Black Shards Press – Electronic Gumbo is Our Specialty

1st Grade Harassment

13.04.2008 (6:59 pm) – Filed under: Child Care,Education,Parenting ::

In pointing out another case of legalistic lunacy, Susan Duclos writes:

The "zero tolerance" policy at some school and in some states, reaches levels of complete incompetence when a 6 years gets written up as a sexual offender for copying what another kid did and playfully smacking little Katherine DeLeon on the bottom twice.

Where is the line drawn between zero tolerance and common sense?

When are school officials going to start using judgment instead of some generic general rule to decide a case on an individual basis?

In what alternate reality do we live in where a six year old or a four year old are accused of being a sexual offender, simply because they are too young to understand their natural inclination to play and touch are wrong?

I don’t want to justify this kind of gutless, inept decision, because it’s wrong and stupid just as Spree says.  But there are many reasons why school officials make these kind of decisions and it’s important for parents who care – which is a minority, to be sure – to realize that they aren’t made in a complete vacuum. 

Let’s touch on a few, shall we?

First, realize that when little Johnny can’t behave during school, teachers and principals are usually powerless to discipline him in a manner that teaches the cause-effect relationship; i.e., misbehave repeatedly in school and an unpleasant rump-paddling will occur.  Bad behavior stops.  But that’s so direct, it’s offensive to the refined values of a certain misguided segment of the parental population, to say nothing of the know-it-alls who define what are and are not acceptable ways to teach children.

Strike 1.

Second, consider the effect that a single willfully ignorant parent has on an entire classroom of children.  Given that real discipline cannot be meted out during school hours – somehow assigning extra work to a kid who doesn’t do his regular assignments just isn’t effective… go figure – teachers must rely on Johnny’s mom and dad to take care of modifying his bad behavior.  That works about as well as you’d expect given that his parents are the ones who have molded his actions from the time of his birth.

Far too often mom and dad either refuse to attend parent-teacher conferences as scheduled or show up only to blindly defend their child.  Yes, it’s unpleasant to be told that one’s baby is a brat or a bully or refuses to give teachers and classmates the respect they deserve.  It’s hard.  But it’s often the truth and too many parents refuse to accept what they’re being told.  Parental follow-up is therefore lacking in many discipline situations.

Strike 2.

Third, teachers and principals are college-educated individuals, most of whom have a genuine desire to teach their students to the best of their ability.  They are also over-stressed, over-worked (during the school year), and woefully under-paid relative to their education level, job requirements, and, most importantly, expectations.  As a result, burnout is common.

Common sense, which is lacking, I realize, tells me that teachers ought to take a break in their careers to do something different for a while, to interact with other adults in professional settings and to get their enthusiasm back.

But this is discouraged by administrators who often have trouble simply filling teaching slots with qualified instructors to begin with.  The problem is further exacerbated by the teachers union and the retirement system that it has put in place. 

There is only one way for an educator to grow old in relative prosperity after working for decades for low wages:  retire through the Teachers Retirement System.  This requires varying years of service depending on one’s locale but is certainly at least 20 years and often more.

The system is thus heavily back-loaded and forces educators to continue working in the profession when their interest level and enthusiasm – very important qualities in a teacher – have waned or vanished.

This is important when it comes to cases like the one in question because using common sense, as Spree rightly demands, can be a risky endeavor.  This is especially true when a teacher or principal can be called to account in front of the school board for failing to invoke the applicable but draconian policy called for by the district’s policy manual.

The truth is that educators often cannot afford to act as reason tells them to for fear of legal repercussions or outright fear of physical assault at the hands of parents.

Strike 3.

So yes, it’s a bad, useless decision to label a 6-year-old as a sex offender. 

An assistant director of the National Association of School Psychologists, Ted Feinberg, says he is "stunned" by the school’s reaction to a child of six that has no concept of what those behaviors mean and he states, "I believe they do not have the capacity for awareness of sexual motivation … it seems like a gross mislabeling of the behavior and an overreaction."

It’s also something that can be reasonably predicted given the environment in which educators find themselves.

Liberals, Taxes, and Pain

13.04.2008 (8:14 am) – Filed under: Liberalism,Taxation ::

Sometimes I have a tendency to treat liberal as if it is a dirty word.  And sometimes I skip the part about explaining why that is, yet again, because that dirtiness is so obvious.  Since an apology is required for every misdeed in this day and age, well, I’m sorry for not spelling it out.  😉

Happily, Rachel Lucas is, using her own kind of straight talk, more than willing to take up my slack.  Enjoy

Obama: Sense and Nonsense

11.04.2008 (9:09 pm) – Filed under: Parenting,Politics,Society ::

Inside every candidate there are multiple personalities, each of whom run the show in turn, depending on who the audience is.  Barack Obama is no different than any other.  He’s touched on personal responsibility before and he does it well by not trying to pull any punches, as in Gary, Indiana today:

"You should have a curfew in your house so your children aren’t out in the streets all night. You should meet with the teacher and find out what the homework is and help that child with the homework. And if you don’t know how to do the homework, don’t be embarrassed, find someone to help you."

"Fathers, be fathers," he added. "Be a part of your child’s life. Be a part of your child’s life and try to make them proud.

"And the last thing is, if your child is misbehaving at school don’t curse out the teacher. You know who you are. It’s not the teacher’s fault that your child is misbehaving. That’s some home training."

The crowd reacted raucously and Obama laughed. "You know what I say is true, though. Don’t blame the teachers, and the government and the schools if you’re not doing your job."

This is a message that both needs to be articulated and cuts a swath of truth across all racial and socio-economic strata.  Well done, Mr. Obama.  Now, if only he would extend that idea of individual responsibility to its logical conclusion:  fiscal and social conservatism.

Unfortunately, it was too good to be true.  Here’s Obama speaking in front of the rich and shameless, the left-wing elite in San Francisco:

You go into these small towns in Pennsylvania and, like a lot of small towns in the Midwest, the jobs have been gone now for 25 years and nothing’s replaced them…And they fell through the Clinton Administration, and the Bush Administration, and each successive administration has said that somehow these communities are gonna regenerate and they have not.

And it’s not surprising then they get bitter, they cling to guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren’t like them or anti-immigrant sentiment or anti-trade sentiment as a way to explain their frustrations.

Where is this coming from?  Hopefully it’s just the repressed super-ego that Obama only shows off at glitzy gatherings of the uber-rich in order to make them feel at home with him.  Such is the power of condescension – it makes for fine and lasting friendships, so long as there’s someone to mock.

Will the real Barack Obama please stand up for himself?

No Votes For Veterans

11.04.2008 (11:58 am) – Filed under: Military ::

Steven Rosenfeld says that some wounded veterans may not be able to vote as a result of being confined to Veterans Affairs facilities during their recovery:

"VA remains opposed to becoming a voter registration agency pursuant to the National Voter Registration Act, as this designation would divert substantial resources from our primary mission," [Secretary of Veterans Affairs James B.] Peake said in an April 8 letter to Sens. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., and John Kerry, D-Mass.

Peake’s letter was the latest response to a year-old request by Kerry and Feinstein to give veterans using VA facilities the opportunity to register to vote, just as people who apply for a driver’s license are given that chance at state motor vehicle agencies. Veterans who have not previously registered, as well as registered voters who move, must reregister with new addresses in order to vote. By not helping the injured veterans to do so, it is likely that former soldiers seeking care at VA facilities will lose their right to vote in 2008.

"Substantial resources?"  Believe me, if the underachievers at the Texas Department of Motor Vehicles can register people to vote it’s not too hard.

At the risk of appearing to go soft on liberals like the aforementioned Democratic Senators, their response to Peake’s insipid missive is right on the money:

"The Department of Veterans Affairs should provide voter materials to veterans," Feinstein said. "I believe the cost of providing these voter materials is minimal. It’s a small price to pay for the sacrifice these men and women have made in fighting for our nation’s freedom. I am disappointed."

"You’d think that when so many people give speeches about keeping faith with our veterans, the least the government would do is protect their right to vote, after they volunteered to go thousands of miles from home to fight and give that right to others," Kerry said. "And yet we’ve seen the government itself block veterans from registering to vote in VA facilities, without any legal basis or rational explanation."

Where’s the common sense in the VA’s position?  Like so much about government, there doesn’t seem to be any. 

"During a time of war, our nation has a special and sacred duty to assist our fellow citizens who have defended our Constitution with their lives — our military veterans — with registering to vote and with voting," said Paul Sullivan, Veterans for Common Sense executive director. "We encourage VA to allow nonpartisan voter registration drives at VA facilities so that as many veterans as possible can actively participate in our democracy — we owe our veterans no less for standing between a bullet and our Constitution."

Yep.

(h/t rawstory)

Chilling Effect in Canada

09.04.2008 (12:21 pm) – Filed under: Conservatism,Free Speech,Law,Media,Political Correctness ::

Kathy Shaidle reports that she and other bloggers are being sued by Richard Warman, a former member of Canada’s Human Rights Commission and frivolous lawsuit filer extraordinaire:

Canada’s busiest litigant, serial "human rights" complainant and — the guy Mark Steyn has called "Canada’s most sensitive man" — Richard Warman is now suing his most vocal critics — including me.

The suit names:
•    Ezra Levant (famous for his stirring YouTube video of his confrontation with the Canadian Human Rights tribunal after he published the “Mohammed Cartoons”)
•    FreeDominion.ca (Canada’s answer to FreeRepublic.com)
•    Kate McMillan of SmallDeadAnimals.com
•    Jonathan Kay of the National Post daily newspaper and its in-house blog
•    and me, Kathy Shaidle of FiveFeetOfFury.com

Kathy says fighting the lawsuit will cost her $30,000 or more and I’m betting on the "or more" bit of that statement.

Ezra Levant says:

Obviously, this fight isn’t just about Warman and the defendants. It’s about political censorship, the abuse of government power, and the freedom of the blogosphere. Warman wants to marginalize and perhaps even criminalize conservative ideas. Well, I want to denormalize the human rights commissions. It’s going to be a helluva fight – and an excellent opportunity to showcase the abusive, corrupt, bullying, censorious nature of the CHRCs and their star pupil, Richard Warman.

I don’t even think the importance of this fight is limited to Canada. The creeping censorship that Warman embodies is of the same breed as the censorship that Geert Wilders faces for his film, Fitna. It’s part of a global attempt to squelch ideas about liberty and other western values. It’s part of an unholy alliance between domestic leftists and foreign jihadis. In fact, it’s precisely what I’m talking about, with Mark Steyn, in New York tomorrow.

I believe that this sort of censorship-by-proxy is a pressing issue that needs to be countered by active resistance from writers and readers alike.  That’s why I’ve donated to Kathy’s fund and plan to tip the others who have requested help as well.

Do your part to help keep the web (relatively) free and open.  Where else can you make your voice heard?

Fight Harassment Claims

08.04.2008 (8:25 am) – Filed under: Discrimination,Law ::

Rob Lowe is fighting back against what he calls an attempt to damage and humiliate his family by a former employee  who is threatening to file a sexual harassment suit.  Can’t say as I’m a huge fan, but I do appreciate Lowe’s contribution to cinema, mainly because, 20+ years ago, my wife and I went to see Youngblood on our second date.

Lowe says:

when people make false claims of harassment particularly for financial gain, it must be defended vigorously and openly, for it weakens the claims of legitimate victims.

I also know of many people in everyday life who are paying the price of a climate where anyone can accuse anybody of anything, anytime, and hope for a big cash pay-off at the end. “Hush money” to just go away. Well I won’t go away. No one intimidates my family. My wife and I have many former and long term employees, all of whom know this woman, who can and will refute any claims of anything inappropriate in our home, or anywhere else. We will defend ourselves with vigor and without fear. We live in a time where businesses build glass-walled offices to prevent this exact kind of “his-word-against-mine” extortion. But you can’t build a world of glass. You shouldn’t have to live in fear of being alone in a room with a co-worker or having to tip-toe through your own home.

This may yet prove to be just another sordid Hollywood affair when and if all the facts come out.

Even if that proves to be the case, there’s something that rings true about Lowe’s words.  It’s all well and good to strive for a gender-neutral workplace.   When ability, effort, and productivity are equivalent, so should the rewards for employees, regardless of race, gender, etc.

But it’s a sure sign that we have gone too far when the mere accusation of impropriety is akin to a conviction and employers are unable to correct or eliminate poor performers for fear of legal repercussions, situations that happen with disturbing regularity in the American workplace.

Phil Gramm a Terrorist?

06.04.2008 (8:32 am) – Filed under: Finance,Media,Politics ::

That’s what Shaun Mullen of the Moderate Voice says.  His justification?  Gramm, the former Senator from Texas, played in instrumental role in dismantling decades-old banking regulations during the Clinton administration.  Terrorist.  We’d better lock Gramm up as a matter of national security.  Imagine the gall, doing away with obsolete rules from a by-gone era.  Evidently Mullen’s idea of government is one that simply continues to grow without ever being pruned back.  Typical liberal think, and anything but moderate, as Karl explains.

Quoting Mullen:

Phil Gramm, who is co-chair of McCain’s campaign, is not just another lobbyist. He is the man most responsible for the repeal of Depression-era banking regulations that have led directly and inextricably to much of today’s economic turmoil

Considering the pain and suffering that Gramm’s masterwork has caused ordinary Americans, it is not hyperbolic to say that he is a terrorist, he just doesn’t wear funny looking headgear and carry a Kalashikov.

McCain acknowledges that he’s “no expert” and “doesn’t understand” the economy. That is worrisome enough, but that he is relying on a terrorist in pinstripes to figure things out for him is . . . well, terrifying.

In Shaun’s view of the world none of the participants in the doomed lending scheme are responsible for their own actions.  How could they have known, after all, that historically low credit rates would rise?  Who could have guessed that adjustable-rate mortgages would increase, leaving over-leveraged buyers unable to meet their obligations?  Anyone with any knowledge of financial markets whatever, that’s who. 

But Mullen would have us believe that the failure of the borrowers to understand the risks they were taking isn’t their fault at all.  In the reality in which he and other liberal evaders of responsibility live, it’s the government’s fault for failing to fulfill its primary function, which is to control these people’s behavior so that they do what exactly what Shaun wants them to.

Gramm, who was a professor of economics at Texas A&M University for 12 years, has more knowledge of finance and economics in his pinky toe that Mr. Mullen has in his entire body.  But it is currently a popular – and perhaps desperate – ploy by liberals to attempt to link Gramm to the current financial troubles in order to make John McCain look bad by association. 

As we’ve frequently seen in regard to Hillary Clinton, this technique is a staple of liberal/progressive writers, of whom Mullen is hardly the worst or most important. 

Calling Phil Gramm a terrorist is both ridiculous and libelous.  Reading these words makes me wonder about something akin to intellectual terrorism. 

Destructive words, deliberately thrown about, damaging targets and bystanders alike with their unjustified force – all in service of an ideological cause that would not triumph in any sort of straight-up democratic process.

Sounds right.

Roommates.com: Another Bad Judicial Decision

05.04.2008 (12:17 pm) – Filed under: Discrimination,Law,Stupidity,Technology ::

Evidently we needed another inept ruling from the west coast circuit to remind us that justice is a three-ring circus out that-a-way.  The LA Times says:

The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals decided Thursday that … a site called Roommates.com may be brought to trial for possibly violating anti-discrimination laws because it requires users to provide information about gender, sexual orientation and whether they have children, and then uses the information to screen people for matches.

Get back, honky cats!  I mean really, what other criteria that one might want to apply to a roommate search might be "discriminatory"?  Suppose I only want to live with a Hispanic person?  Illegal, probably, in California.  Does he snore?  Too bad, you can’t ask that either.

Who exactly do these clowns, er, judges, think they are?  Like, gods, with a small "g"?  It’s pathetic, their neurotic need to force people to boil down their existences into a soupy, gray muddle of mediocrity.  Judgment need not apply, to say nothing about applying any sort of personal preference to the way we live our lives.

More:

"A real estate broker may not inquire as to the race of a prospective buyer, and an employer may not inquire as to the religion of a prospective employee," Chief Judge Alex Kozinski wrote for the majority. "If such questions are unlawful when posed face-to-face by telephone, they don’t magically become lawful when asked electronically online."

Site users are required to select from drop-down menus whether they want to live with "straight or gay" males, only with "straight" males, only with "gay" males or with "no males," the court said.

That’s good news!  For one thing it means that Roommates.com has made the investment in their business and found out what criteria its customers think are important when choosing a person to live with.  Presumedly we’re primarily talking about multi-month or longer leases in which one would be contractually stuck with the other person(s).  Doesn’t it make sense for people to be able to choose who they want to live with?

Not to this court.

Dating websites that require users to answer similar questions are not liable, the ruling said, because discrimination in choosing a partner is not illegal.

"It is perfectly legal to discriminate along those lines in dating, and thus there can be no claim based solely on the content of these questions," the majority opinion said.

Really?  How long until the 9th Circus Court reverses that inalienable right as well?

Obama Advisor Recommends Keeping Troops in Iraq

05.04.2008 (12:17 pm) – Filed under: Iraq,Politics ::

The New York Sun reports that Colin Kahl, Barack Obama’s working group coordinator on Iraq, has written a paper about U.S. troop numbers in that country in which he advises that significant numbers of U.S. forces should be retained in Iraq for at least 2 more years.

"…the U.S. should aim to transition to a sustainable over-watch posture (of perhaps 60,000–80,000 forces) by the end of 2010 (although the specific timelines should be the byproduct of negotiations and conditions on the ground)."

“It refers to the U.S. being out of the lead, largely in a support role. It doesn’t mean the U.S. does not do things like targeted counter-terrorism missions or continue to train and advise the Iraqis,” he said. “It would not be 150,000 Americans taking the lead in counterinsurgency.”

The Obama camp is playing fast-and-loose with Kahl’s report, with both Kahl and Obama’s campaign saying that the report is unrelated to any official campaign position.  Even so, it’s good to see Obama at least tacitly acknowledging the reality that our presence is need in Iraq for the foreseeable future.

It would be utterly irresponsible for any American president to execute a mass withdrawal of combat troops from Iraq.  If Obama is elected to the presidency I would expect him to execute Kahl-like policy, something that would leave his rabidly anti-war progressive supporters gnashing their teeth at his "betrayal" of them.  And wouldn’t that be a shame?!  🙂

Yet after the recent fiasco in Basra, I think it’s fair to wonder again if the Iraqi army will ever be able to exert its influence over the country in an independent fashion.  Is its failure to seize control over the region merely growing pains?  Or is the Iraqi army more similar to that of South Vietnam than the Bush administration would have us believe?  At this point the question is still open.

Year by year, the goal of deploying a capable, free-standing Iraqi army has seemed always to slip further into the future. In the latest shift, with Petraeus now U.S. commander in Iraq, the Pentagon’s new quarterly status report quietly drops any prediction of when homegrown units will take over security responsibility nationwide, after last year’s reports had forecast a transition in 2008.

One thing is obvious:  The Bush administration will leave this war and the decision about troop levels to the next president.  That fact alone means that John McCain is the best choice in 2008.

Winner Take All? That’s Clinton

05.04.2008 (12:17 pm) – Filed under: Politics ::

Even as Hillary Clinton’s lead shrinks in Pennsylvania, Rasmussen Reports says that if the Democrats used a winner-take-all system for allocating delegates things would be quite a bit different.  Their numbers show Clinton leading Barack Obama by approximately 167 delegates when counted from that perspective. 

If the Democrats were to allot their current state delegate totals in a winner-take-all format, Clinton would actually have a significant delegate advantage. Despite having won only 14 recognized contests to Obama’s 30, Clinton would currently have a 120 (1738 to 1618) total delegate lead and a remarkable 167 (1427 to 1260) pledged delegate lead.

The Clinton campaign could contend that it is the proportional allocation system’s inherent "over-fairness" that is denying her the significant delegate gains that she justifiably deserves from winning states like Ohio, where Clinton’s 10 percent margin of victory only garnered her 9 more delegates than Obama.

This is certainly true of Texas, my home state, where the "Two-Step", a nasty little system that lets the team with the most vociferous following steal an undeserved win, is in play.  And that’s exactly what happened in this year’s Democratic primary.

Clinton won the popular vote rather handily despite the intense media buzz that gave her no chance to do so, only to end up behind in the state’s delegate count after the nasty little back room deals were done being cut in the post-primary caucuses. 

Rasmussen:

The Clinton campaign could contend that it is the proportional allocation system’s inherent "over-fairness" that is denying her the significant delegate gains that she justifiably deserves from winning states like Ohio, where Clinton’s 10 percent margin of victory only garnered her 9 more delegates than Obama.

I’m not buying that.