30 October 2014

Odd And Untrue Anti-Udall Radio Ad

The U.S. Senate race in Colorado between Mark Udall and Cory Gardner is the closest in the country and could swing control of the U.S. Senate.

The latest ad I heard on the radio (this morning) was sponsored by Women for Cory Gardner or something like that.

It argued that choice of issues other than abortion (which Gardner wants to restrict in any manner possible, whether or not it is constitutional) and contraception (which Gardner has repeatedly supported "Personhood" measures to restrict despite a sudden about face arguing that oral contraception should be an over the counter drug, in part so it isn't provided via taxpayer subsidies for health insurance) was important to women.

The ad claimed that Udall wanted to take away at least three other kinds of choice for women in very non-specific language that was at best misleading and in most cases false.

1.  Udall wants to take away your choice of a doctor.  FALSE.

Presumably this is a reference to his support for Obamacare.

Despite the fact that Obamacare is not a single payer system, does not reduce choice of doctor in any way for people who have health insurance, and expands one's choice of doctors for the large number of people who couldn't previously afford health insurance.

Obamacare also greatly increases reproductive health and mental health options for large numbers of people who already had insurance, particularly in the individual and small business plan market.

2. Udall wants to limit choices about how to protect your family.  MISLEADING.

Presumably this is a reference to Udall's support for mild gun control measures.

If you are a woman who is also a felon, this is true.  If you think you need magazines with more than ten bullets to defend your family, this is also true.

In particular, Udall has not sought any new limitations on purchases of the ordinary handguns, rifles and shotguns usually used by families for self-defense, and has actually supported legislation to make it easier to carry firearms in checked luggage on Amtrak trips.  He has also supported legislation to limit tort liability for gun manufacturers when their products are used illegally or tortuously, as opposed to simply being defective.

If you are more concerned about making it easier for criminals to use their guns against you and your family, particularly criminals and impulsive men on the verge of having restraining orders entered against them, than about you having a military grade arsenal at your home, like most women, this isn't a big deal.

Notable facts: Criminals kill about 100 people with guns for every criminal killed by a law abiding person person with a gun.  Criminal commit a similar ratio of non-deadly crimes with guns for every non-deadly crime prevented with guns.

3. Udall wants to limit your energy choices.  FALSE.

Presumably this is a reference to Udall's support for various forms of regulation of fossil fuel extraction and combustion, and support for renewable energy measures.  At the level of ordinary voters, this simply isn't true, although he has supported some new regulation of air pollution and oil and gas production (an area OSHA and the EPA admit that they do not satisfactorily regulate) that impact utilities over whom consumers never had any choice or control in the first place.

Most Colorado voters have historically had one and only one choice when it comes to electricity and natural gas, because these are regulated monopolies.  In the Denver metropolitan area, you used to buy your electricity and natural gas from Xcel energy, the monopoly provider.  Gasoline and diesel fuel and propane, in contrast, have always been provided in highly competitive markets that Udall has done nothing to restrict.

Udall's support for renewable energy measures, however, such as alternative fuel vehicle credits and solar energy credits, have given people an alternative to gasoline and diesel in the transportation fuel market, and have given people an alternative choice to Xcel (or in conjunction with Xcel) for electrical and water heating energy.  Similar credits have also opened up additional conservation options, which is a choice to consume less money on energy.

Everything In Australia Can Kill You

Australia has far more deadly animals and climate conditions than just about anyplace else in the world, at least on a per capita basis.

These include four kinds of deadly snakes, two kinds of deadly jellyfish, disease carrying flying foxes, deadly ticks, spiders and centipedes, poisonous fish, octopuses, and fresh water amoebas, sharks, crocodiles, large flightless birds, hail, and extreme heat.  And, those of just the highlights.

The toxic and deadly fauna can largely be chalked up to extreme Red Queen type evolutionary competition in a hot, arid environment, and a relatively brief period of high density human habitation to exterminate smaller threats.

The people in Australia, on the other hand, are generally quite nice, even though they have funny accents and judges who wear wigs.

28 October 2014

Colorado Renames State Standardized Tests Again

In yet another puzzling and useless development pretending to be education reform, Colorado has renamed its state standardized tests again for the third time since my kids entered the public education system in the state. First, we had the CSAPs. Then, they were called the TCAPs. Now, they are called the CMAS.
The assessments are called the Colorado Measures of Academic Success, or CMAS for short. These statewide tests replace the former statewide exams known as the Colorado Student Assessment Program (CSAP) and the Transitional Colorado Assessment Program (TCAP).
The CMAS will serve the same purpose as the TCAPs and CSAPs, but will have a different set of four levels of grades with different cutoffs to achieve each of the four ratings, to keep us on our toes and to prevent us from making apples to apples comparisons for long time periods.

In principle, the CMAS will not be graded on a curve to the same extent as the prior renditions. But, since the tests are used to evaluate schools rather than having any role in educating kids, it really doesn't matter how they are graded.

Here's a prediction for you: the relative performance of kids, income groups, ethnic groups, schools and school within school programs on these tests will be almost exactly the same as they were when the tests were called the TCAPs and the CSAPs.  In physics, we call this a gauge symmetry.  In education, we call this shifting deck chairs on the Titanic.

Quote of the Day

"Sorry," I say, "I'll be right back and we'll go," leaving Ben to explain our plans and knowing that at this moment, he could say we were off to a heroin-smuggling operation in Mexico and that my father, dazzled and disarmed, would probably only ask if I needed any cash for tacos.
- Kat Rosenfield, in her novel "Inland"(2014).