. Salaries for the top talent are still in the $20 Million per picture range but somehow it is the financiers fault.

In a way, the same trends in defining downward we see in industry and commerce we are now seeing in the media. Inferior product is driven by inferior thinking and especially in today’s groupthink bubble, there is a crisis not only of content, but of rational thought.

In the case of each of these media meltdowns the old adage has been reversed. Failure has many fathers and mothers.

California’s invisible 35% tax increase

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Last October, California Governor Jerry Brown signed into law SB 1234, the California Secure Choice Retirement Savings Program. This has been hailed by progressives as a solution for those workers in the state without retirement savings or programs to provide for their income as they grow older. It forces them to contribute 3% of their income into a state managed retirement program.

With Social Security on the brink of failure by 2030 and incomes increasingly challenged by the part-time job phenomenon it is challenge enough for California’s workers to plan for retirement. With exorbitant energy taxes, a carbon tax and recent tax hikes falling most heavily on the poor, the state has grown ever less competitive as it has grown ever more expensive to live in.

But with the Democrats holding a supermajority in both houses of the legislature they can do anything they please.

The state has arrogated a power unto itself that didn’t exist without consultation or input from the public. And all of this has occurred largely under the radar screen. The newspapers and media have been silent.

The devil is in the details and the details of SB 1234 are vague. How the program is managed, safeguards, etc are all to be worked out later on. But California already has a history of mismanaged pension plans to reflect upon. How will this huge pool of money be different?

The state has been pilfering its existing pension plans to plug the gaps. It has raided gasoline taxes and highway funds. What makes it different this time?

California has the highest gas tax in the country at $0.72/gallon, which just went up 3.5 cents on July 1.With a 9.3% income tax rate that kicks in at $48,029 and a base sales tax of 7.5% rising as high as 10% in some cities and counties. The middle class has become an illusion.

The new retirement program will cost an additional 35% to the income withheld from low wage worker’s wages and will be managed by the same people who have gotten the state into a mess in the first place.

The money grab by government in California has been done by stealth and subterfuge. The state has unsustainable pension obligations for its public worker’s. The unspoken agenda is that the unions and their cronies come first and the rest of us be damned.

 

Obama’s Green Scam

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The other day, Glenn Reynolds labeled the Obama Administration the Omerta Administration. This morning the president is once again demonstrating his mob-like contempt for the law with his speech at Georgetown University.

The audience has been limited to approximately 400 sycophants, and the President is expected to unveil his plan to use executive power to shut down the coal power generation industry. This has been his goal all along, along with stymieing all other conventional fuels. He is once again bypassing Congress to ram through his agenda.

At a time when America desperately needs jobs he and his green allies have done their best to sabotage conventional energy sources. They have 5 year record of harassment and obstruction of the oil industry. They have crushed the nuclear power industry into submission. And they have monkey wrenched the natural gas boom. Everywhere that real, profitable and even clean energy alternatives have shown themselves the fury of the Left ensures their demise.

They have used crony capitalism and graft to develop solar and wind power, both of which are incredibly more expensive than conventional energy. And in doing so they have squandered the competitive advantage of our country. How can we compete in the global economy with foolish and dishonest limitations that play right into the strengths of our competitors?

What is more disturbing is the confluence of scandals pointing towards a sinister power grab that echoes of dictatorship.The President has muzzled his opposition any way he can. He has waged vendetta on his political opponents through the IRS. He has persecuted whistleblowers and criminally prosecuted anyone who is not one of his official mouthpieces.

All the while he sits like Alfred E. Neumann with a Cheshire cat smile as one after another scandal swirls around the White House. His minions stonewall subpoenas and claim executive privilege while his Attorney General runs interference. This is not democracy. It is a putsch.

President Obama has proven to be the most devious and dishonest politician in our history. From his stonewalling of his personal records to his arrogation of power to the White House to his Administrations criminal misapplication of the law he has brought dishonor and disgrace to his office.

How many scandals does it take? How many of our liberties must be infringed upon?

The Left is running rampant over our civil rights. The United States founded on the principles of small government and civil liberties. Property rights, the rule of law, and enlightened capitalism are our underlying principles. Today, every one of these rights is under assault by our own government.