Newt’s Family Values

This says it all.  I don’t understand how Newt has supporters.  If you want to explain it, I’m all ears. 

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Comparing the Senate and House versions of the Payroll Tax Bill

[Added in edit] On Friday, December 23, one day later, this all came to an end.

{Begin Original] In the last few weeks, the House wrote a bill that will extend the Payroll Tax break through 2012. It was approved last Tuesday, December 13.  The major points are provided below (via The Associated Press.)  The bill and the details are short.

As dictated by our laws, this bill was sent to the Senate for approval.  The Senate made very minor changes – you can read what they are in the list below. In summary, the Senate bill extends unemployment only for two months rather than through 2012.  It is changed to be a temporary fix, rather than making the change for the full year.  The other compromise was how the bill is paid for – the Senate version saves us money by passing the cost of the payroll tax reduction by charging a fraction of a percent more for mortgages – the House bill cost much more ($180 billion vs $33 billion) and generated what money it did through Federal pay freezes.  There are NO OTHER DIFFERENCES between the House and Senate bills.  They both accomplish the purpose of the bill – to extend the payroll tax break.

The Senate approved the amended, cheaper, temporary bill by a wide, bipartisan margin, 89-10.  Most Republican Senators voted in favor of the bill.  Because the bill was reworked to facilitate compromise, the House has to vote again for it to be sent to the President to become law.  This is typical procedure – bills are frequently modified in minor ways and it used to be routine that the House would vote again with a count identical to the original.

Not with our current lawmakers.  Instead, the House sent the bill to conference – which it can do to try and create compromise wording that allows both chambers to pass the bill – but this is usually saved for when significant changes are made when a bill moves from one group to the other.  In this case, there is no significant difference so it’s unclear what should happen in conference. Continue reading

This man knows how to pick a fight.

Keith Olbermann Takes On The 12th Richest Man In The World

If you watch this, you will probably learn something but with that, you will also see why Keith Olbermann is often held up for ridicule.  That is the way people are treated when they won’t give in.  If a person is willing to stand up to power, whether right or wrong, that person is attacked in order to discredit the claims made.  It’s an effective strategy because many who tilt at windmills are outside the mainstream for good reason – they are irrational – and it’s damaging to conjure up those reminders when tearing down an opponent.  But Olbermann has bone fide.  He’s a smart guy with a record to prove it.  He’s an excellent orator.  He might not be someone you agree with but he’s worth a listen.  You can decide for yourself but next time someone judges him or someone else that you know who has a record of success in any field, investigate before you accept the claim.

Does the content level preparation of high school teachers matter?

Yes, it does, at least for High School Chemistry.

[note: I recently added more data to this study and reworked my stats.  The average GPAs quoted in this study are barely changed and analysis shows that the average differences are significant to greater than 0.99 confidence level.  I expected I would need much more data to reach this conclusion but with differences in GPA that large, the effect is real.  I will continue to add data but I do not expect any changes, other than the differences will probably grow.]

The following graphic is a copy of a brochure that describes preliminary results of a study undertaken at UI in my Chem 101 – Introductory Chemistry course. The study tracked student performance of students who had previously taken a chemistry course in the state of Idaho while in High School. The state of Idaho has a majority of rural school districts. It’s challenging to find highly qualified teachers in STEM fields. In order to staff the positions in rural districts, Idaho has relatively light educational requirements in chemistry and physics. For example, the majority of Idaho teachers deemed “highly qualified” to teach chemistry have an endorsement in Physical Science or in Natural Science. These two endorsements value a broad teacher preparation over content specialization and the result is that a chemistry teacher can teach with as little as eight college semester hours of chemistry and in some cases, as few as four. The study described below was undertaken to discover the effect of this reduced teacher content preparation on student success in college.

Click on the image to increase the size to a more readable format. The brochure is meant to read in columns across the page. There are two individual pages to enlarge – top and bottom.