Saturday, November 09, 2013

November 9 should be a worldwide day of remembrance and celebration

November 9th should be a National holiday. Or better yet, it should be a worldwide holiday. It should rival a combination of New Years’ Eve and the 4th of July. There should be concerts, dancing in the street, Champagne toast, ringing of church bells, and fire works.

 On November 9, 1989 the Berlin Wall fell and the world changed forever. As the world watched, we did not know if Russia would send in troops to put down the rebellion or not. We did not know if East German guards would fire on their fellow citizens. In 1958 an uprising in Hungary was crushed. In 1968 the Czech rebellion was likewise suppressed. As we watched in 1989 it was hard to believe that the East German rebellion would end differently, but there was reason to hope.

There was reason to believe that there were few true believers in Communism left behind the Iron curtain. Gorbachev, to save Communism, had launched Perestroika and Glasnost, which had not saved Communism but sealed its fate. The Soviets had been forced to realize that they could not outspend the west in the arms race. The Solidarity union movement had sprung up in Poland and not been crushed and Catholicism had a Polish pope who was encouraging the Catholics behind the Iron Curtain to keep the faith, and America had a president who said his goal was not to co-exist with Communism but to defeat it. The West was more confident and the East seemed exhausted.

With modern communications and contact between the captive peoples of the East and the free people of the West, Communist governments could no longer convince their people that Communism was a superior way to organize society. And, for the first time, attempts to spread Communism had failed. From the tiny island of Granada, to Nicaragua, to Afghanistan, attempts at expansion had met with failure. When the demonstrators in East Germany began chipping away at the wall, the guards did not fire, the Soviets did not send in tanks and the walls came tumbling down.

It would still be a couple more years before the other Communist dominoes fell, but one by one they did, except for the two dysfunctional teetering states of North Korea and Cuba. China did not fall, but morphed into a state that Marx or Mao would not recognize. While still nominally communist, China became a mixed economy with an authoritarian one-party government that daily continues to change.

From the time of the establishment of the first Communist state in Russia in 1917, Communism had steadily grown taking country by county until by the time of the fall of the Berlin wall 34% of the worlds populations lived under Communist domination. And by peaceful means, Communism was gaining ground in much of the west with “Euro-communism” gaining acceptance and becoming parties in coalition governments. For more than seventy years, freedom had been on the defensive and Communism at been ascending.

During that time, between 85 million and 100 million people were killed with a brutal efficiency.
Approximately 65 million were killed in China under Mao Zedong, 25 million in Leninist and Stalinist Russia, 2 million in Cambodia, and millions more in Eastern Europe, Africa, and Latin America. This was accomplished by mass murders, planned famines, working people to death in labor camps, and other ruthless methods. From the thousands of Cossacks slaughtered on the orders of Lenin to the victims of Mao’s “land reform” the totals mounted. In addition to the millions of deaths, many more millions spend part of their lives in prison in the Gulag of Russia and the reeducation camps of Vietnam and China. Those who never spend part of their life in real prisons, lived in societies with secret police, enforced conformity, thought control, fear, scarcity, and everyone spying on everyone else.

While the world looked with horror on the approximate 11 million victims of Hitler’s Europe, for some reason less attentions was paid to the 100 million victims of Communist tyranny. While the Nazi era lasted for only 11 years, the Communist terror began in 1917 and continues to this day. The story would be complete if the last Communist regime fell, but the fall of the Berlin Wall is a land mark event. By the fall of the wall, it was clear that Communism was not the wave of the future and that freedom would survive in the world.

Not only would freedom survive in the world, but the world itself would survive. It is easy to forget what a dangerous place the world was on the eve of the fall of the Berlin Wall. The world's nuclear stockpiles had grown to 70,000 warheads, with an average destructive power about 20 times that of the weapons that were dropped on Japan. One deranged colonel, one failure of a radar system, or one misreading of intentions could have led to events that destroyed the world. We were one blink away from destruction of life on earth. If there is any event in the history of world worthy of celebrating, it should be the fall of the Berlin Wall.

Stumble Upon Toolbar
My Zimbio
Top Stories

What My Accounting Class Taught Me About Same-Sex Benefits

What My Accounting Class Taught Me About Same-Sex Benefits

Right now several cities in Tennessee are debating whether to extend health insurance coverage to the “significant other” of their employees and any children residing in their shared household. I’ve thought a lot about one of the primary arguments I‘ve heard in support of doing this.  And one of my most frustrating experiences in college came to mind. I hope it will help you clarify this issue of equality as it did for me.

One of the arguments for treating same-sex relationships the same as the marital relationship for purpose of determining who qualifies as a dependent of a city employee is equal pay (or benefits) for equal work. In our reasoning-by-sound-bite world, it sounds reasonable. It even sounds just.
However, my experience with a college accounting class has helped me clarify the issue. Exams in this class were open book.  But knowing the CPA exam I eventually planned to take would not be “open book,” I decided to study hard and answer the questions without reference to the book.
When the grades on the first test came back, some in the class had a higher grade than I.  What frustrated me was that I knew many of them had not studied at all.  It didn’t seem fair that a person could do no real work and get a better grade.

That is when I realized that “effort” was not what was being graded. The issue was whether you had the right answer, regardless of how you came up with it.  On that basis my lower grade was “fair.”
The point of the story is this: is the real issue being debated by these city governments one of effort or relationship?  In other words, is it an issue of equal benefits for an equal effort in the workplace or is it one of equal benefits for equal relationships? The following example shows why it is not really an issue of equal benefits for equal effort.

Assume a woman performs a certain accounting function for the city, and she and her older, widowed sister live together and shares expenses.  No city is considering letting the widowed sister go on that employee’s health insurance plan.

Assume another woman does the exact same job for the City, but she is in a committed sexual relationship with the woman with whom she lives.  In the case of Chattanooga, Knoxville, and Nashville, each city is proposing to let the employee put her partner on their city’s health insurance plan.

If the issue was equal benefits for equal effort, then the two women should be treated the same.  Each should be allowed to put the person with whom they are living and sharing expenses on the city’s health insurance plan. But that is not what the cities are going to do. Through this example, we see that the real issue is not effort, but one of relationship, namely, what relationships are equal to marriage.

Consequently, don’t believe those who say this issue is about equal pay for equal work and has nothing to do with redefining marriage.  Those who vote to extend benefits to any two persons who are in a sexual relationship will have effectively redefined marriage by saying all sexual relationships between two people are the same in the eyes of the law, regardless of what you call them.

But if those who vote that way don’t some day say that three in a committed sexual relationship is as good as two, then as my old accounting professor would say, the scales of equality will be “out of balance.”

Stumble Upon Toolbar
My Zimbio
Top Stories

A twisted "other side of the story" on Tennessee's most improved education status

One of my favorite sources for insight into education issues is Lipstick on a Pig. For those interested in following education issues, I highly recommend that blog. I am reposting this story from that website. I also recommend Tennessee Education Report as a site that can provide good information on education issues despite a liberal bias. Both sites are listed in my blog roll. Rod

TN Ed Report is out with a post "NAEP IN TN: THE REST OF THE STORY."

I like Andy Spears, the author of the post, and think he's a smart guy and a good thinker who brings up a lot of good points. At times though, TN Ed Report is much more "TN Liberal Democrat Ed Policy Promotion," and gets in the way of being an objective source of ed news.

Which is fine.

But it shouldn't be considered as an education news outlet, when in fact it is much more a political promotion blog. Below is a comment I added in response to the most recent post on NAEP (but I have embedded graphics in this post so you don't have to click through).

I continue to think “TN Ed Report” should be better titled “TN Ed Selective Bias Narrative”…but oh well, it’s a free country.
I also don’t know any other current research that looks at 20 year trends to determine next year’s policy goals and legislation. 20 year trends is stuff that goes in history books.

You can’t criticize the last 2 years of administration reforms (when it was really 4-5 years of work), and then analyze 20 years of NAEP scores.

The time frame needs to be kept at least close to the same

Which, if we do that…

KY actually had a slight regression from 2011 to 2013 test cycle, which is likely why you had to move it to 20 years.

While you do recognize “It’s also important to take care in assigning causality.”…a good deal of this post spends time implying causality.

“Despite some claims, though, it’s very difficult to say results on the 2013 NAEP are a direct result of reforms that took place in 2011 and 2012.”

If you actually listened to Gov Haslam, Comm Huffman, and Gov Bredesen, they didn’t make this claim. They attributed the growth to a combination of things, that included higher standards, and yes, professional teacher evaluations. They were intentional about recognizing that it is a multi-administration effort.

Higher standards were mainly Bredesen admin, and yes, we can’t forget actual history that Bredesen helped put teacher eval framework into law during special RTT legislative session.

Yes, Haslam & Huffman have worked to implement it and improve it, but teacher eval system has spanned 2 administrations.

Your post’s claim about reforms “just” being 2011 and 2012 are simply inaccurate. I thought it was quite dignified and classy that Gov Haslam recognized the Bredesen administration and their work on ed policy. Given toxic environment of political parties in America today, this is almost unheard of. Your post failed to mention any of that or recognize that, but again, came across as a criticism of the current administration.

TN Ed Report: Haslam, Huffman, bad! all the time!

“Before I go further with this analysis, I want to point out that Kentucky doesn’t use value-added data for teacher evaluations, has no charter schools, its teachers are awarded tenure after 4 years, and it hasn’t adopted any of the reforms Tennessee’s current leaders tell us are essential to improving scores.”

Why you mention charter schools is again another point of selective bias.

Charters in TN are so small relative to the overall student population, that mathematically, TN would have had the same gains had there been no charters in TN.

But you had to mention it.

People read that and associate causality to it. Because it’s part of the narrative you like to continue to promote.

You spend a good bit of your post predicting that these gains will level out. “That’s an expected result, by the way — a big gain followed by steady maintenance of the new level. ”

Actual data indicates otherwise (handout from TN Dept of Ed):

Massachusetts and Indiana have both had multiple test cycles of big gains.

While you make some good points in your piece, the main impetus of the narrative was to again criticize the current reforms of the sitting administration.

It just doesn’t add up and it skews us farther away from the middle, where we should be having the conversation, centered on student outcomes and doing what’s best for them.


Another point I forgot on teacher eval systems.

DC had very impressive gains in this test cycle as well.  They have adopted higher standards AND implemented a robust teacher evaluation system (IMPACT) over the last few years.

Massachusetts - a typical high scoring NAEP state, is now implementing a teacher evaluation system:

Stumble Upon Toolbar
My Zimbio
Top Stories

Friday, November 08, 2013

Beth Harwell says state shouldn't fund Amp | The Tennessean ...

Beth Harwell says state shouldn't fund Amp | The Tennessean ...

Mayor Karl Dean's request for $35 million in state funding for a controversial bus rapid transit line will face a big obstacle: the speaker of the House.

Ricky Williams is the anti-Amp spokesman in this video and prominently featured is Dale Hire, a conservative political activist active in the Hispanic community is shown protesting.

Stumble Upon Toolbar
My Zimbio
Top Stories

An Obamacare roll out comic book


Stumble Upon Toolbar
My Zimbio
Top Stories

Mayor Dean announces agreement with State, Sounds, Private Developer for Ballpark project at Sulpher Dell


Stumble Upon Toolbar
My Zimbio
Top Stories