American Elephants

California Teacher Tenure Laws Struck Down by The Elephant's Child


A Los Angeles Superior Court Judge ruled on Tuesday that teacher tenure laws deprive students of their constitutional right to an education — a decision that overturns several California laws that govern the way teachers are hired and fired.

The suit was filed by a group called “Students Matter” which was founded by a technology magnate with an interest in education reform. The article points out that  the ruling is apt to encourage copycat lawsuits in every state and city of the union.

Superior Court Justice Rolf M. Treu wrote in the ruling that:

Substantial evidence presented makes it clear to this court that the challenged statutes disproportionately affect poor and/or minority students. The evidence is compelling. Indeed, it shocks the conscience.

The Los Angeles Times reported that:

The plaintiffs argued that California’s current laws made it impossible to get rid of low-performing and incompetent teachers, who were disproportionately assigned to schools filled with poor students. The result, they insisted, amounted to a violation of students’ constitutional rights to an education.

This is a major blow to the teachers unions. The worst teachers are assigned to the poorest communities. Union regulations make it difficult to impossible to get rid of an incompetent teacher. According to California law, new teachers are eligible for lifetime tenure after just 18 months in the classroom. Once they have tenure, firing them for cause is a long difficult process and the longer they’re on the job, the harder it is.

Nine public-school students sued the state for sticking them with bad teachers.
They presented economic evidence that bad teachers can cost students tens of thousands of dollars in future income by setting back their education. The court held that the students come first.

This is a Superior Court decision, and if appealed will go the State Supreme Court, not the U.S. Supreme Court. Not likely that the unions would take this lying down.

The central problem is that Liberals support the teachers’ unions because they give financial support to Democrats, and well-to-do Liberals don’t send their kids to failing schools, they send them to private schools as the Obamas do. You will note that President Obama continues to oppose vouchers for poor minority kids. Political support trumps good education for kids every time. Actually, political support almost always comes first.

Iraq in Chaos — A Strategic Disaster for U.S. Policy by The Elephant's Child

Another Obama claim is withering away. Al Qaeda is alive and Tuesday, fighters for the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham, an al Qaeda affiliate known as ISIS has seized total control of the northern Iraqi city of Mosul, with a population of nearly 2 million, after four days of fighting. Thousands of civilians have fled, including the governor of Nineveh province, who spoke of the “massive collapse” of the Iraqi army.

ISIS overran the Iraqi city of Tikrit, Saddam Hussein’s home town, and closed in on the biggest oil refinery in the country. Tikrit is about 80 miles north of Baghdad. The Wall Street Journal reports:

Since President Obama likes to describe everything he inherited from his predecessor as a “mess,” it’s worth remembering that when President Bush left office Iraq was largely at peace. Civilian casualties fell from an estimated 31,400 in 2006 to 4,700 in 2009. U.S. military casualties were negligible. Then CIA Director Michael Hayden said, with good reason, that “al Qaeda is on the verge of a strategic defeat in Iraq.”

Fast forward through five years of the Administration’s indifference, and Iraq is close to exceeding the kind of chaos that engulfed it before the U.S. surge. The city of Fallujah, taken from insurgents by the Marines at a cost of 95 dead and nearly 600 wounded in November 2004, fell again to al Qaeda in January. The Iraqi government has not been able to reclaim the entire city—just 40 miles from Baghdad. More than 1,000 Iraqi civilians were killed in May alone, according to the Iraq Body Count web site.

The collapse of the Iraqi army in Mosul and its inability to retake Fallujah reflect poorly on the competence of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, whose Shiite “State of Law” coalition won a plurality of seats in parliamentary elections in April and will likely win a third term later this year………………………………………(emphasis added)

ISIS first took hold in Iraq’s neighbor Syria. The “diplomatic surge” the Obama administration promised never happened. They offered a couple of thousand troops but President Maliki didn’t think it was worth the criticism it would cause. Mr. Obama withdrew completely from Iraq, and continued to call it a “dumb war.”He put his desire for a talking point in his re-election campaign above America’s strategic interests, which he didn’t understand anyway.

(click to enlarge)
These battles and the advance of al Qaeda affiliated forces comes in the wake of free elections in April under the threat of jihadi violence on polling days, and  weak governance.

The April election was the seventh time since January 2005 that Iraqis have gone to the polls on a national basis. The land of the purple finger has enjoyed four parliamentary elections, with an average turnout of 63 percent; two nationwide provincial elections, with an average turnout of 52 percent; and a constitutional referendum in which 63 percent of the country turned out to vote (and 79 percent voted “Yes”) on the republic’s inclusive, liberal, federalist constitution.

Every one of these ballots has been judged free and fair by international observers. Even ignoring the local circumstances that make this fact especially remarkable (the constant threat of jihadi violence on polling days, exacerbated by governance so poor that it is a wonder that anyone has enough faith in government to bother to vote at all), Iraqis have once again proven that they are more than deserving of the opportunity presented to them.

Iraq is once again in a state of civil war, but without help it’s going to turn into a tragedy for Iraq and a real threat to the United States. America should provide the help Mr. Maliki requests — drone strikes, weapons, reconnaissance assets, targeting assistance, more training for his forces, even manned airstrikes. If Mr. Maliki and Iraq’s leading politicians agree to settle the deep sectarian conflicts that have left the country in this mess Sunni v. Shiite v. Kurd.  It could be possible with new constitutional amendments, and a constitutional inability to politicize the military. Kenneth Pollack suggests a series of amendments that could bring peace. Unlikely, but if Iraq is to be saved, Americans and Iraqis would have to take hard steps.

It doesn’t help that so many Americans have so much misunderstanding of the Iraq War.

Republicans Don’t Believe in Science, and Reject the Theory of Relativity. by The Elephant's Child

[This piece from the archives, circa April 2012, seems necessary once again:]

A paper published on Friday in the  American Sociological Review states that just over 34 percent of conservatives had confidence in science as an institution, in 2010, representing a long-term decline from 48 percent in 1974.  In 1974, conservatives were more likely than liberals or moderates to express confidence in science.

Well, ho-hum.  Climate Gate I, ClimateGate II, (conspiracy, collusion in exaggerating data, falsification of data), FakeGate (Peter Gleick uses false identity, fakes documents), retreat of Himalayan Glaciers, IPCC (at least 16 claims of impending doom in 2007 report were based on work done by GreenPeace activists, not peer-reviewed science), Indian Ocean and  Pacific Ocean sea level data (came from computer models by people who had never visited the sites in question), Kevin Trenberth, (plagiarism, politicization). And more and more.

Over at Ace of Spades, Arthur K points out a recent story

During a decade as head of global cancer research at Amgen, C. Glenn Begley identified 53 “landmark” publications – papers in top journals, from reputable labs– for his team to reproduce. Begley sought to double-check the findings before trying to build on them for drug development.

Result: 47 of the 53 could not be replicated.

And in the same article:

Scientists at Bayer did not have much more success. In a 2011 paper titled, “Believe it or not,” they analyzed in-house projects that built on “exciting published data” from basic science studies. “Often, key data could not be reproduced,” wrote Khusru Asadullah, vice president and head of target discovery at Bayer HealthCare in Berlin, and colleagues.

Of 47 cancer projects at Bayer during 2011, less than one-quarter could reproduce previously reported findings, despite the efforts of three or four scientists working full-time for up to a year. Bayer dropped the projects.

Bayer and Amgen found that the prestige of a journal was no guarantee a paper would be solid. “The scientific community assumes that the claims in a preclinical study can be taken at face value,” Begley and Lee Ellis of MD Anderson Cancer Center wrote in Nature. It assumes, too, that “the main message of the paper can be relied on … Unfortunately, this is not always the case.”

Conservatives, you see, have a long history of being anti-science. They opposed embryonic stem-cell research when it might have helped Christopher Reeve to walk again, just because of their stupid hang up about embryos — just a clump of cells. And they don’t believe in manmade global warming, when Al Gore’s movie told us all what a danger it is. There’s someone named Chris Mooney, who seems to be an English major who is a true believer in global warming,and  writes regularly on how dumb Republicans are, and, unsurprisingly, has a new book out called The Republican Brain: The Science of Why They Don’t Believe in Science. It may be entertaining.

It seems that Republicans get all their scientific information from something called “Conservapedia,” the right-wing counterpart to Wikipedia, which is anti-science and doubts Einstein’s Theory of Relativity. I never heard of it, but lefties seem to be the major contributors.

Liberals remain astonished that anyone could find anything unconstitutional in ObamaCare, and are looking for confirmation that we are indeed unusually stupid. This finding turns up regularly in one academic study after another. A favorite pastime in academe.

Jonathan Haidt’s The Righteous Mind: Why Good People are Divided by Politics and Religion addresses the differences between liberals and conservatives and their moral stereotypes. The authors surveyed two thousand people asking one-third to answer in their own voice, one-third to answer as “a typical liberal” and one-third to answer as “a typical conservative.”

The results were quite striking. Conservatives and moderates were adept at guessing how liberals would answer; but liberals, especially those who considered themselves as “very liberal” were very bad at guessing what conservatives would say about issues of care or fairness. For example, most thought that conservatives would disagree with statements like ‘One of the worst things a person could do is hurt a defenseless animal’ or ‘justice is the most important requirement for a society.’

Haidt, a professor of psychology at the University of Virginia, found that liberals and conservatives alike form their political beliefs according to three values: caring for the weak, fairness, and liberty.  Yet conservatives also hold to three other values: loyalty, respect for authority, and sanctity.  This accounts in part for the liberal failure to understand conservative viewpoints. Conservatives can understand the morality of liberals, but much of conservative morality is alien to their opponents.  Haidt had been a liberal — but became a centrist after this study.

In an article entitled “Is the Tea Party Racist?“Dr. Timothy Dalrymple explains:

But the problem is not merely ignorance. Liberals are also alienated from core conservative values. Liberals are trained to believe that many of the traditional American ideals and values that conservatives inherit in their families and churches are cruel and intolerant, imperialistic, and implicitly racist, sexist, and classist. They are trained, for instance, not to be motivated by patriotism and American exceptionalism, but by an ideal of world citizenship and parity.

Liberals consistently misinterpret what motivates conservatives because they really cannot see the world from the conservative perspective. Liberals cannot imagine that Tea Partiers are really motivated by concern for their country, and by frustration with a White House hemorrhaging red ink and a government less concerned to represent the interests of the citizenry than to pay off the special interests that fund their campaigns.

“Liberals, Dr. Dalrymple says,” are unable to see a rational and noble motive at the center of the Tea Party movement, so they supply a darker and more convenient motive instead.” The problem is not that liberals dislike the principles promoted at Tea Party rallies: the problem is that liberals dislike the kind of people who go to Tea Party rallies.

So if you have been puzzled by the strange things liberals say, there you go.

The Truth Will Out. Obama Admits He Misspent His High School Years. by The Elephant's Child

“Earlier this year, Obama belittled art history, depicting it as a penniless career—which critics pointed out, is not even remotely true. Obama was then shamed into sending a handwritten apology to an outraged art history professor.” So reported the Free Beacon. But they missed the most important point.

Obama admitted that he was a humanities major, but said that came from his misspent high school years. “I actually loved math and science until I got into high school” he reminisced,”and then I misspent those years.”

Aha! He goofed off in Biology class, and never learned that when he breathed that balmy Hawaiian air, he exhaled — carbon dioxide — a natural fertilizer for plants, not “carbon pollution.”

Those “misspent” high school years are why he has fallen for the whole global warming nonsense and allows his EPA zealots to shut down the nation’s coal-fired power plants that produce around 40% of our electricity, and why he thinks that wind and solar (which require ordinary power plants for back-up 24/7), can replace regular power plants — if global warming skeptics would just cooperate and do what he tells them to. It pays to pay attention in high school.

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