Testing Results Confirm: Hybrid/Remote Learning Isn’t ‘School at Home’

In late August, the CT Department of Education released a report detailing student outcomes on tests run by the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium. Not surprisingly, the results indicate that students in Grades 3- 8 who were in-person for 75 percent or more of their classes last year outperformed those in hybrid models and significantly outperformed those who were fully remote.  Overall, proficiency was lower in 2020-2021 than in 2018-2019 (the year before the pandemic lockdowns), especially for students in hybrid or remote models in both English and Language Arts (ELA) and Math. A similar pattern emerged for both students with

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Lamont is in Public (Union) Service

Governor Lamont is negotiating in secret a new wage contract with the State Employees Bargaining Alliance Coalition (SEBAC) that, likely, will award state employees significant future wage increases as well as generous modification of the cost-of-living-adjustments to their pensions after their retirement. These new wage hikes and benefits will come on the heels of big wage increases in 2019 and 2020 under the old wage contract which expired this past summer. Nothing ever stands in the way of the ever-increasing generosity of state employee compensation. Nothing. Note this week’s data release showing that the median American household saw its income

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Unconscious Bias is One Thing, Premeditated Another

Comparative examination of skulls, performed by anatomist artists Leonardo da Vinci, Albrecht Durer and Anders Vesalius became pseudo-science in the 19th century. Paul Broca (1824-80) compared skulls of men and other animals; Franz Joseph Gall (1758-1822) invented phrenology; and Samuel Morton (1799-1851) measured hundreds of human skulls, making erroneous judgments about cranial size, race and intelligence in Crania Americana. Prejudicial fallout lingered for decades. The 1800s not only saw America’s foremost expansion of slavery, but also rapid infusions of racial and ethnic minorities. To suppress them, especially newly ascendant African-Americans post-Civil War, Morton’s craniometric exercises built illusory ladders on which

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Since Epidemic is Permanent, Emergency Powers Should End

Governor Lamont seems inclined to ask the General Assembly to extend his emergency powers again to deal with the virus epidemic when they expire at the end of the month. The governor’s request likely would be for another 90 days. The legislature should decline. For starters, while the epidemic continues and is expected to continue indefinitely, there no longer is an emergency. An emergency is something that is sudden, unexpected, and urgent. But the governor’s emergency powers have been in effect for 18 months, the epidemic has become a way of life for everyone, and nothing about it is sudden,

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The Stage is Set for a Historic Reconciliation Bill

Afghanistan cost taxpayers over $2 trillion and counting, a meter continuously running because it includes veterans’ healthcare and unpaid interest on war-related borrowing. Considering results after two decades’ deployment, America’s pound-foolish effort to remake Afghanistan was just another interventionist march of folly. Even to a society habituated to yokes of debt, ranging from credit cards to mortgages; automobile to student loans, calling such sacrifice “investment” doesn’t wash. Neither does the $2.3 billion impact on America’s healthcare system, solely from hospitalizations of unvaccinated citizens in June and July. Further recalcitrance to get shots continues to overload ICUs in a perpetual motion

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Hiring Cops is Getting Harder But it’s Partly Their Own Fault

Police departments in Connecticut and throughout the country — especially in cities, like Bridgeport, but also in some suburbs, like Enfield — are having trouble recruiting police officers. It’s a tough job and getting tougher amid social disintegration and the virus epidemic. Murders and other violent crimes are up and respect for the police is down among many people because of well-publicized misconduct. In Connecticut police officers and potential candidates for police jobs have been discouraged by the recent enactment of accountability legislation, which has caused them to suspect that government won’t stand behind them in controversy. But even tough

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Bus Ridership Crawls Back

Much has been written about Metro-North’s slow return to “normal” service as commuters ponder a return to their New York City offices.  But what matters as much, if not more, is bus ridership within the state. Pre-COVID busy systems like GBT (Greater Bridgeport Transit) served as many as 15,000 bus riders in communities from Westport to Milford.  Recent statistics show 10,000 riders per day, about a 33% drop from pre-COVID. “We reached 10,000+ boardings on some weekdays this past July.  I expect to see that gap partially close as the high schools, universities and colleges resume in-person learning,” says Doug

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Lots of Money for Salaries But None to Purify School Air

Federal government money is raining down on Connecticut state government and municipal governments every day and yet, according to the Connecticut Mirror, state and municipal officials say there is no money anywhere for renovating or replacing school ventilation systems, despite the danger of the COVID-19 virus epidemic. While state government long has reimbursed municipalities for a huge portion of school construction and renovation projects — maybe too generously amid Connecticut’s declining student population — state government policy has been not to pay for school ventilation work but to leave that to the towns. Deputy state budget director Konstantinos Diamantis, state

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The Best of America and the Worst

The true fiber of this nation has been on brilliant display in recent weeks. While the president and his foreign policy and military advisors have disgraced the nation with their incompetence and worse, America’s military veterans have redeemed the nation’s honor with ingenuity and dedication in what has been called the Digital Dunkirk. Veterans have used social media, off-the-shelf encryption technology and broadly available satellite imagery to locate people trapped in Afghanistan and to guide them with encrypted messages into Kabul airport for evacuation and to escape via other routes.   These vets have shown that, when government fails, the

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If Incessant Economic Growth Serves US Corporate Interests, Externalities are Ignored

Travel anywhere worldwide, and whether Nike, MTV, GAP jeans or fast foods with accompanying health disorders, cravings for American products can be satisfied. US product proliferation via globalization is part of a conscious dissemination of Yankee attitudes oft-described as “cultural imperialism.” US corporations, wanting to cash-in on 95% of the world’s consumers overseas, have moved many operations abroad. Such US domination inevitably hurts local markets too small to compete against our politically inbred industries and financial systems. Even in the 19th century, you may recall, US fiscal and military coercion, dwarfed compared its gluttony today, forced Korea and Japan out

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A Small Win for Republicans; And Accountability for War

Connecticut’s Republicans have been down so long that they’re entitled to construe almost anything as up. But they’re making too much of Ryan Fazio’s victory in last week’s special election in the 36th Senate District, which includes Greenwich and parts of Stamford and New Canaan. The district ordinarily leans strongly Republican and until 2018 had not elected a Democratic state senator in 88 years, but Fazio defeated the Democratic nominee, Alexis Gevanter, by only 2½%. In its previous two elections the district had chosen a Democrat, Alexandra Kasser, because she spent a fortune on her campaigns and because of the

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A War We Couldn’t Win, But Should Have Better Managed

Late 2001, when 9 of 10 Americans supported Mideast invasion, I submitted work to Poets Against the War, a website anthology of anti-war poems with which 160 public readings were coordinated nationally. Running for Congress in 2008 and 2010, familiar with the region’s history, and studying analyses by Col. Andrew Bacevich (RET) and other experts, I considered the Afghan War unwinnable. I thusly advocated for complete, urgent, but orderly withdrawal of U.S. troops, military contractors and collaborators, who might be targeted for Taliban reprisals. When that and other position statements were archived in the Library of Congress, BBC News took

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Railway to the Moon

New England is home to many railroad “firsts”, but none is more impressive than the Mount Washington Cog Railway, the world’s first cog rail line.  And it’s still running, at a profit, 152 years late, using some of the original equipment. Unlike most railroads, “The Cog” doesn’t pull its coaches along a relatively flat line with flanged wheels on two parallel tracks.  A cog railroad’s locomotive directly connects its gears to a center rack of iron teeth, pushing the train up the mountain very slowly, but surely. On a normal railroad the train can handle a two percent grade (or

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High School History Remains Diplomatic Cherry-Picking

American history taught in high schools today remains diplomatic cherry-picking. Often omitted are dark sides of manifest destiny’s “divine sanctioning” on which U.S. expansionism rests. Except for the Seven Years’ (i.e. “French and Indian”) War fought for global primacy between France and Britain in North America (1754-63), little else between pilgrims landing at Plymouth Rock (1620) and 1776 is accentuated. King Philip’s War between New England colonists and Mohegan allies against coalitions of Wampanoag, Narragansett and other tribes led by Metacomet (aka “King Philip”) is one such sacrifice to time and textbook size. Another is the Pequot War (1636-38) and

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The Unlosable War We Just Lost

We just lost an unlosable war. Over the last five years, with relatively modest military resources and extremely low casualties – less than 70, we’ve been able to maintain relative stability in Afghanistan. Now, Biden has pulled the plug. Now, Afghanistan is a disaster, a stain on U.S. honor and values, and a defeat with incalculable costs for ongoing U.S. foreign policy. While the Pentagon stopped releasing troop levels in 2017, the last reported level was about 10,000, although the AP reports that the Trump Administration planned as many as 14,000 troops in 2017. Yet the low casualty levels imply

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More Pervasive than the Delta Variant is the Poor Judgement That’s Spread it

More pervasive than the Delta variant (B.1.617.2) is America’s poor judgment that’s spread it. Despite heroic attempts by scientists, vaccine producers and hospital staffs to limit transmission, irresponsible governors and vax-resisters are oases in the desert for SARS-CoV-2 to replicate and evolve. The 3 COVID vaccines FDA’s made available – Moderna, Pfizer; Johnson & Johnson – have proven efficacy against all variants now circulating in the country, including Delta. But inoculations are lagging, and because Delta is 1,000 times more transmissible than D614G, 95 percent of patients treated in hospitals today for COVID infections are unvaccinated. Vaccine avoidance, if unabated,

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Social Work Caucus Denies Failures of Juvenile Justice

Legislators belonging to what might be called the General Assembly’s social work caucus gathered at the state Capitol the other day to insist that there really isn’t much wrong with juvenile justice in Connecticut but that, of course, it always could use more social workers and “programs” to help keep young people out of trouble. The social work caucus members insisted that while some car thefts and other crimes lately committed by juveniles have been brazen and atrocious, the recent increase in car thefts is a national phenomenon and over the long term car thefts have actually declined. But the

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Transportation Scofflaws

What do Metro-North and the Merritt Parkway have in common, I mean, aside from often crawling at a snail’s pace?  Well, both seem to be hotbeds of unenforced safety rules. Anybody who has driven the Parkway knows that its 1930’s design cannot accommodate trucks, but they are there all the time.  Tom Lombardo, a fellow Board member on the Merritt Parkway Conservancy, recently conducted an unscientific survey to quantify the problem. In a single hour one weekday morning he logged 212 trucks, buses and commercial vehicles traveling in both directions on the highway. That’s more than three per minute.  Now compare

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The Charmed Life of Connecticut State Employees… Amid Devastation
in the Private Sector

Connecticut’s privileged state employees and its downtrodden private sector workers might as well occupy different planets. Hundreds of thousands private sector workers lost their jobs during the pandemic. State workers have enjoyed a decade-long no-layoff guarantee, so not one was thrown out of work. While private sector workers struggled to get by during the pandemic, state workers got two 5.5% pay raises, one eight months before and the second four months into the pandemic. Local police and firefighters and predominantly private sector health care workers manned the frontline jobs during the pandemic, as did essential retail workers – in grocery

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State Police Integrity Fails; And State Ignores Voter Fraud

Accountability and integrity are slipping badly with the Connecticut state police. The agency has failed to complete an investigation of trooper misconduct arising from a retirement party at a brewery in Oxford 22 months ago. Security video reported last week by the Hearst Connecticut newspapers shows that state police Sgt. John McDonald drank heavily for five hours at the party. Leaving in a state police car, McDonald drove about three-quarters a mile before smashing into a car carrying a woman and her daughter, pushing them off the road and seriously injuring them. McDonald was charged with driving while intoxicated, reckless

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Avarice, not Pride, Precedes the Fall.

With inflation uncomfortably high, climate change causing Northern Hemisphere disasters and the Delta variant undermining economies here and abroad, an indecisive Federal Reserve Board scheduled meetings this week to rethink its ultra-low interest rates. Policymakers considered putting the brakes on a $120 billion-a-month bond-buying spree designed to keep long-term lending rates miniscule. As usual, the Fed’s intention was to incentivize borrowing, spending and debt-accumulation during the COVID crisis. This comes at a time experts insist the U.S. economy is gradually recovering from post-pandemic recession and jobs, ostensibly, are on the upswing. But a bold new era has dawned in America’s

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Juvenile Crime Forum Avoids Relevance and Accountability

Last week’s well-attended forum on juvenile crime and justice, called by Glastonbury’s Town Council, was illuminating, just not so much about juvenile crime and justice. Dozens of people expressed their anger about the inability of state and municipal government to curtail the explosion of car thefts, burglaries, and other misconduct by young people who have realized that there will never be any punishment for them, just therapy, now that political correctness controls juvenile justice. Mostly the forum illuminated Connecticut’s social contract, whereby the Democratic Party is permitted to operate the cities as poverty and patronage factories, with their daily murders

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Science, Above All, Should be the Guiding Principle in which we Unify and Trust

Science has unparalleled potency validating facts and deriving truths because its well-defined methods makes reality tangible. Where philosophy relies solely on logic, reason and thought experiments, science primarily collects data through empiricism ─ testing, measuring and compiling evidence obtained from direct observation. Science is thusly independent of belief.  It assumes hypotheses under investigation are false until rigorously proven. And standards for rejecting “null hypotheses” are high; only 95-99 percent statistical confidence bounds give assurances correlations aren’t chance. Non-reproducible single occurrences are valueless to scientists. Stray contradictory claims, oft-repeated conspiracy theories, and targeted disinformation won’t induce rejections of theories or hypotheses

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Amazon

These days “Getting There” doesn’t just mean moving yourself from point A to B, but the logistics of moving stuff from dozens of locations to your doorstep.  And nobody does that better than Amazon. Want a new pair of jeans? Click once and they’re delivered the next day.  Need a new printer?  Maybe a couple of days because they’re still scarce, thanks to the home-office explosion.  Your favorite ointment out of stock at CVS?  Save yourself a trip, click here and apply twice daily. In his 2013 book “The Everything Store” (yes, available on Amazon), business writer Brad Stone chronicle

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State Employee Unions Help Lamont as They Criticize Him

Connecticut’s state employee unions may be rendering great service to Governor Lamont’s probable campaign for re-election by complaining about him. This service may be greater than their usual provision of manpower to Democratic campaigns. For their complaining suggests that the governor isn’t their tool as most Democrats are. Last week the unions protested the governor’s recalling their members back to work at state government offices. Among other things the unions argued that by working from home they are reducing carbon emissions. Yes, the unions are always looking out for the planet first, not themselves. Then the unions held a rally

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‘Disaster Capitalism’ is as Old as Capitalism Itself

The idea crises can be used to disorient, manipulate history, and cultivate societal change is nothing new. “Disaster capitalism” is as old as capitalism itself. Baron Rothschild, 18th century British nobleman whose banking family loaned money (at huge interest) to warring factions, including Lincoln’s Federals and Davis’ Confederacy, put it bluntly. “The time to buy,” he said. “Is when there’s blood in the streets.” Taking the same robber baron approach, Wall Street, U.S. CEOs and industrialists routinely hedge bets by investing in crises and exploiting despair. In his last presidential address, Dwight Eisenhower warned against the military-industrial-political complex and risks

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Right to Read or a Better Way?

The “Right to Read” bill — HB 6620 section 1 — passed this session, represents a failure to think outside of the box in response to the literacy crisis in Connecticut. “As measured before the pandemic in the statewide assessment of English Language Arts, nearly half of Connecticut’s public school students fell short of grade-level reading expectations, and outcomes were significantly lower for students of color,” according to State Senator Patricia Billie Miller. Connecticut is not alone in its literacy crisis. On June 11, 2021, the Economist reported that “Less than half (48%) of all American adults were proficient readers

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Jahncke: Connecticut is in a Full-blown Jobs Crisis.

The state workforce has shrunk by about 160,000, or 8.2%, from its pre-pandemic level of 1.93 million in February 2020, the worst decline in the nation. Only three other states have experienced drops of more than 5%. Of Connecticut’s remaining workforce, about 140,000, or 7.9%, are unemployed – the highest unemployment rate of the 50 states. Combined, 300,000 people, or 15.5% of the pre-pandemic workforce, have dropped out or are currently unemployed. The next worst level is 10.9% in Hawaii. Being last is one thing that Connecticut is accustomed to, but to trail 49th place by a huge 4.6% margin

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Colleges Serve Themselves; and Expose Juvenile Courts

Enrollment at Connecticut’s community colleges has been collapsing, probably because the state’s economy is weak and most students being admitted are unprepared for higher education, having never mastered high school work but having been promoted anyway. So what are the colleges doing? The Connecticut Examiner says that instead of cutting staff, the colleges are hiring 174 advisers to help boost enrollment and student performance. This isn’t to benefit students as much as the colleges themselves — to preserve their jobs when the billions of dollars in emergency money from the federal government runs out and state government has more incentive

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Insect Populations in Decline are Yet Another Invitation to Disaster

In the early 20th century, when asked if anything about “God” could be concluded from studying natural history, scientific polymath J.B.S. Haldane famously responded “he has an inordinate fondness for beetles.” Currently, more than 380,000 catalogued species of beetles in order Coleoptera make it the largest subset of the most species-rich and successful class of animals on Earth ─ insects. This may be the Anthropocene epoch because of our negative impacts on the planet, but an estimated 10 quintillion insects may inhabit the biosphere at any given time. In fact, however much it affronts our human arrogance, causing us to

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