Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Thoughts on the Massachusetts Election.

I was watching Rachel Maddow and Chris Mathews tring to put the best face on tonights events. Maddow argued that Martha Cokely was a terrible candidate. Mathews made an economic determinist argument that it was economy that had cost the Democrats the seat. To an extent of course they are both right, but there was much more going on.

First of all, credit where it's due Scott Brown was a great candidate who ran a brilliant campaign. He's smart, good looking, and has great political reflexes. He has a great future.

More importantly it was a referendum on Washington and the people who run it. In the past year we've seen TARP, government takeovers of banks and automakers, a truly grotesque "stimulus" bill, Cap and Trade and now the health care bills people have had enough. We'll see if Obama and the cartoonish Democratic Congressional leadership get the message.

The Wife and I were just talking. It occurs to me that Obama showing up campaign for something is the kiss of death. So far he's torpedoed Democratic candidates for Governor of Virginia and New Jersey, lost Kennedy's Senate seat, cost Chicago the Olympics, and failed to deliver a cliate deal in Copenhagen. It's a wonder they actually handed over that Nobel Prize thing after everything was said and done.

Keep it up Barack!

Scott Brown (R) Massachusetts

Monday, January 18, 2010

Very Cool.

Last November, at the central market in Valencia, opera singers disguised as shopkeepers were selling produce at the various stalls there. Verdi's Il Travatore starts playing over the loudspeakers & they burst into song. None of the shoppers has a clue what's going on.

Stolen from Maggie's Farm.


World misled over Himalayan glacier meltdown

A WARNING that climate change will melt most of the Himalayan glaciers by 2035 is likely to be retracted after a series of scientific blunders by the United Nations body that issued it.

Two years ago the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) issued a benchmark report that was claimed to incorporate the latest and most detailed research into the impact of global warming. A central claim was the world's glaciers were melting so fast that those in the Himalayas could vanish by 2035.

In the past few days the scientists behind the warning have admitted that it was based on a news story in the New Scientist, a popular science journal, published eight years before the IPCC's 2007 report.

It has also emerged that the New Scientist report was itself based on a short telephone interview with Syed Hasnain, a little-known Indian scientist then based at Jawaharlal Nehru University in Delhi.

Hasnain has since admitted that the claim was "speculation" and was not supported by any formal research.

More here.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Why Johnny’s Teacher Can’t Teach.

How did such navel-gazing come to be central to teacher education? It is the almost inevitable consequence of the Anything But Knowledge doctrine, born in a burst of quintessentially American anti-intellectual fervor in the wake of World War I. Educators within the federal government and at Columbia’s Teachers College issued a clarion call to schools: cast off the traditional academic curriculum and start preparing young people for the demands of modern life. America is a forward-looking country, they boasted; what need have we for such impractical disciplines as Greek, Latin, and higher math? Instead, let the students then flooding the schools take such useful courses as family membership, hygiene, and the worthy use of leisure time. "Life adjustment," not wisdom or learning, was to be the goal of education.

The early decades of this century forged the central educational fallacy of our time: that one can think without having anything to think about. Knowledge is changing too fast to be transmitted usefully to students, argued William Heard Kilpatrick of Teachers College, the most influential American educator of the century; instead of teaching children dead facts and figures, schools should teach them "critical thinking," he wrote in 1925. What matters is not what you know, but whether you know how to look it up, so that you can be a "lifelong learner."

Two final doctrines rounded out the indelible legacy of progressivism. First, Harold Rugg’s The Child-Centered School (1928) shifted the locus of power in the classroom from the teacher to the student. In a child-centered class, the child determines what he wants to learn. Forcing children into an existing curriculum inhibits their self-actualization, Rugg argued, just as forcing them into neat rows of chairs and desks inhibits their creativity. The teacher becomes an enabler, an advisor; not, heaven forbid, the transmitter of a pre-existing body of ideas, texts, or, worst of all, facts. In today’s jargon, the child should "construct" his own knowledge rather than passively receive it. By the late 1920s, students were moving their chairs around to form groups of "active learners" pursuing their own individual interests, and, instead of a curriculum, the student-centered classroom followed just one principle: "activity leading to further activity without badness," in Kilpatrick’s words. Today’s educators still present these seven-decade-old practices as cutting-edge.

As E. D. Hirsch observes, the child-centered doctrine grew out of the romantic idealization of children. If the child was, in Wordsworth’s words, a "Mighty Prophet! Seer Blest!" then who needs teachers? But the Mighty Prophet emerged from student-centered schools ever more ignorant and incurious as the schools became more vacuous. By the 1940s and 1950s, schools were offering classes in how to put on nail polish and how to act on a date. The notion that learning should push students out of their narrow world had been lost.

More here.

Liberal Media Bias Shows Up in the Strangest Places.

The mainstream media love lists. On almost any day, open up the paper or log on to your favorite news website, and there's some sort of list: The Richest Americans. The Best Colleges. The Most Powerful Political Leaders. Whatever.

These lists are designed to look like valid studies. They may even tout a rigorous methodology. But most of these lists are generated using arbitrary -- and often ideologically driven -- criteria. The lists that I find most frustrating are those that rate cities. The Happiest Cities. The Best Cities to Raise a Family. And this week's entry: "The Best U.S. Cities For Business," by a business news service called MarketWatch.com.

This list caught my attention in part because Des Moines, Iowa, ranks #1. Nothing against Des Moines (my sister and her family live there, after all), but what set of criteria would allow Des Moines to be #1, and put Washington, D.C. -- a very different kind of city -- at #2? The list is especially baffling when you consider that Des Moines scored fifty points (on a thousand-point scale) more than D.C., even though most of the other 99 cities on the list are separated from each other by less than five points.

The reasons for the strange rankings: bias and ideology.


Liberalism is What is Killing California.

Kevin Starr, author of an eight-volume -- so far -- history of the (formerly) Golden State, says California is "on the verge" of becoming something without an American precedent -- "a failed state." William Voegeli, writing in the Claremont Review of Books, tartly says that "Rome wasn't sacked in a day, and California didn't become Argentina overnight." Indeed.

It took years for liberalism's redistributive itch to create an income tax so steeply progressive that it prompts the flight from the state of wealth-creators: "Between 1990 and 2007," Voegeli writes, "some 3.4 million more Americans moved from California to one of the other 49 states than moved to California from another state."

And the state's income tax -- liberalism codified -- intensifies the effects of business cycles on the state's revenue stream: During booms, the stream surges and stimulates government spending; during contractions, revenues dwindle but the new government spending continues. Voegeli says that if California's spending had grown no faster than population growth and inflation from 1992 to 2006, it would have been $65 billion less in 2006, and per capita government outlays then would have equaled not those of Somalia or Mississippi but of Oregon, which is hardly "a hellish paradigm of Social Darwinism."


Thursday, January 14, 2010

Haiti Aid Goes Cellular as Texting Raises Millions Overnight

Jan. 15 (Bloomberg) -- The State Department’s “Text Haiti” campaign allowing people to donate to the Red Cross by mobile phone raised more than $1 million overnight.

People who send “Haiti” to 90999 as a text message via U.S. carriers can make a $10 donation that will automatically be added to their phone bill, said Jared Cohen, a policy planner at the State Department, in an e-mailed message.

“We have already raised $1.7 million in less than 24 hours from this,”

More here.

The Wife just did this. You should too.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Tuesday, January 12, 2010


A Novel Idea. Register non-gun owners.

Vermont State Rep. Fred Maslack has read the Second Amendment to the U.S.
Constitution, as well as Vermont 's own Constitution very carefully, and
his strict interpretation of these documents is popping some eyeballs in New
England and elsewhere.

Maslack recently proposed a bill to register "non-gun-owners" and require
them to pay a $500 fee to the state.
Thus Vermont would become the first state to require a permit for the luxury of going about unarmed and assess a
fee of $500 for the privilege of not owning a gun

Maslack read the "militia" phrase of the Second Amendment as not only affirming the right of the individual citizen to bear arms, but as a clear
mandate to do so.

An idea whose time has come.

More here.

Green Piety.

Friedrich Nietzsche was the first to notice that religious emotions, like guilt and indignation, are still with us, even if we're not religious. He claimed that we were living in a post-Christian world—the church no longer dominates political and economic life—but we, as a culture, are still dominated by Judeo-Christian values. And those values are not obvious—they are not the Ten Commandments or any particular doctrine, but a general moral outlook.


Fannie Mae/Feddie Mac Is Worse Than You Think.

It seems that aside from bad judgment, there was a fair amount of actual fraud.

It seems that Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac--the U.S. government, in effect--"routinely misrepresented the mortgages they were acquiring, reporting them as prime when they had characteristics that made them clearly subprime or Alt-A...." The much-reviled Wall Street bankers relied on those representations by agents of the federal government when they bought and sold securities backed by those misrepresented mortgages.

Qualitatively, this is not quite as bad as Bernie Madoff's Ponzi scheme, but it is worse than anything Enron did. Quantitatively, it caused financial devastation compared to which Enron and Madoff are barely grains of sand in the ocean. So, wouldn't one expect our reporters to show a little curiosity? Silly question, perhaps: mainstream reporters don't like where that trail leads. Also, to be fair, most of them are not smart enough to understand it.



Good For Google.

We launched Google.cn in January 2006 in the belief that the benefits of increased access to information for people in China and a more open Internet outweighed our discomfort in agreeing to censor some results. At the time we made clear that "we will carefully monitor conditions in China, including new laws and other restrictions on our services. If we determine that we are unable to achieve the objectives outlined we will not hesitate to reconsider our approach to China."

These attacks and the surveillance they have uncovered--combined with the attempts over the past year to further limit free speech on the web--have led us to conclude that we should review the feasibility of our business operations in China. We have decided we are no longer willing to continue censoring our results on Google.cn, and so over the next few weeks we will be discussing with the Chinese government the basis on which we could operate an unfiltered search engine within the law, if at all. We recognize that this may well mean having to shut down Google.cn, and potentially our offices in China.

Long overdo but at least they finally realize who they're dealing with.

The whole thing is here.