The EPA's Mercury Madness

The EPA's Mercury Madness -

Good point.


How Democrats Fooled California’s Redistricting Commission - ProPublica

This was always a stupid idea. It always meant that the groups with the best organization (i.e. unions) would rule. In the article, they said demographics should have resulted in Republicans holding the seats they had. Instead Democrats are expected to pick up half a dozen.

What emerges is a portrait of skilled political professionals armed with modern mapping software and detailed voter information who managed to replicate the results of the smoked-filled rooms of old.

The losers in this once-a-decade reshaping of the electoral map, experts say, were the state’s voters. The intent of the citizens’ commission was to directly link a lawmaker’s political fate to the will of his or her constituents. But as ProPublica’s review makes clear, Democratic incumbents are once again insulated from the will of the electorate.

What goes up

What goes up, must come down. This time tragically. A girl shot in the head when a gun that was being cleaned 1.5 miles away fired accidentally.


SOPA and the oblivious
It’s bizarre and entertaining to hear people who yesterday were all about allegedly benign and intelligent government interventions suddenly discovering that in practice, what they get is stupid and vicious legislation that has been captured by a venal and evil interest group.

The bill allows the government to censor the internet.


Christopher Hitchens has died. Very sad.

I pick Amazon

Independent bookstores vs. Amazon: Buying books online is better for authors, better for the economy, and better for you. - Slate Magazine

I'd have to agree. I don't see much point in local bookstores...even B&I doesn't get a visit very often anymore. It's just much easier to say "let's see if it's on the Kindle" and start reading it 30 seconds later, than it is to get in the car and go to the B&I at the mall.

We have Amazon Prime as well, which is a great thing. We do all of our Christmas shopping from the comfort of home, then it appears at mom's house half way across the country just 2 days later. Then there are all the Amazon Prime videos, which seems superior to Netflix anyway.

Steve Says: Yes, I agree too. Going to the bookstore might be "something to do" still, i.e. something to get you out of the house. But the bookstore book selection is clearly inferior (especially for science and math), and I often find the reviews of other readers you find on line quite useful. Links to related books are useful too. You can even peek into most books online now. All in all, it's a winning combination.

Party like it's 2008

What's wrong with this headline?

Manpower hiring survey is most optimistic since 2008 - JSOnline

Here's a quote from the article:

The quarterly poll of employers' expectations compiled by Manpower Inc. found "the most promising hiring outlook" since the period that immediately preceded the financial meltdown of 2008, according to the Milwaukee-based global staffing services company

Spot the problem?

It's right here in blue and red, from my latest employment graph:

Yep, 2008 is the year when employment seriously tanked.

So, pop the champagne corks, we can party like it's 2008 again!!

Right and left hands

There were two major summits for Europe last week.

The heads of state of the European Union met last week to try to hammer out an EU and euro-saving agreement. Loaded with mountains of debt and slow growth, the community faces serious threats of a major recession or depression.

Meanwhile, far down south in Durban, South Africa these same heads of state sent bureaucrats down to a climate summit, where they agreed to hamstring their economies and take on more debt, and thus hasten the coming major recession or depression.

Who's to blame for this mess?

Britain and the US and the whole g*& d*&^ Anglo world, of course!!!


Kirsten Powers: Only Question Is If Gingrich Implodes Before Or After Getting GOP Nomination | Mediaite

Yep, that's about it.

Employment numbers

So, is today's unemployment report good news or bad news? The answer is neither of the above; it is actually irrelevant. The reason for this are two words: "Seasonally adjusted". The numbers that come out this month and next, the numbers that the media will all jump upon, will get revised next month and again the month after. Historically, November and December have large, very large downward revisions.

(Keep in mind that the Household survey, which is what they use to calculate the unemployment rate does not get revised. So the 8.6% number is already final.)

Last year, the initial job numbers were downgraded by 483,000 jobs by the time they were finalized. The 2009 numbers were downgraded a whopping 1,299,000 jobs. In 2008 it was revised by 412,000 downwards, and in 2007 it went down 430,000. So, the numbers that came out today will very likely be downgraded by at least 300,000, more likely by 400,000 or more. Combine the two and we are talking about the numbers between now and the end of the year probably being wrong by a combined 850,000 jobs.

The media, of course, rarely go back and correct the record. Here is a chart of monthly revisions. Novembers are unrevised, last month has had its first revision, and September's numbers are final. Here is a graph showing the size and direction of the revisions over the last few years:

So, taking into account that the numbers will likely be completely changed over the next two months, the how do the numbers look? We now have as many jobs (Household survey) in the country as we had in June, 2009...and February, 2005. In other words, there are no more jobs in the country today than there were almost 6 years ago. The Employer survey looks worse. We have the same number of jobs today as in May, 2009...and October, 2004. Celebrate!

Here's the graph showing a slow but steady increase in employment on both the Household and the Employment series:

So, we'll have the real November and December numbers solidified on the first Friday of March. Until then, take these with a big lump of pink Himalayan salt.

Do the work


I was just discussing this very thing with the 11-year-old today:

Almost everyone I know started with crappy jobs like hauling shingles up a ladder, but if you’re not willing to do the crap work chances are you won’t make it that far. There are lots of jobs advertised but there are lots more that aren’t.

She mentioned that she and a friend were naming jobs they wouldn't want when they get older; she mentioned working in a fast-food restaurant. I pointed out that they were actually okay jobs; that they were good for an entry level; that often if you work hard at one, you can get promoted relatively quickly; that they often have reasonably good benefits; and that people want to know you can do the awful jobs before you can get a better one.

I also pointed out that it was a good second job when you were just starting out. I told her that you often have to take a job that doesn't pay enough when you begin. It might be in your dream line of work at your dream company, but you are still getting paid bupkis. You take it, hoping that you will get promoted and move towards the job you really want. In that case, you often need to work two jobs. So, don that polyester uniform and pay the rent!

Herman Cain

Good bye and good riddance.

Did he really think he could run for President while keeping his 13-year extra-marital affair secret? 

What an egotistical horse's ass.

What a colossal waste of everyone's time.  Not to mention those poor saps who worked on his campaign or donated money.

Again, good riddance!


Jetman's latest


Choo'n Gum

This one's for mom

Dropping a bomb

Last night at 1AM, this appeared on Watts Up With That:

The link is to a second Climategate data dump. A whole new batch of about 5,000 e-mails (with about 200,000 more behind firewall protected by an unreleased password) from climate researchers are now out in the open. Lots of good stuff about helping "the cause" is coming out already.

I love the data dump. A subtle little, unexplained link simply appears in the middle of the night and all hell breaks loose. Well done, FOIA!

OWS farewell song

As OWS tries to find what to do with itself now that Zuccotti park has been cleared out, I offer this:

Quote of the Day

Quote of the Day, by Lubos Motl:

This sequence of sentences sounds just like this: "If an elephant is a bird, then a cactus must need water at least sometimes to survive. Let's try a thought experiment. Using a cactus, we can create a baby that is a boy exactly when it is not a boy. Therefore, an elephant is a dinosaur. It follows that Obama was born in Kenya."

Old FM Band

Who knew? Prior to WWII, the FM band was from about 41.2 to 50.4 MHz:

After the war, the FCC moved the band to the now familiar 88-108 or so. Broadcasters and the 400,000 or so people who had FM receivers at the old band were just out of luck! Wow, I would have been pretty ticked off if I had sunk money in one of those sets.

Anyway, you learn something new every day. See some really nice old radios here, where I got the pic above.

Stupid headline of the day

Former Eden Prairie schools chief hired part-time by private company |

In other words: "This gal got a job!"

Selling out Taiwan

I'm still trying to get my chin off the floor after having read "To Save Our Economy, Ditch Taiwan" in today's NYTimes

He [Obama] should enter into closed-door negotiations with Chinese leaders to write off the $1.14 trillion of American debt currently held by China in exchange for a deal to end American military assistance and arms sales to Taiwan and terminate the current United States-Taiwan defense arrangement by 2015.

I really don't have much to say... I am just shocked that anyone would suggest such a thing, especially in a national newspaper. Shouldn't our foreign policy have the tiniest bit of morality worked into it? Yeesh.

What determines which articles in the NYTimes allow comments and which don't? I would like to see the reaction of others.

Ann says:

NRO's Mark Krikorian picks up the story on the Corner.

As does Ed Morrisey at Hot Air.

We deserve this

In the last year or so, I must have seen and heard a couple hundred variations on this theme:
Yet Europe's problem isn't the euro. If it were, Hungary, Iceland and Latvia—none of which use the euro—would have been spared their painful days of reckoning. The same applies for Britain. Europe is in a debt spiral brought about by spendthrift, overweening and inefficient governments.

The problem is not the various governments of the euro-zone, the US, Ohio, California, Detroit, or pretty much every other place on the map, because whenever they are talking about this fundamental problem of debt control, they are talking about democracies. The problem is not the governments that people elect, the problem is with the people who believe lunch should always be free.

When the people's representatives dole out favors, tax breaks, subsidies, social welfare programs, etc. they buy votes. But is it the fault of the politicians who throw around tax money like beads during Mardi Gras, or is it the fault of the electorate that greedily feast on the dole and happily reelect the people who give them free stuff!

Democracies get the governments they deserve. Stop blaming the elected politicians for accurately reflecting the desires of the people they represent.

How bad is the problem? Surveys of Tea Partiers--that part of the electorate most vocal about deficit control--show that even they don't actually want to make the kind of cuts that are increasingly necessary. If even the Tea Party is deluded about our financial condition, and if even they always want it to be Fat Tuesday and never Ash Wednesday, what hope do we have? Do you really expect politicians to make serious cuts when there is almost no segment of the population that will support them?

So, hold on to your hats and invest in gold. Europe's fall is inevitable...and so is ours.


I don't know what to make of the sexual harassment charges against Cain. But some of these allegations are pretty lame. That's putting it mildly.

A former employee of the United States Agency for International Development says Republican presidential candidate Herman Cain asked her to help arrange a dinner date for him with a female audience member following a speech he delivered nine years ago.

Is this a joke? Asking someone to help set you up with a date is now suspicious behavior? Isn't this among the most common ways to get together with someone? Friend of a friend? Someone who knows someone?

Or this one:

“Cain said, ‘Darling, do you mind doctoring my tea for me?’” Deace said.

Right, because asking someone to put lemon and sugar in your tea is really some sexual innuendo... or something. Or is it the word "darling" that's offensive? Or the word "doctor"? Wow, that's some serious stuff.

There may be more out there, but these examples are not even news-worthy.

On an interesting cultural note, I've noticed that ladies in the South, especially if they are older than I am, and especially if they are black, will refer to me as "hon'" or "sug'." I am yet to be offended.

China's blackmail


China Threatens Massive Venting of Super Greenhouse Gases in Attempt to Extort Billions as UNFCCC Meeting Approaches - MarketWatch
In the run-up to the international climate negotiations in Durban later this month, China has responded to efforts to ban the trading of widely discredited HFC-23 offsets by threatening to release huge amounts of the potent industrial chemical into the atmosphere unless other nations pay what amounts to a climate ransom.
Keep in mind that the money they are extorting would come from their pocket, since we are deficit spending on their dime. They would certainly gain on the interest payments, though.

Halloween II - 2011

In the interest of fairness... this cutie pie:

Happy Halloween 2011

Inflection Point

From Instapundit:

UPDATE: From the comments: “I think there is a legal Laffer curve, and we are choking on so much law we are now past the inflection point.” Thanks to reader Fred Siesel for pointing this one out.

When did use of the term "inflection point" come into vogue? I am seeing it more and more. Perhaps people think that "inflection point" sounds more learned than "maximum" or "minimum." It may sound cooler, but it doesn't mean the same thing.

An inflection point of a graph is a point where the convexity changes, like this:

With respect to an observer at the bottom of the graph, the curve is concave to the left of x=0, and convex to the right. This makes the point (0,0) an inflection point.

In the comment about the Laffer curve above, it is clear that the author doesn't mean this sort of thing. He simply means maximum point.

The more fancy the term, the more sure you should be about its use.

Flat Tax

What's with the Republican love of the "Flat Tax" ?

Perry Proposes 20 Percent Flat Tax. Perry would keep popular deductions for mortgage interest and charitable gifts.

Other Republicans/Conservatives have embraced the Flat Tax as well. Why? I think Perry's plan is dunderheaded. Keeping those deductions and making the tax flat is just the opposite of what I would like to see. It makes much more sense to me to eliminate as many deductions and loopholes as possible, thus simplifying our tax system, and reducing economic distortions.

I really don't have much problem with a progressive tax rate structure, and it seems a majority of "rich" people don't either. Should I pay a higher rate than someone who makes half what I do? Yes.

Is it so difficult to look up your total tax in a table? Is it that really complicated? More complicated than multiplying by 20%? No.

As I said, I don't get it.

Happy Diwali 2011

Happy Diwali everyone!

Shivani and Anjali. Click to zoom.

Endless Summer

Surf's up at Atwater Beach! I admire their tenacity.

From the front of

Fashionable disease

The Reference Frame, a Czech view of anthropogenic global warming
[T]he percentage of the Czechs who believe that there's a climate problem is about 1/2 of the percentage in the U.S.

There's pretty much a consensus across the political spectrum – and especially in the public – that global warming alarmism is a fashionable disease that plagues the brains of pampered and brainwashed people in the West who are either champions of a statist political ideology or their own profits, or those who want to be "hip", who are naive and detached from reality, and who don't understand how it easy it is to hijack a part of the scientific institutions and turn them into tools of shameless and cynical political propaganda.

What's it for?

Protein Wisdom writes:
To be clear: these “grievances” on parade are not the point of the protests, at least, not to those who are orchestrating all this. Instead, the point of the protests is to con weak-willed pragmatic panders like Romney, or weak-willed and frightened “leaders” like Eric Cantor and John Boehner, to allow for the grievances, to sympathize with them, to begin speaking in the language of the left’s carefully crafted narrative, and to make concessions while remaining constantly on the defensive.
I disagree. I think the point of the protests, and the Democrats' support of them boils down to this:
More importantly, the poll shows that the enthusiasm gap between Republican and Democratic voters continues to expand. Almost two thirds of Republicans describe themselves as either extremely or very enthusiastic about voting in 2012 (38% and 26%, respectively), a slight increase from June’s results (38% and 23%). [...]

Democratic enthusiasm has moved in the opposite direction. The new poll shows 21% and 22% extremely or very enthusiastic about voting, respectively, which puts the combination below a majority for the first time since the midterms. [source: Hot Air]
There is undoubtedly energy and vigor in the protests, and the Dems know that is exactly their weakness at the moment. They are willing to sign on to these protestors because 1) they whole-heartedly agree with their hatred of capitalism and the disgust of actually having to repay student loans, and 2) they are desperate for some enthusiasm going into 2012.

Shorewood football

Messmer/Shorewood's playoff fate up to a judge - JSOnline

Our alma mater is suing the Wisconsin school sports association (WIAA) because Shorewood (or rather, Messmer/Shorewood) believes it has made the playoffs for the first time since I was in 8th grade, and the WIAA wants to leave them out:
The Milwaukee Messmer/Shorewood football team defeated Wayland Academy on Friday night to clinch what it believes is its first playoff berth since 1981.

The question, however, is if a judge will agree.
The controversy centers over a provision in the WIAA bylaws which says that if a school leaves their conference without WIAA approval, then they are ineligible for the playoffs for 4 years.

Shorewood argues that the bylaw is meant for schools who continue to go it alone outside of any conference and Mess/Shore are now in a conference and thus are again eligible. Courts, not just for basketball anymore!

Update (10/19/2012): Messmer/Shorewood won and are playoff bound for the first time since 1981.

Tired Movie Genres

I'm tired of a number of movie genres.

Superhero movies. Good lord. Batman came out 25 years ago, and since then we have been getting more and more and more superhero movies. I swear they have done every major and semi-major hero now. There is still an occasional good one (Iron Man), but really nearly all of them are stale these days.

Gangster movies. Enough already. I am completely uninterested in the lives of the mafia and other gangsters. Even Martin Scorcese can't breath life into this genre.

Jane Austen movies. When did "Jane Austen" become a genre? How many remakes of these novels do we need?

Ivory-Merchant films. Only clones of these are being made now, it seems (are those two still alive?). There was a time 15 years ago or so when they were all the rage. I am still sick of them.

Holocaust movies. Yes, this is a genre. Every year we seem to get two or three major holocaust and holocaust-related films. These films can still have great emotional impact, due to the topic. I am no longer interested though, as I don't see anything new being done here.

Idiotman movies. These are movies with comedic male stars whose characters are idiots. You know the ones.

I think the underlying theme here is safety for producers. Movies are so expensive to make now that nobody wants to risk putting out something fresh. It's a common explanation, and mine is a common complaint.

Ann says: You forgot movies made from old TV shows, eg: "Dukes of Hazzard", "A-Team", "Miami Vice." Is there a single good movie based on a TV show?

Steve says: You are surely right. That group contains what many believe to be one of the worst movies ever made:

A shame, since the original show was pretty good. Remember when we drove to Chicago to see the original Car 54, i.e. the squad car used in the show?

Aphie circa 1980

Remember this?

I just saw a commercial for a new version:

What goes around, comes around.

Is it just me, or does it seem dumbed down? Fewer buttons, certainly and the example on the picture is much more pre-school than K+.

Racist! They cried.

Racist Republicans Flocking to Cain

I love this line:

Either a lot of Democrats have been slandering millions of American voters as racist, or the Tea Party hasn’t gotten the word that Herman Cain is African American.

Anti-democrats in a conservative world

Steve Hayward writes about the Democrats' and progressives' problems with democracy. He doesn't get around to the fundamental problem the left has:

They pose themselves as being champions of the people, but the people are inherently conservative.

That's the source of the disconnect and the discontent with democracy. If the people could vote for politicians who actually represented their views (as opposed to different members of Codevilla's "ruling class,") the country would move further to the right, not left.

Since, in the eyes of liberals, the people are so foolish ("what's the matter with Kansas?"), it would be better to suspend democracy for a while to allow time for the left to bring in their utopia.

Giant kraken lair discovered

Giant kraken lair discovered

The arranged vertebrae resemble the pattern of sucker discs on a cephalopod tentacle, with each vertebra strongly resembling a coleoid sucker. In other words, the vertebral disc "pavement" seen at the state park may represent the earliest known self portrait.


Long ago a Greek got into his bath, and noticed that the water level rose as his body entered the water. Thus the simple physics of displacement was discovered. The great Archimedes is said to have uttered the phrase: "Eureka!" (which should be pronounced something like: heh'-ur-eeka.)

Today, with less fanfare and with less import, the National Science Foundation rediscovers that piece of basic science:

From Watts Up With That:

Just like Archimedes discovered millennia ago, it is well known today that the Arctic ice cap displaces it’s own weight in the water so that when it melts it will not cause a rise in global sea level.

Not well known at the National Science Foundation, apparently. They formerly wrote:

In addition to altering salinity, melting sea ice also raises worldwide sea levels, with potentially significant effects for coastal cities and towns

This has now been corrected to:

[Editor's note: An inaccurate statement about sea ice and rising seal levels has been deleted. We regret the error.]

I'd just like to point out that this is grade-school level science.

Law Shmaw

I laughed aloud at this paragraph:
The secret document provided the justification for acting despite an executive order banning assassinations, a federal law against murder, protections in the Bill of Rights and various strictures of the international laws of war, according to people familiar with the analysis.

Sure, who needs the Constitution, federal laws, international laws, and executive orders... we've got a Secret Memo here! Nicely written, NYTimes. People often bring up the "if Bush did this..." argument. I think it would apply here better than any other place I've seen.


Embedded from Google Shared Spaces. Wonder if this works.

Die Hippies! Die!

This might be a good time to review one of my all-time favorite South Park episodes:

Die Hippie! Die!!
"If you see one hippie, there're probably a whole lot more you're not seeing."

This will change everything

Gone in 60 nanoseconds - The Washington Post

Charles Krauthammer (yes, that Charles Krauthammer--he is an MD after all) writes of the neutrino experiment that might shake the world. In short, a group of serious and experienced physicists have recorded neutrinos traveling faster than the speed of light--which according to all our modern physics should be impossible.

Steve Says: Some skeptical analysis here. I have very little understanding of what they are saying, but the general buzz about this seems to be pretty negative. Fun to follow though.

House Hunters

Via Instapundit, this from Megan McArdle:

“I recently discovered HGTV, a channel I watched devotedly for about three weeks before all the renovations began to look the same to me. Every young couple looking for a house wants stainless steel and granite countertops, and wants them RIGHT NOW."

Boy howdy! Watching House Hunters, I get the same impression. People today "couldn't possibly" live in a house with white appliances, or a master bedroom without a walk-in and and a master bathroom with two sinks.

Megan's point is that she thinks stainless appliances and granite counters are going to be out of fashion soon. Indeed, I am a little tired of the look too. It was new 20 years ago. I often wonder if buyers look for these items because they know little about what to look for in a house, and it is easy to evaluate a home based on these conspicuous items. It's like when people watch gymnastics. The vast majority of people have no idea how to evaluate a gymnastics performance. They only know how to look for a solid landing. So to them the landing becomes the single measure.

I would fall out of my chair if some time on House Hunters somebody asked about the school system for the district containing the house. Or about the condition of the roof, or heating system, or windows. Is there moisture in the basement? Is the foundation solid? What are the property taxes like? These are important questions, yet on House Hunters you are far more likely to hear someone ask about a jetted tub.

Ann says: Then there are the "water features" that they insist on putting in just about every yard. Bleah! I always figure that it is due to the show's and the channel's sponsorship by fountain makers. Certainly the appliance companies are providing some of the funding, too.

Update from Steve: I caught some flak from mom regarding the stainless and granite look. Her beautiful kitchen is one of those. My point is not that this is a bad look, or even that it is dated. The point is that it is the only look that seems to be acceptable these days.


Anwar al-Awlaki has been taken out in Yemen. I'm not crying about it, that's for sure, but most of his "terror ties" seem pretty lame. The NYTimes lays them out:

  1. Mr. Awlaki is suspected of helping plan the plot...
  2. ...she stabbed a member of Parliament after listening to more than 100 hours of Mr. Awlaki's speeches...
  3. ...told investigators that he was inspired by Mr. Awlaki...
  4. Mr. Awlaki said that he taught and corresponded with Umar Farouk Abdul mutallab,...
  5. ...Fort Hood in Texas, had been investigated by the F.B.I. before the attack in connection with e-mails he exchanged with Mr. Awlaki...
  6. ... said they were inspired by Mr. Awlaki's lectures...

I can't be alone in thinking this is pretty weak stuff. Is this really enough justification for the President to order an assassination of a US citizen? I don't think listening to his recordings on the net or reading his writings on the net is much of a terror connection. The correspondence with the Fort Hood shooter must not have been incriminating, or more action would have been taken with regard to Maj Hasan. What does "taught and corresponded" mean? Taught what? Corresponded about what?

The claim that he helped plan a bomb plot is more serious. I would like to see more information about this. For the first time I know of, I think that Glenn Greenwald has a point, writing more than a year ago.

Note also Gary Johnson's position. I wish Mr Johnson were getting more traction.

Shower Gel

I wrote
"If shower gel worked well, I might switch. But where is the lather? How can you take a shower without lather? Smear some goo on yourself and rinse it off? It's hard even to tell what's been goo-ed and what hasn't."

Has the world gone mad? Am I the only one who sees just how lousy shower gel performs? It's also expensive.

No thanks.

There Must Be an Election Coming Up

Michelle Obama is shopping at Target.

Not quite as funny as John Kerry's famous "can I get me a hunting license here?" man-of-the-people episode, but still pretty good.

Not good enough

When the Best is Mediocre - Education Next
American education has problems, almost everyone is willing to concede, but many think those problems are mostly concentrated in our large urban school districts. In the elite suburbs, where wealthy and politically influential people tend to live, the schools are assumed to be world-class.

Unfortunately, what everyone knows is wrong. Even the most elite suburban school districts often produce results that are mediocre when compared with those of our international peers. Our best school districts may look excellent alongside large urban districts, the comparison state accountability systems encourage, but that measure provides false comfort.
My childhood district, which is considered to be a good one, with a high percentage of college-goers, came in at: 61st percentile in math and 74th in reading when compared to students in other developed countries. Los Angeles Unified comes off badly with: 20 & 25. Milwaukee comes off even worse: 16 & 26.

But the point of the article is to look at those nice suburban districts that so many people rely on. It points out that they aren't keeping pace with the educational attainment of students in comparable countries. In other words, the districts that we think are good, aren't.

(cross posted on Square Dots)

Teaching to the Test

I really don't understand the concept of "Teaching to the Test (TTTT)." I often hear the term used in reference to No Child Left Behind. The claim is that No Child Left Behind has increased TTTT, and this is very very bad. Surely it doesn't mean teaching the material that is going to be on the test... that seems to me to be the whole point of curricula and testing. As far as I can tell, TTTT means teaching people how to answer questions on a test without really understanding the material being tested.

For a hilariously biased overview, check out the Wikipedia article on topic. Articles like this give Wikipedia a bad name, but they do provide a good laugh now and then.

It seems to me TTTT is mostly a straw man. Tests today, especially standardized tests used in public schools, are designed to test understanding. To what sort of questions could TTTT possibly apply? I can think of a few. For example, if you know how to add and multiply single-digit numbers together, then you could possibly learn and use the method for multiplying larger numbers together without really understanding what is going on. For math beyond these simple algorithms though, it gets harder for me to think of TTTT-approachable problems. Here is a practice math test put out by the Tennessee government. I don't see much TTTT-approachable material in there.

I can't think of any TTTT-approachable reading exam questions. You read a paragraph and answer questions about what you have read. How can you approach that other than by learning to read?

Libraries Today

I have, a few times recently, visited a public library in one of the wealthier parts of town. I was surprised to see that the place was packed! One of these times was in the middle of the week.

I had thought that the rise of the internet would kill a lot of library business. It seems that is not so.


Grass doesn't look greener with L.A. stadium plans - JSOnline
Meanwhile, because of a 1996 deal to erect Paul Brown Stadium, home of the Cincinnati Bengals, the Wall Street Journal reported that Ohio's Hamilton County - where one in seven people lives below the poverty line - has cut funding for social programs, partly due to huge debt payments on the new building.
Nice to know everyone has their priorities straight.

In the tiny suburb I grew up in, at least when they went on a building binge it was for a library. But the massive boondoggle is now massively driving up property taxes and driving down home values--the real estate market is at a standstill, because nobody wants a property tax bill bigger than their mortgage.

Do politicians care? Apparently not. They seem to believe there is always enough money around to take more, and that taking more will bear no consequences.

I've Forgotten More...

"I've forgotten more about this than you know about this!"

Or something like that. What a bizarre expression. Suppose what we know can be measured on a linear scale, with zero being "knowing nothing" and 10 being "knowing everything." Suppose what you know is an 8 on the scale. The guy who has forgotten more than that has forgotten 9 or 10 points worth, and so his knowledge is now rated at zero or one on the scale. So essentially, in this case, the other guy is calling himself ignorant.

Now if your knowledge is a 2, and his knowledge used to be 10 and he has forgotten 3, then yes he is still a 7 and knows more than you do. Note however that the expression is that he has forgotten more than you know. Surely it is better for him to have forgotten less than you know than to have forgotten more than you know! If more, it is possible that he has forgotten 9, in which case he is now a 1 and knows less than you do.

Perhaps this expression was once used humorously, but I don't think it is used that way most often any more. I think it is intended to be clever, but it just leaves me scratching my head.

Yes, I have thought about this too much now...

Update... I've thought even more while waiting for my family to wake up...

Let's say your knowledge is Y, and his used to be H but he has forgotten F, with F positive. What we want is

Y < H - F

so that what he knows now (H-F) is greater than what you know. An even stronger statement would be

Y < H - F - F

Putting one of those F's on the other side gives

Y + F < H - F

and this gives us a more reasonable witticism

"If you knew what I've forgotten, I'd still know more than you"

which might be used when one is accused of having forgotten a lot about some topic.

Geekiest post of the year!

You want to play ball?!

BBC News - Harewood Junior School bans leather footballs from playground

Kids want to play with a soccer ball? Don't they know how dangerous they are? Are they crazy!! Ban the blasted balls before some death-defying kid gets hurt!

It used to be that the UK would laugh at the US's stupid rules and regulations and our litigious society. Now who's laughing?

The Shame of College Sports

The Shame of College Sports - Magazine - The Atlantic

It's time to call them professionals, with a guarantee of 6 years free tuition, room, and board should they ever want to go back to college.

Square Dots

I have two new posts on Square Dots.

Premier Preschool Produced Functionally Illiterate Adults


Spending time with Aleks

Unions hate unions

WEAC has its own union troubles - JSOnline

Delicious irony:
This week, National Support Organization, which bills itself as the world's largest union of union staffers, posted an online notice discouraging its members from seeking work with the Wisconsin Education Association Council.

"Don't apply for WEAC vacancies!" screams the headline.

The reason for the boycott?

Chuck Agerstrand, president of the National Support Organization, is accusing WEAC officials of "breaching staff contracts and destroying any working relationship with its employees."

Ponzi Logic

The Left's argument, in a nutshell:

"Ponzi schemes bad. Social Security good. Therefore, Social Security is
not a Ponzi scheme."

Flawless logic, given the premise.

I also often read about how Social Security is not a Ponzi scheme because it is currently solvent. Bernie Madoff's scheme was solvent too... until it wasn't.

Ann says: I'd love to see the feds move towards the same type of accounting practices as businesses are required by federal law to use. In that case, the massive unfunded liabilities would scream off the ledger books, and it would make it hard to deny the massive crater we're in.

Sensible veto

Who said this:
To the Members of the [...] State Senate:

I am returning Senate Bill 105 without my signature.

This measure would impose criminal penalites on a child under the age of 18 and his or her parents if the child skis or snowboards without a helmet.

While I appreciate the value of wearing a ski helmet, I am concerned about the continuing and seemingly inexorable transfer of authority from parents to the state. Not every human problem deserves a law.

I believe parents have the ability and the responsibility to make good choices for their children.

Answer at the link.

Line of the day

Is Barack Obama Dumb?
A mere four months ago, most readers looking at the above headline would undoubtedly shake their heads and think the author was a gun-for-hire Tea Party provocateur and quickly click away from the page. But the political climate has changed dramatically this summer, and even hard-core liberals are wondering about the smarts of President Obama as they consider the perceived nightmare of President Rick Perry (who was victim of the same headline last week on Politico). [...]

There are usual caveats: Of course Obama isn’t illiterate or Bush-dumb because as Jesse Louis Jackson once said, “God doesn’t make junk,” and the intelligence-challenged just aren’t allowed near Harvard, much less become editor of that university’s Law Review.

Yeah, they wouldn't let a dolt like 43 anywhere near Harvard!


George W. Bush: Yale undergrad, class of 1968, A.B.
George W. Bush: Harvard Business School, class of 1975, M.B.A.

Obamacare will make health insurance more expensive

Whoops! ObamaCare Backers in Wisconsin Produce Report Showing That the Health Care Overhaul Will Make Health Insurance More Expensive

Included in the price increase are people who will be getting subsidies. That is to say, if the law had never been passed, this segment would pay less that they will under ObamaCare.

This is due to the minimum coverage requirements and the fact that you can't buy real insurance anymore.

Insurance is risk sharing. In true health insurance, everyone would pay out of pocket for the year-to-year health maintenance and minor bumps and scrapes. Insurance only kicks in for the bigger things, the things only some people will get. Not everyone will get diabetes, cancer, or heart disease; everyone gets check-ups, flu shots, the occasional stitches, etc. The former gets covered in a true insurance scheme. If everything gets covered, it's not insurance anymore, but health care financing.

Before the law, you could buy a minimal policy that just covered major medical problems, and left you to pay out of pocket for the rest. That is no longer permitted by the government.

This study shows that there are few, if any, winners from Obamacare.

Young evangelicals and gay marriage

Young evangelical adults stand apart from elders on same-sex marriage
The poll by the Public Religion Research Institute found that 44 percent – nearly half – of young evangelicals between the ages of 18 to 29 favor allowing gays and lesbians to marry.
And heads explode all throughout the left.

The Climate Scam Marches On

The Climate Scam Marches On | Power Line


Jews heckled off the air

Proms: Palestinian protest at Royal Albert Hall forces BBC to abandon live broadcast



Neighbor backed up her Tahoe into my parked car.

Good grief!

Death of a Union

The union of graduate teaching assistants at the University of Wisconsin seems to be collapsing. Essentially, it won't be able to raise enough cash without automatic deductions from paychecks. It's notable in particular because it is the grand-daddy of all such student unions.

There was a strong unionization effort at the University of Minnesota when I was a graduate student there. I was not a supporter. Indeed, I thought the deal that Minnesota gave me was great, and I felt more grateful than exploited. In return for about 10 hours per week of work as at teaching assistant, I got all my tuition paid for, plus plenty of money to live on. I had a nice apartment, a car, food money, and beer money. In addition, I had pretty good health care coverage. What more could a graduate student ask?

The fact is that the science and math departments have money to support their graduate students. This is because of the research money that flows in and the huge introductory undergraduate classes that bring in tuition money. The humanities are much more cash-strapped, and the pay and benefits to graduate students in those departments was not as good. Much of the debate during the unionization effort was between the two groups of students, with humanities graduate students and union leaders advocating for "equality" in these wages across departments. The vote split down these lines, with science and math strongly voting "no" and humanities "yes"... the union movement failed.

Really, if you want to get a PhD in French poetry, best of luck to you. But don't expect me to chip in to fund your folly.

Smiles Coming Soon

Our new baby, six weeks old or so:

She's giving hints of smiles now. I'm very much looking forward to her smiles.

Perry's Transcript

Wow. Rick Perry announces he's running for president... and a few hours later his college transcript is leaked.

His grades were mediocre at best, I'd say. Though in fairness he took some tough courses. Organic Chemistry! I'd bet real money that President Obama never tried that.

Our lack of knowledge about President Obama's past is simply bizarre, no?

By the way, this is our 1001-st post on this blog.

US apologises for diplomat

US apologises for diplomat
The United States has apologised for controversial remarks made by a US diplomat who spoke of "dark and dirty" Indians, calling the comments "inappropriate".

US Vice-Consul Maureen Chao told Indian students on Friday that her "skin became dirty and dark like the Tamilians" after a long train journey, according to Indian media -- referring to people from the southern state of Tamil Nadu.
Oh, dear lord.


Why do we go through this Iowa charade every four years? Ames straw poll results:

  1. Bachmann 4,823 (28.5%)
  2. Paul 4,671 (27.6%)
  3. Pawlenty 2,293
  4. Santorum 1,657
  5. Cain 1,456
  6. Perry 718 (write-in)
  7. Romney 567

It seems there is some joke-of-a-result out of Iowa every cycle. Remember Gephardt's big showing? Pat Robertson's? Yeesh. It's not so much Bachmann's win, but Ron Paul at #2 and Romney at #7 that show just how absurd this result is.

Understanding Economics

A quick point:

Tea Party Understands Economics Better Than Obama Or Bill Maher - Forbes
Since the Nobel Prize in economics was established [in 1968], seven Nobel Prizes have been awarded to economists who cast serious doubt on Keynesian economics. Not one Nobel Prize has been awarded to an economist who advanced the Keynesian agenda. New York Times liberal columnist, Paul Krugman, won his Nobel Prize for trade theory, not for macroeconomics.
And Sweden isn't exactly the bastion of supply-side economics, you know.

Dear California

Dear California: I’m Leaving You. Here’s Why…Erica Douglass

Yep, that's about the size of it.

We're All Going to Hell

Seems Like a Good Deal

Strange real estate things happening in my home town?

Found on


Debate tonight in Iowa!

Why bother? Am I alone in thinking that Romney is, essentially by default, the only reasonable candidate here? Aren't all of the others nut jobs or otherwise broken? And another thing, I am tired of hearing how Obama is vulnerable because of the latest approval rating poll. News flash: There has to be someone reasonable running against him.

The candidate I would prefer to see wasn't even invited.

Stay a child forever

Reform Wins in Wisconsin

I am really sick of the infantilization of adults and the treating of full-grown adults as nothing but adolescents. You see it when an 17, 18, or even a 19 year old is referred to as a child. This usually happens when they are a victims, either a real victim (a "child" was robbed and brutally beaten) or a victim in the minds of some (a "child" was arrested for a brutal robbery and beating.) The most recent major outbreak was the horrific shooting spree in Norway, where teens at a youth retreat were referred to as children. Here is a partial list of the ages of the victims (the English-language press stopped covering this before the final list was out): 14, 14, 15, 15, 15, 15, 16, 16, 16, 17, 17, 17, 17, 17, 17, 17, 17, 18, 18, 18, 18, 18, 18, 18, 19, 19, 19, 19, 19, 20, 21, 21, 23, 25, 26, 28, 30, 30, 43, 45, 51. Reports also mention at least one 10 year old was on the island, and survived. Incredibly tragic and horrific, but the media's constant use of the word "children" and even "youths" in this context was a stretch--when talking about political youth groups, it often does mean older teens and young adults.

I have no doubt that the media treat teens and young adults this way to boost ratings, a story about a massacre of "children" is more riveting than one of teens and young adults.

So, what does this have to do with my link above? This was the straw that got me ranting:
On Tuesday, voters delivered another verdict, favoring Republicans in four of six state senate recall elections and keeping the GOP in the majority....Randy Hopper lost after he left his wife to take up with a barely-legal Republican aide.
Randy, indeed, but since when is 25 "barely legal?" In the context of consensual sex in Wisconsin 18-year-olds are "legal". That means this young woman has been "barely legal" for 7 years, or more than a fourth of her life. Yes, the man is a cad, but he isn't a child molester, as the author slyly insinuates. It was a relationship between two fully consenting adults.

Much of what is wrong with our society today is the refusal to insist that young adults act as adults, not as spoiled teenagers. We should pull back and call young adults "adults". It's a real tragedy that the only part of our society that does, is the criminal justice system. Maybe that's not a coincidence.

California keeps piling on

The PJ Tatler » Ever wonder why California is so broke?

One of the problems with government at all levels is that they will see a problem, get worked up over finding a new solution, and create a new bureaucracy to deal with it. Never does it cross the politicians little mind that there is already an agency tasked with the same or similar goals, and that a small tweak to their charter is all that is needed. It's always a call for new and for more.

Unions lose big in WI

Unions lose big in Wisconsin | Campaign 2012
In the end, the union-backed Democrats picked up only two state Senate seats in Wisconsin last night, at a staggering cost in time, effort, and of course money. One of the seats was solidly Democratic, held by a Republican due to an apparent fluke of nature. The other was held by an alleged adulterer who had moved outside his district to live with his young mistress, and whose wife was supporting his recall.
I was biting my nails last night. It came down to the Darling race in my parents' district. She was behind at first, because Milwaukee reported before the suburbs and came in heavily for the Dem. But as I started looking at the numbers, and projecting each community forward, even with 12 of 51 districts still out for Milwaukee, Darling had a lead that looked to hold. When the bulk of Milwaukee poured in, it was done. In the end, she won by over 5,000 votes--not even close--not even the absentee votes can make up that difference--and not even within the cheating margin. (Remember, as Hugh Hewitt says: "If it's not close, they can't cheat!")

Quote of the Day

The PJ Tatler » Quote of the Day
‘[W]hen the President says “My Singular Focus” Is on Jobs.., that is best understood to read “My focus is on a singular job*”.’

– Stacy McCain

Wisconsin survives

Republicans hold off Dems in recalls, win enough seats to keep majority in Senate
"The revolution has not occurred," said UW-Milwaukee political science professor Mordecai Lee, a former Democratic lawmaker. "The proletariat did not take over the streets."
What an idiotic statement. Proletariat? Who do you think cast all of those votes? Government unions are hardly the "proletariat", but are a privileged class.

Shut the F--- up!

After Osama was killed, a massive amount of information about the operation was given to the press. Some of it was leaked and some of it was given freely. Throughout it all, and when hearing any story spilling details, I kept wanting to scream: Shut the f--- up!

Much of the info, I suspect was coming out of the White House, who were clearly crowing over the operation. They should have known better.

Some of it was coming from military and intelligence sources, who really should have known better.

The more detailed the information, the more dangerous the leakers were making it for the brave men who carried out the operation. Did the country have to know it was "Seal Team 6"? Did we have to see media packages about the team, their training, where they were trained, and almost their names, faces, birthdays, and social security numbers?

Someone right at the beginning needed to stand up and clearly state that, to protect the men who carried out this mission, little to no information would be released. Make it clear this was being done to protect the men who had so ably carried out this mission. Give each member of the team a Medal of Honor that they could keep in a drawer. Believe me, they, more than anyone, would have understood the reason behind the lack of public recognition.

Instead, we got way too much information, and a few months later a helicopter carrying that same team goes down, and 20 members of the team are dead. There is a fairly high chance that the helo was shot down by the Taliban, that they had intelligence from within our Afghan allies of who was on the copter and where to find it, and that the Taliban were very intentionally trying to get revenge by turning Seal Team 6 into a bloodbath.

If people in the loop of information about Osama's death had just shut the f--- up, those amazing, brave, and talented men might be alive today.

Loose lips sink ships and bring down helicopters too.

Whose House Is This?

Answer here.

Update: Ann Says: Wow!

New Outfit

Thanks Grandma!

Employment numbers

If it's the first Friday of the month...

What is there to say about today's employment numbers (which is more telling, in my opinion, that the unemployment rate):

1) The two surveys diverged slightly this month. The Employer survey (ES) (+117,000) showed improvement, the Household survey (HS) (-38,000) did not.

2) According to the HS, there are fewer jobs today than there were in: Jan-Jun of this year (in fact we are down 483,000 from May's high). There are also fewer jobs today than in: Sep 2010, Apr & May 2010, and any time between July 2004 and Aug 2009. That's right, there are the same number of jobs in the US as there were seven years ago.

3) The number of people "not in the labor force" has increased dramatically:
July 2010: 84,262
March 2011: 85,594
April 2011: 85,725
May 2011: 85,620
June 2011: 86,069 +449
July 2011: 86,443 +374K

Increase in people "not in the labor force" in the last two months: 823K--or, pushing 1 million people who've given up. And 2.181 million have given up in the last year.

4) The slope of the line on the ES is actually looking a little encouraging, though we have to wait for the revision. The final numbers came in for May this month, and they were revised down a small amount: 16K from their original release. So, it is possible that this incline might actually hold. We'll have to wait for next month to see, and we'll have to wait to see if the HS shows a similar improvement--so far, it doesn't.

Despite the improvement in the ES, the overall outlook continues to look grim.

Climate - USA

I've been having a little fun with climate data. Mr Motl has been posting some basic analyses of data released as HadCRUT3. I've done something similar, but focused on the United States. Here is a graph of mean temperature by month and year:

There really seems to be very little trend there to me. Maybe 1/2 of a degree in the past century or so. Nothing to get hot under the collar about?

What is interesting to me is that the summer months seem much less volatile year to year than the winter months. Why would that be? I don't know.

I've been coding in Matlab, which is my wont. I have used the code I posted a little over a year ago. I think it works very well.

Note that the data set I am using is one upon which the IPCC is based, and was produced by the Hadley / Met Office. They are the "climate-gate" folks, as I recall.

Ann says: if I had to guess about the greater variability in winter, I would guess it had something to do with the pacific oscillations and el nino events. Warming and cooling cycles in the oceans might change winter weather more than summer.

Bubble bubble...

This article: "n+1: Bad Education" has been cued up in my tabs for months, and I finally read it. Nothing new for those who have followed the higher education bubble problems, but it also goes into some depth about the system of student loans and the securities and systems that underwrite them.

Whopper king

Obama's "Balanced" Approach - Thomas Sowell
Barack Obama's political genius is his ability to say things that will sound good to people who have not followed the issues in any detail -- regardless of how obviously fraudulent what he says may be to those who have. Shameless effrontery can be a huge political asset, especially if uninformed voters outnumber those who are informed.


Liberalism: A Luxury We Can’t Afford -- John Hinderaker:
"Liberalism is a sort of parasite that feeds on the wealth that free enterprise creates. Liberalism exists for two reasons: 1) to stuff the pocketbooks of those who have learned to live at the taxpayers’ expense, and 2) to feed the moral vanity of those who can’t resist meddling in other peoples’ lives."

Power vs knowledge

Command v. Choice, Part I: by Greg Forster

Definitely worth a read.

A little perspective

The president wants a debt limit increase big enough to last through the 2012 election, while the Republicans only want to give him $1,000,000,000,000 ($1T) worth, which will only last for about 6 months...

...Think about that for a minute....

We will be spending so much money that we will need to borrow one trillion dollars, in addition to tax revenues, just to get us through 6 months.

The amount of debt that we accrued during Bush 43 was $2.14 trillion. That is over 8 years, or 16 six-month periods, for an average of: $133 Billion added debt every six months.

Now comes Obama and Pelosi and Ried, and where are we? The same $1 trillion dollar increase which would have lasted us 7 1/2 times as long before OPR, now will only get us through half a year.


A Star Burns Out

Several years ago, I was driving down the road when a song came on the radio. Wow! I thought, who is this? I tried to remember enough of the lyrics to Google it when I got home. This was it:

I think she had real talent, something pretty rare these days in a music industry dominated by looks and auto-tune. I was pleased to read that Roger Simon agrees with me.

Sadly, Amy Winehouse died yesterday. She was 27. RIP.

The Heat Was Hot

We often get vegetables from neighbors. They have gardens and can't eat all of the tomatoes, peppers, etc. themselves. This year though, a neighbor has planted a specific variety of pepper just for us. The Bhut Jolokia, one of the world's very hottest.

In 2000, India's Defence Research Laboratory (DRL) reported a rating of 855,000 heat units (SHU) on the Scoville scale,[8] and in 2004 a rating of 1,041,427 units was made using HPLC analysis.[22] For comparison, Tabasco red pepper sauce rates at 2,500–5,000,

The first one, pictured here, was picked a bit green:

Kind of fun! I'm interested in seeing just how hot these things are. But really, what is one supposed to do with them? Can we cook with them? I'm afraid just one would overpower a pot of just about anything.

It's Simple Physics

How can a baby, born in the northern hemisphere, have a spiral of hair that goes clockwise?

It's simple, really. Babies develop head-down in the womb!

New Restaurant Up The Street

Serving the best in Asian and Engrish cuisine. I think I'll pass.

Face of Milwaukee

John McCullough was an icon of local TV news - JSOnline

Good bye John McCollough. Milwaukee's anchorman is gone.

Emerson on Austen

Not mincing words...

Mark Steyn

Mark Steyn - National Review Online

For some time now, I've found Mark Steyn tiresome. He tries too hard to be funny, and misses way more often than he hits. He is a good analyst and would be better off with fewer of the strained attempts at jokes and more straight-line writing.

Non sequitur

EU guilty of "wilful neglect" as UN says 10,000s have died in Somalia's famine - Telegraph
In two regions of the war-torn country, largely off-limits to international aid workers, technical criteria had now been met to officially declare famine, said Mark Bowden, the head of the United Nations operation for Somalia.

The announcement came as Oxfam accused “several” European governments of “wilful neglect” in failing to fund the estimated £650m needed to save more than 11 million Somalis, Kenyans and Ethiopians from starvation.
So, the aid couldn't have gotten in anyway...but it's STILL YOUR FAULT!!

Pay the piper instead

It’s Time To Kick Farmers Off The Federal Dole - Doug Bandow - The Politics of Plunder - Forbes
In a new paper for the American Enterprise Institute, Dr. Barry K. Goodwin at North Carolina State University observed: ”a large share of agricultural subsidies goes to a small segment of society that tends to be wealthier, less financially leveraged, and of higher income than the nonagricultural sectors of the aggregate economy. Moreover, farmers do not generally face more risk than business owners in other sectors, nor do farms fail more often than other forms of business. In fact, farm businesses rarely fail.”

In short, Uncle Sam is playing reverse Robin Hood.
I've long held that first-world agricultural subsidies (which make up the biggest chunk of the EU budget, for example) are not just economically stupid, but immoral. The best way for the poor of the world to make a little money is through farming, but they can't compete with government subsidized and protected farms of the first world. At $60 billion a year, this would be an easy cut from the budget.

Train your eye on this

Trains cost Wisconsin taxpayers millions - JSOnline

There is so much wrong here!

In the beginning I was drawn to the fact that it reads more, much more, like an editorial or an opinion piece than a news article, but in the end it was the barely named presence of Amtrak that got my attention.

I think I got really riled up when the article mentioned that the state of Wisconsin was supposed to pony up the money for...
While some of those figures could change, it appears the state eventually could spend $11.7 million on a temporary maintenance base, up to $60.1 million on a permanent maintenance base, up to $10.2 million on train shed upgrades at the downtown Amtrak-Greyhound station, $6.6 million on signal upgrades at the station and at least $10.4 million on new locomotives - all costs the federal government would have paid.
So, what exactly does Amtrak, you know, the business this is all subsidizing, pay for?

Apparently not for their own maintenance facilities and, shockingly, not their own TRAINS either! Why the &^%$ does the state of Wisconsin have to buy the locomotives for the quasi-independent, quasi-federal business Amtrak? If WI buys them, does the state get to keep them? Can they put a big "Owned by the people of Wisconsin" sign on them? If WI puts up the money, does Amtrak pay leasing fees? Or is this a beneficent gift from the taxpayers of Wisconsin to the behemoth and boondoggle that is Amtrak?

But let's take this a step further. This is happening in Wisconsin; should we assume that it is also happening in the other 50 states? How may other states are buying Amtrak their trains, building their lines, and building their facilities? How much money are states pouring down into the black abyss of Amtrak? What does Amtrak actually do on its own, except run the system others have bought for them--essentially managing the passengers and employees (badly.) Why not outsource their contribution to a management company, and keep the trains and tracks in state hands? It would probably be much more efficiently run and cost a whole lot less.

Amtrak is perennially broke, to the tune of billions of dollars; this despite heavy federal subsidies. What I never have heard before--or noticed before--is that it also apparently relies heavily on state subsidies as well.

And that's not even getting into the whole freight rail versus passenger rail problem. (One is extremely efficient way of moving its load, the other isn't and makes the other less efficient by tying up their rail lines.)

Safety first

“Paradoxically,” the psychologists write, “we posit that our fear of children being harmed by mostly harmless injuries may result in more fearful children and increased levels of psychopathology.”
From: Can a Playground Be Too Safe? -

Is anyone really surprised by that?

Bye Zahi!

This guys been driving me nuts for years. At least he does seem to have a real passion, but you do get the idea that he's a bit of a publicity hound and jumps in to take credit for everyone else's discoveries. 'Real Indiana Jones' sacked as keeper of Egypt's heritage - Telegraph
Social networking sites like Twitter were flooded with inevitable jokes, from "the Curse of the Mummy strikes" to comments such as "Zahi Hawass to no longer appear in every single TV special on Egypt". Some were simpler, saying, "Please take your hat with you."

Dr Hawass was popular among journalists, visitors and for a time Egyptians themselves for his flamboyant style and unchallenged commitment to promote Egypt's treasures and to use them to attract tourists.

Online money making

Where is the money being made online? This list shows where google makes its money.

What Are The 20 Most Expensive Keyword Categories In Google AdWords? | TechCrunch

Biggest surprises: Apparently, lawyers aren't attorneys. And who knew "cord blood" was such a money maker. I thought that was pretty much bogus and outdated these days anyway.

It starts with a startup

I've decided I'm posting too much to Facebook that could also be posted here. So, I downloaded a Firefox ap which will make it easier to do both.

This article points out the importance of small startups and the way the government has been acting to suppress their creation. The whole Bruce Bartlett theme is a bit dumb, but the core of the article is good.

A Decline In U.S. Startups Through the Eyes of Bruce Bartlett - John Tamny - Political Economy - Forbes
Though Reaganomics is 30 years old, Bartlett made a point that likely remains true today that “the largest proportion of important new inventions are still the result of individuals working virtually alone, rather than by big corporate laboratories.”

We are all Stanley Johnson

This, of course, is the US federal government today.

We can barely pay our finance charges!

Web Presence

Once in a while, I leave a comment on someone's blog. I've been doing this long enough that occasionally I will run across something I wrote some time ago but don't remember well:

Burning fossil fuels has increased the concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere in a measurable way. By itself, this would lead to increased temperatures through the greenhouse effect. Unless other human activities or natural negative feedbacks have fully offset the effect, the bottom line is that the Earth is warmer now than it would have been otherwise. Increased CO2 is evidence of AGW. Sure, let’s discuss the amount of AGW and its impact, but let’s not question the reality.

Suppose T(t) represents the temperature T of the Earth at t years in the future. Suppose we have no way of accurately modeling or predicting T in future times; it may be warmer, it may be colder, suppose we just don’t and can’t know. That doesn’t preclude science from predicting that with increasing CO2, future temperatures will be something like T(t)+C(t), where C is some positive function of time. It is not necessary to have a fully working accurate predictive model of the Earth’s temperature in order to be able to predict that increased CO2 will mean an increase in temperature above what it would otherwise be.

It's often strange reading these comments. I wonder to myself "did I really write that?"

Atlanta burns again

A massive cheating scandal is rocking the Atlanta school district. A widespread and systematic effort to cheat on standardized tests has been uncovered. It included teachers, principals, staff, and superintendents. In some cases, they literally erased the kids' answers and replaced them with the correct ones.
Teachers and principals erased and corrected mistakes on students’ answer sheets.

Area superintendents silenced whistle-blowers and rewarded subordinates who met academic goals by any means possible.

Superintendent Beverly Hall and her top aides ignored, buried, destroyed or altered complaints about misconduct, claimed ignorance of wrongdoing and accused naysayers of failing to believe in poor children’s ability to learn.

For years — as long as a decade — this was how the Atlanta school district produced gains on state curriculum tests. The scores soared so dramatically they brought national acclaim to Hall and the district, according to an investigative report released Tuesday by Gov. Nathan Deal.

You can see the gains in this chart I posted several months ago, where Georgia raised its scores on the national test NEAP dramatically:

Click to embiggen.

It should also be noted that Georgian schools s*^%! If you line up all the states according to their various NEAP scores, Georgia would come in between 33 and 40 just about every time. They do a little better with English Language learners, where they rank around 20, even breaking into the second quintile with a rank of 17 for 4th grade math proficiency.

They s(%& even with the cheating scandal. Atlanta makes up just better than 4% of the population of Georgia. If the scores from the APS system are bogus, that means Georgia did even worse than everyone thought.


What a simple way of saying it:
Professor Epstein characterizes Obama’s economics as “primitive” and explains: “First, it is not possible to gain more money for the public treasury by taxing heavily those practices that are efficient for a firm. Putting a special tax on corporate jets will cut corporate profits, leaving nary a dime to fund the worthy causes that the president promotes.
Efficiency is the hidden driver that government seems to want most to ignore. Renewable energy sources are less efficient; government doesn't care. Overwhelming pro-union and other work rules (such as mandated paternity leave) make companies less efficient; government doesn't care. Picking winners and losers by bailing out, waivering, or taxing some and not others, reduces efficiency; government doesn't care. Arcane and overly-complex tax law reduces efficiency; government doesn't care.

Every time government doesn't care about efficiency, it pushes down on the economic brake pedal.

Minnesotan Tragedy

Mussette Wade, 37, hoped to buy Minnesota Lottery tickets at a Minneapolis gas station. But the state shutdown prevented her from doing that. "I usually buy scratch-offs once a week when I get paid," she said. "It's just something I leisurely do."

Learning to Spell

Can you spell "STOP"?

Wow! Very good, sweetie. Can you do it again?

Nice! How about "MAP"?

Daddy is as proud as she is.