## Very big day!

Today was a very, very big day!

First of all it was the science fair at school, and our fourth grader did a great job!!! She did it on the twin Mars rovers Spirit and Opportunity. They've been working on this project since January, and she really knows her stuff!!

Even our second grader loved the science fair, and he was very proud of his sister.

They had an assembly in the morning with the kids and the parents. The fourth grade had to sing a cheesy version of John Lennon's "Imaging"...Imagine no pollution. It's easy if you try...no smog around us... I was proud of the kids, when it was time to stand up and sing it, they all groaned.

Then, I got the call around lunch that the girl's glasses were ready. It's a one-day glasses store, and she only picked them out yesterday after school. She barely, barely needs glasses. Her perscription is -0.75/-0.5, but she's been getting headaches at school, so glasses it is. Here she is (in her t-shirt from the fair):

It's hard to tell, but the glasses are very thin blue wires.

Then, the big surprise came in the boy's homework. He had a two-page spelling test today. Here it is:

Yes, that says 94% on one side and 100%!!!!!!!!! on the other. And this was from a boy who was scoring in the 30's just a few months ago.

Now, we had a bargain with the kid. There is a shirt he absolutely loathes. If he scored 90% or better on a spelling test he could cut it up. He went one better. He cut it up, then had me burn it:

Now the kids are chilling watching a Harry Potter movie.

Both kids say this was their best day ever!

## Square Dots

I posted a bunch of children's book reviews over on Square Dots. Also one post commenting on writing in general.

## Arizona in the courts

The new law in Arizona making it legal for police officers to ask for immigration status if they have probable cause will soon be making its way through the courts. Some say it has no chance whatsoever of clearing legal challenges. Byron York, for one, is saying that the law was carefully crafted and could well pass muster.

The opponents are all up in arms over it, anyway, just in case it will be activate in a discriminatory manner.

So, here's my question. If the law passes constitutional tests, if the police enforce it only when genuine probable cause exists, then what will the opponents use to argue against it?

Doesn't their argument fall apart? Aren't they reduced to a simple open-border message? A message that would never win in a democratic system in this country?

## Steyn is wrong

A rare, event , I know. I really like Mark Steyn and I usually agree with him. But this, is at least partially wrong:
The Language of Love [Mark Steyn]

Readers sometimes express skepticism about my tales of Quebec's "language police" - the pet shop owner fined for having an English-speaking parrot, etc. So here, from the Montreal Gazette, and as a reminder of the forensic intrusions of the regulatory state, is the tale of the unilingual anglophone sex aid that fell afoul of the bureaucrats:

## Government follies

There is a radio commercial running here on Southern California for a ballot initiative. It has a husband and wife discussing a coupon for reduced car insurance rates because, among other things, the wife is a good driver and has been continually insured for several years.

They celebrate the ability to use this coupon, then find out that according to the law, the coupon can only be used with their current insurer. Horrors! You mean we can't take this great coupon to another insurer! Why? Because there is a quirk in the law. Quick, let's pass a ballot initiative making it mandatory for all insurers to take the coupon!!!!

Every time I hear this ad, I am shocked with the underlying rationale. According to the way the ad plays, it is clear that there is a government mandate that your insurance company offer you a discount if you are accident-free and have been insured continuously.

Every time I hear the commercial asking for a ballot initiative to make this law more robust, I can't help screaming in my head: Why is this a law in the first place!!! Whether or not my insurance company offers me a discount is between me and them. If they don't, I am perfectly capable of hunting around for one that will. Why is the government even involved!!!

It's a perfect example of government overreach.

The other day, Victor Davis Hanson posted a piece on the lies our society is constantly telling itself. It seems to me that there is an underlying lie behind this:
After spending most of the book roundly criticizing the admissions practices of many of the nation's most prestigious colleges, Golden turns to what he considers a model institution: The California Institute of Technology. Unlike other leading colleges, Caltech does not allow the prerogatives of privilege -- whether wealth, fame or legacy status -- to affect who gets in. In stark contrast to other top institutions, Caltech believes that it is possible to raise the funds necessary to maintain a great university without using admission as a bribe, and its own distinguished history supports that belief.

But the Caltech admissions policy, though exemplary in its integrity, is not without problems. In no small part because of its narrowly conventional definition of merit (primarily scores on standardized tests, grades and rank in class), it has been notoriously unsuccessful in enrolling African Americans; in 2004, just one out of 207 Caltech freshmen was black (for purposes of comparison, the black proportions of the undergraduate student body at MIT, Stanford and Harvard -- all of which use a more flexible definition of merit -- were 6, 10 and 8 percent, respectively). .( Via TaxProf )
The underlying lie is, of course, not that African Americans are inherently less capable than whites. But it is that the schools African Americans mostly go to are not competent, or that their socialization discourages them from the science geekdom required of Cal Tech students, or both.

The underlying lie is the refusal to answer honestly the question: why aren't more African Americans ready for a career at Cal Tech?

## Alumni watch

A tough article in Foreign Policy about the butchery going on in Africa. The article mentions one of the good guys--and fellow Grinnell Alumni--John Garang.
How did we get here? Maybe it's pure nostalgia, but it seems that yesteryear's African rebels had a bit more class. They were fighting against colonialism, tyranny, or apartheid. The winning insurgencies often came with a charming, intelligent leader wielding persuasive rhetoric. These were men like John Garang, who led the rebellion in southern Sudan with his Sudan People's Liberation Army. He pulled off what few guerrilla leaders anywhere have done: winning his people their own country. Thanks in part to his tenacity, South Sudan will hold a referendum next year to secede from the North. Garang died in a 2005 helicopter crash, but people still talk about him like a god. Unfortunately, the region without him looks pretty godforsaken. I traveled to southern Sudan in November to report on how ethnic militias, formed in the new power vacuum, have taken to mowing down civilians by the thousands.

## Trust

Here's a post from Powerline:
Democrats and distrust

According to a Pew poll released Sunday night, trust in the federal government to do the "right thing" most of the time has fallen to a near all-time low of 22 percent. In its report on the poll, the Los Angeles Times notes that a comparable level of public skepticism has been reached only twice in the past -- from 1992 to 1995 (reaching a low of 17 percent trusting in government in the summer of 1994) and from 1978 to 1980 (bottoming out at 25 percent in 1980). Trust in government was never this low during the presidency of George W. Bush.
There is one particular characteristic that these periods, '78-'80, '92-'95, and the current day, all have uniquely in common. What is it?

They are the only years in the last 40 in which all 3 major chambers in Washington were controlled by Democrats: Jimmy Carter had a Democratic House for his entire term, then lost the White House and the Senate to Republicans in 1980. Bill Clinton had Democrats at both ends of the Capitol from the start of his presidency in 1991 until both houses switched hands in the 1994 elections. And now Obama has power across Washington.

What about the reverse? What was the mood towards government when the Republicans had full control? It only happened from the election of George W Bush in 2000 (taking office in 2001) until the Democrats took over the Capitol in the 2006 (2007) election. Here's a graph:

Wow, 2002 was the high point. Kinda like people liked the Republicans in control! (Remember too that this was after 9/11.) Most of that nice hump on the right hand side of the graph also corresponds to Republican control of the Capitol. Which they held from the 1994 elections (1995) until the Democratic takeover of both houses in the 2006 ones (2007). Of course, as the people realized that this particular bunch of Republicans could outspend a bar-full of drunken Democrats, trust in them waned too.

The other hump on the left corresponds to a period where the Democrats held the House, but the Republicans held the Senate and White House.

So people seem much happier about government when the Republicans get a say in things.

Is anyone surprised by that?

## Census

How annoying are aspects of this year's census? Pretty damn annoying.

First, the deadline to send the form back in is now passed. I missed it, so the bureau will be sending someone to our door. Looking at the form now, I see that this deadline is not given anywhere. How idiotic is that? Vhat is zee point of having zee deadline, if zay don't tell zee people filling out zee form vhat zee deadline ist?

Second, the whole "race" section is offensive.

"Hispanic origins are not races," so that Mexican and Cuban are not separate races, but Chinese and Korean are separate races? How does that make sense? Why are Chinese/Korean separate, but Finnish/Macedonian are not? According to this form, my wife and I are separate races. What then is our daughter? There is no check box for "multi-racial."

Our daughter is a healthy mix of various ethnicities. I guess that doesn't count for anything, according to our government. The fact is that there is zero scientific basis for these questions, they exist only to advance divisive ethnic identity politics. Offensive indeed.

Ann says: I just did "Other" and wrote in American for everybody.

## Oh, for a quick hand and a camera!

While in the car stopped at a light today, a panhandler walked by my car, literally hat in hand. He then turned around, and I got to see the back of his shirt. It said:

"AIM LOW"

It was some sort of a pro-gun T-shirt, but I thought the phrase the perfect one for a panhandler's shirt.

Update 4/13/10: Well, I guess not. Boo.

## Find x

Hat tip: Watts Up With That

## Why VAT is a terrible idea

I hate the idea of a national sales tax for a very simple reason. Under the current system, once a year we all put together our tax return and see very plainly in black and white how much money we made and how much the government takes away.

Under the VAT, that becomes deeply obscured. Which, of course, is the big reason pro-government people like it. We never have a clean accounting of how much the government is taking from us.

## Home from India

We are home from a two week trip to India visiting family. It took 46 hours to get home, door to door. We had to overnight in Atlanta after our flight was cancelled due to weather. Our two year old held up very well, which was a blessing.

There have been a number of nice improvements to the Mumbai airport. It looks quite nice now and makes a much better impression. There are shops and bars there that seem to be open 24 hours. A neighbor of my in-laws told me that the airport has been privatized. That move seems to have worked out well.

It's good to be home.

## It's a Gas!

A couple of days ago, a man came to my in-law's apartment complex in India, fogging up the place with what I was told was a cloud of DDT. He walked through the common areas, including the main courtyard and areas around the building.

India is the largest user if DDT today, according to Wikipedia, although it is supposedly only used in small indoor applications.
I wonder to what extent DDT is also used unofficially. I wouldn't be surprised if there is a large black market for the stuff.

## Here's a merry jest

I like to read this like a breathless teenage girl. It's really from Hilary Clinton in the Guardian today:

This agreement is just one of several concrete steps the United States is taking to make good on President Obama's pledge to make America and the world safer by reducing the threat of nuclear weapons, proliferation and terrorism.
Or perhaps, it will read better like this:
Like, this agreement is, you know, just, like one of several concrete steps the United States is, like, taking to make good on President Obama's, you know, pledge to make America and the world safer by, like, reducing, you know, the threat of nuclear weapons, proliferation and terrorism. Isn't that the coolest thing, like, ever!
Read the whole thing, it's silliness.

## Red eye

This is a cool video:

I would make only one observation, whether from desire or noise ordinances, Americans seem much more willing to take red-eye flights than Europeans. The number of red-eye flights in the US and to Europe far outweighs the number of internal European red-eyes or intercontinental ones.