Wednesday, July 30, 2008

It utterly amazes me how idiotic BoingBoing commenters can be...

I was reading this article and the comments just blew me away. "Al Qaeda doesn't exist." "Military force is useless in preventing terrorism." And so forth. (The Rand Corporation came up with the intial report?!? Geez, I used to respect them...)

You would think that the kind of people who read BoingBoing would have brains --they're presumably IT and techie types. Of course, many of them have that curious genetic predisposition to worship youth and edginess for their own sakes, not for any practical reasons. (Most of them also could be classified as having legitimate Bush Derangement Syndrome, which is far worse than any right-wing paranoia that circulated regarding Ma and Pa Billary.)

Naturally, I felt compelled to respond to the comments. I'm anonymous there, but that's because a) I'm too lazy to register, and b) my Deluded Fool quotient for BoingBoing is very close to "capacity" and I'm probably removing them from my feed (just as I removed Gates of Vienna). My comments may not even be allowed --not that I was obscene or ad hominem, but sites like that have a tendency to only allow straw-man opposing arguments.

But the gist of my post was as such:

  1. Most of the "ZOMG ur right it's all a Bush plot to keep us at war foreverz n make Halliburton a ton of $$$" crowd would have thrown negotiations out the window and, instead, would have been screaming for increased use of police force --even the use of the military -- against American citizens on American soil, were we to be talking about an early 1990s scenario where McVeigh et. al. didn't stop at Oklahoma City, or where Eric Rudolph's accomplices had bombed more than a small handful of abortion clinics in the South. (And, IIRC, they did scream for more use of force --not one cry for negotiating with the right-wing fringe). Negotiations with right-wing extremists are never an option with this crowd (or would they have been content with allowing abortion-free zones in entire states of the country?)

    2. Negotiations without the implied use of force are worthless. Witness the following: Oslo (Arafat bargained in bad faith), Iran-Contra (Khomeini reneged on reining in kidnappings in Lebanon), SALT II (Brezhnev knew that Carter wouldn't respond to pre-planned Soviet violations --he hadn't responded to SALT I violations), Paris (N. Vietnam knew that [secret] Nixon pledges to S. Vietnam regarding security were shaky or hollow, thus did not evacuate troops from rural countryside south of 17th Parallel). And the granddaddy of them all: Munich (Hitler predicted France and Britain would not go to war over Sudentenland). Negotiation without force equals appeasement.
Negotiate for your own security, not mine.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

How, Once Again, I Was Ahead Of The Curve And Am The Greatest!

RealClearPolitics - Articles - A Step Back From Enviro Lunacy: "$3 a gallon gas didn't change anybody's mind about energy issues. $4 a gallon gas did. " That was today.

Now, compare this with comments I myself made elsewhere over two months ago: "We are still in the relatively inelastic range of the demand curve. You get gasoline up to $4.25/gallon in Houston, or $5/gallon in Los Angeles, and I’ll posit that you’ll see the beginnings of serious declines in consumption." I was off by about 25¢, but I still claim it as me own.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Raising Taxes? It Only Sounds "Fair"

Income Taxes and the Rich: read the whole thing, although the charts tell the quick version of the story. Also, very few people remember what F. Scott Fitzgerald noted back in the Twenties: the rich are not like you and me. Faced with huge tax increases, the rich will maneuver their assets into non-taxable areas, leaving less revenue for the government than before. While in theory that may be good (since non-taxable assets include municipal bonds and school notes, things that we should theoretically want to support), the reality is that so long as government spending rises unabated (thank you, both major parties!), the government should do what it can to maximize revenue --which means lowering taxes and not raising them.

Of course, they could just cut spending....

Monday, July 14, 2008

Random Thoughts of a Monday

  1. Kerry was ahead of GWB this time in 2004 by 7-10 points. Result: lost election.
  2. Gore was ahead of GWB this time in 2000 by 7-10 points. Result: lost election (yes, he did, the Miami Herald recount proved that conclusively, get over it or else I'll bring up the large number of illegal aliens voting in California).
  3. Dukakis was ahead of GHWB this time in 1988 by 1-3 points. Result: trounced badly in general election.
  4. Mondale was behind Reagan this time in 1984. Result: Mondale carried his home state plus DC, and that's it.
  5. Bill Clinton was ahead substantially this time in both 1992 and 1996. Result: Clinton wins.
What can we learn from this? A) Polls don't work well for Democrats; and b) only Southern Democrats can be comfortable with polling leads (look at Carter and LBJ).

I don't know what I did this weekend, but I've been having vertigo attacks ever since. I'd put it down to delayed electrolytic imbalance (I helped throw 15 cubic yards of mulch Saturday morning) but I've had nothing but low-carb Gatorade to drink the last two days and I'm still woozy. Forced to cut short this afternoon's lecture, I was so dizzy. Hopefully another day or two of easy going will put things right.

My students didn't mind. They have a work-day tomorrow, as I'll be attending a workshop. Also, they had their first exam of the term over the weekend, with the usual results.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

The Hazards of Online Exams

I've been very very busy the last few days. The start of any term is hassle enough, and I'm teaching an extra-full load for a 5-wk summer term: three classes, back-to-back-to-back. In addition to guiding the new padawans through the rigors of Blackboard Vista, I'm also cleaning up one of my more egregious SNAFUs.

At the end of the first summer term, finals ended July 3rd. Generally, grades are due the next day at my campus, but this term they were due later owing to the Independence Day Holiday. In my (misguided) generosity, I elected to allow my students to take their online finals as late as Saturday the 5th, secure in the knowledge that grades weren't due until Monday. Little did I know that the master enrollment program automatically cut off student access to first-term online courses at the end of the last day of finals --I thought it didn't do that until final grades were posted.

The emails began flooding in on Friday morning. "ACK! Professor Mojo, I can't even get online to your course, let alone take the exam! HELP!!!!" My inbox was stuffed with variations on a theme. And there was nothing that I could do about it until after the weekend (or, at least, nothing I felt comfortable doing without prior approval from my sysadmin; I've gotten old enough to realize that some things really should get approval before execution, lest Heads Roll and Voices Get Raised...)

So I've spent the last few days dealing with the clean-up, contacting students individually to reassure them that they weren't going to fail until they had a chance to take the final. And explaining to my chair what happened and why I assigned what was a record number of incompletes for one term (in terms of percentages of students enrolled). I'm preparing a statement of explanation to submit to my dean when the inevitable query comes down the pipeline. None of this is made any easier by having to submit all of the paperwork in actual paper and not electronically.

Moral: don't be kind to your students.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Two articles for your consideration

On Campus, the ’60s Begin to Fade as Liberal Professors Retire
To quote The Man, "read the whole thing." The Times, as usual, shows its stripes by vaguely casting the discarding of ideological imperatives as something that will be missed. I submit that it will not. Also, the writer does not mention whether the study cited as proof of ideological mobility registered any increase in the number of conservatives and/or libertarians.

But on the whole, this is a good thing. There are some serious left-wing screwballs in the academy. While that in itself isn't bad (and in a true ideologically diverse world, it's actually good), the fact that they achieved positions of power and drove conservatives out of academia and into the private sector --where they were less willing to support higher education-- was a huge negative. I promise to take you fishing, Professor Sandinista, if you vacate your tenured position sooner rather than later.


The Negative Influence of Education Schools on the K-12 Curriculum
This one's a bit long, so only edu-nuts such as myself (and Mrs. and Tantan and Nana and maybe Noni and a few others) will want to read the entire article. But I was saying something along the author's lines ten years ago. The problem with pedagogy research is that most of it is inherently not scientific, and attempts to make it moreso run into the inevitable ethical dilemma about messing with the minds of children --yet no qualms are raised when new theories are put into practice without being tested first.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Comme il pleut (plus a dessert recipe involving cantaloupe)

That's what I love about this part of the country: for no other reason than because it can, tremendous downpours occur in the early afternoon. Thus I am saved from having to mow or weed for the rest of the day.

I'm not complaining terribly about the rain. So much of the Southwest is in severe drought --though to hear one commentator say it was worse than the Dust Bowl seemed so much hyperbole --overwrought hyperbole, even. The rain is here today, and I rejoice. My spring tomatoes (with the exception of some brave Carmelos and Goliaths) have gone the way of all plant flesh, as have almost all the squashes and zucchini, yet the cucumbers hang on bravely, and the cantaloupes surely need the moisture. (The eggplants and okra haven't really come on so strong yet...)

Speaking of cantaloupe: I picked one the other day by accident and it was under-ripe, tasting like an unsweet honeydew. I rescued it by tossing it with white and brown sugar, plus a generous dose of cinnamon. Next time I may try it with fully-ripe cantaloupe --and use warm honey saturated with cinnamon as a dressing and serve with a sopapilla and ice cream. (No, this isn't just a sopapilla served with fruit: I plan on tossing the honey and the melon together before garnishing the rest of the dish.)