Later On

A blog written for those whose interests more or less match mine.

Archive for February 2nd, 2012

The state of science educational standards in the US

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Summary: not very good.

TYD sent a link to this article by Anna Kuchment in Scientific American. And why are so many Americans opposed to the practice and findings of science? The article begins:

new report from the Thomas B. Fordham Institute paints a grim picture of state science standards across the United States. But it also reveals some intriguing details about exactly what’s going wrong with the way many American students are learning science.

Standards are the foundation upon which educators build curricula, write textbooks and train teachers– they often take the form of a list of facts and skills that students must master at each grade level. Each state is free to formulate its own standards, and numerous studies have found that high standards are a first step on the road to high student achievement. “A majority of the states’ standards remain mediocre to awful,” write the authors of the report. Only one state, California, plus the District of Columbia, earned straight A’s. Indiana, Massachusetts, South Carolina and Virginia each scored an A-, and a band of states in and around the northwest, including Oregon, Idaho, Montana and Nebraska, scored F’s. (For any New Yorkers reading this, our standards earned a respectable B+, plus the honor of having “some of the most elegant writing of any science standards document”).

What exactly is going wrong? The study’s lead authors identified four main factors: an undermining of evolution, vague goals, not enough guidance for teachers on how to integrate the history of science and the concept of scientific inquiry into their lessons, and not enough math instruction.

Let’s take these one by one. . .

Continue reading. Read the article and/or the original report. My own feeling is that it is a desperate attempt to deny reality because the modern world is scary, moves fast, and frightens the ignorant. The inclination of some is to try to ignore everything they don’t understand, and of course for the ignorant that’s a vast territory. But they’re working on it, trying to shut things down so they don’t have to think about it.

Written by LeisureGuy

2 February 2012 at 3:04 pm

Posted in Education, Science

Like Mozart? Watch the “A Köchel a Day” blog

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Terrific idea.

Written by LeisureGuy

2 February 2012 at 2:57 pm

Posted in Music

If I had a backyard, I would most definitely have… backyard chickens

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I really like chickens. They’re always so serious, yet somehow silly. Take a look at the promise of this Cool Tool, read it, and tell me you wouldn’t like to have a few backyard hens clucking about, watching for grasshopper treats.

Written by LeisureGuy

2 February 2012 at 9:55 am

Posted in Books, Daily life, Food

Sleek, agile, graceful, adroit: most kitties; Maru: not

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But determined, yes. Cute, most definitely!

Written by LeisureGuy

2 February 2012 at 9:25 am

Posted in Cats, Video

US assassination program

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Now that President Obama has initiated a new precedent—that an American president can, on his own authority and without any court review (no checks and balances), order that an American citizen be killed (and Obama has now killed three and counting)—one wonders at the wisdom of this new frontier of American “justice.” Still, presumably the assassinations were ordered based on evidence and with careful review—only we’ll just have to trust them. (This is the same US government that demonstrably lies to its citizens, repeatedly, especially when it is responsible for the death of innocent people, such as the Border Patrol agent in the previous post, or Pat Tillman, whose family were repeatedly lied to.) Somehow I have lost my trust.

Greenwald comments:

The ACLU yesterday filed a lawsuit against various agencies of the Obama administration — the Justice and Defense Departments and the CIA — over their refusal to disclose any information about the assassination of American citizens. In October, the ACLU filed a FOIA request demanding disclosure of the most basic information about the CIA’s killing of 3 American citizens in Yemen: Anwar Awlaki and Samir Khan, killed by missiles fired by a U.S. drone in September, and Awlaki’s 16-year-old son, Abdulrahman, killed by another drone attack two weeks later.

The ACLU’s FOIA request sought merely to learn the legal and factual basis for these killings — meaning: tell us what legal theories you’ve adopted to secretly target U.S. citizens for execution, and what factual basis did you have to launch these specific strikes? The DOJ and CIA responded not only by refusing to provide any of this information, but refused even to confirm if any of the requested documents exist; in other words, as the ACLU put it yesterday, “these agencies are saying the targeted killing program is so secret that they can’t even acknowledge that it exists.” That refusal is what prompted yesterday’s lawsuit (in December, the New York Timesalso sued the Obama administration after it failed to produce DOJ legal memoranda “justifying” the assassination program in response to a FOIA request from reporters Charlie Savage and Scott Shane, but the ACLU’s lawsuit seeks disclosure of both the legal and factual bases for these executions).

From a certain perspective, there’s really only one point worth making about all of this: if you think about it, it is warped beyond belief that the ACLU has to sue the U.S. Government in order to force it to disclose its claimed legal and factual bases for assassinating U.S. citizens without charges, trial or due process of any kind. It’s extraordinary enough that the Obama administration is secretly targeting citizens for execution-by-CIA; that they refuse even to account for what they are doing — even to the point of refusing to disclose their legal reasoning as to why they think the President possesses this power — is just mind-boggling. Truly: what more tyrannical power is there than for a government to target its own citizens for death — in total secrecy and with no checks — and then insist on the right to do so without even having to explain its legal and factual rationale for what it is doing? Could you even imagine what the U.S. Government and its media supporters would be saying about any other non-client-state country that asserted and exercised this power?

But there’s one abuse that deserves special attention here: namely, the way in which the Obama administration manipulates and exploits its secrecy powers. Here is what the DOJ said to the ACLU about why it will not merely withhold all records, but will refuse even to confirm or deny whether any such records exist: . . .

Continue reading. Read the whole thing, including the updates. Dark days ahead.

Written by LeisureGuy

2 February 2012 at 8:28 am

ATF in yet more lies and coverups

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Doesn’t it strike you that the US government is increasingly taking actions against its own citizens—not just the Occupy protestors, not just the onerous prison sentences for a harmless drug like marijuana, not just the TSA bullying (and I know there are professional, courteous TSA employees, but I don’t think anyone denies the frequent presence of bullies: “Do we have a problem?” sort of response. And now this, reported in the LA Times by Richard Serrano:

The family of slain U.S. Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry charged Wednesday that the top federal prosecutor in Phoenix lied to them about the guns found at the crime scene in an attempt to hide the weapons’ connection to the ATF’s failed Fast and Furious gun-tracking operation.

Terry was killed in December 2010, allegedly by Mexican bandits carrying at least two AK-47 semiautomatic rifles that had been purchased in Arizona as part of Fast and Furious. The operation was intended to catch drug lords using illegal weapons, but the ATF immediately lost track of 1,700 firearms.

The Terry family alleged that then-U.S. Atty. Dennis K. Burke told them last March that the two weapons came from a store in Texas and were not part of Fast and Furious.

The family made their allegations in a “notice of claim” stating that they intend to sue the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives and the Justice Department for $25 million. They called the gun-tracking operation “abominable, reckless, nonsensical.”

Burke has resigned and has declined to discuss Fast and Furious. But the family’s claim notice strongly suggests that the federal government initially sought to keep Fast and Furious under wraps and hoped it would not be linked to the slaying.

Fast and Furious, run by the ATF’s Phoenix field office, allowed illegal gun purchases in Arizona in hopes of tracking the weapons to Mexican drug cartels. Capitol Hill became aware of the operation in January 2011 — the month after Terry’s slaying — but the program did not become publicly known until early March.

“The Terry family had received lots of conflicting and confusing information about exactly how Brian came to be shot in the back and killed,” the claim notice says. “None of it made any sense.”

After a memorial service in Tucson in January 2011, the family met with Border Patrol, FBI and Justice Department officials in a hotel conference room. “But the officials gave them almost no information and wouldn’t answer the family’s questions,” the notice says. Two family members walked out.

“The federal officials were obviously covering something up, and their actions only added to the family’s grief,” the notice says.

In March, Burke met with the family in Michigan, where they live. “But this meeting went even worse,” the notice says. “Burke hemmed and hawed, bobbed and weaved, refused to give straight answers, and flat-out lied about what he knew about Brian’s death and Operation Fast and Furious.”

The notice quotes Burke as saying the fatal bullet would never be found, even though it had already been located during an autopsy. And he told them the AK-47s were “bought from a gun store in Texas and were not linked to Operation Fast and Furious.”

In fact, the notice says, “Burke actually knew within hours of Brian’s murder that they were purchased from a Phoenix gun shop under ATF surveillance the previous January” — a fact borne out by Burke’s emails.

Lie, lie, lie: is that all those blackguards can do?

Written by LeisureGuy

2 February 2012 at 8:14 am

Emilion and Dr. Selby

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Extremely nice shave today, using the Rooney Emilion, which worked quite well. This, like the Victorian, has hooked tips that make the brush tips “grabby” when wet, and they dry porcupinish, but can readily be brushed smooth and feel quite nice on the face: soft tips, resilient bristles.

Dr. Selby, reputedly a shaving cream, looks and acts like a (very nice) shaving soap. Like the Martin de Candre, Dr. Selby is to dry between shavings, thus the lid becomes a pedestal rather than continuing as a lid. (The lid also has holes.)

The Aristocrat from the 40s gave a fine shave with a Swedish Gillette blade previously used, and the splash of Saint Charles Shave Woods was a good finish.

Written by LeisureGuy

2 February 2012 at 8:00 am

Posted in Shaving

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