Confirmations; education; and other critical matters

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Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Between 1965 and 2011, the official poverty rate was essentially flat, while the government spending per person on poverty programs rose by more than 900% after inflation.

Peter Cove

Amnesty International Boss Endorses “Jihad in self-defence”

Liberalism is a philosophy of consolation for the West as it commits suicide.

James Burnham

If a foreign government had imposed this system of education on the United States, we would rightfully consider it an act of war.

Glenn T. Seaborg, National Commission on Education, 1983

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I have about had it with Firefox. I have been using it for years, and mostly it works well; but periodically it crashes and has lost all memory of anything I have done with it since last October. It restores back to then. Not always: sometimes, after a computer reset or just overnight sleep, it comes back exactly as it was. But once in a while the computer is working fine, but when I got to Firefox it is seriously dead; nothing for it but to shut it down with Task Manager, because clicking on the shutdown X or indeed anywhere does nothing. When I open again, up comes a months old session. I can always tell, because it also opens a window in which I am talking about the Heinlein Award from NSS. I can close that window, shut down Firefox, telling it to remember the current session, and when it comes back up that’s gone: but after any serious Firefox failure, up will come the months old session and I hear myself talking again. After that it’s a half hour task to rebuild the session from yesterday’s history, painstakingly opening a new tab and restoring tab at a time – if I fail to open a new tab, the restoration replaces what I have just done.

I’m not sure why I stay with Firefox. I have had bad experiences with Windows Explorer often enough that I have stopped trying the new “improved” version – in my experience Microsoft “improvements” are at the expense of what used to be called user friendliness – but I guess I will have to try it again, because Firefox doesn’t fix old bugs while often adding new ones.

I’m sure there is some arcane formula for fixing Firefox, and in the old days I would have found and published it, but now I seem to have fewer and fewer productive hours each day, and bug chasing doesn’t have the appeal it once had.

And now, I discover, each of my new tabs is opened in a new WINDOW although I did nothing to tell this officious drech of a program to do that. It will take time I don’t have to find the fix for that, and meanwhile Firefox is useless. If they don’t fix these interface bugs pretty fast, I’m giving up.

Later: well, Firefox, after being shut down and restarted several time, seems to be it’s old, somewhat cranky, but usable self again. It has ceased to make any addition a new window rather than tab (and driving Windows 19 to distraction and I’m going to put up with it a while longer, but I understand Microsoft is still improving whatever they call their browser, and eventually they’ll

let a real user get at the interface. So they may be catching up. Certainly everyone needs competition.

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Everyone needs competition, but no one wants any for himself; one reason our schools for two generations or more have been easily mistaken for an act of oppression settled on us by a foreign conqueror. There used to be built in competition: schools were mostly paid for by the people who used them, in small enough school districts that it was actually realistic for competent people – like retired military, or police, or business people or even teachers – to run for them. They were usually depicted in intellectual circles as bombastic idiots whose main objective was to keep costs down – Miss Brooks was always in the right and the Board in the wrong – but even in fiction it generally worked out to the benefit of the students. Not any more. The problems and dissents in todays world ignore the students, and work out to the benefit of the politicians, educrat unions, and teachers with tenure regardless of competence, and everyone knows this. Few politicians send their own children to public schools, especially not to any they actually manage. They know better. Jimmy Carter sent his kids to public schools, as I recall. Never heard of them since, but perhaps I do not pay close attention to such news.

Recently there was drama in the Senate, with the Vice President called to preside over, and cast the deciding vote in, the confirmation of Mrs. DeVos as Secretary of Education. Not a single Democrat voted for her, including New Jersey Senator Cory Booker, when not all that long ago served on the Board of the school choice organization Mrs. DeVos chairs. According to the Wall Street Journal ( The Real Democratic Party) Mr. Cory Booker hopes to run for President, and since it is impossible to raise the money of superdelegate votes for the Democratic Nomination without the support of the Educrat Unions, he went along with the party Line and voted against his one time friend.

The unions can‘t even tolerate a debate on the subject lest their monopoly power be threatened. All that chatter about “the children” is so much moral humbug.

The official reason for the extraordinary opposition to Mr. Trump’s non-political nominee is her lack of educational experience. Of course to gain acceptable professional experience you would have to come up through the ranks of the educrats and become one of them – or break your heart in a classroom in a system of education indistinguishable from and act of war against the American people since 1983. I would have thought it obvious that whomever Mr. Trump appointed to Education Secretary it would not be an “experienced professional.” Instead he chose a very wealthy school choice activist; sort of like choosing a community organizer to be President? But perhaps that it too snarky.

The public school system has failed, and I doubt it will ever be reconstructed. If it is, it will be by returning control to the local neighborhoods and letting local school boards whose constituents pay school taxes run the show including choosing principals and key teacher; by rewarding competence and dismissing incompetence.

It has been shown more than once that one way to improve schools is to fire the worst 10% of the teachers. Don’t replace them. Just make do with the rest. The school will improve noticeably in numbers of pupils who can read and students who graduate – and can read when they do graduate. But in fact no school fires any incompetents, and teacher awards are given by seniority, not performance; the unions are unalterably opposed to rewards for competence in teaching.

Mrs. Betsy DeVos is now Secretary of Education. She is strongly for parental choice in school, and is aware that some parents will choose badly; but at present the school system is unimaginably bad; it is unlikely any parent would chose something worse than the system we have. They would really have to work to find one.

As to how do you choose the worst 10% of teachers, the other teachers know. So do the students. Try 5% to start; it’s still far more than the number fired for incompetence in the present system, which amounts to under 1% a year, ten or fewer in a system of tens of thousands. Yes: there might be some injustices, firings due to spite and factions; but the present system keeps them all, and the clock is ticking.

To give some idea of what schools once routinely did, I offer California’s image

I have just learned that Senator Sessions has been confirmed as attorney general (without the need for the Vice President). The Cabinet is forming.

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An Antipoverty Veteran Now Wages War on Dependency

How Peter Cove came to realize that jobs, not government aid, offered the route to prosperity

By

Jason L. Riley

Feb. 7, 2017 7:04 p.m. ET

100 COMMENTS

Peter Cove dropped out of a graduate program at the University of Wisconsin-Madison more than 50 years ago to enlist in Lyndon Johnson’s War on Poverty. These days, he’s fighting a war on dependency.

“We have edged toward a moral cliff where the shame of being dependent on government aid has been replaced by a breezy bonhomie for entitlement,” he writes in a new book, “Poor No More.” “We have moved from a commitment to serve the deserving poor to an assumption that all are deserving. And much of this rests at the feet of politicians trolling for votes by larding on the largesse.”[clip]

The government has spent an amazing amount of money per capita since Lyndon Johnson declared war on poverty. The poverty rate remains essentially unchanged since 1965, and there are more households on welfare now than when the war on poverty began.

If you take the annual expenditure on poverty and divide by the number of people on poverty, the result is a number above the poverty level; yet we are told of the misery of those in poverty. Where all the money goes I leave as an exercise for the reader. There is a great deal more worth reading in the article.

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Finally, George Schultz and James Baker, two former Secretaries of State, give their views on climate change.

A Conservative Answer to Climate Change

Enacting a carbon tax would free up private firms to find the most efficient ways to cut emissions.

By

George P. Shultz and

James A. Baker III

Updated Feb. 7, 2017 7:07 p.m. ET

1426 COMMENTS

Thirty years ago, as the atmosphere’s protective ozone layer was dwindling at alarming rates, we were serving proudly under President Ronald Reagan. We remember his leading role in negotiating the Montreal Protocol, which continues to protect and restore the delicate ozone layer. Today the world faces a similar challenge: the threat of climate change.

Just as in the 1980s, there is mounting evidence of problems with the atmosphere that are growing too compelling to ignore. And, once again, there is uncertainty about what lies ahead. The extent to which climate change is due to man-made causes can be questioned. But the risks associated with future warming are so severe that they should be hedged.

The responsible and conservative response should be to take out an insurance policy. Doing so need not rely on heavy-handed, growth-inhibiting government regulations. Instead, a climate solution should be based on a sound economic analysis that embodies the conservative principles of free markets and limited government.[snip]

I do not accept all their arguments, but I agree that I could be wrong; and insurance policy makes sense. This one is worth thinking about.

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Recycle rare earths

Dr. Pournelle,
Perhaps we begin to recycle and collect what we have, if China limits our access. Expensive, but better than some alternatives.
Thanks for years of information and entertainment, Sir!
Beverly Nuckols, MD

Agreed. Of course it requires energy; everything does. But we need the energy for other uses too…

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Regulation and Draining the Swamp

Jerry,
In response to my post on the source of regulations, you wrote ‘It may start there, but I do not think the civil service is ever eager to declare any job redundant; certainly their union never has. It is also certain that it will take the cooperation of Congress to drain the swamp.’
You are right about the civil service and their protection of jobs, but surely, just like managing immigration, it is important to control the regulatory ‘borders’ even as we attempt to reduce the unnecessary burdens on the economy by eliminating over regulation. It is also difficult to see how a serious dent can be made in the regulatory burden if the case cam be made that the executive is no longer enforcing the laws as passed by the legislative. A serious draining of the regulatory swamp may require a serious refinement of existing legislation.
As for the number of civil servants, the plethora of regulations on the books certainly seems to provide justification for all of these government employees and making a serious dent in their numbers would put millions of people on the unemployment rolls with little prospect of finding a private sector job — a politically untenable situation. We need to figure out a way to get over our addiction to bloated government employment without going through a cold-turkey withdrawal.
We come to our bloated bureaucracy, though, from another set of forces other than having too many regulations to enforce. Early in my career I was a civil servant, a GS-1 working as an electronics technician for the Department of Defense. I saw highly competent engineers, doing productive work, stymied in their careers, unable to be promoted or given a pay raise in their GS-12 positions, because the rules by which civil servants gained promotion or pay raises did not allow them, no matter how deserving they were.
These engineers were at the maximum step within the GS-12 level. Their manager was not allowed to give them any kind of a merit pay raise above what that step specified. The only way to give them a pay raise was to make them a GS-13 level. This, however, required them to have a managerial role and, therefore, to have direct reports — lower level civil servants they would be responsible for. So, to solve the injustice of their stymied careers as highly competent technical employees, the manager creates a justification for new hires in his office, promotes the engineers to GS-13 and assigns them responsibility for managing the new hires.
The cycle continues from here. To get to GS-14, they need more direct reports, so more people are hired. And so on.
This plays along with the second driver of bloat in the civil service rules — an office may or may not get more money in next year’s budget, but will be guaranteed to get LESS next year if they do not spend ALL of this year’s budget. So, as the fiscal year begins to wind down, there is a frantic call to all levels of the office to SPEND MORE MONEY. On ANYTHING. The budget must be ‘justified’ by expenditure, not by production. No one is considered competent to judge the productivity of the various offices, so they have to look at the objective ‘measure’ of expenditures. A great way to spend money is to hire more people. Then you can promote people who may even deserve a promotion. And new people need cost of living increases, desks, supplies, you-name-its, so it is easier to justify a bigger budget for next year. Oh yes, and as the manager of the office has more people with more reports, he gets promoted, too.
If ever there was a prescription for inflation, these rules are it.

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Kevin L Keegan

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Freedom is not free. Free men are not equal. Equal men are not free.

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