Saturday, March 28, 2009

Book Banning, through Consumer Safety Act.

This is from notes from the latest CURE meeting

The Consumer Product Safety Commission had issued a requirement which, among other things, curtailed the sale of children’s toys and books that do not meet the safety standards for phthalates. (Phthalates are chemicals mainly used as plasticizers (substances added to plastics to increase their flexibility), although they are used in other products as well.) Children’s products also had to meet stricter lead content standards. Children are defined as being 12 years of age or younger. (Collector’s items, clearly not meant for children, were exempt.)

The regulation:

This would seriously affect sellers of old toys and children’s books. Apparently, children’s books printed before the early 1980s contained some lead. This safety requirement would effectively ban all children’s books printed before the early 1980s.

As we all know, children’s books written before the 1970s or so, often don’t meet today’s standards of political correctness. Sometimes the older books had religious or patriotic references. In the newer books, if there are any references to religion or patriotism, they are often negative.

The Consumer Product Safety Commission has granted a grace period. According a February 3, 2009 memo of the Homeschool Legal Defense Association (HSLDA),
“the Consumer Product Safety Commission has voted to delay enforcing a portion of new safety requirements regarding certain products for children 12 and under. Specifically, the agency decided to wait a year before requiring manufacturers and importers to test and certify any children's products that would have been mandated for testing on February 10. Overall safety standards remain in place and still apply even to small retailers and vendors of second-hand items.

The delay:

“Manufacturers of children's products will still need to be sure that they are conforming to the safety standards on leads and phthalates in products. However, they will be given an extra year of limited relief from the requirement for testing and certification (lasting till February 10, 2010)……..

“…..HSLDA will continue to go ahead with meetings with the CPSC Commissioners to discuss our concerns with the regulations. We will additionally push for legislation to permanently protect small family businesses, such as Senator Jim DeMint's proposed legislation. “

Friday, March 27, 2009

Hey, I made Washington DC TV!

This blog on the Robert Wone case has been covered by DC TV. One of my posts flahes by on the news video posted here:

There's also a new faceboook group for this case:

Will Bellevue's New Superintendent Be As Bad As Riley Was?

I left this comment on Bellevue's new superintendent who hopefully wasn't select as a female hispanic to balance out the white guy they had last:

Bothell, WA 11 comments March 27, 2009 at 12:07 PMRating:(0) (0) Report abuseI didn't like that Riley Guy, a total outcomebased education hack. Wanted to require passing college level AP testsjust to get a high school diploma, tolerated abomination no-arithemtic"Investigations" math, thought everybody ought to graduate withcalculus. We need people whose job isn't to promote whatever new crazybig-eduation ideas are coming down the pike, and demand "excellencefor all" which is just a map to wrecking education for everybody. Willthis person have the guts to kill the new "classroom based assessment"that's worse than the WASL??

Welcome to Bellevue's new school superintendent, Amalia CudeiroThe challenge for Amalia Cudeiro, the Bellevue School District's new superintendent, is to keep a high-flying district aloft. Cudeiro ONE senses the Bellevue School District has beenwaiting for a leader like Amalia Cudeiro.

In choosing Cudeiro, the School Board underscored the most importantingredients in a successful superintendent: formidable leadershipskills and a personal success story that closely aligns with theaspirations of families in a high-performing suburban district.

Cudeiro has the goods.
She teaches leadership at Harvard University's Urban SuperintendentsProgram and is a partner at a consulting firm that emphasized schoolleadership. Deeper knowledge of how schools work comes from Cudeiro'sdays as a former deputy superintendent of the Boston Public Schoolsand principal in two Southern California schools.

Cudeiro's life story is a powerful one that resembles the stories ofmany of Bellevue's students. She emigrated to the United States fromCuba as a child. Her father was an accountant but because he didn'tspeak English was relegated to work as a hotel dishwasher.
Her experience resonates in a district where more than 80 languagesare spoken. English is a second language for about 10 percent ofstudents.

Bellevue is the gold standard among districts, with its nationalreputation for excellent high schools and experienced teachers.Eighteen percent of Bellevue's teachers have gone through the rigoroustraining to become nationally board certified (THIS IS JUNK), compared with just 5.3percent of teachers statewide. Two success stories, Bellevue andCudeiro, equal a good match.

But all is not rosy in Bellevue. The district faces challenges. Awealthy tax base is offset by steep reductions in state funding.Nearly a third of students qualify for free or reduced-priced lunch. (AND RILEY WANTED THEM ALL TO EAT CALCULUS??) Cudeiro's challenge will be continuing to maintain Bellevue'seducational quality, meeting the needs of all students and doing sowith fewer resources.

Cudeiro must repair fissures in the relationship between the districtand its teachers, differences exposed during a bitter two-weekteachers strike last fall. Her leadership skills and ability toconnect on a personal level will come in handy.

Cudeiro is an excellent pick.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Test Scoring Scam Again in Texas TAKS

Thanks to Donna Garner for posting this on EducationLoop yahoogroup. She
reveals that Texas scorers were not allowed to give out any "A" level
scores, no matter how good the papers were.

This was the same problem with North Carolina writing project that I
scored. They would move definitions up and down day by day depending
on whether they had too many or too few scores. High score was a 4,
but you had to have permission to give out a 4. Published figures on
their website after the fact showed that fewer than 1% were given a 4.
Top 1% is good enough to get into Harvard or Yale, but not good enough
for an "A" on this test. If you said "integrity is a good thing" and
produced a New York Times article that re-worded a press release, but
said nothing new, that was a 1. If you said that "Martin Luther King
had integrity", that was a 2. If you gave a real person like GW Bush, a
person from the novel "Night", and a story about your mother, that was
a 3. If you wrote a Wall Street Journal op-ed piece, that MIGHT be
good enough for a 4, and in this TAKS example, would not be good
enough if no high scores were permitted.

Contrast that to my son's 10th grade writing WASL - 20% got a PERFECT
score, which would mean perfect convention and perfect content. This
also correlates to California CLAS where there were ZERO "4" math
scores statewide, and the woman in charge told Washington state
legislators that this was deliberate to "give room for improvement".
The entire process is designed to produce low scores at the start and
inflated them to produce high pass rates at the end. Washington

Republicans in my state are still blaming killing the WASL on liberals
who don't have standards. We have to keep on message that "standards"
is jus another word for "outcomes" and that "outcomes based education"
was and still is a disaster. It's also how businesses are being run
when you have to rank people and pay them by "performance-based
evaluation" and produce "continuous improvement" or else.

Posted by: "Donna Garner"
Mon Mar 23, 2009 5:50 pm (PDT)
"TAKS Scoring by Peer Pressure"
by Donna Garner

March 24, 2009

From time to time, I receive anonymous e-mails from people who read my
reports that are posted on the Internet. Last week I received one such
e-mail. This person said he had seen my 4.15.08 article entitled "An
Exposé of the TAKS Tests." (Please see my three attached reports on
Texas' state-mandated TAKS tests.). He said my concerns echoed his own
personal concerns about TAKS scoring because he had worked as an
experienced scorer for Pearson, the company that has the contract with
the Texas Education Agency (TEA) to develop and score students' TAKS
tests. My anonymous source (i.e., "John Doe") confirms my long-held
concerns that having subjectively scored sections on high-stakes tests
is an open invitation for manipulation of scores.

John had been an educator for many years and had decided to work as a
scorer for Pearson on the English / Language Arts (ELA) TAKS scoring
project. He became very uncomfortable about the harsh and inconsistent
manner in which the scoring was done and finally quit the job as did
many others. John said the scorers were forced to give low scores to
students who demonstrated exemplary writing skills but higher scores
to those students who were less deserving.

He said, "There was what I call an 'unspoken no 3 rule' on the
expository portion of a reading comprehension question [open-ended
response questions]. By unspoken, I mean that we weren't explicitly
told in so many words not to give a 3, but that we should obtain the
express approval of our supervisor before so doing. Whenever a scorer
would request permission to give a 3 on a particular paper, the
supervisors would not give their consent. In due course, many scorers
began to stop giving 3s altogether. I failed to see the logic in
this." [On the ELA-TAKS, Grade 11, Spring 2008 administration, 0% of
students in Texas made 3's on the open-response questions.]

John went on to say that an adaptation of a Readers Digest article
instructed the students to explain why they thought a particular
person was a hero or was not a hero. John said that the prompt along
with scoring materials contained major problems which should have been
resolved prior to reaching the scorers' desks. "The anchor papers
(i.e., papers used as examples) and rubric all contained several
errors and inconsistencies. In some cases, the annotations under the
student-written portion were not illustrative or supportive of the
examples given. Some of the examples provided did not even reflect the
goals stated in our manual."

John told me that during the training session for the job, various
people questioned the Texas representatives about the problems with
the anchor papers. The scorers were told to ignore the problems and
score them anyway. One of these Texas Education Agency representatives
was Victoria Young. "We were told not to rely upon our anchor papers
but to use the rubric more. The problem was that the language used in
the rubric was very general and over-broad. This created too many
loopholes and led scorers to drift, either giving too many high scores
or too many low scores. This undermined the integrity of the scoring
altogether. Anchor papers were far more precise than the rubric and
were essential to accurate scoring, especially on the open-ended

John explained that many of the scorers expressed their concerns to
Pearson management about the inequities, but the managers simply
shifted the blame back to Texas and said they were powerless to do
anything about it. If the scorers did not "go along to get along" at
Pearson, they were considered to be renegades and were treated with
group disapproval. The scorers were heavily criticized if their scores
were too high or too low; and when they tried to explain their
rationale for giving the scores they did, they were treated like
"naughty children who refused to obey."

In addition, a spreadsheet was circulated around the scoring room
periodically so that John and the other scorers could compare their
scores with the rest of the scorers (e.g., to see if they were giving
too many 1's or 2's). If so, they were told they had to change; but
they did not know how to begin because no specific work samples were
provided for reference. In fact, John said the Pearson scoring system
was not based on accuracy but on general agreement and consensus of
opinions. Roughly, only 20% of the papers scored were backread by
supervisors and/or directors. "It's basically a majority-rules system,
where conformity with your fellow scorers is of the essence, and
quality control plays little if any part at all."

One of the most disturbing statements made by John is that last year,
Pearson began a policy whereby bonuses were given to scorers based on
several criteria such as high validity scores, productivity levels
(number of papers scored per hour), and other subjective factors
determined by the supervisor and scoring director. John explained that
validity is one of the criteria used to monitor and gauge a scorer's
consistency in performance and/or application of the rules, but the
problem was there was no way to measure accuracy. He said it was
feasible that a scorer could be consistently wrong but still wind up
with a bonus. If a scorer made a mistake at the beginning of the
project and tried to correct it later on, he would receive a lower
validity score that affected his bonus. One supervisor actually told
one of the scorers that if he wanted a bonus, he should keep on
repeating what he had done at the beginning even if it was wrong!

I continue to say that subjectively assessed sections (including
portfolio assessments, open-response questions, and essays) on
high-stakes tests are ludicrous. People's opinions, peer pressure, and
manipulation take over; and the final scores then become meaningless
as measures of student academic performance. At least 80% of any
high-stakes test should be based upon objectively tested,
right-or-wrong answers. This is only common sense.

Donna Garner wgarner1 at

Writer/Consultant for

English Success Standards (K-12)

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Thursday, March 19, 2009

Taking school kids to the art gallery .. the rest of the story

"Naked guy on beach with Death"

Kids at the Art Gallery

I dunno if I'm taking things too seriously after the classroom based
assessment with the Picasso "woman in a hat in a shirt that shows too
much" and the surrealistic "lipstick on a garage". I visited Seattle's
free Frye gallery, and they had all sorts of 2nd and 3rd grade kids
being show the paintings. One lady asked her kids "what do you see"?
One kid said "well the dark lighting makes it look like a jail".
"There's a chain on his leg" "There's a soldier with a gun behind
him". The painting was about a revolutionary condemned to death.


the wall behind the kids were two big pictures of fairly undraped
women, and in the room behind that, big pictures of half naked men,
fully naked men, and a room full of naked men wrestling. There was a
movie booth of a stop action rat / wolf with a girl sprouting from his
behind plus what looks like his "ding a ling" from his front.

"Girl stuck to anatomically correct wolf" by Nathalie Djurberg

This sort of has
the same feel of assessments that assume 4th graders should be exposed
to topics in writing (write a short story with sentences your first
day in first grade), mathematics (design a bicycle trailer 3-view
isometric projection drawing in 4th grade with some assistance from a
professional carpenter), research (cite an unpublished thesis) or
music (sing from sheet music from sight, no piano) science (design a
lab experiment including beaker and bunsen burner in 5th grade
isolating two different variables) that most college educated adults
never have to do, and the coffee table book I saw a parent give to his
3rd grade of Picasso at a gifted child information meeting that had
distorted naughty parts on every other picture.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Step up to WASL math requirement (Or snap out of the madness!)

March 18, 2009 at 8:39 AM

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WASL was sold on the premise that too many 10th graders were graduating with 4th grade level skills. Well, when 90% of kids "pass" the WASL, that's EQUIVALENT TO PERFORMING AT THE LEVEL OF THE AVERAGE 4TH GRADER. The bell curve is not a problem, it is a fact of life. Definding "success" as performing with the top 10%, and then requiring that every child be successful is a formula for disaster. We can only give children an opportunity, and grade them at WHATEVER level they perform at. The next step is a government that "assesses" you at your job, and requires 10% improvement every year, and requires you to meet an arbitrary "standard" every year or be fired. This is no way to run a free society. We read 1984 and brave new world in the 1970s and joked "they're never really going to do that". But with WASL and standards, that's exactly what we're doing to our kids, and us grown-ups are next.


Guest columnist

Step up to WASL math requirement, don't hide from it

Both houses of the Washington Legislature took the easy way out by voting to eliminate the need for 10th-grade students to pass the math portion of the Washington Assessment of Student Learning, argues guest columnist Christopher Eide. He suggests state educators look to the example of Massachusetts for a formula for success in math education.

Special to The Times

In 1999, 33 percent of Washington's 10th-graders passed the Washington Assessment of Student Learning math section; that rate steadily improved until 2004-05 when the scores flattened out around 49 percent.

After no real evidence of progress in the past four years, what do you do? Do you look for another solution, or just hide it away, move on and pretend that it didn't happen? Washington lawmakers are poised to choose the latter rather than look for help.

As it turns out, a highly similar state chose the former. Massachusetts has accepted innovation and has seen its 10th-grade math scores more than double over the past decade.

In the most recent Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS) test, Massachusetts was allowed to participate as its own country and it scores ranked in the top 5 in the world. But as it turns out, that state is not much different from ours.......


Bothell, WA




March 18, 2009 at 8:34 AM

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Mr Eide, the WASL is doodoo. 20% of 10th graders got a perfect writing score, but almost nobody gets a perfect score in any other grade. What is the point of a test that asks kids to perform task most adult COLLEGE grads cannot do on demand?

Education is not an arms race where government can set an set-in-stone goal that every child will be ready for 4 year university OR ELSE. Most of the 4th grade test cannot be solved with elementary arithmetic, some cannot even be solved with EALRs up to 10th grade, or what I learned at MIT. Forcing "continuous improvement" is the basis for failed outcome/performance/standards-based education reform. My kids don't need more requirements, more days in the year, more science, or more of ANYTHING. The biggest problem they've had growing up in the 90s-00s was the !@#$%% EDUCATION REFORM CRAP. 1st grade mile run times. Write 10 sentences around 10 words sorted in alphabetic order THE FIRST DAY FIRST DAY HOMEWORK. Investigations math that deliberately does not teach carry or borrow. Whole/Hole language that does not teach how to read. Connected/Crap Mathematics Project that forbids printing pi r squared and how to add decimal numbers from the student book. Core/Crap Plus that doesn't teach how to solve simple algebra but asks "Is Jim mentally retarded if his IQ is 70?"

We have too many "smar"t people who can't tell the sheep from the Shinola instead of truly demonstrating "critical thinking". This is MADNESS.

Now that we've slaid WASL because it was stupid, it's time to realize the ESHB 1209 Education Reform bill that was built around WASL IS STUPID.

Brier, WA


March 18, 2009 at 8:05 AM

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The article hints that Massachusetts incorporates the scores of its parochial private, and charter schools into its test score data. This is not the case in our State. Massachusetts has always had a much higher number of parochial schools than does Washington, And it has allowed the incorporation of charter schools. So Mr. Eide will need to provide us with more precise statistics to see how the gains in the Massachusetts public school sector compare to the scores in our public schools.

Mr. Eide teaches in a well funded district that hires applicants who have graduate degrees from Harvard. He is probably unaware of the sea of mediocrity elsewhere in the more poorly funded districts. So maybe he could do a traveling show and explain to us why teaching math as a tool to solve WASL problems is a better methodology than teaching math as a science unto itself. And would someone please explain why every student must spend years on quadratic equations and little time on statistics.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

CMP Word's Worst Math Book Continued - P R SQUARD

My 7th grader just showed me his Crap / Connected Mathematics Project CMP 1 book which simply expects them to know that the area of a circle is p r squared to get the volume (you multiply by height). But the 6th grade book treats the method as the answer to a derivation exploration that isn't in the book. It only appears in the teacher book as "one possible answer", and in the letter to the parents. In fact, EVERY standard and formula method if you look it up in the index looks like "based on what you have learned, can you devise an algorithm or method to compute adding fractions / adding decimals / area of a circle / etc. The term "common denominator" does not appear anywhere in fractions, not even the index. It shows up in ADDING DECIMAL NUMBERS (??). There is a formula for area of a trapezoid on the cover of that book - that is the ONLY formula they actually give you in the entire student book. My understanding is that CMP 1 did not even expect students to learn standard methods at all. All of this information is on a 4 page "math review" card you can buy at Kinkos.


Monday, March 09, 2009

Gran Torino: Reverse Kung Fu Kid

Posted on IMDB: Quick Review of Clint Eastwood's movie
Reverse Kung Fu Kid, Neighborhood missionary with rifle, Do the Right Thing, 9 March 2009

*** This comment may contain spoilers ***

People really should support this movie which has a really big heart. It's too bad that Hollywood won't support a movie where a) the main characters are unknown Asians and b) the hero is a straight racist white military veteran. The movie starts by portraying the old Korean vet as a racist who is angry starting with his own family, and goes downhill from there, and the Asian neighbors as the enemy. The meek boy is the worst example of their people. But in the end, Walt is revealed to be the hero, and the boy becomes his spiritual disciple. As with the story of the good Samaritan, the "invaders" become his true family that he loves so much he gives up his own life for them. It's no coincidence that he ends up sprawled on the lawn as if nailed to a cross.

As one who has seen many movies portray the story of (sometimes doomed) white men against a romantic backdrop of (sometimes savage) Asians such as Sand Pebbles or Clavell's Shogun, Walt on one level appears to be an unwitting white missionary who, instead of traveling to far off places, is left behind when far-off peoples transform the neighborhood. It also evokes a flip-mirror version of Spike Lee's controversial Do the Right Thing which at one level presents the imperialist Pizza parlor as the enemy and the bomb tossing radical as the hero, but on another revealed the folly of destroying local businesses to make a political point of racial assertiveness.

On another level, he is the Western blue-collar mirror image of Kung Fu Kid's sensei or Obi Wan Kenobi who skillfully insults fellow Americans of all races with a signature move of pointing his M-1 Garand rifle into the faces of punks. Meek Thao / Toad is trained in the fine art of BS, asking a girl out, and fixing things. When we see the promo shot of the Gran Torino driving by the water, it's actually the young Jedi carrying on Walt's legacy in his car, with Walt's dog by his side.

As an Asian American who has had to find his own way of assimilation, (and still can't cuss quite the way Walt can or shoot) I can empathize with people who find America as exotic and unscrutable as America finds the "orientals". The film suffers a bit from casting punks as Latinos (low rider chevy), Asians (giant winged Civic) and whites as posers, redneck (Ford pickup) or successful grown yuppies (Land Cruiser) but the Chinese, Japanese, Vietnamese as well as the Hmong have suffered from gangs at different times and places in history. Older sister Sue come across a bit mismatched as the interpreter when her brother looks and talks like he just got off the FOB boat. She seems to be on vacation from Asian American studies at Ann Arbor. (The girls go to college, the boys go to jail) The shaman and grumpy grandmother are marvelous even if we have no idea what they are saying. ("She says welcome to our house"???) There is just so much going on between the characters, this movie deserves to be watched and torn apart much more the flicks like Catch-22, Cuckoo's Nest or Cool Hand Luke that I watched back in the 70s. On the surface, it looks like Dirty Harry Rides Again. I'm still not impressed by the movie that made him famous (what was with those nude scenes anyways??), but there's much, much more to it than that in this latest effort. BTW, the Gran Torino was one of my favorite muscle cars of the 1970s, and if you are interested in other Asian-themed movies, you should watch Letters from Iwo Jima, it's much better than Flags of Our Fathers.

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

How the Tincan Sailors of Taffy 3 Beat The World's Largest Battleship in the Battle off Samar


I first heard of the remarkable battle of outmatched US sailors on destroyers against the Yamato and its fleet on the "Death of the Japanese Navy" episode of Dogfights on the history channel. I always wondered why the Americans were able to land so many blows against the Japanese ships while the Japanese seemed to have worse aim than Imperial Storm Troopers from Star Wars. I read Hornfischer's book "Last Stand of the Tincan Sailors" which described the automatically aimed guns of the destroyers, and from the website The Battle Off Samar - Taffy III at Leyte Gulf website by Robert Jon Cox as to when the Japanese were actually able to land hits against the Americans. That led to surfing about the MK 37 gun fire control system, and earlier systems used by battleships that used analog computers, their limitations, and the little-noticed superiority of the American systems. So I believe I have found a few NEW key points.

- The battle is truly the most remarkable mismatches in military history despite military commanders abandoning the victorious underdogs. It was buried back then to avoid making commanders like Halsey look too bad.

- The losses of over 1000 men and 5 ships exceed the COMBINED losses of the Battle of the Coral Sea and Midway, sustained by a very small task force, Taffy 3. This in a battle that does not even register on anyone's list of top 10 naval battles of WWII.

- The world's largest battleship could fire a shell 20 miles BUT COULD NOT HIT ANY MANEUVERING TARGET AT THAT RANGE since US ships were steering towards splashes. Their computer system assumed a target was still on the same course one minute after firing a shell. In that time, a destroyer can steer away nearly a half-mile. They also could not fire through smoke or rain squalls, which there was plenty.

- By contrast, the US had perfecting miniturizing systems first developed in WWI for battleships into the MK 37 which fit into a destroyer. It was radar controlled, and was fast enough to work against aircraft, with similar technology on the 40mm mounts. The US system could fire accurately while dodging Japanese shells, while the Japanese had to maintain a steady course when firing. This made the Japanese ships not sitting ducks but "steaming on a constant course" ducks, which for the MK 37 was the same thing. American guns could hit most of the Kamikaze attacks, while the Japanese who lacked equivalent systems were hammred by US pilots who flew home after their job was done.

- Even when US ships were hit, they were so redundant they could absorb dozens of hits from armor piercing rounds intended for heavy ships before or without sinking, though they did so strewn with the broken bodies of the dying and wounded.

- The "leftover" forces had nearly as many planes as 4 of 5 Halsey's largest carriers, even if they were not armed or trained to defend against a surface fleet.

- As an Asian American, it is also remarkable how the rigic, conservative decisions of the Japanese led to errors generally overestimating the power of the US ships. The US forces more accurately summed up their situation, and wasted no time in tossing the book and throwing obviously inadequately armed and trained men, planes and ship against battleships if that is what they had.


Here is how the story is told in the Battle off Samar

In a battle that author James D. Hornfischer would call “The Last Stand of the Tin Can Sailors,” the very powerful force of Japanese battleships, cruisers, and destroyers commanded by Admiral Kurita engaged a U.S. task unit of six escort aircraft carriers, three destroyers, and four destroyer escorts. The Americans were taken entirely by surprise because the U.S. Seventh Fleet had firmly believed that its northern flank was being protected by Admiral Halsey's immensely powerful Third Fleet.

The brunt of the Japanese attack fell on the northernmost of the escort carrier units, Rear Admiral Clifton Sprague's Task Unit 77.4.3 (usually referred to by its radio call-sign "Taffy 3"). Ill-equipped to fight large-gunned warships, Taffy 3's escort carriers attempted to escape from the Japanese force, while its destroyers, destroyer escorts, and aircraft made sustained attacks on Kurita's ships. The ordnance for the escort carriers' aircraft consisted mostly of small high-explosive bombs used in ground support missions, and depth charges used in anti-submarine work, rather than the armor-piercing bombs and torpedoes which would been more effective against heavily armored warships. Nevertheless, even when they were out of ammunition, the American aircraft continued to harass the enemy ships, making repeated mock attacks, which distracted them and disrupted their formations.

In all, two U.S. destroyers, a destroyer escort, and an escort carrier were sunk by Japanese gunfire, and another U.S. escort carrier was hit and sunk by a Kamikaze aircraft during the battle. Kurita's battleships were driven away from the engagement by torpedo attacks by American destroyers; they were unable to regroup in the chaos, while three cruisers were lost due to air attack and several other cruisers were damaged. Due to the ferocity of the defense, Kurita was convinced that he was facing a far superior force and withdrew from the battle, ending the threat to the troop transports and supply ships.

The battle was one of the last major naval engagements between U.S. and Japanese surface forces in World War II. After this, the Imperial Japanese Navy never again sailed to battle in such force, but returned to its bases to remain largely inactive for the rest of the war.

This battle is often depicted as one of the major "what-ifs" in World War II. If Kurita had continued the attack instead of withdrawing, it is thought possible that the U.S. could have suffered heavy losses in troops and supplies, which would have delayed their capture of the Philippines. Had Kurita's and Halsey's forces met, that would have set the stage for the long awaited "decisive battle" where both sides would have finally been able to pit their largest battleships against each other. But in the end, the most powerful battleship ever built and its fleet had been turned back if not sunk by America's cheapest carriers and a handful of tincan destroyers and escorts.

The Japanese had succeeded in luring Halsey's Third Fleet away from its role of covering the invasion fleet, but seemingly light forces proved to be a very considerable obstacle. What American commanders had unwittingly left behind still packed the air power of sixteen carriers, even if they were inexpensive, slow, and lightly-armed. With an available a force of over four hundred aircraft, they were the numeric if not quite qualitative equivalent of four of five Halsey's large fleet carriers. Naval aircraft, whether properly armed or not, did much to offset the mismatch in sheer tonnage and surface firepower (and would ultimately sink the Yamato later in the war). The breakdown in Japanese communications resulted in Kurita being unaware of the opportunity that Ozawa's decoy plan had offered him. Kurita's mishandling of his forces during the surface engagement further compounded his losses.

Despite Halsey's failure to protect the northern flank of Seventh Fleet, Taffy 3 and assisting aircraft turned back the most powerful surface fleet Japan had sent to sea since the Battle of Midway. Domination of the skies, prudent and timely maneuvers by the U.S. ships, tactical errors by the Japanese admiral, and perhaps superior American radar technology, gunnery and seamanship, all contributed to this outcome. The Japanese had invested much in expensive guns that outranged US weapons. But their guns lacked a blind fire capability and were thwarted by smoke laid by screening destroyers and rain squalls. Their manually intensive fire control system computed solutions for targets on a constant course. But a 40 ft wide destroyer at 30 knots can travel up to a half-mile away in the nearly one minute it takes for a shell at 3000 ft per second to cover 20 miles.

The Japanese only landed hits when the large Japanese ships which could not maneuver while firing came within range of even the 5-in carrier mounted guns which found an Achilles' heel in a cruiser's torpedo mount. Armor-piercing shells proved largely ineffective against unarmored ships engineered with enough redundancy to survive dozens of hits without or before sinking. Conversely, the Americans could put the MK-37 radar-directed fire control system and its computer in ships as small as destroyers which could land accurate hits while chasing splashes. Excellent US 5-in and 40 mm radar and computer directed anti-aircraft fire downed several kamikaze planes, while the lack of comparable systems made the Japanese vulnerable to American fliers. While the Japanese built the largest battleships, the Americans built the most numerous classes of inexpensive escort carriers as Japan discarded their last carriers and pilots to draw away Halsey's fleet.

It may be argued that, of all of the battles in the Pacific War, Samar best demonstrates the effectiveness of air attack and destroyer-launched torpedoes against larger surface vessels. Cautious Japanese tactics were hampered by the belief they were fighting a much more powerful force. Conversely, the Americans accurately sensed the gravity of their predicament, and quickly improvised a strategy based on harassment and delay which did not hesitate to throw inadequately armed and trained men, planes and ships directly against battleships if that was what was available.

“ Well, I think it was really just determination that really meant something. I can't believe that they didn't just go in an wipe us out. We confused the Japanese so much. I think it deterred them. It was a great experience ”
—Interview by Hornfischer of Tom Stevensen, Survivor Samuel B. Roberts[11]

Clifton Sprague's task unit lost two escort carriers: (Gambier Bay, to surface attack and St. Lo, to Kamikaze attack). Of the seven screening ships, fewer than half, two destroyers (Hoel and Johnston) and a destroyer escort (Samuel B. Roberts) were lost, as were dozens of aircraft. The other four U.S. destroyers and escorts were damaged. For such a small task unit, more than a thousand Americans died, comparable to the losses suffered at the allied defeat of the Battle of Savo Island off Guadalcanal when 4 cruisers were sunk. It was also comparable to the combined losses of the 543 men and 3 ships at the Battle of the Coral Sea, and 307 men and 2 ships at the Battle of Midway.

On the other side of the balance sheet, the Japanese were forced to scuttle three heavy cruisers, and a fourth limped back to base seriously damaged, having lost its bow. All of Kurita's battleships except Yamato suffered considerable damage, and apart from the Yamato, all of the heavy ships stayed inactive in their bases, and the Japanese navy as a whole had been rendered ineffective for the remainder of the war. At Leyte Gulf, relatively tiny Taffy 3 bore the brunt of losses, sacrificing five of the six U.S. ships of 37,000 tons that were lost. By comparison, the Japanese lost 26 ships of 306,000 tons. [12]

Monday, March 02, 2009

The Robert Wone Case and the Real Cowards

It’s ironic that Attorney General Eric Holder called Americans cowards for being reluctant to talk about race. Holder was the attorney for the widow of the late Robert Wone, yet even he declined to name any possible suspects in the murderer case. In contrast to the high profile reaction to the murder of Vincent Chin which was fairly well known even outside of Asian American, even most Asians are unfamiliar with the case of the attorney for Radio Free Asia who was brutally stabbed one evening in 2006 while sleeping over with some old friends in DC. It’s been called one of the most mysterious cases in DC since no one was charged with anything for over 2 years. Yet even after the three men who lived at the house of the murder scene were finally charged at the end of 2008 with obstruction of justice, no one but anonymous blog comments are willing to even speculate on the possible suspects. The only thing mysterious is how such a slam dunk case could remain in such obscurity.

The resident of 1509 Swann St seemed like nice enough neighbors. Joe Price was a former attorney at the civil rights group Equality Virgnia who knew Wone from their days at the College of William and Mary. His partner Victor Zaborsky was one of the key players behind the “Got Milk” ads. Dylan Ward was a trained massage therapist, a former spokesman at Equality Virginia, and published children’s books in Taiwan for “The House of the Tiger Aunt”.

Back in August of 2006, the police interrogated the 3 as primary suspects. The people from the ambulance thought Wone looked like he had been dead for some time, not killed minutes before the phone call. They were creeped out at by the behavior and appearance of men in bathrobes just out of the shower carefully explaining how an intruder they claimed they did not see had accomplished the deed. There were no signs of forced entry, nothing stolen, and it was odd the alleged murder knife was from their own kitchen. It was obvious to detectives that the crime scene was tampered with and cleaned of blood. Though lawyers for the 3 said their clients cooperated fully, the commander of the police homicide squad said they didn’t get believable answers as their story did not add up: “Some of the information we were told, I just don’t believe.” The FBI was called in to assist with gathering evidence as many parts of the house were removed, but for two years there was no news and no charges.

By late 2008 that an affadavit showed the authorities had enough additional evidence to charge Price, Zaborsky and Ward with obstruction of justice. It turns out the knife that actually would explain the wounds have matched a knife that was missing from the knife set Ward kept in his bedroom. Bedroom?? A cadaver dog finding blood in a drain in back patio and in the clothes dryer, which indicated the intruder, or somebody else, used their uncoiled garden hose, and the dryer.

Authorities soon dismissed the intruder theory. The lack of sign of struggle showed Wone was likely incapacitated with an injection, sexually assaulted him with his own semen found in his anal cavity, and then fatally stabbed. Only the 3 men could have obstructed the investigation by cleaning the mess, lying about the time of death, moving the body, and planting blood stains and a knife.

And now, like the late Paul Harvey liked to say, for the Rest Of The Story. The cops put their Gay & Lesbian Liaison Unit on the case. Equality Virgina was a prominent gay rights organization. Price and Zaborsky were registered domestic partners who lived in a “gayborhood” and were written up in USA Today when they generously helped a lesbian couple to conceive. That probably explains why the only national coverage besides Asian outlets has been the gay press. On the “Datalounge discussion boards, they’ve basically convicted their favorite suspects as “even Trig Palin could solve this case”.

It was uncovered that Ward also had an “intimate “dominant-submissive sexual relationship with Price. Some stories called Ward a “boy toy”. In China his role might be like a concubine, but at least it’s not polygamy. Price explained that Ward was treated as “part of the family”. Many “intimate” photos with Ward were recovered from Price’s computer. Ward favorite hobby seemed to be his extensive collection cataloged by the affidavit of “racks, shackles, metal and leather collars, wrist/ankle restraints, mouth gags, spandex hoods, clamps and clips, enema kit,.. p-rings, metal chains with locks, … nipple suction devices”.. well you get the idea.. There was even an electric shock device similar to those used for semen collection from animals which investigators wondered might account for the semen they found.

The author of the children’s book series also had a library of dutifully highlighted references on inflicting pain and enslavement for sexual for gratification. A New Yorker magazine was opened to a picture of Shakespeare’s deathbed in a position eerily similar to Wone’s body. Internet boards carried speculation that the Taiwan-saavy Ward was a “rice queen” with a fetish for Asians. There were not your average neighbors. The October 27, 2008 affidavit against Dylan Ward concludes: “all three obstructed justice by altering and orchestrating the crime scene, planting evidence, delaying the report … and [lying about the true circumstances] when interviewed “

Discussion boards speculated that “Little Red Riding Hood” on Wikipedia might have been Dylan Ward himself. He declared war on the “Murder of Robert Eric Wone” because “he wasn't notable before he died, he still isn't notable. His death is not notable, either” (Vincent Chin has also weathered similar non-notable challenges). He even initiated a process which within one day , vigilant LGBT advocates banned a hapless user entirely from any article concerning gay issues after he called out that Wone was a victim of a hate crime after a history of challenging gay issues.

Is the Asian American movement’s ceaseless dedication to gay rights getting in the way of turning this case into the next Vincent Chin? In the case of the young Jesse Dirkhising, his molesting, torture and murder in 1999 led conservatives at the Media Research Center to observe "Had he been openly gay and his attackers heterosexual, the crime would have led all the networks. But no liberal media outlet has as its villains two gay men." Indeed, no conservative, not even our own fearless Michelle Malkin has touched the case with a ten foot pole.

This should not turn into yet another reason to hate or hurt upstanding members of the LGBTQ community. It disheartened me back in college when walking by the weekly vandalizing of the gay bulletin board. LGBT rank with Asians as the Americans with the highest education and achievement, while suffering from more indignities. However, political correctness cannot be allowed to trump justice. Horrible crimes are committed by Americans of every race, creed, gender and subculture. I have absolutely no idea who killed Robert Eric Wone, but I’m sure somebody out there is brave and clever enough to figure it out.

Who Murdered Robert Wone blog
Wikipedia Murder of Robert Eric Wone
News8 article with photos of evidence
Complaint against Dylan Ward (pdf)
Defendants motion for pretrial release
Wone Lawsuit Complaint (pdf)