Thursday, December 18, 2014

Cuban Vacation Anyone?

No time so I will keep this short.  What do you think of Obama re-engaging Cuba?  Will the Congress embrace this bold change or balk?

CNN Obama and Cuba

My friend who went their for agricultural business said they have beautiful beaches...

Monday, December 15, 2014

That Stubborn Achievement Gap

Now if you want to talk about systemic racism, maybe this an example.

MinnPost Painful Truths About Mpls Schools

Are we saying that the education system is systemically racist?


Is there something else at play that is keeping these kids from getting ahead? (ie parents, culture, priorities, attitudes, capability, lead, etc)

See the Minnpost comments for some more of my thoughts.

G2A Why are poor people poor?
G2A Factors Affecting Educational Success

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Do We Want Police to Stop Thinking

 I found both these comments very interesting, especially Ilya's.  Thoughts?
MinnPost US Too Many in Jail
"Police officers are taught to evaluate the risk (to them and community) and act accordingly. So they do use their prior knowledge, experience, and statistics to make a decision (which they often have to make quickly). Imagine yourself walking down the street and seeing a Golden Retriever running at you. Unless you are afraid of all dogs, most likely you will not feel fear. Now imagine a Rottweiler running at you… So basically you will be judging the situation based on your general knowledge and statistics of dog bites which is a very reasonable thing to do. The same with police officers – and the danger is higher. Obviously, all three things police officers are considering before making a decision involve noticing the race of people around them but that is not the same as racism. In other words, race is taken into account but most likely that is not due to racism (even though there are racists around in general and in police force in particular but not as many as some want to claim).

For example, George Zimmerman did take Trayvon Martin’s race into account when he made a decision to confront him even though his supporters may say that he did not. But it wasn’t racism that influenced him, as Martin’s supporters assert, but the knowledge that young black men had burglarized the neighborhood. Zimmerman acted rationally on the basis of very specific information he had because his goal was to prevent possible burglary in his area. If he were to confront a black teenager in this manner in, let’s say, Disneyland, it would have been much less reasonable and the possibility that he were acting this way because he was a racist would have been much higher.

Here is another example. Imagine police are called for a burglary in progress in a store. When a police officer arrives, she sees a person running out of the store; clearly she will try to stop that person because the behavior looks suspicions. Now imagine she sees two people running out of the store – a man in a suit and a man in dirty ragged clothing. If an officer may stop only one person, she will have to make an immediate decision and most likely she will go after a disheveled man based on experience even though in this case it may be wrong. Imagine now that there is a man and a woman running out of the store. Again, if she can stop only one, she will stop a man and not because she is sexist but because it is more likely that a burglar is a man. Same with the case if there is a black and white man running out of the store dressed about the same; again, it is more reasonable to go after a black man based on statistics, not bias. A police officer may be wrong in her judgments in all of the above cases but she is doing what is the most logical thing in each case which has nothing to do with racism or sexism or any other bias.

The fact that there are more black people in jails affects people’s perception in general and police officers’ perception in particular but not because they are racists. So while there may be some truth to saying that it may be more difficult to be a young black male, that is not because of racism (and obviously, I would tell my white son not to grab police officer’s gun and cooperate with them all the time, just the same as a black father should tell his son). But the only way out of this situation lies within black community, not white community. If blacks commit less crime (and now they do commit more crimes regardless of effect of perceptions) then perceptions will go away.

Sure, I can see people saying that this perception I am talking about is racism. But it is not –because racism is subconscious and this behavior is rational, just like fearing Rottweiler more than Golden Retriever.

Mr. Rovick, the question should be how many violent and repeated criminals on the street can a society support? I am sure my system will result in fewer people in prisons, less crime, and not so overworked court system." Ilya
  And Jon had an equally interesting comment.
"The dilemma is that street crime and crimes against other poor people occur where poor people live which tend to be disproportionately African-American. Poor people also are involved disproportionately in crime for survival, e.g. drug trade. Also, law enforcement has attempted to lower crime rates by so-called "broken window" policies that also has a tendency to target poor people for petty offenses, like jaywalking, turnstile jumping and shoplifting or possession. (It would be interesting to see some comparative statistics on level of arrest and prosecution for possession of firearms (conceal and carry) by race and class.).

The other side of "broken windows" policies is that poor people tend to be victims of more serious crimes which "broken window" law enforcement policies often ignore. I've read that many residents of poor communities feel unprotected by the police who are unresponsive to the serious crimes committed there against them while feeling and often being victimized by the police for committing these petty offenses. I personally know someone (white) who used to live in a racially mixed but poor section of Milwaukee whose home was burgled 20-30 times and who, when reporting one of the crimes while in progress to the Milwaukee police was asked to call back after the criminals had left the home. This person confirmed this perception for me.

I wonder of anyone has seen the HBO show "The Wire"? This show really grapples with the topic of Eric's post in a realistic way from a dramatic angle. It was written by a former Baltimore Sun reporter and a former Baltimore homicide detective and featured among its cast former members of the Baltimore police as well as former (and in some cases not completely reformed) criminals. I've read that many cops have confirmed the realism and authenticity of this show from a law enforcement standpoint. What this show dramatizes so effectively (and probably understates ), is just how law enforcement and law enforcement policies work (or really don't work) in the poor sections of our cities and how damaged and broken our cities are in this respect. (Caution: while I recommend this show, it's definitively in the "Rated R for violence, language and sexual conduct" territory.)." Jon

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Governmental Obstruction

Here is another comment I can not get by the Moderators over there...

MinnPost Can Klobuchar's MN Nice Melt Senate
"Four letters, VETO. Learn to love them conservatives, because you'll be seeing them, a lot. Then in 2016, when your heroes have regained minority status, perhaps somethng might get accomplished in the short time until the midterm. Welcome to governance in the 21st century." Matt

"Matt, If Obama starts using his VETO often, will you then write scathing comments that claim him to be the one obstructing the effective function of government like you did regarding the GOP controlled House?" G2A
We may get our first test of this concept, since there is a private pension reform rider on the spending bill.  If Obama vetoes, will he now be the one threatening to "default" on our commitments? Thoughts?

FOX News House Spending Plan
NY Times Spending Bill Hits Snag
CNBC Assault on Private Pensions

Saturday, December 6, 2014

MN 1 Billion Dollar Projected Surplus

Thankfully the GOP will be there to hold the DFL in check when it comes time to decide what to do with this surplus. Last time the DFL put some in the reserves, and spent most of it or gave it to people that typically vote DFL.

MinnPost $1 Billion Surplus Projected

MinnPost Anatomy of $1 Billion Surplus


Friday, December 5, 2014

Diversifying Police Departments

Speed Posting...  From MinnPost 94%

"Would it be beneficial to lower the standards for officers to get more local / minority officers?" G2A

Why do you think that for more minority officers to join the police force, standards need to be lowered? Jonathan

 "Then why don't we have a more diverse police force in Minneapolis.

Are you now saying that fully qualified Black, Latino and American Indian candidates are being turned down in a city that has been trying to diversify their police force for decades?

Police Employment Requirements:



Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Fewer Police is the Solution

Moderation over kill at MinnPost has me bring discussions back here again.  I have had 10 comments denied over the last couple of days...

MinnPost Why Riots?
"As to your talk of 'scapegoating' Darren Wilson... I for one don't believe that officers of the law should be able to violate that which they are sworn to uphold. Police must be held to a high standard, as should anyone who is sworn to duty should be, whether it's police, military, politicians, etc etc etc. The issue at hand is that we don't have an equal application of the law in our society, and you are directly blaming blacks for that problem." Jonathan
I thought my response was pretty tame and professional as usual, it went something like this.
"Michael Brown was very high on pot, he had stolen property from a store and physically threatened the clerk, he ignored the police officer when he was asked to get out of the middle of road where he brazenly walked, he then was foolish enough to attack a police officer carrying a gun. Wilson, a decorated experienced police officer who had never fired his gun in the line of the duty was then subjected to a full Grand Jury that exonerated him and confirmed that he broke NO laws.  Now he has had to quit his job and go into hiding because racist people want to hurt or kill that White police officer who killed that violent young Black man who physically attacked him.
If the problem is that there are too many police in the poor communities and they are too strict with the people living there.  The solution is simple, reduce the number of police in those communities until the ratio of officers per citizen is similar to say Plymouth or Minnetonka.  If the police were the problem, the crime rates should go down, local citizens should be happier, property values should increase, bars should be removed from the windows, and people should feel very comfortable walking the streets at night.
So if we cut the patrols in North Minneapolis, do you think the community would be safer and more desireable?" G2A 
Here is another article that holds promise.

MinnPost Racial Bias Discussion


Sunday, November 30, 2014

Obama Immigration Action

I am busy with the most vexing of seasonal problems, the annual fight to make all of my Christmas light strings actually light.  The most problematic is that beautiful "pre-wired" Christmas tree.  After years of struggling, I am finally removing the strings and starting over.  Which in itself is a challenge because the Chinese folks that put them on were very thorough.

So please feel free to discuss your holiday challenges.  Or you may find this article and the comments worthy of further discussion.  The typical commenters and myself have been having a good time with the topic.  And as usual we went a bit astray.

MinnPost Obama Immigration

By the way, since I was busy visiting family and forgot earlier.  I hope you all had a wonderful Thanksgiving Weekend !!!

Comic 1    Comic 2    Comic 3 (immigration)  Comic 4

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Saturday, November 22, 2014

China and Censorship

In many ways I think the government of China is doing some really good things for it's citizens:
  1. Though draconian in some ways, the one child law stopped an out of control unsustainable population growth rate.  This has helped to increase the size of their middle class.
  2. The government has spent a huge amount on excellent high speed trains and other infrastructure.
  3. Most of the citizens I work with seem just fine with their current form of government, which I assume means they are "not too unhappy" with their lives.
One must remember that just 30 years ago China was very far "behind the times" and today they have pretty well caught up , and working hard to pull ahead. (ie other than that air pollution problem...)  As one of my peers and I noted, China pretty much was technologically stagnant for nearly 50 years as the rest of the world progressed.

 The one thing that I have a hard time dealing with though is their blockage of web sites.  I apologize for not commenting or posting during my trip, however I could not access my blog which is hosted by a group within Google.

And I did not have time to take Jerry's advice to take a river cruise from Shanghai to Chongqing.  That is apparently a 9 day cruise.  It would be beautiful though.  Going from the Chongqing airport to the customer who was somewhat out of town was very scenic.  Chongqing is different from the other Chinese mega cities I have been in because it is built around some small mountains that are heavily covered with forest. (ie kind of like the Appalachians)  Therefore it is rather spread out and has more green space.  And as the last time I was there, they are putting up 30 story apartment/condo buildings everywhere. Thus my pet name for China... "The Land of 1 million Tower Cranes"

It looks something like these pictures I found on line.
Pic 1   Pic 2   Pic 3

And if you have visions of a backward China, check out the nice shack I had to stay at...  It was really roughing it...Hotel Hengda  The worst things about it was that it had 0 English speaking TV channels and I was only there 1 night, therefore I assume most of it's client are usually Chinese as they were during my stay.


Ps. Back to the topic of my post...  Apparently the Chinese government is telling it's citizens that the Hong Kong rallies are being sponsored by us Americans for some reason...  And those folks are likely to believe it because they have been raised on this type of misinformation since birth...

Friday, November 14, 2014

SCOTUS and Gay Marriage

Well for better or worse I leave for Shanghai & Chongqing tomorrow, so I will leave you with one of our favorite topics to discuss.  It has been a hot topic at MinnPost again due to the rural folks kicking DFL politicians out of their districts and with the potential SCOTUS case.

MinnPost How GOP Conquered Rural MN
MinnPost Same Sex Marriage will likely become a Supreme Court case

My simple views and questions are:
  • Rural citizens voted for the amendment to ban same sex marriage.  Soon after, their elected DFL representatives ignored their clear voice and voted for a bill to make it legal.  Of course they were not going to get re-elected and they shouldn't be.  They are elected to represent their district.
  • There is at this time no way to tell if a person is gay or straight, except to ask them. Whereas sex, race, disabilities, age and the other typically protected/constitutional status markers can be determined through records, observation, testing, etc.
  • Since there is no way to tell (yet), there can be no real classification of an LGBT person.  Pragmatically, there are people who live the LGBT lifestyle. I do believe that in time research will identify the factors, however at this time they have not.
  • Now religion is a very specific lifestyle / belief system that does have constitutional protection.  That was a very sensitive topic when the country was formed.
  • It seems to me that the same sex marriage proponents are arguing that all adults have the constitutional right to get legally married, and that it is illegal to keep any adults from getting married just because they live a different lifestyle or have different beliefs.
  • In summary, if adults want to get married the government must sanction those wishes.  Even if the majority of people in their state disagree with that lifestyle or belief system.
Center for Public Justice: Same Sex "Marriage" is not a Civil Right
Gay Marriage ProCon
Slate Same Sex Marriage is a Constitutional Right, Not a Democratic Issue
PEW Forum Constitutional Dimensions
WP Inverted Equal Protections
Gay Marriage Bans in 4 States Upheld

Personally, I think it should be left to the States and their citizens/governments to resolve this issue.  Definitely not to the Federal courts.  Thoughts?  And be polite...

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Give to the MAX

Well folks, Give to the MAX day is upon us again. So pry open those wallets and give deeply to support the causes that you think deserve the help. Yes that means using your money, not someone elses.
Give to the Max Day

Odds are good that I will be supporting PRISM and Seven Dreams as usual.
Seven Dreams Foundation
Banaadir Academy (Laurie's School)

However I am torn about Parents United, I do find their legislative updates useful, and sometimes appreciate their perspective. However they seem to be highly "Education MN" friendly. Meaning they seem to want to raise funding and rarely mention raising accountability or eliminating tenure. So they may get the lump of coal this year, however I'll take some time to read their recent information before making a final decision.
Parents United

Finally, I should give to MinnPost and MPR, since I enjoy the content they provide.

So who else do you think the other readers and I should consider giving to this year and why?

Monday, November 10, 2014

Common Core and Mandated Process

So Jerry says that Common Core mandates how Teachers teach.  Of course, there is no source or proof provided:
"The problem comes in when the zealots start to mandate HOW we must teach these standards. I would wager I can teach addition without that cumbersome, mind-deadening drawing of squares that CC requires. I think teachers are smart enough to figure out how to teach and teach best when given that authority. If a master teacher or principal can evaluate and then guide young teachers into these "best practices" sooner, that's great. If through good student evaluation we identify better best practices, that's continuous improvement, and if those student evaluations help us to concentrate on those who are struggling or even modify our approach to do so, that is exactly what's needed so we have "no child left behind."

It was rather funny, a few days ago, when discussing some of the changes in the math curriculum, a teacher asked me, "what do we do about the tactile learners?" I had always smirked at the notion that there were different kinds of learners until I ran into (and eventually overcame) an extreme example at work, and so I now immediately relate when somebody tells me about children who are similarly hampered by some "one-size-fits-all" instructional technique dictated by some bureaucrat who doesn't understand that kids are not all the same "size." " Jerry
Ed Week Many Ways to Subtract
WP Common Core Math
Edutopia Visual Learning
Hechinger Report Math Problem
Common Core First Grade Math

I am wondering if people are:
  1. identifying real problems with common core
  2. trying to make mountains out of mole hills
  3. showing their personal resistance to change (sonny... it was good enough for me when I had to walk to school uphill...  both ways...)
Personally I am thinking 2 & 3 are the winners.  To me it looks like the Common Core describes what concepts children should know by what year.  The curriculum gives ideas regarding how to accomplish this, however it seems both leave how that is accomplished to the Teachers.


Tenure Turned on It's Head

Beth has a link to a video you need to watch.  It is a fascinating concept.

MinnPost Young Teachers Most Protected


Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Minneapolis Teachers / Schools Conundrum

Beth posted an interesting article at MinnPost.  It discusses Sunday's article in the Star Tribune that details how many of the "highest performing / senior teachers" reside in the schools that have have the fewest unlucky students.  Whereas the schools with the most unlucky students tend to get more of the new / poor teachers. It also includes a letter from Supt Bernadeia Johnson to the Teachers...

I left a few comments there, including these:
"The article says:  "School administrators, union and district officials say high-poverty schools often have the least experienced teachers. Those schools generally have the most openings when more experienced teachers move on."

How did you extrapolate this to "Edina teachers are miracle workers and North teachers are vile scum"?

The reality is that seniority allows Teachers to choose where they teach, therefore they move out of the most challenging schools when given the opportunity. And the silly "steps and lanes" comp policies limit the ability of Districts to pay Teachers more to stay in the more challenging schools.

If districts actually had the freedom to pay Teachers on their performance and the difficulty of the position. Good Teachers at North would be paid more no matter how many degrees they had or how many years they had worked in the district." G2A

"Excellent coverage !!! What I found most interesting were the following. I am very curious if they "fired" any tenured teachers or just those in the "probation" status. That "catch them early" seems telling.

"Minneapolis Public Schools fired more than 200 teachers last year over performance issues, more than any other year in recent history."

"District officials would not talk about dismissals at specific campuses.

“We catch them early,” Nordgren said. “We don’t let them go 20 years being ineffective.”" G2A

"How old are your kids and do you speak with parents that have older kids? Some teachers get all praise, some get mixed reviews based on the style of the other parents.

But sometimes there is consensus that a teacher is just disorganized, communicates poorly, can't control the classroom, etc. And then you will wonder why the Union puts that employee's job before the welfare of your kids." G2A