Tuesday, February 27, 2007

I can see it now

Just you watch! In a couple of years time, maybe less, we'll start to hear calls for government regulation of the age at which men will be granted the right to father children. Why do I think that? Because of articles like this:
Guys: The biological bell tolls on thee, too

By Mark de la Vina, MEDIANEWS STAFF
02/27/2007 07:41:48 AM PST

MEDIA TITAN Rupert Murdoch had a daughter when he was 72. Actor Tony Randall became a dad for the first time at 77. When the average life expectancy of the American male was a few months shy of 78, Nobel Prize-winning writer Saul Bellow fathered a kid at 84.

Long after a woman's biological clock stops ticking, most men can still father children. Yet many men say it's not just women who worry that they are too old to have kids. The physiology might allow for septuagenarians to bounce their beloved bundles on their arthritic knees, but the psychology suggests there is an age to stop bringing another baby on board.

Men having children past 40 is generally not a good idea, says Chris Mason, 46, of Danville. The father of three daughters by the time he was in his 30s, Mason says that he wouldn't consider having a fourth child, even if something were to happen to his wife.

"When your kids are young, you want to be out on the soccer field running, actually practicing with them," says Mason, the co-owner of a firm that out-sources sales. "But you get to a point where you can't keep up with the younger kids."

While the jury is still out on many details of the male biological clock, there is no consensus on the cutoff age for men to have kids, says Dr. Paul Turek, director of the Male Reproductive Health Center at the University of California, San Francisco.

"That's a fuzzy one," Turek says, "There is some evidence that as men age, their semen quality may decline slowly, but only at 1 percent a year after age 40. It's really hard to draw a line at some age."

You may scoff at the idea, but this is just the sort of thing that can gain traction with the drain-on-public-health crowd. That is, the favorite shibboleth used by the nanny-staters is that people should not be allowed to put a drain on public health services when they have made unacceptable lifestyle choices. It's happened with smoking, drinking, and it's beginning to happen with obesity and the consumption of certain foods. Now the door is opening for controlling the age at which one might be permitted to sire a child.

And here's the ultimate reason for justifying that control:
Ultimately, having a baby in life's late innings is a very subjective matter that can depend on such factors as health, financial well-being and the wife, Geraci says. But many dads bent on having kids aren't always weighing what's best for their children.

"They are selfish," he says. "You have to think about whether you want be a sperm donor or you want to be a father."

Isn't it nice to know that some people care enough about your self-interest to be able to determine when you're being selfish and when you're not?

Saturday, February 24, 2007

The Bank of Amigo card

Listen to this Paul Shanklin parody of the Bank of America's credit card program for illegal aliens ... um, I mean, undocumented workers.

Anthro-centric global scare-mongering, XXVI

How's this for a subtle ad?

Anthro-centric global scare-mongering, XXV

The new monster in the closet for kids is ... wait for it! ... global warming! Aieeeeee!
Global warming concerns are keeping children awake at night

Half of young children are anxious about the effects of global warming, often losing sleep because of their concern, according to a new report today.

A survey of 1,150 youngsters aged between seven and 11 found that one in four blamed politicians for the problems of climate change.

Gawd! Well, at least the kids are blaming the right people!

Zero intelligence, XCIII

What to do about this? I haven't the foggiest notion. The Internet is an instant gossip sheet and instrument of intense peer pressure for some kids. Sometimes it goes too far:
States Seek Laws to Curb Online Bullying

By Justin M. Norton
Posted 21 February 2007 @ 01:13 am

Ryan Patrick Halligan was bullied for months online. Classmates sent the 13-year-old Essex Junction, Vt., boy instant messages calling him gay. He was threatened, taunted and insulted incessantly by so-called cyberbullies.

In 2003, Ryan killed himself.

"He just went into a deep spiral in eighth grade. He couldn't shake this rumor," said Ryan's father, John Halligan, who became a key proponent of a state law that forced Vermont schools to put anti-bullying rules in place. He's now pushing for a broader law to punish cyberbullying - often done at home after school - and wants every other state to enact laws expressly prohibiting it.

States from Oregon to Rhode Island are considering crackdowns to curb or outlaw the behavior in which kids taunt or insult peers on social Web sites like MySpace or via instant messages. Still, there is some disagreement over how effective crackdowns will be and how to do it.

"The kids are forcing our hands to do something legislatively," said Rhode Island state Sen. John Tassoni, who introduced a bill to study cyberbullying and hopes to pass a cyberbullying law by late 2007.

But laws? This would just add extra proof – if any were needed – of the concept that "Hard cases make bad law".

Zero intelligence, XCII

My 16-year-old stepson tells me that at Neenah High School the kids are allowed to wear headphones during study halls and, of course, between classes; even during class if the teacher allows it. Seems that it's the only defense kids have against the boredom of schoolwork.

In this case defense against boredom led to an assalt on a teacher. An iPod confiscation led two kids to beat up a teacher right inside the school and break his neck:
Teacher Injured By Students Over Confiscated iPod

(CBS 3) PHILADELPHIA A popular Germantown High School teacher suffered a broken neck Friday during a scuffle with students over a prohibited electronic device.

The alleged incident happened just before noon after math teacher Frank Burd confiscated an iPod from a 11th grade member of his class.

Following class, authorities said the 17-year-old student and a 15-year-old freshman then assaulted the teacher in the hallway, knocking him to the ground.

"One student pushed the teacher, the teacher fell over, he suffered a gash on his face and broke two bones in his neck," said Paul Vallas, School District of Philadelphia CEO.

Zero intelligence, XCI

An article in Winter 2005/2006 issue of "Rethinking Schools" by a University of Minnesota teacher examines the continuing sexual stereotypes of boys and girls reflected in the toy store. This is the conclusion of the article:
The effect of toys and playtime may not be as benign as some parents and educators think. Although great strides have been made in many social areas, boys are still pushed toward higher levels of unhealthy competition and stoicism during playtime while many girls are reinforced in their unrealistic beliefs that they will always be taken care of or that employment outside the home is optional. The segregation under those neon lights is a fairly good predictor for what is to come, both in terms of earning power and career choice. The power and labor inequities in homes and work places — and the damaging messages sent to boys about their roles in society — are often shaped and defined in the types of toys that are mindlessly thrown in the shopping cart.

Over the last few years I've taken notice of commentaries about the feminization of the American culture. Now I'm highlighting this one. The author, Sudie Hofmann, says quite a number of things in this article that express concern that boys harm themselves by playing with these toys:

  • Are boys encouraged to demonstrate power and control during playtime by simulating violence and war?
  • When young boys engage in dress up, pile on the necklaces, enjoy painting their nails or select other girl toys, cultural norms or homophobia often correct the behavior immediately. In fact, in Fisher Price Playlab studies where staff members observed children behind one-way glass, they found that boys will play with "girl" toys if they think they are in a safe environment.
  • ...[Y]oung boys relish the chance to get their nails painted and have their hair styled when girls are doing it as a special activity. As one student told my class recently, "I think boys just like the closeness of being with a staff member, being touched while we paint their nails, and talking with us." Perhaps it is the tactile, calming aspect of this activity that draws boys and girls to it. However, sex roles are reinforced very early in boys' lives, and toys play a part in that socialization.
  • Beyond the obvious problems of violence and aggression that many of the toys engender, even the science-based toys are solitary and don't present opportunities for verbal or social development. Packaging hints at being the best or creating and building superior models or designs. There is little evidence that toys help boys in social and emotional development or in Katz's words, help boys to be "better men" some day.
  • One of the students had been in the military and said he felt angry about the socialization he had absorbed from toys, like assumptions that men make war, war is exciting, and new weapons are fun to use.

I cannot help but think, yet again, that the sociology courses taught in colleges are like focusing on the wallpaper pattern rather than on the way the house is built. What an utter waste of energy, time, and brain power.

Changing names

I've posted 90 articles under the heading "I love stories like this". I will still gather stories about public education but I'm going to change the heading to "Zero Intelligence".

I'm doing this because a fair number of the stories are tragic, and I don't "love" those stories at all. I will continue to treat the stories I highlight here as I view them: as examples of the tragedy of the commons.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Anthro-centric global scare-mongering, XXIV

Does it seem to you that some global-warming boosters go way too far with the attempts to scare us? This story from Australia's Herald Sun is in that category:
Fever claim on global warming

February 22, 2007 02:30pm

GLOBAL warming will take a toll on children's health, according to a new report showing hospital admissions for fever soar as days get hotter.

The new study found that temperature rises had a significant impact on the number of pre-schoolers presenting to emergency departments for fever and gastroenteritis.

The two-year study at a major children's hospital showed that for every five-degree rise in temperature two more children under six years old were admitted with fever to that hospital.

The University of Sydney research is the first to make a solid link between climate changes and childhood illness.

"And now global warming is becoming more apparent, it is highly likely an increasing number of young children will be turning up at hospital departments with these kinds of common illnesses," said researcher Lawrence Lam, a paediatrics specialist.

"It really demonstrates the urgent need for a more thorough investigation into how exactly climate change will affect health in childhood."

So, for every 5 degree rise in air temperature (I assume it's Celcius, not Fahrenheit), two more children are admitted to this hospital. Might we be safe, though, considering that the generally-accepted value for the rise in average global temperature over the past century is just under 1 degree Celcius? How long will it take, even at treble that rate, for 1 more child to be admitted to that hospital? I'll wait...

Lets work out the problem together, shall we? Lets take one degree per century temperature rise and triple that to 1 degree rise every 33 years (I'll throw in the year). Since two children are admitted for every 5 degree rise in temperature, it will take 5 degrees x 33 years per degree = 165 years for those two extra children to be admitted. Talk about a slow news day!

Yes, I'm being facetious, but I have cause! This is another in a long line of "news" articles that try to build outrage or stimulate anxiety through use of absurd numbers. The writer of the article even ignores a couple of obvious questions:

Is there a temperature threshold that must be attained before these pre-school cases of fever begin showing up? I mean, if the temperature rises from 5 degrees to 10 degrees around here, I don't think the fever incidence in pre-school children is affected. So what's the threshold temperature?

And, the big one: why the implication that global warming is progressing at a break-neck pace, as if next year there'll be 40 more children admitted to that hospital with global warming-induced fevers? It's been a single degree rise in a century.

Remember the story about the frog treading water in a pot of water on the stove? That frog would have had a chance to generate umpteen generations of frogs in that pot -- with the co-operation of a lady frog -- if the temperature went up only one degree in a century. Those frogs'll be treading water for centuries to come.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Primary results

From the Winnebago County web site:

Neenah Alderman, District 3 (top two advance)
Total Votes: 396
Ed Hofkens: 81 - 20.5%
Steve Erbach: 139 - 35.1%
Lee Hillstrom: 174 - 43.9%
Write-in Votes: 2 - 0.5%

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

I love stories like this, XC

Apple's Steve Jobs questioned why schools are so eager to get computers in the classroom:
Apple CEO lambasts teacher unions

Associated Press

AUSTIN - Apple Inc. CEO Steve Jobs lambasted teacher unions Friday, claiming no amount of technology in the classroom would improve public schools until principals could fire bad teachers.

Jobs compared schools to businesses with principals serving as CEOs.

"What kind of person could you get to run a small business if you told them that when they came in they couldn't get rid of people that they thought weren't any good?" he asked to loud applause during an education reform conference.

"Not really great ones because if you're really smart you go, 'I can't win.'"

In a rare joint appearance, Jobs shared the stage with competitor Michael Dell, founder and CEO of Dell Inc. Both spoke to the gathering about the potential for bringing technological advances to classrooms.

"I believe that what is wrong with our schools in this nation is that they have become unionized in the worst possible way," Jobs said.

"This unionization and lifetime employment of K-12 teachers is off-the-charts crazy."

At various pauses, the audience applauded enthusiastically. Dell sat quietly with his hands folded in his lap.

"Apple just lost some business in this state, I'm sure," Jobs said.

Dell responded that unions were created because "the employer was treating his employees unfairly and that was not good.

"So now you have these enterprises where they take good care of their people. The employees won, they do really well and succeed."

Dell also blamed problems in public schools on the lack of a competitive job market for principals.

Earlier in the panel discussion, Jobs told the crowd about his vision for textbook-free schools in the future. Textbooks would be replaced with a free, online information source that was constantly updated by experts, much like the online encyclopedia Wikipedia.

"I think we'd have far more current material available to our students and we'd be freeing up a tremendous amount of funds that we could buy delivery vehicles with - computers, faster Internet, things like that," Jobs said. "And I also think we'd get some of the best minds in the country contributing."

Personally, I'd like to see them get rid of computers and calculators. Yes, yes, I know that computers are vital to business and that if we don't teach the kids in school how to fix up their little documents with fancy fonts their careers will be ruined. But in Neenah the schools have Apple Macs. Businesses use PCs. If every high school graduate becomes a graphics designer, then fine.

Besides, most homes have computers now. Make kids write papers long-hand. Have you seen their penmanship lately? 'Bout time to practice, I think.

I love stories like this, LXXXIX

"Sports do not build character. They reveal it." - Heywood Hale Broun (and Vince Lombardi)

In high school sports it appears more and more that that's true:
What Are Your Children Learning? The Impact of High School Sports on the Values and Ethics of High School Athletes

REPORT REVEALS PROPENSITY OF HIGH SCHOOL ATHLETES TO LIE AND CHEAT WHEN THE STAKES ARE HIGH: Are Sports Fields Training Grounds for Next Generation’s Corporate and Political Villains?

National survey suggests many coaches, especially in football, baseball and basketball, are “teaching kids to cheat and cut corners”

LOS ANGELES (February 16, 2007) – According to a report released this week by the Josephson Institute of Ethics, the values of young athletes are dramatically impacted by their sports experience, often for the worse.

The report, “What Are Your Children Learning? The Impact of High School Sports on the Values and Ethics of High School Athletes,” summarizes the responses of 5,275 high school athletes to a written survey administered in 2005 and 2006.

Michael Josephson, president of the nonprofit Josephson Institute and founder of the national program, CHARACTER COUNTS!, said the report contains both good and bad news for parents and school administrators. “The good news is that the majority of high school athletes trust and admire their coaches and are learning positive life skills and good values from them. They are less cynical about ethical issues and less likely to steal than their classmates.

“The bad news,” Josephson added, “is that many coaches -- particularly in the high profile sports of boys’ basketball, baseball and football -- are teaching kids how to cheat and cut corners. Both boys and girls are more likely to cheat in school and far too many are willing to cheat in sports and engage in other dishonest, deceptive and dangerous practices without regard for the rules or traditional notions of fair play and sportsmanship. There is reason to worry that the sports fields of America are becoming the training grounds for the next generation of corporate and political villains and thieves.”

I just report 'em folks.

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Yep, Rudy's the one

I'm going to cast my vote for Rudy Giuliani for President in 2008. From his performance as mayor of New York before and after 9/11, to his speech before the Republican national convention in '04, to his recent announcement that he'll run for President, I have admired him. This is the man who should lead the United States.

For those of you a little leery of him, perhaps this article from City Journal will shed some light on the character of Rudy Giuliani. Some Giuliani quotes from the article:
“Over the last century, millions of people from all over the world have come to New York City,” Giuliani once observed. “They didn’t come here to be taken care of and to be dependent on city government. They came here for the freedom to take care of themselves.”

Giuliani preached the need to reestablish a “civil society,” where citizens adhered to a “social contract.” “If you have a right,” he observed, “there is a duty that goes along with that right.”

Later, when he became mayor, Giuliani would preach about the duties of citizenship, quoting the ancient Athenian Oath of Fealty: “We will revere and obey the city’s laws. . . . We will strive unceasingly to quicken the public sense of civic duty. Thus in all these ways we will transmit this city not only not less, but far greater and more beautiful than it was transmitted to us.”

“The most fundamental of civil rights is the guarantee that government can give you a reasonable degree of safety.”

As a federal prosecutor in New York in the 1980s, he had vigorously hunted low-level drug dealers—whom other law enforcement agencies ignored—because he thought that the brazen selling of drugs on street corners cultivated disrespect for the law and encouraged criminality. “You have to . . . dispel cynicism about law enforcement by showing we treat everyone alike, whether you are a major criminal or a low-level drug pusher,” Giuliani explained.

As mayor, he instituted a “zero tolerance” approach that cracked down on quality-of-life offenses like panhandling and public urination (in a city where some streets reeked of urine), in order to restore a sense of civic order that he believed would discourage larger crimes. “Murder and graffiti are two vastly different crimes,” he explained. “But they are part of the same continuum, and a climate that tolerates one is more likely to tolerate the other.”

“The police started ignoring all kinds of offenses,” Giuliani later recounted of the [New York Mayor David] Dinkins years. They “became,” he deadpanned, “highly skilled observers of crime.”

“A city, and especially a city like New York, should be a place of optimism,” Giuliani later explained about his policing strategies. “Quality of life is about focusing on the things that make a difference in the everyday life of all New Yorkers in order to restore this spirit of optimism.”

[Giuliani's Police Chief William] Bratton replaced a third of the city’s 76 precinct commanders within a few months. “If you were to manage a bank with 76 branches every day, you would get a profit-and-loss statement from the bank,” explained Giuliani. “After a week or so, you would see branches that were going in the wrong direction, and then you would take management action to try to reverse the trend. That is precisely what is happening in the police department.”

Budget documents from the Dinkins years projected an eventual 1.6 million people on welfare. “The City of New York was actually quite successful in achieving what it wanted to achieve, which was to encourage the maximum number of people to be on welfare,” Giuliani later explained. “If you ran a welfare office, . . . you had a bigger budget, and you had more authority, if you had more people on welfare.”

A child born out of wedlock, he observed in one speech, was three times more likely to wind up on welfare than a child from a two-parent family. “Seventy percent of long-term prisoners and 75 percent of adolescents charged with murder grew up without fathers,” Giuliani told the city. He insisted that the city and the nation had to reestablish the “responsibility that accompanies bringing a child into the world,” and to that end he required deadbeat fathers either to find a private-sector job or to work in the city’s workfare program as a way of contributing to their child’s upbringing. But he added that changing society’s attitude toward marriage was more important than anything government could do: “[I]f you wanted a social program that would really save these kids, . . . I guess the social program would be called fatherhood.”

Although Giuliani didn’t start out as a proponent of school choice, his frustration in trying to turn around a huge school system where the teachers’ union and the bureaucrats worked to stymie reform made him into a powerful proponent of vouchers, which he believed would force the public schools to compete for students with their private counterparts. “[T]he whole notion of choice is really about more freedom for people, rather than being subjugated by a government system that says you have no choice about the education of your child,” he said.

Giuliani preached against New York’s lingering New Deal belief that government creates jobs, arguing that government should instead get out of the way and let the private sector work. “City government should not and cannot create jobs through government planning,” he said. “The best it can do, and what it has a responsibility to do, is to deal with its own finances first, to create a solid budgetary foundation that allows businesses to move the economy forward on the strength of their energy and ideas. After all, businesses are and have always been the backbone of New York City.”

“I felt it was really important the first year I was mayor to cut a tax,” Giuliani later explained. “Nobody ever cut a tax before in New York City, and that was one of the reasons I wanted to set a new precedent.”

“No one ever considered tax reductions a reasonable option,” Giuliani explained. But, he added in a speech at the Ronald Reagan Library, “targeted tax reductions spur growth. That’s why we have made obtaining targeted tax reductions a priority of every budget.”

[T]he mayor led visiting heads of state on tours of the [World Trade Center] devastation, because, he said, “You can’t come here and be neutral.” He addressed the United Nations on the new war against terrorism, warning the delegates: “You’re either with civilization or with terrorists.” When a Saudi prince donated millions to relief efforts but later suggested that United States policy in the Middle East may have been partially responsible for the attacks, Giuliani returned the money, observing that there was “no moral equivalent” for the unprecedented terrorist attack.

There is no one in America that has better credentials on American values, security, economic freedom, and personal responsibility than Rudy Giuliani. That's why he'll get my vote next year.

The next stop on the slippery slope

Those in favor of government control of cigarettes will be pleased to see this story:
Gemany may ban smoking while driving
Sat Feb 17, 2007 8:59 AM ET

BERLIN (Reuters) - Germany may outlaw smoking in cars because it is a health hazard and a safety risk, the government's commissioner for substance abuse Sabine Baetzing said.

"We're examining whether it would be possible to ban smoking while driving and how that would work," she told the Kurier am Sonntag newspaper in an excerpt made available on Saturday.

She said a ban on smoking in cars was urgently needed even if it would represent an invasion of privacy.

"We've got to ask ourselves if traffic safety and health protection should not take precedence. Smoke fumes inside a car are many times higher than in other areas."

"In Germany we can no longer afford to ignore the dangers of second-hand smoke," she said, adding that it was up to the 16 federal states to take a tougher stance.

I'm not a smoker. I don't really like being in the same room with smokers. My wife smells it on my clothes when I've been in a home where smokers live. But I don't agree that our lives are in any way enhanced by making the smoking of cigarettes while driving a crime.

Look, we've already got laws on the books that cover inattentive driving. If police departments stretched those laws to the limits, then drinking coffee, talking on a cell phone, tuning the radio, having an animated conversation with a passenger, even fiddling with the rear-view mirror could earn the driver a ticket for inattentive driving. Why write a new law?

Friday, February 16, 2007

Does anybody still think Venezuela is a socialist paradise?

The news today is that the star of "Alo Presidente!", President Hugo Chavez, will chop three zeroes from the value of Venezuela's currency by next February. That means that next year the government is going to make it easier for the people of Venezuela to shop. Instead of using 1000 bolivars to buy a loaf of bread, it will only take 1 New Venezuelan bolivar to buy that same loaf of bread. This can't lead to anything good.

I remember in the early 90s listening with disbelief to the stories of Yugoslavian hyper-inflation as the country fell to pieces after the fall of Communism. Here's what the Yugoslavian government did to the dinar with "currency reform" during that period:

1990: 10,000 old dinars = 1 new dinar
1992: 10 old dinars = 1 new dinar
1993: 1,000,000 old dinars = 1 new dinar
1994: 1,000,000,000 old dinars = 1 new dinar
1994: (one month later) 13,000,000 old dinars = 1 new dinar

That's 10,000 x 10 x 1,000,000 x 1,000,000,000 x 13,000,000, or 1,300,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 old, pre-1990 dinars for one brand spanking new late-1994 dinar. That's 1.3 octillion dinars. Here's a picture of a 500 billion dinar note printed by the Yugoslav government in 1993:

If dinars are about the thickness of dollar bills, then 1.3 octillion dinars stacked on top of each other would reach into space ... wait for it! ... 15 million light years! Or almost a trillion times the distance from the earth to our sun. That's in a single stack of dinars.

Now, if every one of the approximately 6 billion people on this planet, man, woman, and child, were to start stacking dinars at the rate of 100 dinars every second for 8 hours a day, it would take 14 years to finish stacking those 1.3 octillion dinars ... at which point the 30% of the earth that is solid ground would be covered to a depth of 6,150 miles with dinars!

(UPDATE: I dropped a few decimal points when I calculated the years it would take for 6 billion people working to pile those discarded dinars on the land surface of the earth. I apologize. For those with as twisted a fascination with large numbers as I have, here are the details of the calculation:
  • 1.3 octillion (1.3 x 1027) dinars split up amongst 6 billion people = 2.16667 x 1017 dinars per person -- that's 2162/3 quadrillion dinars per person.
  • 100 dinars per second x 1/3 x 31,557,600 seconds per year (using 365¼ days per year) = 1.052 billion dinars per year, working only 8 hours a day, but with no time off for holidays or weekends. I'm sorry, but we gotta get them dinars stacked, baby!
  • So, 2.16667 x 1017 dinars per person at a rate of 1.052 billion dinars per year ... it would take each man, woman, and child on this planet 206 million years to stack those puppies up.
  • UPDATE: Since the International Brotherhood of Dinar Stackers filed a grievance, I was forced to change the schedule somewhat to allow weekends off, one week of paid vacation the first year, two weeks after two years, three weeks after five years, four weeks after ten years, five weeks after 15 years, six weeks after 25 years, and 10 paid holidays per year: New Year's Day, Martin Luther King Day, Good Friday, Memorial Day, Indpendence Day, Labor Day, Thanksgiving Thursday and Friday, Christmas Eve and Christmas Day – variations on that schedule based on differences in regionally dominant religions and nationalities. We're still wrangling over sick days, health insurance coverage, and company-supplied replacement silicone rubber stacking gloves. That means that it'll take longer than 206 million years. I leave that as an exercise for the student.
By passing on the tradition from father to son, we'll have those dinars stacked up in about the same number of years as it's been since the twilight of the Triassic Period to now.

Those of you that are really swift with the math will also have noticed that my estimate of the land surface of the earth being covered to a depth of 6,150 miles in dinars is a bit misleading. If our glorious, unionized dinar stackers followed instructions and stacked those dinars in perfect vertical piles, then, once those piles got to that height, they'd looked like porcupine quills sticking up all over the earth. At a height of 6,150 miles, the top of each stack of dinars would be between 62/3 and 152/3 inches apart. If we assume that the dinars will actually be laid down such that there won't be any stack gaps – visualize them being dumped and packed into huge vats with vertical sides reaching into space – then the height of that packed stack would actually be a little over 3,000 miles high. My apologies.

That's a lot of dinars. At least a guy doesn't have to carry around all those bills, eh?

Anyway, the point is that Venezuela has now officially started down that path. They've got the sixth largest oil reserves in the world and they've got to devaule their currency by three orders of magnitude. I'll tell ya, that socialism really, really works!

The greatest golfer ever to swing a club ... really!

Jack Nicklaus? Nope. Ben Hogan? Nah! Tiger Woods? Yawn!

You're way off. The greatest golfer ever in the history of the game is the man who, upon playing the first round of his life, shot 11 holes-in-one.

Yes, eleven, friends! It's all right here in this article on the 65th birthday of that golf god, North Korean leader Kim Jong Il:
Outside of North Korea Kim is seen as man with a bouffant hair-do, drab jumpsuit and platform shoes who has done little to help his starving people and let the country's industry stagnate.

Like his father, he has constructed a cult of personality around him.

Long groomed by his father, state founder Kim Il-sung, he gradually tightened his hold on power after the elder Kim died of a heart attack in 1994 in the midst of an earlier crisis over North Korea's nuclear program.

The younger Kim declined to assume the title of president, instead designating his father "eternal president" and opting to rule as chairman of the National Defense Commission and head of the ruling party.

North Korea's official media has said flowers come into bloom when he appears and rainbows fill the sky on his birthday.

He is, it is said, a man who pilots jet fighters -- even though he travels by land for his infrequent trips abroad.

He has also penned operas, produced movies and accomplished a feat unmatched in the annals of professional golf, shooting 11 holes-in-one during the first round he ever played.

If you can't believe Reuters then who can you believe?

Recent commentary: The Avery trial

How much attention do you give the Steven Avery trial?

(published 19-Feb-2007, Appleton Post-Crescent)

Murder trials don't grab me. I never saw any of the TV coverage of O. J. Simpson's murder trial, nor did I even follow the Jeffrey Dahmer case years ago. I did a survey at work. One fellow scoffed at the idea that the evidence against Avery isn't conclusive. Others had a general idea of the facts of the case but didn't work up too much spit over it. While waiting to have a tire mounted at Expert Tire I saw both a TV and a Post-Crescent story, so it sure is hot. Last Thursday's story with the nephew changing his tune about when Avery made the body-disposal joke was interesting, but I just don't get any vicarious ... well, "pleasure" isn't the word I'm looking for. Maybe I should just say I don't get my jollies from sordid murders. Politics is more my speed. (See my ad on this page!)

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Why oh why are we ruled by these idiots? IIa

Bob Krumm, a politcal blogger from Tennessee, posted his view of Governor Jim Doyle's brilliant new tax proposal. Definitely worth reading:

Send a dachshund in after this badger

[Wisonsin Governor] Jim Doyle will unveil a tax on oil companies on Tuesday but will bar the firms from passing it on to consumers.

As soon as I read that I said to myself, “I bet that this guy has never worked a day in his life outside of government.”

So I checked his biography and found this:
Inspired by John F. Kennedy’s call to public service, after college the Governor and First Lady worked for two years as teachers in Tunisia, Africa in the Peace Corps. After he graduated from law school, the Governor and First Lady moved to the Navajo Indian Reservation in Chinle, Arizona to work as an attorney and teacher, respectively.

In 1976, Governor Doyle was elected Dane County District Attorney and served three terms from 1977-82.

Up to this point in his life, it looks like Gov. Doyle is the stereotypical career bureaucrat whose lack of real world life experiences might allow him to believe that businesses could absorb extra expenses, like higher taxes, while overall costs remained steady. But then there was this:
When he left that office, he spent eight years building his own private law practice . . .

What? Did he not learn in those eight years that for a business owner to stay in business, he has to pay all of his expenses and still sell his product for more than it costs to produce it?

Apparently he did learn, because he said this just last November:
People ought to understand the sales tax is a tax on people it’s not a tax on business. . . So when you say you’re going to take away [a sales tax] exemption, you’re not talking about a business. You’re saying individual people are going to pay a sales tax and I’m not in favor of that.

Of course, when he said that, he was talking about the sales tax exemption that Wisconsin has long bestowed to certain services–including legal services. You see, he knows that businesses don’t pay taxes. People do. He especially knows that when it’s his business that’s being taxed.

I say all this somewhat tongue-in-cheek. One doesn’t get to be governor of a state not knowing how the real world works–even if he had spent his entire life in bureacracy and politics. However, Governor Doyle apparently thinks that Cheeseheads won’t be able to figure out how the world works, and that they will accept his assurances that the price of gas won’t rise even as the tax on gas increases.

If Wisconsin pols are able to do it, they should attach to the Governor’s bill a tax on legal fees in the same amount that Gov. Doyle wants to tax oil companies. Then they could just sit back and watch how fast that badger backs out of his hole.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Why oh why are we ruled by these idiots? II

I have to hang my head in shame over this one. My own governor, James Doyle, has actually proposed that oil companies be prevented from passing tax increases on to consumers:
Doyle wants tax on oil companies
They'd be pressed to absorb cost

Posted: Feb. 12, 2007

Madison - Gov. Jim Doyle will unveil a tax on oil companies on Tuesday but will bar the firms from passing it on to consumers.

The tax would mark the first cash infusion into the state's transportation account since an annual automatic increase in the gas tax ended in April.

But some question whether the state can legally prevent companies from passing taxes on to consumers.

Doyle also wants to raise the driver's licenses fee by $10 or so to help cover the state's cost of complying with a new federal law requiring more secure identification. A $10 increase would bring the cost of a three-year license to $28 and an eight-year renewal to $34.

Both proposals would need the approval of lawmakers.

Doyle, a Democrat, said the new tax on oil companies would be a good way to have firms that have enjoyed record profits fund highways and other transportation projects.

"It seems to me that these companies that have had such a big killing - and this is money that has come directly out of the pockets of the people of Wisconsin and the people of the United States - they ought to be doing their share to help with the infrastructure needs," Doyle said.

Oil company officials would face up to six months in jail if they passed the tax on to consumers. The state Department of Revenue would audit the firms to ensure they do not.

"I think, given the severity of the penalties and the enforcement unit we'll put in place, any oil company would run a very big risk in Wisconsin if they attempted to violate that law," Doyle said.

My God! Here we have a high government official revealing for the first time to all the world that corporations generally pass along additional costs in the form of price increases to consumers. So, after all these years of legislation and regulation of evil corporations, we find out now that those corporations merely raised their prices on us poor dumb consumers!!?? And now, by thunder! the governor is going to put a stop to that sort of nonsense!

This will be the start of something big nationwide, I can just see it. This ground-breaking, outside-the-box thinking on the part of our governor will mean billions in revenue for states and the federal government who never quite figured out how to put the hammer lock on corporations before now. Just make them eat those additional taxes! No fair getting relief by charging more for your product! If you do then it's six months in the hoosegow for you, buddy!

Hey! That's how we can finally get rid of the tobacco companies! Instead of raising the tax on packs of cigarettes (Doyle wants to double the cigarette tax, too) why not make the tobacco companies pay the tax – and force them to pay it out of their profits, not in the form of higher cigarette prices? Brilliant! Absolutely smashingly brilliant!

What kind of chump does he take us for? ("First class", yeah, I know!)

Update: Blogger Bob Krumm weighs in.

2° wind chill in D. C.

It's so annoying. A fine, upstanding Congressional subcommittee schedules a hearing on global warming, and what happens? A snowstorm! And overnight wind chill down to 2° F:

Tue Feb 13 2007 19:31:25 ET

The Subcommittee on Energy and Air Quality hearing scheduled for Wednesday, February 14, 2007, at 10:00 a.m. in room 2123 Rayburn House Office Building has been postponed due to inclement weather. The hearing is entitled “Climate Change: Are Greenhouse Gas Emissions from Human Activities Contributing to a Warming of the Planet?”

The hearing will be rescheduled to a date and time to be announced later.


Wednesday: Freezing rain in the morning...then a chance of snow in the afternoon. Ice accumulation of less than one quarter of an inch. Highs in the mid 30s. Northwest winds around 20 mph. Chance of precipitation 80 percent.

Wednesday Night: Partly cloudy. Lows around 18. Northwest winds around 20 mph.

It's so annoying!

Is Al Gore sane?

That, at least, is what Czech Republic President, Vaclav Klaus, wonders in a recent interview with Hospodářské noviny (Economic News), a Czech daily newspaper. (The link is to the English translation of the original interview.) In response to the question, "Don't you believe that we're ruining our planet", Mr. Klaus responded:
Perhaps only Mr Al Gore may be saying something along these lines: a sane person hardly. I don't see any ruining of the planet, I have never seen it, and I don't think that a reasonable and serious person could say that he has. ... [W]e know that there exists a huge correlation between the care we give to the environment on one side and the wealth and technological prowess on the other side. It's clear that the poorer the society is, the more brutally it behaves with respect to Nature, and vice versa.

It's also true that there exist social systems that are damaging Nature - by eliminating private ownership and similar things - much more than the freer societies. These tendencies become important in the long run. They unambiguously imply that today, on February 8th, 2007, Nature is protected uncomparably more than on February 8th ten years ago or fifty years ago or one hundred years ago.

A bit earlier in the interview the reporter asked, "How do you explain that there is no other comparably senior statesman in Europe who would advocate this viewpoint? No one else has such strong opinions..." (emphasis mine):
My opinions about this issue simply are strong. Other top-level politicians do not express their global warming doubts because a whip of political correctness strangles their voice.

This was followed up by, "But you're not a climate scientist. Do you have a sufficient knowledge and enough information?"
Environmentalism as a metaphysical ideology and as a worldview has absolutely nothing to do with natural sciences or with the climate. Sadly, it has nothing to do with social sciences either. Still, it is becoming fashionable and this fact scares me. The second part of the sentence should be: we also have lots of reports, studies, and books of climatologists whose conclusions are diametrally opposite.

Indeed, I never measure the thickness of ice in Antarctica. I really don't know how to do it, I don't plan to learn it, and I don't pretend to be an expert in such measurements. However, as a scientifically oriented person, I know how to read science reports about these questions, for example about ice in Antarctica. I don't have to be a climate scientist myself to read them. And inside the papers I have read, the conclusions we may see in the media simply don't appear.

Environmentalism and green ideology is something very different from climate science. Various findings and screams of scientists are abused by this ideology.

My kind of guy!

On our side of the Atlantic we have people like Senators Olympia Snowe and Jay Rockefeller demanding that oil companies stop funding research that questions the received gospel of anthro-centric global warming.

Those that rail against anthro-centric global warming skeptics have transmogrified the debate into a single point; i. e., that the skeptics deny that any warming has occured. This is simply not the case. The skeptics can read the temperature reports as well as anyone. The skeptics don't question whether any warming has occured – clearly it has – but whether or not it is due primarily to human causes.

Saturday, February 10, 2007

I love stories like this, LXXXVIII

A tip of the hat to Best of the Web Today (BotWT) for this story which begins.
Choice of school drama raises issue
It might be curtains for Wando's 'Mockingbird'

Friday, February 09, 2007

Mount Pleasant - Wando High School drama students know curtains will rise on their spring production, but they wonder whether they'll be performing a play they're passionate about, "To Kill a Mockingbird," or one that's more palatable to their school's leadership.

School officials fear "To Kill a Mockingbird" might be offensive to some because the play contains racially derogatory language about black people.

It doesn't matter that the novel won a Pulitzer prize. It doesn't matter that Gregory Peck gave such a powerful and Oscar-winning performance in the movie, not to mention that of Brock Peters as Tom Robinson, the accused rapist. James Taranto in BotWT formulates the prime question:
"To Kill a Mockingbird" depicts racism in order to deplore it. Are 21st-century high school students really too delicate to handle exposure to what racism was like?

Friday, February 09, 2007

I love stories like this, LXXXVII

In a column for the Pioneer Press in Minnesota, Jay Haugen, Superintendent of School District 197 (West St. Paul-Mendota Heights-Eagan), makes a case for more public school spending:
Public schools support success for every child, but it will take more money

To help understand why public education funding is failing in Minnesota, consider this parable.

An employee is asked to help his boss prepare for an office celebration. He is given a list of things to buy and the money to buy them. He cheerfully sets out to purchase everything on the boss' list. Soon, he realizes there is not enough money. When he tells this to his boss, he is told to try harder. He continues searching for the best prices and even uses experienced shoppers to identify creative ways to get everything on the list. Unfortunately, the items and quantities on the list simply cannot be obtained with the resources supplied.

When the employee reports this, he expects the boss to allocate more re-sources or reduce the number of items on the list. The boss instead calls his efforts into question and labels him "failing." He sends him out with an even longer list of things to buy with the same money.

Our schools do not receive funding adequate to meet what is required of them, but like the boss in the parable, we have decided to label them as failing and to demand more.

Critics of public education say money won't solve the problem: "No matter how much they get, schools always want more." We have no choice but to want more because, for many years now, our state and federal governments have kept adding to our list of mandates without providing the resources to accomplish what they have mandated.

Mr. Haugen has a point. However, I detect the wail of a bureaucrat. Yes, what the public demands of public schools is unreasonable given the amount the public is willing to spend. But doesn't that imply that the concept of public schooling is flawed? The tragedy of the commons and all?

I have to wonder how it is that we continue to hear about some schools (admitedly a small number) that seem to exceed expectations in the most adverse circumstances. What generally happens? The bureaucracy in those districts eventually flows in and muffles the school or the teachers that have made that school a shining light. One interesting example is that of Jaime Escalante's AP calculus course in Los Angeles. The bureaucracy persists while individuals move on.
As in the parable, there are only two real choices: Increase investment or decrease standards. Labeling underfunded schools as failing is not an answer. Hope is a powerful thing, but hoping and wishing are not strategies. A strategy for success starts with a plan to rationally link funding to standards.

There are other routes. School choice (vouchers) and incentives for home schooling are a couple. Another would be to remove the compulsory attendance requirements in most (if not all) state statutes. I've always considered it curious that government exhibits a clear preference for T. H. White's ant colony formulation: Everything not prohibited is compulsory.

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Archived commentary: Under God

From the archives:

What purpose does the phrase "under God" in the Pledge of Allegiance serve?

(published 27-Oct-2003, Appleton Post-Crescent)

Most people don't know that one part of the original Pledge ritual was to raise the arm, palm up, toward the flag. After the Nazis came to power in Germany, that "sieg heil" salute became the present hand over the heart. "Under God" was inserted in the pledge to counterbalance "godless" communism, not solely to acknowledge our nation's debt to the Creator. Reciting the Pledge is not required at any time. The entire squabble is essentially about legislating manners -- and everyone is behaving badly. Most people are happy with "under God," though. It went through Congress in 1954 like grass through a goose. Now somebody's got his knickers in a knot about it and wants to force everybody else to change. It would be too simple just to omit saying the words, "under God." No, in our great democratic tradition, everyone in the country must be enjoined from saying them.

Archived commentary: The lottery

From the archives:

What would you do with your life if you won the lottery?

(published 20-Oct-2003, Appleton Post-Crescent)

My stepfather once said that if he ever won big in the lottery he'd fold up his tent and steal away in the middle of the night to avoid his new "friends" and those with their hands out. He had a point. I know that I'd worry about the safety of my children. It might cause me to buy the first handguns I've ever owned and make sure my family knew how to use them. Once security was taken care of, however, I'd remember that I've said some strong things about government-funded public schools. I'd put that lottery money where my mouth is and start a private school. One of the biggest mistakes we made as a nation was to entrust the education of our children to the government. I'd devote the rest of my life doing the best I could to offer an alternative to as many as possible.

Archived commentary: The American Way

What is 'the American Way?'

(published 13-Oct-2003, Appleton Post-Crescent)

Remember the stories about how Nazi soldiers couldn't fix their own tanks when they broke down, but American GIs could fix theirs? Yankee know-how, a can-do attitude, and self-reliance are vital parts of the American Way. Why didn't Japan become an American territory after WWII? Why won't Iraq become an American territory? Because respect for self-determination and sovereignty is part of the American Way. Which nation in the world gives more to charity? Which nation has forgiven more debt? Generosity is the American Way. Whether it's outer space or the Wild West, exploring the unknown is part of the American Way. And how can we ignore Arnold Schwarzenegger? He understands what the American Dream and the American Way mean to the immigrant. We took this Land of Opportunity and made it a magnet for every race and culture on the planet; a place to call home. That's the American Way.

Archived commentary: Censorship

From the archives:

When is censorship appropriate?

(published 29-Sep-2003, Appleton Post-Crescent)

Mostly it isn't. In a family, though, it's entirely appropriate. Parents do it all the time, or should. What TV shows, movies, and reading materials are forbidden; what kind of language isn't tolerated, etc. Outside the family, certain types of "censorship" protect our rights. For example, public elections are by secret ballot – a form of censorship that I heartily endorse. Censorship of movies by anybody other than the movie studios themselves isn't appropriate. The censoring of Hillary Clinton's book in China is something about which we can do very little. It's rude from the standpoint of publishing rights ... but it highlights what governments have done and continue to do on a regular basis. Our First Amendment makes it easy for us to forget that the printed word isn't treated with the same respect in other countries. I'm sure that the Ayatollah Khomeini would have censored "Satanic Verses" in a heartbeat.

Archived commentary: The most uplifting thing

From the archives:

What was the most uplifting thing you ever saw?

(published 22-Sep-2003, Appleton Post-Crescent)

The most uplifting thing I ever saw - and the most poignant - was the moon landing on July 20, 1969. I remember the wonder and awe in Walter Cronkite's face that night as we heard the words, "That's one small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind." Could there ever be anything in the world as fantastic and supremely cool as that first step on the moon? But that was the last time the world would stand with the U.S. and feel the same wonder and awe. We raised the bar for space exploration - we built the stadium to house it and staged a dozen other world-class events - but we only jumped over it a handful of times before we tore it down. Some say we're preparing for another shot at it when the rest of the world is ready. But that just doesn't seem to be the American way.

I showed that column to a friend of mine who replied:
I remember it well because I was in Paris at the time. The Americans were crowded around the TV in the lobby cheering. I thought the French were going to puke. They were so put off by our success. Thought they were going to evict and then deport all of us. What a bunch of sourpusses.

And here I'd written about how the world stood with us to witness this awe-inspiring event. I guess the French are a separate case.

Sunday, February 04, 2007

Just to give you an idea...

...of how things work in the anthro-centric global warming debate, this article in the Wall Street journal details what happened when Nobel Peace Prize nominee and erstwhile Vice President of the United States, Al Gore, was scheduled to debate global warming with Bjorn Lomborg, author of "The Skeptical Environmentalist":
The interview had been scheduled for months. The day before the interview Mr. Gore's agent thought Gore-meets-Lomborg would be great. Yet an hour later, he came back to tell us that Bjorn Lomborg should be excluded from the interview because he's been very critical of Mr. Gore's message about global warming and has questioned Mr. Gore's evenhandedness. According to the agent, Mr. Gore only wanted to have questions about his book and documentary, and only asked by a reporter. These conditions were immediately accepted by Jyllands-Posten. Yet an hour later we received an email from the agent saying that the interview was now cancelled.

The column goes on to pose questions that would have been asked of Mr. Gore if the debate had taken place. For example:
It would have been great to ask him why he only talks about a sea-level rise of 20 feet. In his movie he shows scary sequences of 20-feet flooding Florida, San Francisco, New York, Holland, Calcutta, Beijing and Shanghai. But were realistic levels not dramatic enough? The U.N. climate panel expects only a foot of sea-level rise over this century. Moreover, sea levels actually climbed that much over the past 150 years. Does Mr. Gore find it balanced to exaggerate the best scientific knowledge available by a factor of 20?

Would it not be worthwhile to have global warming skeptics debate with proponents? How about a debate between Lord Monckton, Viscount of Brenchley, and Oscar and Nobel nominee Gore? Or between Bjorn Lomborg and the Weather Channel's Heidi Cullen?

It is evident to me, at least, that proponents want a clear field to express their views. There is so little regard for scientific skepticism that that alone makes me suspicious of the warmists' claims.

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Liberty + equality + opportunity = Peace

I like it! Mark R. Levin (The Great One), President of the Landmark Legal Foundation, has nominated Rush Limbaugh for the Nobel Peace Prize:
LEESBURG, Va., Feb. 1 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ – Landmark Legal Foundation today nominated nationally syndicated radio talk show host Rush Limbaugh for the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize.

Limbaugh, whose daily radio show is heard by more than 20 million people on more than 600 radio stations in the United States and around the world, was nominated for the prestigious award for his "nearly two decades of tireless efforts to promote liberty, equality and opportunity for all humankind, regardless of race, creed, economic stratum or national origin. These are the only real cornerstones of just and lasting peace throughout the world," said Landmark President Mark R. Levin.

"Rush Limbaugh is the foremost advocate for freedom and democracy in the world today," explained Levin. "Everyday he gives voice to the values of democratic governance, individual opportunity and the just, equal application of the rule of law – and it is fitting that the Nobel Committee recognize the power of these ideals to build a truly peaceful world for future generations."

Oh, and erstwhile Vice President of the United States, Albert Gore, was nominated, too, along with Canadian Inuit activist Sheila Watt-Cloutier. I don't know about you, but I think that Levin is onto something. "Liberty, equality, and opportunity for all" is a very powerful, peace-engendering concept. Most certainly when contrasted with totalitarianism, the faux-equality of Communism, and opportunity only for the dictators.

But, I suppose Ms. Watt-Cloutier will get the nod. Oh, well, at least Limbaugh was nominated...and, yes, I'm aware it's "unofficial".