The executive orders translated

I wish I didn’t know so many people who thought like this. Charlie Pierce:

Slate‘s Dave Weigel helpfully has listed the 23 Executive Orders issued by the president today in connection with his initiative on gun violence. Let us put them all through the helpful NRA Tyranny Translator and see what we get, OK?

1. Issue a Presidential Memorandum to require federal agencies to make relevant data available to the federal background check system.

(The singular of “data” is “tyrant.” Look it up.)

2. Address unnecessary legal barriers, particularly relating to the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, that may prevent states from making information available to the background check system.

(You’ll get our schizophrenia when you pry it from our cold dead hands.)

3. Improve incentives for states to share information with the background check system.

(Someone in Vermont will know what I’m doing. The jackboot of Ben And Jerry’s is on my neck.)

4. Direct the Attorney General to review categories of individuals prohibited from having a gun to make sure dangerous people are not slipping through the cracks.

(First they came for the insane, and I said nothing, because I was not insane. Then, they came for the felons, and I said nothing, because I was not a felon. Then they came for the Christians in my town…wait, maybe I am insane.)

5. Propose rulemaking to give law enforcement the ability to run a full background check on an individual before returning a seized gun.

(See? SEE? The gun is already seized. They’re putting together “new” regulations but they’re already talking about “seized” guns. False flag! False flag!)

6. Publish a letter from ATF to federally licensed gun dealers providing guidance on how to run background checks for private sellers.

(I am bunkered down outside, near the curb, in case the ATF invades my property by mail.)

7. Launch a national safe and responsible gun ownership campaign.

(We have that now. It’s called Everybody Gets A Gun. We already are working on the updated version; Everybody Gets More Guns.)

8. Review safety standards for gun locks and gun safes (Consumer Product Safety Commission).

(First, the CPSC came for the toys….slippery slope! Slippery slope!)

9. Issue a Presidential Memorandum to require federal law enforcement to trace guns recovered in criminal investigations.

(If criminals are outlawed, only outlaws will be criminals.)

10. Release a DOJ report analyzing information on lost and stolen guns and make it widely available to law enforcement.

(My right to lose my gun and have a cannibal murderer find it cannot be abridged.)

11. Nominate an ATF director.

(If the jackboot fits…)

12. Provide law enforcement, first responders, and school officials with proper training for active shooter situations.

(Wait, I like this.)
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Virtually Speaking Science

Virtually Speaking Science – Wed Jan 16 – 3pm pacific – Tom Levenson and Bora Zivkovic

Tom Levenson – filmmaker, author and professor of science writing at MIT – talks with chronobiologist Bora Zivkovic, Blog Editor at Scientific American, blogger at A Blog Around The Clock, organizer of ScienceOnline conferences, and editor of Open Laboratory anthologies of the best writing on science blogs. Follow @TomLevenson @BoraZ

http://www.blogtalkradio.com/virtually-speaking-science/2013/01/16/tom-levenson-bora-zivkovic
Studio audience via Second Life – http://slurl.com/secondlife/Exploratorium/145/56/26

Quinoa

Uh oh. These unintended side effects are why it’s best to just eat local:

Not long ago, quinoa was just an obscure Peruvian grain you could only buy in wholefood shops. We struggled to pronounce it (it’s keen-wa, not qui-no-a), yet it was feted by food lovers as a novel addition to the familiar ranks of couscous and rice. Dieticians clucked over quinoa approvingly because it ticked the low-fat box and fitted in with government healthy eating advice to “base your meals on starchy foods”.


Adventurous eaters liked its slightly bitter taste and the little white curls that formed around the grains. Vegans embraced quinoa as a credibly nutritious substitute for meat. Unusual among grains, quinoa has a high protein content (between 14%-18%), and it contains all those pesky, yet essential, amino acids needed for good health that can prove so elusive to vegetarians who prefer not to pop food supplements.


Sales took off. Quinoa was, in marketing speak, the “miracle grain of the Andes”, a healthy, right-on, ethical addition to the meat avoider’s larder (no dead animals, just a crop that doesn’t feel pain). Consequently, the price shot up – it has tripled since 2006 – with more rarified black, red and “royal” types commanding particularly handsome premiums.


But there is an unpalatable truth to face for those of us with a bag of quinoa in the larder. The appetite of countries such as ours for this grain has pushed up prices to such an extent that poorer people in Peru and Bolivia, for whom it was once a nourishing staple food, can no longer afford to eat it. Imported junk food is cheaper. In Lima, quinoa now costs more than chicken. Outside the cities, and fuelled by overseas demand, the pressure is on to turn land that once produced a portfolio of diverse crops into quinoa monoculture.


In fact, the quinoa trade is yet another troubling example of a damaging north-south exchange, with well-intentioned health and ethics-led consumers here unwittingly driving poverty there. It’s beginning to look like a cautionary tale of how a focus on exporting premium foods can damage the producer country’s food security. Feeding our apparently insatiable 365-day-a-year hunger for this luxury vegetable, Peru has also cornered the world market in asparagus. Result? In the arid Ica region where Peruvian asparagus production is concentrated, this thirsty export vegetable has depleted the water resources on which local people depend. NGOs report that asparagus labourers toil in sub-standard conditions and cannot afford to feed their children while fat cat exporters and foreign supermarkets cream off the profits. That’s the pedigree of all those bunches of pricy spears on supermarket shelves.

Warnings from a high school teacher

Wow:

You are a college professor.


I have just retired as a high school teacher.


I have some bad news for you. In case you do not already see what is happening, I want to warn you of what to expect from the students who will be arriving in your classroom, even if you teach in a highly selective institution.


No Child Left Behind went into effect for the 2002–03 academic year, which means that America’s public schools have been operating under the pressures and constrictions imposed by that law for a decade. Since the testing requirements were imposed beginning in third grade, the students arriving in your institution have been subject to the full extent of the law’s requirements. While it is true that the US Department of Education is now issuing waivers on some of the provisions of the law to certain states, those states must agree to other provisions that will have as deleterious an effect on real student learning as did No Child Left Behind—we have already seen that in public schools, most notably in high schools.


My primary course as a teacher was government, and for the last seven years that included three or four (out of six) sections of Advanced Placement (AP) US Government and Politics. My students, mostly tenth-graders, were quite bright, but already I was seeing the impact of federal education policy on their learning and skills.


In many cases, students would arrive in our high school without having had meaningful social studies instruction, because even in states that tested social studies or science, the tests did not count for “adequate yearly progress” under No Child Left Behind. With test scores serving as the primary if not the sole measure of student performance and, increasingly, teacher evaluation, anything not being tested was given short shrift.


Further, most of the tests being used consist primarily or solely of multiple-choice items, which are cheaper to develop, administer, and score than are tests that include constructed responses such as essays. Even when a state has tests that include writing, the level of writing required for such tests often does not demand that higher-level thinking be demonstrated, nor does it require proper grammar, usage, syntax, and structure. Thus, students arriving in our high school lacked experience and knowledge about how to do the kinds of writing that are expected at higher levels of education.


Recognizing this, those of us in public schools do what we can to work on those higher-order skills, but we are limited. Remember, high schools also have tests—No Child Left Behind and its progeny (such as Race to the Top) require testing at least once in high school in reading and math. In Maryland, where I taught, those tests were the state’s High School Assessments in tenth-grade English and algebra (which some of our more gifted pupils had taken as early as eighth grade). High schools are also forced to focus on preparing students for tests, and that leads to a narrowing of what we can accomplish in our classrooms.

Gun control

I have to say, Obama was at his best in today’s speech. Like most conservatives, he’s emotionally engaged when he sees bad shit happening to people he can relate to. He said our primary job as a nation “is to protect our kids.”

Here’s the list of executive orders he signed.

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