Friday, August 31, 2007

Banning Tag? No Wonder Kids Are Obese

This is so idiotic -
COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (AP) - An elementary school has banned tag on its playground after some children complained they were harassed or chased against their will.

"It causes a lot of conflict on the playground," said Cindy Fesgen, assistant principal of the Discovery Canyon Campus school.

Running games are still allowed as long as students don't chase each other, she said.

Fesgen said two parents complained to her about the ban but most parents and children didn't object.

In 2005, two elementary schools in the nearby Falcon School District did away with tag and similar games in favor of alternatives with less physical contact. School officials said the move encouraged more students to play games and helped reduce playground squabbles.
Does anyone remember what recess is supposed to be about?

Recess is a general term for a period of time in which a group of people are temporarily dismissed from their duties. According to Wiki it is:
typically ten to thirty minutes, in elementary school where students are allowed to leave the school's interior to enter its adjacent outdoor playground, where they can play on such recreational equipment as seesaws and swing sets, or engage in activities such as basketball or four square. Although no formal education exists during recess (this fact being touted most often by the children themselves), sociologists and psychologists consider recess an integral portion of child development, to teach them the importance of social skills and physical education.
It also helps the kids blow off steam and have some fun. Most sports games are based on the idea that you have to chase after someone or something. Games are supposed to include some element of conflict. Conflict, and learning to deal with it, are also an educational experiences. I'd say many kids in the past learned to deal with conflict in the playground. Perhaps by banning tag all together these adults are being a bit over protective - or maybe this is really more about the school's liability.

The simple solution to the problem of kids complaining of being harassed or chased against their will, is to speak to the perpetrators and maybe even punish them - not to ban games for everyone.

They've banned cupcakes and cell phones and ipods, sledding, and now tag. Maybe we need to put a ban on banning things.

Oh well, as my daughter would say, "The fun-suckers have struck again."
(Fun-suckers are people who suck the fun out of everything)

Maybe the kids can play a nice quiet game of cards or mah-jong during recess.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

CT Education Commissioner Mark McQuillan - Working To Obliterate "Home Rule"

Home rule refers to a demand that constituent parts of a state be given greater self-government within the greater administrative purview of the central government. (Look at the CT State Constitution)

CT Commissioner of the Department of Education, Mark McQuillan, was interviewed on WNPR radio (08/23/07) and his vision included Centralizing Education in CT. (sorry - the audio link on WNPR doesn't work at this time, hopefully WNPR will get that fixed).

Anyway in his interview, he said that 169 towns are not talking with each other and that there should be one centralized framework which includes accountability, standards and assessments. In this scenario, the idea of "Home Rule", in which municipalities have the freedom to decide on their own how they wish to conduct business (including education), would be non-existent. One wonders why we would even bother having our own boards of education in this case, if the state is to centrally decide how to educate our kids. Everything would be by state mandate.

Where McQuiillan wishes to start is in CT high schools.

McQuillan expressed the desire to standardize graduation requirements, including required courses and require end of course exams as well as exit exams to gain a diploma. It appears he is very big on assessments and high stakes testing. That is unfortunate. Instead of having the confidence that they have succeeded all along after being passed from grade to grade - this high stakes testing may in fact punish the students who in the end don't pass these exit exams because of the failure of teachers and a curriculum that doesn't prepare them properly. It has been reported too that minority students fail these exit exams at a higher rate. This is how he believes we should approach the problem of kids graduating and needing remedial courses in college! Maybe they ought to take a second look at social promotion instead of instituting exit exams. Maybe they ought to look at the school environments that are preventing real learning from going on, especially in urban schools.

He had no concrete answers to approach the problems of drugs, sex, bullying or violence in our high schools - which are huge contributors to the reason why kids cannot achieve in school and move many of them to eventually drop out. His answer to that problem was to have the community deal with that problem.

He admitted that high schools are unresponsive to children's needs and claimed that they are currently using the wrong model for 21st century learning.
Well I agree on that point. But not for the same reasons I am sure.
It's my opinion that:
-The school environments for the most part are oppressive and depressive.
-Schools are too big and do not pay attention to individual needs.
-Kids are individuals and they aren't being treated as such for the most part.
-"One size fits all" education just doesn't work.
-Most of all there is a lot of state mandated curriculum and procedures which already crowd out the basics that kids should be getting, and valuable programs like music and art suffer as well.

We have lots of problems in our urban schools and centralizing power with the Department of Education away from the municipalities is not the solution. That will just merely remove the ability for problems to be quickly addressed at a local level and tie the hands of local boards of education to decide what is best for their own schools in their own towns. Taxpayers will have even less control on how their money is spent.

Of course there was no mention of more freedom and/or choice in education, only more control. That just about says it all. In my opinion we need less government interference in education: not more.

Here is another audio outlining the top three priorities that McQuillan has for CT
1 - Making Univer$al Pre$chool available to all children by 2015
2 - Improving reading in$truction in early grade$
3 - Revamping high school curriculum - including high school exit exams

Here he says he won't pursue the NCLB lawsuit brought on by his predecessor.

Clearly Commissioner McQuillan is looking to change education here by bringing Massachusetts style school reform and regulation here and making us into "Connecticuchusetts".

Video - Business vs. Government Bureaucracy

LOL - The government should just send every illegal alien a package and FedEx will find them!

Well - I thought it was humorous.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

11 Year Old CT Homeschooler Seeking College Admission

This is what freedom in education looks like folks.

The Journal Inquirer offered this article to it's readers:
Supported by his outstanding tests scores and honors for civic activities, a local 11-year-old is seeking college admission.

Colin Carlson, who is home-schooled, this year was named as one of the 27 Nestle Very Best in Youth, a national program sponsored by Nestle USA which identifies teens whose efforts have made an impact on lives other than their own.

He and his mother recently returned from the awards ceremony in Los Angeles.

Colin said he aspires to become a conservation biologist and will apply to Middlebury College in Vermont, his first choice, and Brown University in Rhode Island, perhaps among others, for admission in September 2008.

Colin, who has taken courses at the University of Connecticut since age 9
, says, "I took conservation biology ... and it was the most depressing course I took because of the data" that show destruction of the environment. "It's horrible," he says. "It's like the end of the world - a fairy tale gone bad."

This past winter, he entered the Cool It Climate Change Challenge, a statewide competition for middle and high school teams.

The challenge asks students to learn about climate science, understand how human activities affect the climate, and create local solutions to climate change in their school or community.

Competing alone against teams that each had several members, he took first place in the middle school division and won $2,000.

He put half the winnings toward the cost of printing a message from his Cool Coventry Club initiative on tote bags donated by the Big Y supermarket chain. The remainder went into his college fund.

The Cool Coventry Club was the basis of his statewide and Nestle awards. Through it, Colin has organized
presentations at the Booth & Dimock Memorial Library on such topics as animals and climate change, energy-saving cars, and saving energy and money, which was presented by a Connecticut Light & Power Co. speaker for business people.

Also through the club, Colin seeks to prompt people to take the pledge to save energy. They make an online promise to make three changes in energy use and if they keep the promise, they get one of the Big Y tote bags bearing the club logo.

At UConn, Colin has taken courses such as general chemistry, biology. psychology, geography, and environmental physics.

Colin says he "did well in all of them" as well as on his college boards and on the advanced placement tests given to high school students.

At UConn, Colin says, "What I really loved was that the other students really accepted me as a peer.
"They were really nice students."
Way to go Colin!

This is why we need to homeschool in freedom without government interference.

This is why families need to be able to withdraw their children from public school without school administrators reporting families to DCF

And this is why our new Education Commissioner should leave homeschoolers in this state alone

(H/T Don P.)

CT State Representative Arthur O'Neill Kicks Off Homeschool Forums

This from Rep. O'Neill's press release:

KILLINGLY CT - State Representative Arthur O'Neill (R-Southbury) will be conducting an informational forum on home-schooling on Thursday, August 30th, at 10:00 a.m. at the Killingly Public Library Community Room (25 Westcott Rd., Danielson, just off Exit 92 on 395).

The forum is intended to be the first of a series to be held around the state for home-schoolers to get information about home-schooling and interested parents and families to discuss the climate of home-schooling in Connecticut.

"These forums are intended to be informational and helpful to those who are currently home-schooling or those who are seriously considering home-schooling their children," said Representative O'Neill. "It is an opportunity to voice concerns, give support to other home-schoolers, and discuss relieving the many burdens, legal and otherwise, on those who choose to educate their own children at home."


NHELD (National Home Education Legal Defense) and local homeschool groups are working together with Rep. O'Neill on this effort and these forums should prove to be fun, thought provoking and very worthwhile. If you live in CT - please try to attend. Subsequent forums' dates and times and details will be posted.

(H/T on the press release HH)

Homeschool Support - Strong, Abundant, Worthwhile

Families that homeschool enjoy the availability of enormous support from a huge network of other homeschooling families and support groups both in their state as well as nationwide. This is one of our strengths as a community.

There is a diverse array of homeschool groups, classes, field trips and activities throughout each state. Information is available on the Internet, in the libraries and in distributed publications. Each state usually has a few large statewide support groups as well as smaller groups that cater to specific interests ranging from religious to various educational beliefs. Those groups appear to be growing and flourishing.

Parents can obtain curriculum and materials from unlimited sources. There are books and guides and conferences abounding. The plethora of materials can sometimes even be overwhelming, but homeschooling families typically help each other by sharing information about various programs and resources to help separate the "wheat from the chaff".

Statewide museums and other institutions also take the time and effort to present programs designed just for homeschoolers. It's to their advantage to reach out to this specific demographic. In CT, our kids enjoy such programs as Homeschool Days at Mystic Aquarium or Old Sturbridge Village, and so on. Bookstores typically afford us educator discounts and may even help families to choose materials for home use. Businesses also allow hands on experience to our kids who wish to do internships or job-shadowing, or they just might even give a tour of their factory so kids can see how their product is produced.

Rest assured that homeschooled kids are not just sitting around the kitchen table doing lessons. They are engaged in many wonderful programs and opportunities in their respective states, and parents get a lot of support from many places. This is important, because it is beneficial for our children to get instruction from many different sources and it allows exposure to other viewpoints. There is much truth to the saying, "The World Is Our Classroom".

The homeschool community is very diverse and children come from all types of cultures and socio-economic backgrounds. Rich, poor, single parent households, Christians, Jews, Muslims, urban, suburban, rural... you name it and homeschoolers can be found there. What is the common bond is the desire for families to teach their own in the manner which they choose, and which accommodates their children's learning needs.

One might also note too that homeschooling parents do not need any kind of certification or credentials to teach, nor do they need a specific level of education. The variable most clearly associated with student success is the amount of parental involvement in students’ studies. That is a fact cited time after time even by the education establishment. Homeschool parents are fully involved in their children’s education and even if the parents themselves don’t have specific credentials, their children can still prosper. It is this parental involvement that allows home-educated students to flourish. Parents can learn along with their children, and for more involved subjects they can very easily obtain tutoring situations or other self-teaching materials.

It cannot be overstated that homeschool parents and children have access to abundant sources of information, to community resources, and to classes and study groups taught by experienced mentors. Homeschooled children are involved in many community volunteer activities and have many opportunities to get together with their friends.

If you haven't reached out to your state or local homeschool network, perhaps now is the time to explore that resource. If you are actively supporting and participating in a homeschool network then you are modeling to your children the importance of contributing to a community, and that is an important lesson indeed.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Kids Off To College

Middle son (20) leaves Monday to start his junior year.
We enjoyed having him home for the summer, even though he couldn't find a summer job here in CT. He really helped out around the house though, which we appreciated.
I'll miss him a bit.

Youngest (15) starts her two college courses today. She'll be busy this semester too.

I can't believe summer is over.
Back to the books for them, and us parents get back to paying tuition.

But it's all good.

Miss Teen USA - You Think She Can Find The USA On A Map?

That poor girl... she needs a good dose of Toastmasters International.

But C'mon, I personally know blonds out there with lots of beauty and brains... but I guess they wouldn't be in a beauty pageant like this.

However, this does give one pause for reflection on our education system.

I'll bet she's a really nice person though. I truly wish her all the best.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Kids Told To Purposely Make Typos On College Applications

Now that's just insane.
They call it "Authenticity".
It is yet another dumb gimmick if you ask me.

Steven Roy Goodman, an independent college counselor, says you should put typos in your college application on purpose to show that you are not just a robot and are less than perfect.

It reminds me of when girls were told to make themselves look and sound stupid on purpose to get a boyfriend.

I think Mr. Goodman is giving very bad advice. He is basically telling kids, and their parents, that you should do less than your best and basically misrepresent your abilities. This is somehow going to make you stand out.

Everyone already knows that we are not all perfect. Schools do not expect our kids to be perfect. But I'd wager that they do expect kids to show that they are capable of sending in an application that reflects your desire to show your best work.

OK - so how authentic really is it if you are making yourself out to be less than what you really are. Not to say that anyone is perfect, but a college application should show your best effort ... not one that is purposely riddled with errors.

Teens should be told instead that there are many authentic ways to stand out from the rest of the crowd.

Here's my advice:
- Write an interesting essay which gives some true insight into your studies and experiences.
- Have some interesting achievements, or convey the things that you are passionate about.
- Be honest.
- Explain what you really want to do with your life, if you already know.
- Explain what you have already learned from life.
- Explain what you expect to gain from college.
- There are so many ways to make yourself stand out, because in truth you are an individual with many gifts and talents.
- The trick is to discover what those are so you can let other people know too.

But really the bottom line is to be yourself. It also wouldn't hurt to talk to some of the college counselors ahead of time to discover what it is they might be looking for.

And just as they say for every pot there is a cover... for every teenager there is a college that will be a great fit for them. The trick is finding it.

But lying on your application? Making typos on purpose?

So tell me ... What applications will "the experts" tell the kids to lie on next time?

Hmmm.. perhaps this is one reason why homeschoolers are being sought after by colleges - they don't fall for these gimmicks. They showcase their talents and they stand out without making glaring errors on their applications. They show that they do not follow the crowd.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Today In History - 19th Amendment Adopted

1920 : 19th Amendment adopted giving us ladies the right to vote!

The amendment was the culmination of more than 70 years of struggle by woman suffragists. The amendment's two sections read simply: "The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex" and "Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation."

Read more here, and ladies do something special to celebrate today.

If you aren't registered to vote, then please make it a point to do so this week.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

A Patriot Died Today

I was really saddened to read this news posted at Reason:

Aaron Russo, died today of cancer. Russo sought (but did not win, after coming in first on the first two ballots) the 2004 Libertarian Party presidential nomination. He was writer and director of the controversial, conspiratorial movie America: From Freedom to Fascism, aiming at the income tax system and the Federal Reserve.

Details at Steve Gordon's blog.

Russo was a true patriot and he will be missed. RIP

Gaping Hole Found In The Universe

Scientists have found a gaping hole in the universe.
A giant hole in the Universe is devoid of galaxies, stars and even lacks dark matter, astronomers said on Thursday.

The team at the University of Minnesota said the void is nearly a billion light-years across and they have no idea why it is there.

"Not only has no one ever found a void this big, but we never even expected to find one this size," said astronomy professor Lawrence Rudnick.

Writing in the Astrophysical Journal, Rudnick and colleagues Shea Brown and Liliya Williams said they were examining a cold spot using the Wilkinson Microwave Anisotropy Probe satellite, and found the giant hole.

"We already knew there was something different about this spot in the sky," Rudnick said. The region stood out as being colder in a survey of the Cosmic Microwave Background -- the faint radio buzz left over from the Big Bang that gave birth to the Universe.

"What we've found is not normal, based on either observational studies or on computer simulations of the large-scale evolution of the Universe," Williams said in a statement.

The astronomers said the region even appeared to lack dark matter, which cannot be seen directly but is usually detected by measuring gravitational forces.

The void is in a region of sky in the constellation Eridanus, southwest of Orion.

The researchers have posted images on the Internet.
Well now I know where all the missing socks have probably gone, although this hole is not supposed to have anything in it.

I guess that is truly the middle of nowhere.
And if you go there, don't expect to have cell phone service.

For Beatles Fans:
I'm Fixing A Hole

Friday, August 24, 2007

Two Boys - Seventh Grade Criminals?

Did they bring a gun to school? NO

Did they deface school property? NO

Did they steal school equipment? NO

They were arrested and jailed for "butt swatting".

Dennis Prager wrote this article for Jewish World Review which is funny and sad and infuriating all rolled into one. It is just incredible what our education environments have degraded into.

Here's the deal:
"At Patton Middle School in McMinnville, Oregon, students created something called "slap butt day." On one such day in February 2007, according to The Oregonian (July 22, 2007): "Two boys tore down the hall of Patton Middle School after lunch, swatting the bottoms of girls as they ran — what some kids later said was a common form of greeting. But bottom-slapping is against policy in McMinnville Public Schools. So a teacher's aide sent the gawky seventh-graders to the office, where the vice principal and a police officer stationed at the school soon interrogated them."
Yes, a police officer interrogated them, and then read them their Miranda rights and then hauled them off in handcuffs to juvenile jail, where they spent the next five days.

Can you imagine that?

Is this what we have come to in our schools and our legal system?

And according to the article it got a lot worse. Those two seventh-grade boys were not permitted contact with their parents for 24 hours, and they were brought into court in shackles and jail garb, and they were strip-searched four times!

Apparently, this was not taken as an honest dopey middle school prank - these kids were treated to the full force of the law because the Yamhill County District Attorney, Bradley Berry, brought felony sex charges against the two boys, and then explained to the media that, "From our perspective and the perspective of the victims, this was not just horseplay."

Looks like the Yamhill County justice system has too much time and money on their hands, and very little common sense. And the fact of the matter is that the girls involved in the "butt slap" incident did regard it as horseplay and they were pressured into making a case against the boys. It seems that coercion is a common tool used in these institutions.

These poor lads and their families were subjected to enormous defense legal fees ($40,000) and have been made to appear as perverts and sexual predators and they could have been placed on sexual predator lists for the rest of their lives! Prager came to the boys' defense and many of his show's listeners sent letters of support for the boys.

Berry finally dropped the felony charges after great public pressure (and probably a touch of humiliation). The boys were then charged 'only' with sexual harassment. Bradley Berry ought to be punished for subjecting these two boys to such traumatic treatment, when probably all they needed was a good talking to by the principal or their parents if indeed "butt slapping" was so objectionable. I think what Bradley Berry and that school did amounts to nothing less than child abuse (and perhaps even torture and sexual abuse for being shackled and strip searched). They ought to be charged for those crimes.

Why oh why do we waste time with this nonsense? Bringing dopey seventh-graders into a court of law for such a crazy infraction, when clearly there are so many more serious crimes being perpetrated on our streets and in our towns? Do these idiot people have nothing better to do then to beat up seventh grade kids? Who are the real bullies here?

One has to wonder too, that when kids are treated like this it is no wonder that they turn into angry young men and women who abhor authority because that authority is so routinely abused and misused. It is one thing to do something stupid like "butt slap" day, but it is yet another thing to treat innocent middle school pranks like they are horrendous crimes against humanity.

It is yet another reason why I am so glad that my children are homeschooled and do not have to deal with the insanity of zero tolerance school rules and the ridiculous iron fist of administrators and their powerful and misguided enforcement of those rules. These people really need to take some courses in a common sense approach to dealing with today's youth, or one day they will find an angry young man shooting up their school.

I hope those two lads and their families and friends will be able to recover from their ordeal and be able to leave this nightmare in the past.

(H/T S. Mendelsohn)

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Charter Schools And Homeschoolers

There are some great posts over at National Charter School Watch and Homeschooling And Public School At Home (AHA).

The National Charter School Watch blog was created to be a means of informing, documenting and evaluating available information concerning the impact of virtual/charter schools on the homeschooling community.

Presented at National Charter School Watch are news items, articles from various sources, legislative information (bills, law changes), documented efforts and experiences and other information that may give weight to whether home-based charter schools or virtual schools are having an impact in any negative way on homeschooling.

Charter schools are public schools.

They are publicly funded and must adhere to state and federal legislation (NCLB) and mandates for public schools.
Some states allow charters to exist in a home environment.
(CT does not do that - they have enough issues with brick and mortar charters).
Those families participating in home charters may be "schooling at home" but essentially are doing "public school" which is a - government regulated - publicly funded - and government dictated curriculum at home.

It's a choice. Choices are fine.
This choice may work for some families, and that's o.k.
But this choice is not what many call autonomous and sovereign homeschooling, and it should not be confused or construed or misrepresented as such.
It is not homeschooling in the true sense and intent of the word, and this has created controversy in the homeschool community for good reason.

The concern here is that public schools are beginning to co-opt the term homeschool and may begin to subsume all homeschooling under their umbrella of regulation.

Public education has been losing more and more students to homeschooling. They are seeking ways to regain that enrollment. Home charters is one popular method for them to do that. They even use the name "homeschool".

It's like if you started calling a kitten a puppy. They both have four legs and a tail and fur; they lick themselves and may respond when you call them. They may look and even act similar, but clearly they are not the same thing.

Choices in education are good to have, but we need to have at least two options that are free from government control and intervention. Private schools and sovereign homeschools fall under that category, and we are seeing increasing encroachment by the government into those educational choices, which only interferes with their ability to educate as they were originally intended to educate.

Public school education in the home is still public schooling.
It is government controlled education reaching into your home and calling itself homeschooling.
It is in fact the wolf in sheep's clothing.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Another Reason To Homeschool - Bulletproof Backpacks

Kids will be going "back to school" soon and many of them may be sporting the new bullet proof backpacks created by two dads in Massachusetts.

Now that is a sorry state of affairs when one has to send their children to school with bullet proof supplies.

The backpacks sell for $175 and the dads claim that since the kids carry their backpacks with them on the bus and during the school day that they will always have something to protect them should the bullets start to fly or should they be attacked with a knife.

With school violence on the rise since the 1999 Columbine shootings (here's a list), the backpacks might be a good thing for kids to have, but it sure is a very sad commentary on the safety of our education environment.

It's the least these kids can have to protect themselves since they aren't allowed to bring anything sharp to school. The question is, what training or protective gear will teachers be allowed to have? And now will their unions be requesting combat pay as well? Will taxpayers have to subsidize these backpacks for children whose families cannot afford them? Why stop at backpacks? Why not have complete SWAT gear for every child as a "school uniform"? Oh, the possibilities are endless.

Yup.. it's a sorry state of affairs, and I sure am glad I homeschool my child.

Security and Prosperity Partnership Meeting In Montebello, Canada

Harper, Calderon, and Bush in Montebello

2000 people came out to protest the summit in Montebello.

This AP news story, reports about this North American summit that took place in Canada.

President Bush and Mexican President Felipe Calderon and Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper, met again behind closed doors and lots of security to work to address various issues between their countries and bolster a compact - dubbed the Security and Prosperity Partnership of North America - that serves as a way for the nations to team up on health, security and commerce.

The Security and Prosperity Partnership of North America (SPP) was founded in March 2005 at a summit of the Heads of State of Canada, the US, and Mexico. Yet, the SPP is not an official treaty; it is not an official law; rather, it is being presented as a vague 'dialogue based on shared values'.

Bush, Calderon, and Harper, claim to be working to craft a plan to secure their borders in the event of a terrorist strike or other emergency without creating traffic tie-ups that slowed commerce at crossings after the Sept. 11 attacks. They claim to want their homeland security experts to figure out the best way to protect citizens in an emergency, perhaps an outbreak of avian flu, without snarling business among the trading partners. They claim to be seeking middle ground on shared concerns about the border and a host of other issues ranging from energy to trade, food safety to immigration.

The SPP is supposed to be about administrative and regulatory issues, not sweeping legislative proposals for North America. But many many citizens are objecting to these kinds of talks as they circumvent their own legislative bodies, like our U.S. Congress, and pave the way for a "European Union" style government called the North American Union (NAU).

Bush, Calderon, and Harper claim that they are merely "harmonizing" each country's respective regulations. Yet, how can these heads of state make policy independent of their country's governing bodies? They claim there are "working groups" which will take care of the details of the issues that were discussed. How are these working groups working outside of our country's governing bodies? Clearly this goes against what our Constitution allows and infringes upon our sovereignty. The American people better wake up to the plans being laid down at these meetings. Congress needs to pass the legislation H Con 40 IH

Several hundred demonstrators protested about this integration of North America. One carried a banner that said: "Say No To Americanada."

Of course there is already dispute and haggling over the "ownership" of the Arctic, especially after the Russians sent a sub to plant their flags there. Canada believes much of the North American side of the Arctic is Canada's, but the United States says that the thawing Northwest Passage is part of international waters.

Also, the Mexican president, Calderon, was clearly annoyed that the U.S. immigration legislation died in the U.S. Senate (tsk tsk), and he is also is rankled by the Bush administration's newly announced crackdown on employers who use illegal immigrants (well, isn't that a shame too).

The truth is Canadians do not want this "integration".
Americans do not want this North American Union. In fact 16 states have pending Anti-NAU legislation and 3 states have passed Anti-NAU or Anti-SPP legislation in both their House and Senate!!!
Here is another Anti-NAU website.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

The CT Commissioner Of Education Speaks About Homeschooling - And He IS NOT Homeschool Friendly

Mark McQuillan came to CT from Massachusetts to replace Betty Sternberg last year as Education Commissioner. Since the beginning of the year, 30 families who have withdrawn their children to homeschool them have either been threatened with, or have actually been, reported to DCF for educational neglect and/or truancy, and those families who have been reported to DCF for investigation have all ended up as either unsubstantiated, or substantiated and reversed or withdrawn.

There is documented proof that the CT Department of Education is encouraging school superintendents to report families who have decided to withdraw their children from government school to homeschool them. They are essentially breaking the law, as it is illegal to file a false complaint to DCF.

After listening to CT Education Commissioner, Mark McQuillan, on the Brad Davis Radio program on WDRC last week (the last 5 minutes of the interview was about homeschooling and the transcript is below), a few things became crystal clear regarding his comments about homeschooling:

1) He does not know or understand what CT law says
2) He would like to see CT homeschoolers be subjected to the same regulations that Massachusetts is saddled with.
3) He claims that he supports homeschooling - but what he supports is homeschooling under his agency's control.

Anyway, here is the transcript of the Brad Davis Interview from 8/15/07 where CT Education Commissioner Mark McQuillan talks about homeschooling (Discussion about Homeschooling starts at 9:10 into the segment of the audio – total segment is 13:07) :
Brad Davis: Commissioner, uh I have had an awful lot of complaints in fact I did a whole program one Saturday on it. uh I love homeschooling, I think this is tremendous and I have heard from parents, I’ve had some folks on the program who are very critical of uh your department of superintendents who give them, as one parent said, such a hard time when they withdraw their child from school for homeschooling and uh is this true? uh Are you satisfied with homeschooling?

Mark McQuillan: Well, as someone who administered a homeschooling program in Massachusetts I’ve found that uh um for the most part the homeschooling um parents are very conscientious about what they want to do. There’s an entire nationwide network uh that supports homeschoolers. They have a strong, very traditional curriculum um it’s faith based in many instances which is not consistent with public school, but it’s a homeschool choice that parents make. um I have seen extraordinary things that come about from homeschooling I think it’s again it’s an option for parents to pursue, and I think the only obligation that the state has in this regard is to make certain that the the quality of the program is in place and that a plan is in place so that the parents um actually do what they say they will do and it’s in instances when they don’t uh that we have to be worried that in fact uh there’s not the adequate education being provided to the student so at least from my perspective it’s uh from the regulatory authority of the state is simply to monitor what’s going on and in the instance if it’s, and I don’t think it is widespread, if there is an instance of a of a problem that that that the student isn’t getting enough time, or if after an assessment at the end of the year they’re showing that they are not making progress towards grade level then we may have to ask for a better look see at how the plan is being carried out and in some cases if it isn’t being carried out, then insist that the student be enrolled in public school. We have an obligation under the law to educate all children and I think we have an obligation to allow parents to to um carry out their their prerogative on homeschooling, but the issue that it’s kind of a small uh window of if its not doing well then we have to uh get involved.

Brad Davis: Then you’re not against, you’re not against homeschooling then.

Mark McQuillan: No I’m Not.

Brad Davis: Oh that’s that’s good you see that’s that’s why I am glad you are on the program to clear up some of these things.

Mark McQuillan: No, No, I’m actually not. I, I think that it’s a choice and I think that most of these issues like preschool and like homeschooling these are choices that parents make and I think the issue is that you get so much better results when parents are actively involved in their decision making around schools that that then they take uh special care to see that their children are getting the kind of education that you need. I do think that the the uh the evidence on homeschooling is that it’s very positive in most cases and I think that’s why I, I have no quarrel with it. I always think that the public schools can do as good a job, but not necessarily do the parents and I think they should exercise the right uh to to homeschool if they want. It’s a real uh I’ve often said to the families that have done it is that this is an extraordinary sacrifice that you’re making for your children and I support that uh commitment to your children that um having met with so many families who uh have had homeschooling, these are predominately military families when I worked in in Massachusetts, uh you know this is an extraordinary commitment and an act of giving I think that a mother would make, and in some cases a father would make, to provide that kind of structured program for their child all day.

Brad Davis: Commissioner of Education here in Connecticut, Mark Mcquillan our first conversation. uh Commissioner thank you so much for being with me this morning.

Mark McQuillan: ok thank you

So here is the story, much of which I said in rebuttal to the Commissioner's comments when I was asked to appear on radio on the Brad Davis show on Friday 8/17/07:

Currently homeschoolers in CT are free to educate their children. It is their duty and obligation to do so. They have been able to do that since the inception of Connecticut as a colony. According to the interview on WDRC, Commissioner McQuillan wants to insure that we submit education plans, that we are monitored and that our children are assessed at the end of the year. This not only stifles home schooling, and places unnecessary burdens upon parents and children but it interferes with parental rights according to current statute - and most of all it is a costly endeavor which will siphon more money away from public education just so the Department of Education can control, monitor, and assess homeschoolers. That is something they do not even do with private schools!

Homeschoolers in CT are excelling - and the system that we have in place is not broken. It works just fine and we have had no problems other than the Department of Education trying to increase their control and falsely reporting families to DCF for investigation (another huge cost to the state!). The CT homeschooling community does not want to have the people who are in charge of failing government schools tell us what we need to do. We take our current obligation to educate our children very seriously and we have a huge network of homeschoolers across the state to help any family accomplish their homeschooling goals.

We do not need to be like Massachusetts and we do not need regulations that are unnecessary and costly to the state and local governments. We know that once they start putting in regulations for one thing or another, there will be more regulations to come. Yet, the Department of Education does not even follow the laws that we currently have in place!

The Commissioner's claim is that the state needs to know how our children are being educated - yet they currently have a statute in place that allows them to identify how all children in any given district are being educated and they do not even comply with that statute! That's the Enumeration statute (CGS 10-249) which require boards of education to maintain a census of children in each school district and keep records of their identity, age and where they are being educated. Parents can be fined if they don't share that information when asked. The fine for not providing that information is $25 - not a referral to DCF!

Currently the Department of Education is treating the Notice of Intent form as a mandatory filing, which it is not. Filing the Notice of Intent form is part of a "suggested procedure" only. Parents have a choice to file it or not. Some parents choose to file it and others do not. That is as it should be. The Department of Education is coercing families to file this document under threat of a referral to DCF, and even some families who have filed an NOI have been reported to DCF anyway. It is also ludicrous to believe that filing this document, or any other document, will guarantee the education of a child or prevention of child abuse.

The Commissioner also claimed that he and his agency has an "obligation under the law to educate all children" Actually state law - our state Constitution - does not say that at all! What the state is mandated to do, as was brought out by the Sheff vs. O'Neill lawsuit, was that the state must provide an equal opportunity to receive an adequate education. That's it. Additionally, the state has nothing whatsoever to do with educating all children... only those enrolled in their system.

One thing is for certain - This commissioner is bad news and is not a friend to the homeschooling community, and thousands of homeschoolers in CT now know that.

Monday, August 20, 2007

For Ron Paul Fans - Restore The Republic

Middle Class Hispanics Fear Identity Theft

While I haven't seen an article about this in the main stream media, or elsewhere, apparently Hispanics - either US citizens or those who are here legally - as well as Americans with Hispanic sounding surnames, are facing the threat of identity theft by illegal aliens who need credentials like social security numbers and other ID cards.

I heard a caller talk about this the other day on a radio talk show. He was a Naturalized US citizen who came here legally from South America and was saying how this is becoming an issue for him and his community. The legitimate Hispanic community is very concerned about this because it affects their credit ratings, and it is a major hassle to restore things to normal after identity theft occurs.

In this report it says:
The survey results show African-American and Hispanic victims were more likely than victims from the random sample to have the crime target their checking or savings account.
As more illegal aliens come across the Mexican border - they are looking to obtain credentials that will allow them to live and work here.

No matter who you are - or what your ethnicity - there are things you can do to protect yourself from identity theft. Read some tips here and here.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Cop "Cut-Out" Used To Slow Traffic In Smyrna

The above photo is a fake cop used in the UK.

I guess this is what you do when you don't have enough money in the budget to hire actual policemen.

AP News
Hoping to deter speeders, a Tennessee town uses a lifelike body double to remind drivers that the police are watching.

A full-size corrugated plastic cutout of a real Smyrna police officer is pretty convincing to most drivers when they catch a glimpse of him pointing his radar gun on the side of a busy street.

Who better to pose for the picture than Sgt. Andy Miller, the officer who heads up the city's traffic enforcement division?

"It's meant to get people to think about it and slow down. It's actually worked," said Miller.

The speed limit on pedestrian-heavy Front Street is 15 mph, but some drivers speed between 25 and 60, Miller said.

"We come over here on a regular basis and run radar, but we can't be everywhere all the time," Miller said. "With this, we can be."

The idea for the posed patrolman came from Jim Gammon, whose sign company sits on busy Front Street. He suggested it as a way to slow drivers and then printed up the two-dimensional police officer. After less than a month on the street, the cutout is working so well the city has asked Gammon to make another.

"Any time they'll see it, (motorists) immediately slow down," Gammon said. "The trick is to keep them guessing."

Sometimes Miller even stands behind his plastic twin and catches speeding drivers who apparently aren't fooled by the cutout.

Smyrna resident Norma Stuteville said seeing "the little cardboard cop" made her pump her brakes.

"He kind of caught us by surprise," she laughed. "It definitely caught our eye."
Funny thing about this is that if the police were actually watching - they wouldn't need to put up a fake cut-out of one watching you - would they?

Maybe this would work on the U.S.-Mexican border too? Why have the cost of putting up a fence when we could line the border with "cut-ups" of U.S. border patrol agents and vicious looking dogs?

Heck we could even throw up a couple of Vicente Fox or George Bush ones too, and maybe throw in a few fake "Elvises" for fun.

Check here for more
also here too.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Giuliani To Fund Raise In England

This from the New York Post

Rudy Giuliani is planning an unusual fund-raiser next month - in a foreign country.

The Republican front-runner will travel to London for the Sept. 19 event, which aims to give Americans living abroad a chance to get involved. Only U.S. citizens are permitted to donate to U.S. presidential hopefuls.

"We are recruiting host committee members today and want to include everyone who can make a firm commitment to raise a minimum of $10,000," Giuliani fund-raising director Donna Henderson wrote in a letter to supporters.

"I have not heard of it before," political consultant Hank Sheinkopf said of the idea of fund-raising in a foreign land.

Well the article stated that Rudy was only going to be asking for donations from US citizens living abroad, which is legal. Those folks are allowed to participate and to vote. It is interesting for Rudy to be going after the support and votes of US Citizens outside of US borders.

Still and all, the whole issue of the illegality of foreigners (non-US citizens) contributing to US elections is an interesting one to ponder. Certainly there have been questionable contributions received by other candidates in the past.
The Democrat National Committee returned millions of dollars in suspect donations after the 1996 elections amid allegations that the contributions came from foreign sources, prompting a Justice Department investigation that resulted in the convictions of several Democratic fund-raisers.
The Federal Election Commission says this about foreign contributions: It's illegal for non-US citizens to contribute to any campaign in the US.
The ban on political contributions and expenditures by foreign nationals was first enacted in 1966 as part of the amendments to the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA), an "internal security" statute. The goal of the FARA was to minimize foreign intervention in U.S. elections by establishing a series of limitations on foreign nationals. These included registration requirements for the agents of foreign principals and a general prohibition on political contributions by foreign nationals. In 1974, the prohibition was incorporated into the Federal Election Campaign Act (the FECA), giving the Federal Election Commission (FEC) jurisdiction over its enforcement and interpretation.

The Federal Election Campaign Act (FECA) prohibits any foreign national from contributing, donating or spending funds in connection with any federal, state, or local election in the United States, either directly or indirectly. It is also unlawful to help foreign nationals violate that ban or to solicit, receive or accept contributions or donations from them. Persons who knowingly and willfully engage in these activities may be subject to fines and/or imprisonment.

Lest we forget, Rudy also has an honorary knighthood.

(Rudolph Giuliani KBE)

Friday, August 17, 2007

Got A Kid Going To College? Here's Some Health Tips

If college is in your child's future then there are some health-related issues that you need to address.

First, I know that there are folks out there who have a definite stance regarding vaccinations. You should be aware that most colleges have vaccination policies and some simply will not allow you to enroll if you do not get the required vaccinations. Meningitis and Tuberculosis are diseases that are usually at issue, especially since college dormitories living areas are in such close quarters. My point being that if you have issues with vaccinating then you need to check the health policies at the colleges that you may be considering and find out what, if any, exemptions they allow. Some colleges follow their own policies and others follow their state law.

As far as other health issues, I think it is really important that you check out the college’s health center, and find out what procedures are in place for medical emergencies. Should your child ever need medical assistance while away at school then you need to have some piece of mind about the type of care that is accessible. You should check your own insurance policies to see what kind of coverage your teenager has and if (s)he needs additional coverage then you should make arrangements.

It is also of utmost importance that your teenager knows how to take care of himself. If they are moving out of your house and going away to school, they should have on hand a first aid kit to keep in their dorm room, and a good book describing illnesses and their symptoms and what to do for those illnesses. It is wise to go over with your child what to do in case of the flu, or stomach ailments and other health problems that they are prone to. Most kids are fairly familiar with what Dr. Mom (or Dad) does when an illness comes along, but it is good for you to go over what medications or remedies they should use and the appropriate dosages.

It might also be worthwhile for your child to take a first aid course as well as a CPR course. They should be familiar what to do in case of emergencies and be able to help themselves as well as others.

When they do move into a dormitory or some other on-campus housing they should make sure they are aware of fire exits and make sure smoke alarms are in working order. There have been enough campus fires to warrant that advice.
Hopefully, by now your child has had healthy food choices drummed into him, but in a college environment it is easy enough to fall into a pattern of fast food, or junk food, between classes. Life gets hectic. Remind them to eat well and make wise selections at the college cafeteria. When you go on campus visits make sure that you eat at the cafeterias and see what kind of food choices will be typically available for your child.

Encourage your child to take a gym course each semester so that they get some regular exercise. Even though trudging back and forth to class may qualify, it is also good to take a course in something totally fun like fencing or sculling, or body conditioning. It’s good for them too!

Although your child may roll their eyes, at some of this advice, and perhaps some of it may be elementary, it is wise to discuss how they plan to take care of themselves while they are away from home. You might even give them a “what if “ scenario. Like “what if you woke up with fever and chills”, or “what would you do if you cut yourself badly?”

Going out on your own is scary – so talk about emotional health too. Let him know you will always be there to talk to when the stress level rises, and so on. There are also counseling services and relaxation programs on most campuses. Make sure your child gets familiar with those and knows where and how to get help for themselves or their college friends.

Canadian Breakthrough!

Canadian team discovers gene that turns cancers off
A unique gene that can stop cancerous cells from multiplying into tumours has been discovered by a team of scientists at the B.C. Cancer Agency in Vancouver.

The team, led by Dr. Poul Sorensen, says the gene has the power to suppress the growth of human tumours in multiple cancers, including breast, lung and liver.

The gene, HACE 1, helps cells fight off stress that, left unchecked, opens the door to formation of multiple tumours.

Dr. Sorensen's team found cancerous cells form tumours when HACE 1 is inactive, but when additional stress such as radiation is added, tumour growth is rampant.

Kick-starting HACE 1 prevented those cells from forming tumours.

The study appears in the advance online publication of Nature Medicine.

More about HACE1 here.

Now that's technology we can use.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Outsourcing Parenting - Hire Someone To Delouse Your Child

Honestly - this article, Parent Contractors in Time Magazine, just prompted an "eye roll" from me.

I recognize that these "parenting contractor" businesses spring up because there may be a need for them, and entrepreneurs will use that to their advantage - but it seems to me a sad commentary that that there is a need for these businesses at all.

I guess I am not the type that would even consider subcontracting out "the more unpleasant jobs of parenthood" all in the name of being able to just spend quality time with the kiddos instead of accepting the whole package. Personally, I had kids so that I could raise them and care for them, and that includes the less desirable tasks.

For people who would hire others to take care of certain, perhaps unappealing, parental duties in the name of "convenience" I ask:

So what message does this send the child - don't come to me with your problems?
Does it also say to the child - get other people to do the unpleasant tasks in life?
Doesn't it also let the child know that you won't do mundane things for them like - (gasp) packing a lunch for them?

Ok - so now you can have someone pack them lunch, chauffeur them around, babysit them before and after school, and as a parent you get to maybe take them to a movie or go buy them something at the mall.
What the heck kind of relationship does that create?
A superficial one.. that's what kind.
One based on money and what you can buy for them.
Has parenting come down to just living under the same roof and providing services?

Kids have enough friends.. they need parents. Someone who will stick with them through thick and thin and show the child that they are worth sacrificing for - even if that means combing lice out of their hair themselves and packing a lunch for them.
Lots of times that means stuff like being home when they come home from school and perhaps discussing the things that happened that day, or at least just being there and not saying anything. I realize the days of Ozzie and Harriet are long gone.. but still it seems that parents are disappearing physically and spiritually from their kids' lives more and more.

Parenting isn't all about just taking your kids to the park and having good times.

The notion of parents needing to "attain a balance between work and life" is amazing too. Parents have become slaves to their jobs to make more money so they can spend it on a lot of dumb stuff. Work more hours so you can afford $55 an hour, or up to $1000, for someone else to comb the lice out of your kids hair? or to pay someone to prepare your kids' lunch? I suppose I just don't get it, and somehow I am glad of that.

Below is the article:
Parenting Subcontractors - By Jeninne Lee-St. John

Catherine Castrence is not a morning person. So between getting her daughters dressed and fed breakfast, letting the dog out and giving an insulin shot to the family's diabetic cat, the Reston, Va., working mother of two barely had time to pack her kids' lunches before getting them to day camp by 8:00. But this summer she and her husband are outsourcing that particular ritual. Health e-Lunch Kids charges them $4.99 apiece for the homemade, nutritious meals it delivers each day to the local YMCA where Maddy, 9, and Elena, 6, are spending eight weeks. "I'm the kind of person who pays a little bit extra for the convenience," says Castrence.

Many parents today do the same. Health e-Lunch Kids, based in Falls Church, Va., is one of a growing number of niche companies swooping in to take care of the mundane tasks of parenting, all in the name of helping moms and dads attain a better work-life balance. Other lunchmakers include Brown Bag Naturals in Los Angeles and Kid Chow in San Francisco. Shuttle services like Mother Hen's Helpers in suburban New York and Kids in Motion in Pennsylvania will ferry your child to soccer practice or a doctor's appointment. And there are companies that will even come to your house and comb the lice out of your children's hair.

Farming out such child-rearing responsibilities may make traditionalists uncomfortable, with critics equating it to "paying people to do these tasks instead of doing them out of love," says Lara Descartes, a family-studies professor at the University of Connecticut. But rather than being a sign of laziness, this trend signals "an escalation of expectations of what it takes to be perfect parents," says John P. Robinson, a co-author of Changing Rhythms of American Family Life. Married mothers, for example, spend an average of 18 more hours a week at work than they did in 1965, mostly at the expense of the 12 fewer hours they spend on unpaid household chores. But Robinson points out that these women, like parents in general, actually spend more time being with their kids than parents did four decades ago. It's just that their priorities have evolved. "Parents see it as more of their role to take their children to the park and contribute to their development," says Descartes. "Lice picking just doesn't cut it."

Steven and Sarah Deutser of Houston know the value of extra help. They spent several months washing their kids' hair with Nix and olive oil and even hired an exterminator in a futile effort to rid their home of lice. Finally Steven mentioned what he considered an embarrassing problem to his sister, who assured him, "Everyone gets lice," and told him to call Penny Warner, owner of the Texas Lice Squad. For two days and about $1,000, Warner (who has a minivan-based operation in their hometown and charges $55 an hour) manually combed the nits out of the hair of both Deutser children and did the same for their housekeeper and her daughter. "We were so blown away with the experience and the emotional drain the lice had put on us," Steven says, "that I was amazed there weren't more Pennys out there." She does have a smattering of competitors in other states, but Houston will soon be getting more Pennys: the Deutsers are investing in the first Texas Lice Squad storefront, to open this fall.

This post is dedicated to Blueberry - a truly wonderful mom from what I can see, who has recently had to deal with the scourge of head lice.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

I Never Did Like The Name "Homeland Security"

First off there is something ominous about that name - Homeland .. like the German "Fatherland" or "Mother Russia" - and then there is the whole Security thing, like are we the ones being monitored and locked up or is everyone else being kept out? (well ... obviously the latter isn't true). Anyway, it's just too "Eastern Europe/Iron Curtain-esque" to me. Apparently I am not alone in that thinking. The phrase, "Homeland Security", just seems so Un-American and almost freedom stifling.

Semantics aside, even if they called it something more pleasing: It looks like Big Brother will be watching after all. Here is an article from :
US doles out millions for street cameras
The Department of Homeland Security is funneling millions of dollars to local governments nationwide for purchasing high-tech video camera networks, accelerating the rise of a "surveillance society" in which the sense of freedom that stems from being anonymous in public will be lost, privacy rights advocates warn.
Municipalities, large and small, across the country have received roughly $23 billion in federal grants for equipment and training in order to prepare for, or to combat terrorism. Since 2003, most of the money has paid for emergency drills and upgrades to basic emergency responder equipment like radios. Homeland Security has also has doled out millions on surveillance cameras, which have now placed city streets and public areas under constant observation.

Major cities like Boston have installed cameras in their subway systems. Some places even put up dummy cameras!

The article also says:
But privacy rights advocates say that the technology is putting at risk something that is hard to define but is core to personal autonomy. The proliferation of cameras could mean that Americans will feel less free because legal public behavior -- attending a political rally, entering a doctor's office, or even joking with friends in a park -- will leave a permanent record, retrievable by authorities at any time.

Businesses and government buildings have used closed-circuit cameras for decades, so it is nothing new to be videotaped at an ATM machine. But technology specialists say the growing surveillance networks are potentially more powerful than anything the public has experienced.

Until recently, most surveillance cameras produced only grainy analog feeds and had to be stored on bulky videotape cassettes. But the new, cutting-edge cameras produce clearer, more detailed images. Moreover, because these videos are digital, they can be easily transmitted, copied, and stored indefinitely on ever-cheaper hard-drive space.
Surprisingly, the article claims that Americans are pretty accepting of surveillance and support these measures as a means of fighting terrorism and other crime. Last month, an ABC News/Washington Post poll found that 71 percent of Americans favored increased use of surveillance cameras, while 25 percent opposed it.

The truth is that even homeland security specialists have noted that studies show that cameras are not effective in deterring crime or terrorism, however they are useful in apprehending suspects after a crime or attack. Most agree that the money used to buy and maintain surveillance cameras would be better spent on hiring more police.

The article concludes by saying:
David Heyman, the homeland security policy director at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, pointed out that cameras can help catch terrorists before they have time to launch a second attack. Several recent failed terrorist attacks in England were followed by quick arrests due in part to surveillance video.

Earlier this month, Senator Joe Lieberman, independent of Connecticut, proposed an amendment that would require the Homeland Security Department to develop a "national strategy" for the use of surveillance cameras, from more effectively using them to thwart terrorism to establishing rules to protect civil liberties.

"A national strategy for [surveillance cameras] use would help officials at the federal, state, and local levels use [surveillance] systems effectively to protect citizens, while at the same time making sure that appropriate civil liberties protections are implemented for the use of cameras and recorded data," Lieberman said.
We've had security cameras installed at certain intersections in my town of West Hartford, CT. They say it is to monitor traffic and is used to determine traffic patterns,etc. I am not convinced, and I think that when they get the go ahead to employ cameras to catch speeders or people not obeying traffic laws they will send tickets to your home automatically. The problem with this type of legislation right now is that there are constitutional and other legal issues with that. One must be able to face one's accuser face to face in court. That can't happen when your accuser is a camera lens. But there are other issues as well.

I was in England not too long ago and the surveillance cameras all around London were just pretty creepy. I did not appreciate the constant feeling of being watched, even though I am a law abiding citizen with nothing to hide.

Unfortunately, as we become more de-sensitized to this invasion of privacy, people will probably not care about, or notice them, at all. I just think that as more cameras populate our streets, it sort of takes away the whole notion of "presumption of innocence" which our legal system is built upon. Losing that would be truly tragic.

Actually When It Comes To Chinese Goods The Free Market May Be Working Just Fine!

Yeah - well as more shoddy and poisoned stuff come to America from China people will just stop buying Chinese products.

Companies sending stuff to be assembled by slave labor in China will just be sued or lose tons of sales as people are deciding that they don't want:

- Lead paint and small magnets in their kids' toys (Mattel and Fisher Price),

- Poison (melamine-contaminated wheat gluten) in their pet food,

- Poison (diethylene glycol) in their toothpaste,

- Lead in their baby's bibs (here's another link), and

- Defective tires (made by China-based Hangzhou Zhongce Rubber Co., have an insufficient or missing gum strip, a rubber feature that helps prevent steel belts inside the tire from separating or from damaging the rubber).

Looks like quality control is non-existent, and Americans are getting pretty wary of anything bearing the label "Made In China".

As always: Buy American!

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Rigged Voting Machines?

The Help America Vote Act (HAVA) dictated to many states and municipalities that old lever machines and other voting methods had to be changed and upgraded. I'm not sure I like the idea of the federal government writing such legislation. Here's more from wiki about HAVA.

There are some who say that these new voting methods - were put in place specifically to rig the upcoming elections. Frankly it really bothers me that we cannot seem to trust anyone, Republican or Democrat, about these matters anymore. I think that the people in general are very frustrated and angry about that most of all. But I digress...

Some are even claiming that the very recentIowa Straw Poll gave faulty results because of the use of Diebold electronic voting machines. There are those who claim that the Diebold machines are easily hacked into and a virus can be applied that can change or steal votes.

Researchers at Princeton University (and elsewhere too) have put forth that theory (with proof), and have written papers about it. They even produced a video:

Here in my state, the CT General Assembly in 2005 authorized Secretary of the State of CT, Susan Bysiewicz, to obtain voting technology to bring Connecticut into compliance with new federal standards set forth by HAVA. The old lever machines have effectively been banned and any primaries in the state of CT will have to use the new optical scan machines. I had a blog post about the old lever machines in CT being sold off.

Connecticut received optical scanner voting machines last year to replace the lever machines.
The secretary of the state contracted with LHS Associates to provide the state with 1,538 optical scan machines to replace all 3,300 mechanical lever voting machines by November 2007. LHS initially provided the state with 253 machines and 1,167 privacy booths. The state distributed these machines and booths to 25 municipalities chosen based on a survey. The 1,538 machines will cost the state a total of $ 15. 7 million.
CT's new machines are optical scan voting machines that officials say provide a reliable paper trail. I am not even convinced of the reliability of those. The old lever machines worked just fine and I am very angry that they were replaced by machines that I have not been convinced to trust and that will cost twice as much to operate. They require special paper and programming.

Read more about this whole issue of HAVA and rigged voting at the Cato Institute and Hacking Democracy as well as here about California voting machines failing hacker tests.

All I know is that I trusted the lever machines we used here in CT - as well as the same ones I used in New York state ever since I started voting over 32 years ago. There was never a doubt in my mind as to how my vote counted. Now I am not so sure with this new electronic and "tamperable" technology - and it isn't because I am not comfortable with change. Perhaps we should all protest and vote via paper ballots for a while.

If rigged machines are a reality because of HAVA - we have a very real problem at hand.

"Votes mean nothing; counting them
means everything" -- Joseph Stalin

The Lone Protester Enters The Blogosphere

Terry Funderburk has launched The Lone Protester Blog.
Please go have a look and read his story.

Monday, August 13, 2007

So You've Decided To Homeschool Your Teenager...

Picture this…you just pulled your child out of high school or middle school and are now faced with the prospect of really doing homeschool. You’ve thought about this, agonized over this decision and maybe even fought with family over this. Now what are you supposed to do???

Well first of all, don’t panic. Take a deep breath and say several times, "Our family can do this".

I can vouch for the fact that
(a) you will not damage your child,
(b) you will not hurt his/her chances of getting into college later on and
(c) you will have good days and bad days.

The first thing you want to do is give yourself and your child some breathing room. You do not have to hit the ground running as you leave behind the frenetic world of institutional schooling and all of its rushing around and mixed up priorities. You have freedom now. Freedom to pursue subjects that really mean something to your child, and time to make it worth while. The hardest part will be to get your child to express exactly what his/her interests are. Remember they have been told for so long what to do that they have probably forgotten what it is that they enjoy. Maybe they have lost all interest in anything, especially things that resemble school. That is o.k. and to be expected. They have probably left a system that has made them feel inept and like a total failure. They have left a system that has had their entire day scheduled for them. Keep this in mind when you start having trouble figuring out what your child wants to do or discussing trying to put together a daily routine or course of study. Some people say that leaving school requires sort of a "detox" period.

A big help here is to talk about it, allow for alone time and do not jump into a full plate of bookish academics unless that is what is they desire. Do not force curriculum on your child and remember that they are old enough now to have a say in what it is that they wish to study. There will be time for Algebra and Economics later on when they are ready for it. Together you can lay out a plan for high school, and that may or may not include a formal structured program.

Here are some suggestions for starting in this new journey:

1) Support the interests that your child expresses. If (s)he is interested in singing or dancing or auto repair or cooking then get some resources to help them explore and practice skills. If (s)he is interested in video games then you may want to get some good ones that develop skills of strategy and logic (Like Civilization, or Myst) and also get some books about how those games are programmed – maybe (s)he can begin doing their own programming. Support their interests with books, videos, field trips and activities that will ignite that passion. You never know where it will lead…and I guarantee it will not be a waste of time. How many hours did Bill Gates spend in his garage tinkering with computers???

2) Respect his or her reading choices. This may be hard to do but if you continually criticize or nag then most likely they will not want to read at all. You can always have some lively discussions about what they are reading. Eventually they may even become interested in what you are reading. Believe it or not, the bathroom, or a living room coffee table, is a good place to put some interesting things to read (for everyone in the house). Limiting TV time and violent or mindless video games is a really good idea, and it helps to develop more diverse and worthwhile interests.

3) Make sure that your child is involved with daily family chores. It is important for children to be depended on to perform tasks the family needs – like laundry or dusting or taking care of family pets. Not only are they learning valuable life skills, but they will see that they are competent and valuable family members who make important contributions to everyone in the household.

4) Have your child try to do things they have never done before like trimming the hedges or fixing a lamp or planting a garden. Get a home repair book if necessary. Your child will learn new skills and find out how things work.

5) Get your child interested in community affairs by doing volunteer work, either as a family project or on their own. They can work as docents in a museum (a great way to learn history etc.) or they can help out playing bingo at the local nursing home, or read and record books for the blind. They can work in any number of places. You can check the newspaper as they always have a "volunteers needed" column. This allows your child to be counted on by others while learning the value of giving. Don't forget that you can also accumulate letters of recommendation later on, from the people your child works with. That will certainly come in handy later on when your child applies for college.

6) Go outdoors and get some exercise! Hike, bike, walk, or whatever suits your child. Walking can be a great time to connect, share ideas and discuss pretty much anything. They can also get some practice with orienteering and reading maps and studying the flora and fauna. Get a group of kids together to do this too!

7) Get connected with a local homeschool support group and see what friendships may emerge. There are so many activities available in our homeschooling communities for your child to take advantage of. There is really no excuse for a homeschooled teen to say they have no friends or social life. While you don’t want to force friendships, you should still help them find opportunities for them to meet other kids. It also doesn’t hurt for your child to organize a teen activity and get the word out to other teens.

8) If you child is old enough,(s)he may be able to take local community college courses and start accumulating college credit, while getting some of those pesky "intro" courses out of the way. Also check local colleges for some of their "dual enrollment" programs which may allow for your child to take a course (sometimes for free). Even auditing a class can be very worthwhile.

9) If you are looking to complete an accredited program for high school check out my previous post about diplomas and look into homeschool high school programs.

10) If you and your child are curious as to what the scope and sequence is for any particular grade level you can check out what World Book recommends. Also for more information on suggested curriculum get/read the book The Well-Trained Mind: A Guide to Classical Education at Home- there are also lots of other really good ones out there.. so go and check out the library also.

Remember the purpose of your decision to homeschool. It wasn’t to make your child more miserable. Sometimes the biggest mistake is to try to replicate school at home. Talk everything over if things aren’t going smoothly at first, and maybe it might be a good plan to make an agreement not to argue over things but instead to discuss them. Solving problems, co-operation and working together as a family are also important goals to work on.

Starting homeschooling is akin to moving to a new town and starting to go to a new school. Your children don’t have to leave their school friends behind, but it may be harder to keep in touch. Also remember that there will be new people to meet and new experiences to explore. While your child may support the decision to homeschool, it is still a fairly scary proposition for some people. Remind your child that homeschooling is mostly what they make of it. Sometimes choices, like choosing a course of study to follow, can be overwhelming. On those days when you feel uncertain, just remind yourself that with time, patience and a little creativity everyone in your family will surely come to appreciate the freedom and flexibility of homeschooling. Take your time with it, and above all have fun with it.

(Thanks to Einstein Generator)