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Sending veteran officers to crime hotspots – What does the shift by NY’s top cop say about Teach For America

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Raise your hand if you think rookies fresh from Police Academy should be sent to crime-ridden neighborhoods, instead of local precincts where they are partnered with mentors.

Amazingly, this has been a decade-long policy under the Bloomberg administration in New York City. In what the New York Times calls a “fundamental” shift, the new Police Commissioner William Bratton announces that first-year officers will be assigned to local precincts to learn from more experienced officers. Mr. Bratton hopes that the change will also prevent inflaming tensions in those communities due to inexperience and perhaps heavy-handiness from inexperienced cops.

How does this contrast with programs like Teach for America? Consider:

  • TFA and similar programs promotes heavily on college campuses and canvasses exclusively among people with no teaching experiences;
  • New members are sent into the most high-need and desperate schools and communities where more experienced and successful practitioners are not available
  • These new teachers receive virtually no mentoring through the two-year program (no one is paid to observe the new teachers on a daily or even weekly basis to provide specific supports)

As TFA continues to thrive on tens of millions of dollars of contributions from the Walton family alone, they purport to be the solution to the educational needs of students in the most impoverished and troubled states, such as Louisiana. With a new $100 million endowment and $350 million in assets, TFA is here to stay and will continue to grow. Real teachers and students and suffer under its relentless expansion and legislative captures.


Written by Gnostradamus

Sat, 2/1/14 at 1918

Apple’s patent win is like buying polos shirts–or all shirts–only from Ralph Lauren

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The $1 billion damage Apple just won in its patent lawsuit against Samsung will be debated, and appealed an litigated, for years to come. In a nutshell, Apple convinced a federal jury that its patents on rounded corners and swiping to unlock a touchscreen phone are valid. Leaving aside issues such as competency (many jurors do not use smartphones; one of them do not use a cell phone at all; and the most common brand among their phones is LG), this verdict is ridiculous, a poster-boy for the absolute breakdown of the patent system, which is now exploited by technology companies to prevent competition by stifling innovation.

With a touchscreen phone, how can you unlock it without a swipe? With a phone, how can you avoid being rectangular? To make it pretty, how can you avoid rounded corners? Furthermore, these elements can be found in prior art–commercial products or designs made by other companies before Apple popularized them. But both sides had only 25 hours to conduct the entire trial. Perhaps due to the limited time, evidence could not be shown. Witnesses could not be questioned.

This whole trial and verdict show the U.S. patent system to be broken, whose remaining purpose is to enrich lawyers and the people who hire successful ones. Why are clothing companies not allowed to patent their designs, yet Apple allowed to sue competitors for huge damages for things they did not even invent? What would happen to the apparel industry and its consumers if each designer could lock in their designs until they are no longer fashionable or necessary?

This is about profits, not right and wrong.

Written by Gnostradamus

Fri, 8/24/12 at 2024

Papering over a Reactionary Supreme Court

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To the shock of most commentators, Chief Justice John Roberts sided with the liberal wing of the Supreme Court yesterday to uphold almost the entire Affordable Care Act. Had he not done so, the Court’s historically low public confidence of 25% would have plummeted even further. Many pundits claim that Roberts saved the Court from becoming an overtly partisan operator, but it seems to have escaped almost everyone that four of the nine Justices threw away their legal training and attempted to axe the entire health care reform because they dislike, perhaps on a political level more than anything else, President Obama’s policy.

In the past, the Court has struck down laws in their entirely only when the essence is unconstitutional. While the individual mandate was a prominent part of the ACA, it was only a means to fund it, a tool of implementation. Without it, the reforms could still be carried out. Yet the Court was about to throw everything back at Obama; it was as if they would tear up the entire criminal code because one sentence for criminals was excessive.

The ACA is a set of reforms that illustrate the schizophrenic politics of many Americans. Most of its parts are strongly supported by the majority of Americans, who nevertheless want to see the totality destroyed. At least they do so on largely political grounds. Four of the five conservatives on the Court are no better, and probably far worse, judging from their latest opinions.

Written by Gnostradamus

Fri, 6/29/12 at 0913

Occupy – Too Little, Too Late

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As the Occupy movement fizzles out after violent and coordinated crackdowns by police departments and the federal government across the country, inquests will begin on what led to its demise. Was it the lack of specific demands? Or the absence of a leadership team? Perhaps the opponents are too powerful and stacked with too much wealth.

Ultimately, the movement failed because it was too little, too late. The most frequent complaint–the lack of concrete demands–was only a symptom of the absence of consensus about the problem facing this country and possible solutions. It may be difficult to remember, but three years ago, there was such a consensus.

In hindsight, Occupy should have launched three years ago, as the collapse of Lehman Brothers drove the nail in the coffin of neoconservative economics – or so it seemed. Reagan-Bush policies, based on money transfers to the rich, had been abandoned by Democrats and most independents, and even some Republicans.

Unfortunately, those people chose to put their faith in politicians led by Barack Obama, who rode anti-Wall Street sentiments to the White House. Then they waited, and waited. When the AIG scandal broke (executives were discovered pocketing huge bonuses for fixing the mess), Congress was about to pass a law to claw back the taxpayer money. That was when Obama and his Wall Street team struck back. Led by Lawrence Summers and Tim Geithner, the administration killed the budding effort. They argued that contracts are sacrosanct (of course, that doesn’t apply to the likes of auto workers), as Fox News launched a full-fledged campaign called Tea Party.

History may still remember the economic collapse as Bush-era events, but most Americans now link Obama to the malaise. Government is now again seen as the main problem, not the financial robber barons. The average Joe, therefore, did not join OWS and raised hardly a voice as the movement was violent ejected from parks and minds.

Written by Gnostradamus

Sat, 12/3/11 at 1617

Posted in politics

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Obama is Joe Lieberman in disguise

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The Good News: Obama’s backbone is not a problem.

The bad news: His politics, or ideology, is.

Just the other day, the Republican House Speaker, in an unprecedented move, refused a request from the President of the United States to deliver a speech to Congress and the American people. The Obama White House relented after just a few hours.

Fresh on the humiliating retreat, the president has abdicated his duties once more. He announced his administration will not enforce portions of the Clean Air Act that sought to limit and cut asthma-inducing ozone pollution, potentially saving thousands of lives each year.

Over on CNN, Mr. Martin published an informative analysis of President Obama’s appeasement policy towards his political opponents and its effect on his once-enthusiastic supporters. But he missed the possibility that it’s not appeasement at all. There’s no reason to fight when what you and I see as a “loss” is an acceptable outcome.

See, most liberals still think Obama’s one of them, at heart, and Tea Kettles take it a couple light-years further. They’re both wrong.

Obama is just Joe Lieberman in disguise.

Written by Gnostradamus

Fri, 9/2/11 at 1541

Posted in politics

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He’s So Sweet (an original story)

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For hours, Yasmine has tried to comfort her best friend, Emily, seemingly in vain, but who can blame her when her friend’s fiancé had disappeared without a trace and answers are nowhere to be found?

“Are you okay now?”  Yasmine asks as the last tears seem to have been shed.

“Yeah, thanks.”  Emily replies as she tries to squeak by a thin smile.

She has the sweetest smile, he thought.

 * * *

As Emily closes the door behind her friend, her eyes drift to the coat hanger nearby.  A long, pink jacket holds gracefully to a little hook.  He got it at a friend’s consignment shop the day they dropped by.  She had just lost her favorite jacket, and there it was, in a customer’s hand, before his sharp eyes and quick wits convinced the reluctant woman to choose another.

It is not the jacket that drew her attention, however.  A packet of M&Ms protrudes from the left pocket, with a glimpse of the goodies inside its gaping opening.  She had found it in his lab the day he disappeared, partly ripped and its contents seemingly fresh.  Emily would have left the packet alone were it not for the banner screaming “Surprise Inside!”

Emily walks over to the hanger and takes the jacket.  She squeezes it, and can almost smell his cologne on it.  She knows, though, it was only her imagination, for he has been gone for four days now.  Her left hand slides down into the pocket, pulling out the packet of chocolate extravagance. She pulled out a green piece, and then notices a white one with arms and legs.  It looked just like one of those little guys in the M&M commercials.  She smiled, amidst all that was happening around her. The idea of framing it briefly entered her mind, but she quickly dismissed it as macabre.  She began to place the M&M’s into her mouth.

 * * *

He looks at her beautiful face one last time. There goes that almost invisible birthmark on the left cheek that he always felt like brushing off. There goes that curvy, bulbous lower lip he did not kiss enough. One more time, please.

No, he did not think his wish would be granted. The landmarks flew past and then, just before he went into free fall down the long and dark cleft, blindingly white rocks set into him like a tiger on prey, rupturing the skin and then the body.

Written by Gnostradamus

Tue, 8/23/11 at 1451

Posted in fiction

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What if homosexuality is a brain chemical, not a choice?

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Biologists have shown for the first time that serotonin, a chemical known to regulate sexual behaviors in both mice and men, determines whether male mice prefer to mount males or females. The study was ingenious and worth reading in its own right, but even more consequential is the moral dilemma it poses for anti-gay and equality rights activists.

Of course, all of this discussion assumes serotonin has the same effect in men as it does in mice, a reasonable hypothesis that nevertheless requires experimental proof.

In the United States, most people are Christians, and most anti-gay activists are Christians. Many of them base their beliefs on their bible (the end of this article discusses some of those beliefs).

But if too much or too little serotonin leads to homosexuality, then reasonable people could question why a deity so against the practice would allow males of so many species to be born with a condition that renders them all but certain to adopt  that practice. And why has that god not told these God-loving people that it is a chemical, not a choice?

Why have they been so wrong?

Equality rights supporters are not off the hook either. For one thing, some religious regimes will almost certainly start “treating” gay men, if not women, with serotonin, just like the way researchers turned gay mice into heterosexuals. Although less common, support may also exist in this country among some of the more virulently anti-gay groups.

Should discriminatory sentiments not decrease significantly or quickly enough, some gays who have not come out of the closet may try to change themselves through “voluntary” self-injections of the chemical.

Urgent actions need to be taken immediately in this area of bioethics.

Christian Justification

Christians who hate gays often cite the following passage:

“If a man lies with a male as he lies with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination. They shall surely be put to death. Their blood shall be upon them.” (Leviticus 20:13)

The problem is that three verses before that passage is one that calls for execution of people who curse their parents.

“For everyone who curses his father or his mother shall surely be put to death. He has cursed his father or his mother. His blood shall be upon him.” (Leviticus 20:9)

Another passage is often used to justify discrimination.

“You shall not lie with a male as with a woman. It is an abomination.” (Leviticus 18:22)

The same book, though, called eating shellfish (such as shrimps), an abomination, not once, not twice, but three separate times.

“But all in the seas or in the rivers that do not have fins and scales, all that move in the water or any living thing which is in the water, they are an abomination to you.” (Leviticus 11:10)

“They (shellfish) shall be an abomination to you; you shall not eat their flesh, but you shall regard their carcasses as an abomination.” (Leviticus 11:11)

“Whatever in the water does not have fins or scales; that shall be an abomination to you.” (Leviticus 11:12)

You can read more about it on

Written by Gnostradamus

Sun, 3/27/11 at 2124