Common core and other absurdities

August 7th, 2014

A professor at Cal of all places:

when teaching fractions, the teacher required that students draw pictures of everything: of 6 divided by 8, of 4 divided by 2/7, of 0.8 x 0.4, and so forth. In doing so, the teacher followed the instructions: “Interpret and compute quotients of fractions, and solve word problems involving division of fractions by fractions, e.g., by using visual fraction models and equations to represent the problem. For example, create a story context for 2/3 divided by 3/4 and use a visual fraction model to show the quotient.” Who would draw a picture to divide 2/3 by 3/4?

This requirement of visual models and creating stories is all over the Common Core. The students were constantly told to draw models to answer trivial questions, such as finding 20% of 80 or finding the time for a car to drive 10 miles if it drives 4 miles in 10 minutes, or finding the number of benches one can make from 48 feet of wood if each bench requires 6 feet. A student who gives the correct answer right away (as one should) and doesn’t draw anything loses points.

Here are some more examples of the Common Core’s convoluted and meaningless manipulations of simple concepts: “draw a series of tape diagrams to represent (12 divided by 3) x 3=12, or: rewrite (30 divided by 5) = 6 as a subtraction expression”…

the most astounding statement I have read is the claim that Common Core standards are “internationally benchmarked.” They are not. The Common Core fails any comparison with the standards of high-achieving countries, just as they fail compared to the old California standards. They are lower in the total scope of learned material, in the depth and rigor of the treatment of mathematical subjects, and in the delayed and often inconsistent and incoherent introductions of mathematical concepts and skills.

For California, the adoption of the Common Core standards represents a huge step backward which puts an end to its hard-won standing as having the top math standards in the nation. The Common Core standards will move the U.S. even closer to the bottom in international ranking.

We grew up in an unenlightened time when the nuns gave us all addition and subtraction speed tests in first grade, multiplication and division speed tests to follow shortly. If we had to do the things above, we might have reduced our math SAT score by 800 points or so. In another example of government insanity, Michael Barone laments the acceleration of the regulatory state when Moore’s Law, twitter, yelp and uber all point in precisely the opposite direction.

MSM in Gaza, Iraq, North Korea — obsequious and dishonest

August 6th, 2014

CNN in 1997:

In a sweltering, crowded hospital south of Baghdad, dozens of children line the beds, their stick-like limbs reflecting a severe lack of food. A mother’s wail pierces the room: One of her children has already died and two others are suffering from malnutrition and diarrhea. Such conditions are prevalent throughout the Arab nation, where aid agencies have issued numerous reports documenting the deteriorating health of Iraqi children since the United Nations imposed sanctions seven years ago. One in four Iraqi children are malnourished, according to UNICEF. Many of those who survive will suffer permanent brain damage or stunted growth.

CNN’s chief news executive in 2003:

Over the last dozen years I made 13 trips to Baghdad to lobby the government to keep CNN’s Baghdad bureau open and to arrange interviews with Iraqi leaders. Each time I visited, I became more distressed by what I saw and heard — awful things that could not be reported because doing so would have jeopardized the lives of Iraqis, particularly those on our Baghdad staff. For example, in the mid-1990′s one of our Iraqi cameramen was abducted. For weeks he was beaten and subjected to electroshock torture in the basement of a secret police headquarters because he refused to confirm the government’s ludicrous suspicion that I was the Central Intelligence Agency’s Iraq station chief. CNN had been in Baghdad long enough to know that telling the world about the torture of one of its employees would almost certainly have gotten him killed and put his family and co-workers at grave risk…A 31-year-old Kuwaiti woman, Asrar Qabandi, was captured by Iraqi secret police occupying her country in 1990 for “crimes,” one of which included speaking with CNN on the phone. They beat her daily for two months, forcing her father to watch. In January 1991, on the eve of the American-led offensive, they smashed her skull and tore her body apart limb by limb. A plastic bag containing her body parts was left on the doorstep of her family’s home. I felt awful having these stories bottled up inside me.

Not much has changed except the location, certainly not the professionalism of the media. Even the WaPo says the MSM are intimidated into silence or propaganda. Disgraceful. Lights, camera, action!!!

Bonus fun: North Korea too. Sense a pattern???

Odds and ends

August 5th, 2014

The NYT asks that with “public opinion in both Israel and the United States solidly behind the Israeli military’s campaign against Hamas, no outcry from Israel’s Arab neighbors, and unstinting support for Israel on Capitol Hill,” just who in the USA might be on the other side? Duh.

It’s true and pretty obvious that most diseases are either highly contagious or highly lethal but not both. Plagues are rare enough. That said, the Ebola numbers are in all likelihood vastly understated, and complacency is unwarranted and unwise. So far we have been fortunate that many in the affected populations aren’t likely to be jetting off for August vacation; but that’s mere serendipity.

Question: if The Atlantic can figure out that Hamas isn’t gentler and kinder and has but one thing on its mind, why can’t other superior beings? Apparently, as Thomas Sowell rues, thinking is obsolete today.

The weather outside is frightful

August 4th, 2014

QED. Is there anything the mighty 4 parts CO2 can’t do?

Tackling the tough and important issues

August 3rd, 2014

WSJ:

A federal law that aims to curb childhood obesity means that, in dozens of states, bake sales must adhere to nutrition requirements that could replace cupcakes and brownies with fruit cups and granola bars…The restrictions that took effect in July stem from the 2010 Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act…Among the changes: fatty french fries were out, while baked sweet potato fries were deemed to be fine…Six chocolate sandwich cookies at 286 calories would be out, but a 4-ounce fruit cup with 100% juice at 68 calories would make the cut. Also out: a large doughnut at 242 calories and a 1.6 oz. chocolate bar with 235 calories.

Next: national frisbee regulation.

Today’s reading

August 2nd, 2014

Alan Dershowitz again. Jon Voight. Questions for journalists. And a writer at The New Yorker, of all places, takes on Rashid Khalidi. What a world. Meanwhile, did you know that the Gaza tunnels were a jobs program? Or that Andrew Jackson was a “genocidal maniac“? Or that if you think illegal immigration is bad now, soon “millions of people are driven north from the parched landscapes of a world degraded by intensifying climate change?” (Must be why they’re sending the kids to Alaska!) Finally, on some station that shows vintage TV, there today was an episode of Flipper from 1966. Almost every minute features something that is unacceptable or illegal now.

History lesson

August 1st, 2014

Here’s an extended piece on the Hamas Covenant by Jeffrey Herf. It covers a lot of territory apparently foreign to our government until recently; you know, about that “largely secular” group of guys. Gosh, it’s been over ten years since even the NYT did a long article on Sayyid Qutb and the MB, whose vetting for fanaticism and loyalty is truly impressive. Santayana and so forth……

Once upon a time

July 31st, 2014

A few years after we heard that the words of the prophets are written on subway walls and tenement halls, we visited Columbia University as part of thinking about applying. Those were different times — our cab driver was drinking a Schlitz during the ride; students had taken over the president’s office, etc. We were reminded of this trip in the course of reading this entertaining piece, mentioning things we saw not at Columbia, nor at our undergraduate and graduate schools. If you had to bet $1000 on it, would you guess the story is true or false?

Compassion or the opposite?

July 30th, 2014

NYT:

black Americans are twice as likely to be unemployed as whites (13.1 percent of blacks versus 6.5 percent of whites, according to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics). The rate for Hispanics was 9.1 percent. The report also focused on underemployment which includes those who are jobless and not looking or working part-time jobs but desiring full-time work. According to the report, the underemployment rate for black workers was 20.5 percent, compared with 18.4 percent for Hispanic workers

So three disasters minimum: (a) black unemployment unacceptably high; (b) ditto for Hispanics; and (c) the overall US labor force participation rate is at 30 year disastrous lows. A sane and compassionate country would make fixing these things a top priority. What conclusion is therefore to be drawn about an administration that wants millions of new illegal immigrants to compete for these already inadequate job and income resources. Oh, yeah, the current thoughtful administration policy is stop hatin’, as opposed to, for example, consulting with the some of the experts from the US Commission on Civil Rights.

An explanation

July 30th, 2014

We talked about the possibility of serious realignments on the world stage, noting a particularly sharp piece in Haaretz the other day. Turns out we didn’t know the half of it, if this report is true.

Inverted world redux

July 29th, 2014

Bret Stephens:

Israel is culpable because (a) it won’t accept a Palestinian government that includes a terrorist organization sworn to the Jewish state’s destruction; (b) it won’t help that organization out of its financial jam; and (c) it won’t ease a quasi-blockade—jointly imposed with Egypt—on a territory whose central economic activity appears to be building rocket factories and pouring imported concrete into terrorist tunnels. This is either bald moral idiocy or thinly veiled bigotry. It mistakes effect for cause, treats self-respect as arrogance and self-defense as aggression, and makes demands of the Jewish state that would be dismissed out of hand anywhere else.

Jonathan Chait: “I still find myself far more sympathetic to Israel than to Hamas.” That’s nice. VDH has more.

Inversions

July 28th, 2014

How strange. We now live in a world where the editorial line of the Washington Post is more or less unfit to appear in the HuffPo when it comes to Gaza. More at the WaPo and at PL on our inverted world. BTW, we thought Wretchard was getting a little too dramatic when he transitioned from the various wars to Ebola — then we saw that the CDC is stonewalling USA Today regarding the failures of its medical “do not board” rule for airlines. That’s reassuring! Have a nice day.

Era of potential realignments

July 27th, 2014

Haaretz, of all places:

The draft Kerry passed to Israel on Friday shocked the cabinet ministers not only because it was the opposite of what Kerry told them less than 24 hours earlier, but mostly because it might as well have been penned by Khaled Meshal. It was everything Hamas could have hoped for.

The document recognized Hamas’ position in the Gaza Strip, promised the organization billions in donation funds and demanded no dismantling of rockets, tunnels or other heavy weaponry at Hamas’ disposal. The document placed Israel and Hamas on the same level, as if the first is not a primary U.S. ally and as if the second isn’t a terror group which overtook part of the Palestinian Authority in a military coup and fired thousands of rockets at Israel.

On Saturday, the State Department distributed photos of Kerry’s meeting with Qatar and Turkey’s foreign ministers in Paris. The three appear jovial and happy-go-lucky. Other photographs show Kerry carousing romantically with the Turkish foreign minister in the pastoral grounds of the U.S. ambassador’s home in Paris, as if the Turkish official’s prime minister didn’t just say a few days ago that Israel is 10 times worse than Hitler.

The secretary of state’s draft empowered the most radical and problematic elements in the region – Qatar, Turkey, and Hamas – and was a slap on the face to the rapidly forming camp of Egypt, Israel, the Palestinian Authority, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates, who have many shared interests. What Kerry’s draft spells for the internal Palestinian political arena is even direr: It crowns Hamas and issues Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas with a death warrant.

It’s not clear what Kerry was thinking when he presented this draft. It’s unclear what he had in mind when he convened the Paris summit. It can only be seen as surreal. Along with foreign ministers from Europe’s major nations Kerry greeted with regal honors Hamas’ Qatari and Turkish patrons, ignoring what Israel, Egypt, and the Palestinian Authority might have had to say.

Wow, Israel’s NYT slams the administration hard. And in other news, the crazed illegal immigration situation draws large protests in Massachusetts, and elsewhere among traditionally loyal D’s. In some ways our current situation is a disaster, but it does open the door for realignments among people who can think like adults.

Bonus fun: Netanyahu goes off on the nutty Presbyterians.

Then and now

July 26th, 2014

A president 100 years ago:

I don’t like the way the colors of this furniture fight each other. The greens and the reds are all mixed up here and there is no harmony. Here is a big purpose, high-backed covered chair, which is like the Purple Cow, strayed off to itself

Could the modern version be “the bear is loose?” Bonus question: what do the Pope and the governments of Great Britain, Italy and Canada have in common? Sigh.

Why not promote them………and other matters

July 25th, 2014

Jim Fox, the leader of the Mid-Iowa Boy Scout Troop 111:

The scouts and their leaders were on a 21-day trek from Iowa to Alaska – a trip that had been three years in the planning. As their vans were moving through a checkpoint into the United States, one of the scouts snapped a photograph. Agents stopped the van and ordered all the passengers to get out. They told the underage photographer that he had committed a federal crime. It was unclear which agency with the Department of Homeland Security’s CBP agency was involved in the incident. “The agent immediately confiscated his camera, informed him he would be arrested, fined possibly $10,000 and ten years in prison,” Fox told Des Moines television station KCCI. During the search, one of the scouts tried to retrieve a bag from the roof carrier. When he turned around, Fox said an agent had a loaded pistol pointed at the child. “He heard a snap of the holster, turns around, and here’s this agent, both hands on a loaded pistol, pointing at the young man’s head,” Fox told the television station. The scoutmaster wrote a detailed account of the incident on his Facebook page. He said he tried to watch the agents search the van but was ordered to return to his vehicle. An agent followed him and told the youngsters “that the next one to leave the van would be handcuffed and detained.” “The agent in charge informed me of the potential charges against (the) scout and informed me it is a violation of federal law for any American to take a picture of a federal agent or any federal building,” Fox wrote. Fox said he and another member of the troop were interrogated by agents – forced to answer questions about their background. They also wanted to know why the Boy Scouts were hauling “excessive amounts of lighters, matches and knives,” Fox said. After a lengthy delay, the Scouts were released

Too bad they were released, or we’d might recommend that the agents be promoted 1500 miles south to stem this disaster. And in other news, “killing bald and golden eagles remains a felony punishable by a $250,000 fine and prison time…In 2009, the agency first instituted a permit system to allow exemptions from prosecution—for five years—for wind farms and certain other projects that inadvertently harm or kill eagles. Last year, it extended the duration of permits for ‘non-purposeful take of eagles’ to 30 years.”

Final thoughts: Joan Rivers, and in lighter fare, “By Grabthar’s Hammer…what a savings.”

Tranquility Base

July 24th, 2014

No, not that Tranquility Base of 45 years ago. (Amazing how quickly going to the moon made for boring TV.) Bob Tyrell describes our new tranquility base, and the twist is that he’s actually a little hopey changey himself, certainly more than Mark Steyn, who sees endless violent cycles of Lather, Rinse, Repeat ad infinitum. (BTW, he displays a picture that really is worth a thousand words.) Bonus fun: Roger Simon discusses the lovely UN that gets $6-7 billion or more a year from us. Bonus question: how many refugee camps can you name that are older than the states of Alaska and Hawaii, and the countries Tanzania and Republic of Congo? Is the number more or less than the total number of countries in Africa? Guess first then peek.

Final comment: Baba Booey!

Let’s change the subject

July 23rd, 2014

Jalopnik:

On assignment for the Wall Street Journal, I was in San Francisco to drive the original Bullitt chase scene in a new, 2011 Ford Mustang V6. In the passenger seat was Loren Janes, the fabled Hollywood stuntman and McQueen double who had driven the movie’s most exciting scenes. Loren had graciously flown up from Burbank for the day to take the ride. What’s more, I had a CD of the Bullitt soundtrack to set the mood. The result is in Wednesday’s Wall Street Journal.

Loren is a very level-headed guy who spent years doing crazy things for a living. Really crazy things. He pulled off hair-raising stunts in more than 500 movies-nearly all of them household names. He also has added excitement to more than 2,100 TV episodes. You realize that without guys like Loren, movies over the past 50 years would be rather static. When I asked Loren if anything scares him, Loren said matter-of-factly: “Not really. I’m asked that often. I’m not really afraid of anything, and I’ve never broken a bone. I’ve been a gymnast, a Marine, a diver and Olympic athlete, which was great preparation for stunt work. I was always comfortable in the air.”

Today’s post isn’t about jazz, but it’s certainly about cool. For those who share my fascination with Bullitt or have always been curious about stuntmen, especially those who began their careers in the early 1950s, here’s what Loren said to me during our conversation leading up to our drive on Sunday:

“I first met Steve McQueen while working on the TV show ‘Wanted: Dead or Alive.’ Steve was the star. Apparently, there had been two stuntmen there Steve didn’t like, and they were both fired. They called me because they had scenes to film and I lived about five minutes from the studio.



“When I showed up on the set, I walked past Steve, who was sitting around. We were both taken with how much we looked like each other. He asked me to get him a coffee. I wasn’t happy that he was treating me like a gofer. I walked up to him and said, ‘I’m going to make you look better than you can make yourself look. Just don’t blow my close-ups.’



“As I walked away, I could hear him scream to the director or someone, ‘Fire him.’ Apparently they had said to him in response, ‘No, no, he has to do the stunt first. We’ll fire him after if you want.’ 



“When it was time to do the first stunt, the coordinator told me Steve wanted it done as athletic as possible — meaning realistic and seemingly impossible. The stunt called for me to go through a low window in a barn, roll off the ground, leap up, vault over two horses, land on Steve’s animal and ride off.

“I spent some time walking the set to make sure the ground was clean and that there were no surprises. I moved the horses a little closer together and moved a rock that I could use to spring off to go over the horses.



”When the director yelled, ‘Action!,’ I went through the window, did my somersault, ran 15 feet to the horses, leaped over two of them, landed on Steve’s horse and took off. Steve couldn’t believe it. I worked out daily on parallel bars and other gymnastic equipment in my backyard, so vaulting over the horses wasn’t a problem.



“On my way back, I brought him a coffee, and he laughed. From that day forward I worked with him on every movie he made, including his last, The Hunter, in 1980, where I had to hang off the Chicago elevated train traveling at 55 mph.

Bullitt is on TCM today, and TCM is one of the few best hopes for a revival of the American values of several centuries. What would you prefer, VDH links to the upending of obvious choices between good and evil?

Moral clarity, one way or the other

July 22nd, 2014

Benjamin Netanyahu:

Who wants civilian casualties? Who wants to accelerate and escalate? We’re forced to do it. And what would you do? What would anybody do? You know, you just have to put yourself in Israel’s place. And if you’re a leader, put yourself in my place. And ask a simple question, what would you do?

If you look at the historical antecedents, the answer is very clear. Israel is acting with great restraint because there’s no other country that’s been rocketed like this, with thousands of rockets. We’ve just had close to 2,000 rockets and mortars in the last few days, on every — just about every one of our cities…

Well, the only parallel, history parallel is Britain, rocketed by the Nazis in World War II. I don’t — you know, if we start drawing parallels, what Britain did compared to what we do, we’ve been showing a hell of a lot of restraint. So if there is any complaints, and there should be, about civilian deaths that they belong, the responsibility and the blame belongs in one place, Hamas. I don’t think anyone should get that wrong…

you know, in the Middle East, it takes two to tango, sometimes three and maybe four. The point is that there’s one side that is clearly bent on escalation and one side, that is Israel, that is bent on defending its people, as any country would under similar circumstances…

I’ll tell you what my experiences have been. I’ve been in war. I’ve been in battle. And when you take a surgical operation, you can’t guarantee when your soldiers are being fired from Hamas homes, that is, Hamas is targeting people with — from private homes. And you hit them back. Of course, some people are going to be hurt. That’s totally different from deliberately targeting them. We asked these civilians, before we went in, we said, please leave. We text them. We call them on cell phones. We drop leaflets. We told them where to go. And those who left were safe.

Now, those who didn’t leave, you know what they didn’t leave? Because Hamas told them to be there, because Hamas, while we try to avoid Palestinian civilian dead, Hamas wants Palestinian civilian dead. The more the better, so they can give you telegenic fodder. So this is the cruelest, most grotesque war that I’ve ever seen. I mean not only does Hamas target civilians, ours, and hides behind their civilians, theirs, it actually wants to pile up as many civilian deaths as possible.

Meanwhile, you have the NYT (HT: Noah Pollak), Code Pink, and many others — ah yes, the anonymous “youths” have reappeared — arrayed against Israel. Strange times indeed to find ourselves, Alan Dershowitz and Bill Maher on the same page.

4 years and 2300 words ago

July 21st, 2014

An analysis in Forbes by a McKinsey specialist in banking and a professor at BU found fault with the Dodd-Frank finance bill, whose anniversary is today. It doesn’t cover the things it needs to cover with clarity and simplicity, and it includes micro-managing of everything from Congolese minerals to Chinese drywall:

Hello Dodd-Frank — the most comprehensive rewrite of financial rules since 1933. This 2,319-page colossus — 10 times the length of Glass-Steagall — took 1.5 years to produce and will cost $30 billion and many more years to implement. Will all this time and treasure make Wall Street safe for Main Street? No.

Dodd-Frank is a full-employment act for regulators that addresses everything but the root causes of the financial collapse. It serves up a dog’s breakfast covering proprietary trading, consumer financial protection, derivatives trading, executive pay, credit card fees, whistle-blowers, minority inclusion and Congolese minerals. Dodd-Frank also mandates 68 new studies of carbon markets, Chinese drywalls, and person-to-person lending, and many other irrelevancies.

None of this deals with the central problem — Wall Street’s ability to hide behind claims of proprietary information to facilitate the production and sale of trillions of dollars in securities whose true values are almost impossible for outsiders to determine…With no way to independently verify, in real time, the precise nature of financial firms’ assets and liabilities, they are all vulnerable to panics by investors, counterparties, and depositors, based on rumors and speculation as well as fact.

The resulting serial collapse of Wall Street behemoths, in turn, led Uncle Sam to step in and issue his own brand of increasingly hard-to-value securities — some $24 trillion (according to Neal Barofsky, Congress’ TARP watchdog) in contingent guarantees to all manner of financial companies. This is a colossal liability, almost twice U.S. gross domestic product. If another massive bank run hit Wall Street–say, next week–Uncle Sam would be forced to print trillions to cover these guarantees. The prospect of getting paid back in watered-down dollars might then lead people to run even faster to the banks, to get their money and buy something tangible before prices skyrocket. Ultimately, Uncle Sam’s guarantees are only worth what they are written on — paper.

So Uncle Sam didn’t lead us out of the woods; he led us deeper into the woods. While he (temporarily) saved Wall Street, he may have gravely endangered Main Street. Meanwhile, many major players on Wall Street have been laughing all the way from their banks.

“Dodd-Frank rulemaking by various agencies has already resulted in more than three million words in the Federal Register, though most of the 387 mandated sets of rules have not even been put forth.” You won’t be surprised to learn that the regs still are not complete.

45 years ago

July 20th, 2014

Pretty exciting for black and white TV.