Sunday, May 31, 2009
REGULATING ABSOLUTELY EVERYTHING
Here's a Washington DC councilman who wants to ban single-slice pizza sales...he thinks such a ban will help reduce violent crime.
See other posts in the regulating absolutely everything thread.
Thursday, May 28, 2009
A review of an important-but-depressing sounding book about American education, as seen through the eyes of one academically very successful student.
Kirn grew up in the 1960s and ’70s, when technocrats were thoroughly systematizing American public education. In his suburban grammar school, subjects like art and music were formed into “units” and “modules,” implying that “learning could be engineered, and that it had been, perhaps by government scientists — the same ones behind the Apollo program, maybe.” At the same time, the teachers were squishy, easily flattered and willing to coo over any creative daub that seemed to express “feelings.” “Art” could be whatever he said it was, Kirn realized, and producing it was the equivalent of such apple-polishing activities as emptying the classroom pencil sharpener. When he concocted bogus stories about the emotions that supposedly inspired his projects, he won “praise, and sometimes hugs, eventually convincing me that art was about one feeling above all others: being loved.”
In one respect, Kirn lucked out: his college years coincided with the ascendancy of “theory” in American academia. Since hardly anybody understood the deconstructionists to begin with, it was that much easier for Kirn to bluff his way through, powered by bravado alone. Better yet, theory was intent on proving the illegitimacy of all those great books he’d never read. “We skipped straight from ignorance to revisionism,” he writes of his cohort, “deconstructing a body of literary knowledge that we’d never constructed in the first place.”
THE AGE OF BLATHER--REPOST
(I posted this on Sunday May 24, but it disappeared--this has happened to posts on this blog at least three times. This is getting ridiculous--based on my experience, Google seems to have a real quality problem with the Blogger product line.)
Diana Senechal, guest-blogging at Joanne Jacobs, tells the following story:
I run two lunchtime literature clubs at my school. The fourth graders just finished reading A Little Princess. During our discussions, I encourage delving into the text and discussing it on its own terms. I am not a big fan of “accountable talk,” “making predictions,” “making connections,” and so forth when they assume precedence over the subject matter itself.
One student brought up the part where Sara spends her money on hot buns for a beggar girl. “She made a self-to-self connection,” the student said. I felt sorry that students are learning such ghastly terminology, however well meant. Why are students not encouraged to say, “She understood how the girl felt” or “She felt compassion for the girl”?
Why, indeed? It’s bad enough to impose verbiage like “self-to-self connection” on college students: to do it to a 4th grader is really unforgiveable. It adds nothing to understanding–indeed, it very likely interferes with the true understanding and appreciation of the story by creating an emotional distance.
Strange, awkward, and unnatural verbal formulations, used ritualistically and without contributing to understanding, are becoming increasingly common in our society: although this phenomenon is arguably at its worst in education, it is by no means limited to that field. These words and phrases are not similar to the traditional jargon of a profession or trade. “Self-to-self connections” is not the same kind of thing as “amp” or even “kanban.”
continued at Chicago Boyz, where there is a fairly extensive discussion.
Tuesday, May 26, 2009
OBAMA AND THE GNOMES
Not the gnomes of Zurich, but the gnomes of South Park.
Sunday, May 24, 2009
MEMORIAL DAY, 2009
Some links from around the blogosphere. (Several of these posts are from 2008 or earlier.)
Neptunus Lex: we remember them
Dr Sanity: American, the singularity
Scott Ott usually writes satire. Not this post.
Fred Thompson asks: how can you remember something you've never learned?
Robert Avrech remembers a different era in Hollywood.
Again via Neptunus Lex: the war was in color. Be sure to watch this video...read the comments, too.
Trying to Grok has an image that it would be well to keep in mind today.
And here's a nice picture of the WWII memorial at night.
Friday, May 22, 2009
FRIDAY AFTERNOON LINKS
Neptunus Lex's son just became an ensign in the United State Navy. Congratulations to the captain and the ensign!
Erin O'Connor's mom has been taking some interesting pictures of bees and flowers.
Here's a pretty funny cartoon about science information and misinformation.
Bookworm discovered that the Library of Congress has a YouTube presence..among other things, they have a video of Annie Oakley shooting.
Speaking of videos, GE has a series on the development of the new GEnx jet engine.
Netanyahu's visit to the United States prompts Edward Olshaker to reflect on incidents in which "protestors" have prevented this leader from speaking on American and Canadian campuses.
Attacks on free speech--along with vitriolic attacks on Israel and even open anti-Semitism--seem to happen in university environments much more often than in other areas of American life.
This is something that should be of grave concern to academics and particularly to university administrators--indeed, to all Americans.
Monday, May 18, 2009
A few items for your Monday reading pleasure:
In a commencement speech, the CEO of Questar Corporation takes on some popular myths about energy.
A professor of English who teaches at the U.S. Naval Academy has thoughts about the teaching and mis-teaching of his subject:
We professors just have to remember that the books are the point, not us. We need, in short, to get beyond literary studies. We're not scientists, we're coaches. We're not transmitting information, at least not in the sense of teaching a discipline. But we do get to see our students react, question, develop, and grow. If you like life, that's satisfaction enough.
Interesting description of the typical reaction of his students to Madame Bovary, and about the ways in which he tries to establish a connection between this character's feelings and their own.
(via Newmark's Door)
Finally, some not-so-cheerful thoughts from Arnold Kling:
The developed world enjoys an open-access order, in which both politics and economics are highly competitive. The rest of the world is in a natural state, in which only the members of the governing coalition are fully free to own property, participate in the political process and--most importantly--form durable organizations.
The United States is currently taking a giant step backward in the direction of a natural state. NWW would say that we are still an open-access order. However, the importance of the rule of law is declining, and the importance of political connections to the elite is increasing. I think we will see this trend emerge much more strongly over the next decade, as it becomes clear that the Republican Party is not going to win another national election. Interest groups will lose hope in competitive elections, and instead they will focus on accomodating the Democrats, which in turn will consolidate the power of the ruling party.
In economics this leads to stagnation, as we shift from an economic system dominated by competition and change from the bottom up to a system of rent-seeking and centralized management. There will be less creative destruction and more redistribution.
cross-posted at Chicago Boyz
COOL STARTUP STORY
Fortune (5/25) has a story about a Duluth, MN startup called Magnetation. The company’s founders (now 78 and 83) have developed a process for recovering useable iron ore from the millions of tons of tailings left as waste from previous mining activities. The Fortune story isn’t available on-line yet, but the company website is here.
Not all startups are centered around computer technology or biotech.
cross-posted at Chicago Boyz
Previous cool startup stories.
Saturday, May 16, 2009
A video called "The Story of Stuff," made by an environmental activist, has become mandatory viewing in classrooms thoughout the country.
The thick-lined drawings of the Earth, a factory and a house, meant to convey the cycle of human consumption, are straightforward and child-friendly. So are the pictures of dark puffs of factory smoke and an outlined skull and crossbones, representing polluting chemicals floating in the air.
"We’ll start with extraction, which is a fancy word for natural resource exploitation, which is a fancy word for trashing the planet," she says at one point. "What this looks like is we chop down the trees, we blow up mountains to get the metals inside, we use up all the water and we wipe out the animals."
Mining and manufacturing, as seen by this video, seem to be considered as inherently evil activities.
Some commentators have labeled the video anti-capitalist. While these assessments are IMO true, they do not go to the root of what is wrong with the worldview on display here.
A Soviet-era factory manager or economic planner would have been just as appalled at this as a 2009 American factory manager or a 1940 New Deal TVA official. So would a medieval peasant desperately searching for firewood to keep his family from freezing, or a medieval monk clearing land and building waterwheels in the intervals between his prayers.
Not just anti-capitalist: anti-civilization and anti-human.
Democrats like to talk about the need to preserve and create "good manufacturing jobs." But they have allowed their party to be increasingly dominated by "progressives" with worldviews like that of the creator of this video.
Factories will not thrive in a land in which they are despised.
Thursday, May 14, 2009
Dr Sanity writes about psychological denial, using as an example a piece by Washington Post columnist David Ignatius and referencing some comments on that piece by Jed Gladstein:
People like Ignatius must be brought to understand that they are in denial about the truth of what is going on in the world. It is one thing to cherish idealistic beliefs, possess a kindly disposition, and maintain an attitude of humanistic tolerance; it is quite another to project those thoughts and feelings onto people who glorify religious murder and suicide, and then delude yourself into believing that by doing so the impulse to commit such evil acts will disappear.
Robert Avrech writes about foreshadowing:
Screenwriters often signal a dramatic turn of events in Act I, and then pay it off in Act II. The classic example is:
CLOSE-UP: A hand opens a desk drawer, revealing a PISTOL.
Later, the same pistol is used to kill someone.
This is called foreshadowing.
Israel is foreshadowing like crazy.
Obama is so confident in his personal charm—hey, he didn't win the election based on his paper thin resume—that he's sure he can talk the Mullahs out of going nuclear. The Mullahs are laughing all the way to Nantaz.
Netanyahu is an adult. The neighborhood he lives in is a bit tougher than Chicago. He, understands that Israel and the, ahem, moderate Arab states, cannot tolerate a Persian bomb. Such a bomb would turn Israel, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Jordan into virtual prison states. The flow of capital would halt and tourism would take a huge hit. The threat of being vaporized by a state that has repeatedly vowed to eliminate Israel is a powerful incentive to, y'know, go to the Grand Canyon rather than Jerusalem.
Read the whole thing.
Wednesday, May 13, 2009
ELECTRICITY: THE MAP
See my post at Chicago Boyz.
(I also posted it here yesterday, but it disappeared. There seems to be a serious reliability problem with the Blogger software.)
Monday, May 11, 2009
SCAPEGOATING THE DOWNTURN
A recent survey indicated that 25% of all Americans blame "the Jews" for the current economic crisis. (As measured by respondents to a survey who said they blamed "the Jews" anywhere in the range of from "a moderate amount" to "a great deal" for the situation.) There were very substantial differences in the results as a function of political party affiliation:
Among Republicans, 18 percent assigned blame to Jews as measured by the above criteria
Among Democrats, the corresponding number was 32 percent
This means that if you pick a Democrat at random, there is a one in three chance that he blames Jews for the economic crisis.
The study authors say that the higher numbers for Democrats are "somewhat surprising." But I'm not surprised at all.
The current "progressive" movement is very much about anger and resentment, and it is this movement that has increasingly dominated the Democratic party and its attitudes. And anger and resentment have always been closely coupled with anti-Semitism.
via ShrinkWrapped, which has an extensive discussion.
I've been thinking for a while now that it would be interesting and useful to do a retrospective analysis of stock prices: for specific companies, look at the stock price as it stood quite a few years ago, and compare it with what a "correct" price should have been in the light of everything that's happened since. Turn out Rob Arnott and some of his associates actually did such an analysis, as reported in this 2008 paper. Worthwhile reading for any serious investor.
More thoughts on clairvoyant investing from Arnott in this piece, in which he defends his "fundamental indexing" approach to investing. (Don't be scared off by the first page being in German; the rest of the presentation is in English.)
Lots of interesting links today at Bookworm Room.
Friday, May 08, 2009
NUCLEAR WEAPONS, ISRAEL, AND THE OBAMA ADMINISTRATION
The Obama administration is looking at pressuring Israel to change the status quo regarding that country's nuclear arsenal.
Assistant Secretary of State Rose Gottemoeller, speaking Tuesday at a U.N. meeting on the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), said Israel should join the treaty, which would require Israel to declare and relinquish its nuclear arsenal.
"Universal adherence to the NPT itself, including by India, Israel, Pakistan and North Korea, ... remains a fundamental objective of the United States," Ms. Gottemoeller told the meeting.
continued at Chicago Boyz
Thursday, May 07, 2009
FIVE SMOOTH STONES
Basketball, warfare across the ages, Ivy League schools and Jewish immigrants in the 1920s...Malcolm Gladwell looks at the tactics that underdogs can use to win against apparently-overwhelming forces...and wonders why these tactics aren't employed more frequently.
Tuesday, May 05, 2009
Obama has nominated Cass Sunstein, who he knows from the University of Chicago, to be "regulatory czar." Apparently, Sunstein has proposed that web sites be required to link to opposing opinions. He has argued that the Internet is anti-democratic because users can choose to view only those opinions that they want to see, and has gone so far as to say:
A system of limitless individual choices, with respect to communications, is not necessarily in the interest of citizenship and self-government," he wrote. "Democratic efforts to reduce the resulting problems ought not be rejected in freedom's name.
Read more »
Monday, May 04, 2009
ISRAEL'S NEW AMBASSADOR
Michael Oren is Israel's new ambassador to the United States. Lots of information about him at the link--mostly very positive stuff.
We'd better hope he's good--for the sake of Israel, the United States, and the civilized world as a whole.
This Debka article suggests that the Obama administration intends to "bludgeon" Israel into accepting an imposed settlement re the Palestinians, Syria and Iran--Don Sensing sees an analogy with the settlement imposed on Czechoslovokia (without consulting the Czechs) in 1938. In remarks prior to his speech at AIPAC yesterday, Newt Gingrich asserted that Obama administration's policies are "very dangerous for Israel." (The video of Gingrich's AIPAC speech is here.)
Things may not be quite as bad as the Debka report and the Gingrich remarks would indicate, but there's considerable evidence that Obama is less friendly toward Israel than any other President in history, with the possible exception of Jimmy Carter. Moreover, there is strong bias against Israel on the part of many journalists and in much of academia. Some of this bias is relatively subtle--see, for example, Meryl Yourish's analysis of an AP story which refers to an Iranian politician who is wanted by Interpol (for the bombing of a Jewish center in Buenos Aires) as a "moderate conservative." And some of the anti-Israel opinions in the media and in academia--especially in academia--are not subtle at all. See, for example, this.
Oren is said to be an excellent communicator. He will need all of his skills.
Sunday, May 03, 2009
THE OBAMA ADMINISTRATION AND THE TERRORIST THREAT
Andrew C McCarthy, former U.S. Attorney for the southern district of New York, responds to a request from AG Eric Holder for his participation in a task force on detention policies--a request which McCarthy (who led the terrorism prosecution against Sheik Omar Abdel Rahman and eleven others in the 1993 World Trade Center bombing) chose to decline. Here's why:
I admire the lawyers of the Counterterrorism Division, and I do not question their good faith. Nevertheless, it is quite clear—most recently, from your provocative remarks on Wednesday in Germany—that the Obama administration has already settled on a policy of releasing trained jihadists (including releasing some of them into the United States). Whatever the good intentions of the organizers, the meeting will obviously be used by the administration to claim that its policy was arrived at in consultation with current and former government officials experienced in terrorism cases and national security issues. I deeply disagree with this policy, which I believe is a violation of federal law and a betrayal of the president’s first obligation to protect the American people. Under the circumstances, I think the better course is to register my dissent, rather than be used as a prop.
Read the whole thing.
For those who don't remember just what a serious matter the fight against terrorism is, here's a reminder.
cross-posted at Chicago Boyz
Saturday, May 02, 2009
Erin O'Connor excerpts some thoughts from NAS president Peter Wood on higher education and its relationship with the larger society, and adds some thoughts of her own.
Friday, May 01, 2009
Two posts that I put up yesterday have disappeared; also, the date shown for today's previous post is incorrect, which I suspect might have something to do with the missing-post problem. Fortunately, the disappearing posts were mainly links, so here they are again:
Obama and the Dictators---at Chicago Boyz
A Foundry Says Farewell to California---a guest post at Bookworm Room