Saturday, October 23, 2010

McDonald's Hamburgers and A Portrait of Dorian Grey

Sorta of in any event, here is a burger from Mikey D's that defy age; here is a video of a 4 year old burger:

Happy eating.

More or less via.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Juan More Time

You know if you have an irrational fear, it might not be a bad idea to see a therapist to overcome said fear. And, while not Muslim garb, this is a very pleasant image:
Firing Williams for being a jerk is fine by me and, personally, I wish NPR would have continued to make the point that Williams was being a jerk and therefore they fired him.  His career will, of course, in no way be damaged by his jerkiness; he received a three year 2 million dollar contract with Fox after all. And all those folks who are arguing that pundits ought be allowed to say what ever the hell really need to defend pundits who say what ever the hell and not just those pundits who say what ever the hell you agree with.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Crises in Education

Via comes this interview that explains the crisis in higher education in partly thusly:
The issue, of course, is money. Since the financial crunch of the late 1960s and 1970s, American colleges and universities have worried about their bottom lines. Reduced support from state legislatures and the federal government’s decision to aid higher education through grants and loans to students rather than through the direct funding of individual institutions forced those institutions to look for other sources of income, while seeking to cut costs. In the process, academic administrators adapted themselves to the neoliberal ethos of the time. They reoriented their institutions toward the market at the expense of those elements of their educational missions that served no immediate economic function.
And she argues that
[t]here is a difference between education and vocational training. And, what we are seeing today is the vocationalization of higher education. As they struggle to attract warm, tuition-bearing bodies, many schools have begun to offer ever more career-oriented courses of study. That’s what students and their parents supposedly want, especially at a time when they view college as an investment that should lead to an immediate economic pay-off. But that kind of short-term thinking is damaging -- to students, to higher education, and to society as a whole. To begin with, most students graduating today will change their careers at least six times before they leave the workforce. Courses that are narrowly tailored to particular jobs may not serve these students well if the machinery they have been trained to operate becomes technologically obsolete or the occupational niche they were planning to fill ends up in Asia. They need broader skills and an educational background that will allow them to adapt themselves to a wide variety of work environments.
To which I say, you betcha.

More on the First Amendment

Christine O'Donnell, who embarrassed herself concerning the Constitution and the separation of church and state, now claims that she won the debate on the 1st Amendment because Coons didn't name the five freedoms it protects. During the debate, however, she was asked a question concerning specific constitutional amendments and she said:

I didn’t bring my Constitution with me. Fortunately, senators don’t have to memorize the Constitution,” Christine O’Donnell, Delaware’s Republican Senate nominee, declared at the forum, held in the moot courtroom of Widener University.
She won the debate because when she said senators didn't need to memorize the constitution she meant the opposite when it concerns Democratic candidates.  See also.


Should NPR have fired Juan Williams for his bigoted comments about people in "Muslim garb" on airplanes making him nervous? Yes.  Should they have fired him years ago for the nonsense he spouts on Fox? Yes. Are the folks over to NRO and elsewhere being disingenuous when they decry his firing?  Yes.

As by the way, Mara Liason should stop appearing on Fox as well.

What the heck is "Muslim garb" any how?

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Dangerous Driver

What happens when a car hits a cyclist? This

Here In Wisconsin

Ron Johnson, who is a manufacturer, accountant, and lucky in his wife's family's business acumen, is running for US Senate in the great state of Wisconsin, home to the House on the Rock, was quizzed recently on his plan for the middle class.  He said, in part, nothing. When not saying nothing, he promoted the policies that failed for the past 30 or so years as the policies he, as an accountant and manufacturer, would put in place.  Ron Johnson follower of failed policies wants a chance to watch those policies fail yet again.

Read the Damn Book II

Recently, Christine O'Donnell made herself ridiculous because she doesn't understand that the Constitution's sixth artilcle and the Bill of Rights' 1st amendment mandate the separation of church and state.

The 1st Amendment says, in part, that
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof
The state is forbidden from promoting, retarding, or meddling with religious beliefs or practices.

Article Six says, in part,  that
[t]he Senators and Representatives before mentioned, and the members of the several state legislatures, and all executive and judicial officers, both of the United States and of the several states, shall be bound by oath or affirmation, to support this Constitution; but no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States.
The argument here is that the only commitment required of anyone working for the state is to protect and defend the Constitution and that no set of religious beliefs or practices are or can be required of state officials.

The Constitution, in other words, creates a secular government that is indifferent to religious matters and denies any religious group the right to meddle in participation in the machinery of government.

Why is it that Constitutional Conservative have so little understanding of the text's plain meaning? Could it be that they are unaware of the problem of state interference in religious beliefs and practices? Could it be that they are unaware of the dangers of religious interference in who is or isn't a citizen and participation in government?  Might it be that they know little or nothing about history?  I'm going to go out on a limb and argue yes on all counts.

Here is a long version of the exchange:

Here's the shorter version.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Conservatives Explained

This has been making the rounds and with the point that the guy's trashing of the woman is kinda of creepy, and it is. Watch:

What is creepier, I think, is Goldberg's belly laugh when the prematurely aged begins to make sleazy allegations about his ex. Even odder is the description he provides of the woman's ideas. Finally, Goldberg is an editor?

Apparently the guy wrote a blog post explaining how he wasn't a creep. Oddly enough, yesterday I could access his blog and today? Restricted access. One wonders why.

Monday, October 18, 2010

His Command of the Literature is Punditastic.

A while ago Matt Yglesias was all interested in forging links between academia, specifically PoliSci, and journalism. A member of the political science community suggested that the problem was
The overwhelming theme from the journalists on the panel (Ezra Klein, Matt Yglesias, Mark Blumenthal, Mark Ambinder, and Mark Schmitt) was that they didn’t have enough time to do their work. Constant time pressures prevent adequate reflection on the subject of their work (i.e. politics) and prevents them from getting the best sources for their stories, and so they go with the most accessible.
And concludes that for a variety of reasons
So, I’m not sanguine about the prospects of better collaboration and less stupidity [among journalists]. Especially when one considers that journalists are about competition among themselves for market share, and they do so by being entertaining and conflictual. They’re not motivated — or if they are only at the margins — by informing people.
Why do I bring this up?  Recently Yglesias read, or claimed to read, an academic paper on political dynasties, that he found here. The paper's abstract offers this conclusion:
On the contrary, using two instrumental variable techniques we find that political power is self-perpetuating: legislators who hold power for longer become more likely to have relatives entering Congress in the future. Thus, in politics, power begets power.
Yglesias isn't buying and argues:
I think we should probably understand political dynasties in democracies as part of the larger story of the importance of elite signaling in democratic politics. Most people have stronger views about individual figures than they do about “the issues.” So the question becomes how do you extend the brand? Most voters are most effectively reached via partisan branding—something like 80 percent of people are robotic party-line voters—but “swing voters” by definition don’t work this way. Family relationships then become an effective means of extending a positive brand that’s doesn’t involve parties.
If he had bothered to read the paper he would have discovered that  authors "find that dynastic legislators are less common in more competitive environments."  Branding is supposed to work in a competitive environment because the brand does the decision making for you. Like John Prine's Grandpa who voted for Eisenhower 'cause Lincoln won the war. Signaling likewise.  He's a Kennedy: he's got to be good.  In this case, neither works as Yglesias asserts; the authors suggest that
[o]ne possible explanation is that when a party safely controls a state, those in control of a party can afford to favor candidates to whom they are connected by family or social ties, suggesting that the dynastic transmission of political power may be more related to superior contacts with party machines —for example— than to features valued by voters, such as higher human capital.[footnote number removed]
This is why there is no links between academics and journalism.  Yglesias can't be bothered to read because he already has a series of pat answers to complicated question: branding, signaling, union bashing, and Neoliberalism more generally.

They Hate Teachers

Recently a whole bunch of school administrators, spearheaded by Joel Klein and Michelle Rhee, wrote a "manifesto," which the WaPo published. Not content to bash "bad" teachers and their terrible unions, although they do, the manifesto asks
Is it reasonable to expect a teacher to address all the needs of 25 or 30 students when some are reading on a fourth-grade level and others are ready for Tolstoy?
The answer is no, probably not.  The solution, one might think, is to hire one teacher per say 15 students so that the teacher has time to deal with each on a more individual basis.  And to ensure that teachers have a mastery over content, which in this case would be teaching Tolstoy. Not our heroic administrators; they want to do away with
arcane rules such as "seat time," which requires a student to spend a specific amount of time in a classroom with a teacher rather than taking advantage of online lessons and other programs.
Put another way, we have to do away with teaching so that students can be taught via podcasts, videos, and robots. It is a manager's utopia. How can you reform education if your basic idea is to create an educational delivery system that eschews teachers? Education, unlike furniture or pasta, isn't deliverable; it is created in the interaction between students and teachers with the aid of parents and administrators.  While it is almost certainly the case that there are bad or under-performing teachers in the world as we know it.  It is unlikely that they represent the majority of teachers.

Not content to traduce teachers and teaching, Klein, Rhee et alia, go after education and experience:
A 7-year-old girl won't make it to college someday because her teacher has two decades of experience or a master's degree -- she will make it to college if her teacher is effective and engaging and compels her to reach for success.
While true on one level, experience and education don't ensure effectiveness, but, to use their example, would you want your kid to learn his or her Tolstoy from an enthusiastic recent graduate who may have read Tolstoy in English 101 or someone with a master's in Complit who has taken graduate courses on 19th Century Novels in Translation and who has taught for 10 years?  Just as by the way, is it reasonable to expect even high school seniors to read and understand Tolstoy? War and Peace is one of the longest and most complicated texts ever.

Presumably their enthusiastic recent hire can turn the wonders of the internet and Jeanette and Johnny can benefit from a series of podcasts on Pierre's free thinking and Freemasonry.

There is lot's more in the "manifesto" itself.  But, given that they spend the most ink in blanket criticism of  flesh-and-blood teachers while touting the benefits of robotic teachers, the real laugh line is their claim that one of the big problems reform faces is
our discomfort as a society with criticizing anyone who chooses this noble and difficult profession[.]
Thank goodness our brave administrators are free from this discomfort.

See also.