Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Inane Once Again

As we near the end of the year I always like to think back and reflect on what I think were the most inane statements I heard during the year.

I like the word inane. It seems to better convey silly, stupid, senseless, foolish and ridiculous and does it with a bit more class at the same time. I doubt that Donald Trump uses the word very often. He is a little more plain spoken than I am.

Speaking of Trump, when I thought about this topic I googled "most ridiculous statements of 2015" to see what I might have missed during the year compared to some recent inane statements that were fresh in my mind.

Five of the top ten results from that search brought up something that Trump had said. Three of the top ten referenced Ben Carson. One pointed me to "The Republican Presidential Debate's 7 Most Ridiculous Quotes".

It seems to be another example of the media bias we see around us every day. Conservatives, Christians and Celebrity Politicians are favorite targets.

However, where was the media when Al Gore made this statement about the Arctic ice cap in in 2007 when he accepted the Nobel Prize Peace Prize (still trying to figure how he qualified for that prize along with the one for Obama---did either of them do anything?) and again in 2009 at a UN Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen?

The ice cap is falling off a cliff. It could be completely gone in summer in as little as 7 years from now.
                                               -Al Gore, Nobel Peace Prize Speech, December, 2007
Here is a satellite image of the Arctic taken in July, 2015 (one year after Gore said it could be completely gone). Does it look ice-free?

In fact, this report from CBC News in July of this year indicates that ice conditions in the Arctic Sea for ships this summer were the "worst conditions in 20 years."

How much have you read about this in the "inane" category in the mainstream media?

However, I have two recent statements that I came across over the last couple of weeks that seem to be worthy of some recognition for the most inane of 2015.

The first comes from Hillary Clinton.
"I wouldn’t keep any school open that wasn’t doing a better than average job. If a school’s not doing a good job, then you know it may not be good for the kids.”
Let's put that statement in context.

There are a little more than 132,000 K-12 schools in the United States.  About 100,000 are public schools.

That suggests that Hillary would close at least 50,000 schools (those in the bottom half) because they can't do a better than average job.

And where are those "below average" schools?

A disproportionate number are in large, urban school districts.

For example, my home state of Ohio ranks all K-12 schools with a performance index rating based on achievement and test scores. There are 3,311 schools that are ranked. 273 of those schools have earned an "A" grade. Among them is the elementary school my granddaughter will attend in suburban Cincinnati.

52 schools got "F"grades in those rankings. 14 of those are in the city of Cleveland. Is Hillary going to close all the schools in Cleveland, Ohio? By the way, Barack Obama got more than 75% of the vote in the city of Cleveland in 2012. In eight precincts in Cleveland, Mitt Romney did not get one vote!

Ohio also ranks by "Value Added Progress" which some would argue is a fairer measure of school performance as it "uses student achievement data over time to measure the gains in learning students make. It provides a way to measure the effect a school or teacher has on student academic performance over the course of a school year or another period of time". This measure is done by school district rather than by each individual school.

The top 5 Ohio school districts by this measure are all in suburban areas---Solon, Hilliard, Dublin, Olentangy and Upper Arlington---even though arguably they should have better prepared students entering their schools from the start with more stable family situations, less poverty etc.

On the other hand, these city school districts all received "F" ratings indicating that they are failing in "Value Added Progress"--Akron City, Cincinnati City, Cleveland Municipal, Dayton City and Youngstown City among others.

Hillary Clinton's statement is inane in the extreme.

Can you imagine Dan Quayle, Sarah Palin or Ben Carson making such a statement and not be derided and ridiculed for suggesting anything so impractical and impossible? Where do the 27.5 million students who attend "below average" schools go? Is she suggesting a giant busing program from the cities to the suburbs? What about the physical plant? What happens to all the closed schools? How do the "above average" schools expand their physical plant to accommodate new students? Who pays?

At the same time, Hillary has opposed school vouchers and school choice. She also previously supported charter schools but has recently spoken out against them. All of her positions seem to be more consistent with satisfying the teachers' unions than any concern about students in the classroom.

As inane as Hillary's statement, John Kerry's State Department probably out did her.

In the official blog of the U.S. Department of State (appropriately entitled "DipNote"?) that recaps its significant foreign policy accomplishments of 2015, State Department Spokesman John Kirby last week put together his list of items where "our diplomats...have met with with significant success across a range of issues – each of these issues vital in their own way to ensuring the safety, security, and prosperity of the American people".

You might be surprised with this item that was listed as a "significant success" on that list.

"Bringing Peace, Security to Syria".

I know I was.

I thought I missed something.

The last I heard, the New York Times reported that more than 200,000 Syrians have been killed over the last four years in the civil war engulfing that country.

4 million Syrians have fled the country causing a refugee crisis that is impacting all of Europe and looks like it may also engulf the United States. Most of those refugees fled the country in the last six months of 2015.

ISIS controls wide swaths of the country.

To complicate matters, Russia entered the Syrian war this year to attempt to prop up President Assad.

U.S. and Russian planes now criss cross the county with differing bombing targets.

The State Department is bringing peace and security to Syria?

Understanding that Hillary Clinton presided over the State Department until three short years ago and bears significant responsibility for the mess that is Syria today, I think I understand a little better how she defines "below average". In fact, she even referred to Assad in positive terms as a "reformer" at the beginning of the Syrian war.

If the State Department can claim bringing peace and security to Syria as an accomplishment how can any school be considered "below average"?

From Hillary's perspective, we live in Lake Wobegon where all the Democrats are strong, all the liberals are good looking and all progressive ideas are above average.

And all the Republicans are weak, ugly and all their ideas are below average.

After all, when asked during the first Republican debate which enemy that she had made during her political career that she was most proud of, Hillary answered "probably Republicans" in addition to the NRA, health insurance companies, drug companies and the Iranians.

Inane once again.

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