Thursday, May 31, 2012

Bloomberg and soda

In a New York Times article this morning (article here) I read that Mayor Bloomberg is proposing a plan to place limits on purchasing sodas in NYC.  What a guy: in one fell swoop he can give the impression that he is doing something about health (obesity), attempt to legislate intelligence (what it takes to eat smart), and show that he cares about the "little people" (who are more likely to eat fast food and visit movie theaters. 

Will Rogers once said "you can't legislate intelligence and common sense into people."  He knew that almost one hundred years ago, and still we have people who haven't figured it out.

Bloomberg is smart in one way: by placing the burden on the retailer, rather than the consumer who is making the choice what to drink, he makes enforcement easier, while at the same time making the law a non-factor regarding its alleged goal of reducing obesity: the consumer can buy 2 or more smaller sizes, and pour them into his own large container.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

The Letter on #17

My last post was my unedited letter to the Times Union. Here is the letter as published. The editor had me rewrite as nobody has since my college days. It was good to go through even though.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

TPC at Sawgrass #17

On Friday, May 11, I submitted a letter to the sports section of the Albany Times Union newspaper.in. An edited version appeared in today's TU.  I assume copyright laws may claim that they own the version in the paper.Here is my original version.

On Friday, May 11, Pete Dougherty wrote in his column a rave review of the infamous 17th hole at the TPC at Sawgrass, site of the PGA's Players Championship.
In the column he fails to mention a few key items regarding the hole, and water hazards in general in the game of golf.
First, one of the key ingredients in an enjoyable game of golf is the recovery shot: a bad shot to an awkward location followed by a shot that makes the golfer's game healthy again. A water hazard does not have that allure: the next shot is almost never taken from the location where the previous shot ended, and the true penalty to the average golfer is the amputation of another ball from his spherical entourage. Some of the greatest golf holes in the world involve water, if at all, in its natural state of a meandering creek crossing the course. Not as a manmade golf ball collection agency.
Second, when water does come into play, the Rules of Golf are very specific about what should be done when an errant ball finds the water. It does have a disclaimer sort of rule that courses can use if they have to, that specifies a drop area. In this case the drop area is generally nowhere near the flight of the ball. The standard rule would have the golfer drop his ball keeping the last point of entry into the hazard on a line between the dropping spot and the pin. In this case that would chew up the front of the tee area, which the PGA probably doesn't want. In some cases the drop might have to take place on the other side on the little lake, making for a time-consuming walk, which TV probably doesn't want.
Third, Bubba Watson. What had the golf world amazed, if not stunned, after this year's Master's, was the manner in which Watson won: by a RECOVERY shot from a place that would have most weekend golfer's biting their lips and shaking with dread. A recovery shot. Not a shot, after a penalty, taken from some place the ball hadn't been.
I believe the PGA had some misgivings about #17. For this year they raised the edge of the island so fewer balls that hit land would trickle off into golf disaster.
It's only a question, but do NASCAR fans watch only because of the risk of a crash? If not, why would people suspect that golf fans would?

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Whose More Partisan?

I have heard a lot recently regarding the GOP being the nasty party-line guys voting constantly for partisan gain.  This morning I looked at The Washington Post, which had a database of party line voting (see here).  Below are the US Senators grouped by party and ranked according to the portion of their votes that follow their party's lead.

We can argue forever on the merits of their individual votes, and the good and bad of the items they voted on.  But I do think it is clear which party is more partisan in its voting. I won't tell which party.

Look at the data and decide for yourself.

My apologies for the format of the names. That is how it came from the Post, and I didn't bother to clean it up, since the names were not the issue.

The Republican side 

McConnellMitch McConnell KY 93.00%
AyotteKelly Ayotte NH 93.00%
ThuneJohn Thune SD 93.00%
CornynJohn Cornyn TX 93.00%
KylJon Kyl AZ 92.00%
CoatsDan Coats IN 92.00%
PortmanRob Portman OH 92.00%
BarrassoJohn Barrasso WY 92.00%
EnziMike Enzi WY 92.00%
McCainJohn McCain AZ 91.00%
BoozmanJohn Boozman AR 91.00%
ChamblissSaxby Chambliss GA 91.00%
IsaksonJohnny Isakson GA 91.00%
CorkerBob Corker TN 91.00%
SessionsJeff Sessions AL 90.00%
LugarRichard Lugar IN 90.00%
JohannsMike Johanns NE 90.00%
BurrRichard Burr NC 90.00%
HatchOrrin Hatch UT 90.00%
ShelbyRichard Shelby AL 89.00%
RobertsPat Roberts KS 89.00%
ToomeyPat Toomey PA 89.00%
JohnsonRon Johnson WI 89.00%
RubioMarco Rubio FL 88.00%
CrapoMike Crapo ID 88.00%
GrassleyChuck Grassley IA 88.00%
InhofeJames Inhofe OK 88.00%
AlexanderLamar Alexander TN 88.00%
HutchisonKay Bailey Hutchison TX 88.00%
KirkMark Kirk IL 87.00%
MoranJerry Moran KS 87.00%
WickerRoger Wicker MS 87.00%
GrahamLindsey Graham SC 87.00%
RischJames Risch ID 86.00%
EnsignJohn Ensign NV 86.00%
CoburnTom Coburn OK 86.00%
VitterDavid Vitter LA 84.00%
BluntRoy Blunt MO 84.00%
HoevenJohn Hoeven ND 84.00%
CochranThad Cochran MS 82.00%
MurkowskiLisa Murkowski AK 77.00%
DeMintJim DeMint SC 76.00%
LeeMike Lee UT 76.00%
PaulRand Paul KY 75.00%
SnoweOlympia Snowe ME 70.00%
BrownScott Brown MA 70.00%
CollinsSusan Collins ME 68.00%
HellerDean Heller NV 35.00%

The Democratic Side

SchumerChuck Schumer NY 98.00%
FeinsteinDianne Feinstein CA 97.00%
DurbinDick Durbin IL 97.00%
CardinBen Cardin MD 97.00%
KerryJohn Kerry MA 97.00%
UdallTom Udall NM 97.00%
WhitehouseSheldon Whitehouse RI 97.00%
JohnsonTim Johnson SD 97.00%
BoxerBarbara Boxer CA 96.00%
CoonsChristopher Coons DE 96.00%
InouyeDaniel Inouye HI 96.00%
FrankenAl Franken MN 96.00%
LautenbergFrank Lautenberg NJ 96.00%
MenéndezRobert Menéndez NJ 96.00%
BingamanJeff Bingaman NM 96.00%
GillibrandKirsten Gillibrand NY 96.00%
WydenRon Wyden OR 96.00%
ReedJack Reed RI 96.00%
RockefellerJay Rockefeller WV 96.00%
BlumenthalRichard Blumenthal CT 95.00%
AkakaDaniel Akaka HI 95.00%
MikulskiBarbara Mikulski MD 95.00%
ShaheenJeanne Shaheen NH 95.00%
BrownSherrod Brown OH 95.00%
LeahyPatrick Leahy VT 95.00%
MurrayPatty Murray WA 95.00%
KohlHerb Kohl WI 95.00%
BennetMichael Bennet CO 94.00%
ReidHarry Reid NV 94.00%
ConradKent Conrad ND 94.00%
UdallMark Udall CO 93.00%
CarperTom Carper DE 93.00%
NelsonBill Nelson FL 93.00%
HarkinTom Harkin IA 93.00%
LevinCarl Levin MI 93.00%
KlobucharAmy Klobuchar MN 93.00%
MerkleyJeff Merkley OR 93.00%
CaseyBob Casey PA 93.00%
CantwellMaria Cantwell WA 93.00%
LandrieuMary Landrieu LA 92.00%
StabenowDebbie Stabenow MI 92.00%
HaganKay Hagan NC 92.00%
WarnerMark Warner VA 92.00%
BaucusMax Baucus MT 91.00%
TesterJon Tester MT 91.00%
WebbJim Webb VA 91.00%
BegichMark Begich AK 90.00%
PryorMark Pryor AR 90.00%
McCaskillClaire McCaskill MO 86.00%
NelsonBen Nelson NE 83.00%
ManchinJoe Manchin WV 83.00%

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

New York Education Reform Commission

So yesterday our governor, Mr. Andrew Cuomo, created yet another commission with the alleged goal of improving NY public schools. He has placed Richard Parsons, former CEO of Citigroup, as commission chair. It is interesting that Mr. Cuomo claims poor graduation rates as one of his pet peeves, yet places at the chair of the commission an individual who fell short of graduating from the University of Hawaii after his 4 years there, but found a law school (Albany) that would admit him anyway.

Prior to his Citigroup years, Mr. Parsons was with Time Warner. Here is a quote from the NY Daily News from 2009: "It's no secret that Citigroup board Chairman Richard Parsons has been working for months to repair the financial giant. But, until now, even his closest associates didn't know he also was wrestling with a personal crisis - how to tell his wife and three children he has fathered a child with another woman. Parsons and model-philanthropist MacDella Cooper are the parents of a baby girl named Ella.The 61-year-old former Time Warner chairman said only: "This is a private matter and I prefer not to talk about it at this time." BY GEORGE RUSH, DAILY NEWS COLUMNIST, Thursday, May 21, 2009

I am hoping that news will come out to either verify the love-child story, or refute it.  I wouldn't want an individual with such skeletons in his closet to even partake in reforming anything to do with education.

Back to the commission.
I wonder how many people remember, or have knowledge of, the NYS "Regents Action Plan" from 1984?  This plan, together with a lot of ongoing politics, began the push in New York for all students to take and pass high school regents exams. Prior to that time it was acknowledged and accepted that the regents exam programs were designed to challenge the stronger students (generally the stronger half).  They must have been valued and respected, since masses of people both in and out of the education industry created a loud roar claiming that all students should be able to pass them.

Unfortunately, the smoke and mirror process then began. A good process would have been to investigate the factors that enabled the stronger students to actually be strong, and use the knowledge gained to attempt to strengthen the weaker students.  That, alas, could not happen, because it is based on the premise that there are stronger and weaker students.  Weak students? No!!  They are only underperforming because they have been underprepared!  They have suffered because less was expected of them!!  They are behind because of poverty!! They have been denied chances because of their minority status!!!

Basically, what happened is that the pride of success was granted to the student, but the onus of failure was placed on factors external to the student. The education system began a decades-long run based on the premise that advances could only be gained by systemic changes, absolving students of any role other than their on-going guinea pig status in the laboratory of NY education.

During this time the entire structure of the Regents Exams changed, along with massive changes in content.  The goal was not devising ways and means to strengthen weaker students so they could compete with the stronger students.  The goal was the creation of a system that would enable all students to pass the tests, while making it difficult for stronger students to "ace" them.  New Yorkers must not have been trusted to create such a system, as large parts of it have been farmed out to outside agents such as Pearson.

Watch this commission closely. Education need not be political, but public education will always be political. Watch closely.

I will, without a doubt, expand these thoughts over time.

Remember: you may need to think outside of the box, but the problem you were solving was inside the box.

"When solving problems, dig at the roots instead of just hacking at the
leaves. "Anthony J. D'Angelo, The College Blue Book