The Twilight Zone

I know everyone says this, but what a great show that Twilight Zone is. After 50 years, it still holds up. Tonight, like on New Year's Eves past, the Sci-Fi channel is running a Twilight Zone marathon. I caught "Long Distance Call" just now. A fine episode. The end, where the father is talking on a toy telephone to his recently passed-away mom is quite moving and well done.

Many years ago, a friend and I were sitting in Pizza Man and decided to try to recall all the TZ episodes we could. We got all of the 1/2 hour episodes. Pretty good, if I do say so myself. It was one of the first shows I was ever a fan of. I'm still a fan.

Happy New Year!

With a gratuitous baby shot...

We spent Christmas in Virginia with my wife's sister and her husband. We all had a great time. We had a small party for Shivani too, who will be one year old in a few days.

Tonight, New Year's Eve, we will spend at home, watching a movie and waiting for midnight. I'm happy with that.

Happy New Year everyone!

The future of the university

I really love the City Journal magazine. They have great, fairly long-form articles on interesting subjects.

Victor Davis Hanson has an article currently about higher education...and the fact that it really isn't higher education anymore. As a classicist, he spends much of the article talking about the importance of his own discipline, but he also points out that the classic college or university is dying right along with his subject.

His argument is simple: post-modernism, political correctness, and a focus on job skills (such as pre-med, pre-law, computer science, or business) have greatly reduced the shared knowledge that students used to gain from a liberal arts education. Have reduced the whole personal intellectual growth aspect of a BA.

But instead of whining about this decline, he points out that in our fine capitalist tradition, the private sector is jumping in where the old institutions have failed.

Want to learn a language? Buy Rosetta Stone CD's.
Want to learn about philosophy or Homer? Buy a course at the Teaching Company.

Want to learn how to do accounting, computer programming, or business management? Sign up for online coursework at a traditional-turned internet university or a University of Phoenix-style online, for-profit company.

VDH posits that in the future many technical subjects will be learned without the extra coursework of a liberal arts education. Then, if people want to broaded their minds, they can sign up for online or video courses.

What of today's schools? He says:
Traditional colleges and universities aren’t about to die, of course. But their attractions—and especially the enticements of the Ivy League schools, Stanford, Berkeley, and such private four-year colleges as Amherst and Oberlin—will largely derive from the status that they convey, the career advantages that accrue from their brand-name diplomas, and the unspoken allure of networking and associating with others of a similarly affluent and privileged class. They are becoming social entities, private clubs for young people, certification and proof of career seriousness, but hardly centers for excellence in undergraduate education in the classical sense. For all the tens of thousands of dollars invested in yearly tuition, there will be no guarantee, or indeed, even a general expectation, that students will encounter singular faculty or receive a superior liberal arts education—let alone that they will know much more about their exceptional civilization than what they could find on the Internet, at religious schools, or on CDs and DVDs.

I think he's spot on here. Many degrees today are either what a high school diploma should be, but too often is not, or merely tickets of entrée to a social upper class of educated elite.

No kidding

Hat tip Instapundit:

[ John Tierney, New York Times ] If we want our children to be scientifically literate and get good jobs in the future, why are we spending precious hours in school teaching them to be garbage collectors?

That’s the question that occurred to me after reading about the second-graders in West Virginia who fought for the right to keep recycling trash even after it became so uneconomical that public officials tried to stop the program. As my colleague Kate Galbraith reports, their teacher was proud of them for all the time they spent campaigning to keep the recycling program alive.

[...] I’ve always thought of recycling as essentially a religious sacrament –a fine activity if pursued voluntarily, but not something that should be mandated or taught in public schools.

Of two minds

This is cool. Tim McGuire over at Just One Minute mentions the death of one of the most important people in the history of brain science. A profound amnesiac who was completely unable to make new memories:

At the time, many scientists believed that memory was widely distributed throughout the brain and not dependent on any one neural organ or region.

[...] That began to change in 1962, when Dr. Milner presented a landmark study in which she and H. M. [the amnesiac] demonstrated that a part of his memory was fully intact. In a series of trials, she had Mr. Molaison try to trace a line between two outlines of a five-point star, one inside the other, while watching his hand and the star in a mirror. The task is difficult for anyone to master at first.

Every time H. M. performed the task, it struck him as an entirely new experience. He had no memory of doing it before. Yet with practice he became proficient. “At one point he said to me, after many of these trials, ‘Huh, this was easier than I thought it would be,’ ” Dr. Milner said.

It just so happens, that two nights ago I came across this sort of memory. My niece was at soccer practice, and I was kicking around a ball. I put the ball down and walked a few paces away from it, then took a running kick. Without any conscious thought, I stuttered my steps so that I was ready to take a full swing at the ball with my right leg. There was no thought involved in changing my stride to make the kick, it was the most natural and smooth thing in the world. But the difficulty of what my brain was able to process automatically and immediately have my body do struck me suddenly as impressive.

My mind must have used its prior experience to judge how to run at the ball. It must have been accessing some sort of stored knowledge. But if you asked me how my brain went about making the calculation, I wouldn't have a clue.

The brain is a really cool place.

Sign of The Times

I ran across this video recently. It's a tour of my high school library, which there is a plan to remodel.

I note some things
  • The library hasn't changed a whole lot in a quarter century
  • The biggest change seems to be the addition of computers
  • The new proposed changes are essentially even more computers and more space for collaborative work
  • The proposed changes seem to mean that the last of the books will be removed
A library without books may seem strange, but I accept that it's the way of the future. With research materials on-line, there will be less and less need for books. I'm less certain about the focus on "collaborative work." Is it here to stay, or just a fad?

Harvard Takes a Hit

The president of Harvard sent a letter out last month:

I write today about the global economic crisis and its implications for us at Harvard.

We all know of the extraordinary turbulence still roiling the world's financial markets and the broader economy. The downturn is widely seen as the most serious in decades, and each day's headlines remind us that heightened volatility and persisting uncertainty have become our new economic reality.

For all the challenges such circumstances present, we are fortunate to be part of an institution remarkable for its resilience. Over centuries, Harvard has weathered many storms and sustained its strength through difficult times. We have done so by staying true to our academic values and our long-term ambitions, by carefully stewarding our resources and thoughtfully adapting to change. We will do so again.
It seemed rather overwrought to me. It's well known that Harvard's endowment is enormous. Now this report today tells us that Harvard's endowment lost 22% of its value in 4 months!

Harvard University's endowment suffered investment losses of at least 22% in the first four months of the school's fiscal year, the latest evidence of the financial woes facing higher education.

The Harvard endowment, the biggest of any university, stood at $36.9 billion as of June 30, meaning the loss amounts to about $8 billion. That's more than the entire endowments of all but six colleges, according to the latest official tally.

Harvard said the actual loss could be even higher, once it factors in declines in hard-to-value assets such as real estate and private equity -- investments that have become increasingly popular among colleges. The university is planning for a 30% decline for the fiscal year ending in June 2009.
Yipe! Someone needs to be held accountable for this. Those responsible should be forced to take their multi-million dollar golden parachutes and get lost!

Ann says: Obviously, you aren't a Grinnell grad! If you were, you would know to look over any story about college endowments for a mention of Grinnell--which has long had the second biggest per-student endowment, second only to your Harvard.

And there it is in paragraph 8:
In Iowa, Grinnell College's endowment dropped 25%, to $1.2 billion.
Hah! I laugh at your puny 22% drop! And take pride in my alma mater's 25% wipe-out!

Idiots on Parade

They are lucky they weren't shot by police.

Wynton Marsalis on Rap

I ran across this quote of Wynton Marsalis on Rap and Hip-Hop:

"I call it 'ghetto minstrelsy'," he says. "Old school minstrels used to say they were 'real darkies from the real plantation'. Hip-hop substitutes the plantation for the streets. Now you have to say that you're from the streets, you shot some brothers, you went to jail. Rappers have to display the correct pathology. Rap has become a safari for people who get their thrills from watching African-American people debase themselves, men dressing in gold, calling themselves stupid names like Ludacris or 50 Cent, spending money on expensive fluff, using language like 'bitch' and 'ho' and 'nigger'."

I couldn't agree more, and have often wondered why the current black leadership hasn't also pointed this out. Much of rap is a modern minstrel show. Before, black men were portrayed as was dim-witted lazy Step-n-Fetchit types. Now they are misogynist thugs and thieves. This is better? Why is it tolerated?

VDH on Obama

Victor Davis Hanson writes another great post at the Corner.

I think we are slowly (and things of course could change) beginning in retrospect to look back at the outline of one of most profound bait-and-switch campaigns in our political history, predicated on the mass appeal of a magnetic leader rather than any principles per se. He out-Clintoned Hillary and followed Bill's 1992 formula: A young Democrat runs on youth, popular appeal and charisma, claims the incumbent Bush caused another Great Depression and blew Iraq, and then went right down the middle with a showy leftist veneer.

Second, we will come, through the Obama prism, to see that Bush's sins were largely the absence of rhetorical skills...

Of course, I am hoping that Obama will turn out much more moderate than he appeared to be before and during the election. I think the Office will moderate him. I am keeping my fingers crossed, especially because I took a chance and voted for him.

However, although I agree that a moderate Barack Obama will make the policies of GW Bush look better than they have been represented in the media, I don't think many people will care or bother to re-evaluate their opinion of the Bush presidency. The past eight years of anti-Bush extremism have turned him into such a boogie-man caricature that his actual performance and policies are largely irrelevant to the opinions people have of him.

Life at Home?

Maybe my wife can relate...

Obama's Blackberry

They say Obama may be "legally required" to surrender his Blackberry and stop using email when he is President

Throughout the campaign, Obama was often seen communicating to staff members via his BlackBerry, a convenience the president-elect may legally have to forgo, and one which he indicated he was negotiating to keep. [emphasis added]

For national security purposes, a president is limited in his electronic correspondences for fear of hacking. Additionally, presidential communications are strictly monitored and archived for historical purposes.

"One of the things that I'm going to have to work through is how to break through the isolation -- the bubble that exists around the president. I'm in the process of negotiating with the Secret Service, with lawyers, with White House staff ... to figure out how can I get information from outside of the 10 or 12 people who surround my office in the White House," he said.

Pish-tosh, says I. Electronic encryption is not that difficult. Obama should be able to keep on using email and his Blackberry. He should tell those lawyers to get lost. By what Constitutional authority do these guys have the power to control the President to the extent he must "negotiate" with them?

The Presidential Records Law came about after Watergate. Its intent was to make the records of the President the property of the government, so that the President could not destroy them at will.

But it's clear to me that the law is now being used to hamstring the President, keeping him from effectively performing his duties. I find it hard to believe a manager these days can get his job done without email. It's at least as essential as the telephone. Obama's ability to get his job done depends on his access to modern communication technologies.

Can a former President and Congress require all future Presidents to conduct all official correspondence in cuneiform using styli and clay tablets? Of course not. It would be an unconstitutional infringement on the power of the President. Requiring all future Presidents to conduct business without using email and wireless communication technology is, in the same way, an unconstitutional power grab by Congress. Obama should stand up and defend the Office of the President. He should use whatever technology he needs to carry out his Constitutional obligations while in office. That means email and wireless.

Crackdown at Powder Puff

In reference to the post immediately below, there is this rather depressing story:

The headmaster announced earlier this month that teams of police officers and school administrators would be roaming Wednesday’s game to identify students who have been drinking. Anyone suspected of being intoxicated will be taken to a patrol car and given a Breathalyzer test.

Students who fail the test will be suspended from school, be denied from participation in the junior semi-formal dance or the prom, and after-the-prom party. Athletes and performing artists would face further punishment.

“We’re giving everybody a better reason not to drink by having a stronger consequence,” Weintraub said.

Capt. John O’Leary said the Brookline Police Department would send as many as 15 officers to patrol the game, an annual football match between female players from the junior and senior classes. In the past, he said the department has sent “one or two” officers.

“They’ll be constantly walking around the perimeter of the game, particularly looking for people who are intoxicated or drinking,” he said.
I find this sort of thing far too heavy-handed. Looks like I'm in the minority though, since the local parents group approves:

The Brookline High PTO released a statement saying its co-presidents “fully support the administration’s efforts to make this event safe and fun for all students.”
I don't like to see The State stepping in to do a job that should be handled by parents. If someone gave my kid a breathalyzer test, I would be pretty upset. Yes, I know teen drinking is a problem. At least once a year in it seems some kid in the area gets killed drunk driving. Still, do we have to insult every kid out there, treating them all like potential criminals? Do we need 15 police officers at the Powder Puff game? Has the whole "It takes a Village" thing gotten out of control? The Brookline Police shouldn't be in the parenting business. Nor should the officials at Brookline High.

Congratulations Seniors!

Congratulations to the Brookline High Senior girls. They beat the Juniors in the annual Brookline Powder Puff football game. How's that for a tradition? Pretty cool, says I.

They call it Powder Puff, but it looks pretty intense to me. These young ladies are playing to win! Photo by David Gordon. Nice work.

The Gobbler

James Lileks has a whole section of his website devoted to The Gobbler. It's been there a while, but it seems he has updated it.

"Ah!" I thought to myself, "but does he remember that Gobbler Jingle?"

Silly me.

Happy Thanksgiving 2008

Happy Thanksgiving everyone! We had a nice quiet dinner at home. All our friends seemed to be out of town. We did pretty well though!

We had butternut squash, scalloped potatoes, quinoa salad, stuffing and green beans, all from scratch.

Since I'm the only carnivore in the family, we got a roasted chicken from the supermarket. It was a symbolic substitute for a turkey. The sides alone were more than enough, and I barely made a dent in the bird.

As you can see, we have much to be thankful for.

Especially me!

Mumbai Atrocity

From the office of the President:

President Bush offers his condolences to the Indian people and the families of the innocent civilians killed and injured in the attacks in Mumbai, India. The United States condemns this terrorist attack and we will continue to stand with the people of India in this time of tragedy.
It's been said before, but bears repeating. I'm tired of these terrorist massacres being referred to as "tragedies." If your quarterback slips on the stairs and breaks his leg the day before the Big Game, that's a tragedy. But terrorist attacks like this are not tragic, they are atrocious. This was no act of God, or chance misfortune. It was a deliberate act by despicable people. Those people must be tracked down and held accountable.

Bruce Lee Plays Ping Pong with Nunchuck

A word of warning

you can't believe everything you see on film these days. This can't be real, can it? Can it?!? Bruce was pretty amazing...

How's Obama Doing So Far?

President Elect Obama seems to be doing well, as far as I'm concerned. I don't mind Hillary Clinton as Secretary of State. I think she'll be tough. It's on domestic issues that she's scary. And I like Larry Summers as head of the National Economic Council; he's a smart cookie.

There also seems to be a lot of backpedalling on Barack Obama's campaign pledges. My hope that President Obama will be moderated by the office seems to be coming true. When the Nut Roots starts to panic it's a good sign.

No regrets voting for The One yet.

PC Makes Me Sad

This is just depressing

For decades, Claremont kindergartners have celebrated Thanksgiving by dressing up as pilgrims and Native Americans and sharing a feast. But on Tuesday, when the youngsters meet for their turkey and songs, they won't be wearing their hand-made bonnets, headdresses and fringed vests.

Parents in this quiet university town are sharply divided over what these construction-paper symbols represent: A simple child's depiction of the traditional (if not wholly accurate) tale of two factions setting aside their differences to give thanks over a shared meal? Or a cartoonish stereotype that would never be allowed of other racial, ethnic or religious groups?

I don't understand how dressing up this way is mocking or demeaning to Native Americans. I don't think it's mocking of the English to dress up in Pilgrim hats and buckle shoes either. Some comments in the linked post say that it is:

There's no outrage because the costumes aren't used to DENIGRATE the pilgrims, any more than the ahistorical use of kilts in Braveheart were used to diminish Scots.

So dressing up like an English Pilgrim is ok, dressing up like a 17th century Native American is not. What if a Native American kid dresses up like a Pilgrim?

People pushing this PC junk need to lighten up.

Gabriel Over the White House

"Gabriel Over the White House" was on Turner Classic Movies today. I wasn't able to see it. It's talked about in Jonah Goldberg's book Liberal Fascism. Read the jaw-dropping synopsis here. I'm sorry I missed it. Maybe it's on NetFlix.

Korean Paper Bombs

A nice story from Al-jazeera

I hope they keep this thing going as long as possible.

Gender gap

I was just posting about the gap between boys and girls on test scores in Maryland over on my ed-blog.

Here's the gist of it: in 8th grade, about 22% of girls are below grade level in reading--better than 1 in 4. For boys that number is about 32%, almost 1 in 3.

And the results show increasing separation between the boys and the girls as they pass through the grades.

Shelby Steele Interview

Very interesting discussion going on over at Peter Robinson's "Uncommon Knowledge" within NRO. Shelby Steele:

Everywhere I went on my book tour, young people would come up. “We’re beyond your generation,” they would tell me. “We grew up differently than you did.” No, I tell them, you didn’t. You did not. You are now obsessed with race. Race is the only thing that’s driving your interest in Barack Obama. You couldn’t even tell me what his policies are. You’re never critical of him in any way. If you were free of race you would not judge him culturally. You would judge him politically. You just—you are consumed by race.
Watch it all. Mr Steele makes some keen observations.

Smoke gets in your eyes

Here's a NASA pic from yesterday:

Today was the first time our asthmatic 6 year old needed his inhaler. He woke up coughing. I've needed it more than that. Even our 8 year old was coughing a bit this morning. Everyone sounds like they've been smoking.

In the eye, wreathed in flame

This morning around 8, I had my first encounter with the fires around the city. A friend called looking for help figuring out a way to get up north of the city, past the fires. Until then, I didn't realize there was a major fire east of Simi Valley in the Sylmar/Porter Ranch area. The fires are right on the highways leading through the Newhall Pass which leads to Bakersfield. In the end, my friend decided there was no way to make it up there without it taking better than 2.5 hours each way.

Later, around 9, I drove to a store with my nephew and lots of traffic lights were out along the way. Since the same street had lights out a couple weeks ago, I didn't think much of it, but later learned that the fires were near key electrical equipment and the city was ordering rolling blackouts to save electricity. Since then the electricity is flowing normally and the blackouts ended mid-morning.

While shopping the entire sky to the north and west were brown with the smoke. I was fine when we were in the car, but when I had to get out and walk around, I realized that the smoke was getting to me. I was coughing and short of breath--I developed some asthma since moving to L.A.--my guess that if I moved out of L.A., I'd be instantly cured. I had to take a few puffs on the inhaler when we got back.

I still didn't realize the extent of the fires until the afternoon. I thought it was just the Sylmar fire and the Santa Barbara fire. But the smoke had spread to the south--very heavy to the south--and surprisingly to the west. There isn't much to our west that could catch fire (Beverly Hills, Westwood, Santa Monica--none of which have a fire.) Since the smoke was now ringing the whole city, I finally turned on the TV to see what was going on.

There were fires in:

Santa Barbara to the northwest,
Symar/Porter Ranch to the north,
Brea to the north east,
Yorba Linda to the west-southwest,
Anaheim Hills to the southwest, and
Camp Pendleton to the south.

Short of the ocean being on fire, the fires pretty much surround the city.

The air outside has smelled heavily of smoke all afternoon. You can smell the brush burning all over town. Strangely, there is almost no wind where we are, but enough where the fires are to cause problems. The sky was overcast this afternoon, but I'm guessing it was actually a cloudless day. I think it was all smoke.

The worst thing to happen today was the Curse of the Trailer Park. Apparently, mother nature is not content to throw tornadoes at trailer parks, today she decided to send fire at one. A 500-600 home trailer park burned to the ground near Sylmar. Right now, everyone is worried that the fire hit so quickly, that more than a few people might have been caught in the blaze there. The fire department is worried by the number of cars left in driveways.

The other fires tend to be in areas with fewer homes, more spread out. The same size fire just can't devastate so many houses.

Stupidly, my niece had a soccer game at 4pm, and pretty much everyone thought it should have been called because of the smoke. You shouldn't have kids running around for an hour in air like we had today. I remember them canceling games in previous years because of smoke, but this one might have happened so quickly, they had no way to organize the cancellation. This is the thickest smoke I've seen in our neighborhood since moving here--despite all the fires being many, many miles away.

Tonight, I plan to sleep with the inhaler close by. I think I'm gonna need it. Did I mention my eyes burn when I walk outside?

Missing men

(Cross posted from my ed blog "Square Dots".)

One of my favorite blogs--mostly because Mark Perry manages to find the data I try to search for and can never quite find--has a couple graphs on the missing men in higher education. It is stark and long-term scary:

His data source is the Department of Education.

Update: Some people commenting on Perry's post asked about breakdown by field of study. I found the data and graphed it here.

Update #2: I noticed these graphs have different y-axis ranges, which makes them difficult to compare to one another. I won't repost with a constant axis, but I will give the slope for the increase in women's percentage per year. This is how much the percentage of degrees going to women increases per year.

Bachelors: 0.36%
Masters: 0.46%
PhD's: 0.82%

It looks like women had more ground to catch up in the PhD field, but they are doing so faster than for the other two degrees. Their slowest percentage gain per year is for bachelors.

Chump of the Year

A while back I worried that I would have to name myself "Chump of the Year" for voting for Obama. Fortunately, John McCain may have the title wrapped up.

The Federal Election Commission is unlikely to conduct a potentially embarrassing audit of how Barack Obama raised and spent his presidential campaign’s record-shattering windfall, despite allegations of questionable donations and accounting that had the McCain campaign crying foul.

Adding insult to injury for Republicans: The FEC is obligated to complete a rigorous audit of McCain’s campaign coffers, which will take months, if not years, and cost McCain millions of dollars to defend.


McCain, on the other hand, accepted the $84 million in taxpayer money, which not only barred him from raising or spending more – allowing Obama to fund many times more ads and ground operations – but also will keep his lawyers busy for a couple years explaining how every penny was spent.
How's sticking to your principles working for you now Senator McCain? How's your old pal campaign finance reform treating you? Poetic Justice? Hoisted on your own petard? You bet.

One for My Sister

Someone else noticed this little bit in Obama's victory speech:
He revealed that, despite having edited the Harvard Law Review, he doesn’t know what ‘enormity’ means.

Read the whole thing. With a title like "The night we waved goodbye to America," how can you resist? This was the line from Obama's speech referred to above:
I know you didn't do this just to win an election and I know you didn't do it for me. You did it because you understand the enormity of the task that lies ahead.
I winced at the time, and thought of my sister and co-blogger. It's one of her pet peeves, as I recall, though it seems it's not universal.

If you believe in fairies, clap your hands

I like fairies. Not real ones, of course. Just the tooth fairy variety.

My nephew has never had good tooth-brushing habits. We couldn't get his teeth brushed at all until he broke an upper front when he was 3 years old. After that, sometimes we literally had to hold him down and force the brush into his mouth to get them brushed. He's been doing the brushing himself for less than a year, and even then, it was always a big fight to get him to do it. Fighting became part of the settled routine. One major problem is that he hates mint, and it is hard to find good-tasting non-mint toothpaste (Tom's Strawberry is what we settled on). We got him to brush every night with toothpaste; though, I had to put it on his brush, he would never do it if left to himself--and then some mornings he'd brush just with water. Not ideal, but getting better.

Then came his first lost tooth (on my brother's birthday a couple weeks ago). The tooth fairy was quite explicit: "Brush two times a day--with toothpaste! I mean it--with toothpaste!" she said.

And what do you know? He did it! Occasional reminders of what the Tooth Fairy said, and he's off to brush his own teeth.

Quite remarkable, really.

Tonight the tooth fairy comes again for his second lost tooth. She has praise for his new tooth-brushing habit.


The corruption and degradation of science is a big problem in the world. Whether it is the skewing of observations to meet pre-determined theories, whether it is theories proposed with no observations to back them up, whether it is corruption of the peer review system to establish and enforce orthodoxy, it's all a problem.

Here's one view of the corruption of the "science" of global warming, and the reasons for it. They hit home:
[ Watts up With That ] This question was addressed in September in a paper by Professor Richard Lindzen, of the Program in Atmospheres, Oceans and Climate at Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Lindzen, [...] suggested that a number of changes in the way science is conducted have contributed to the rise of climate alarmism among American scientists.

Central to this is the importance of government funding to science. Much of that funding since World War II has occurred because scientists build up public fears (examples include fear of the USSR’s superiority in weapons or space travel, of health problems, of environmental degradation) and offer themselves as the solution to those fears. The administrators who work with the scientists join in with enthusiasm: much of their own funding is attached to the scientific grants. Lindzen says this state of affairs favours science involving fear, and also science that involves expensive activities such as computer modelling. He notes we have seen “the de-emphasis of theory because of its difficulty and small scale, the encouragement of simulation instead (with its call for large capital investment in computation), and the encouragement of large programs unconstrained by specific goals.

[...] “In brief, we have the new paradigm where simulation and [computer] programs have replaced theory and observation, where government largely determines the nature of scientific activity, and where the primary role of professional societies is the lobbying of the government for special advantage.”

They canceled my vote

I thought this piece in the Onion was brilliant when I first read it weeks ago. I thought I linked to it, but apparently not:
[ 60 Million People You'd Never Talk To Voting For Other Guy ] "While you are 100 percent certain that your preferred candidate's stance on issues such as foreign policy and the economy would appeal to any human being with half a brain, there is, in this very same country, an equally large voting bloc which believes that you and your candidate of choice are absolutely insane," the report's co-author Dr. Mark Grier said during a press conference.
Read the whole thing.

Obama Apologizes

Obama apologizes to Nancy Reagan

President-elect Barack Obama called Nancy Reagan on Friday to apologize for a remark about seances he made during his first news conference earlier in the day.

President-elect Barack Obama's spokeswoman syas he apologized to Nancy Reagan for "offhanded remark."

When a reporter asked Obama if he had spoken with any ex-presidents since his election on Tuesday, he responded that he had spoken to all former presidents "that are living."

"I didn't want to get into a Nancy Reagan thing about, you know, doing any seances," he said.
I'm glad to hear he did this. It was the Presidential gentlemanly thing to do.

Media Still in the Tank for Obama

Seriously, is there no limit to the bias?

Perhaps Obama diverged from a Chicago designer as a way of reinforcing her husband's national leadership.Or maybe Obama, whose taste spans the price spectrum from White House/Black Market and J. Crew to Pinto and Rodriguez, just liked this dress.Clearly, this is a woman who does not submit to the directives of a stylist. Whether you liked the dress or not, that's refreshing.
Oh please. The dress was unflattering, and an unfortunate choice. Let's just state the truth and move on.

Amusing Lawyer Ad

There is an amusing TV ad for a law firm running here in Boston. The firm specializes in asbestos lawsuits. If you are a friend of someone who once sat next to a fellow who was the younger brother of a guy born in a house with an asbestos-filled oven mitt in it's kitchen, that firm would like to talk to you!

Anyway, in the ad, a winning plaintiff represented by the firm turns to the camera and says, in all seriousness,
"They were more than attorneys. They were human beings!"
Cracks me up every time.

A Direction for Republican Party?

Greg Mankiw gets feedback from some Harvard students, who overwhelmingly went for Obama:

So what does the Republican Party need to do to get the youth vote back? If the Harvard students are typical (and perhaps they are not, as Harvard students are hardly a random sample), the party needs to scale back its social conservatism. Put simply, it needs to become a party for moderate and mainstream libertarians. The actual Libertarian Party is far too extreme in its views to attract these students. And it is too much of a strange fringe group. These students are, after all, part of the establishment. But a reformed Republican Party could, I think, win them back.
Very interesting. It's also the direction I'd like to see the party go. I hope someone high up in the GOP is listening.

Too Good Not to Steal

Found at Dirty Harry's Place.

My Kind of Town?

Brookline is...
  • For Barack Obama: 80.7%

  • For John Kerry: 81.2%

  • For Barney Frank: 79.9%

  • For keeping the state income tax: 78.6%

  • For decriminalizing pot: 76.1%
  • For banning dog racing: 69.7%


The McCain Lawnsign In Los Angeles Experiment

I put up a McCain lawn sign about 3-4 weeks ago, mostly to see if it would get trashed. Here are the final results:
  • Pushed down: 11 times (3 times by my six-year-old nephew who "was using it as a flag")
  • Completely disappeared: 1 time (that's why I bought 3 of them)
  • This morning:
    • Found both remaining signs picked up and pushed over
    • Found dog poo smeared on walkway to the house
    • Found a bag of dog poo left on top of our 1965 Corvette
As a side note, the 4th grader we carpool with is heavily brainwashed against Republicans. When he found out I was one, he was a bit shocked, immediately asked about the gay rights proposition, when I told him I was voting the "correct" way, he was shocked again: "But you're a republican!" I gently chewed him out about the ignorant view liberals have of Republicans.

He said when I told him I was supporting McCain: But isn't he a big liar?

"So is Obama," says I. "All politicians lie. They do it to get elected, then do what they really want once they get in. That's why you don't listen to politicians, but look at their record. Words are easy, votes are hard."

I also told him I didn't understand why any Jewish person would vote for Obama. Since they had obviously discussed the election at his temple, he was surprised again. I told him that Obama has spent his life in the company of people who are strongly anti-Israel and who want to see the Palestinians get Israel. If you supported Israel, I said, would you hang out with people like that?

If I made him think for a couple minutes, my job was done.

Victory Speech

I went to bed right after Obama's victory speech. I was too tired to comment then.

I thought it was a great speech. It sounded all the right notes, thanking his supporters, reaching out to those who didn't vote for him, and stating his admiration for John McCain. It was inspiring and moving.

Mr Obama has a hard job ahead of him. For now, he deserves to sit back and enjoy a short breather. This is a honeymoon period, but it won't last long.

Go Coleman

Oh Lord, please let this result stand!

"With 99 percent of the 4,130 precincts reporting, Coleman maintains an unofficial margin of less than 800 votes out of nearly 2.9 million cast, almost assuring that there will be a recount. Required in races with a winning margin of less than one half of 1 percent, the recount could delay a final result for days while ballots are retabulated across the state."
Please please please not Al Franken.

My sister recalls the Al Franken decade. Whatever happened to Tom Davis?

Yeah, right

This comment posted on Instapundit by Bill Daly is a bit silly:
Anyway, I'll go on record as predicting that Obama will be almost totally ineffectual as President. He appeared to think during the campaign that the office of President held absolute power in the US, but that is not the case. The big winner, unfortunately, was Congress. I doubt that even a majority of Democrats in Congress are actually socialist, and while they will support tax increasses big time, there's very little else of Obama's agenda that they're likely to back.
Let's see...
  1. Kyoto-style environmental regulations? Check!

  2. Card-check union rules? Check!

  3. Complete withdrawal from Iraq? Check!

  4. Bowing before the "international community" on such issues as:

    • International Criminal Court? Check!
    • Law of the Sea (though Bush was for this awful thing too)? Check!
    • Increased "tax" on first world countries given over to the UN? Check!
    • Internet reform to allow greater censorship worldwide (including Australia)? Check!
    • Telling Israel to F-Off! Check!

  5. Fairness Doctrine? Check!

  6. Supreme Court Justices who use empathy, or international opinion, instead of the Constitution? Check!
Nope. Obama won't get much of the liberal agenda through. No siree!

Prop 8

Being a regular denizen of The Corner, I naturally see a lot of talk in opposition to gay marriage. The death of marriage!!! seems to be the consensus over there. I've read most of their pieces on the subject, generally looking for anything that might be a teensy weensy bit convincing. They've never managed to sway me a bit.

They'll never be able to convince me that someone else's marriage is going to effect mine, nor the future generations'. Pointing to the coincidental decline of marriage in Europe and the introduction of gay marriage there is completely unconvincing to me; though, it is the strongest point they use at NRO. There are so many other reasons why marriage is in decline, that pointing to gay marriage as the culprit is just absurd.

So, I've been watching California's Proposition 8 compulsively all night as well. (Kudos to the Minnesota Sec of State, by the way--their page reloads in seconds, while the CA page takes minutes to load.)

The basic outline of the cause of the proposition is familiar: the courts decided that gays have a constitutional right to marry. In so doing, they echoed the Supreme Court's abortion decisions, and took the issue outside of normal democratic debate. The backlash is Proposition 8. If the courts found a constitutional rationale, then people would take that away with a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage.

I expected the proposition/amendment to crash and burn.

Much to my surprise, the amendment is currently up by about 280,000 votes with 22.4% of the votes counted.

However, I remember the last time I was compulsively checking on my state's voting was for an anti-Kelo proposition--one that would make it harder for the state to use "eminent domain". When I finally gave up and went to bed, the anti-Kelo side was comfortably in the lead. When I awoke the next morning I was shocked to find out that my idiot state voted the proposition down.

So, though the thing is passing at the moment, I still expect it to properly crash and burn.

Update (10pm PT): Looks like the lead for the yes side is already starting to back down. It's down to 234k now.

Update (10:15 PT): Dropping like a stone at the moment: 163k now.

Update (Wed AM): Shockingly this thing looks like it will pass by a couple hundred thousand votes. Apparently, whites were against it while blacks and Latinos for it by enough of a margin to pass it.

The second Al Franken decade?

I've been reloading the Minnesota Secretary of State's Senate results compulsively every minute or so (even though they are updating roughly every 15 minutes.)

For a while there, Coleman was up by just 195 votes, or 0.01%

Its back up into the 12k range, but it looks like it will swing wildly before this is settled. Maybe even ending up with the absentee ballots.

Election - Initial Reactions

I thought McCain gave a fine, gracious concession speech. I also think he ran an honorable campaign and has a right to be proud of that.

Looking around the Right side of the Blogosphere, there is disappointment, of course. But there is also pride in our country for having elected its first Black President. It does seem like a historic moment! We Rock!

I also see a real effort on the right to welcome our new President. Allahpundit, for example, writes:

I’ll never be a fan, but I swear I’ll never take a nutroots posture either in relishing his failures because it helps my party. Like it or not, he’s my president. As a great man once said, country first.
See that loony Lefties? That's called Patriotism.

My Other Candidate

Sorry Sarah.

See you in 2012!

President Obama

Well, it's pretty much over. Ohio looks like it's going for Obama. My candidate of choice has won the election! I'll let you know if and when I regret it. I am very nervous about it.

Indeed, I remember that William Safire backed Bill Clinton in 1992. (Wow. Can it really be 16 years ago?) I also remember laughing and referring to Mr Safire as "Chump of the Decade" when he became disillusioned shortly thereafter. I hope I won't be declaring myself "Chump of the Decade" any time soon.

In any case, congratulations Comrade Obama! May you rise to the occasion with the wisdom and modesty you have never shown before.

Thanks Mr President

Andrew Breitbart writes a note of thanks to President Bush.

I have a dark secret to tell before the election so that it's on the record. It's something that is difficult to say to certain friends, peers, family and, lately, many fellow conservatives.

I still like George W. Bush. A lot.

For starters, I am convinced he is a fundamentally decent man, even though I have read otherwise at the Huffington Post.

President Bush is far smarter, more articulate and less ideological than his plentiful detractors scream, and, ultimately, he will be judged by history - not by vengeful Democrats, hate-filled Hollywood, corrupt foreign governments, an imploding mainstream media or fleeting approval ratings.
Thank you Andrew. I couldn't have said it better myself.

Brave New Media

The technology is cool, but the whole concept is weird:

...instead of the split screen or window TV viewers might typically see during live remote interviews, the Obama spokesperson will be projected as a three-dimensional hologram, making it appear as if he or she is in the Manhattan studio with Blitzer. The network plans to conduct similar holographic interviews with representatives from the McCain campaign in Phoenix.

I can see some applications for this, but is this something that CNN is smart to be doing? Is viewer deception something that a news channel should be pioneering?

Chuck Shumer is an Idiot

He thinks political speech on the public airwaves deserves no more protection than pornography.

What a freakin' moron.

Karl Rove Throws in the Towel

And I for one welcome our new Democrat overlords. I'd like to remind them that as a trusted maverick scientist, I could be helpful in rounding up others to toil in their underground pinwheel factories.

My vote

My turn.

I really loathe John McCain. The things that turn him on and excite him: campaign finance "reform", legalizing illegals, etc., I can't stand. I think he'd be a menace. His instincts are to meet the Democrats half-way or worse. He would be Daschle'd worse that Bush Sr. ever was. The Dems in the Capitol would run circles around him.

That said, everything that McCain believes in that I can't stand, Obama believes in even more. And with a Democratic Capitol the country would be doomed.

If for one issue alone, I couldn't possibly give Obama my vote...the Supreme Court.

You see, I rather like democracy and the Constitution. Liberal justices believe in neither. To them, democracy is something to be overridden and ignored, and the Constitution is a quaint scrap of paper that means nothing.

If Obama gets 2 or 3 Justices, then they can literally rewrite the Constitution and there won't be a damned thing anyone with a vote can do about it. If you thought the McCain-Feingold legislation passing muster with the SCOTUS was a travesty (I've called it the worst decision since Dred Scot), then get ready for a court that treats that decision as little more than an appetizer.

Hold your nose and vote McCain!

Killer Plastic Bags (II)

Back in May, Steve wrote about killer plastic bags and the absurdity of some of the "killer" claims.

Well, now there is one documented case of a plastic-bag death:
[ Daily Tele ] Queensland's Environmental Protection Agency announced that the crocodile died a day after it was captured near Magnetic Island, close to the world famous coral reef which runs along Australia's northeastern coast.

The agency said 25 plastic shopping and garbage bags had been found inside the animal, along with a plastic wine cooler bag and a rubber float.

"Because the material had compacted solidly in its stomach it was unable to digest food," it said in a statement, adding that no animal would have survived with that much plastic compressed into its gut.

The Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority said it was surprised that the 3.5 metre (11.5 foot) crocodile had swallowed enough plastic bags, apparently over a long period of time, to kill it.

"I didn't know it was a problem for crocodiles specifically, you tend to hear it more as a problem for turtles," the authority's chairman Russell Reicheldt told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation on Monday.

Leaning Toward Obama-Palin

Well, it's time to decide for whom to vote. Here are my rambling and incoherent "thoughts."

As a practical matter, it doesn't matter for whom I vote, because Massachusetts is solidly Democrat. When you see "Obama 2012" yard signs around, you know you are in it deep. The Republicans couldn't even find someone to run against Barney Frank. The guy running as a Republican doesn't have the backing of the party. I'd feel better about him if it weren't for that bit about being convicted of beating up his 14 year old daughter.

Anyway, as I've said before, I don't like John McCain. I salute the man for his service to the country, but I don't think he would be an effective president. I have decided I can't vote for him. If I'm going to be angry with my government for the next four years I'd prefer to be angry at a Democratic government.

Bob Barr is a nut.

I don't like Obama either. His association with racist hatemongers and unrepentant terrorists is deeply disturbing. I wouldn't be caught dead associating with Bill Ayers. I wouldn't sit there in front of a racist minister for twenty years either. Would you? Further, I find his economic plan and health care plan completely unrealistic. Interesting that people still fall for the old "I promise to spend on you and make someone else pay for it!" line. His energy policy? Pinwheels and sunshine.

Still, I have to vote for someone. I'm leaning toward Obama. I think it would be good for the country to have a President who isn't white. That's it; that's all I've come up with. Call it affirmative action if you will. When presented with two equally craptacular candidates, one may choose in the interest of diversity.

This doesn't apply to Biden, of course. So I'm voting for Palin. I like her. She's someone I'd like to have over for barbecue. I'm thinking mooseburgers.

So there you have it. Obama-Palin. That's the ticket!


This article, Asteroid!, by Bill Whittle on NRO, contains probably the only time I have ever heard anyone, much less a political commentator on a well-respected magazine website, quote from "The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension."

I Sure am Gonna' Miss that Son of a Gun I Tell You What

Fox has cancelled King of the Hill.

LOS ANGELES (AP) — "King of the Hill" is over the hill at Fox, which is canceling the long-running animated comedy.

Final episodes of the half-hour series, now in its 13th year, likely will air during the 2009-10 season, Fox said Friday. The network recently ordered 13 new episodes, and animated series have a long production schedule.
It's too bad, it was a favorite of mine, and one of the few shows I would make an effort to try to see. I thought the characters were great, each with his own personality. Despite being animated, the characters seemed more real to me than most other shows out there. The humor was always good natured, never offensive or disgusting.

Speaking of offensive and disgusting, Fox has decided to create a spin-off from its animated series Family Guy. Would you believe "The Cleveland Show?" Sure I watch Family Guy now and then. Sometimes it is clever. But it is so often offensive just for the sake of being offensive that I rarely make it through an entire show. A friend of mine once pointed out the irony that much of what is passed off as "Adult Humor" is what you might hear in a seventh-grade boys' locker room. That pretty much sums up Family Guy.

Dems Vs. Libertarians

Workers at and at have given us their presidential picks. They make for interesting reading. All but one at Slate is backing Obama. What a surprise that is! Most folks at the Libertarian seem to either be backing Bob Barr or nobody. Quite a shock there too, eh?

But what strikes me about the statements of these people is how much more nutty the Libertarians seem compared to the Democrats. Yes, there are a few Democrats of the "Defeat McSame to end the Reich of Chimpy McHilterBurton!" variety at Slate, but generally the statements there seem well thought out and reasonable. In contrast, more of the statements at seem juvenile. Even one of the questions answered by each of the folks at "5. Leaving George W. Bush out of consideration, what former U.S. president would you most like to have waterboarded?" is really inappropriate. Good for Penn Jillette for saying so.

Is the Libertarian party to be taken seriously? I have my doubts. Consider their nominee, Bob Barr. The guy is a nut job. Can't they find a more reasonable candidate?

Generally, I support limited government and personal freedom. In theory, I should be sympathetic to Libertarian views. In practice though, the Libertarian party never fails to disappoint.

Founding Fathers on Spreading the Wealth

Mr. Motl has put together a nice collection of quotes from America's founding fathers on redistibution of wealth and the limits of government power. Good stuff! Have a look. Example:

“If Congress can do whatever in their discretion can be done by money, and will promote the general welfare, the government is no longer a limited one possessing enumerated powers, but an indefinite one subject to particular exceptions.” -James Madison

On the other hand, it's hard to argue with this woman. She also makes a good point:

Start making your list for Obama Claus now! (HT Instapundit.)

Obama, in his own words

Dare I link to the DailyKos? Obama writes:

Let me be clear: I am not arguing that the Democrats should trim their sails and be more "centrist." In fact, I think the whole "centrist" versus "liberal" labels that continue to characterize the debate within the Democratic Party misses the mark. Too often, the "centrist" label seems to mean compromise for compromise sake, whereas on issues like health care, energy, education and tackling poverty, I don't think Democrats have been bold enough. But I do think that being bold involves more than just putting more money into existing programs and will instead require us to admit that some existing programs and policies don't work very well. And further, it will require us to innovate and experiment with whatever ideas hold promise (including market- or faith-based ideas that originate from Republicans).

Read it all. Found via Gateway pundit, under the title "At Daily Kos Hate Website Obama Told Far Left to Fool Public To Further Cause." I have to disagree with Gateway; I don't get that message from reading Obama's essay.

In fact, it makes me feel better about a potential Obama presidency.

Happy Birthday To You!!!

It's my Steve's b-day today.


Stretched Analogies

John Hinderaker reminds me a bit of Adolph Hitler. Hinderaker is not a murderer of millions of people, of course, but here is the analogy: Hitler had a passion for writing about politics, law and culture.

Seriously, I'm a big fan of PowerLine. Mr. Hinderaker and the others at PowerLine have done a great job over the past several years of writing well thought out articles on law, politics and culture. But the start of that post had me laughing out loud.

This just goes to show that once in a while everyone who extensively writes or speaks publicly is going to say something absurd. If the speaker is famous enough, these gaffes will be repeated by his or her opponents ad nauseum, in an attempt to characterize them as typical.

A case in point is Rush Limbaugh. I haven't listened to Rush very much, and don't care too much for his program, but from what I have listened to I think he is nothing like how he is portrayed by his opponents. He is on the air for several hours every day. Out of those thousands of on-air hours, opponents pull a couple of absurd sentences out and claim that's the real Rush. It's nonsense.

Candidates and Trade

Via Instapundit, via Greg Mankiw, is this interesting article in the Times of India.

McCain is one of the few American politicians in either party with the courage and conviction to stand up to protectionist populism. By contrast, Obama embodies protectionism.

The whole thing is well worth reading. The best view is sometimes from the outside looking in.

Corey Miller, Well Driller

Sounds rather bitter and clingy.


This is cool. A scientific explanation for why people "see" apparitions:
[ Scientific American ] So far, they have found evidence that some apparitions may be brain benders caused by spiking EMFs (electromagnetic fields), and possibly even extremely low-–frequency sound waves (known as infrasound) so subtle that the ear does not register them as noise.

EMFs emitted by power lines and towers, clock radios and other electrical sources may help debunk myths that people or things are haunted...

Happy Divali 2008

Happy Divali Everyone!

It was a gorgeous fall day here in the Boston area. We had a good time at the local grade school's Pumpkin Fest. Lincoln grade school is very impressive too. Perhaps our Shivani will go there, if we are still living here in a few years.

Today is the first day of Divali. We are putting up lights and eating sweets. Best wishes to you and yours!

That Will Learn 'Em!

I liked comment #6 here:

I am high school teacher- I have done experiments with students’ grades- they have to pay a tax over 80% - with tax getting steeper after 90 and 95%. I often hear- its not fair- I worked for my grade.
To complete the wealth-spreading analogy, part of that grade tax should be added to the lower-scoring kids' grades.

This would probably be the most important lesson the students learn all year.

Culturally Out Of Touch

I've grown out of touch with popular culture. When I'm in the checkout line at the grocery store, I see a multitude of magazines and newspapers with beautiful people on their covers, and I have no idea who those people are. I read headlines like "Is it over for Jason and Melinda?" and "Trouble in paradise as Heather gives Bruce ultimatum!" and wonder why it is I'm supposed to care about these strangers. Now this story is making all the headlines: "Jennifer Hudson's mother, brother slain in Chicago."

"We can confirm that there is an ongoing investigation concerning the deaths of Jennifer Hudson's mother, Darnell Donerson, and her brother, Jason Hudson," Kasteler said in a statement. "No further comment will be made and the family has asked that their privacy be respected at this difficult time."

I feel sorry for Jennifer and her family. I wish them well, but I have no idea who they are.

That Chilling Effect

If you follow this link and type in a name, you can see what campaign donations persons with that name have made in recent years. Here is an example:

I can see that Ben Stein, "Self-Employed TV Star," residing on Shoreham Drive in West Hollywood, donated $2000 to the McCain campaign. Poor ol' Ben looks to be quite alone in his neighborhood. I can also see one of my sisters made a $1000 donation. I like her choice!

It amazes me that people think this is a good thing. Talk about an invasion of privacy, and freedom of association!

The Left drones on and on about McCarthy and HUAC's activities of 50 years ago. Their demand that certain citizens declare or deny their association with the Communist Party is considered a black mark in our history.

Now however, people who donate to political parties are "outed" by law on-line for everyone to see. You can see how much they gave to whom, and where they live. What if I want to belong to some fringe party? What if you are a Republican in West Hollywood? What if you are a Libertarian in Brookline MA? Is it any of your neighbor's business? What if you are an employer who would rather not hire a Democrat? Should you be able to check on line to see if your potential employee made some donations you don't approve of?

Who's business is it how much you give to a campaign?

Few people seem to care, but campaign finance reform has been a terrible infringement on our most fundamental rights; freedom of speech and association. How can I support John McCain in light of his support for this infringement?

A War We Can Win?

The US is under attack from a foreign invader: the Asian Longhorned Beetle.

WORCESTER, Mass. – A wood-devouring beetle has gained a foothold in New England, and authorities plan to cut down large numbers of infested trees and grind them up to stop the pest from spreading to the region's celebrated forests and ravaging the timber, tourism and maple-syrup industries.

I grew up amid the devastating epidemic of Dutch Elm Disease. It wiped out much of the elm-lined street of my home town. This new invader is even scarier, as it attacks many of the varieties of trees that make up the forests of the northeast:

The Asian longhorned beetle (Anoplophora glabripennis) (ALB), called Starry Sky, or Sky Oxen beetle in China is native to China and other areas of eastern Asia where it causes widespread mortality of poplar, willow, elm, and maple trees.

The Federal Government has so far been doing a good job keeping the beetle at bay. Mostly this involves cutting down infected trees and burning the remains. Targeted insecticide also seems effective. I am glad they are taking this threat seriously. I'm not an enviro-nut, but I think this effort deserves our full support.

Ann says: I am still amazed that one street in our home town managed to keep all their elms, while every other street was devastated. If you're ever in Shorewood, Wisconsin, drive down Shorewood drive near the lake to see how the town used to look.

Since then, resistant strains of elm have been developed. It has reached the point where you were safer planting elms than maples--which these days have more diseases.

But this new bug sounds bad, if it can cross species lines to attack everything.

It seems to be "Bug Day" at Saltzafrazz!

Universal Preschool

For this video

I posted this comment:

I firmly believe we should experiment with publicly-funded pre-school over the next few years. Indeed, I suggest we have publicly funded day care for childern in the 1-4 year old range as well. Four years from now, we can evaluate these programs and end them if they turn out to be too burdensome for taxpayers. Full disclosure: I'm the parent of a 10 month old, and day care is costing us $1400/month for three 8-hour days per week of care.

I was being facetious, of course. My point was that I think this proposal is being promoted not just for the supposed benefits of early education. What parent doesn't want "free" child care?


This is a bit scary...considering we have these kind of spiders around here. Ours aren't nearly so big, though. Ours have an abdomen a bit bigger than a dime and make gorgeous webs across our back yard. If you go for a walk and look up, you'll often see these relatively huge guys hanging from the trees. They totally freak out my niece, and she won't walk by them.

Engineer Shortage

The supposed scientist/engineer shortage in the US is nonsense. John Tierney tells the truth

If the United States really has a critical shortage of scientists and engineers, why didn’t this year’s graduates get showered with lucrative job offers and signing bonuses?...

But employers don’t have to throw around that kind of money because there’s no shortage of workers — and they won’t be increasing their offers if the federal government artificially inflates the labor supply with an extra 100,000 graduates. As Daniel S. Greenberg wrote in the Scientist magazine in 2003: “Despite the alarms, no current or impending shortage exists, and never did. Instead, we’re glutted with scientists and engineers in many fields, as numerous job seekers with respectable credentials can attest.”

Read it all. Many of the comments are good too. I agree the alleged science/engineer labor shortage is a construct of the industries that employ scientists and engineers. That includes research universities. When they say they can't get good help, they mean they can't get good help at the price they want to pay.

Despite what you hear, American students aren't stupid. Indeed, they are smart enough to know that S/E types don't make a lot of money for the amount of education required. Those who do make good money often do so by getting an MBA and going into management.

Obama's plan to train another 100,000 engineers isn't going to work unless the wages for that kind of work go up. American students have better opportunities. It seemed at one point that everyone I went to grad school with was bailing out and getting a Wall Street job. Maybe that is changed now, and those folks will be looking for jobs. If there is a S/E shortage, they shouldn't have any trouble finding a new job, right?

Ann says: When I was first looking at engineering jobs, I learned that most are consulting jobs. That means they can fire you any time they want, also the vacation time was pretty much non-existent--new hires literally got no vacation time the first year, then they got a couple of days the second. No job security, lousy benefits, and less pay than similarly-educated peers. Yep, sign me up!

Draft Registration

Obama is right about this

"And I think that if women are registered for service -- not necessarily in combat roles, and I don't agree with the draft -- I think it will help to send a message to my two daughters that they've got obligations to this great country as well as boys do."

It's not a big deal, but I do think women should have to register for the draft. If, heaven forbid, there were a major war requiring the draft, there would be plenty of opportunities for women to serve. McCain thinks otherwise.

Disinvitation frenzy

Why is Michelle Malkin, of all people, celebrating the disinvitation of Bill Ayers from U of NE? She's treating it like a conservative triumph.

This strikes me as terribly wrong-headed. As conservatives, we should stand up for all forms of speech. More often than not, it is conservatives who are disinvited. Just as we stand against the practice when it is used against our speakers, so should we be against it when it goes the other way.

This is not a feather in the conservative cap, a trophy for the wall. It is a sad day when conservatives applaud the death of anyone's ability to speak and be heard. As is always said when things like this go against us, the correct response to speech you don't like is not to silence the speaker, but to answer their speech with your own. Let Ayers speak, but answer his speech with more speech, not less.

Legalize It!

Or decriminalize it. There is a reefer-endum on the Massachusetts ballot this November, called 'Question 2':

This proposed law would replace the criminal penalties for possession of one ounce or less of marijuana with a new system of civil penalties, to be enforced by issuing citations, and would exclude information regarding this civil offense from the state's criminal record information system. Offenders age 18 or older would be subject to forfeiture of the marijuana plus a civil penalty of $100. Offenders under the age of 18 would be subject to the same forfeiture and, if they complete a drug awareness program within one year of the offense, the same $100 penalty.

This seems pretty sensible to me. Let's face it, the "War on Drugs" has been a colossal failure. I don't see why we are locking people up for smoking some pot. If an adult wants to do that, it's not any of my business, is it? Laws against public use, public intoxication, DUI, sales and manufacture aren't being removed.

Is holding an ounce of pot severe enough a crime to ruin someone's life over? I don't think so. It seems pretty much like a victimless crime to me. The serious crimes related to drugs seem more to be a result of their illegality.

Maybe I'm wrong. But I think that it's past time to try some new drug strategy. So I'm likely to vote 'Yes' on question 2.

I'll see what my wife thinks though. Mine is the only vote in the family.

Obama-Biden Health Plan

Let's go over the Obama-Biden HealthCare Plan point by point.

Require insurance companies to cover pre-existing conditions so all Americans regardless of their health status or history can get comprehensive benefits at fair and stable premiums.
Covering pre-existing conditions isn't insurance. It's charity. Insurance companies will need to spread the extra cost by increasing premiums. This part of the plan gives a strong disincentive for people to get insurance. Would you buy auto insurance if you knew you could get coverage after you got in an accident? O-B will need to require coverage by law, like Massachusetts does.
Create a new Small Business Health Tax Credit to help small businesses provide affordable health insurance to their employees.
Frankly, I would like to see health insurance separated from employment, not more tightly bound to it. This credit should be offered to those who purchase insurance on their own.

Lower costs for businesses by covering a portion of the catastrophic health costs they pay in return for lower premiums for employees.
I'm not sure what means. Who will be covering that portion? The government? In return the government gets lower premiums for employees? "In return" is a strange term to use then. Odd that the O-B plan doesn't simply mandate catastrophic coverage rather than get the government involved in paying health costs.

Prevent insurers from overcharging doctors for their malpractice insurance and invest in proven strategies to reduce preventable medical errors.
Insurance companies are going to prevent medical errors? Or the government? Isn't that something the medical profession should be doing? How much charge is "overcharge?" How about legislation to prevent giant payouts to lawyers for bogus medical claims? You know, the kind of thing that made Edwards filthy rich.

Make employer contributions more fair by requiring large employers that do not offer coverage or make a meaningful contribution to the cost of quality health coverage for their employees to contribute a percentage of payroll toward the costs of their employees health care.
Hey, an O-B slip of the tongue! Admitting these contributions will be coming from "a percentage of payroll!" Repeat after me... "If the employer writes the check, the employer bears the cost, not the employee."

Establish a National Health Insurance Exchange with a range of private insurance options as well as a new public plan based on benefits available to members of Congress that will allow individuals and small businesses to buy affordable health coverage.
I don't know any specifics of Congress' health plan, but dollars to donuts (a fair bet these days) it's creme de la creme. This is going to be affordable?

Ensure everyone who needs it will receive a tax credit for their premiums.
Free private health insurance for the poor? How poor? Is it ok if I ask what kind of coverage this will be?

Lower drug costs by allowing the importation of safe medicines from other developed countries, increasing the use of generic drugs in public programs and taking on drug companies that block cheaper generic medicines from the market
I agree with this, as long as patents are respected. However, I doubt this will work as well as promised. The fact is, some other countries regulate the cost of drugs more than we do. Drug companies are not going to allow the country with the lowest regulated price to act as a conduit for drug re-importation into the US near that lowest price. They will limit the supply to those countries. The countries will then threaten to ignore the patent protection. It will be a mess, requiring the US government to act to defend US drug manufacturers through trade agreements. Do you think that will happen?

Require hospitals to collect and report health care cost and quality data
Is there a hospital somewhere that doesn't do this?

Reduce the costs of catastrophic illnesses for employers and their employees.
Um... a little vague about the details there, no?

Reform the insurance market to increase competition by taking on anticompetitive activity that drives up prices without improving quality of care.
Activities such as? I think they mean there are too few companies. How is that to be fixed?

The Obama-Biden plan will promote public health. It will require coverage of preventive services, including cancer screenings, and increase state and local preparedness for terrorist attacks and natural disasters.
This isn't really insurance, because the cost of screening is a sure thing. If the screening costs everyone $500, the insurance company will raise premiums by $500 per person. It has to. Insurance isn't charity. Which cancer screenings will be covered? All of them? Wouldn't some cost/benefit analysis be in order?

Barack Obama will pay for his $50 - $65 billion health care reform effort by rolling back the Bush tax cuts for Americans earning more than $250,000 per year and retaining the estate tax at its 2009 level.
... Under the plan, if you like your current health insurance, nothing changes, except your costs will go down by as much as $2,500 per year.
I'm sorry, but I just don't believe this O-B mantra of getting all this revenue from folks making $250k or more.

I read the more "detailed plan." Not really much more detail in there.

You Have Been Warned

Must-read editorial in the Wall Street Journal. It begins

If the current polls hold, Barack Obama will win the White House on November 4 and Democrats will consolidate their Congressional majorities, probably with a filibuster-proof Senate or very close to it. Without the ability to filibuster, the Senate would become like the House, able to pass whatever the majority wants.
then proceeds to outline a libertarian's worst nightmare.

Back When Hollywood Had Talent

I'm posting this just because it made me smile. It's Sammy Davis Jr back in 1933, when he was 6.

Found at the always entertaining Dirty Harry's Place.

Ann says: While were tapping today, how 'bout 2 of the best. I give you the Nicholas Brothers, will Cab Calloway singing "Jumpin' Jive", from the movie "Stormy Weather" (1943). These 2 inspired everyone who came after them:

Or how about a very talented lady. Ann Miller, "Easter Parade" (1948):

Put Down that Crystal Ball

From the New York Times:
IT started with a Harvard physicist acting on a hunch. It ended up producing a new material, called black silicon, that could have a broad impact on technologies ranging from ultrasensitive sensors to photovoltaic cells.

Stop right there! I don't know nuttin' about "Black Silicon" but I am really tired of reading about how every scientific advance "may lead to" a breakthrough in cancer or other medical treatment, computer technology, or energy production. If I had a dollar for every touted "breakthrough..."

You will see the same sort of language in grant proposals. If grant proposals are the measure, every scientist's research is of critical importance and "may lead to" tremendous advancements for humanity.

The trouble is, sometimes there really is an advance of breakthrough importance. How is the person who comes up with that going to be heard above the noise? Maybe "Black Silcon" is such an advance. But my initial reaction to the first paragraph in that Times' article is to roll my eyes and say to myself "blah blah blah, give me a break."

Nationalized Banks.

U.S. Forces Nine Major Banks To Accept Partial Nationalization

Why aren't more people shocked or upset by this? Isn't this a sea change in our economic system? Shouldn't it be getting more scrutiny and debate?

Have Trumpet, Will Excite!

I have decided to give the trumpet a try. I found my sister's old Getzen up in my parent's attic. It needed a bit of soldering, but otherwise seemed ok. My parents very kindly had the soldering done in Milwaukee and sent it to me last week.

So far, I have found it much more difficult to play than I hoped. It took me a couple of days to get from middle C up to G and back down. It took me until yesterday to get from C to the next C up. Today I hit a very weak D above that. I can easily go down to A below middle C. So I am making progress, but it is pretty slow. Not slow enough to discourage me yet though.

Dad thinks I should be sure there is nothing wrong with the trumpet; it's been up in the attic for about 3 decades. My guess is that there is nothing wrong with it, I just don't have the chops. I was hoping that playing the flute would have strengthened my lips a bit to make it easier, but it seems that the different embouchure means it's not much help.

In any case, I have a new-found respect for trumpet players! I can't imagine how in the world a guy like Dizzy Gillespie plays as high as he does. It's astounding.

What A Racket!

What a racket the textbook publication business is. Greg Mankiw has a new edition of his textbook "Principles of Economics." What justifies a new edition?

Why a new edition? The fundamentals of economics are much the same: Supply curves still slope up, and demand curves still slope down. But a lot has changed over the past three years, and the new edition covers recent developments in economic research, events, and policy. In particular, it includes over 40 new applications, including Case Studies and In the News boxes, to remind students that economics is about the world in which they live.

I have my doubts about whether any "cutting edge" economic research is required in an introductory econ text. Forty new applications are not necessarily better than the old applications. How about just issuing a brief paperback supplement to the current edition for those "In the News" bits? You could issue such a supplement every year, or have it on a website. Wouldn't that be more up-to-date than a new edition every five years or so, and thus be better for students?

Call me cynical, but I suspect there is another reason for a new edition. It has a list price of $193.95. Heaven forbid there be a market for used textbooks!