National Nuke Association

Defending Your 2nd Amendment Right To Nuclear Weapons.

We all know that the real purpose of the second amendment is not hunting or protection from ordinary crimminals, but to protect ourselves fron the crimminals in government. We need access to weapons to keep run-away government in line. And let’s face it, that Bushmaster in your closet just isn’t going to cut it. A semi-automatic assault rifle, even an RPG, is no match for a government armed with predator drones that can take you out from the air. If we want to make sure that the government is afraid of the citizenry, as the Founding Fathers no doubt intended, we have to put tactical nuclear weaponry in the hands of the citizens where it belongs. If only a tenth of the approximately 40% of American households that have guns also installed tactical nuclear weapons in their back yard the miscreants in government would have to pay attention to us. To remember that they are our servants, not our masters.
Now we know that the Anti-Armament crowd will argue that these weapons are too dangerous to be in the hands of ordinary citizens, that ordinary citizens have no legitimate need for tactical nuclear weapons. These people only seek to emasculate the red-blooded American citizenry. There is no need for a government that respects the will of the people to fear an armed citizenry, and non-responsive government should fear.

Now we at the National Nuke Association support responsible tactical nuclear weapon ownership, and we stand ready to provide training, for a modest fee, in the the proper maintenance and use of your tactical nuke. We will also be happy to supply you with a list of our preferred contractors for the installation of your personal nuclear device, and a have a number of financing plans available.

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Your donation will help us fight for your right to arm yourself with truly effective weaponry.

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This is, obviously, satire.

Is This Really a Surprise?

According to a recent report, California is facing a teacher shortage in the near future, as older teachers retire, and the number of new teachers getting credentialed continues to drop. With budget cuts increasing class sizes and decreasing the resources available for teacher, many of those near retirement are choosing to retire early. In fact “a $1,000 reduction per student in a district’s “other local revenue” – a source of funding that varies widely by district – was associated with about a 4 percent increase in the probability of educators retiring.”
In one sense the early retirements help the districts strapped budgets, since the teachers retiring have larger salaries than new hires, but it also robs the schools of a wealth of experience, which is far more valuable than “reformers” would have you believe, and with fewer people going into teaching will lead, before long, to a shortage of trained teachers.
And why would a young adult just beginning their career choose to spend an extra year, at least, getting a teaching credential when everything they see and hear in the media repeats the refrain that if students don’t do well in school we should fire their teachers? It has turned teaching into a high-pressure profession, without the accompanying high-pressure salary that would make it attractive.
The pressure to use high stakes testing as the sole measure of student learning, and then reward and punish teachers based on test scores serves neither the student nor the teacher. Standardized tests have their uses, but they are by no means complete measures, and are most useful when least consequential. When SAT scores became to most important factor in college admission it spawned a test-prep industry that distorted the results. There was always an argument that the SATs measured your ability to take the test more than your scholastic aptitude, but with all the test prep materials and courses it can be argued now that what it really measures is how much test prep your parents can afford. The result of this is that colleges now look at broader measures that just test scores. The “reform” movement is turning our elementary schools into test prep cram schools, where the only thing taught is how to pass the test.
Good teachers can make a difference, but poverty and parental involvement have far more to do with student success than whether the teacher is average or exceptional. Why would anyone consider entering a field where the biggest elements determining their “success” or “failure” are outside of their control? A field that is being given more and more responsibility and less and less respect.
In theory, as the teacher shortage develops, teachers should become more valuable, and therefore paid more, and with greater pay would come greater respect, since much of our culture respects only the ability to make money. But I don’t see that happening. As corporate, for profit, charter schools grow, they increase pressure not to pay teachers well, and spend money on students, which might lower profits, but to bring in non-credentialed teachers, and replace teachers with programed learning modules on computers. Non-profit private schools will continue to have real teachers, and art, and music, and teach all those things that aren’t on the standardized tests, just as they do now. And just as they do now, they will continue to cater to those who can afford them. The fight is not about how we will educate the children of the upper classes, but how we will educate everyone else. Will we educate, or train future workers, focus on developing a well-rounded human being, or only on providing that narrow skill set necessary for the 21st century equivalent of the assembly line?
This is the real issue in Chicago.
Will the teachers, through their union, be able to defend comprehensive education?
Around the turn of the last century, coal mines were horribly dangerous and deadly places, where the workers were disposable. Then the workers organized, and the power of the union made coal mines a great deal safer. Until mine owners broke the union in many places, and the companies could go back to killing workers with impunity — both through dramatic explosions and cave-ins that everybody watched while they were happening but lost interest in before any accountability could be demanded, and through the quiet, boring hazards such as black lung.
At the moment, teachers unions are defending education. The battle for reasonable compensation is a battle for respect. Class size and working conditions benefit the students as much as the teachers. Will the union successfully defend education? Or will the corporate, for profit, charter companies break the union, make teachers disposable, and quietly kill education.

Legitimate Rape?

Todd Akin’s recent apology just shows that he truly doesn’t understand why his comments were offensive.

He has apologized for the word “legitimate” because of course no rape is legitimate which misses the point.

Putting any qualifier in front of rape, whether it is “legitimate” or “assault” as Physicians for Life does, or “forcible” as legislation sponsored by Akin and Paul Ryan did, is an attempt to differentiate between “real” rape — the stranger in the alley, preferably with the victim near death from fighting — and just unwanted sex. All unwanted sex is rape. Any qualifier is an attempt to shift blame from the rapist to the victim. The ridiculous notion that “real” rape victims don’t get pregnant is comforting delusion for those who can’t really think of a good reason a woman should be forced to risk life and health to give birth to her rapist’s child, but want to insist she must do so. From the protection and sanity of California, it is tempting to ignore craziness in Missouri, If not for the fact that the Republican VP nominee, Paul Ryan, also wants to make women bear rapists’ children. And God only knows what Romney’s real position is.

Word Abuse

The professional talkers are abusing words again.

In watching MSNBC before I headed out to school today I was confronted with two major offenses, both occasioned by the not bomb in Times Square this weekend.

The first is a simple mistake.  One of the talking heads said something to the effect that it was “incredulous” that such a poorly constructed bomb had been made by an organized terrorist group.  No.  What he meant, of course, was that in was not credible, or that it was incredible, but ‘incredible’ has come to have other connotations – wonderful, amazing, etc. — that no doubt made him reluctant to use that word.  That does not make incredulous the right word.  He may have been incredulous, in that he was unwilling to believe it, but it was not incredulous.  I expect to have to explain that difference to my freshman English students, but not to a professional journalist.

The other offense is more nuanced, but was also repeated.  They, and others, have repeatedly referred to the vendor who reported the suspicious car, and the police officer to whom he reported it, as heroes.  I’m sorry, but while their actions were proper, even laudable, and they deserve recognition, they were not heroic, and the insistence on calling anyone who does anything admirable a hero devalues the word, ultimately rendering it meaningless.

And in a similar example of hyperbolic over-reach the middle of the night anchor for CNN demonstrated why he is relegated to the middle of the night when he referred the failed device as something that could have killed thousands. Again, no.  If it had ignited it might have been a good-sized fireball, but it would not have exploded, so, no, it would not have killed thousands.

Stange Brew

I have never been accused of being a stick-in-the-mud, but I’ve always taken the traditional approach to growing things, in dirt. I understand there are a lot of advantages to hydroponics, but I have no experience with them, and I had know idea they were being used on such a large scale or with such interesting nutrient solutions. But now Campbell’s Soup has begun running ads showing pictures of farmers who raise vegetables in their soup. That must be quite an accomishment.

Cooking as Spectator Sport

To borrow a culinary metaphor from my father, Michael Pollan makes too much stew from one oyster, which Matt Yglesias points out far more succinctly that I am about to do. He questions whether the Food Network is as influential as Pollan assumes, while I have some arguments with his basic premise.

First, as someone who does watch the Food Network, when I’m not watching news or politics, and while reading science and political blogs, it strikes me that Pollan wrote the article without actually spending much time actually watching the Food Network, he speaks far more knowledgeably about Top Chef, which is not a Food Network program. He accurately divides the programming into the very different categories of daytime and nighttime, the daytime being mostly traditional cooking shows, and the nighttime being food shows, but not necessarily cooking, but he then proceeds to misrepresent each category.

His discussion of the daytime shows serves primarily to explain why none of them can stand up to the shows of his childhood produced by the sainted Julia Child. He selects 3 shows to focus on, Rachel Ray, Sandra Lee, and Paula Dean, and assumes that they are representative of the networks daytime programming. He chose the only 2 shows that routinely rely on pre-prepared, pre-packaged ingredients to a large degree (Ray and Lee) and uses them to maintain that “These shows stress quick results, shortcuts and superconvenience”. This ignores the majority of the shows, that may not tell you how to kill your own chicken, but do tell you how to break down a whole chicken instead of buying it already cut up. All of the shows will rely on packaged chicken stock, or canned tomato sauce from time to time;these are things that would have had to be made ahead and canned or frozen for later use anyway, and nobody but a pastry chef makes their own puff pastry, but I don’t think teaching me to make my own Beef (or Pork, thanks Alton) Wellington using frozen puff pastry is any less bringing high quality food to the family table than anything Child did. Without Alton Brown’s discussion of standing rib roast, I might never have attempted one, but I am now quite willing to cook one, on the grill outdoors, or in the oven, whenever I find it priced attractively.

The evening shows are not, for the most part, traditional cooking shows, though Alton Brown’s Good Eats has always been an evening presence, and Emeril Live was indeed a cooking show — fitted out with a live audience and a band, but that does not mean that they are not educational, informative, or about cooking. Pollan quotes a chef friend who compares trying to learn about cooking by watching the food channel to trying to learn basketball by watching the NBA, implying it is a silly expectation. And yet I know any number of young basketball players who do watch the NBA avidly expecting to learn how to improve their game. I may never have a whole wheel of parmesano regiano to turn into a soup tureen, as Mario Batali did in one Iron Chef competition, but that doesn’t mean I don’t get ideas that apply to my daily cooking by watching what they create. Similarly, the competitive aspect of Chopped is the least interesting part; the fun part, for anyone who has ever been stuck playing pantry roulette (you must make dinner for whatever reason, from what is available in the house and you haven’t been shopping in a while), is trying to figure out what you would do with the same ingredients — would your dish work better? could you do it in time?

Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives is arguably more about eating than cooking, but Pollan unfairly minimizes the time spent in the kitchen, talking about why this particular dish is worthy of attention, and many of the recipes for dishes prepared on 3D are available on the Food Network’s website — that’s where I got my vanilla gelato recipe.

He does this cherry picking in order to set up the idea that we are becoming disconnected from food preparation, and that this disconnect is the source of our less than healthy diet, and ultimately the obesity epidemic. He ends with the suggestion that the ultimate solution is to cook. His logic is flawed in a number of ways, and his solution simplistic.

He shifts from a praising Julia and dissing Emeril, to noting that we spend less time in food preparation, on average, today than we did 40 years ago, and concludes that this is because we are now microwaving pizza instead of making homemade soup. He fails to make any real connection between this and the Food Network, however. He presents no evidence that those who are watching the Food Network are the ones microwaving pizza instead of cooking. I have no evidence to the contrary either, but anecdotally, those friends of mine who watch the Food Network also cook. We may still spend less time in food prep than 40 years ago, having pre-chopped onions, celery, and peppers is a time saver that does not reduce the nutritional value of what I cook.

But this is a relatively minor flaw in his argument. The biggest problem in a correlation/causation fallacy that rests at the heart of his analysis. He notes that as the “time-cost” of food goes down, calorie consumption goes up, and that nations that have higher food prep times have lower obesity rates, and concludes that there is a cause and effect relationship and that cooking will solve our problems. This is a classic error, and ignores conflating factors. Less food prep time may correlate with may things, including greater food availability, and as long as that greater availability remains, cooking our own food will not change anything.

This, again, is anecdotal, but on a personal level I find his thesis questionable. I was raised by a mother who cooked, and I cook. I bake most of our bread, and pizza is fast food chiefly because there is a ball of dough in the refrigerator, and toppings can be made from a variety of left overs. We eat out, on average, 2-3 times a week, and the rest the meals are prepared at home, usually from scratch. That has not kept me, and all my family from being fat.

His final recommendation(quoting Harry Balzer):

“Easy. You want Americans to eat less? I have the diet for you. It’s short, and it’s simple. Here’s my diet plan: Cook it yourself. That’s it. Eat anything you want — just as long as you’re willing to cook it yourself.”

This would, in my house, be a diet full of pizza, gelato, chocolate cake, and oatmeal cashew chocolate chip cookies. No, I can’t eat whatever I want as long as I cook it myself.

Sarah, Get a Dictionary

Since listening to the Palin farewell word salad, I won’t insult speech writers by calling it a speech, I have been waiting for someone in the media to point out that she clearly does not know what ‘apologetics’ means.  No one has mentioned it, at least not that I have heard.

It may be that they have been too busy with all the the more obvious points of insanity and inanity on that incredible, almost meaning-free hash.  Or it could be, dare I say it, they don’t know themselves.

In her stream-of-consciousness monologue, Palin referred to American apologetics, in context that made it clear she meant someone apologizing for America, but that isn’t what it means.

Just as Christian apologetics is a formal defense of Christianity, American apologetics would be a defense of America.

So, ex-Governor Palin, why do you object to people defending America?