April 9, 2012

The Royal Canadian Mint: now they’re just poking fun at US espionage agencies

Filed under: Cancon, Media, Randomness — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 13:44

Remember the last time that a Canadian coin was the subject of an espionage warning from the US Department of Defence because the poppy appeared to be “filled with something man-made that looked like nano-technology”? The Royal Canadian Mint may get a radiation warning for their newest coin:

The image of a dinosaur whose remains were discovered in Alberta’s Peace Country will be featured on our newest quarter — the first Canadian coin with a glow-in-the dark picture.

The quarter, being released by the Royal Canadian Mint April 16, features Pachyrhinosaurus lakustai, a large herbivore whose bone fragments were discovered by Grande Prairie, Alta., science teacher Al Lakusta in 1974.

He plans to pick up one of the new coins for his 10-year-old grandson.

“I think almost anybody who reads about it thinks, ‘We can’t wait to try this,’ ” he said Sunday from his Grande Prairie home.

“Teacher tenure is one of those ideas” [that] “do real damage to the public education system”

Filed under: Bureaucracy, Education, Government, Politics — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 12:58

If I told you that an article in support of ending tenure for public school teachers appeared in The New Republic, would you believe it? I wouldn’t have done, until today:

Like the abortion measures, this bill was also pushed by Republicans — but here’s the strange part: It was actually a halfway decent idea. The subject of the bill was an important one: tenure for public school teachers. And, while the proposal wasn’t perfect, it was at least an attempt to rectify what is perhaps the least sane element of our country’s approach to education.

The vast majority of states have long granted public school teachers tenure. The way it works is simple: After a certain number of years, teachers qualify — “virtually automatically” in most states, according to the National Council on Teacher Quality — for a form of job protection that makes it extremely difficult to fire them for the rest of their careers.

[. . .]

So what is the case for K–12 teacher tenure? The truth is, there isn’t a good one. One argument typically offered by tenure defenders is that teaching is a notoriously difficult profession in which to measure success. But this is true for lots of jobs — yet, in all other professions, efforts are still made, however imperfect, to evaluate whether an employee is succeeding and to remove those who are not. Why should teaching be different? In fact, given that teaching is arguably the most important job in our society, it would be difficult to name a profession, save maybe the military, for which these sorts of heightened job protections would be less logical. If a job is truly important to the nation’s future, then you want to make sure that the most able, talented people are doing it — and doing their best work at all times.

That goal is simply incompatible with tenure. Indeed, tenure is so illogical that it’s impossible to see why it shouldn’t be abolished. And that is exactly what the Virginia bill sought to do. Predictably, however, Democrats — who remain far too beholden to teachers’ unions — scuttled the measure. As a result, tenure lives on in Virginia for now.

The “bloodiest battle” in British history

Filed under: Britain, History — Tags: , , , , , — Nicholas @ 12:28

Although the total number of casualties would be exceeded in other wars the British fought, the Battle of Towton in 1461 was the bloodiest battle to take place in Britain:

The bloodiest battle ever fought on British soil was not Hastings in 1066, when King Harold died, nor Marston Moor in 1644, where the Whitecoats fought to the death against Cromwell’s Ironsides, nor Culloden a hundred years later, where “Butcher” Cumberland broke the Highland clans. It was the now all-but-forgotten Battle of Towton, fought on Palm Sunday 1461, between Lancastrians and Yorkists in one of their many clashes in the Wars of the Roses, to decide who should be king.

Forces totaling 75,000 men marched to Towton, reckoned at 10% of the total military-age manpower of England and Wales, and 28,000 of them died there. The figure is the result of a body count performed on the field by heralds and confirmed by several independent contemporary witnesses.

[. . .]

Even though far more of Henry’s Lancastrians than Yorkists fell at Towton, the battle was not even a decisive one: The Wars of the Roses rolled on for more than 20 years afterward. One reason for the clash’s harrowing violence was that civil war had turned into personal vendetta. The Yorkist leader, later King Edward IV, had lost his father and younger brother, dying in battle or murdered after it. Killing York senior and stirring the wrath of his son was a mistake, for the 18-year-old was 6-foot-4, a giant by medieval standards, and he had charisma that inspired followers.

His Lancastrian enemies were led by the Dukes of Somerset and Northumberland and Baron Clifford, all of whom also had fathers to avenge. After years of regional feuds and fighting, the gentry and even the yeomanry of England had scores to pay off as well. There was no taking for ransom, and no quarter given. That probably accounts for the determination with which both sides fought, confirmed by high losses suffered even by the winners. Twenty thousand Lancastrians died, probably at least half of them as they were remorselessly pursued in retreat, but 8,000 Yorkists fell too.

One of the reasons the battle is so little-remembered — aside from it not being decisive in spite of the carnage — is that it was shoved down the memory hole by the Tudors after that dynasty came to the throne:

Very few records of the battle survive, which is one reason that so little is known about it. Historians believe this could be due to an early propaganda campaign by the Tudors.

Author and historian George Goodwin, who this month publishes a new book: Fatal Colours: Towton, 1461 – England’s Most Brutal Battle, said: “The Tudors did a tremendously good propaganda job in making Bosworth the key battle because that was the battle which ended the Wars of the Roses. They were the winners and they got to write the history books. Because Towton was a Yorkist victory that wasn’t really very useful to them.”

An illustrated summary of David Friedman’s “Machinery of Freedom”

Filed under: Economics, Government, Liberty — Tags: , — Nicholas @ 06:35

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