Saturday Cartoon Fun: Die Quickly Edition


Glenn Beck: Media's Biggest Putz Uses Vick's Vaporub To Induce Tears

Vick's Vaporub for tears!

h/t C&L

How Not To Fix A "Failing" School

Teachers talk: ‘Reform’ and student murder in Chicago

Word is that Attorney General Eric Holder and Education Secretary Arne Duncan will travel to Chicago next week to address the brutal and tragic beating death of Derrion Albert. The plan is to talk to students, parents, community members, and school officials at Fenger High School, where Albert inadvertently got caught in a gang melee and was beaten mercilessly in a violent scene captured on video.

Parents and teachers have been shouting out warnings about the school for months. Maybe this time, someone will listen.

In a damning report in Substance News, former teacher and union security and safety director George N. Schmidt chronicles the story behind the story at Fenger. It’s must reading for anyone who cares about the public schools. Earlier this year, Fenger was subjected to “turnaround,” another word for draconian reform of a failing high school.  Despite warnings from parents and teachers as early as February, the Chicago Public School system fired most of the staff in this “turnaround” in June and July. Students went back in September to a school where nobody knew them.

What does it mean in a gang-infested high school where tensions run high on a typical day? What happens when students walk into a building where no one, not even the janitors, recognizes their faces, knows their family situation, knows their affiliations, their histories? Teacher Deborah Lynch explains it eloquently in a column in today’s Chicago Sun Times.
No one at Fenger this year has known their kids for more than three weeks… I am not saying that knowing the kids better could have averted the melee and tragic death of last week, obviously. But trouble had been brewing at the school even before last week . Staff reported a riot the previous week inside the building, involving teachers being hit, and that two different police stations had to be called in to quell the disturbance. Those are the times when the staff members draw on their relationships with kids to urge restraint, to urge calm and peace, to try to talk things out rather than fight things out. Those are the times when a seasoned staff can identify strategies and resources to address and prevent further problems.
via Safety at Fenger yields to ‘reform’ :: CHICAGO SUN-TIMES :: Other Views.
Lynch further explains the depth of those relationships, which run deep.
We give them bus money when they have forgotten theirs. We share our lunches with those who missed breakfast. We kid them, we laugh with them, we exhort them to do better, to get to school on time, to work hard. A colleague buys suit jackets for the guys to wear to graduation. Another takes kids to get prom dresses. The list of connections and affection and love and sharing goes on and on.
And they comfort them when a student dies a senseless and shameful death.

There are lessons to be learned here, and the popular instinct to blame the teachers when a school is failing needs to be rethought. “Reformers” need to listen to the teachers who have been out there in the trenches all these years. They need to listen before a student is beaten to death. They need to listen before another young man like Derrion Albert dies and makes the headlines for a few days. They need to listen before, not after, a city has blood on its hands as it campaigns to host the Olympics. [emphasis mine]

The William Tell Overture Rocked!

This guy is awesome!

Teacher Evaluations Based On Student Scores: It's Official

It's now official: Teachers will be evaluated based on the scores of their students (in D.C.... for now). Congratulations, America!
New D.C. Teacher Ratings Stress Better Test Scores

By Bill Turque

D.C. Schools Chancellor Michelle A. Rhee has launched a rigorous evaluation system that will make some District teachers among the first in the nation to have their job security tied to standardized test scores.

The effort to hold teachers accountable for student progress, which began last week, is a cornerstone of Rhee's agenda and a goal for education reformers nationwide. They contend that the best way to improve schools is to continuously monitor and improve teacher performance. The "value added" -- what instructors contribute to student growth on tests -- is a more meaningful indicator of progress than the absolute numerical targets in the federal No Child Left Behind law, advocates say.
"Academic progress must be measured by growth," Rhee said. "By using value-added analysis we will finally be able to consistently reward and recognize the significant contributions of every adult in a school building."

Rhee is investing $4 million in the system, called IMPACT, which will also assess teachers against an elaborate new framework of requirements and guidelines that cover a range of factors, including classroom presence and how carefully they check for student understanding of the material.


Yes, It Is Real

Explanation: At about 100 meters from the cargo bay of the space shuttle Challenger, Bruce McCandless II was farther out than anyone had ever been before. Guided by a Manned Maneuvering Unit (MMU), astronaut McCandless, pictured above, was floating free in space. McCandless and fellow NASA astronaut Robert Stewart were the first to experience such an "untethered space walk" during Space Shuttle mission 41-B in 1984. The MMU works by shooting jets of nitrogen and has since been used to help deploy and retrieve satellites. With a mass over 140 kilograms, an MMU is heavy on Earth, but, like everything, is weightless when drifting in orbit. The MMU was replaced with the SAFER backpack propulsion unit.

Thursday Cartoon Fun: Education Edition


My New Progressive Hero

Finally. A Democrat who is a liberal, and smart enough to not only hold his own, but spout the Right's favorite Saffirism right back in their smug faces. Even James Carville is publicly impressed.

Do a YouTube search for Representative Alan Grayson; this is not even the most impressive thing he's done.  He is a Harvard educated lawyer (with honors!) and economist.  He is no slouch.  He deserves a serious look, as I think he may have what it takes to mobilize Progressives and get the change we actually voted for.

Alan Grayson, freshman congressman from Orlando, Florida.  My new hero.  You can donate some money to him here.

Palo Alto Adopts Everyday Math! Suckers! Meeting Tonight!!

From the Palo Alto Unified School District:

Welcome to the 2009-10 school year in the Palo Alto Unified School District.   Our staff has been very busy preparing for the implementation of the new math program, Everyday Math (EDM).

Close to 200 teachers attended a 3 day Summer Math Institute, in which they had time to be trained on the program and begin collaborating with their colleagues.  In addition, all of the teachers attended differentiated professional learning workshops on the August Staff Development Day. 

And the principals, with district office curriculum staff, spent a day with an EDM administrative consultant learning about the program and discussing ways to support teachers in implementing the new materials.   We have a number of on-going professional learning days planned throughout the school year for teachers, as well as parent information nights.  We will have a Fall  “EDM Author Evening” for the community to hear from the authors from the University of Chicago School Mathematics Project who developed this program over the past twenty years.  All of these meetings will be posted within the next few weeks so that the community can mark their calendars to attend.

"A Conversation with Everyday Mathematics Authors" Sept. 30th at Nixon School at 7pm - 9 pm

It's International Blasphemy Day!

International Blasphemy Day

I didn't find out till just now! Blasphemous!


The Center for Inquiry (CFI), in conjunction with its Campaign for Free Expression, is pleased to announce a contest that will challenge your blaspheming skills. You are invited to submit a phrase, poem, or statement that would be, or would have been, considered blasphemous (loose definition: denying or scoffing at God or God’s alleged attributes). One of the reasons we are running this contest is to emphasize our view that there should be no restrictions on speech criticizing religion. For much of human history, religious institutions have successfully used force or the threat of force to suppress criticism. People have been subject to severe punishment (e.g., tongues being cut out, branding, or death) merely for questioning religious dogma.

Our primary purpose is not to offend religious sensibilities; but, of course, since some religious maintain that any criticism of religion is offensive, avoiding all offense would be difficult, if not impossible. In any event, the rules for the contest are as follows:

1. Any person over the age of 18 may submit up to two entries. Entries must be submitted by midnight (EDT) on October 1, 2009.

2. No employee, or relative by blood or marriage of an employee, of the Center for Inquiry or its affiliates is eligible to enter the contest.

3. All submissions become property of CFI to use, reproduce, or distribute as it sees fit in its sole discretion, although authorship will be acknowledged. CFI, in its discretion may forego any intellectual property rights for those entries that are not judged to be among the five best entries, as specified below.

4. By submitting an entry, the contestant warrants that the work is original. (No plagiarizing from Satan or his minions.) The contestant also warrants that the submission does not violate the intellectual property rights of any person or entity. In addition, by submitting an entry, the contestant grants permission to CFI to use his or her name for publicity purposes, including, but not limited to, announcing the results of the contest.

5. Submissions may take any form, including limericks and haikus. However, there will be a limit of twenty words, which will be strictly enforced. English is the official language of the contest and only entries in English will be reviewed. Please note: do not submit cartoons. There is a separate cartoon contest.

6. Entries should be emailed to blasphemycontest@centerforinquiry.net. Place “CFI Blasphemy Contest” in the subject line.

7. A panel of judges will determine the top five entries (unless God strikes them dead first). In reaching their decision, the judges will favor submissions that are creative, insightful, cogent, and memorable.

8. CFI does not believe in censorship, so you can say anything you want in your entry. However, you should be aware that crude entries are unlikely to win. Sexual jokes tend to exhibit little imagination. Entries should be more like: “God is the Santa Claus You Never Stopped Believing In” or “Be Christian: Get Three Gods for the Price of One” instead of some joke about priests and altar boys or Mary and the dove.

9. The decisions of the judges will be final and unreviewable. The top five winners will receive a CFI t-shirt with their submission imprinted on the t-shirt. The overall first place winner will also receive a coffee mug with her/his submission on the mug. In addition, the overall winner will be recognized in a forthcoming issue of Free Inquiry as well as on CFI’s web site, and will receive whatever publicity we can reasonably obtain. Plus, of course, eternal damnation.

10. This contest is void where prohibited by law—but if the law in question prohibits blasphemy, let us know.

Don't Ask, Don't Tell: Make It Go Away

The Boston Globe reports that the forthcoming issue of Joint Forces Quarterly seeks to determine a link between openly gay servicemembers and unit cohesion, the prime argument against allowing such service. Conclusion:
 “After a careful examination, there is no scientific evidence to support the claim that unit cohesion will be negatively affected if homosexuals serve openly,’’ writes Colonel Om Prakash, who is now working in the office of Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates. “Based on this research, it is not time for the administration to reexamine the issue; rather it is time for the administration to examine how to implement the repeal of the ban.’’
It would be nice to say we can consider this shameful chapter of American history closed, but first Secretary Gates, President Obama and Congress have to actually close it. There are no excuses. If there ever were. And there weren't.
h/t Attackerman

I assume most of my readers are on the same page as the Colonel mentioned above. We have heard from gay soldiers and their buddies that gayness is not an issue, not should it be an issue, in the military. We have known this for a long time.

This is also one of the things President Obama could fix right now. He doesn't need a law created. He is the Commander in Chief. It is his military and he can direct Gates to end all inquiries into teh gay. He can suspend DADT with a swipe of his pen. That he won't, or hasn't, is to me very predictive of how his presidency is going to be. I am not encouraged.

Congress Has Its Own Physician (Government-Run, Single-Payer)

This sure is a nice perk congress has granted itself:
Formally called the Office of the Attending Physician, the clinic — and at least six satellite offices — bills its mission as one of emergency preparedness and public health. Each day, it stands ready to handle medical emergencies, biological attacks and the occasional fainting tourist visiting Capitol Hill.
Officially, the office acknowledges these types of services, including providing physicals to Capitol police officers and offering flu shots to congressional staffers. But what is rarely discussed outside the halls of Congress is the office’s other role — providing a wealth of primary care medical services to senators, representatives and Supreme Court justices.
What’s noteworthy here isn’t just the existence of the perk, it’s the specific form. Congress could have voted itself higher salaries. Or better travel benefits. Or larger appropriations so the congressional cafeterias can serve better food. But or just more generous health insurance. But what they wanted here was socialized medicine—health care that’s not only financed by the state but directly provided by government employees. This kind of state-provided health care is basically universal in the UK, it accounts for an important chunk of the health care in Sweden, and it’s what we give to our veterans in the United States. But most members of congress claim regard it as a horrifying prospect. And yet in practice they appear to like it just fine.
You should go read the comments at Yglesias too.

From MY

Do You Like Grapes?

From American Rights At Work, via my cousin:
Dear Friend,

If you've ever bought table grapes for yourself or your family, I think you need to know this...

Right now Giumarra Vineyard Corporation's - the country's leading table grape company - is forcing California farmworkers to endure humiliations and abuse I really didn't think still existed in this country.

They've forced workers to "race" through searing 100 degree heat to see who can pick the most grapes - and then fired the "losers." Their foremen scream at workers to produce more and give them unpaid "time-outs" if they dare to question supervisors. They deny workers water, shade, and breaks. Already two workers have died of heat-related causes in their fields.

These California farmworkers have been trying to fight back by forming a union, but they need help from the public to demand real change from Giumarra.

I just signed a petition to Giumarra demanding better treatment for these workers. Would you join me by signing the petition today?

You can read more and sign the petition by clicking the link below.

Thanks so much for helping me speak out for workers rights. Your help means a great deal to me! action.americanrightsatwork.org

I Guess It's Video Day

Music making and playing an instrument are a great way to expand your life experience. Adults and kids alike enjoy making music, and they often do it together, like in this video.

We need the arts in school so we can find kids like this little drummer in the video and allow him to inspire others, hone his skills, and enjoy a musical life. Of course, he needs to go school first!

h/t swimming freestyle

Update: I guess the video was pulled. Search "Jonah Rocks" on YouTube if you want to see this kid. He's pretty awesome!

Representative Alan Grayson On The Republican Health Care Plan

I think Alan Grayson has a bright, Progressive future!

Remember This Guy?

From a campaign speech in Wallingford, Pa. on April 2, 2008:

Where did that guy go? He was purchased by Gates and Broad.

h/t Mike Klonsky


Tuesday Cartoon Fun: Wash Me Edition

Tuesday Cartoon Fun: Jesus Was A Socialist Edition

Live Senate Health Care Debate: Updated

Watch it live here:

Update: Don't bother. It's too depressing. I must say, some of these guys don't sound too smart. I liked Schumer and Stabenow, and of course Wyden. The sleeping Senator sounded like he is actually mentally compromised.  It was a depressing spectacle.

All the talk on the specifics of reimbursement, authorized procedures, young invincibles and the rest could all be done away with if we simply went single-payer and made the rich people pay most of their fair share of the bill.  After all, it is the employees of America who make the greedy bastards rich, so the least they can do is foot most of the bill for our healthcare.  Right, coal miners?  Lumberjacks?


Wrong Terms

Why do religious people call those of us who don't believe (in fairy tales) "non-theists?"

We should be the unencumbered.

We should be called "people" and they, the "theists" can be called "theists" or, more accurately, "those who believe in fairy tales."

I hate religion, can you tell?  It's a bit tough on my son who will be a bar-mitzvah next year!

Hey! Max Baucus! Who's Side Are You On?

Pass it around!

Saved Due To Lack Of Indoctrination (Re-posted because you should watch it)

A 21st Century Education
Yong Zhao
No Child Left Behind and
Global Competitiveness

Yong Zhao is the University Distinguished Professor of Education at Michigan State University, where he also serves as the founding director of the Center for Teaching and Technology as well as the US-China Center for Research on Educational Excellence. He is a fellow of the International Academy for Education and currently serves on the National Academy of Sciences National Research Council’s Committee to Review the Title VI and Fulbright-Hays International Education Programs.

Zhao received his Ph.D. in Education from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in 1996. His research interests include diffusion of innovation, teacher adoption of technology, computer assisted language learning, globalization and education, and international and comparative education. Zhao has published extensively in these areas. He has been invited to lecture on issues related to education reform, globalization, and technology in more than 10 countries. He received the 2003 Raymond B. Catell Early Career Award from the American Educational Research Association.

Zhao asks whether it’s sensible for American students to emulate their Asian (particularly Chinese) counterparts by adopting rigorous science and math curricula and an extended school day in order to stay “competitive” globally. While Zhao recognizes that there are fundamental problems with American public education, he praises the culture of education in this country, a culture that prizes ingenuity, entrepreneurship and individuality and celebrates personal expression for its own sake. He criticizes No Child Left Behind, asserting that standardized testing in a limited number of subjects as a way to measure performance is inadequate to meet the real challenges of the 21st century.

Monday Cartoon Fun: Nuclear Iran Edition

Obama Is Wrong About Longer School Days

From AP:
Obama and Duncan say kids in the United States need more school because kids in other nations have more school.

"Young people in other countries are going to school 25, 30 percent longer than our students here," Duncan told the AP. "I want to just level the playing field."

While it is true that kids in many other countries have more school days, it's not true they all spend more time in school.

Kids in the U.S. spend more hours in school (1,146 instructional hours per year) than do kids in the Asian countries that persistently outscore the U.S. on math and science tests - Singapore (903), Taiwan (1,050), Japan (1,005) and Hong Kong (1,013). That is despite the fact that Taiwan, Japan and Hong Kong have longer school years (190 to 201 days) than does the U.S. (180 days).
There you have it. The Obama administration doesn't care about reality when it comes to education. The President has attached himself to the wrong side of this issue, not to mention the wrong SOE, Arne Duncan, who was by most accounts a failure as CEO of Chicago Public Schools.

We don't need longer school days. We don't need more school days in the year.  We need better days.

We need:
  • Early childhood education
  • Universal health care
  • Jobs, jobs and jobs
  • To repeal NCLB as well as the testing regime
  • To deepen the curriculum, not narrow it

Activists: Join The Conference!

Mobilizing Conference to Save Public Education

October 24 Mobilizing Conference to Save Public Education

We have the power to stop the catastrophic budget cuts, fee hikes, and layoffs -- but to save public education in California requires coordinating our actions on a statewide level.

We invite all UC, CSU, CC, and K-12 students, workers, teachers, and their organizations across the state to participate in and collectively build the October 24 Mobilizing Conference to Save Public Education. The all-day conference will take place at UC Berkeley (contact us for more logistics).

The purpose of this conference is both simple and extremely urgent: to democratically decide on a statewide action plan capable of winning this struggle, which will define the future of public education in this state, particularly for the working class and communities of color.

Why UC Berkeley? On September 24, over 5,000 people massively protested and effectively paralyzed the UCB campus, as part of the UC-wide walkout. A mass General Assembly of over 400 individuals and dozens of organizations met that night and collectively decided to issue this call.

We ask all organizations and individuals in the state who want to save public education to endorse this open conference and help us collectively build it.

Save public education!
No budget cuts, fee hikes, or layoffs!
For statewide student, worker, and faculty solidarity!

Please contact oct24conference@gmail.com to endorse this conference and to receive more details.


Watch Skier Get Buried In...And Recovered From Avalanche!

It's a bit incredible and worth 8 minutes of your time. There is nothing scary here, but it is incredible. Obviously the text under the vid goes with it (it's not mine!)

In April of 2008 I drove from Lake Tahoe to Haines, Alaska up the Al-Can highway through British Columbia and the Yukon with an enclosed 4-snowmobile trailer and a ton of gear. I told myself the year before after a few years of getting shut out that other than for a surgical strike, last minute type of spot open for the weekend or something....that I'd only come up with sleds from now on instead of sitting around drinking myself into oblivion on a "down day."

Well thank God we did that because we definitely had down days again right from the get-go. The sledding up at Haines Pass is out of control good. Even staying closer to town like below Old Faithful is great. Can't say enough about how much fun it is to ride snowmobiles up there with no trees.

So the first legit day after that main snow storm cycle, we still went out snowmobiling one more time wanting to let the snow set up a bit more....while another part of our group went up in the bird. Actually two groups went up in the bird, and the first group did all the normal day-after-storm-cycle snow pit and snow quality tests.

The first group decided that while the dangers remained elevated, that it was good to go. They all made some of the sickest pow turns in their lives I was told. The next group then - a couple hundred meters or so over - set up for their descent.

The guy in the video was the first one to drop from their group and while not a guide, he had a lot of Utah and AK backcountry experience. He had a Black Diamond Avalung on, but as you can tell from the video while he's talking as he's dropping in, it wasn't in his mouth to start. He tried to shove it in the instant of starting to get sucked down, but it didn't stay in fully during his ragdoll descent. It was just off to the corner of his mouth he said, and he definitely got some snow / ice in his mouth still.

So as he drops in you can also see the sluff to the skier's right immediately start building....and that's actually the chute that was the intended route down. For whatever reason - well pure, unadulterated powder will do it to you - he didn't go make some strong "skier cuts" into the upper pack to do one final snow check as instructed by the main guide who was doing the "tail gunner" work.

Instead he just sent it. And it didn't take more than a few turns out on this big shoulder above this cliff band to break loose.

This was a decent sized avalanche. 1,500 feet the dude fell in a little over 20 seconds. The crown was about 1 - 1.5m. The chute that he got sucked through to the skier's right was flanked on either side by cliff bands that were about 30m tall. He luckily didn't break any bones and obviously didn't hit anything on the run out.

He was only buried for 4 and a half minutes which is incredibly short. I cannot stress these next sentences enough; that in and of itself to be unburied in ONLY 4:28 is miraculous if you have any understanding of being caught in an avalanche and what it takes to be found. It could literally be some kind of "world record" just on how good the guide and supporting cast of other skiers was in getting to him. It also shows why you should ALWAYS be going with people trained in avalanche rescue / first aid....as well as why you'd want to be going with a guided heli operation. Sure this was terrifying for him, but he would've probably been dead if not for going with a guide.

He also got very lucky to be honest. In the time that he's buried, you can hear his breathing already accelerate. The ruffling noise back and forth is his chest rising and falling and the noise that his jacket makes. The intermittent whimpering noise you hear is him trying to swallow and get some air since the avalung wasn't fully in his mouth and instead just to the corner of his mouth. Still sends chills up the back of my neck. Oh...the luck? They located him so fast because his right glove came off just before he came completley to rest and there was an excellent visual of course.

And then the digging out is utterly amazing. I don't think that you could've paid a Hollywood crew to stage something better. The fact that he could've been facing any 360 direction and yet he's looking right up into the sun-filled blue sky with that first full scoop away of the shovel is borderline spiritual.

This is simply a very sobering and unbelievable video. However, you should take away from this video all the positive things that you can learn from it. Yes there are risks to the backcountry - but with proper gear, training, and guide(s) with avalanche and EMT training - you can greatly lower your chances of getting caught in an avalanche in the first place.....and coming back alive if you ever were to get caught in a slide.

Respect Mother Nature for sure. Learn from this. But just like a Craig Kelly in the snowboard world or a Shane McConkey in the ski world who died out in the backcountry (Craig via avalanche and Shane via ski B.A.S.E. jumping), they left this earth while doing the things that they were truly passionate about. And while they would stress the need for the proper gear and training....neither one would want backcountry enthusiasts to curtail their adventures because of their accidents....or this video.

Please check with your local resort for classes on backcountry training, or try starting with a place like AIARE - the American Institute for Avalanche Research and Training. Their website is avtraining.org.

Why Things Are The Way They Are: Electrical Sockets Version

h/t Sully

William Safire, R.I.P

William Safire has died. Remember when Reagan died? I feel the same way, though Safire was wittier:

William Safire's Rules for Writers:
  • Remember to never split an infinitive.
  • The passive voice should never be used.
  • Do not put statements in the negative form.
  • Verbs have to agree with their subjects.
  • Proofread carefully to see if you words out.
  • If you reread your work, you can find on rereading a great deal of repetition can be by rereading and editing.
  • A writer must not shift your point of view.
  • And don't start a sentence with a conjunction. (Remember, too, a preposition is a terrible word to end a sentence with.)
  • Don't overuse exclamation marks!!
  • Place pronouns as close as possible, especially in long sentences, as of 10 or more words, to their antecedents.
  • Writing carefully, dangling participles must be avoided.
  • If any word is improper at the end of a sentence, a linking verb is.
  • Take the bull by the hand and avoid mixing metaphors.
  • Avoid trendy locutions that sound flaky.
  • Everyone should be careful to use a singular pronoun with singular nouns in their writing.
  • Always pick on the correct idiom.
  • The adverb always follows the verb.
  • Last but not least, avoid cliches like the plague; seek viable alternatives.

Happy Birthday Google

For its b-day, Google decided to misspell itself. Funny!

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