17 December 2014

My Grinchly Side Takes Over the Blawg

Still recovering from device crashes and replacements...

  • Well, this is truly offensive: The possibility of dynasty v. dynasty in 2016. I'd complain that this seems unusually tone-deaf for that family (and that means both of them), given the recent release of the Senate Intelligence Committee report... except that it's not. Not unusually tone-deaf, that is.

    It's not just that I don't think it's a good idea to have close family members rotating through federal offices; it's that I think it fundamentally incompatible with anything resembling the values on which this nation was founded, the Adams family notwithstanding. (Sure, they made mistakes; "three-fifths of all other persons," anyone?) But for the Attainder Clause, I'd even propose that spouses, siblings, and children of federal elected officials should be barred from elective office — it's not like there aren't plenty of other opportunities for public service, such as the military and the Peace Corps, that don't implicate dynasticism at the ballot box. All of this is aside from policy preferences: I lived in Illinois for too damned long to ever accept that as justification for keeping politics in the family.

  • And the less said about how a former Vice President demonstrated that he is not now, and probably was not in 2000, fit for office, the better. I would expect better, and more consistent, logic from a sophomore taking a slightly advanced composition class; an honest speaker or writer does not have the privilege of changing an entire argument by redefining a term with converging common and technical definitions to mean something entirely different. The issue is not whether someone else did something bad; it's whether US personnel did evil under color of law, because "he did it first!" doesn't even come close to a justification — let alone an excuse. They were, after all, only following orders... or something like that.

    Dick Cheney is turning into a corollary of Godwin's Law.

  • Here's an example of everything that is wrong with the American education system, stated blandly in the "paper of record" without any qualifiers:

    The system, enacted into state law in 2010, was created, in part, to make it easier to identify which teachers performed the best so their methods could be replicated, and which performed the worst, so they could be fired. Although very few teachers in the city were deemed not to be up to standards, state officials and education experts said the city appeared to be doing a better job of evaluating its teachers than the rest of New York State.

    Kate Taylor, "New York City Teachers Score Highly Under New Evaluation System" (17 Dec 2014). "Bad" teaching is seldom about technique — or at least not solely and directly. It's much more often about ignorance... and the lack of achievement required for the undergraduate degree in education both takes good examples out of the classroom and locks ignorance into it. Too many teachers, especially at the middle- and high-school levels, simply don't know enough to teach some of the material that they need to... and because they themselves (on average) have lesser academic credentials than those who earned core subject-matter degrees, their very existence is a subtle put-down of academic achievement in the classroom. And then there's the not-unusual problem of students both knowing more than and being smarter than their purported instructors, and all that does for both the learning experience and general behavior...

  • After several weeks now using an Android phone, I have to say that Android sucks. It sucks less than IOS and Windows Phone, though. Fundamentally, the problem is that all three phone systems — and, indirectly, the hardware they're running on — are fundamentally hostile to selected two-way communication; they are, instead, optimized for pushing data at the user — for advertising. And that's bad writing, even when the data is fully graphical by nature.
  • I've never been a fan of The New Republic; I'm not particularly enamoured of ideological filters on broad-based discussions. I'm even less a fan, though, of essentially forcing out long-term staff for the new owner's ego... especially given the source of the new owner's money. I'm not saying that no staff turnover was appropriate; I'm saying that absent actual misconduct, the existing staff at least deserves respect from the new ownership. If you really want a "new staff," start your own damned magazine from the beginning instead of carpet-bagging your way in.
  • Here's another data point demonstrating that judicial elections are a bad idea. We'll leave aside anything about policy in particular areas, and just note that judges subject to electoral approval would not — did not — attack popularly-passed Jim Crow laws. This is, fundamentally, the reason that I prefer easy removal of matters to federal court from state courts: The appointed federal judiciary struggles through one fewer thumb on the scales of justice. I also found it interesting that the Trib's short bio of the author of that opinion piece noted that he's a "trial lawyer"... but not that he's a former president of the Illinois State Bar Association.