Vegas Priorities

Nevada’s flagship newspaper has three minor stories at the top of its web site this morning. They all involve violent death, but those things don’t really matter as much as the main story…our real estate bubble is inflating again, guys! Sweet!




“Well, duh!”

My local newspaper, the Las Vegas Review-Journal, had a couple of droll headlines of the “No kidding!” variety this morning:


I should hope the police have some questions when they find a dead body!

Actually, if you live here, you know that this is hardly news at all; it’s “dog bites man” stuff. A more interesting headline would be the opposite: “No dead bodies found in desert yesterday.”

The humor in the other headline is even darker.

Defending UNLV’s New Freshman Orientation

Today, the Las Vegas Review-Journal reports that UNLV will begin a new class next year, a required freshman orientation course.  The class looks like a seminar designed to acclimate students to college life and work, focusing on the purposes of higher education and the skills required to succeed there. 

A local talk radio host ripped into it this morning, and the comments under the RJ story are universally negative.  But here’s why they’re all wrong. 

If this seems like a dumbing down to anyone, consider the caliber of students we now work with.  The decade-plus long experiment in Nevada with the Millennium Scholarship has filled our campuses with students who barely squirmed out of high school, who did it with lowered standards, and who now come to college with little financial investment of their own in it.  Many simply do not have the background to succeed here.  If UNLV wants to reduce its abysmal drop out rate, such remedial training is necessary.  Who can fault us for giving our students  the foundation they need? 

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So Stanley Rimer Thinks He’s a Prophet

A story in yesterday’s Las Vegas Review-Journal covered the sentencing of Stanley and Colleen Rimer, the people who left their disabled 4-year-old son locked in a vehicle overnight in June, 2008.  Little Jason Rimer died from the heat.  The parents were convicted of involuntary manslaughter for Jason, as well as for neglect and abuse of their other children.

With that in mind, note something that the end of the article mentions in passing:

Meanwhile, Stanley Rimer has said he’s written a book of scripture which he is submitting to the hierarchy of the Mormon faith.

Boy, I really, really wish the story said more about that.  As it is, I’m left to fill in the blanks with the obvious: a man convicted of hurting his children and letting one die horribly is sitting in his jail cell, and feels touched by a spirit of revelation enough that he composes a religious text, which he now wants the leaders of the LDS Church to accept as legitimately sacred, so, I suppose, it can be disseminated around the world and throughout history, to be studied for the edification of all. 

Sure, why not?  And that, ladies and gentlemen, probably tells us everything we need to know about Stanley Rimer.

Good News / Bad News

Yesterday, a local Realtor group released numbers about home sales here, but the two big local newspapers reported on it very differently.  It’s more than a matter of vague interpretation: one said that numbers went up, the other said that numbers went down. 

It’s not that either was wrong: the optimistic headline in the Review-Journal is about how April 2011’s home sales were better than home sales were a year ago, in April 2010.  The more pessimistic Sun story simply compares April 2011 to March 2011, which had higher sales.  Frankly, the Sun story seems more relevant: though comparing numbers to the same time last year might have merits, it also looks like a cheap way to selectively report what you want to see, even if it’s not the full truth.  Or maybe I’m just cynical.

Not that this is a big deal at all–I just thought it was funny to see two such contradictory reports at the same time about the same thing. 

Glass half full


Glass half empty

Let’s Not Tell Students the Sky Is Falling

Two Saturdays ago the following letter of mine appeared in the Las Vegas Review-Journal.  In the ongoing budget kerfuffle, I worry that the rhetoric of some of my teacher colleagues has crossed the line into irresponsible territory.  Frankly, even the insinuation that money is the biggest factor in student achievement is bothersome.  Yes, there are things we need funding for, but why haven’t we gotten this fired up over the epidemic of failure in our schools? 

Astute readers will recognize that this letter canibalizes part of a post I put up here about a month ago. 


As a fellow English teacher, I appreciated Elizabeth Strehl’s Wednesday letter in defense of education spending, but I can’t condone her statement that, “If the proposed budget cuts to education happen, our schools and therefore our children may never recover.”

Perhaps such education advocates are exaggerating to emphasize their point, but can’t these academic Chicken Littles see the danger of their hyperbole? If these budget cuts do pass, what message have we now sent to our students? Might young people pick up on the idea that their fate has been sealed and that further work is pointless? Might the economic situation be used by some as an excuse for failure?

Lobbying for schools is noble, but I hope the fatalism so prominent in this conversation won’t turn into a self-fulfilling prophecy.

To all students out there: The ultimate force in your academic achievement isn’t the money coming from politicians, it’s the effort that comes from you. Don’t take our concern over the budget the wrong way. No matter what happens, we believe in you. Your future will always be yours to control.

Myth: The Constitution Is Racist

My letter in today’s Las Vegas Review-Journal corrects a popular old myth: that the U.S. Constitution is racist.  I even remember this faulty interpretation of the passage in question being used in an episode of The West Wing

To the editor:

In his otherwise excellent Wednesday letter, Robert Gardner does make one mistake. He repeats the old fallacy about the Constitution being racist, suggesting that Article I, Section 2 says, “blacks are … considered three-fifths of a person.”

Not true.

That section is about counting population to determine how many representatives we get in government, which is why we have the census. That count was to enumerate “free persons” and “three-fifths of all other persons,” meaning slaves. Free blacks were counted as a whole.

The language isn’t meant to determine someone’s worth as a human being, but merely to reduce the total count. The strength of a state’s presence in government was determined by this count. Northern states didn’t want slaves counted at all; Southern states wanted them counted as a whole. The point of the three-fifths compromise was to reduce the South’s power.

Ironically, for those who see this part of the Constitution as racist, this rule did what it was supposed to do: It contributed to the eventual end of slavery. With Black History Month right around the corner, it’s important to set the record straight.

I’ll Make This Simple: Homer = Democrats

I was amused when I saw a letter in Thursday’s Las Vegas Review-Journal comparing the Republican victories in the election to the episode of The Simpsons where Homer becomes sanitation manager.  My response was printed in today’s paper, reproduced below.  As I put it on Facebook, you think you can use The Simpsons to back up your liberal agenda?  Not on my watch, bub.

Letter writer Randall Buie argued against his own opinion on Thursday. He referenced the episode of “The Simpsons” where Homer becomes sanitation engineer and ruins the city.

Mr. Buie failed to mention how Homer won, or how he ruined the city. He won by capitalizing on people’s laziness, promising to provide every creature comfort he could think of. His campaign slogan was, “Can’t someone else do it?”

After the election, he wasted his department’s annual budget in weeks.

So Homer pandered to demands for entitlements and then bankrupted his administration. Mr. Buie, exactly which party did you think Homer represented again?

D’oh, indeed.

Clark County / Nevada Election Endorsements

My research for this relied heavily on the endorsements offered by the Las Vegas Review-Journal and the Las Vegas Sun, both of which I studied in detail.  I also checked out some other organizations, such as Nevada Concerned Citizens‘ endorsements, my own comments from the primaries, and, of course, I googled each candidate and reviewed their web sites.  Here’s what I came up with. 

Ballot questions will be handled in another post. 


I won’t repeat everything I’ve already said here many times about this race, but suffice it to say…

Vote for: Sharron Angle


Kenneth Wegner has not campaigned aggressively, nor has the party supported him sufficiently.  I love his signs, but that’s hardly enough to be taken seriously.  At the same time, Democratic incumbent Shelley Berkley is strong.  I saw a billboard for her last week that simply said something like, “Honesty.  Integrity.  Hard Work.”  Know what?  I can’t deny that.  She’s clean of scandals and has a good reputation. 

Basically, this race is pointless.  She’ll win by about a zillion percent. 

Still, Berkley voted for the stimulus and ObamaCare.  So…

Vote for: Kenneth Wegner

Incidentally, even though it’s not in my district, I hope people for Joe Heck instead of Dina Titus for the other Congressional seat up for grabs this year.  Titus is just as liberal as Berkley, and has run a foul, dishonest campaign against Heck.  Dr. Heck, on the other hand, is a consistently conservative leader with the dedication we need to help our state.


Meanwhile, Brian Sandoval actually is ahead of Rory Reid by about a zillion points, so this one’s pointless, too!

By the way, if all of the conservatives who oppose illegal immigration are doing it because we hate Hispanics so much, why are we giving one a landslide victory in the election for our governor?  Hmmm, maybe the left’s convenient assumptions about us aren’t accurate after all…

Vote for: Brian Sandoval

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The Education Letter the Review-Journal Didn’t Want You to See

Two Sundays ago, the Las Vegas Review-Journal ran a huge story about the massive failure of local students on common assessments.  I sent a letter to them responding to it.  Some of their story was honestly true, much was misinterpreted and out of context, but mostly it failed to take into account the most salient factors. 

Over the following week, they printed three letters in response to the article.  Mine wasn’t one of them.  All three that did run were positive in nature.  Why didn’t they print mine?  Is it because I’d just had a letter published the week before?  Is it because my letter wasn’t sycophantic enough?  Is it because I called them jerks on Facebook for crudely mis-labeling my last letter? 

Whatever the reason, here’s an excerpt from the letter the local paper didn’t want you to see:

In your lambasting of local education, you fail to explain why things are so bad. At one point, “culture” was reluctantly offered as a factor. No kidding!

In the first five weeks of school, I’ve spoken with a dozen parents who want their children removed from my English classes and placed in an easier class. This happens every year, as it does to every teacher I know who runs rigorous classes.

One mother explained that the problem with my class is that it’s “all reading and writing.” Apparently, I should be having more dance parties.

It’s incredible just how many parents in Las Vegas will insist on easier classes and demand lower standards. The lazy, entitlement culture is deeply entrenched here.

The next time you want to complain about education, write a scathing exposé about the thousands of your neighbors who regularly bully teachers into mediocrity.


My Latest Letter in the Review Journal

Yesterday, the Las Vegas Review-Journal ran a letter I wrote about merit pay for teachers, but which was really about celebrating the achievements of hardworking students.  That’s the good news.  The bad news is that they took the opportunity to insult us by giving the letter the heading “Teachers Irrelevant.” 

Geez.  I simply said that students deserve the credit for their own success, not that teachers don’t matter at all.  At any rate, here’s the letter:

As the new school year settles in, there’s increasingly more talk about starting merit pay for teachers here. Many teachers have responded by explaining that they have no control over whether or not their mostly apathetic students focus, do homework or even show up at all.

I’ll offer another perspective.

I teach more than 200 honors English students. It’s a foregone conclusion that most of them will develop larger vocabularies, broaden their literacy, and improve their writing skills this year. Most of them will get an “A” in my class. Do I deserve any special reward because of this major, consistent success?

Absolutely not.

The credit for the success of these students lies entirely with the students themselves. Just as the blame for the epidemic of failure in our state lies with those students and their parents who fail, the success of those who excel is exclusively due to their own choice to care.

I’ve never met a teacher who feels any other way.

Las Vegas: An Example Of Society’s Growing Anti-Semitism

A story appeared in Friday’s Las Vegas Review-Journal about a local high school teacher who has stirred controversy when she questioned the historicity of the Holocaust to her class.  I’m not interested in commenting on that so much as I am on the reader comments that appear after the article (here).  I certainly haven’t read all 300, but I read through enough of them to see a disturbing trend–a lot of them were viciously, violently anti-Semitic. 

Now, I’ve seen plenty of trolls online before, but they’re usually just tossing out quick insults to anger people for fun; the bigots writing on this forum were often writing long, detailed, even eloquent speeches against Jewish people.  In short, these are real racists.  I can’t put into words how shocked I am. 

I also don’t care to dignify their assertions about the Holocaust or Jews in general by analyzing them here, but I have to wonder where all of this comes from.  What in the world could any Jewish people have possibly done to create this degree of rancor from so many strangers?  Nothing, of course.  It doesn’t make any kind of sense.  Such is the inherently ignorant nature of prejudice, I suppose. 

Having read the posts that I did on that article, I can only think of two explanations: that many in our postmodern world are upset by a people whose very existence testifies of a solid, traditional religious heritage, and that a lot of people have been successfully convinced by multicultural media propaganda that Israel is evil (by overwhelming us with the message that “Palestinians” are underdog victims, mainly).  If I’m right about the racists’ motives, the commonality between them is likewise shocking: these are the motives of progressive leftists. 

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The Underdog in the Culture War

I had a letter printed in the Las Vegas Review-Journal this morning.  In response to local citizens’ and the media’s universal lambasting of parents who are protesting a high school’s performances of Rent and The Laramie Project, I wrote:

As soon as news broke of a parental protest to Green Valley High School’s productions of two socially progressive plays, a chorus of indignation started singing the praises of the brave teachers and actors and decrying the “obvious” hatred and ignorance of the parents. What actually bothers me far more than the political agenda at work in the play selections or the reflexive mob sanctimony of the aggrieved is the monolithic, vitriolic reaction of the community — including the Review-Journal — to the parents’ opposition.

What lessons will the children who likewise oppose the performances learn from this controversy? If your opinion is different from the majority, be quiet. If you question the assumptions of the majority, they will have free rein to slander you. If you think something is deeply wrong but it’s popular, you have no right to oppose it.

If these aren’t the true lessons to take from this matter, then we have to ask why the media isn’t also sympathetically profiling the students who oppose the biased selection of plays, or why local commentators aren’t applauding the courage of a handful of people for standing up to a smug establishment.

This treatment appears to be just another example of the mainstream’s one-way tolerance.


UPDATE: The comments section at the end of the page on the newspaper’s web site where my letter was printed has some very interesting debate, which largely illustrates my point–only those with officially sanctioned views should participate in cultural discussions.  All others should stay home, and will be stigmatized as knuckle-draggers if they dare speak up.  The democratic process is moot–the decisions about culture have been made for us. 

Also, apparently, someone in those comments thought to “expose” me by googling my name and listing the results.  How strange and sad. 


Blame The Teachers?!

An article in last Friday’s Las Vegas Review-Journal was called, “School district fails to meet ‘No Child’ goal.”  Apparently, the culprit behind our city’s epidemic academic failures is obvious to the media: blame the teachers!

Gee, why didn’t they call it “Local students fail to meet ‘No Child’ goal,” since they’re the ones who actually failed the tests?  Or how about, “Local parents fail to meet ‘No Child’ goal,” since they’re the ones who have failed to raise more studious children? 

Where are the headlines that say, “Doctors fail to meet heart disease goal” or “Clergy fails to meet Sabbath keeping goal?”  Aren’t those professions also responsible for the private choices of their constituencies, or is it only teachers who magically control what other people do with the tools and information they offer?