Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Librarians Describe Life Under An FBI Gag Order

I do not support the books many librarians recommend for elementary and secondary students, but this is also quite evil ...

Librarians Peter Chase and Barbara Bailey received an NSL to turn over computer records in their library on July 13, 2005. Unlike a suspected thousands of other people around the country, Chase, Bailey and two of their colleagues stood up to the Man and refused to comply. That's when things turned ugly.

read more digg story

Monday, July 30, 2007

Christmas in July

Olentangy Residents,

Your board of education just celebrated a night of giving; giving the gift of taxpayer dollars of course.

The board amended the superintendent's contract effective July 17 and added almost $400,000 in salary and benefits. That's a lot of money given the cry for an additional levy. Actually, it's a lot of money no matter how you put it. Of course, it's all for the kids. Yeah, right!

Keep in mind that the superintendent was already one of the highest paid in Ohio. And, that was before the new amendments.

The new contract is a wonder to read. It removes the original accountability language and replaces it with guaranteed dollars.

In true double-speak, the bonus that was based on performance, and is now just another salary component, is classified in the contract as "at-risk compensation." At-risk? Come on, the bonus is guaranteed and is to be paid out before the school year begins.

Funny, the Ludwig von Mises Institute just published my article on such types of gifts; gifts where the elected officials stand proud as they give your tax dollars away in their name.

I really don't know what's worse: the board giving away your tax dollars; the superintendent accepting those dollars while whining about budget shortfalls; or, the spin that was placed on this whole mess. Some people have no shame at all.

Remember this as the board and superintendent discuss the "need" for a November levy; despite the fact that none is needed until 2009. That will, of course, hold only if the board stops giving away your tax dollars in their name.

Read the provisions of the contract (below). You will be amazed, shocked, and troubled. I was.

Sunday, July 29, 2007



This Contract is entered into on February 28, 2006 and amended on July 17, 2007 by and between the Board of Education of the Olentangy Local School District, hereinafter called “Board,” and Scott Davis, hereinafter called “Superintendent,” who upon the following considerations, hereby agree as follows:


The Board hereby employs the Superintendent, and the Superintendent hereby accepts employment as Superintendent of Schools, a full-time, 12-month position, for a term of three years and four months, commencing on May 1, 2006 and ending July 31, 2009.


A. Certification/Licensure

The Superintendent shall hold and maintain throughout the term(s) of this Agreement a valid Superintendent’s certificate or license issued by the State of Ohio.

B. Duties

The Superintendent shall be the Executive Officer for the Board in accordance with and subject to R.C. 3319.01 and shall have, under the direction of the Board, general supervision and management of all of the public schools and all the personnel of the school system. The Superintendent shall perform those duties set forth in the laws of the State of Ohio, the rules and policies of the Ohio Department of Education, and the policies of the Board, reserving, however, those legal powers specifically vested in the Superintendent by law. In furtherance and not in limitation of the authority granted by the written policy of the Board or the laws of the State of Ohio, the Superintendent shall direct and assign teachers and other employees of the schools under his supervision, shall assign pupils to grade levels and buildings, shall recommend all certificated personnel and supervisors for initial employment, shall select and promote other employees subject to the approval of the Board, and shall make recommendations with respect to the re-employment, nonre-employment, layoff, and termination of existing employees, administrators and supervisors, shall from time to time suggest regulations, rules and procedures deemed necessary for the well being of the school district and, in general, shall perform all duties incident to the office of Superintendent and such other duties as may be prescribed by the Board from time to time consistent with the Superintendent’s position. In performing these duties on behalf of the Board, the Superintendent shall have the authority to consult with legal counsel or other professional advisors as may be reasonably necessary, subject to any limitations imposed by the Board.


The Board shall pay for the reasonable and necessary fees, tuition, travel, meal and lodging expenses incurred by the Superintendent in obtaining further education or training needed to meet continuing education requirements for his Superintendent’s certificate or license renewal. In addition, subject to limitation by the Board in its sole discretion, the Superintendent may attend appropriate professional meetings at the local, state and national level and the reasonable expenses of such meetings as so attended shall be paid by the Board within the limits of its policies and regulations and Ohio law.


A. The Superintendent shall be paid a salary at the annual rate of One Hundred and Fifty Three Thousand Three Hundred Seventy-Five Dollars ($153,375) (the “base salary”). The Board may increase the Superintendent’s salary but may not decrease the Superintendent’s salary unless it is part of a uniform plan of reduction.

B. The Superintendent also shall be eligible for an annual bonus as provided in subparagraphs (B) (1-4) below. Such bonus(es) shall be considered salary for other purposes, such as federal, state and municipal tax laws and the State Teachers Retirement System of Ohio.

1. The Superintendent’s performance in the 2006-07 school year warrants payment of the at-risk compensation in August, 2007 (the second full contract year) of the $22,500 bonus that was paid to him in the first full contract year, increased by 2.25% to $23,006. In addition, the Superintendent’s Board-paid annuity to be paid in August, 2007 shall be increased from 6% to 11% of the Superintendent’s STRS-calculated earnings during the first full contract year (2006-07).

2. The Superintendent shall be entitled, in August, 2008 as payment of the at-risk compensation for performance in the 2007-08 school year, to $23,006 increased by any across-the-board percentage raise given to non-bargaining unit employees of the Board that is effective with the beginning of the 2008-09 school year.

3. It is the intention of the Board to create a process by which the Superintendent would be paid a portion of his compensation based on performance, beginning with the 2008-09 contract year. The Superintendent will consult and collaborate with the Board in the creation of this process. The goal is to have a process in place by July 31, 2008.

4. If the Superintendent separates from employment or ceases to be Superintendent, he or his beneficiary as designated in writing shall be paid the at-risk compensation based on performance in that school year that would be paid following that school year except that the amount of compensation shall be prorated for the portion of the contract year in which he served as Superintendent.


In addition to the salary provided herein, the Board shall:

A. Pay the annual premium for term life insurance on the Superintendent’s life with total coverage in the amount of Three Hundred Thousand Dollars ($300,000);

B. The Board will pay the Superintendent supplemental compensation of $475 per month. It is the intention of the parties that the supplemental compensation be included in the Superintendent’s total compensation for retirement purposes. The Superintendent shall not be paid any allowance for use of his own vehicle within the District or Franklin County within;

C. Pay reasonable expenses, including mileage at a rate provided for other administrators, for travel outside Delaware County and Franklin County, Ohio, consistent with Board policies and regulations and the laws of Ohio;

D. Provide medical, dental and other group health insurance, and sick leave as provided to and on the same terms on which it is provided to twelve (12)-month administrators generally, and continue such insurance at full cost to the Board when the Superintendent is on an unpaid leave of absence, including the Unpaid Leave of Absence under paragraph 5(Q) below, expressly excluding, however, all months during which the Superintendent is receiving disability retirement benefits from STRS.

E. Grant twenty-five (25) days of vacation for each year of this Contract (August 1-July 31), and all of such days due in a contract year shall be credited to the Superintendent, deemed earned and available for usage on the first day thereof. Unused vacation days shall be carried over, not to exceed a total of forty (40) days to the Superintendent’s credit, including unused days from the preceding contract year, except that the Superintendent may elect to sell up to fifteen (15) unused vacation days back to the Board. If Superintendent elects at any time to sell back any portion of such unused vacation, it shall be at his per diem salary. Sell back of unused vacation is at the sole discretion of the Superintendent within the parameters of this paragraph.

F. Provide paid holidays as provided for 12-month administrative employees;

G. Grant three unrestricted paid personal leave days per contract year which shall not accumulate from year to year;

H. Upon service retirement with STRS, the Superintendent is entitled to severance pay in accordance with Board policy applicable generally to twelve (12)-month administrators.

I. Annually at the end of each year of this Contract, with August 1, 2006 through July 31, 2007 being considered the first year, the Board shall pay for a tax-sheltered annuity policy for the benefit of the Superintendent in an amount equal to eleven percent (11%) of the Superintendent’s STRS-calculated earnings during the prior school year, or the Superintendent may elect to take a lump sum payment for an investment of his choosing. If the annuity option is chosen, the Board shall purchase the annuity policy designated by the Superintendent. The policy shall be the property of the Superintendent, both before, during, and after his separation from employment. It is the intention of the parties that the amounts paid for such tax-sheltered annuity be included in the Superintendent’s compensation for retirement purposes;

J. The Board shall pick up and pay the Superintendent’s share of mandatory STRS contributions in addition to the Board’s share of such contributions, with the computation of this pick-up to be made so as to reflect the highest final average salary (that is, the Board will also pick up and pay all employee and Board STRS contributions with respect to the aforesaid pick-up of the Superintendent’s share of mandatory contributions, also known as pick-up on the pick-up);

K. The Board shall pick up and pay the complete cost of the Superintendent’s Medicare tax (currently 1.45%) and the “pick up” on such amount, in addition to the Board paying the complete cost of its employer Medicare tax;

L. The Board also shall provide any such other or further benefits which the Board now provides, or hereinafter provides, generally to all regularly appointed twelve (12)-month administrative employees of the Board.

M. The Board recognizes that it will be in the best interest of the District for the Superintendent to belong to professional organizations and be active in civic organizations within the District. Therefore, during the term of this agreement the Board shall pay for memberships in up to three professional organizations, two of which shall be the American Association of School Administrators and the Buckeye Association of School Administrators, and up to three civic organizations selected by the Superintendent.

N. The Board recognizes that at times the Superintendent will have need to communicate with family members during the course of performing his duties. Therefore, the Board authorizes the Superintendent reasonable use of the District cell phone for necessary communications with family members.

O. Contemporaneous with the Superintendent filing an application with the State Teachers Retirement System of Ohio for disability retirement, the Superintendent shall notify the Board President and Treasurer of the same in writing. Within seven (7) calendar days the Treasurer shall convert all of the Superintendent’s accrued and unused sick leave, accrued and unused vacation leave, and unused personal leave to a lump sum cash payment based on the Superintendent’s per diem rate and pay said amount to him immediately, subject to appropriate income tax deductions (the “payment for accrued leave”). The payment for accrued leave shall extinguish all personal leave, accrued and unused sick leave, and accrued and unused vacation leave to the Superintendent’s credit on school district records. Immediately after such days are extinguished, the sick leave balance of the Superintendent shall be the total number of accrued and unused sick leave days he had to his credit immediately before the payment for accrued leave, minus the number of sick leave days cashed out, and the vacation leave balance of the Superintendent shall be the total number of accrued and unused vacation leave days he had to his credit immediately before the payment for accrued leave, minus the number of vacation leave days cashed out. Upon written notice from the Superintendent that he has filed an application for disability retirement, the Treasurer also shall calculate the pro rata amount for that contract year to which he is entitled as at-risk compensation and annuity payments and pay such amounts to the Superintendent on the next pay day.

P. If the Superintendent becomes a disability retirant under the State Teachers Retirement System of Ohio, as of the beginning of the following month he may no longer enroll himself and his family in the Board’s group health insurance but he must enroll himself and his family in a health insurance benefits plan of STRS. While the Superintendent receives disability retirement benefits from STRS, the Superintendent and his family may continue their participation in the Board’s dental and vision insurance coverage or shall participate in such coverage through STRS, whichever is more cost effective for the Board as determined by the Treasurer, the Board to bear the full premium cost until the Superintendent ceases to receive disability retirement benefits or for fifty-four (54) months, whichever occurs first. The Board of Education shall reimburse him monthly for the cost charged to him by STRS for participation by him and his family in STRS insurance coverage (that is, the “premium” amount charged to the Superintendent for the coverage for himself and his family, not the co-pays, deductibles or other out-of-pocket expenses). Such reimbursement shall continue until the Superintendent ceases to receive disability retirement benefits or for fifty-four (54) months, whichever occurs first. In the case of death of the Superintendent during such leave of absence, the Board of Education shall pay the premium amount for his surviving spouse to continue the family insurance coverages as specified above if she chooses to continue any such insurance, for twelve (12) months, the remainder of such fifty-four (54) month period, or until she becomes eligible for health insurance coverage through employment or source other than STRS with that employer or source paying at least fifty percent (50%) of the premium cost, whichever occurs first.

Q. It is in the Board’s interest, if the Superintendent begins a long-term leave of absence or disability retirement with STRS, to employ a superintendent for a definite term of years. The parties acknowledge that pursuant to Section 3307.64 of the Ohio Revised Code the Superintendent, if he takes a disability retirement with STRS “shall be considered on [a] leave of absence during the first five (5) years following the effective date of a disability benefit” and that if during those five years the STRS certifies to the Board of Education that the Superintendent is “no longer physically and mentally incapable of resuming service that is the same or similar to that from which the [Superintendent] was found disabled,” the Board “by the first day of the next succeeding year shall restore the [Superintendent] to the [Superintendent’s] previous position and salary.”

1. Upon the Treasurer issuing the payment for accrued leave pursuant to paragraph 5(O) above, the Superintendent shall be deemed to be on an unpaid leave of absence (the “Unpaid Leave of Absence”).

2. For the consideration contained in this contract, including but not limited to the consideration set forth in this paragraph 5(Q) of this contract, the Superintendent expressly, knowingly and voluntarily waives and relinquishes any and all rights to reinstatement or to return to a position of active employment with the Board once his Unpaid Leave of Absence begins and for the entire duration of such leave, whether pursuant to Sections 3307.64 or 3319.13 of the Ohio Revised Code or otherwise. The Superintendent agrees and acknowledges that he will not seek reinstatement to a position with the Board during or after his Unpaid Leave of Absence and that after he is a disability retirant for sixty (60) months he will be deemed separated from the District. This waiver of any and all rights to reinstatement or to return to a position from the Unpaid Leave of Absence does not preclude the Superintendent from applying for a vacancy with the Board if he no longer is receiving disability retirement benefits. The Superintendent agrees and acknowledges that he has had the opportunity to obtain advice from legal counsel of his choosing before agreeing to this waiver.

3. It is the parties’ mutual agreement and understanding that the Board may treat the superintendency as vacant upon the Superintendent’s commencement of the Unpaid Leave of Absence. In consideration of such waiver, the Board shall pay the Superintendent supplemental disability income of Five Thousand Dollars ($5,000) per month while he is receiving STRS disability retirement benefits but not to exceed fifty-four (54) months. In the case of death of the Superintendent before said fifty-four (54) months are completed, the Board shall make such monthly payments to his surviving spouse for twelve (12) months or through said fifty-fourth (54th) month, whichever occurs first.

R. If the Superintendent is on the Unpaid Leave of Absence, the Board shall pay for the cost, if any, of maintaining the life insurance coverage provided in Section 5(A) above, whether continuing under a group plan or as conversion coverage until his unpaid leave ceases or for fifty-four (54) months, whichever occurs first. If there is a refund of premium after the Superintendent is on disability retirement for a period of time, the Board is entitled to the full amount of the refund.

S. When this Agreement uses the term “per diem salary,” that term means all of the Superintendent’s STRS-calculated earnings for the most recent full contract year including any bonus payments made in that contract year, divided by two hundred and twenty-one (221) days (calculated from a 260-day paid work year minus 25 vacation days, 3 personal days and 11 paid holidays).

T. Whenever this Agreement gives the Superintendent the right to make an election or take an option, his means of doing so will be written notice authorized by him to the Treasurer and President of the Board.

U. If the current spouse of the Superintendent ceases to be his spouse (through death or otherwise) prior to the expiration of the period of time set forth in this Contract for survivor benefits (both insurance and any money payments), all such benefits shall continue for the same period of time to the children of the Superintendent (or their guardian).


The Superintendent must maintain his primary place of residence within Olentangy Local School District,


A. The Board will provide professional liability insurance coverage protecting the Superintendent from liability from claims, suits, actions and legal proceedings brought against the Superintendent in his official capacity and as an agent or employee of the School District and while acting within the scope and course of said employment. The minimum amount of such coverage shall be $1 million per occurrence. This paragraph shall not be construed to require the purchase of additional insurance if a general school district liability policy already is in effect having at least the above minimum coverage.

B. The Board further will defend, indemnify, and hold harmless the Superintendent from any and all demands, claims, suits, actions and legal proceedings brought against the Superintendent in his individual or official capacity as agent and employee of the School District, arising from acts or omissions occurring while the Superintendent was acting within the scope and course of his employment. The Board may defend the Superintendent from criminal charges against him if such charges are based on conduct occurring in the scope of employment and in the good-faith belief that the conduct was lawful and in the best interests of the School District. The above provisions shall not be construed so as to provide personal liability for an individual member of the Board to defend or indemnify the Superintendent against such demands, claims, suits, actions and legal proceedings.


Evaluation by the Board of the Superintendent’s performance of his duties as Superintendent shall be conducted annually in accordance with Ohio Revised Code Section 3319.01 and any amendments or successor provisions thereto.


This contract is for a two hundred and sixty (260) day work year, inclusive of paid holidays, personal leave, sick leave, and vacation leave taken in accordance with this Contract. The Superintendent shall devote such time and energies as are necessary to perform the duties specified during normal business hours, but it is expressly agreed that the duties of this position will require the Superintendent to work during times other than normal business hours.


The Board agrees to pay the reasonable and necessary costs for a complete annual medical examination of the Superintendent by a physician of his choice, with the first such examination occurring in calendar year 2006 (and available once each calendar year thereafter). A statement certifying to the physical competency of the Superintendent from the physician shall be provided to the then-Board President.


If any portion of this Contract is ruled to be illegal due to conflict with state or federal law, the remainder of the Contract shall remain in full force and effect for the full duration thereof.


The construction and operation of this Contract shall be in accordance with the laws of the State of Ohio and shall not be modified except by written consent of the parties hereto.

WHEREFORE, the parties have indicated their agreement to the above terms by affixing their signatures below. Approval of this Contract is found in the minutes of the public meeting of the Board of Education held on the 17th day of July, 2007.

July 17, 2007



July 17, 2007

Monday, July 23, 2007

Hoppe on healthcare

Hans-Herman Hoppe is the philosopher apologist of the Austrian School of Economics. Hoppe has written many interesting and insightful books on the philosophy of economics and private property. Here is his excellent contribution to the healthcare debate.

-- Jim

The Mises Institute monthly, free with membership

Sort archived Free Market articles by: Title Author Article Date Subject
April 1993
Volume 11, Number 4

A Four-Step Health-Care Solution

It's true that the U.S. health care system is a mess, but this demonstrates not market but government failure. To cure the problem requires not different or more government regulations and bureaucracies, as self-serving politicians want us to believe, but the elimination of all existing government controls.

It's time to get serious about health care reform. Tax credits, vouchers, and privatization will go a long way toward decentralizing the system and removmg unnecessary burdens from business. But four additional steps must also be taken:

1. Eliminate all licensing requirements for medical schools, hospitals, pharmacies, and medical doctors and other health care personnel. Their supply would almost instantly increase, prices would fall, and a greater variety of health care services would appear on the market.

Competing voluntary accreditation agencies would take the place of compulsory government licensing--if health care providers believe that such accreditation would enhance their own reputation, and that their consumers care about reputation, and are willing to pay for it.

Because consumers would no longer be duped into believing that there is such a thing as a "national standard" of health care, they will increase their search costs and make more discriminating health care choices.

continue reading ...

Friday, July 20, 2007

The Green Economics of Gore

My latest blog post at Mises.org:

Please note that I do not subscribe to the panicked cries of human-induced, carbon-based global warming. But, just for fun, let's assume that the cries are indeed true.

Ever since Mises exposed the negative effects of government interventions, politicians, bureaucrats, and most economists have attempted to refute those truths. A leading fallacy still driving debates and discussions is the one which implies that government can borrow goods from the future in order to satisfy its current demand. That simply cannot happen.

Government can purchase current goods based on the sale of bonds; a sale that will be reconciled at a later date in the form of wealth transfers from taxpayers to bondholders.[1] But, since we can only utilize current goods, and never future goods, our heirs can never produce the materials required today. They can suffer from the mess created by government projects, but never assist with the efforts.[2]

Oddly enough, the Greens have adopted a similar lie; a lie which states we can remove current carbon gases today with yet-to-be-planted, and hence future, trees.

Let's consider the most visible Green: Al Gore.

Being the concerned do-gooder and useful idiot of the enviro-utopians, Gore has adopted the so-called carbon-neutral lifestyle. In order to claim carbon neutrality, Gore offsets his daily carbon emissions by, among other things, paying to have trees planted.

That sounds worthwhile, at least until you consider that Gore produces tons of carbon gases on a yearly basis; gases that may be consumed by his newly-planted trees in a decade or so when, and only if, the saplings reach maturity. His carbon-offset strategy functions more like the spin surrounding government bonds than the implied real-time carbon scrubbers envisioned by his infected masses.

Even though Gore cries that we must act now -- with every passing day another nail in our carbon coffin -- his actions will not produce the immediate results he claims are required to save the planet.

Of course, the only way to satisfy the enviro-utopian agenda -- and hence save the Earth -- is for all of us to stop the production of man-made, carbon-based gases, right now, today, and lie down in the fields to await certain death. But, that solution is not Gore's solution.

Gore is a statist looking for ways to centralize and increase the power of government. To him, playing the carbon-neutral game is simply a means to chain the world to the socialist policies of command and control. Of course, that would mean that the statists such as Gore are playing the enviro-utopians for fools, with the enviro-utopians being the useful idiots of the statist crowd.

Actually, it seems like both groups are playing each other in a race to either destroy civilization now, or socialize it into a slow death. The end is the same, with only the means being different - different time-horizons I assume.


[1] Of course, "will be reconciled" is a fallacy. Government debt is never truly paid as new bonds are issued to settle bonds reaching maturity. The end result is a continuous payment of interest; a wealth transfer from taxpayers to bondholders.

[2] Our heirs never actually pay for current government expenditures in a true sense. Current government expenditures are satisfied through the sale of bonds. The bondholder has paid for the expenditures in order to reap long-term interest transfers from taxpayers.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Indoctrinate them even earlier

At it's recent annual convention, the National Education Association passed a resolution supporting mandatory kindergarten. Only three delegates of the 8,500 present voted against the resolution.

Here's a group of unionists that truly believes parents are incapable of raising children. And, these delegates were selected by the teachers who staff most of this country's public schools.

No wonder that system is such a mess.

Hat tip to Mike Antonucci of the Education Intelligence Agency for that tidbit from the recent NEA convention.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Markets and Quarantines

Can markets handle outbreaks of disease?. The obvious answer is yes. For a detailed explanation, read Robert P. Murphy's latest article at Mises.org.

An excerpt:

How the Free Market Would Handle Quarantines
By Robert P. Murphy

Posted on 7/16/2007 [Subscribe or Tell Others]

On July 3, doctors announced that Andrew Speaker, the tuberculosis patient who sparked an international outcry when he flouted orders and boarded a jet for Canada, might not be so dangerous after all. The CDC confirms that Speaker's TB, though difficult to treat, is
not nearly as drug-resistant as officials thought when they tracked down Speaker on his honeymoon.

For those familiar with the case, the latest wrinkle is par for the course. What follows is a brief summary for those readers who may not have heard all of the (outrageous) details:

  • In January Andrew Speaker was diagnosed with TB (which he thinks he contracted while doing charity work in Vietnam), yet was told he wasn't contagious. He continued to practice law, eat at restaurants, see his fiancée and her young daughter, and all with the knowledge of his doctors.

continue reading at Mises.org ...

Monday, July 16, 2007

Service and frustrations

Latest blog posting on Mises.org:

Yesterday I stopped at an RV/boating store to buy a 40-amp fuse for my camper. Right after I walked into the store, another man, along with his son, entered looking for a place to register his boat. Two sales clerks were available, so we both got immediate attention.

The clerk waiting on me said that her store does not stock the type of fuse I was seeking, and then quickly suggested an auto parts store just down the road. The other clerk provided a similar response, “The store does not register boats.” The customer asked where he could go to get his boat registered. The clerk responded, "Down at the park office, but they aren't open on weekends." The man looked at his son, dropped his head, and mumbled a defeated, "Not open on weekends?!?"

Contrast the park office's hours with those of the auto parts store. The store has late evening Saturday hours, as well as Sunday hours. It is open on weekends as those are the days when most at-home car repair is performed. In addition, if the auto parts store hours do not meet the consumer’s weekend needs, there's always the 24/7 Wal-Mart a little further on down the road. The wonders of competition!

Wait a minute, aren’t weekends also the most popular days for boating? Certainly, but the park doesn't have any competition, and thus has no need to be consumer-oriented.

Stores stay open to serve the consumer, while the state couldn't care less. The entrepreneur says, "How can I help?" The state says, "If you want to boat in our state, you have to play be our rules."

While my camping adventure went as planned despite this minor hiccup, the would-be boater will have to leave work early some day next week in order to purchase his registration, and he will have to wait for the another nice weekend to enjoy his summer fun.

Based on similar situations that happen every day, why would any advocate for a state solution, to anything?

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Robert Mapplethorpe in the classroom

The Thomas B. Fordham Foundation out of DC advocates for (inter alia) school choice, ambitious standards, rigorous assessments, and accountability. The Foundation publishes the Education Gadfly, a weekly bulletin of education news. In this week's guest editorial, Gadfly provides space for Dana Gioia, chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts, to comment on the need for arts in public schools. Hey, attendance is mandatory - the students are captured, so why not indoctrinate them. My response follows:

Dear Editor:

I respond to Pleasure, beauty, and wonder by Dana Gioia, chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts.

Gioia makes the positive statement, "We need a system that grounds all students in pleasure, beauty, and wonder." Missing is any definition of the terms pleasure, beauty, and wonder. This is important to note for two reasons: Gadfly adheres to the concept of explicit standards; and, NEA has funded many artistic adventures that are explicit by any standard.

Given the debates over standards for mathematics, not to mention less solid subjects such as social studies, does Gadfly really believe that a curriculum based on NEA's concept of pleasure, beauty, and wonder, would even approximate a standards-based education? And, with such a loose description of educational outcomes, can he even imagine the stealth curriculum which would supplant real learning?

Certainly Gadfly knows that "stirring" talks do not by nature produce beneficial results. Does he want to divert his attention from discussions of education to debates over what constitutes art? Such debates will consume his time in a no-win pursuit.

Gaddy, rethink your position on this subject.

Note: Full disclosure: I have written articles for Gaddy in the past.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

The Irony of Everyday Math

The following comment was posted on this blog:
My son who has just completed 4th grade at Oak Creek Elementary received his standardized test results. He has scored below the state minimum in math, so we have taken him to get remedial math instruction. He has tested 1 1/2 grade levels below where he should be, he has no concept of math basics, and I am being told that it is due to the confusing and worthless method of Everyday Mathematics. How can a successful and respected district like Olentangy subscribe to this mess of a program? I'm disgusted!!
A very good question. And, the answer exposes the irony of Progressive education programs such as Everyday Math in districts like Olentangy.

How can a school district subscribe to "this mess?" Simple. The parents whose children suffer because of such educational malpractice do what any similarly situated parent would do: they seek help for their child. Parents such as the above poster either work with their child at home or utilize the many outside providers of math intervention.

Of course, the children improve, not because of district programs, but because parents care.

The irony: The improvements that result from parental concern are recorded as proof that the district has chosen the right program. This is because the district takes credit for any instance of improved performance, even improvements that result from parent's time or money.

Ever wonder why Sylvan Learning and other such providers do so well in Olentangy? You now know. Your taxes pay for the harm, and then you must pay to correct the failures of administrators and board members who select and approve such programs; programs that do not teach math.

The solution: Arm yourself with the facts that show the failures of fuzzy math. And, don't allow district administrators to spin some nonsense about the benefits of Everyday Math. A muddled response - a response that sounds like a lot of hooey - is the product of muddled thinking. Don't allow your child to be harmed by administrators and board members who are more concerned about feel-good garbage than education.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

The People's Cube spoofs Paul Krugman

Economist Paul Krugman of NY Times fame is simply a tool of the statists; a Lenin-esque "useful idiot." The web site The People's Cube has an excellent spoof of the nonsense that Krugman calls economics. As the site notes - tongue in cheek:

Most people know that Americans benefit from high taxes, powerful unions, limited consumer choice, and strong government control. But most people lack the training to fully understand why we derive benefits from these policies, and why government control over public anything results in unsurpassable quality. To remedy your "knowledge deficit" you can ask us any question you choose, and it will be explained by the legendary Professor Paul Krugman in a language that you can understand. From the evils of profiteering, corporatism, and economic exploitation to the rewards of regulation, social justice, and community/stakeholder involvement, Professor Krugman will use his agile mind to clarify the otherwise intimidating field of economics.

One sample spoof of Krugman:

Economics Primer 20: Financial Advice
By Paul Krugman
12/20/2005, 12:16 am

No economics primer would be complete without some personal financial advice. And so, here are some tips; allow my genius mind to feed your ignorance.

1. Spend all your money; you’ll always have Social Security to take care of you.

2. Invest in a socially-conscious mutual fund. A good fund will not place your money with any company that pollutes, discriminates, exploits, or makes a profit in any way.

3. Always buy extended warranties, regardless of how much they cost. Fact: Some items will break: Fact: Extended warranties allow you to get these items repaired for free.

4. Buy lots of insurance, and keep those deductibles low. Insure everything in sight: Your house, your car, and if you can, your grocery bill, your utility payments, and your cable bill. Remember: After you pay your premiums, everything is free. Extra tip: Buy insurance to pay for your other insurance premiums.

5. Apply for welfare. Did you know that it is your moral obligation to be on public assistance?

6. Invest in a Times Select subscription. Why spend money on books and schools when you can instead be educated by Maureen Dowd and Bob Herbert?

7. Avoid shopping in warehouse stores, and especially avoid Wal-Mart. The Walton family didn’t get rich by charging low prices.

8. If you foolishly insist on shopping at Wal-Mart, be sure to tip everyone in sight. Your reward for feeding them will be a clean conscience.

9. Don’t buy items made in China; they will then own you. For that matter, stay away from items made in other states, counties, neighborhoods, or for that matter anyone else. Grow all your own food, make all your own clothing.

10. Destroy your house with a wrecking ball. You will then create a job for yourself when you need to rebuild it.

11. Default on your loans. Eventually, the government will generously forgive you.

12. Try credit card debt. By going into debt, you will be obtaining things for free. And, you’ll also be helping the common good by stimulating the economy.

13. Invest in foreign currencies. And then buy my books about foreign currencies.

14. If you own a business, force your employees to form a union. They will be better workers that way.

15. Pay more taxes than what the IRS suggests. Make it at least triple the suggested amount; any investment in your government will be returned to you many times over.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Rothbard Speaks

An old video of the dean of the Austrian School of Economics.

McEwen digs deep ... Tour de France 2007: Stage 1

Phil Liggett is without a doubt the greatest announcer, regardless the sport. Sure he gets the names and stats wrong every now and again, but no one calls the line like him.

The Discovery of Freedom

Rose Wilder Lane is both the daughter of Laura Ingalls Wilder and the author of the fantastic book, The Discovery of Freedom (available for purchase or download at Mises.org).

Consider this excerpt beginning on page 259:

This American method of education never fully developed; it was stopped about forty years ago, by the eager Germanminded reformers, who believed that the State can spend an American's money for his, or his children's, education, much more wisely than he can. American schooling is now compulsory, enforced by the police and controlled by the State (that is, by the politicians in office) and paid for by compulsory taxes.

The inevitable result is to postpone a child's growing-up. He passes from the authority of his parents to the authority of the police. He has no control of his time and no responsibility for its use until he is sixteen years old. His actual situation does not require him to develop self-reliance, self-discipline and responsibility; that is, he has no actual experience of freedom in his youth.

This is ideal education for the German State, whose subjects are not expected ever to know freedom. The discipline in German schools is strict; it tends to train the young into the obedient submission that men in German Government demand
from their subjects.

But it does not work that way in this country, because American educators naturally try to compensate for the counterrevolutionary compulsion in this school system. They do not subject American children to rigid German discipline. On the
contrary, they try to make schools so enjoyable that the children will not realize that the police compel them to be there.(But the children know it.) The teachers try to make learning easy, a game. But real learning is not easy; it requires selfdiscipline and hard work. The attempt to make learning effortless actually keeps a child from discovering the pleasure of self-discipline and of the mental effort that overcomes difficulties and does a thoroughly good job.

This is cruel treatment of the new generations of Americans who must come out of this compulsory and yet too softly pampering schooling to face the realities of a world in which human beings are free and living is not easy. And it is not
the best preparation for inheriting the leadership of the World Revolution for freedom.

Now, consider that Lane wrote this in 1943, 64 years ago. What was true then, is more so today. My other favorite quote (found on page 185) from this wonderful book is:

And let no one imagine that tender sympathy for the poor inspires this attack. These men and women who weep for Americans who own so much less than the rich (and so much more than the poor ever owned in history before) are proposing to take away from them and their children the right ever to own any property.
I could continue with other insightful tidbits, but I would simply end up reproducing the book in full. Buy it, or download it, and read wisdom from The Little House on the Prairie: the second generation.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Political definitions in two sentences

Joe Sobran publishes Sobran's The Real News of the Month. In a June column, he defines the various political species in only two sentences. Well done:

Liberals lie about abortion the way conservatives lie about war. If you lie about both, you’re considered a moderate, like Senator Lieberman; if you tell the truth about both, an extremist, like Senator Hagel.

Monday, July 09, 2007

Learning something new everyday

To be honest, I knew next to nothing about Atlas Shrugged and The Lord of the Rings until today. Now, after reading today's Mises.org Daily Article, I know a little about both, and a lot more about their messages of freedom. A very interesting article indeed.

From Mises.org:

Tales of Titans and Hobbits

Both Rand and Tolkien passionately tell their tales about freedom, writes Juliusz Jablecki, but they resort to completely different aesthetics, and, in consequence, paint two entirely different pictures of the world, with different heroes and different challenges. Are those differences important? How do they affect the "moral" of the respective tales? Given that it is of utmost importance just what kind of story one tells, it is perhaps worthwhile to reflect upon the different world images depicted in Atlas Shrugged and The Lord of the Rings, comparing the characters of both narratives along with the predicaments they face.

Sunday, July 08, 2007

Vices, values, and arbitrary standards

Latest post on Mises.org:

I picked up a new vice a month ago: homemade espresso. Of course, to enjoy this delight, I first had to purchase an espresso machine. Like almost every product on the market, a wide range of espresso machines is available. A simple online search reveals prices ranging from $29.99 to well over $1000. As a certified cheapo, I spent just a little over 30 bucks and began pouring cups of foamy sunshine.

Now, the connoisseurs out there are going to smirk, "That's not espresso. In order to sip the real stuff, you need a machine that has features x, y, and z." Certainly, my faux espresso is not the same as that served to the Parisian, yet when balanced against other wants that are still chasing scarce resources, my investment suits me just fine.

Now, suppose that you are the connoisseur who believes that espresso must be served to the taste of the sophisticated Frenchman. Anything less is substandard and wasteful, if not immoral. Yet the evil entrepreneur will take advantage of simpletons such as me; those not as wise as the connoisseur. To think, someone is actually selling a machine that does not generate sufficient pressure, produces water outside the preferred temperature, and whose crema (reddish-brown foam) sinks rather than floats.

You as the connoisseur, and I as the cheapo, simply disagree. Our preferences differ yet go satisfied in the free market.

Herein lies the contrast between the free market and interventionism. I simply want to enjoy affordable espresso. Nothing fancy, just a little flavor and lots of kick. Absent regulations, the market is there to satisfy. Add the "expert" into the mix, and now I’m forgoing my morning cup because the product I want to buy, and the product an entrepreneur is willing to produce, does not meet some arbitrary standard.

Arbitrary standards are the product of government. Whether in education or automobiles, the politician and bureaucrat create silly standards that satisfy some political or personal agenda; standards that fail to satisfy the desires of the consumer.

Sure, to the connoisseur, I’ve been ripped off, and to the regulator -- the politician and bureaucrat, I'm in need of protection. Yet, I enjoy this fraud every morning, and on the occasional weekend afternoon.

Saturday, July 07, 2007

A taste of Rome in Switzerland

Avenches is home to Switzerland's Roman coliseum. I found it to be as interesting as the Coliseum in Rome. What makes this place special is the lack of tourists and the ability to actually walk throughout the amphitheater, which once held seats for 16,000 spectators.

Besides the amphitheater, Aventicum -- the name for the ancient Roman town -- contains remnants of a Theatre, The Temple of the Grange-des-Dîmes (2nd century AD), "Capitol Hill," and Baths. A very pleasant way to experience Roman history.

Singer v. Rothbard: You decide

Mises.org has two great articles on animal rights. In the first article, Murray Rothbard, dean of the Austrian School of Economics, defines and defends the position that animals have no natural rights. In the second article, B.K. Markus[1] of Mises.org posts an excerpt from Garrison Keillor's radio program, The Writer's Almanac, where Peter Singer takes the position that animals deserve equal rights. Singer, of course, is famous for campaigning to get the United Nations to adopt a Declaration on Great Apes.[2]

While Rothbard defends the natural rights approach - the logical approach - when defining animal rights, there is also a biblical approach to all this as well. I leave you to find that - though I will let you in on the final chase scene; the biblical and Rothbardian approaches arrive at the same conclusion.

Read both Mises.org posts and decide for yourself.


[1] In case you don't follow the links, B.K. Markus is a strong supporter of the Rothbard position.
[2] According to Wikipedia, Singer "states that abortion, painless infanticide and euthanasia can be justified in certain special circumstances, for instance in the case of severely disabled infants whose life would cause suffering both to themselves and to their parents." Now, if I used that quote to question Singer, I would be committing the ad hominem logical fallacy. And, I wouldn't want to do that.

Thursday, July 05, 2007

Culinary arts and communist leaders

Latest posting on Mises.org:

The lovers of Liberty sometimes discount how hard the statists work. Certainly, we discuss and debate, and read and write, all in an effort to further the cause of Freedom. We grow hungry and need refreshment; that we accept. But, what about the socialists who are in the midst of economic and political plans that will exterminate close to 100 million? What do they eat to nourish their tired minds and bodies?

For that answer, look no further than the book, Revolutionary Chinese Cookbook, by chef Fuchsia Dunlop. This book is full of tales of both the famous exploits and favorite meals of Chairman Mao.

Dunlop was interviewed earlier this year on NPR. According to the NPR website, "(Dunlop) joins Melissa Block in the kitchen to prepare one of the most common Hunanese meals, said to have been a favorite of Chairman Mao: home-style bean curd, a spicy dish that creates a rich glow in the mouth."

Interviewer Block has a noticable lilt in her voice whenever she says, "Mao." To those ignorant of history, Block's obvious excitement over the Chairman's menu makes him seem like some rock star from her youth.

OK. So, who's this Mao guy? Well, according to the interview web page, he is simply the man who led the Chinese Communist Revolution. China's version of George Washington, I suppose.

Dunlop opens her book with Mao's words of wisdom: "You can’t be a revolutionary if you don’t eat chilies." I wonder if her next culinary text will cover the favorite breakfasts of the Soviet Union. She could start that book with a little wisdom from Trotsky: "You can't make an omelet without breaking eggs."

Melissa Block can only wait.

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Speaking of Liberty

A great passage from Lew Rockwell's book, Speaking of Liberty (available at Mises.org).

The head of state makes a speech to a packed house of legislators, and is cheered to the rafters for his flurry of visionary policy ideas. He calls for the restoration of cities and towns, and the revival of the nation’s industrial base through new spending programs. He makes more housing a national priority. He promises more education spending, new resources for the armed forces, a secure system of old-age pensions, and more equitable healthcare delivery. He takes the credit for a purported economic boom, and further promises to surpass all previous records in national productivity.

No, this isn’t (Bush's)[1] state-of-the-union address. It was Stalin’s 1946 speech, which concluded as follows: “The Soviet people are ready for it! Under the leadership of the Soviet government, with Stalin at its head, the Soviet people will transform the law on the new Five Year Plan into life.”


[1] This passage is based on a speech made during the Clinton administration. The same can as easily be said for the Bush administration.

Monday, July 02, 2007

Forget Rick Steves

If you want to experience Switzerland, try Olivone in the canton of Ticino. You will get a lot of German and Italian flavor, plus fantastic biking and hiking. The hotel Osteria Centrale is a fine place to rest and eat - especially their cheese. Simply delicious!

Rent a bike at Sarci Sports SA and ride up Lukmanier Pass or on the treasure of roads and trails leaving the hub village of Campo Blenio - just a few miles up the valley from Olivone - take the old mountain road with cliffs and rock overhangs.

Plus, lots of tunnels that lead to more beautiful valleys. Superb.