Tom Joad's Place

Welcome to Tom Joad's Place! Join me for political discussion and banter on important national subjects and VA politics. I've also noticed that there are a lot of people looking for information on "Grapes of Wrath". Look for the sidebar and we'll discuss. Contact Kevin, at

Location: Fairfax, Virginia, United States

Thursday, May 25, 2006

SAT Requirements Being Waived at Mason

SAT requirements are being waved at George Mason University for students who are in the top 20 percent and have a 3.5 GPA.

This is how it should be. Teachers don't give grades to their students. Students have to earn them. In Fairfax County, students have to go through the rigors of the SOLs and have to pass a minimum of six SOLs to achieve a diploma. The SATs are redundant if you've already passed these tests. Students should not be held hostage because of one day of testing.

If more universities and colleges start to do this it will take away money from a testing agency (which I like) and allow a student to put it towards a book that they will need in the first semester.

Here's a plug for GMU.

Update: Yeah...I apperently can't spell the right "waive".

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Towel Day- May 25,2006

Tomorrow is Towel Day, a tribute to Douglas Adams who wrote "The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy". I'll be carrying my towel around tomorrow and snapping some photos...I'll try to post them on Friday.

Here's a banner link for you:

Republicans for Miller?

Warning awful Microsoft Paint ahead...

It's bad but I can't afford Photoshop...

New George Allen banner...

It's the best I can do with Microsoft Paint.

What does our time stuck in traffic cost?

From The Washington Post:

"Del. William R. Janis (R-Goochland) said the Senate vote should end consideration of tax increases for the year.

"I'm encouraged by the fact that the Senate has removed their increased taxes and that they've realized that when you're running a budget surplus and gas prices are at $3 a gallon, it's no time to raise taxes," Janis said."

I couldn't find a study on this subject so I'm going to have to use my experience as an example.

Does my time stuck in traffic amount to a tax increase? If I had to put an amount on my time at an hourly rate, I would say it's about $20-25 dollars an hour. This is time that I could be making money tutoring, writing a paper or doing research for my Master's, and spending time with my girlfriend and family. So if I spend six hours a week stuck in traffic, then I am having a "tax" of 120-150 dollars each week being placed upon me. Yearly cost: $6240-7800. So the House of Delegates is effectively placing a tax upon us by not passing a budget that has a more funding for roads.

I know what I'll be doing in 2007. I'll be working on as many campaigns I can in my spare time to defeat anybody who is an impediment to a comprehensive transportation plan. I hope there are many people out there like me who value their time that will be with me on this venture.


Tuesday, May 23, 2006

High stakes testing...valuable?

They are finally holding students accountable in Maryland. It's about time they caught up. Virginia has been doing this for years.

From the Washington Post:

"The Maryland High School Assessments -- administered after algebra, English, biology and government courses -- are the state's answer to a national movement that aims to ensure graduates are better prepared for college and the workforce. Geared toward material taught late in middle school and early in high school, the tests are meant to establish a baseline value for a high school diploma.

"Some students right now are getting diplomas that aren't worth the paper they're written on," said Ronald A. Peiffer, deputy superintendent for academic policy at the Maryland State Department of Education. "This would help eliminate that problem."

Virginia and 22 other states also tie graduation to student performance on statewide exit or end-of-course exams, according to Education Week. D.C. public schools do not, but an official said District schools are headed in a similar direction."

Maryland is joining other states, 22 I believe, that have "high stakes testing" as a way of determining whether a student has mastered content of particular courses. This is a good first step for Maryland schools because as you can see here they aren't necessarily the best out there. Thirty percent in Prince George's County? That's absurd!

Virginia has the Standards of Learning (SOL) tests that measure whether a student has sufficiently gleaned enough information from a course. Most tests are a requirement for graduation in Fairfax County. For instance, a student must pass six SOLs (two English, one math, one social science, one science, and one of the student's choosing) for a standard diploma and nine SOLs plus have three years of a foriegn language for an advanced diploma. If you are a student with an Individualized Education Plan (IEP), there is a diploma option where only two SOLs have to be completed.

The funny thing about this high stakes testing business is that it does not affect private schools at all because they do not receive funding from the local, state or federal government. That means in Virginia, private schools do not have to complete the SOLs. They can graduate without having to be faced with pressurized testing situations. The point is that if you have enough money you can buy your kid a high school diploma if it's necessary.

The key with all of these diploma options is flexibility. It also does not hurt to have the standardized scores adapted every year depending on last year's test results as we have with the SOLs. The Maryland way of doing things is too constricting. There are only four tests (English, algebra, government, and biology) and you have to pass all four or no diploma. Does this take into account the special education population? What about students that are better at chemistry than biology? Multiple chances are nice. Sometimes students have a bad test day and receiving another test allows the student another opportunity to succeed.

The consequences of high stakes testing are of course less money devoted to the arts such as music, art class, and theatre. Money for physical education will be cut. Special education funds will be increased but only slightly and the basics (math, english, social studies, and science) will be increased but not enough to affect scores. Will high school diplomas be worth more for those who can achieve it? What happens to the students who do not succeed at passing the tests?

Teachers, educators, and parents are definitely going to be under pressure to help children succeed. Instead of working against each other with law suits and bickering, they should band together and come up with real solutions. School board members across the nation would have an open ear.

Monday, May 22, 2006


The definition of brazen:

"Marked by flagrant and insolent audacity. See Synonyms at shameless."

From the Washington Post:

"Rep. William J. Jefferson (D-La.), the target of a 14-month public corruption probe, was videotaped accepting $100,000 in $100 bills from a Northern Virginia investor who was wearing an FBI wire, according to a search warrant affidavit released yesterday.

A few days later, on Aug. 3, 2005, FBI agents raided Jefferson's home in Northeast Washington and found $90,000 of the cash in the freezer, in $10,000 increments wrapped in aluminum foil and stuffed inside frozen-food containers, the document said."

Jefferson should step aside...immediately. This is an absurd case of abusing power. It's something that any Democrat should not stand. If we are going to make corruption an issue this election cycle, we have to be serious about dealing with our own. The overall corruption still tilts in the Republican's favor but don't sweep this under the rug.

Unless there is some evidence that Jefferson can produce, his stepping down would allow the Democrats a chance to heal.

One in 136 are in Jail

Land of the free?

"Prisons and jails added more than 1,000 inmates each week for a year, putting almost 2.2 million people, or one in every 136 U.S. residents, behind bars by last summer.

The total on June 30, 2005, was 56,428 more than at the same time in 2004, the government reported Sunday. That 2.6 percent increase from mid-2004 to mid-2005 translates into a weekly rise of 1,085 inmates."

There's nothing much to say except for the fact that under this Republican administraton we are supposed to feel safer. But isn't the fact that we are incarcerating more people tell us that we are failing in our responsibility to treat the root causes of crime? Where's the money for education? Social Services? Health care? They're not a part of this Republican administration. They would rather give money back to the rich instead of making education more affordable.

I leave you with a song and these words.

"I'm proud to be an American
where at least I know I'm free
And I won't forget the men who died
who gave that right to me
And I gladly stand up next to you
And defend her still today
'Cause there ain't no doubt I love this land
God bless the USA"

Sunday, May 21, 2006

Update- Parrots for Dummies

I check out Republican blogs regularly because I feel it's always want to keep tabs on what the other side is thinking. I generally find Shaun Kenney a good source of information from a mainstream Republican. I also like Vince over at Too Conservative because he'll have breaking news about the NOVA Republican scene.

Recently, I've detected a little laziness on the right side of the blogging community. For example, Not O'Reilly takes a comment from Not Larry Sabato and turns it into a story. Fine, no problem.

But then Shaun Kenney jumps on the bandwagon of bashing James Webb and declares that Webb is "jew-baiting" which he backs himself up with a post from Chad Dotson and his own brother, Jason. Shaun, was this the best you could do?

Shaun then goes into a huge diatribe about "jew-baiting" and says:

"Fast forward to today. In the midst of a negative attack campaign by James Webb, what purpose does it have to mention outsourcing, being a lobbyist for both Repubicans and Democrats, having no support from liberals and oh yes... he's a Jew that doesn't go to church?"

Shaun's referring to this quote: "There might be nothing more uncomfortable than a candidate whose analogies don't come from personal experience. Harris Miller is Jewish and doesn't go to church!"

The only problem is that quote is not attributed to Webb or his campaign but from Not Larry Sabato. Logical leaps anyone?

Then, Kilo saunters up and adds his masterpiece that basically says the same thing as Shaun's post. A whole paragraph? Please don't strain yourself, Kilo.

So what do we conclude from this? Is the right just bored to tears with no primaries this year that they get excited about the Democratic primary? Could it be that they want Miller to win because they feel he is the "stronger" opponent and Allen will crush him? Or is it just utter laziness? I think it's the latter.

Update: Ben at Not Larry Sabato has this post. Shaun and Jim, do you like your crow baked or fried?

Update 2: Raising Kaine does an excellent piece on the "jewbaiting" issue. Now the one "anonymous" poster in the comment section will be happy.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Awesome post!

This post is one of the funniest I've seen in the blogosphere for a long time. This is the first time that I've been to Blog From On High. I've glanced through this blog and I don't agree with much he has to say but it's very well written...I think I'll have to include it on my blogroll so I don't forget to check it out!

Virginia Democratic Primary- My Choice

For what it's worth (about 2 cents...Blue Book value):

I've made up my mind on who I'm voting for in this year's Democratic Primary. I'm going with James Webb (all five of you reading this post...this is the persuasion effort). The reasons have been said more eloquently on other blogs but my main reason is I want to be pragmatic and have a shot at winning this seat in November. I believe Mr. Webb gives us the best chance. I'm not as convinced with Harris Miller.

Mr. Miller screams Washington insider. That's not going to win this year. With the "culture of corruption" theme being trumpeted by national Democrats, it strikes me as odd to put a candidate out there who is a lobbyist. Mr. Miller is a fine Democrat and if he ends up winning, I have no problem supporting his candidacy. But in this instance I cannot when there is another viable option out there.

Mr. Webb has a chance to pick off independent and moderate Republicans while keeping conservative Democrats in the fold. That will win the election this year.

I'm out to convince my mother who just moved here from Florida to vote for Mr. Webb. I think I made some inroads last night.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

This just in...I've been banned by Kilo...

I haven't posted in two weeks because of school and work but I just had to pop in to say my world has crashed around me...a blog has just banned world is over.

I apparently pissed ole Carl Kilo enough by not "respecting" his blog. Fine so be it. He banned me. This all started over this whole Sorensen thing...I gave my opinion. A couple of bloggers responded. I responded in kind. It seems Carl doesn't like opinions to be given...unless they're his.

I was going to drop this whole blogging summit ordeal because when I thought about it I understood where Kilo was coming from...I was actually going to apologize...but Kilo took umbrage to what I said (I did call him a "Johnny Come Lately"). I can understand where he was coming from on that. But his tone in a follow-up post was a little too testosterone laden for me. Here is my last post to Kilo on his blog (the tears are starting to well up). I've got to go.


Any letters or phone calls would go to my wife, who works at Sorensen. She's on vacation with me, now.

Many months of preparation have gone into this. Thousands of dollars have been paid for deposits. Dates have been considered, accepted, failed, rejected. Speakers have been arranged, plane tickets reserved, hotel room blocks booked, etc. Though it's nice that an idea has popped up in the past few days that bloggers should get together in Martinsville, it's not possible to abandon months of work, a half dozen speakers, and a considerable sum of money in order to, at the last moment, select a new location.

I think it'd be swell for a bunch of bloggers to get together in Martinsville, but there's nothing to be done for this particular gathering. It'd be very much like canceling a wedding the month before and trying to re-arrange it for a short time later. Expensive, awkward, and it would make a lot of people angry.
Waldo Jaquith | Homepage | 05.08.06 - 3:39 pm | #


Have fun at Sorenson and follow their agenda. Sounds boring to me. I will attend a summit for bloggers that is set up by bloggers. Put that and your $50 in the box.
Kilo | 05.09.06 - 12:01 am | #


I will pay your way at Sorenson just to see if Big Balls Kevin would say that to your face. I bet he would wet himself lol
Anon | 05.09.06 - 12:11 am | #


I did not read where Kilo said there had to be one or the other there JOAD. Please show what line that is on. I do see that NLS and Alton had a suggestion that makes sense to me. I see that Kilo has backed them up in asking for peoples thoughts on the subject.
You say he is a Johnny come lately yet I remember this blog talking about Sorenson over one year ago. You are the come lately.
Jenkins | 05.09.06 - 10:44 am | #


Kilo-You have been called out of the mines to meet a anonymous blogger called Joad. LOL
Jenkins- You are right. NLS, Will, Alton, are not saying there has to be one or the other. They asked if the Summit could be moved and if not they will set up a summit in Martinsville. That is what makes this Joad guys comments off base...and smark alecky if you ask me.
Danny | 05.09.06 - 10:58 am | #


Your space consuming bullshit comment lacks one fact. Where does Kilo say it hs to be on the same date? Your assuming a lot Joad.
"The Sorenson bloggers summit should be moved to Martinsville. If that is not possible then set up our own summit."
Then Ben asks in his post who would attend and if the same dates would work..Did he not? Kilo has said before he would not attend Sorenson, as many others have echoed. Where are your chicken shit attacks on NLS and the other sites calling for the same thing? If Kilo and others dont want to attend Sorenson that is their right. If they want to compete or protest that is their right also.
Jimmy | 05.09.06 - 12:56 pm | #

-------------------------------------------------------------------------------- 0...conference.html
Anon | 05.09.06 - 1:05 pm | #


Who cares what Joad says anyway. All you have to do is look at his blog to know that.LOL
If Martinsville is set up I will attend. By the way Joad. This 2nd summit is nothing new. It has been talked about in phone calls and emails for a good while. To bad you were not included. The facts are Will called for a Summit in Mville,,the next day Waldo "leaks" the Sorenson dates. Get youir facts right before you get on here making an ass of yourself
gopgal | 05.09.06 - 1:18 pm | #


That does not say the same date. That is why Ben posted asking what others thought. If they want the same date they are free to do so. If not, then so be it. The Martinsville summit has support. The dates are open as EVERY POST BY KILO, Alton, NLS, EE, have stated. If you want to go to Sorenson go on. Who cares. But Kilo, Ben and Alton have every right to hold a summit when ever they choose.
Jimmy | 05.09.06 - 1:26 pm | #


Well, Well, Come in after work to this whining? Okay.
Ms. Joad you dont have all the facts so dont come on here and tell me what I am thinking or wanting. It seems you are the only one with your panties in a knot. You dont like what we are doing, to damn bad. Got that? Clear? Crystal?
I am all for having a summit during Sorenson, After Sorenson, as long as Martinsville is the spot. We asked if the summit could be moved. Waldo replied. Then we asked if we should hold it the same date or at a different time. That is called asking for feedback. Your endless comments could , and should have stated: I am not for having the summit at the same time. Simple, friendly, and to the point. Nuff said? Indeed.
Now- I will tell you what most already know. That picture and name on my profile is me. I have no respect for anonymous smart asses on my blog. This blog is Spark it Up. Owned by Carl Kilo. I have blogged a long time and every reader knows I could care less if you visit or not. You do not have to like me or this blog, but you will respect it. I have a little button that will make you disappear and keep you from coming back. Good day.
Kilo | Homepage | 05.09.06 - 7:03 pm | #


Been waiting on reading that all day.
gopgal | 05.09.06 - 7:53 pm | #


Poof....Its gone.
Kilo | 05.09.06 - 8:03 pm | #

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------'s back..."It's" has an apostrophe in it because it is short for "it is."

Sorry...I just need to say that..respect that Kilo and groupie!
The Ghost of Tom Joad | Homepage | 05.09.06 - 8:09 pm | #

"We are all partisan and two days at Sorenson will not change that. "

I don't think Waldo is looking for people to sing "Koombaya" (sp?) after the conference and never have political disagreements again. I think it might be the fact that they want to put partisanship aside for the day or weekend and have a discussion. I think that's a noble cause.

"Those who want to attend Sorenson will. Those who want to attend Mville will. Those who want to attend both are free to do so. I find it ironic that freedom of choice has stirred such controversy."

Unless the two conferences are on the same date? Because if they are, people cannot attend both.
Bob Henderson | Homepage | 05.11.06 - 8:30 am | #

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