Wednesday, April 5, 2017

I feel dirty

I just saw the end of my first grading period at my new school. As I was preparing to finalize my students' grades, I was pulled aside by my department head and informed that there were a couple of things that I needed to be made aware of, if I wanted to avoid having "that conversation" with my administrators. 

The rules for student grades are:
1 No student who is an ESOL student (meaning that they do not speak English as their primary language) can receive less than a C in any class they are taking.

2 No more than 15% of your students can receive less than a C.

Doing so means that you will be called into the principal's office, and will be told that you need to do more to improve your student's performance. Even if your students don't turn in any work, even if they are absent the entire grading period, if more than 15% of them have less than a C, it is YOUR fault as the teacher, and if it continues, you will lose your job.

The teacher across the hall from me refused to adjust the grades that her students earned. She was just told that her contract is not being renewed next year.

Me? Of my 132 students, 30 of them have been absent for at least 22 of the 45 days of the grading period. One student was absent for 29 of them, and at least 15 minutes tardy on 9 other days. Still, if I refuse, I will be fired and replaced with someone who will comply.

I adjusted, folded, spindled, and added points. 88% of my students got a C or higher. I'm hanging in there, but I feel like I have sold out. 

The education system is irretrievably broken. 

Saturday, April 1, 2017

Immigration discussion

I got in a social media discussion with someone who said that anyone who advocates breaking up families by deporting people is a monster. I pointed out that this was no more monstrous than breaking up a family for any other reason, such as jailing people for owning assault weapons or for DUI.

He tried claiming that illegal immigration is a victimless act, and therefore not a crime, and so all righteous people are charged with resisting any law which criminalizes free immigration. I pointed out that so was DUI and owning an unregistered machine gun.

He then tried claiming that all laws which have no specific, individual victim that you can point to are null and void. I told him to try not paying his taxes, and then see if the judge agreed.

He then moved on to saying that if he wanted to invite his friends from Mexico City to stay in his home, I was interfering with his property rights by denying that right, and therefore I did not respect property. That was when I asked him what the difference was between an individual's property rights and a nation's property rights. He then accused me of changing the subject, and began calling me a racist xenophobe because I hate Mexicans and Latinos.

I replied by saying that I did not mention race, and that HE was the racist for assuming that all illegal immigrants were Mexican or Latino.

That was when I got banned.

Friday, March 31, 2017

Frat Party

In January of this year, we decided that we needed a getaway. we found an inexpensive cruise on Royal Caribbean's Independence of the Seas. Being Diamond level members in their customer loyalty, program , we booked and paid for a suite on the March 10th sailing. We got a great deal, because all cabins have to be paid for 90 days prior to sailing, and the ship wasn't even half booked by that point.

Unknown to us, a Florida travel agency bought all of the remaining cabins, bundled them with unlimited alcohol packages, and then sold them to college kids as a spring break getaway. We were surrounded by booze guzzling, clothing optional Frat boys and their female counterparts. Vomit was everywhere: in the pools, the passageways, and the casino. Drunken passengers running up and down the hallways at 3 am, screaming at the top of their lungs.

Being a bit of a gambler, I was in the casino playing craps, and had to contend with college kids waving their hands in front of the game, and causing problems while I had several hundred dollars of bets on the table. When I asked them to stop waving their hands and their drinks over my chips, all I got were smart assed answers.

I saw a college girl with a VERY short dress and no visible underwear sitting on the lap of a piano playing crewmember, and right next to them was a crew member with his hand inside of the dress of another young woman.

In short, the trip was a booze fueled college party. I am too old for that crap, and it was NOT the relaxing vacation that I was looking for. Now, I will say that this was not our usual cruise with this cruise line, and we have never had issues like this before. A complaint to the cruise line customer relations onboard got us some sympathy and a 30% refund, but the manager told us to contact the cruise line's main offices when we got home.

When we did that, the customer service people were very rude, and said some outrageous things:

- What do you expect when you travel during spring break?

- We can't control what other passengers do 

- They paid for the cruise, just as you did 

- This is March, and you have to expect this sort of thing 

- Yes, we have a guest code of conduct, but there is little we can do to enforce it 

- We are sorry this upset you, but this is to be expected when college students are aboard. Maybe you should book cruises during other times of the year 

Maybe I should think about another cruise line.

Sunday, February 26, 2017

On the brink

A man armed with an AR 15 threatens to kill a man for having a Trump campaign sticker on his truck. the left would have you believe that the thug was simply expressing his right to protest. There is a lot of foul language and NSFW.

It seems like we are on the brink of a civil war that will cost lives. The last one cost over 600,000 lives out of a nation that contained only about 31 million. A similar casualty rate today would mean over 6 million dead. That number horrifies me.

Saturday, February 25, 2017

Negligence in the name of thrift

Last summer, police were engaged in a training scenario with a citizen volunteer, a shoot/no shoot scenario designed to teach the citizen, who was a librarian, what it is like to be a cop. A cop, who was playing the part of a bad guy, shot at her with his service weapon, which was supposed to be loaded only with blanks. It wasn't. He shot her multiple times with a real bullet, and she was killed.

The police officer involved was arrested for manslaughter on Wednesday, six months after the shooting. There are those who claim that the shooting was an accident and nothing more. I disagree. It is unlikely that a magazine full of "blanks" contained a single live round. More than likely, the officer pulled a magazine of carry rounds from his weapon, and inserted a magazine of training rounds, leaving a live round in the chamber. This lack of basic weapon handling skill cost a woman her life. This was not an unavoidable accident, but a lack of regard for at least three of the four rules of firearm safety. It cost a woman her life, and a person is not exempt from that because they have a badge.

The officer isn't the only one to blame. The department could be using training systems where real weapons are converted to fire non lethal marking rounds for training purposes. While modified, the weapons cannot fire live bullets. They could be using airsoft. Cap guns. Paintball. Anything but real weapons. These systems cost money though, and many departments don't want to pay. Even though this one incident is costing the department millions in legal settlements and two officers, many departments continue to roll the dice in the name of thrift.

I used to work with SWAT, and did more than a couple of scenario based training sessions. During these sessions, we used real firearms that were inspected by instructors prior to the training to ensure they were unloaded. I was opposed to this, and for the exact reason above.

If you want to play cowboys and Indians (tactical version) then you have got to spend the money to do it safely. Even one training death is too many. There is nothing that we do in training that is worth killing anyone.

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

First Amendment

A teacher in Collier county is reassigned pending investigation into comments that she made about her support for Trump deporting illegals and her opposition to the "day without immigrants" protest. There is a petition to get her fired.

That isn't going to happen, and I think that the teacher has a pretty good shot at a lawsuit for violation of her First Amendment rights. A similar thing happened a couple of years ago when a Lake County teacher spoke out on Facebook about his opposition to gay marriage. The teacher hired an attorney, and they settled the matter. The teacher is still at the school, still working, and the school is terrified of him. It made him a bit of a hero to the kids of the school, and he gave last year's commencement address at the request of the senior class. He had to point out at the beginning of the address that his speech had been preapproved by his and the school's attorneys.

Comments made while you are off work and expressing your own opinion are exactly what the First Amendment is designed to protect. Her employer is a government agency, and therefore cannot violate her right to speak. If she gets an attorney, she will win.

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Cops gone wild

An Orlando police officer taunts and threatens a citizen. The cop curses out and taunts the man who was apparently filming the encounter without the cop's knowledge. At one point, he pulls out pepper spray, even though there appears to be no reason for its use. Watch the video and tell me what you think:

Note that there is another cop present who does exactly nothing to rein in this out of control cop. If the police do nothing to stop this sort of behavior, they will continue to see groups like BLM grow in power and popularity.

Monday, February 20, 2017

The banks in general

I am still answering the poster on my previous post about my mortgage mess. You may or may not be interested, but I am locking replies to that post.

The banks were not required to loan to the poor. That is a talking point that was written to make the banks look like the victims and not the architects of the mortgage loan bubble. If there is no dispute, can you point to any evidence that this ever happened? Or is it pure conjecture?

The fact is that Phil Gram was key in passing the Commodity Futures modernization Act of 2000, which PROHIBITED the government from interfering in those transactions.

The root of the banking bubble was the Gram Leach Bliley act of 1999. It was sponsored by three Republican Congressmen, and enabled banks to invest in real estate, something that had been illegal since the great depression, when banks losing gobs of cash in the real estate market triggered the depression. The architect of the Gram Leech Bliley act was Clinton's Treasury Secretary, who left the administration after the act passed, and became an executive at Citigroup, being paid over $17 million. Gram left Congress and wound up as an executive at UBS.

 Before these two laws were passed, all of these loans were regulated and the trading of mortgages was public record, as they were required to be recorded at the county courthouse. The banks had a plan for that, too. They created a private records database called MERS that was out of the view of the public and government regulators. This allowed the banks to trade in mortgages without those pesky laws covering public records allowing the citizens to see what was really going on.

Once the safeguards were eliminated, this allowed the main part of the plan to come together: Banks were able to make high risk loans to people who could not afford to repay them, and securing those with mortgages on property that was worth far less than what the loans were worth, in effect making them unsecured. They did this by using appraisers who would say the homes were worth whatever they needed to be for the loan to look legitimate.

Then the banks bundled those loans into mortgage backed securities that were rated as AAA investments, and sold off to institutional investors- the retirement and pension funds of the American workers. When those loans began to fail, the funds crashed and the banks, through their Republican and TEA party friends, blamed the pensions of the workers, and screamed that they (the banks) were about to fail, and collected nearly $2 trillion in taxpayer funded bailout cash. Over $1.6 billion of that bailout cash was used to paid bonuses to bank executives for pulling off the largest transfer of wealth in human history.

Sunday, February 19, 2017

California Budget

California's secession movement likes to point out that California is the sixth largest economy in the US, and that they are a net producer of funds. Let's take a look at that, shall we? This post will include a lot of numbers.

According to Ballotpedia, California collects a total of $138 billion in state and local taxes, while receiving about $55 billion in direct compensation from the Federal government. That is a total of $193 billion in government revenue. In FY 2015, it spent a total of $252.5 billion, leaving a deficit of about $60 billion. When Federal grants are considered together with ALL Federal spending, California receives more Federal money than any other state: a total of $343 billion in FY 2012.

Pew divides this spending into five categories:
Retirement Benefits. Just under one third, or $102 billion, was devoted to retirement benefits, including Social Security payments and veterans benefits.
Nonretirement Benefits. Less than one third, or $99 billion, was spent on nonretirement benefits, like Medicare, food assistance, and unemployment insurance.
Grants. About one fifth, or $67 billion, was devoted to grants, which includes those for Medicaid and other health care programs, transportation, education, and housing. (To capture federal funding for grants to states, Pew used—a site devoted to federal spending transparency. The site has well-known problems with data quality, and some of these issues may have affected Pew’s results.)
Contracts. About one seventh, or $48 billion, included money for contracts for the purchases of goods and services, like military and medical equipment.
Salaries and Wages. Finally, less than one tenth, or $29 billion, was spent on salaries and wages for federal employees, including military personnel. (Pew measured salaries and wages using sources that report salaries and wages by place of employment, rather than residency, which could distort this measure.)
All of that spending would need to be replaced. Some of it because it is needed, some because the voters of the state would demand it. California would have to pay for things that the Federal government currently pays for, but isn't included in the above numbers: National Defense, which according to this article, the supporters of CalExit think that they won't need, because they are going to be neutral, like Switzerland. If this were the case, I would imagine that the new nation of California would become either part of Mexico or part of China within a decade.

Replacing all Federal spending would mean that the proposed nation of California would not only need to build some sort of military, but would need to replace the roughly $8900 a year per capita that the Federal government currently spends there. Annually, California currently collects $138 billion in taxes, while the Federal government collects $405.8 billion from the state. This means that there would be a deficit of about $53 billion, which would require a tax increase of about $1,400 per capita, or about  $5600 on average for a family of four. This number represents about 10% of California's mean family wage.

Additionally, California will have to work deals to replace goods and services that they do not currently produce themselves. For example, it may be true that the northern part of the state provides much of the water that the state needs, the southern half of the state gets a large portion of its water from outside of the state, and that would need to be replaced, probably with a new pipeline that would need to be built and paid for.

All of this ignores the political aspect. The northern part of the state largely detests the liberal elites who live in the coastal and southern regions. How will they keep those parts of the state from breaking off and remaining in the US?

None of this concerns the Calexit folks, who say:

Yes California doesn’t have any policy positions. Its members don’t know how the new nation’s government would be set up. The group’s goal is to first have the state secede and then figure out how it should run.
“People are asking about the new nation’s vaccine policy, and I’m asking, ‘Are you high?’  ” said Karen Sherman, who holds group meetings at the gay dive bar she owns in San Diego. “We want to explore independence, not create a new country around vaccines.”
Secede first, and then decide how to run the country? Is that anything like passing a law to see what's in it? Like petulant children, they are angry that the election didn't go their way and want out, but they have no idea how to run things, no plan, and are doomed to fail. Like the Confederacy, they are incapable of making this work because of economic problems and an inability to actually BE a nation, but are doomed because they have  no idea what they are doing.