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March 10, 2011 04:51 PM UTC

Thursday Open Thread

  • by: Colorado Pols

“Men are seldom blessed with good fortune and good sense at the same time.”



67 thoughts on “Thursday Open Thread

  1. TED – Salman Khan: Let’s use video to reinvent education

    Salman Khan talks about how and why he created the remarkable Khan Academy, a carefully structured series of educational videos offering complete curricula in math and, now, other subjects. He shows the power of interactive exercises, and calls for teachers to consider flipping the traditional classroom script — give students video lectures to watch at home, and do “homework” in the classroom with the teacher available to help.

    1. From this week’s ARRL Bulletin.  ARRL is the American Radio Relay League, the national organization of amateur radio operators.

      ARLS003 Middle School Students to Launch Near-Space Balloon

      A group of students from Olde Towne Middle School (OTMS) in Ridgeland, Mississippi is preparing for a trip to space — or as close as they can get. The OTMS Radio and Technology Club, along with the school’s Science Team, are planning a near-space balloon launch at 9 AM (CDT) on March 26 (the date and time are subject to change depending on weather). The balloon — nicknamed Titans in Space — will use the call sign KC5NXD and is expected to reach an altitude of 94,825 feet.

      The project is led by Bill Richardson, N5VEI, a past participant in the ARRL Teachers Institute on Wireless Technology, a professional development program that is part of ARRL’s donor-funded Education & Technology Program. The school has also received several grants of Amateur Radio station equipment from this program. Richardson is the sponsor of the school’s Radio and Technology Club.

      The balloon will be equipped with instruments to track its exact location and a camera that will take snapshots every 15 seconds. The students will stay on the ground and analyze the data as it is transmitted back to them from the balloon. “As far as I can research, we are the first elementary, middle or high school to launch a near-space balloon in our state,” Richardson told the ARRL. The balloon will launch from the Madison County Career and

      Technology Center in Gluckstadt. Preflight will begin at 90 minutes before the scheduled launch. The preflight and launch will be stream-cast live on the Internet at,…  You can also follow along on Twitter.

      “Our students are busy with assembly and payload testing right now, preparing for launch day,” said OTMS Principal Allen Lawrence. “This is really a great science experiment and they are all excited.”

  2. from Guinness World Records

    Guinness World Records, the global authority on record breaking, today confirm that the Kinect for the Xbox 360 is the Fastest-Selling Consumer Electronics Device.  The hardware, that allows controller-free gaming, sold through an average of 133,333 units per day, for a total of 8 million units in its first 60 days on sale from 4 November 2010 to 3 January 2011.

    The sales figures outstrip both the iPhone and the iPad for the equivalent periods after launch.

  3. Anyone else see a lot of similarities between the union killing legislation in Wisconsin and the passage of health-care reform?

    Both had very vocal opposition including large masses of people personally objecting to the politicians passing it.

    Both pieces of legislation had less than majority support in the polls when they were passed.

    Both sides used every trick in the book to pass/kill the legislation.

    Both pieces of legislation are significant game changers.

    I sure hope this is not the new model for how our political system is going to handle contentious legislation.

    1. With health care  some of the protestors showed up because the reform didn’t go far enough.

      No one in Wisconsin is protesting because they want to eliminate all state employees or privatize every function of the state.

      1. No one in Wisconsin is protesting because they want to eliminate all state employees or privatize every function of the state.

        Actually American for Prosperity and other tea bagging astroturf groups bussed in hundreds-to-a-thousand Walker butt monkeys to try to scream down actual WI citizens.  Didn’t work.

        So when Koch’s poodle Walker can get ‘er done up front and above board he does it behind closed doors, middle of the night, w/ only his RePug cronies.

        Beady-eyed college dropout Walker sure knows how to instill respect.    

  4. Well said:

    In 2010, Megan Sampson was named an Outstanding First Year Teacher in Wisconsin. A week later, she got a layoff notice from the Milwaukee Public Schools. Why would one of the best new teachers in the state be one of the first let go? Because her collective-bargaining contract requires staffing decisions to be made based on seniority.

    Ms. Sampson got a layoff notice because the union leadership would not accept reasonable changes to their contract. Instead, they hid behind a collective-bargaining agreement that costs the taxpayers $101,091 per year for each teacher, protects a 0% contribution for health-insurance premiums, and forces schools to hire and fire based on seniority and union rules.

    1. there are some things wrong in some union contracts. When clauses in union contracts do not produce the desired outcome management should negotiate vigorously to remove them.

        1. Contracts are not implemented unilaterally.

          Ironically followed by

          blame the School Board.

          In the case of public unions, there is an outrageous conflict of interest when a Democrat politician takes a lot of money from these same unions and then promises, in public even, to fight for them.  It’s called collusion.  “Management” (aka ‘taxpayers’) isn’t truly represented in the negotiations.

          On the other hand, when a Republican (I’m making generalizations about both parties for argument’s sake) is elected and negotiating with a public union, they threaten, and often do, strike.  They literally hold kids hostage.  There’s a lot more at stake than TV broadcast rights for football players and owners.

      1. However the problem we face is that most school boards are elected by the teachers unions. Most voters pay little attention to that election and so the teachers & their families have a major impact on who gets elected.

        Fundamentally the fault lies with the voters who elect board members who then approve the sweetheart deals with the unions.

    2. That the agreement might cost taxpayers over $100k per teacher, but the teacher almost certainly isn’t seeing that $100+k, nor is the union.

      I don’t agree with hiring and firing based on seniority, and I think there are some union practices that need to be rethought, but there’s more to that $101k figure than meets the eye, I’ll guarantee.

      1. They came up with that figure by adding salaries plus benefits plus pensions paid to retired auto workers, then divided that by the number of current workers.  The pensions paid to retirees were counted as payment to the folks who were currently working.  I bet the “$100k teachers” are also getting credted for pensions paid to retired teachers.  If you’re going to add in the pensions, then you need to add in the retired teachers and divide by that number to get a true figure.

        Cheaters.  And liars.  And scum.

          1. I was a public employee for 20+ years.  I left a law firm to work for the Colorado Attorney General’s office back in the 80s, and I took a 52% cut in pay for that job.  My pay as a public attorney lagged behind that of my private sector classmates.  When I retired from the state, I was making about 1/3 to 1/2 of what my private sector friends were making.

            Every day I worked for the government, I thought of my single-mom sister and my elderly, still-working-full-time-at-age-81 dad.  I remembered that the government extracted taxes from their pitiful salaries to give to me, and I made damn sure I earned that money.  I was a supervisor and I told the folks who worked on my team that they also had to work hard to earn the money they were being paid by my relatives and theirs.

            Believe it or not, I never felt that I was an adversary of the taxpayers.  (In fact, I felt a strong kinship to them, being a taxpayer myself.)  I did feel that I had a duty to be a responsible steward of the taxpayers’ money, and that I had a moral obligation to work harder than private sector employees to justify taking their money as my salary.

            Yeah, I get a pension, and I am thrilled and grateful for it.  However, it will take a lot of years at my current pension to make up for the discount salary the taxpayers paid me over the course of my career as a public employee.  My former colleagues are really taking it in the shorts right now, and I feel sorry for them.  They are still working hard for 1/3 to 1/2 the salary they could be making, all to ensure that you and the rest of the citizens of this state get good value for your tax dollars.

            You owe them a damn apology.

          2. You can only fairly call it “adversarial” if you want to take advantage or get something for less than fair value.

            You think public employees are overpaid?

            Based on what?  Just because Rush said it, or it feels true, and scarey if true, that doesn’t make it true.


            Tell a college freshman they are going to have to spend 4 or 5 years working hard in college, get good grades and graduate with a teacher license to make $16 an hr for a year or two, and then work for less than the median college grad wage for several years while they are also completing annual continuing ed and the ambitious and motivated are also completing graduate degrees and skills based training.  

            But they are going to do so without pension or tenure.  They are going to do so because they love it and our kids and it’s the best job they can get.

            We won’t get the quality teachers we say we want.

            Why is it that business people are so aware that people not in their business or industry don’t really understand it, but they are so convinced they can diagnose the problems with schools?  Even though schools are not businesses.

            I stood before an audience filled with outraged teachers who were becoming angrier by the minute. My speech had entirely consumed their precious 90 minutes of in-service training. Their initial icy glares had turned to restless agitation. You could cut the hostility with a knife.

            I represented a group of business people dedicated to improving public schools. I was an executive at an ice cream company that became famous in the middle-1980s when People magazine chose its blueberry flavor as the ‘Best Ice Cream in America.’

            I was convinced of two things. First, public schools needed to change. They were archaic selecting and sorting mechanisms designed for the Industrial Age and out of step with the needs of our emerging ‘knowledge society.’ Second, educators were a major part of the problem. They resisted change, hunkered down in their feathered nests, protected by tenure and shielded by a bureaucratic monopoly. They needed to look to business. We knew how to produce quality. Zero defects! Total Quality Management! Continuous improvement!

            As soon as I finished, a woman’s hand shot up. She began quietly, We are told, sir, that you manage a company that makes good ice cream.

            I smugly replied, Best ice cream in America.

            How nice, she said. Is it rich and smooth?

            Sixteen percent butterfat, I crowed.

            Premium ingredients? she inquired.

            Super-premium! Nothing but triple a.

            I was on a roll. I never saw the next line coming.

            Mr. Vollmer, she said, leaning forward with a wicked eyebrow raised to the sky. When you are standing on your receiving dock and you see an inferior shipment of blueberries arrive, what do you do?

            In the silence of that room, I could hear the trap snap.

            I was dead meat, but I wasn’t going to lie. I send them back.

            That’s right, she barked, and we can never send back our blueberries. We take them big, small, rich, poor, gifted, exceptional, abused, frightened, confident, homeless, rude and brilliant. We take them with attention deficit disorder, junior rheumatoid arthritis and English as their second language. We take them all. Every one. And that, Mr. Vollmer, is why it’s not a business. It’s school.

            “Jamie Vollmer” as recounted here

              1. I met Jamie Vollmer not long after this story was making the rounds.  I connected him to a co-worker who was attempting to “fix” his local school district by eliminating tenure and hacking on the public  monopoly.

                It’s why all the data can agree on just one thing – great teachers make a meaningful difference.

                Otherwise- public school, charter, private school: results depend on the blueberries kids.

                  1. However, I agree about parents, except the parents are also not part of the school district funding problem. Unless of course they have no jobs and are just poor for any length of time.

                    But even then, I’m not sure I would want the school board to try to address that part.  The school board and admin can address the presence of great teachers. And safe, functional, modern facilities.

                    And it’s the moms only because the dads aren’t home or as engaged.   It can be any involved, engaged adulr.

            1. From Wiki:

              Negotiation is a dialogue between two or more people or parties, intended to reach an understanding, resolve point of difference, or gain advantage in outcome of dialogue, to produce an agreement upon courses of action, to bargain for individual or collective advantage, to craft outcomes to satisfy various interests of two person/ parties involved in negotiation process. Negotiation is a process where each party involved in negotiating tries to gain an advantage for themselves by the end of the process. Negotiation is intended to aim at compromise.

              In other words, there are two sides.  If not, it’s not a credible negotiation.  In the case of Dem. govt. offials “negotiating” with their biggest supporters is a farce.  As they compete to see who can ratchet up the contracts the most, the taxpayers are left holding the bag.

              And your story where you compare kids to blueberries (at least you didn’t compare them to Hilter) is laughable.  But it does highlight what is wrong with many of these teacher’s unions:  they find it too easy to use the kids as an excuse for poor performance.

              Obviously, the brighter the kids and the more attentive the parents – the better.  For both them and the teacher.  But there are plenty of examples where kids and teachers succeed when working in the right system (i.e. not the teachers’ union supported status quo), even when coming from the worst conditions.

              Here’s one:

              Why can they do it and you can’t?  I argue that it’s the system much more than the individual teachers.

              Unlike blueberries, it’s not good enough to complain about the kids and their families and just deal with it.  We don’t have a choice – we have to make good education accessible to every kid.  It’s not always going to be easy, but it can be very rewarding… for everyone.  And after all, isn’t that what teachers unions are really in this for?

              1. Negotiation, in the case of Wisconsin, should have involved Democrats, Republicans, teachers, and parents all coming together and talking?  Let’s see: unions offered to go all the way on financial concessions; Democrats offered the same.  Walker offered what?

                Come back and talk to us about negotiation when it involves Republicans giving any ground whatsoever.

                1. one walked away.  That was their legitimate choice.  Negotiation doesn’t necessarily mean one side definitely wins or, on the other hand, that both sides give up something equally.  And it doesn’t say that negotiations have to be warm and fuzzy.  And it doesn’t say that anyone has to give any ground.

                  Otherwise, elections matter.  Voters put these folks, from both parties, in office to represent them.  Maybe the recall will work, and elections won’t matter anymore.  The worst part about it is that they’ve potentially opened the floodgates so everyone is recalling everyone else.

                  In the meantime the budget, school-children and good teachers without seniority will have to survive without the unions.

                  1. And last I checked, a group of Utah-based Republicans supporters initiated a recall against the Dems before the Dems started their own recall effort.

                    PS – you do realize you completely undermined your previous argument, don’t you?

                    1. Recalls are ‘mini’ elections.  Unfortunately, almost as expensive too (depending on what offices are being recalled).  Nonetheless, I think it’s bad precedent to start recalling everyone you don’t like.  But feel free to continue to argue about who recalled whom first.  Good for you.

                      It doesn’t change the fact that unions were screwing taxpayers, good teachers and kids.  They got worked over in the aftermath of the 2010 elections (as often happens when one party wins everything).

                    2. I guess you have just as strong objections to the R leadership and Bush administration getting so much support from the defense industry,,,,while also receiving no bid contracts and lax oversight?

                  2. and the D Congress after 2+ years of campaigning on a commitment to reform healthcare?

                    Who were then obstructed by the R party at every step with the explicitly stated goal of embarrassing the President?  Those voters?

              2. I’d argue they are two different, though related, things.

                Second – this is great!

                You have solved the problem of HS students and college prep.  Create  competitive schools with high standrads and don’t admit any students who don’t measure up.  Great – I like it.

                All we gotta do now is convince all those other families that because their  kids don’t care about college, they don’t get to go to the great HS that has it all figured out.

                No one using that blueberry metaphor is “complaining about the kids.” Rather, we are making the point that not all business principles apply to universal public education.

                I participated in the start of a charter school once upon a time. We were hugely successful.  We had high standards. We required parent and family commitment to service. We required students commit to performance. ANd when the standards were not met, we reserved the right to disenroll students. We had wait lists. Our test scores were great.  And we had a mix of union and non-union instructors.  Hell, we had teachers who were not even licensed.  It “worked” only because we could exclude students who wouldn’t do it our way.  Most public schools don’t have that choice.

                1. the article I attached to my previous comment. Many of those parents obviously didn’t care and many of the students weren’t motivated to begin with easier.  There are a lot of examles like this and ones where, as unbelievable to you as it is, inner-city minority parents actually do care and are desperate for an alternative to the schools that teachers unions have trapped them in.

                  Yet again, it’s easier to stick to white kids in the suburbs.

                  1. I know there are bad schools.

                    I know there are good schools.

                    I helped found a good one, I participate in more than one good one now.

                    The point is that one size does not fit all. What worked in one place at one time, may or may not work in another place another time.

                    If you don’t see that basic truth, what’s the point?  We should require all schools to follow the best performing school’s best practices.

                    1. You’ve said it as good as anyone:

                      We should require all schools to follow the best performing school’s best practices.

                      So why do teachers’ unions consistently argue to the contrary?  Why do they insist on doing things the same way when there are multiple examples of better ways to do things, within the same budget?

  5. Latest housing data not encouraging. Almost a quarter of all homeowners nationally who have loans on their homes are now “underwater”, i.e. their current note amount is more than their house is worth.

    Politically, the continuing drag on economic recovery by the housing sector portends ominous consequences for the “party in power” in the 2012 elections.  

  6. Gary Harmon article in the Sentinel, subscription may be required

    Firm buys holder of oil-shale lease

    Estonian company to develop Utah parcel

    An Estonian company that has pioneered oil shale in eastern Europe purchased the company that holds the only oil shale demonstration lease in Utah.

    Enefit’s purchase of the Oil Shale Exploration Co. will be a boon to the United States, the head of Enefit said.

    …Enefit, which is called Eesti Energia in Estonia, said it plans to build an oil shale plant that would produce 57,000 barrels of shale oil per day at full production.

    1. Look ma, the Estonians are going to produce approximately 4 minutes worth of U.S. oil consumption. Every day!!!! Now we can tell them A-rabs, and people who speak Venezuelan, just what they can do with their oil.

      We are practically oil-independent now. I can smell it.

      [U.S. daily oil consumption has averaged 20,031,400 barrels over the last decade. This means we consume every hour an average of 834,642 barrels. Thus, 57,000 barrels will cover us for just over 4 minutes. Does anybody (outside of Estonia and a few people in Utah) really think this is a good idea? Why?]

  7. From the New York Times:


    SPRINGFIELD, Ill. – Illinois became the 16th state to ban capital punishment as Gov. Pat Quinn on Wednesday signed an abolition bill that the state legislature passed in January.

    “Since our experience has shown that there is no way to design a perfect death penalty system, free from the numerous flaws that can lead to wrongful convictions or discriminatory treatment, I have concluded that the proper course of action is to abolish it,” Quinn said in a statement.

    Two years ago we were one vote short and a governor’s signature that would have abolished the death penalty in Colorado.

    1. Hopefully without starting an endless argument, I have to point out that it’s not going to happen here while Rep. Fields is in the legislature.

      Too personal. Her D colleagues aren’t going to vote for the abolishment publicly. That’s going to make it impossible to make even a slim majority.

      1. But I would respectfully disagree Rep. Fields in the legislature personalizes it.

        Rep. Fields and Sen. Carroll are good friends and jointly hold Town Hall Meetings and constituent coffees. Sen. Carroll led the fight on the Senate floor for abolition, and to my knowledge her support for abolition has not changed.

        The death penalty, often cited as a deterrent, was in effect when Rep. Fields son was murdered. That didn’t stop the killer from committing pre-meditated first degree murder.

        As tragic and heinous as her son’s murder was, the issue here is the inequity in the application of the death penalty based on racial and economic considerations and as Gov. Quinn states, the numerous flaws that can led to wrongful convictions.

        The prospect of the state executing an innocent person is as unacceptable as pre-meditated murder by an individual.  

        1. I don’t like hearing Fields accused of making her personal tragedy some sort of device to control other legislators. (Not that this is in any way the harshest accusation I’ve heard of that nature, or that I don’t love droll, I just have developed a distaste for the perception.) She’s a fine legislator and she might speak passionately on a bill, but she wouldn’t use her past to guilt trip others into rejecting it.  

          1. At all.

            Her being there is a reminder. I assume she would offer a thought on the floor debate as well. She doesn’t have to wield it like a weapon. The tragedy is there. The words “I think” convey a deeper meaning.

            I meant that it’s not unlike when Joe Rice would say something about war. You have an extra respect because he knows. Most of us are pretty well guessing. I don’t remember him every saying that he knew better, or telling a personal story about it when he shouldn’t have. His general thoughts still have a larger power over my opinion.

            1. Makes more sense now, and a very legit point–but I still think Fields isn’t the reason we won’t see this issue come up for a few sessions.

    2. that he is pro-capital punishment; when this passed through the Assembly, advocates for abolishing the death penalty felt there was a 50/50 chance he’d veto the thing.  

  8. As of yesterday it seemed that a budget deal was going to get done removing the amendments stripping funding Planned Parenthood to do STD and cancer screening and provide contraceptive services.

    Republican leadership also appears unenthusiastic at the idea of shutting down the government over the Planned Parenthood issue. In an interview with the Christian Broadcasting Network’s David Brody last week, House Speaker John Boehner explained his party’s decision to pass a two-week stopgap budget measure, which funds Planned Parenthood.

    “There will be an opportunity some time in order to win the big war, and we’re looking for that opportunity,” he said. “I don’t think this short-term CR is the opportunity that will get us there.”

    Support for Planned Parenthood is coming from unusual quarters.

    “On this issue, Republicans and conservatives are dead wrong,” Dick Scaife, a prominent Republican donor, wrote in a Feb. 27 Pittsburgh Tribune-Review op-ed. “Abortions are a minor aspect of Planned Parenthood’s mission to provide reproductive health care, education and other services to Americans, regardless of income.”

    Today it seems that the Speaker may have an insurrection in his ranks:

    But social conservatives, inside and outside Congress, say they want new social policy riders attached to each successive stopgap spending bill – and that they won’t wait much longer on the big items.

    “Gotta stay,” said Rep. Allen West (R-Fla.), when asked about the banning of money for Planned Parenthood. “Yeah, for me they have to stay. This is a very important thing. It’s about being a good steward of American taxpayer dollars.”

    When asked how it complicates Congress’s pathway to passing the bill, West replied plainly: “It doesn’t complicate it for me.”

    “The will of the people spoke,” he said. “It came out of the House and that’s the people’s voice.”

    This is laughable on two accounts.  One, Republicans ran away from social issues in 2010 to attract moderates more concerned with fiscal issues.  This is old fashioned Republican nanny statism empowered by the Teabagger movement. More importantly the economic stewardship issue is nonsense, when a dollar spent on pregnancy prevention returns four dollars in costs not spent on healthcare education, housing, etc.

    The attack on Planned Parenthood will not succeed like those on ACORN or unions, as the organization is well know and trusted by the millions of women who have turned to it over the years for low cost, high quality, confidential education information and healthcare services.

    1. The GOP radicals appear bent on taking the government down in flames one way or the other.

      The only way out may be to compromise a little closer to the Democratic proposals and get the not-so-looney Republicans to vote for a truly bipartisan solution.

      1. as a not-so-loony Repub.

        These days they’re either loony idealogues, loony whores slobbering on the feet of their rich sugar daddy corporations or loony cowards of the TeaPubs. They’re all loony radicals. To them, bipartisanship is an agreement among themselves. Voting for a Democratic proposal? Oh, and yeah: They’re the patriotic bunch? They’ve got different priorities than American survival. They’re thinking about rasslin’ those snakes this Sunday.

  9. 10-noon at Natural Grocers (Vitamin Cottage) in Arvada, 77th and Wadsworth.

    Let’s continue to support these events–the more reps see Perlmutter getting big, enthusiastic crowds, the more safe and motivated they’ll feel to do public contact events themselves.

    1. For those who don’t follow the Great Orange Satan on a regular basis, they just underwent a major software overhaul last month, and the new more socially networked version is IMHO the best blogging platform available today (though they could use a WYSIWYG editor…).  The new platform even allows you to essentially avoid the politics and just follow subject matter groups such as the one I posted this article for.

      I’ll be writing my next article for the Park Avenue group in a few weeks, on Grand Staircase – Escalante National Monument.  Between now and then I think the group is covering several other Grand Circle parks.  Instant trip planning!  ;^)

    1. He is a socialist sock puppet trying to gin up anti-conservative wrath by posting stuff  so outlandish only moderate Dems could be fooled into thinking he is real. Not calling David and Ralphie moderate Dems, they’re just sticking up for the guvs. 🙂

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