Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Gore is green after all...

...Hear No Evil owes Al an apology! Or something like that! Never question Saint Al!

But the question -- as it always should be in politics -- is, is he doing all that he can now, and the answer appears to be yes. As Gore's electric bill (and yes, it's public record -- strange but true) shows, he and Tipper voluntarily pay the higher cost for something called Green Power Switch, which uses more expensive energy from renewable sources like wind and solar power. He purchases offsets for carbon fuel use.

Yes, he uses more electricity than you or me, but the house of this former Vice President and his wife has offices and staffers and security needs that we don't have either. His car today is an SUV, but it's also a hybrid.

So at the end of the day, what does it all mean? When you peel away all the layers, it means that when it comes to greenhouse gases and climate change -- one of the three great interlocking issues of our time, along with Peak Oil and war and peace in the oil-producing regions -- that the conservative movement has absolutely zero to say.

Because, think about it -- if global warming isn't really a problem, then they shouldn't care how much electricity he uses, and if it is a problem, then there's bigger fish to fry out there than one man in Tennessee and his mansion and SUV, right? Why can't conservatives argue THE ISSUE of global warming, rather than this crap.
Actually, always question Al Gore. It makes it more impressive when he always meets or exceeds expectations.

Update: Like father, like son, I guess. We posted the same link at almost the same time. Attytood should be very proud to be the linkee in this momentous occasion.


Weather, Water, Energy 2-28-07

So Gore's an energy hog. Just look at that bill, charging the higher rate for energy that he gets because he's signed up for power from renewable sources, for a "house" that also serves as the offices for his staff. G-d--m that energy hog. . . . Here, via Grist, is all you need to know to take down any "reasonable" argument about how nuclear power is the answer. . . . El Nino gone, La Nina on the way (sorry, tilde challenged)? Usual effects? Typically, during the U.S. spring and summer months, La Niña conditions do not significantly impact overall inland temperature and precipitation patterns, however, La Niña episodes often do have an effect on Atlantic and Pacific hurricane activity. And, “The last lengthy La Niña event was 1998-2001, which contributed to serious drought conditions in many sections of the western United States,” said Douglas Lecomte, drought specialist at the NOAA Climate Prediction Center. . . . Western drought, you say? Well, didn't we say the other day that seven states there have reached a regional agreement to conserve and cooperate. Won't be enough, says this op-ed in the Christian Science Monitor. But, still, they've at least established the infrastructure for when they have to do the real stuff they'll have to do. They might serve as the model for the rest of us. It's not like we're not going to get hit at all. We need to get ready, too.


CYA With The IRS

If you’re like me you have good intentions to start your taxes early, but never quite get around to them till the last minute. In my 11th hour scramble, I always convenience myself that I massively messed up and will be getting that dreaded call from The Man telling me I’m going to be audited. Well over at Get Rich Slowly, they have a good blurb on some common IRS red flags. I’m definitely going to have the tips by my side as I frantically prepare my returns on the 14th.


Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Quick Hits

This should get every college kid to finally pay attention to global warming, peak oil, and the future we face. Increased emphasis on ethanol-->more growing of crops for energy production-->less growing of crops not for energy production-->less barley being raised-->higher price for the barley raised-->more expensive beer. I'm expecting riots. . . . For centuries it's been "nature v. nurture," "genes v. environment." Well, nature and genes scored some points in this research showing specifically the gene that activates the signaling pathways in the brain that affect performance IQ. Not saying that everything's genetic, but some of the more extreme "nurture" arguments will have to step back and catch a breath now. . . . Really good article in the New Yorker on Gore and his current view from the pedestal. Says all the right things about the 2000 "election" and his wise strategy above the fray at this point (where was this strategic skill in 2000???). Basically makes the case for those of us who see him as the best way to address the crap that will need cleaning January 2009. . . . And then, here are the "living on Planet Me" folks, the current crop of college types who exhibit more narcissism than even the lunatics from the Reagan days, much less those hippies in the 60s. Nice review of the counterproductive consequences of a generation overindulged in "self-esteem" and of the hooey in the "they're more into volunteering" nonsense. What did the kids think? Here's one: Kari Dalane, a University of Vermont sophomore, says most of her contemporaries are politically active and not overly self-centered."People want to look their best, have a good time, but it doesn't mean they're not concerned about the rest of the world," she said. Good lord, little missy, go back to Laguna Beach. I know. La, la, la, can't hear you.


Weather, Water, Energy 2-27-07

Oh, no. I may have to rethink my position on global warming. Bill O'Reilly says deniers are "idiots" and "ridiculous." Could I be wrong? If O'Really thinks . . . oh, wait, this makes everything okay again. Falwell says global warming is a "myth" designed to distract us from what Jesus condemned at every chance--abortion and gays. . . . Don’t these morons know that those of us who believe global warming is happening want to kill capitalism and our economy???? A good article on investing in the opportunities coming open and reviews of what's happening in areas like ag, alternative energy, automotive, financial services, infrastructure, real estate, and tech. And here's Wall Street's evolving perspective, with emphasis on carbon footprints, carbon accounting, and green investment. . . . James Hanson, the NASA scientist Bushnev couldn't shut up, says that a moratorium on coal-fired power plants is one of the most important things we can do to get greenhouse emissions under control since CO2 "capture" technology is probably 5-10 years away. But pay no attention. The "president" doesn't like him. . . . Drought in SW China, a million people potentially with little water (yes, million) and (and this is something we rarely talk about) the Yangtze basically unnavigable. But, by all means, China, insist that others have to take action on global warming, not you. . . . Now global warming is whacking the world's largest tiger reserve (it's in India, as if you didn't know that). Let's just pray they don't find out and get loose.


I Don’t Usually Post about Olbermann’s Special Comments...

...because you can find all you need about them on bigger blogs...but WOW was last night’s Comment vicious...again via C&L...

On the 11th of December, 1941, at 8 o'clock in the morning, two of Hitler's diplomats walked up to the State Department — your office, Secretary Rice — and ninety minutes later they were handing a declaration of war to the Chief of the Department's European Division. The Japanese had bombed Pearl Harbor four days earlier and the Germans simply piled on.

Your predecessors, Dr. Rice, didn't spend a year making up phony evidence and mistaking German balloon-inflating trucks for mobile germ warfare labs.

They didn't pretend the world was ending because a tin-pot tyrant couldn't hand over the chemical weapons, it turned out he'd destroyed a decade earlier.

The Germans walked up to the front door of our State Department and said "we're at war."

It was in all the papers!

And when that war ended, more than three horrible years later, our troops, and the Russians, were in Berlin. And we stayed, as an occupying force, well in the 1950's.

As an occupying force, Madam Secretary!

If you want to compare what we did to Hitler and in Germany, to what we did to Saddam and in Iraq, I'm afraid you're going to have to buy the whole analogy.

We were an occupying force in Germany, Dr. Rice, and by your logic, we're now an occupying force in Iraq.

And if that's the way you see it, you damn well better come out and tell the American people so. (Save your breath telling it to the Iraqis — most of them already buy that part of the comparison).

"It would be like saying that after Adolf Hitler was overthrown, we needed to change then, the resolution that allowed the United States to do that, so that we could deal with creating a stable environment in Europe after he was overthrown." We already have a subjectively false comparison between Hitler and Saddam.

We already have a historically false comparison between Germany and Iraq.

We already have blissful ignorance by our Secretary of State about how this country got into the war against Hitler.

But then there's this part about changing "the resolution" about Iraq, that it would be as ridiculous in the Secretary's eyes, as saying that after Hitler was defeated, we needed to go back to Congress to "deal with creating a stable environment in Europe after he was overthrown."

Oh, good grief, Secretary Rice, that's exactly what we did do!

We went back to Congress to deal with creating a stable environment in Europe after Hitler was overthrown!

It was called the Marshall Plan.


General George Catlett Marshall!

Secretary of State!

The job you have now!
But that wasn’t the only fantastic gutting of a neoconservative shill that took place yesterday. There was also this Greenwald piece, in which Glenn has the audacity to compare a recent Joementum op-ed to words Joementum wrote in the same paper 15 months ago.

Just compare these two statements:

Joe Lieberman, today: "previously there weren't enough soldiers to hold key neighborhoods after they had been cleared of extremists and militias."

Joe Lieberman, 2005: "The administration's recent use of the banner 'clear, hold, and build' accurately describes the strategy as I saw it being implemented last week."

How can Joe Lieberman claim today that we previously lacked sufficient troop strength to hold neighborhoods after they were cleared, when he insisted a year ago that we were holding neighborhoods -- he saw it himself -- and that we were therefore on the verge of success?

On what conceivable basis is Joe Lieberman accorded even the most minimal respect or credibility? He is obviously a person who will say anything at any time in order to defend this war, and, now that everything he said in the past is revealed to be completely false, he does not have even an iota of integrity or honesty to admit any of that. Instead, he stands up and pretends that he never said any of those things -- he actually pretends that he knew all along that our military strategy was wrong -- and simply makes the same promises and commitments as he has been making all along with a sense of entitlement that he has credibility on these matters and should be listened to.
I have to take the satisfying moments when I find them because if I go, I find out how Democrats are “flailing” and the public is “stewing” because, get this, not all Democrats agree to the same solution for the most complex of problems. After years of lockstep, groupthink Republican talking points, apparently any disagreement is considered damaging to a political party. I’ll admit that I’m not all that happy with what some Dems are thinking, and I’m not anywhere close to 100% optimistic that they’ll reach a satisfying conclusion, but...God forbid it takes some honest-to-god discussion and deliberation to figure out the best way to go about something as harmless as a war that has destroyed all of America’s credibility.

But I digress.


Somewhere berlin niebuhr is crying...

…that, or saying “This is what I’ve been saying!” (via C&L).

Twelth-graders' reading skills have hit a new low, but their grades continue to climb, according to federal officials who suspect the nation's schools are inflating grades.
This is one of the thousands of examples in this country in which only a major change—one that will cause short-term pain/confusion/annoyance—can fix a system that is broken. Here’s my question: has major change of this scale—where you have to completely change a collective mindset—ever actually taken place? Pearl Harbor and WWII completely changed the way Americans thought about sacrifice (though 9/11 sure as hell didn’t). Anything else? And what would be the Pearl Harbor of the education system?


An Inconvenient Observation

According to an article from The Tennessean, Al Gore might not be green through and through. Just days after his film “An Inconvenient Truth” took home an Oscar, the article states that Gore’s 10,000 square foot home last year had an average of $1,200 a month electric bill as well as average gas bill of over $1,000 per month. But it’s quickly noted that Mr. Gore does drive a hybrid SUV and makes other efforts to offset his "ecologically unfriendly" behavior. I’m sure he’s trying hard, but is our knight in green armor trying hard enough?


Monday, February 26, 2007

In the Name of God

From the March Psychological Science, study that "scriptural violence sanctioned by God can increase aggression, especially in believers." Go read the whole thing, but here's the finale:

The research sheds light on the possible origins of violent religious fundamentalism and falls in line with theories proposed by scholars of religious terrorism, who hypothesize that exposure to violent scriptures may induce extremists to engage in aggressive actions. "To the extent religious extremists engage in prolonged, selective reading of the scriptures, focusing on violent retribution toward unbelievers instead of the overall message of acceptance and understanding," writes Bushman "one might expect to see increased brutality."

Holy duh.


Weather, Water, Energy 2-26-07

Good pieces from the weekend over at Grist, including TXU Corporation’s “tipping point” decision to dump 8 of 11 proposed coal-fired electricity plants and to shift to a greener agenda, the human “discount rate” and its threat to our future, and tributes to both Al Gore (several posts) and Ah-nuld as environmental leaders. . . . Looking for a good investment. How about something that cleans up toxic water for your very own use? . . . Renewable energy making a comeback 30 years after Jimmy Carter told us to and we told him, shut up, you big downer, we want to party. Excellent summary of the situation and possible future. One of those possibles? Maybe this new hydrogen fuel system? And check out these pieces at Scientific American online, one on states taking the lead on renewable energy and another on the use of dung to make ethanol. Well, okay, ewwww, but still worth taking a look at. So to speak. . . . Quick. Spot the lunacy in this headline at Christian Science Monitor:

How fast must we act on global warming?
Despite broad agreement on climate change, economists are divided over how quickly to implement solutions.

Excuse me? “Economists”? Who the f--- cares? It’s their “counsel” that’s gotten us where we are. Find a melting ice sheet for them and forget them. . . . "International Polar Year." Massive two-year, 10,000 scientist effort to study the two poles for all they're worth before they, you know, disappear. Bet you hadn't heard of that one before. . . . CA looking at water wars. Not with other states. With itself. In the meantime, it's actually getting along pretty well with its neighbors, joining a five-state Western regional pact to bypass the feds on goals to cut greenhouse emissions. While Nero Bushnev fiddles . . . .The climate models so far haven't taken the impact of aerosols and their effect on cloud interiors into account satisfactorily. Two different models with different inputs of aerosol and climate sensitivity match past weather well but diverge significantly into our future. The famous "more study" proposed. . . . Finally, well-intentioned but sad op-ed in Christian Science Monitor. Calls for the US to join Europe and Japan in taxing oil at a rate to encourage conservation and R&D in alternatives. Don't you just love this optimism? "The 2008 presidential hopefuls – Republican and Democrat – must be brave enough to bring big energy issues into their campaign platforms and debate them in public. That will be an uphill battle, but we all have a right to keep raising the subject and to hope that a principled politician will step up to the plate." Then we'll all wish for ponies! . . .


Another Myth Bites the Dust

Humans are special in the universe because we are the only creatures we know that can plan for the future . . . well, except for those birds.

Oops. At least we're the only ones with Britney and Fox News. So we know what that makes us.


Now I Understand

Slowly but surely, American kids have gotten the message that cigarette smoking is stinky, smelly and a hazard to your health.

Now, if only they would believe the same about cigars.

While cigarette consumption declined in the United States by 10 percent from 2000 to 2004, cigar consumption jumped 28 percent, according to a recent report published in the American Journal of Public Health.

Other studies have found that teens who smoke cigars are definitely behind some of that increase. For instance, a 2004 survey conducted in Cleveland found that 23 percent of the 4,409 teens polled preferred cigars, compared to 16 percent choosing cigarettes. . . .

While it's difficult to compare cigarettes and cigars head-to-head in terms of health risk, Banzhaf said, it's clear both are risky.
Cigar smoking is strongly linked to a host of deadly cancers of the lip, tongue, mouth, throat, esophagus, larynx and lung. According to data from the U.S. National Institutes of Health, smoking just one or two cigars a day doubles the risk for oral and esophageal cancer and increases larynx cancer risk six-fold.

Risks rise even higher once users decide to inhale cigar smoke. Compared to nonsmokers, cigar smokers who inhale deeply face 27 times the risk of oral cancer and 53 times the risk of cancer of the larynx, according to the NIH report.


"I have a politically incorrect smoking tent -- I don't know if you have heard about that one. People come in there, Democrats and Republicans, and they take off their jackets and rip off their ties and they sit down and they smoke a stogy and they talk and they schmooze."-- California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R), quoted by CNN, on how to break partisan gridlock in Washington, D.C.

That way of breaking up DC gridlock, I think I can sign to.


Press Start to Begin This Surgery

In a recent study, it was found that playing video games could be beneficial to surgeons’ skills.

"Laparoscopy and related surgeries involve manipulating instruments through a small incision or body opening where the surgeon's movements are guided by watching a television screen.

Video game skills translated into higher scores on a day-and-half-long surgical skills test, and the correlation was much higher than the surgeon's length of training or prior experience in laparoscopic surgery, the study said."
I’m not sure if I want my doctor thinking about his combo moves from Mortal Kombat while he’s working on my innards, but it sounds like I enjoy the results. Maybe after spending a little more time with my PS2, I might just start checking out some med schools…


Give Up the RIAA for Lent

After passing this by The Boy, Good Nonsense decided to help spread the word. March is “Boycott the RIAA” month over at Gizmodo. They are in no way supporting/promoting piracy or anything illegal. Instead, take the month of March to explore your local music scene or check out some of those independent label bands your “indie” friends are always talking about. And if you’re really need a fix of your favorite RIAA artist, find out where they’re playing and make the ever popular road trip. Speaking from experience, they can be legendary – even if it’s just in your own head. The guys at Giz have a strong opinion of the RIAA and their practices. So I encourage you to stand up to the challenge of living RIAA-free for a whole month. I know you’ve got it in you. And don’t forget to tell your friends.


Saturday, February 24, 2007

Find Berlin Niebuhr a Dog (Part Four)!

As I try to type with Stan on my lap, this week we're going to talk about a dog The Boy and I discovered by watching the Westminster Dog Show (in HD!) last week: the Petit Basset Griffon Vendeen, or PBGV. Not as much is written about this breed as others, but there is enough to make a decent impression.


-- The American Kennel Club says PBGV's are "confident, happy, extroverted, independent yet willing to please, never timid nor aggressive." Nothing wrong with that, right?

-- They're shaggy little furballs!

-- They're not purse-sized like a chihuahua, but they only grow to about 45 they likely won't knock Mrs. N over.

-- They're good therapy dogs.

-- They have their own store!


-- While they are cute dogs, they don't take hilarious pictures like the bulldog or chihuahua.

-- According to wikipedia, they "can be rather vocal." Uh oh. That means they're a really good guard dog...and it also means they're sometimes just plain loud.

-- Also, they "tend to do what they want to do unless there is a reward for them." Berlin niebuhr is not what you would call a giver.

-- One more: according to, PBGV's are smart enough to have their own agenda. Scary. However, we have two cats working together to pursue their own agendas...and it can't be nearly as scary as that!


And I meant to post this yesterday...

...Joementum is threatening to switch sides if Democrats vote with the will of the people. Boo hoo. Yesterday BooMan did a nice job of pointing out that Dems won’t lose control over anything if he switches teams, and in fact his switch would open the door for real chairs of certain committees.

Lieberman is currently responsible for oversight into the executive department, their organization, and their compliance with international organizations of which the United States is a member. This gets into the heart of the unitary executive theory. I don't know how aggressive Daniel Akaka would be in this role. But he'd have to be a more reliable and effective investigator than Lieberman.
Now would be the best possible time to cut this whore loose. Instead of Joementum pulling Dems around on a string, exchanging threats for leadership positions, Dems would have been playing Joementum for leadership positions, then letting him jump once they got what they wanted from him. I like that. In other words, with my head and my heart, I can now say to Joementum, don't let the door knob hit you on the way out.


I admit it...

...while my favorite of the 2008 candidates is Bill Richardson (he's more conservative than me, but he's a negotiator, and he gets things done...occasionally that's a good thing...), I'm starting to get pretty fond of Obama. Not necessarily Obama the Office Holder (yet), but Obama the Speaker (via Corrente).

“Now, keep in mind, this is the same guy that said we’d be greeted as liberators, the same guy that said that we’re in the last throes. I’m sure he forecast sun today,” Obama said to laughter from supporters holding campaign signs over their heads to keep dry. “When Dick Cheney says it’s a good thing, you know that you’ve probably got some big problems.”
How hard is it to say things like that and still come off as likeable? Not hard at all. When Kerry or Hillary or even (to an extent) John Edwards take a poke at Bush or Cheney, it comes across as "My advisors told me it's okay to say that, and polls say people think it might be funny." When Obama says it, it has an infinitely more natural feel.

Plus, of course, the jab has the added effect of being 10000% right. And Cheney seems to be on a crusade to prove it right on a daily basis now (via C&L).

Vice President Cheney is going out of his way to make it clear that he doesn't think he has anything to apologize for.

In an unprecedented display of public verbosity from the typically taciturn vice president, Cheney spoke for the second time in three days with ABC News reporter Jonathan Karl. During today's 22-minute interview in a Sydney restaurant, Cheney showed no sign of backing down from controversy. Rather, he:

* Repeated and amplified his opinion that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's proposed course in Iraq would validate al Qaeda. (After Cheney's last interview with Karl, Pelosi called upon President Bush to repudiate the comments.)

* Refused to acknowledge any failure of U.S. policy in Iraq.

* Stood by his 1991 prediction that an invasion of Iraq would result in a quagmire -- but said that 9/11 changed the dynamics such that it had to be done anyway.

* Expressed pride in having done "some very controversial things" since 9/11 that he said have averted further terrorist attacks within our borders.

* Said it was "probably inaccurate" to call him an all-powerful vice president.

* Refused to address any of the serious accusations leveled against him during the course of the trial of his former chief of staff, Scooter Libby.

* Refused to rule out military action against Iran.
The other thing about the Obama article is, like lambert said, Obama drew 16,000 in Texas in the rain. I almost pointed out that even our president wouldn't draw that in Texas, but then I remembered that any event of his would be limited to people who had at least $1,000,000 and signed a loyalty oath, so that comparison doesn't even apply. Bottom line is, Hillary still has the connections, but Obama has the people. And unfortunately for Edwards, Obama has everything he has (charm, populist feel), only more. New odds (as I seem to be giving every time I post now):

Obama 40%
Hillary 35%
Edwards 15%
Anybody else 10%

Hopefully whoever wins picks Richardson as their running mate.


Friday, February 23, 2007

Think About These Things Over the Weekend

  • Record numbers in "severe poverty" in the US. Up 26% between 2000 and 2005. Uh, let's see. What was going on here in those years? Oh, yeah. That growing economy and historic presidential leadership.
  • NC getting serious about planning the state's response to global warming and greenhouse gases. Details and more details. It's possible for states to do something. The ones that don't are worse than the Inhofes and the other obstructionists and deniers.
  • Double dipping for the North Atlantic. Global warming on the one side and "cod collapse" on the other. The testing of the ocean's ecosystem that's resulting is ominous.
  • This won't surprise you, I don't think. Turns out that meetings with everyone contributing actually shut down the range of options and possibilities that would have occurred had the members just thought about things on their own. The researchers speculate that when a group of people receives information, the inclination is to discuss it. The more times one option is said aloud, the harder it is for individuals to recall other options, explained Krishnan, associate professor of marketing at Indiana University. Another contributing factor is variation in learning and memory styles. People store and retrieve information in myriad ways, so in a group situation, the conversation could cause individuals to think about the cues differently than they would if they were alone. Show this to your boss Monday. S/he'll really appreciate it.
  • Joel Jacobsen at Judging Crimes blog has a great analysis and takedown of the ridiculous nonsense on "24" showing how everything that's done on that show is, surprise, counterproductive when attempted in, you know, reality and the best interrogation techniques are, you know, exactly the opposite. And here we have a fun little presentation on a study showing that the only grad program in which pessimists outperform optimists is law school. Really, good times.
  • The Swedes have come up with a demonstrably effective program to cut the alcohol abuse among high risk college students. Don't see it taking hold anymore than Ricola, do you?
  • Finally, those crazy Canadians. Their Supreme Court unanimously whacked the government's efforts to detain foreign terror suspects indefinitely. Seems it violates their Bill of Rights. Could we get a Bill of Rights here, please? Seriously.


Non-Headline of the Day

In regards to the Headline of the Day, The Onion gives us this glimpse of what if...


This One's for the Ladies

In an attempt to boost tourism, Iran is planning to open a female only island. Gentlemen, you're just going to have to settle for visiting every other place in the country. So, ladies get your passports ready and learn to say "Another margarita, please" in Arabic.



...he just had no idea about the divebombing that was about to occur...


Thursday, February 22, 2007

No Skill Left Behind

Okay, here's the evidence that schools have gone off track that we've mentioned before. National math and reading tests find students with high grade points who nevertheless test badly. Not really a shock. I got out of higher ed in great part because of the disconnect between the grades we were expected to give to keep our numbers up and the needs for students to be graded accurately. But there are a couple of things in this article that I think need pointing out.

I've blasted the "testing" obsession that states and the feds have for a variety of reasons. I'm not opposed, however, to standard NATIONAL tests that can't be coached specifically. I do object to teachers or schools being judged on the results, but, used for specified purposes, the tests can tell us when the games like the ones in the first paragraph are happening. And what do I mean by "specified purposes"? Well, if we were starting public education from scratch today, like "Lost" or something, we surely wouldn't start with what we have now, historically based and sadly insufficient. I would propose that we dump grade levels and assignment by age completely. I would set subjects in developmental order and have students move from one level to a higher level in the subject once they had demonstrated the requisite knowledge.

This is where the tests would come in. If a student showed "basic" levels of knowledge, then s/he would get that designation in it, "proficient" if higher, and "mastery" if highest, sorta like the article describes near the end. So, at any point in time and at any age, a student would have a "report card" that would show whether and at what level s/he had achieved in a subject. Not dependent on age or any certain level of achievement, just a record of what the student can actually be shown to know or be able to do. When the student is legally able to work, s/he would have a record of performance. If the levels are high enough, no matter what age, s/he could go on to post-secondary education. Gone would be social promotion, flunking, grade points, etc. The tests would show the students' learning to all.

Yes, yes. Not gunna happen. Where's the implementation plan? What about sports or other extracurricular? Yada, yada. You're free to come up with your own. My point is that we have a dysfunctional educational structure, based on tradition and inertia rather than maxing student potential or demonstrating true learning. Proof? Grade points that say students know what they don't. Sure, mine is crazy. Like what we've got is so good. And no "No Child Left Behind" stuff will really change it. Now that's crazy.


Headline of the Day

Chimpanzees 'hunt using spears'

To paraphrase the famous philosopher Ricky Bobby, "Huntin' with spears. That ain't good."


Weather, Water, Energy 2-22-07

The US West is not looking like a great place to be as global warming plays out. Yes, CO is making serious moves to develop the collaborations necessary to get renewable energy up and running, but in the meantime it and the other Western states are looking at depletion of the CO River and nothing they're proposing looks adequate to deal with the needs as populations continue to expand. And to the south, in Mexico, they're draining water out of an ancient oasis to feed alfalfa to feed dairy cows. Despite the protests, the government there is into the famous "balance" of econ interests with things like, you know, long-term survival: Coahuila state's government is urging federal authorities to ban the opening of more wells but has no plans to prohibit alfalfa production. "We can't just blame one person or one group. We can't just blame Lala. We need to . . . find a solution to this problem," state environment minister Hector Franco said. Oh, yeah, but do that without blaming the people sucking out the water. Good luck with that. . . . Speaking of blame, more lawsuits are being filed against emission culprits but the difficulties of actually assigning responsibility to sue-able folks is proving really tough. . . . Seems like this sort of thing would have happened a long time ago, but scientists are finally trying to figure out the eventual impact on northern Europe of the atmosphere over Greenland and Iceland in order to improve their forecasting ability and fill in gaps in climate change models. I guess after having winds from TX blow over you and mess you up all your life, you just assume everyone tries to follow connections. . . . Finally, some good news. I've made a reference or two to the idiot "state climatologist" in DE who loudly proclaims his superior intelligence to the folks who put out the IPCC report, who has "consulted" for oil companies and one of the nuttiest of the rightwing think tanks. Well, the gov there has cut him off. He's not to say he's speaking for DE when speaking of global warming anymore. Which will surely make him a martyr to the obstructionists and deniers. But remember, he does live in DE and, if the higher insurance doesn't get him, maybe a good hurricane will. We can always hope.


Arrested Versus The Office

PopMatters has a nice comparison of Arrested Development and The Office. When I first read the premise (Why is Office so popular while Arrested could never find an audience?), I had an easy answer: relatability. I thought I was smart for coming up with that so quickly.

Of course, then I read the column and realized the answer was pretty obvious.

Many fans felt the network hadn’t given [Arrested] a fair chance: it was moved around too much, it wasn’t promoted enough. But the show’s writers offered a different explanation for its demise. The third-season episode “S.O.B.s”, in which the family throws an elaborate “Save Our Bluths” party, offers a spoof of sitcom tactics to draw viewers: parades of guest stars, a death in the episode, even a bogus live feed at the end. Narrator Ron Howard goes so far as to exhort viewers, “Please tell your friends about this show.” The climax of the episode is a fancy dinner at which Michael delivers this speech: “We’ve been given plenty of chances, and maybe the Bluths just aren’t worth saving. Maybe we’re not that likable.... We’re very self-centered.” The show’s writers seemed to be suggesting that even with a combination of fantastic writing, talented actors, and innovative direction, the main element a comedy needs for success is characters and situations viewers can relate to.

When it comes to relatability, The Office has it in spades. Though The Office has sharp dialogue, a wonderful ensemble and an unusual setup, the settings and characters are far more conventional and comfortable for American audiences to watch. The show also has more obvious hooks for the network to promote than Arrested Development had. The whole premise of The Office is to depict something almost everybody knows: what it’s like to work a lousy job with a clueless boss. Even those Americans who don’t work in offices know what it’s like to have to defer to a foolish authority figure. Also, it showcases another familiar scenario: a conventional love triangle between Pam, a receptionist, Roy, her warehouse worker fiancé, and Jim, a slacker sales rep who attempts to woo her mainly through office hijinks that torment Dwight, the know-it-all and office sycophant.

The screen time devoted to the romance between Jim and Pam increases significantly in The Office's second season, with their constant looks at one another and looks at the camera building tension. Unlike Arrested Development, in which all the romantic relationships are either taboo (George Michael and his cousin Maeby), adulterous (Lucille and her brother-in-law Oscar), or bizarre (Buster and his mother’s best friend), we are obviously expected to take this romance seriously and sympathize. The love triangle clearly fits in with traditional sitcom tropes.
I’ll say this right out front: I love(d) both shows. The Butterfly and I catch a lot of Arrested reruns on one of the HD channels, and it still holds up (she never fails to ask “Why was this show canceled again?” at some point during an episode). And while both have gained some sort of cult following, and both seem quite offbeat compared to other sitcoms, the reason Office succeeds so much more than Arrested (other than “great timeslots”) is that it packages all of its weirdness into a very standard, presentable package. And you can relate to the characters as much or more than you can during a family sitcom. It’s standardness (is that a word?) makes it palatable for a large number of viewers, and its brains sets it apart.

I love Office considering just how painful it is to watch—Steve Carell has what my parents call a “Frasier moment,” where you know he’s going to make something painfully awkward and you can’t do anything to stop it, and it physically hurts to watch it, on a weekly basis now). Whereas if you missed an episode of Arrested, it would take you about 6 episodes to get back into the loop (not to mention the fact that you were exhausted at the end of 30 minutes), you could miss an entire season of Office and catch up in 10 minutes (and you could watch an entire season in one sitting without wearing down...well, I could anyway). The characters are steady, reliable, relatable, and crazy--not Bluth crazy, but relatable crazy--and you grow to care about them. Whereas you watched Arrested to see what was going to happen, you watch Office to see what happens to the characters, and that's really the main difference.

That, and I don't remember Fox selling Arrested bobbleheads or Bluth Company T-shirts on their website.


Work Break

This is it. The end of your free time. Now you can get all your favorite internet video clips ranked and on one site. Vidmeter not only has hours of entertainment, it'll probably get me fired.

And to keep up the thoughtless factor of this post, check out these nuggets of wisdom from everyone's favorite father.


Down to the Minute

And now a little Windows love for all you out there. I found this great, free, secure app that might just turn out to be a lifesaver. It's called WatchMyCell. Basically, it tracks your cell minutes right on your desktop. I'm not a huge talker, but I live with one. So check it out if your a time tracker. And make sure you tell your friends about it - as long as you have minutes left.


Take a Load Off

I (and probably The Boy) have quite a few gigs of music on my hard drive - to say the least. And that's really bogging down my free space. The gang over at lifehacker gives us an easy solution that issue. Put your iTunes library on an external hard drive. Seems like a logical fix, but as with everything computer related, it's not always as easy as it seems. However, unlike The Boy, I'm a Mac guy and so is this little tutorial. So sorry to all you Windows users, but I've to look out for my own every now and again.


Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Betty La Fea (Ugly Betty) Mas Bella Update XXXI

Not wasting time on "La Fea," as I've noted before. Maybe if and when it ever actually gets to the "Ultimos Capitulos." In the meantime, the transsexual laden "Ugly Betty" keeps throwing interesting things and good performances at us. Loved the way they let Walter leave with some honor and how Alexis looks like she's not immune to Betty's goodness. The whole "I didn't know people would react weird if I became a woman" thing is a little hard to swallow, as is equating this Alexis with the mysterious hard-ass from the start of the series. Still, they keep you guessing well, like how far Kristina will sell out before Betty saves her or how, if Rebecca Romjin isn't going to be full-time, they plan to exit her stage-left. No, it's not "Betty La Fea," but it's done a better job at making its mark in the same way than that bloated monstrosity that's covering Univision.

Want some updated news on "Ugly"? Well, here's a story on how it's moved its carrier in Australia to No. 1 in the ratings on that night there. This will give you an idea why it's so popular there. And here's one on the impact the series has had on Hispanic/Latino culture and its perceptions in the US. Worth mentioning is the news that Vanessa Williams is going nude in a magazine again. A little more tastefully in Allure this time apparently than her last venture in Penthouse (do you really need to be reminded the details???). And without that, you know, gross old lesbian stuff. Finally, you know when something has giant cultural impact when either they shave their heads bald or they have academic articles analyzing them. "Not So Ugly: Local Production, Global Franchise, Discursive Femininities, and the Ugly Betty Phenomenon." Yes!! "Discursive Femininities!!!!" Betty, you're golden now.


Two Great Rants

Man, two op-eds in one day that say everything I would say if I had a blog or something. One is a takedown of modern sports from the view of someone who's watched them from the start of their swirl down the toilet, with the usual gigglers after turds shouting "NO. 1!!" all the time. Here's the major point (but read it all):

If this sorry state of affairs is all you know, it's business as usual, no big deal. Me, I'm a grizzled, ranting relic from an age when games were plentiful on free TV, the World Series and Super Bowl were played in sunlight, tickets were reasonably priced, and teams stayed together for more than 15 minutes. Maybe fans have no right to such things, but if you've had 'em and lost 'em, trust me, you've got the red ass.

And, while it's Lou Dobbs again, he's the only spokesperson with a microphone speaking out for those of us in the "middle" whether we agree with him on other issues or not. After taking apart the Beltway geniuses, he details what's been happening to the middle class and why the testicularly-challenged Dems still can't get it right:

Why are the partisans of both political parties so committed to denying the economic and social reality we face? In the case of the Democratic Party, there seems to be a rising fear that more Lou Dobbs Democrats are on the way and are going to demand truth over slogans and an improving reality for working men and women rather than ideological posturing that will salve the corporate masters of both parties.

At least the Democrats still have a chance to save their souls.

Sorry, Lou. Clemens will come clean about the steroids first. But keep the rants coming, please.


Weather, Water, Energy, 2-21-07

Way to go, US. We've increased our greenhouse gas emissions over 16% between 1990 and 2005. . . . Now that you're cheered up, go here and read about what's happening to the Inuit as global warming whacks the Arctic. Actually, the best part of the article is its discussion of how those folks pass on knowledge by generations, but even that's under attack (what good is it to know what different wind directions mean when those winds suddenly change?). . . . May be hard to predict exactly how glaciers will melt and flood more water into the oceans, from what we're finding as we study them closer. . . . Speaking of predictions, it does look like we're going to do a better job on freshwater forecasting in the West, which has those drought things frequently enough to make this very good news. . . . Finally, I guess the shout-out at Climate Progress to the WaPo and the Wall Street Journal for figuring out energy efficiency might be worth covering is worthy. Like when the Beltway applauded when Reagan or Bushnev actually prepared successfully for a debate. I guess.


More Taibbi

The Boy writing about a Taibbi column?? Wha??? That never happens!

Writing for Alternet, Matt Taibbi alerts me to budget news that I had missed.

[T]he Bush budget is an amazing document. It would be hard to imagine a document that more clearly articulates the priorities of our current political elite.

Not only does it make many of Bush's tax cuts permanent, but it envisions a complete repeal of the Estate Tax, which mainly affects only those who are in the top two-tenths of the top one percent of the richest people in this country. The proposed savings from the cuts over the next decade are about $442 billion, or just slightly less than the amount of the annual defense budget (minus Iraq war expenses). But what's interesting about these cuts are how Bush plans to pay for them.

Sanders's office came up with some interesting numbers here. If the Estate Tax were to be repealed completely, the estimated savings to just one family -- the Walton family, the heirs to the Wal-Mart fortune -- would be about $32.7 billion dollars over the next ten years.

The proposed reductions to Medicaid over the same time frame? $28 billion.

Or how about this: if the Estate Tax goes, the heirs to the Mars candy corporation -- some of the world's evilest scumbags, incidentally, routinely ripped by human rights organizations for trafficking in child labor to work cocoa farms in places like Cote D'Ivoire -- if the estate tax goes, those assholes will receive about $11.7 billion in tax breaks. That's more than three times the amount Bush wants to cut from the VA budget ($3.4 billion) over the same time period.


Sanders additionally pointed out that the family of former Exxon/Mobil CEO Lee Raymond, who received a $400 million retirement package, would receive about $164 million in tax breaks.

Compare that to the Commodity Supplemental Food Program, which Bush proposes be completely eliminated, at a savings of $108 million over ten years. The program sent one bag of groceries per month to 480,000 seniors, mothers and newborn children.
Taibbi knows exactly how to make things sound just as outrageous as they really are. Granted, the longer Bushnev is in office, the more people develop that skill, but he's still the best.

I obviously knew how Bush/Republicans feel about the Estate Tax, but it’s always good to have numbers attached. I mean, damn. There’s no way in hell this should ever pass with a Democratic congress, but that doesn’t mean I have 100% confidence that it will fail. They’re likely overstepping simply to get some kind of awful meet-halfway compromise (anchoring, anyone?), and it’ll probably work.


I’ll Now Bump Up the Hillary Odds

Arianna has a good point about Hillary that I failed to take into consideration last week when I said Hillary only had a 10-15% chance of winning the nomination: lots of big-money people feel a (sad) loyalty to her no matter how much Obama or anybody else excites them.

Their struggle is palpable. And understandable. Many of the reasons they give for continuing to support Hillary are good and honorable: loyalty, friendship, duty, a shared history (Hey, remember that time Bill gave you that medal, or that great night we all spent talking in the Lincoln bedroom? And how about that night we honored you at the Kennedy Center? Good times). It's like having kids with someone; you don't just walk away from that without a backward glance-- no matter how passionless the relationship has become.

Of course, some of the reasons people are reluctant to jump ship on Hillary are based on fear: What if she wins and I backed Barack? What if she finds those late night e-mails in which I get all hot and bothered about Barack's Iraq withdrawal plan or those IMs in which I pine over his leadership and maxed out because of his authenticity?
And make no mistake, Team Hillary has made it crystal clear that, at least when it comes to politics, there will be zero tolerance for dalliances.

Of course, this sleaze is all the more reason not to vote for, but it’s all the more reason people will. I will say boo to that, but I will also say that I should bump her odds up to the 35-40% range. So I guess that makes my current forecast...

Hillary 35%
Obama 35%
Edwards 20%
Anybody Else 10%


Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Weather, Water, Energy 2-20-07

The NY Times is finally beginning to notice global warming and efforts to deal with it, checking in with this decent overview article on carbon trading and the reasons why it might not be all it's cracked up to be. . . . Science Daily provides a similarly decent overview of the potential, good and bad, of ethanol production, but I doubt it will be enough to convince the doubters. . . . Meanwhile, in the world of emissions trading, Grist shows that rule-based emission control does a better job than market efforts, which won't surprise anyone who understands history or reality, which lets out the high priests of market religion. . . . Australia is setting a standard trying to get rid of traditional light bulbs. The world would better served by it getting rid of its dim bulbs, like its idiot PM. . . . Alaska has finished its climate change conference, concluding that global warming will cost the state billions of dollars. No surprise, but other states do need to be following the state's precedent on this. . . . It isn't as obvious as some of the other dangers facing us, but the draining off of underground water aquifers is one of the catastrophes on the horizon. Here, it's ID, and the state is starting to round up the cash to buy users off. But there are bigger aquifers, like the Ogalalla, that will make major parts of the Great Plains uninhabitable when their draining is finished. . . . Too late to stop a 2 degree (C--4 degree F) increase in global temps but we do still have a chance to keep it from getting to 3. The "adaptationists" won't be bothered, probably, but those of us who realize that action can still be taken if we grow brains just keep getting more depressed. . . . Maybe the thought of little penquins getting the shaft from the changing weather will generate some action, after all those recent movies. Or, the krill will just die off, collapsing the ocean food chain and drawing attention. Oh, what the hell. Who's really taking bets that we'll get our minds around all this in time? . . . I'll take some of that action.


The Text of Death

Well almost for one Kawanishi woman. The 25 year old was so engrossed in composing a text message on her cell phone that after bumping into a fellow passenger on a local train platform, she fell onto the tracks. Luckily a station worker heard her scream OMG and got her to safety. First it was talking on the phone and driving. Now it’s texting and walking. Lets all keep our heads up out there. Your personal well-being is nothing to LOL about.


Having a Hallmark Moment

Get well soon? How about get rid of that cancer, friend? Hallmark decided it was high time to get down to the point, with a little wit and warmth of course. Their new line of “Journeys” greeting cards is trying to make us all feel better about chemo, coming out, divorce and depression. All in all it sounds like a good idea to me – if they don’t get cheesy. There’s nothing worse than a bad joke about that alcohol problem of yours.


Random 10!!

I've been neglecting you again, Random 10...words cannot express my sorrow and guilt...

From Favorites List...

1. Falling for the First Time, Barenaked Ladies
2. (I've Got) Dreams to Remember, Toots & the Maytals
3. Rodeo Clowns (live), Jack Johnson & D.J. Logic
4. A Love Supreme, Pt. 1: Acknowledgement, John Coltrane
5. Given to Fly, Pearl Jam
6. Not About Love, Fiona Apple
7. I Will Be There When You Die, My Morning Jacket
8. To Go Home, M. Ward
9. Future Sound, Jurassic 5
10. Anna Molly, Incubus

From All Songs list...

1. The Hop, A Tribe Called Quest
2. Shine (live), Pat McGee Band
3. One to Grow On, North Mississippi Allstars
4. These Eyes, Guess Who
5. Je N'En Connais Pas la Fin (live), Jeff Buckley
6. Easy Conversation (live), Jill Scott
7. Lead Me Gently Home, Johnny Cash
8. No Use Lying, Black Crowes
9. Bad Weed (discomix), Junior Murvin
10. Dig It, The Beatles

Nice...I'm liking both of those quite a bit...putting the random in Random 10...


Monday, February 19, 2007

Dammit, Hillary...

...I've never really pretended to like Hillary, but I always finish any rant about her with "...but I realize she stands mostly for the right things, and she'd be better than any Republican opponent she might face." Well, that's over (via Skippy).

"Some people may be running who may tell you that we don't face a real threat from terrorism," she said. "I am not one of those."
If you're going to play the strawman game and create the big liberal boogeyman like only the best Republicans do, then you're officially no better than any Republican you might face. NOBODY THINKS TERRORISM ISN'T A REAL THREAT. I'm trying to give you some credit here, Hil. Make it a little easier on me.


Best and Worst Presidents

In honor of Presidents Day, Erik at Alter Destiny has a nice look at our best and worst presidents. Looks about right to me. He slips Clinton and JFK into the Best list by default as much as anything else, and no matter how much I want to put Bushnev at #1 on the Worst list, I guess I can't disagree with his choices, the two guys most responsible for leading us to Civil War.


The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) unveiled their new (and somewhat scary) symbol to alert the public of the dangers of radiation on Feb. 15th.

According to the IAEA and ISO

"The new symbol is aimed at alerting anyone, anywhere to the potential dangers of being close to a large source of ionizing radiation"

"The symbol is intended for IAEA Category 1, 2 and 3 sources defined as dangerous sources capable of death or serious injury, including food irradiators, teletherapy machines for cancer treatment and industrial radiography units. The symbol is to be placed on the device housing the source, as a warning not to dismantle the device or to get any closer. It will not be visible under normal use, only if someone attempts to disassemble the device. The symbol will not be located on building access doors, transportation packages or containers."
I guess the world needs a symbol to warn about these types of radiation risks, but don’t you think you’d know those risks if you’re trying to dismantle the device? I'm still partial to the old yellow and black fan of death.


TV to Die For

It’s stories like this that keep me glued to my tube. I just hope that there was something good on when this poor guy got canceled


A SIRIUS (and XM) Radio Merger

In a press release distributed today and a supporting report from ABC news, SIRIUS and XM satellite radio providers announced a merger that should be completed by the end of the year. Each company will continue to operate independently until the merger is complete. So the real question is will this be a “Pass GO and Collect $200” for subscribers or a “Go Directly to FM”? Either way, it should be interesting to see how the Earthlings take the merger.


Looking Forward to the Future

How long can a nation retain its world leadership with stupid citizens? Not rhetorical. Check this out.

"The lowest-ranking country in terms of discounting evolution is Turkey. The United States is next," said Miller, who has analyzed surveys on belief in evolution from around the world. "The way we characterize religious fundamentalists in Turkey and in the U.S. is that they are both one-book religions.

"Fundamentalists in this country say everything you need to know is in the Bible, period. Islamists say everything you need to know is in the Koran, period," said Miller, a professor in political science.

That Turkey. Quite a partner, huh? And could this finding have anything to do with this--the growing health care (or lack of it) in this nation?

What is clear is that the problem is getting worse, not diminishing, she warns. The fragmented, uncoordinated healthcare system is plagued by high administrative costs and missed opportunities to control chronic conditions and prevent life threatening conditions.

If the US hopes to achieve a high performance health system that is value for money, it will have to tackle the perplexing problems of access, quality, and cost, and overcome considerable political and economic obstacles, as well as institutional resistance to change.

We'll hop right on that as soon as we get folks to agree on how bacteria and germs become resistant to our drugs, right?


Weather, Water, Energy 2-19-07

Seriously. Even in the puerile world of local tv news, pound for pound, the "meteorologists" are the most worthless of the bunch. Do you even have to have a gradepoint to get into "meteorology school"? Is it like being a cosmotologist? When they're not hyping ice or tornadoes for hours on end anymore, they're playing their roles as clowns and pretty people "you like to know." A few of them have brains and fewer are serious at heart, and then there are the bottom-feeders who pull crap like this. These aren't the only ones. I heard an idiot morning weather clown in Madison say the same thing a couple of years ago. Here's the deal. You know you're dealing with a fool any time they tell you there can't be global warming because it snowed in the NE in February. Just walk away or turn them off. Their stupid may rub off. (Oh, and while you're at Grist there, go ahead and depress yourself with the posts they've been running on the media thud for the IPCC report. After all, Britney shaved her head.) . . . Meanwhile on Planet Reality, Europe is recognizing the need to make drastic cuts in greenhouse emissions. "Now or never", they're saying, even if our local news wunderkinds have trouble finding their asses with both hands. . . . Climate Progress has some great posts on conservation and utilities, the US's hottest year ever, insomniac bears, and more. Check them out. . . . This is worth noting. Remember a few days back when the American Association for the Advancement of Science heard the study on how Antarctica isn't doing exactly what climate models have predicted and how the deniers and obstructionists were hopping on it as proof global warming wasn't happening. Well, the AAAS heard the same report and decided that "The evidence is clear: Global climate change caused by human activities is occurring now and is a growing threat to society." Don't tell those Cleveland "cosmo . . ," sorry, "meteorologists" though. Reality can be a tough ride.


Sunday, February 18, 2007

The Origin of Wealth

There are certain books that change the way you look at the world, fiction, non, bio, poetry, whatever. I don't have that many, some I've mentioned here, some I haven't, To Kill a Mockingbird, stuff by Richard Russo and John Jay Osborne, Exit, Voice and Loyalty, The Evolution of Cooperation, Taylor Branch's trilogy of Dr. King and the Civil Rights movement, Ecology and the Politics of Scarcity, Isaiah Berlin's essays in The Crooked Timber of Humanity, Richard Fox's bio of Reinhold Niebuhr, my first intro to cognitive science. Some I'm not going to mention because I'd never live it down.

The books that have had the biggest impact on me as a group, however, have been those connected to the research on complexity, nonlinear dynamics, and applications to the world, like artificial societies and the punctuated equilibria that constantly shake our world, unpredicted by the wise people who proclaim their linear, staid truths. I can't say they changed my world view as much as gave structure and verification to the way I've been cursed to see the world from pretty much my beginning. It's just been nice to see that I'm not the only crazy person.

What's been lacking in the complexity literature has been the synthesis that's been needed to pull the threads together into a whole that can serve as the new paradigm for all future study, including criminology and any research into corrections sentencing. The folks at the Santa Fe Institute have been doing incredible work on this, and individual writers have published books using nice examples. But nobody has combined it in one source in a way that leaves no excuse for pretending that a coherent body of knowledge isn't ready for application.

Until now.

The Origin of Wealth: Evolution, Complexity, and the Radical Remaking of Economics by Eric D. Beinhocker is the book that has done it. It's a very long book, and I'm not silly enough to try to summarize in a couple of paragraphs the accumulation of evidence and structuring of the new perspective that he's put together here. He effectively dismantles the present discipline of economics (I hurt my shoulder punching the air with every shot) which has bizarrely held "gold standard" status in the social sciences for far too long, outlines the work in complexity previously done, shows how the complexity models explain social and economic development far better than others, and outlines the strategies that businesses and organizations need to follow to adapt effectively to the environments that confront them.

Most of all, he crumbles the "liberal-conservative" dichotomy that has crippled our confrontation of the problems that clearly face us, including (by implication) the problems we have in corr sent policy. One of the more direct applications is his treatment of the impact of trust or lack of it in building constructive communities and the loss of legitimacy of institutions when a culture doesn't maintain strong communities. This comes after the discussion of the role of social technologies, including law and justice institutions, in providing the structure for ordered progress.

Beinhocker might or might not be shocked to be told he'd written a social policy book, given that his book's closest parallel is The Wealth of Nations, which has set our social policy for good or bad for centuries. But, with this synthesis, we can hope that the work being done will broaden, especially as funerals clear out the old, incapable of change guard, both in academe and policy. The old paradigms from econ, criminology, poli sci, etc. that do not incorporate the new knowledge are already being shown deficient and barely relevant, and so are the policies based on them.

The new paradigm will teach us to expect ebbs and flows of social problems and our success dealing with them as matters of course, that punctuated equilibria are common in social interaction (meaning that the efforts to address crime, for example, that coincide with the jumps will unfairly and unwisely be considered successful or not when they had little to do with anything at all). It will encourage constant monitoring of the ebbs and flows of our environments, never being comfortable with the status quo because it will change, and a more contingent and adaptable approach to our actions. Most of all, it will let us know that "truth" in our policymaking is just dangerous human hubris and, hopefully, teach us to be more accepting of our human fallibility.

Complexity studies and applications will change (are changing) the way we understand the world and are capable of doing in it. It's just a question of how long it takes. Those who get it sooner rather than later will beat the ones who lag. The reason it hasn't reached the broad culture and audience is that no one has put it all together before. Beinhocker has.

Don't be left behind.


Saturday, February 17, 2007

Find Berlin Niebuhr a Dog! (Part Three)

Okay, I realize this one might be a smidge unrealistic, but strangely I think we have found the perfect dog for berlin niebuhr and Mrs. N. I have a book called Owning the Right Dog, which goes through the plusses and minuses of all types of dogs, plus a lot about feeding and grooming. The bulldog has plenty of plusses and minuses. They are courageous, intelligent, good tempered, easy to groom (duh), and they love children. However...there are minuses too, of course. They snore, for one. But I hear that berlin niebuhr sleeps with ear plugs, anyway, so that's not a problem! Here's the other minus: "not built for strenuous exercise." That's a minus??? That's perfect! So...with that said...let's go to our own plus-minus list...


-- Not built for strenuous exercise!

-- You can't look at them without laughing.

-- The mascot of the alma mater of berlin niebuhr (and Mrs. N) was a's fate!

-- Their son really likes them...though he still can't really explain why.

-- They are kind and courageous. That counts for something, right?

-- You can dress them up in Star Wars gear, and their expression doesn't change!
(Courtesy of this Costume Dogs collection. I cannot tell you how hard we laughed at this series of photos.)


Yeah, there are one or two.

-- Their funny nose actually can cause some respiratory problems.

-- They require daily care (brushing their teeth and cleaning the wrinkles in their face to avoid infections). Can't imagine that would go over well in the niebuhr household.

-- Snoring and sleep apnea. Seriously, they're just like an overweight human.

-- They don't do strenuous exercise, but an unexercised bulldog "will exhibit destructive behaviour even as an adult," according to Wikipedia. So you do have to let them run around a little bit.

And through our in-depth viewing of the Westminster Dog Show this week (it was on HDTV, and we have proven that we will watch absolutely anything on HD), we discovered what is actually a more realistic and palatable version of the bulldog: the French Bulldog. All the plusses of the bulldog, except without the snoring and the largeness (you do have to occasionally put petroleum jelly in its facial creases, but that's not as bad as brushing its teeth daily).

Come know you want me...


Friday, February 16, 2007

When Siblings Mate . . .

. . . they produce bad nonsense like this AZ bill. Leave aside the purpose of higher education to a society that needs a wide range of ideas to deal with a rapidly changing environment in constant flux. In a world in which not saying what we want to hear is the same as being biased, then how would you avoid saying something that won't get you in trouble? Plus, to quote a wise philosopher, reality has a well-known liberal bias.


More Inconvenient Truth

This is guaranteed to get your weekend off to a wonderful start. It really does look like, with global warming, Baby Boom degeneration, fiscal pileup, corrections population explosions, and our collapse as a legit world leader, the next decade or three may be as volatile as anything this country or this planet has ever seen. Not that you would ever notice from what the media or our Top Tier bloggers focus on. Sometimes I just want to spend weeks at a time apologizing to The Boy.


Weather, Water, Energy 2-16-07

New record for the planet for our greenhouse gas emissions last year, primarily because of industrial growth in Asia, which China has vowed to continue. But don't worry. There'll be a new record next year. . . . David Roberts at Grist makes the good point that, as we discuss our proactive options against global warming, mass transit remains the drunk uncle off in the corner during the holidays. If I could add one thing, where the hell is all the talk about telecommuting??? . . . I have a weak spot for the East Coast and it bothers me to see stories like these for those folks. CT isn't going to hit the goals of its Climate Change Action Plan by 2010, it appears, despite being part of the one of the few areas of this country actually taking proactivity seriously. And homeowners in MD are finding insurance harder and harder to find, thanks to insurance companies taking the warming and the resulting hurricanes seriously. I hope things work out for them, but somehow you just think they're going to end up like the glaciers in Peru with 5 years left. . . . I’ve sat through family holidays listening to people claim that they wouldn’t wear seatbelts because you could get just as hurt wearing them as not. Like that guy who was able to jump out of his car just before it crashed. Or the guy who tied when his car went into the river and he couldn’t get his seatbelt unfastened. That’s what I think of when I see articles like this and know that the morons on parade will use it to overlook all the competing evidence and articles to the contrary. . . . Finally, looks like the locations for Gore's "Live Earth" global concert extravaganza are coming together, as well as the acts. I even recognize some of these names . . . which probably isn't that good news for their drawing power, I have to admit. (Don't get me started on John Mayer. Just read Wonderland.)


FRIDAY CAT BLOGGING!! It's cold outside... make sure you curl up with someone you love tonight...


Thursday, February 15, 2007

Doing Education Reform Wrong

The geniuses who gave us No Child Left Behind, including Teddy "Most Overrated Senator in US History" Kennedy, are at it again. This is not completely stupid but the dumbass dwarfs the smart. Here's one reason why. I was sentenced to nine years on a school board once, and we feared every other year reporting of state test scores. Why? Because a little town to the south had twins who were test-crunching giants. Every year they took a test in a grade, that town would beat the rest of us like the AFC thumping the NFC and we would have to explain why we weren't doing as well as that little nothing place. Of course, since testing then was every other grade, in the off years the little town scored what you might expect and we were the kings. Nothing changed but who was taking the tests. And the twins' teacher in any given year would earn a bonus for their demonstrably superior teaching . . . until the next year when they would be up for firing for their decline.

So you see, the problems with this proposal go well beyond teaching to test. Grading teachers on what group of kids (and parents, community, activities, etc.) are available each year is seriously challenged and threatens not just stopping learning just to take tests but also the corruption and stupidly we're seeing more and more already. Learning happens not just with a teacher and you have to take all the factors into account when making judgments. If you don’t baseline the kids the teacher has, then the numbers mean little or nothing. For example, rarely is any formal effort made to match kids with teachers best suited to their learning skills, to link this year’s teacher with last year’s or next year’s.

These outcomes are typical “top down” BS that sounds good on paper but will not work in practice, like Merit Pay where teachers judged by admins who were rarely great teachers and proved not committed to it by moving to admin. This new proposal is an educational Iraq—go into it with imperial imperatives and watch disaster happen. You want to get better results? Put money into drawing and keeping good minds into the profession and making sure they’re kept up-to-date on their subject and pedagogy. Make the effort to match students to teachers and curricula. It's not wrong to demand demonstration of student achievement in subjects but, if you do, don’t insist on the traditional “grade” system and then get mad when kids don’t get socially promoted. Base records on student mastery of subject at achieved basics, mastered subject, and excelled, and let kids progress based on “achieving” and then picking how much further they want to go—no more age-based grades. And employers and colleges have to make clear what mastery is necessary for what they want and need. Most of all, we need to encourage “bottom up” efforts that innovate and test new ideas and then disseminate the ones that do—completely the opposite of what these mandated, top-down, “DC knows best” idiocies pull. This isn't rocket science but it does take sense and recognition that people at the top have rarely made things better. You seeing any of that?


Weather, Water, Energy 2-15-07

A British court has called out Tony Blair for basically making a political deal with the country's nuclear power industry rather than doing a legit and honest assessment of the state of that industry there as had been required. Just more Blair BS. Seriously, why was he ever considered a good guy? Simply because he didn’t have Margaret Thatcher’s balls? Or his wife’s? For more proof, check this from Grist out:

Tony Blair is to devote himself to fighting global warming when he quits power this summer by promoting an American rethink on the Kyoto protocol.

Tony Blair decided the best time to lobby America for a "rethink" on global warming is after he's divested of all power? He thinks he'll have more leverage as a disgraced, deeply unpopular ex-Prime Minister?

And don’t read this if you’d like to think that anyone in Europe or the US has a clue. Guess we’ll have to rely on Australia and its idiot PM. . . . Meanwhile, conservatives in British Columbia are trying to out-Arnold CA's conservative gov in going green. Nice shot at the "let's study this to death . . . our death" morons, too. . . . Meanwhile, away from the elected world, the European Environment Agency is calling for serious planning to deal with the coming warming. Here are some of the things they foresee if action isn't planned right now:

-- Annual precipitation in northern Europe is likely to rise by as much as two percent per decade, although summers will be drier. But in southern Europe, there will be a fall in annual precipitation, especially in summer when rainfall will decrease by around five percent.
-- Flooding will become a more frequent risk over all of Europe. Northern Europe will run a higher risk of drought in the summer; southern Europe faces the risk of more droughts in all seasons.
-- Climate change will strongly affect natural habitat and biodiversity.
For example, loss of groundwater may badly affect dunes and wetlands in the Netherlands; streams and lakes in Austria that are fed by glacial meltwater could dry up; and new diseases, pests and species that thrive in an altered climate could threaten native species in Britain.
-- Water supplies for human consumption will also come under severe challenge, because at present, reservoirs and use of groundwater stocks are designed for a long recharge season.

And when someone tells you that plans like these will hurt an implementing economy?

The report adds that the cost of these impacts could be very high.

Less rainfall will affect which crops can be grown and the availability of water for coastland tourist resorts and golf courses. It could also lead to worse quality of drinking water. And lower water levels in rivers and waterways will also affect electricity generation by hydropower and impede navigation.

Droughts alone have cost 85 billion euros (110 billion dollars) over the past 30 years in the European Union (EU), led by 2003, a year that cost 7.5 billion euros (9.75 billion dollars) alone.

"Balance" that with your stalling and delay, Blair, AU idiot PM, and Bushnev. . . . A non-Africa poor part of the world that's looking to get hammered by global warming--South Asia. . . . Looks like the parts of the world most seeing the change from cold to warm are the ones most proactive. The AK (Alaska, not Arkansas) Forum on the Environment is even more deliberative on the state's options than the European Environment Agency. And, VT and other New England states are actively engaged with their Canadian colleagues in developing recs for joint action. . . . Still, there's always hope when a global multi-national like GE starts investing in wind farms in four states. Just don't notice that Brazil's going full speed into ethanol despite its very real problems and that Europe's emissions trading system has, well, gone bust. You just hope that, out of the dozens of bad ideas that our needs will generate, two or three will actually blossom. In time.


Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Are We Proud Yet?

Unicef does a report on child poverty and well-being across industrialized nations and, surprise, the US and UK come in at the bottom of 21 countries. The explanation? One of the report's authors told the BBC that under-investment and a "dog eat dog" attitude in society were to blame for Britain's poor performance. We musta beat 'em out because none of that applies to the US, right?


Weather, Water, Energy 2-14-07

Fifth warmest year in last century. But by all means let's focus on how some folks once said the planet may cool down and a bunch of other stuff that has no comparative value to the science backing global warming today, as Demosthenes aptly notes. Better yet, did Anna Nicole have an opinion that could be hauled out? . . . Here's your headline for the day. Save your pennies--"Without a viable jet-fuel alternative, air travel in 30 years may be only for the wealthy." . . . New hat in the ring for idiot leader in the world. Watch out US and Australia. . . . Think the American Association for the Advancement of Science will be discussing global warming in its coming 5-day forum? Think they should be?


Keep talking, James...

Seriously, somebody take the mic away from James Carville. I'm sure he's got quite the death grip on it, and tugging it away from him will be harder than it looks (thin but wiry), but...he's just not in any way, shape, or form relevant to the national discussion any longer. And this crap is just speeding up the inevitable.

There was James Carville on CNN's Situation Room, desperately trying to explain why Sen. Clinton voted for the war, even though other senators who had been given the same faulty intel she had, voted against it: "But they weren't from New York," he said. "Their state wasn't hit. They didn't have to deal with the grief of these 3,000 people."
Apparently, according to James Carville, the only way to appear tough is to tie 9/11 to Iraq. Well guess what,’re done. People want 'smart and strong in your convictions', not 'tough for tough’s sake.'

Then again...

Keep talking, James. Every time you open your mouth, you bring Hillary down even worse than her vote for Iraq does.

This may be naive optimism talking, but I'm really starting to think that Hillary has about a 10-15% chance, at best, of scoring the Dem nod. Maybe even less than that. She can amass the biggest war chest in the history of the world, and I just don't think it's going to happen. As BooMan has pointed out (h/t Avedon), there are severe hints of Muskie bleeding through. Now, I was not alive in 1972 (though I have read Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail...that counts, right?), so I’ll leave that commentary to others, but there are two tremendous factors working against Hillary at the moment.

1. She has absolutely no sense of “realness” to her whatsoever. I have no doubt that she stands for (mostly) the right things, and let’s be honest—I’d vote for her against Sellout McCain or Manwhore Guiliani, but she just can’t open her mouth at this point without betraying a sense of political calculation. She has more charisma (somehow) than John Kerry, but she also has an even bigger hint of calculation, and she’s just taken too damn many positions on too many damn issues to inspire people like a certain other candidate is/will. Which leads to...

2. Obamania. Not saying he’s Bobby Kennedy II, but...what was the line from American President? “They're so thirsty for it they'll crawl through the desert toward a mirage, and when they discover there's no water, they'll drink the sand”? Well...people are so desperate for a Bobby II that they’re seeing what they want to see in him. And who knows...he might actually be the real thing. If he can get through the next 11 months or so without a DeanScream-esque misstep, I think the nomination’s his (sans a change in the game, like if Gore decides to run or something).

The press (and his opponents) can go on and on about his inexperience as a disadvantage, but I honestly think that works to his advantage. He doesn’t have any votes to defend, and that will help him considerably. I don’t personally know what I think of Obama yet (too much touchy feely talk about "coming together," but he still might be the best horse in the race...other than Chris Dodd, of course...but I’m not sure it matters. Four years ago, people were drawn to Howard Dean because he was speaking truth to power. He was the only one saying what thousands of voters were thinking. People are not drawn to Obama for the same reasons, but if he establishes himself in the netroots (and let’s face it, Edwards’ blogger issue can only help that), then I cannot even imagine how much money he will raise. Hillary can get all the big money she wants—people have never been, and will never be, as jazzed to be in her presence as people are for Obama right now. I haven’t seen anything like this, especially this early in the campaign, and at this point, I’d say he’s got about a 60% chance of winning the nod. And if he does, I think he destroys his Republican counterpart. Imagine how old John McCain will seem next to Obama? All it’s going to take is for him not to screw up (and maybe for Al Gore to not enter the race). Then again, plenty of strong-looking candidates have screwed up in the past. This is politics, after all.

And then again, exactly four years ago I thought John Kerry didn't have a shot either, and for a lot of the exact same reasons. So really...whaddo I know? All I know is, James Carville should keep talking. It helps certain Democrats, but not in the way he thinks it does.