Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Terrifying Headline of the Day: Politicians and Business -- Plus a Rant!

Oh, what fresh hell is this? Here's the headline: "Obama, the Nation's CEO."

So you're telling me that a fellow with no business experience and really not too much attachment to the private sector and the idea of free enterprise/trade/markets is attempting to dictate terms to American business. At the same time that a ravenous pack of bureaucrats, functionaries, and career politicians with leftist inclinations (and tax-cheating ways) are busy demonizing American business and performing moral-hypocrisy theater on AIG bonuses while deliberately and publicly persecuting that tiny group of unpopular individuals. The AIG theater isn't even the point; it was a distraction from the far bigger debacle of the gargantuan budget that will bankrupt us all.

Do the current folks in DC understand even the most rudimentary principles of economics and business? Hey, sure, having the government strong-arm business is a great way to make people want to invest and do business! Floating the idea of punitive taxation (and that even against particular groups of people) is a fantastic way to increase confidence overall! How is all this not (a) completely counterproductive, and (b) looking like a big nasty power grab? Do people actually think that command economies really work? Next thing you know, some genius is going to propose price-fixing or some other hopeless garbage like that. Hey, let's try decreeing prosperity into existence, why don't we!

Government meddling in business is a terrible idea. I'm not even talking about how it's an unconscionable expansion of government and its overreach (that's a libertarian rant for another day). I'm just saying that it doesn't look like these people know what they're doing. As a friend of mine observed, "Every time Tim Geithner opens his mouth, the Dow drops." And it's not just Tiny Tim there. It's everybody in DC, including the president.

No wonder the Dow is plummeting along with confidence overall. Maybe it's time to flee to New Zealand. Yes, New Zealand. Oh, HOPECHANGE!

Add the heedless spend-a-palooza practices hurtling from DC, and I feel like every other exhausted, appalled taxpayer who cannot believe this is actually happening. I'm tired. Aren't you?

Satire Alert: A Recipe for EU Agriculture Policy!

This spoof of British TV chef Jamie Oliver is dedicated to Il Barista, my long-time cooking buddy! (As for the increasingly annoying real-life Oliver, I give you this savage takedown by the humorists at the UK satire HQ, the Daily Mash.)

Enjoy, everyone! (Context here.)

Daniel Hannan on France, Germany, the US, and the Government "Spending Juggernaut"

I'm delighted to see that Daniel Hannan (whom I've been reading for a long time now) is finally getting more attention. One scintillating YouTube video did that, but Hannan's got much more to say. Now maybe he will have an audience.

See this:

And I just might have to read his book The Plan: Twelve Months to Renew Britain.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Satire Alert: If Kafka Designed Airports

The Onion strikes again, and the result is hilarious! Ah, nobody does oppressive, impersonal, dehumanizing bureaucracy like Kafka. And airports. Combining the two is a brilliant move.

Prague's Franz Kafka International Named World's Most Alienating Airport

(In the real world, I nominate London's horrific Heathrow for being the worst in all sorts of ways.)

The HopeChange Chronicles: Mark Steyn's Observations

Steyn takes no prisoners in his inimitable style. Here's a hint:
. . . it’s no reflection on the hapless Geithner that he’s unable to fix the planet. When the Bolsheviks chose to introduce Russians to the blessings of a “command economy” 90 years ago, they were dealing with a relatively simple agricultural society largely contained within national borders. Obama and Geithner are trying to do it with a sophisticated global economy in which North American consumers, European bankers, Asian suppliers, Saudi investors, and Chinese debt-holders are more tangled than an octopuses’ orgy. Even with “global oversight” — with the Toxic Tims of Germany, Argentina, and India all agreeing on how to fix the game — it can’t be done.
Now who else but Mark Steyn can actually and intelligently use such a phrase as "octopus orgy"? *Giggle*

Book Review: "Shakedown" and Canadian Free Speech Rights

Hmmm, there's the buzz of a new book from Canada. I haven't read the "Shakedown" by Ezra Levant, but after reading this book review, I think I'll have to!

The review itself has its delights; see, if you will, the following glorious characterization of Canadian politic correctness as "simultaneously absurd and frightening, Kafka dipped in Wodehouse. Welcome to the strange new world of political correctness roaming the landscape, seeking whom it may devour."

Blast from the Past: Israel's Netanyahu at 28

This is rather fascinating! It's a little video artifact from 1978 that's now hit YouTube.

The word from the new Israeli Prime Minister-to-be's office? "I felt kind of embarrassed to see how young I looked" is the quote from the man himself.

Possibly even more interesting is that Netanyahu's views on various issues seem consistent for the large part (!).

Why Perfect Totalitarianism is Impossible

Here's something optimistic! Read the whole thing.

And then, go watch "The Lives of Others." Just do it!

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Quote of the Day: Tim Blair on Earth Hour and Green Technology

As a chaser to Earth Hour and Human Achievement Hour, read this interview with awesome Aussie blogger Tim Blair. Here's a great little quote about "green technology" (my emphasis in bold italics):

Interviewer: And a more general question. Regardless of the truth or otherwise of anthropogenic global warming, do you support an eventual move to a non-carbon based economy and if so, under what terms?

Tim: I’d support it under the same terms that gave us a carbon economy: if it offered a material improvement over existing conditions. Give me a non-carbon jet that can take me to England this summer faster than some old Airbus, and I’m on board. Build a non-carbon car that is quicker, cooler and equally affordable as a GTHO and can carry as many people, and you’ll have buyers lined up around the block.

An important fact that anti-carbon folk usually forget: the carbon economy didn’t come about because of government support or widespread protests about horse manure and air pollution caused by burning wood. It came about because it was an improvement.

The market rewards improvement. That’s why people ditched horses for cars and wood for electricity. A fortune awaits anyone who can come up with something better than an internal combustion engine or air conditioning driven by something other than electricity.

These breakthroughs are unlikely to come about because we turn our lights off for an hour every March.
Yes. (Add also nice snidely humorous potshot at the end, there.)

Turn the R&D geeks and nerds loose in a free-market economy!

Nerd News: Heresy -- Not Everyone Should Go to College -- Plus a Rant!

Or should "go to university," in the Britspeak of this editorialist.

I've talked about this idea before in its American guise, usually in the terms of academic standards and the toxic school debt/cost of education factor. The idea that everybody should go to college is a product of politicians and edu-crats, and it's just as noxious as the idea that everybody should own a house.

For today, though, see what one British observer has to say about the British version of "everybody should go to college -- um, I mean, UNIVERSITY." Blurb:

A peasants' revolt broke out on BBC Radio 4 today, when a discussion on education provoked a flood of calls and e-mails expressing some seriously politically incorrect opinions. Untutored listeners wanted to know who on earth thought it was a sensible aspiration to try to send 50 per cent of British youth to university. If degrees meant anything, how could half of the population possibly be qualified to obtain them?

You may be sure the subject was changed fairly quickly, but the seed of rebellion had been sown. It is an article of faith with New Labour and all its social-engineering fellow travellers that half of the population must go to university, regardless of academic ability, in pursuit of the holy grail of "fairness". For true believers, this is simply the reformist prelude to the revolutionary goal of eventually sending 100 per cent of teenagers to university.

All the problems afflicting academe - funding, standards, etc - are a consequence of attempting to convert higher education from the exclusive, minority, elitist experience it ought to be into a mass-market, box-ticking egalitarian confidence trick perpetrated on an industrial scale. To give the admissions procedure a patina of credibility, school examinations have been rigged so that numbskulls can emerge garlanded with academic laurels. University degrees have correspondingly been devalued - a 'First', formerly a badge of excellence, is now given away like a free offer on a packet of cereal. Teenagers are being admitted to university who would fail the interview for the post of village idiot.
Ouch! And yet I do love reading British English penned by an angry writer.

A university degree is fast becoming a measure of . . . hm, nothing. meanwhile, Merit is no longer a means for people to get ahead in life. (And this ultimately acts to prevent people from less wealthy backgrounds from improving their lot in life through working hard and studying hard. The entire morass is so utterly contrary to the old Taiwanese -- and indeed Asian -- idea of emphasizing education that I can't even begin to rant.)

Add a dash of evil old-fashioned envy and the denigration of excellence in others (only now it's OK to mock people smarter/better/etc. than you are if you just use the term "self-esteem"), and we're seeing academia's suicide. What you're seeing in education is the nerds' version of old-school communism, really: the people in power won't be happy until everybody is equally mediocre and mush-brained (as communists aren't happy until everybody is equally poor and miserable). Truly excellent, hard-working scholars are the new kulaks on campus.

You know, university has historically had a sense of elitism to it, and I'll go ahead and be wicked and say that it should. It's not for everybody. It's for the high achievers, for the brainy and diligent boys and girls (notice that I said it's about brains, talent, and labor, not about personal wealth per se -- that's another issue. But that's actually my point about merit-based approaches -- about scholarships to be won by merit by students who have no personal wealth of their own, so they can study for a real degree and improve their lot in life. But if you take that option away -- as edu-crats are doing by swamping campuses with mediocrity and plummeting standards -- then you end up hurting those people.) A college degree should mean something. Actual education and learning should mean something. An aside on a symptom: there's a goofy habit in teaching of saying that the teacher is not the dispenser of knowledge but the "faciliator" to help students learn from each other in cooperative efforts, etc. RUBBISH. Self-esteem-drenched rubbish. I'm the teacher because I know more than the students do -- and that's my job (oooooh, did that sound all elitist and oppressive? Am I crushing you with my power structure? boo freakin' hoo)! If two students are ignorant about history, how much actual history do you think they can learn from each other without a real history teacher being the dispenser of knowledge? without a serious teacher sometimes bruising their precious little egos by saying, "NO, YOU'RE WRONG"?

And lest you think I'm being a rich elitist snob on this whole college admissions business... I got into college and grad school on merit and sweat; in fact, it's my slice of the American Dream -- that an immigrant's daughter with absolutely no money and no social connections at all can work hard, earn scholarships, get into a good school, and support herself independently doing it. You can multiply this out too for a lot of my friends -- like the Vietnamese boat-people refugees who came to the US with literally nothing, but are now successful professionals thanks not to some big nanny government social engineering project, but because of their own hard work and talent -- IN SCHOOL. This is precisely the sort of academic outcome we all need and should encourage, but it's also precisely the sort of thing that edu-cratic meddling will damage or -- heaven forbid -- destroy. It's already begun with the grading wars and the fact that a "A" no longer means what it should because too many people get them even when they don't deserve them. (This isn't true in the classrooms where I -- and fellow unrepentant intellectual dinosaurs like me -- rule with an iron fist in the gradebook and do crazy things like demand real work and results, but it's happening too often in other classrooms. And as evil as I am and awe-inspiring in the length and breadth of my campus blasphemies, I'm still only one person! *giggle*) End of rant.

For related posts, click on the various blog tags. You can also see my latest rant on the ongoing idiotification of higher ed, mangled with government interference.

Eureka! -- Race Obsession Is Harmful

You know, I'm not sure whether to facepalm and yell, "Well, DUH!" or be happy that a light bulb has gone off finally for at least one person.

Here it is:

Should public policy be colour-blind? Or must governments and public institutions take account of people’s ethnicity and culture in formulating policy? It is a debate that has been reignited by President Nicolas Sarkozy’s attempt to introduce ethnic monitoring in France.

Unlike in Britain, where public institutions routinely collect information about people’s ethnic origins, it is illegal in France to classify people in this fashion. The foundation stone of the secular French republic is that all citizens should be equal and free from distinctions of race or religion. But senior politicians have begun to recognise that France remains deeply disfigured by racism. To combat this, Sarkozy argues, it is necessary to collect ethnically based data. The British experience suggests that such policies often do more harm than good.

Two assumptions underlie the argument for ethnic monitoring: first, that ethnicity and culture are the most important labels we can place on people; and second, that there is a causal relationship between membership of such a group and disproportional outcomes between groups.

Both those assumptions, of course, are DEEPLY and perhaps IRREMEDIABLY FLAWED.

Why not just listen to the excellent Mr. Morgan Freeman?

Oh, and my campus is doing one of its self-analyses for ethnic/racial population numbers. Some diversity/multiculturalist-y office sent me a survey asking me to identify myself by my race/ethnicity. I simply refused to answer. So I got a second one. I ignored that too. And I'm going to keep on ignoring it.

Nerd News: Boston High School Declares Itself Vampire-Free

Hey, methinks the headmaster doth protest too much!

Still, I blame "Twilight."

Saturday, March 28, 2009

What Fresh Hell Is This? -- UK Cops Encourage Snooping on Your Neighbors

Oh, come ON! Via Ninme, I quote from another critical observer:
The London police have bested their own impressive record for insane and stupid anti-terrorism posters with a new range of signs advising Londoners to go through each others' trash-bins looking for "suspicious" chemical bottles, and to report on one another for "studying CCTV cameras."

It's hard to imagine a worse, more socially corrosive campaign. Telling people to rummage in one another's trash and report on anything they don't understand is a recipe for flooding the police with bad reports from ignorant people who end up bringing down anti-terror cops on their neighbors who keep tropical fish, paint in oils, are amateur chemists, or who just do something outside of the narrow experience of the least adventurous person on their street. Essentially, this redefines "suspicious" as anything outside of the direct experience of the most frightened, ignorant and foolish people in any neighborhood.

. . . What an embarrassment from the country whose level-headed response to the Blitz was "Keep Calm and Carry On" -- how has that sensible motto been replaced with "When in trouble or in doubt/Run in circles, scream, and shout"?

Oh, brother. I kind of like that last bit of doggerel, though -- it well describes some of my undergraduates . . .

Nerd Journal: Minerva as Sassy Shoe

I was shopping around online for shoes (it was all Instapundit's fault! that enabler!) when I randomly came across something from Nine West. Feast your eyes on the "Minerva"!

Oooooooh, I like! Sassy, strappy, good for nice parties, with a hint of personality in the details. Plus it's just the tiniest bit reminiscent of the goddess Minerva's famous armor. I daresay Manolo the Shoeblogger might approve! I should wear this lovely thing with the proverbial Little Black Dress, no?

The EU President and AC/DC

Oh, this is just too AWESOME!

Link dedicated to fellow AC/DC fan La Parisienne, currently in convalescence. Laughter is the best medicine, my dear!

Add "Highway to Hell" to the Financial Apocalypse Soundtrack!

Quirky Euro Files + Geek Fun: Germany's Amazing Model Train Exhibit

It's located in Hamburg, it's called Miniatur Wunderland, and it is jaw-droppingly awesome if the video clip even hints at the reality. It's the world's largest model railway. (Via Neatorama.)

So far, the project includes 7 miles of tracks in an area of over 16,000 square feet, 200,000 people, 4,000 cars, 800 buildings, and 6 different geographic zones from Sweden to the good old US of A. And the builders aren't finished yet! Take a look at the video and marvel at the detail.

Planes, trains, and automobiles.

Earth Hour Silliness Tonight

I had mentioned this before, but I'm reminded of it by Samizdata's rebellious declaration: "Turn every **** light in your house on!"

FIAT LUX! Let there be light!

Party on. I for one shall be playing my Wii during Earth Hour. I'm also currently making a lovely big pot of beef tagine, encouraging the climate-destroying meat industry and also manifesting my basic predatory instinct to kill and consume things below me on the food chain. (Does this make me a foodistic, species-ist imperialist or something?) And of course, the kitchen lights are on, the stove is on, the laptop is on, yadda yadda yadda. Basically, I'm treating Earth Hour like every other hour of me living selfishly as I please -- knowing that it drives eco-fanatics mad.

Besides, I have a lot of reading to do for school, and I kind of need light to read at night. DUH.

Oh, but I do really, really like this humorous comment on Samizdata: "On the contrary, I shall be turning all the lights off, having an accident, suing the organisation who suggested this idea, costing the NHS money and claiming on the insurance. The latter will lobby for it to be illegal to turn all the lights off, legislation will follow." Awesome! Beat 'em at their own game.

More here.

I can't help myself. Oh, go on and watch this video! (I can't figure out how to shrink it. Oh, well!)

Satire Alert and Your Political/Economic Humor of the Day: "South Park" 1, US Treasury Leaders 0

The "South Park" episode "Margaritaville" is absolutely jam-packed with satirical potshots at all sorts of targets, but I have to say, their dig at the US Treasury department's policies (and decision-making process) is simply and brilliantly hysterical.

See too the shot at having our debt be paid by our children.

Really, are Matt and Trey doing the country's best satire?

Don't take my word for it; go watch the episode for yourself. (Language warning.)

The best bits, if you are in a hurry, are collected here.

Kitchen Notes: How Marshmallow Peeps Are Made

This link is dedicated to Ladybird, who is honestly one of only two people I know who actually like eating marshmallow Peeps. The rest of us like playing with Peeps in various and increasingly violent ways often involving microwaves. These sugary Easter candies can behave in gloriously grotesque ways.

But seriously, folks, haven't you ever wondered how Peeps are actually made?

Hello Kitty Monstrosity of the Day: Hello Kitty Pajamas

There are NINE ENTIRE WEBPAGES devoted to Hello Kitty sleepwear at SleepyHeads.com.

I'll never sleep again.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Kitchen Notes: Miso Madness

Here is a little primer. Oh, and WTTPWS!

Friday Fun Video: Satire Alert as "South Park" Meets "Watchmen" and "Dark Knight"

The humorists at "South Park" have been busy! See Matt and Trey's recent jab at dark superheroes (plus a political zinger too). The guys are equal-opportunity satirists, and they take potshots at everybody -- which really makes them fair. Enjoy this little video clip:

Oh, and you can see the entire episode online at South Park Studios.

Friday Fun Video: Extreme Sheep LED Art

Apparently I am the last person in the blogosphere to see this video! It's really neat, though. Watch what a bunch of guys, sheep, and sheepdogs can do off in the hills of Wales. You can see where the video has been speeded up, but you can also see the sheepdogs working their magic.

And why do I suddenly want to see watch "Babe"?

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Japan: the Unluckiest Man Alive?

Meet Tsutomu Yamaguchi. From the news story:
Mr. Yamaguchi was in Hiroshima on a business trip on Aug. 6, 1945, when an American B-29 dropped an atomic bomb on the city. He returned to Nagasaki, his hometown, before the second attack . . .
Oh, my! This means that he survived not one, but two atomic bombs. Nagasaki was bombed on August 9, 1945.

Mr. Yamaguchi recently celebrated his 93rd birthday.

Quirky Asia Files: Cartoon Bunnies Go To War -- Now with Translation!

If you still haven't seen the video, you simply MUST.

Gentle reader Lumpy has now kindly provided the translation from the original Japanese:

Quick and dirty translation of the dialogue:

Botasky (Sniper): Wait! Packy, can we do this by ourselves?

Packy (w/ hat): If we don't do it now, those two will be killed. We can coordinate by wireless. You shoot from here. I'll flank them and go in close. Don't worry; we can handle it.

[Packy flanks, Botasky acquires a target and fires]

Botasky: I killed him! This might work! [or maybe, "I have to report!" - I can't quite catch it.]

[scene change]

Packy: You just increase the risk, so it's better not to come.

[after Packy takes out bad guys w/ the rocket launcher, the following appears]

With such cute faces you'll forgive them!
Domo arigato.

Earth Hour Versus Human Achievement Hour

The day of reckoning is March 28. The Greenies are hosting "Earth Hour." I and fellow evildoers will be hosting "Human Achievement Hour." That's right -- instead of turning out the lights, I intend to celebrate folks who made it possible even to have that choice. Whose party would you rather be at?

In terms of history, Edison in the long run improved the lives of countless millions with the light bulb. Al Gore, not so much. (On a personal note, my late grandfather could remember when electricity and light bulbs were new to little towns in Taiwan in the 1910s. You've come a long way, baby!)

My contempt and disdain for eco-pietistic, power-grabby, guilt-flinging, preachy (and ultimately toxically misanthropic) Greenies is a matter of public knowledge. I'm sure some of them would turn out MY lights by force if they could.

UPDATE: More here, along with a great photo.

Euro Notes: the Continent's Economic Crisis

Check out this awesomely cool interactive map! Click on a nation to see what its economic situation is. Poor Italy ranks as the EU nation that's the worst off, closely followed by Greece.

Nerd News: Canadian Universities, Anarchist Professors, and Giving As to Everybody

This is pretty crazy, EH? You may comfortably and confidently include me among the ranks of instructors who are appalled.

Obamaspeak: Sentence Diagram!

I love diagramming sentences. Yes, I'm a grammar nerd. So you can imagine my delight when I found this blog post complete with a diagram of one of Obama's sentences.

Here is the sentence: “My view is also that nobody’s above the law, and, if there are clear instances of wrongdoing, that people should be prosecuted just like any ordinary citizen, but that, generally speaking, I’m more interested in looking forward than I am in looking backwards.”

Here's the diagram:

OK, I watched part of the press conference the other day. It was a colossal, crashing BORE. I wished I'd thought of diagramming sentences then to stay awake. As it was, I soon watched something else.

Hey, Bush's press conferences weren't that great either, but Obama's rambling yet lofty and sanctimonious style is beginning to bother me. A press conference isn't the same thing as a speech. He's good at delivering big rhetorical set-pieces (though I'm also beginning to tire of the banalities buried under a glossy verbal flair). But I'm beginning to see that Obama's not very good at the give-and-take of interactive press conferences. He doesn't actually answer questions! He takes questions (sort of) and then starts rambling on and on about the topic. He sounds -- and I would know -- like an overly serious and thus overly boring professor who not only can't inspire his students but also can't clarify the basic material. He (and such professors) give off an air of "I don't need to answer questions. They're petty. You're rather petty for asking. No, I'm the expert, so all you need to do is absorb what I say." It comes across as rather condescending. I found myself rooting for Jake Tapper and Major Garrett to pile on.

And the journalists SHOULD be piling on. BE journalists. The kid gloves should be coming off, because by any reasonable estimation, the Obama Administration's handling of economic policy has been a total farce, and the new budget proposal is insane. Folks are beginning to balk -- from some Congressional Democrats to plain ordinary citizen-taxpayers. And weirdly or not, Obama's new big problem now is his apparent inability to communicate with people -- any people, much less forge or foster a meaningful relationship with them. He's managed to alienate everyone from the British Prime Minister to the folks in the Special Olympics. I'm not sure anybody quite knows what he says versus what he means, but the floundering is becoming obvious.

I'm not the only noticing. Check out Politico's Obama translation: what he said versus what he meant. Maybe. I still don't understand how he can support the new ludicrous budget with one breath and, in the next breath, wax eloquent about being responsible and "doing everything we can to reduce the deficit." Say WHAT?

Obama's complicated sentences make great grammatical fun for diagrams, but they are hopeless for leading in a time of crisis.

Nerd Analysis: China's Military, Taiwan, the Projection of Chinese Power

Read the new Pentagon report first.

Check out analysis from Dignified Rant.

Then take a look at this paper by Professor Emeritus Ellis Joffe, who taught Chinese affairs at Hebrew University.

Here's an observation that as comfortable as a porcupine corset: although China has other objectives for its military, "Taiwan remains the Chinese army’s main mission." Well, that's just great.

As for those other military objectives, they're not exactly made of puppies and cupcakes either:
Now the Chinese admirals apparently want to move beyond defensive perimeters and to position the navy as the prime military supporter of China's aspiration to gain recognition as a great power. This was an angle highlighted by Chinese comments on the dispatch of Chinese warships off the Somalia coast to participate in international efforts to protect shipping from pirates.

More important have been renewed reports that the navy is embarking on a program to build aircraft carriers--an issue that has been unresolved for years. If the Chinese go ahead, it is clear that the mission of their aircraft carriers will not be to defend China against the U.S. or to protect sea lanes in wartime. The mission, at immense cost, will be to augment China’s dominant political and military presence in the region and to bolster its international prestige.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Geek Fun: Iron Man Versus Bruce Lee

Dedicated to the Cinema-Mad Sibling. Enjoy, all! (Via the Movie Blog.)

Quirky Asia Files: Cartoon Bunnies Go To War

It's like Watership Down meets "Apocalypse Now"!

This video clip is sweeping across the Internet, and I can't help but join in. The completely insane yet insanely awesome combination of cute animated animals with R-rated bloody violence demands attention. Bunnies with sniper rifles! The mind BOGGLES.

Where is this from, you ask? Do you really have to ask? Japan, of course!

Language warning; violence warning. Here's the trailer to the upcoming manga series. It is so wrong and yet so right:

This is even better than the Smurf snuff film done by UNICEF in 2005.

Is Jimmy Carter Nuttier Than Pecan Pie?

How's this for mangling history: Jimmy says that the American Civil War was un-Christian and could have been avoided.

It's about as nutty as Pat Buchanan once saying that World War II was unnecessary.

So here's a comment from a Carter critic: "Carter seems to go to irrational extremes to avoid forthright confrontation or conflict with evil of any kind - even when ending human slavery is at stake."

Aaand that famous quote from Edmund Burke comes to mind.

Annual Pentagon Report on Chinese Military Power -- with an Eye on Taiwan

Here is a news piece, a blurb from the Dept. of Defense, and the report itself (in PDF format).

Here's a bit from the report on Taiwan specifically:
The PLA’s modernization vis-à-vis Taiwan has continued over the past year, including its build-up of short-range missiles opposite the island. In the near-term, China’s armed forces are rapidly developing coercive capabilities for the purpose of deterring Taiwan’s pursuit of de jure independence. These same capabilities could in the future be used to pressure Taiwan toward a settlement of the cross-Strait dispute on Beijing’s terms while simultaneously attempting to deter, delay, or deny any possible U.S. support for the island in case of conflict. This modernization and the threat to Taiwan continue despite significant reduction in cross-Strait tension over the last year since Taiwan elected a new president.
Feeling a bit queasy yet? (And note how Ma's feckless attempts at cross-Strait "peace" have done NOTHING to defuse Beijing's determination to quash independent Taiwan.) Try this:
Since 2000, China has continued its build-up of conventional ballistic missiles, building a nascent capacity for conventional short-range ballistic missile (SRBM) strikes against Taiwan into what has become one of China’s primary instruments of coercion, not only of Taiwan but of other regional neighbors. In 2000, China’s SRBM force was limited to one “regimental-sized unit” in southeastern China. China has expanded the force opposite Taiwan to seven brigades with a total of 1,050-1,150 missiles.
Note the updated number of missiles on the Chinese coast, all pointed straight at Taiwan. When I first started blogging, the number was around 800. Today it is approximately 1100 and counting. This sort of stuff always makes me laugh bitterly whenever people try to say that Taiwan is the belligerent troublemaker.

Add too China's recent bullyish behavior toward the US Navy in the South China Sea.

Beijing has been ramping up its military capability. It is absolutely imperative to keep an eagle eye on what the CCP is up to.

I end with this unsettling bit on Taiwan specifically, because I'm frankly biased that way. My emphasis in boldface.
Since 2000, the military balance in the Taiwan Strait has continued to shift in Beijing’s favor, marked by the sustained deployment of advanced military equipment to the Military Regions opposite Taiwan. In the 2002 report, the Department of Defense assessed that Taiwan “has enjoyed dominance of the airspace over the Taiwan Strait for many years.” This conclusion no longer holds true. With this reversal, China has been able to develop a range of limited military options to attempt to coerce Taipei.

Nerd Journal: I Love You, PDF!

I am up to my eyeballs in research. Need I say more? And while I'm going through endless books and journals and such, I feel compelled to declare . . .

Portable Document Format, I love you! You are so awesomely awesome.

Get the latest version of Adobe PDF Reader if you haven't yet. Oh, and Adobe, I love you too.

Plus JSTOR, that glorious marriage of PDFs and research articles.

Mmmmmm-WAH, darlings. Nerd love!

(Oh, I have to say, though, maybe JSTOR has lost a teeny-tiny bit of nerd cred since it joined Facebook. Seriously, it did!)

Is Your Computer Screen Dirty?

Here is something to help you clean it all up. (Via Hyacinth Girl.)

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

What Fresh Hell Is This? -- California considers ban of big screen TVs

You can't be serious! And this from a state that's the entertainment capital of the country!

In their continuing quest to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, state regulators have uncovered a new villain in the war on global warming : your big screen TV.

Couch potatoes, beware.

The California Energy Commission is considering a proposal that would ban California retailers from selling all but the most energy-efficient televisions. Critics say the news standards could take 25 percent of televisions off the market — most of them 40 inches or larger.


GET YOUR DIRTY BIG-GOVERNMENT PAWS OFF MY TV (big screen or not)! In the world of "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness," my TV is definitely part of the pursuit of happiness. Oh, and I pity the fool who tries to come between my Sibling and his beloved big screen TV.

And did we really need another reminder of how this global warming mindset is the excuse for a Great Green Power Grab? Plus, hey, in a recession when retailers are in trouble (note the recent collapse of tech store Circuit City), let's make it even harder for them to do business.

On a personal note: Long-time readers may remember how I, on my old blog a while ago, declared that I would rather have a plasma TV than diamonds. I still stand by that statement. Of course, I currently possess neither! (If I were given the choice today, I would go for that plasma in a heartbeat -- can you imagine what glorious DVD movies and what eye-poppingly splendiferous games of Mario Kart Wii could be played on that thing?)

Nerd News: Forgive Student Loan Debt?

Business Week has the report on a new movement that has spread virally via Facebook and now has some 138,000 supporters.

Here is the Facebook webpage for "Cancel Student Debt to Stimulate the Economy," created by Robert Applebaum.

Here is a blurb from Applebaum:

This proposal will immediately free up money for hardworking, educated Americans, giving them more money in their pockets EVERY MONTH, addressing the very real psychological aspects of the recession as much as the financial ones. Is it the only answer? No, of course not. But could it help millions of hardworking people who struggle every month to get by? Absolutely. Given the current economic climate, as well as the plans to spend trillions of additional dollars that are in the works, one must wonder what is so objectionable about giving a real helping hand to real people with real struggles.

2009 and the new Obama Administration is supposed to be about change. Nothing in the new economic stimulus package represents a significant departure from the way Washington has always operated - it's merely a different set of priorities on a higher scale, but it's certainly not materially different from any other economic stimulus package passed during the past few decades.

Washington cannot simply print and borrow money to get us out of this crisis. We The People, however, can get this economy moving NOW. All we need is relief from debt that was accrued under the now-false promise that higher education equates with higher earnings.

Free us of our obligations to repay our out-of-control student loan debt and WE, the hardworking, middle-class Americans who drive this economy will spend those extra dollars NOW.

If you believe that there's a better way of climbing out of this economic crisis, one that empowers us to directly spend money, start businesses, free up credit and create jobs, then please join this group and encourage others to do so as well.

Interesting. Well, I'm not entirely on-board with the idea that student loan debt should be "disappeared" BECAUSE of a "false promise." I'm possibly more on-board with the idea that reducing the debt burden of a lot of people would enable them to do more things with their money than pay off that debt (i.e., spend it in various ways) and labor under that debt and its increasing interest. I mean, really, isn't debt (on the national level) the heart of many a rant these days? Debt is BAD. (And the whole country is in debt up to its eyeballs.)

More thoughts here on student loan debt forgiveness, such as:
Unfair to those who repaid their loans or didn’t have loans in the first place? Sure — but no more so than dumping oceans of TARP cash on the banks that created the crisis. And if, if the stimulus effect of loan forgiveness is as profound as these guys think, taxpayers would be repaid in the form of a quicker economic rebound. One question, though: Why do they assume forgiven debtors would spend the savings instead of pocketing them or using them to pay off other debt a la tax rebate checks? The answer, maybe, is the sheer amount of money we’re talking about. In my case, forgiving federal loans would save me north of $8,000 a year; toss private loans in there and it’s a cool ten grand. I’d sock some of that away, but with tens of thousands dollars suddenly freed up, I’d also start looking at home prices in the area.

Hmmmm... What do you think?

Personally, I think this is an interesting idea, but it'll never happen.

If you've been reading this blog for any amount of time, you're not surprised that student loan debt is a hot (and sore) topic. I've ranted about the ballooning cost of education for a long time now. (See here and here.) Note newly minted "cost of education" tag.

UK Political Throwdown: Daniel Hannan Versus Gordon Brown

Breathtaking. Daniel Hannan replies to UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown's address to the European Parliament. (Via Samizdata.) You know, when it comes to doing things with words, nobody does it better than the Brits.

"You are the devalued Prime Minister of a devalued government!"

UPDATE: Oh, my!

Nerd Journal: Confessions of a Libertarian Lunatic

Apparently, according to some academic types, I am mentally disturbed. Really?

Satire Alert: A Modest Proposal on Global Warming

Jonathan Swift would be amused with this satirically spirited effort (which does lack the cannibalistic flair of its inspirational forebear, though).

Kitchen Notes: a Movie Maven Bakes a Rorschach Cake

Now this creative mashup of cooking fun and movie madness is just awesome! Via Serious Eats.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Taiwan in 3 Photo Galleries

North Carolina artist Joel Haas photoblogged his recent trip to Taiwan! Take a look at his photos from his visits to:

FYI for more photos:

Geek Fun: Star Wars Meets My Little Pony

OK, I admit it: I had My Little Pony toys when I was little. I never dreamt of this new twist, though! See what the imagination of Finnish artist Mari Kasurinen has created! Here's one example:

My Little Slave Princess Leia by ~Spippo on deviantART

Check out the whole delightful collection here. Click on the tiny thumbnails!

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Nerd Notes: The No-Win Scenario of Research Versus Teaching

Prioritizing research over teaching = bad research AND bad teaching?

Read this Inside Higher Ed piece, and then go read this whole thing, written by Mark Bauerlein, an English professor at Emory.

My own nerd observations: a lot, and I do mean a LOT of new "research" being churned out by journals and book presses isn't worth the time it takes to read it. (I am talking mainly about the humanities and liberal arts, not the hard sciences.) Look, to be perfectly honest, if you have a choice between reading an unintelligible new scholarly monograph about, say, Dante and reading actual things written by Dante, I'm going to tell you to read the primary source first, last, and always. If you have a choice between reading a new gender-theory-driven tome about colonial America and reading the actual correspondence between John and Abigail Adams, you know what I'll tell you to do. And in all cases, AVOID NERDSPEAK / ACADEMESE.

And wasn't I just ranting about research versus teaching only this morning?

AIG Bonus Scandal: Seppuku-Mania!

Senators to AIG Execs: "Drop dead -- literally."

AIG Execs to Senators: "You first."

Real Japanese samurai: *FACEPALM*

Advocating suicide as an honorable way out? Neither side in this mess has much (or any?) honor to begin with, so bringing up old-fashioned ideas of falling-on-your-own-sword-to-save-your-honor is pointless.

Meanwhile, is this all you guys can come up with, the AIG bonus kerfuffle as the biggest possible operatic theater of moral hypocrisy and pseudo-pietistic posing and grandstanding by everybody involved?


Obligatory caveat: MM does not endorse suicide, honorable or not.

UPDATE: The other MM picks up the Japanese theme and calls the whole media circus the "Kabuki Theater of AIG Outrage."

Political Humor of the Day: Jon Stewart Versus New Veteran Health Insurance Plan

What fresh hell is this newly spawned government burst of genius?

Watch the inimitable Jon Stewart rip it to shreds, as it deserves. No, it's not a partisan issue. His pithy, trenchant, and accurate one-line response to government's latest idiocy: "What the (expletive) are you guys thinking?!" Ah, Jon! You give me hope that common sense and decency is not a political thing.

What Fresh Hell Is This? -- Congress Versus Farmers' Markets?


Not to mention, stupid and tin-eared. Hey, in a time of economic hardship, let's make it even harder for independent small farmers and little food providers to survive! All in the name of food safety, of course (and creating yet some other new federal agency to meddle in people's lives.)

Thanks a lot, most popular, sensible, and ethical Congress evah.

I love my farmers' markets! I'll tell you this: I've never gotten ill from them. I can say that I have been sick to my stomach and nauseous almost constantly in recent days, but the cause of THAT is paying attention to what government's been doing!

I've endured too many acts of fecklessness, foolishness, and flat-out idiocy lately. In a rage, I create a new blog tag for all future acts of similar. Say hello to the "what fresh hell is this?" tag.

Heck, how long will it be before nosy Food Safety Police come crashing into our residences to haul us away for hosting dinner parties or making and giving cookies to friends without some government license?

I suppose that indeed the war on foie gras was only the opening salvo in meddling do-gooders' campaign against food.

Nerd News: State Colleges and the Campus Money Crunch

Here is an interesting news piece using as Arizona State University as a case study. Take a look at this "back to reality" comment on the once-lofty ambitions of some schools:
. . . plans have crashed into new budget realities, raising questions about how many public research universities the nation needs and whether universities like Arizona State, in their drive to become prominent research institutions, have lost focus on their public mission to provide solid undergraduate education for state residents.
Hmmmm. I could go on a rant about ambitious overreach, the forgetting of one's priorities and entire reason for existing in the first place, and how few campus bigshots seem to care about quality teaching anymore, but I'm short on time. You fill in the blanks.

"Eye-Swivelling Witlessness": The Art of the Vitriolic Movie Review

You know, sometimes an angry movie reviewer is far more entertaining to read than a happy one.

Take a look as one irate, ranting reviewer lets the verbal venom fly!

Disgusting Cute Video of the Day: the Parrot That Golfs

His name is AJ, and he's quite a talent:

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Movie Humor: Wolverine, Dr. Manhattan, and Rorschach Bicker

Rorschach and Dr. Manhattan from the current "Watchmen" movie and Wolverine from the upcoming summer flick bicker about their films.  Enjoy, movie fans!  (You'll remember the creator for his hilarious Iron Man videos from last summer.)

Film Culture Commentary: It's the Godfather's World

Somebody once told me that every guy on the planet can either quote the entirety of "The Godfather" or make a "Godfather" reference applicable to just about every possible real-life situation or scenario.

You can then imagine my amusement when I came across this little political rant.

Well, another friend of mine once said that guys can talk to each other solely with movie references.  (Oh, I'm not so sure it's such a gender-y thing, as my buddies and I are movie fanatics too.)

Quirky Asia Files: Japan's Obama Sushi

Happy St. Patrick's Day

It's the one day of the year when everybody is Irish!

Somehow the day, with its famous fixation on a certain color, always makes me think of this:

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Cartoon Fun + Film Culture Commentary: the Japanese Homeland Security Advisory System

But where's Hello Kitty on that scale of fear?!
I suggest she goes above Godzilla as a warning of imminent apocalypse.

(via Neatorama)

Euro Notes: After World War II with France, the UK, and the US

It was often a difficult relationship where the French were concerned.

Oh, and are we now to consider Sarko a "post-Gaullist"?

Nerd News: A Small Guide to Sources of College Funding

Hey, check this handy little guide to scholarships and other types of funding.

Beware the Ides of March!

Jean-Léon Gérôme's "Death of Caesar" (1867)

Nerd Notes: Reading in a Time of Recession

Here's an interesting look at a few trends in reading in a time of recession.

So what are folks reading?  A glance at the Amazon top sellers says that Ayn Rand's gigantic Atlas Shrugged is enjoying a huge renaissance, along with more and more unhappy taxpayers calling on the name of John Galt.

At least you don't necessarily have to spend a lot of money to read some good books.  Aside from your local public library, may I suggest . . . 

~Free literature sent to you everyday by email or RSS feed?  Check out DailyLit.Com.  It'll give "text message" a whole new meaning when instead of getting things like "whazzup what r u doin 2day l8r lol" you get a chapter of Tolstoy.

~Harvard Classics has a large-ish collection of free books online.  Selections range from Pascal to Poe and beyond.

~Here's my latest discovery: BookMooch.Com.  Basically it's what La Parisienne, Alessandra, and I have been doing for a long time already -- just on a much larger scale.  All you end up paying really is postage, and thank goodness for the super-cheap "media mail" rate you get at the post office for sending books/DVDs/CDs.  (Hmmm, all this talk actually reminds me that I need to send Alessandra that copy of Watchmen that La Parisienne sent me...)

Read on, penny-pinching literati!

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Nerd/Geek Fun: Happy Pi Day (+ Spring's First Robin)

What's special about today?  Two things in my universe, actually.

One: this afternoon I saw spring's first robin, bold and red-breasted, standng imperiously on a patch of muddy grass where the snow had melted.  Where there are robins, spring can't be far behind -- thank goodness.  It's been a long winter.

Two: today is also Pi Day (3/14)!  Rejoice, math fans!

In honor of Pi Day, I give you this:

Pun aside, it IS a round object with circumference and diameter and therefore very pi-relevant.

UPDATE 1: Pi pizza!

UPDATE 2:  Pi pie!

UPDATE 3: The House of Representatives recognizes pi.  Well, they might as well, since their stimulus bill was one big pork pie,as my friend Bella Thalia shouted.  Hey, wait a minute...the economy's in the tank, the country's upset, and there the Congressional clowns are mucking about with pi?  Then again, every math geek knows that pi is an irrational number.  Oh, I can't contain my own snark!

UPDATE 4:  Albert Einstein was born on Pi Day.  Well, whaddya know?

Whoa, Canada: Mangling History in Battle Re-enactments, Plus a Rant

Mark Steyn's new column explores how some folks in the Great White North are re-writing history in the name of political correctness. (The Brits, incidentally, weren't much better not too long ago when they re-enacted the Battle of Trafalgar not as the historically accurate England versus France-and-Spain, but as Team Red and Team Blue in order not to offend the modern French and Spanish -- a ludicrous event that Steyn also rehashes. Poor Nelson! He fought and fell heroically in battle not for this blessed plot, this realm, this earth, this England, but for the Red Team! I do love me some Napoleonic-era naval battles, and this just made me crazy.)

The entire idea of altering re-enactments of historical events is not only ridiculous, but perilously stupid: it's the willful repudiation of facts in favor of embracing fantasy. It's all wishful thinking writ large. "Oh, I hate the fact that [insert actual winners here] defeated our ancestors, so when we re-enact the battle, let's make our ancestors win instead because that makes us feel better about ourselves here in 2009!"

Facts are facts. And they are even more under siege on all front by people crying that facts are hurtful or uncomfortable or divisive or whatever. (I almost feel like Rorschach from "Watchmen" -- no compromise when it comes to the truth, no faking reality no matter what the reason, even if it's cloaked in "the greater good," itself a iffy phrase.)

It's time (and past time) to learn to deal with facts, history, and objective reality. Far too many people now are projecting their modern issues onto the past -- and therefore twisting history almost beyond recognition. The study (and responsible teaching) of history has enough difficulties and uncertainties in it without meddlesome people actively trying to mangle it for their own purposes. Trust me on this.

I need a palate cleanser after that Steyn story! How about this: Say what you want about the American South, but when people re-enact Civil War battles, they never change the actual historical outcomes -- even if southerners are re-creating a catastrophic Southern defeat. Ever been to a re-enactment of the Battle of Gettysburg? You absolutely should go sometime. It's amazing. Every year the Confederates fight and lose, just as they did in those 3 days in 1863. History buffs flock out there annually to re-create the defeat that ended Lee's invasion of the North and put the South on the defensive for the rest of the conflict.

I'll tell you something else, too: Civil War history buffs are FANATICAL about accuracy in even the smallest detail. (These are people who memorize the serial numbers of different pieces of 19th-century ordnance.) The mere thought of changing any historical detail, much less the outcome of the battle, would be anathema, even if ultimately that history has winners and losers. (I wonder, though, is it only a matter of time before the PC crowd tries to interfere even here?)

OK, end of rant. Need to go run errands!

Euro Notes: French Entrepreneurs Launch Website for Self-Pity

Hey, I'm all for entrepreneurship, though I rather don't think the world needs any more encouragement to whine and wail and cry "Poor me" in any language.  How do you say "crybaby" in French?  I'm sure it somehow still sounds all sexy and cool because it's in French.

I dare say this big French online pity party is a sign of the times -- on both sides of the Pond, we're all in an economic/psychological mess.  Still, occasionally venting one's frustration to one's friends and family is necessary, but I'm pretty sure that stewing in self-pity and moping in misery is a really bad idea.

Anyway, Francophone readers can go check out the official French site, where you can complain in any one of seven categories.  The site name translates literally into English as "A Crappy Life."

Or should I file this post under "Quirky Euro Files"?

All right, I'm evil and have no self-control, so I give you this for a conclusion:

The HopeChange Chronicles: President Obama Advises World to Ignore Scare Tactics of President Obama

Via awesome Aussie Tim Blair comes this link.

As Tim humorously commented, "CHANGE!"

You know, nearly all loquacious public figures have something in common: let them spout and carry on long enough, and they will contradict themselves in spectacular fashion.

Also, the entire Deceiver.Com website is an endless source of snarky entertainment (and it's currently holding a hilariously sarcastic tournament for Hypocrite of the Year -- with March Madness-inspired brackets! And yes, Obama is still in contention).

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

The HopeChange Chronicles: DVDs, Diplomatic Debacles, and the Delightful Jon Stewart

I give you Jon Stewart on the recent diplomatic moments of the "Obamateur Hour" Administration!  Warning: the patented "Hillary Cackle" is included in the news footage.

As for the mess of gift-giving on both counts, it is just unbelievably, gobsmackingly bad.  The sheer incompetence of it all is just . . . There are no words.  It's like a scene right out of Monty Python.  I'm cringing now just thinking about it.

Anyway, the Russian incident will now be used endlessly in Russian language classrooms all over the world as a lesson in what happens when you don't check your homework. 

Also: how bad have things become that I feel sorry for Gordon Brown?
Oh, and here's the list of the 25 DVDs that Obama gave UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown.  You've got to be kidding me about some of those choices.  By the way, American-made DVDs won't play in British DVD players; the DVDS are encoded differently (same issue for Asian DVDs).  Upshot: if you want to play international DVDs, you need an all-region DVD player.  There's your public service announcement for the day too.  (The Cine-Sib and I are all about international DVDs.)

I guess it could all be much, much worse.  Obama could have given Brown a gift certificate to Olive Garden or a Chia Pet.  Pffffft!

PS: Maybe the clueless clowns in the State Department could use THIS button

The Cinema-Mad Sibling Recommends: "Blood: The Last Vampire"

Here is an overview. The film stars a whole cadre of Asian film stars, including the South Korean actress Jeon Ji-hyeon.

The flick is about vampires, demons, violent action scenes, monster-hunting, and swordfights. That should be enough to get a certain demographic flocking to the cinema. Oh, plus the flick contains Japanese schoolgirls in uniform. (The demographic now starts sprinting to the cinema.)

Actually, the movie seems to be to be a kind of Asian Buffy the Vampire Slayer, since -- of course -- it's the cute Japanese schoolgirl who's the one with the sword! Plus a dash of "Blade."

The film is scheduled for release in the UK in June; I'm not sure about the US release (though I'm sure the Cine-Sib is eagerly researching that).

I give you the Japanese teaser trailer:

Aaaand, if your Japanese is a little rusty, here is a full-length English trailer:

(Oh, and if you need another cool foreign film about vampires right now, try the Kamikaze Editor's recommendation of the Swedish "Let the Right One In." On no account whatsoever should you resort to "Twilight.")

Nerd News: Hey, Let's Make a College Degree Even More Meaningless! Plus a Rant!

Check this out from Inside Higher Ed's little piece on Obama's education plans. (My emphasis in boldface.)
A speech he will give this morning to the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce will mostly reinforce and expand on proposals he has already made -- such as locking in annual increases in the Pell Grant and aiming to significantly raise the proportion of American workers with college training. But senior administration officials who briefed reporters on the speech late Monday suggested that Obama would focus more than he has to date on the administration's intent to hold states and colleges more accountable for ensuring that students who enter college succeed once there.
Translation: We want equality of outcome. Geez, you know where I stand on that: you can offer equality of opportunity, but there is no way to guarantee equality of outcome in a fair and free society. (Really, reductio ad absurdum or not, the only way to guarantee it is to squash all the high achievers so we'll have a great big morass of equal mediocrity.)

(Rant beginning in 3...2...1...)

Back to the pie-eyed delusion of "everybody successful in college": how is this supposed to happen without dumbing down college to still more moronic levels? YES, I SAID IT. I shall also say that in too many ways already a college education has become a joke. (Except in the classrooms of the few, the proud, the stubborn old-school holdouts.)

And hey, who's going to hold the STUDENTS accountable for their own success or failure, eh? If one of my students fails my class, I absolutely do not think it is my fault or my problem (much less the fault of the university). Anyway, the vast majority of my students do well. I offer the same opportunities to all my students for extra help if necessary; the onus is completely on them to do something about it. In the end, success is up to the student.

Here's another idea. Some people who go to college don't finish because they can't handle it. This is the case for various reasons. And that's just the brutal honest TRUTH. Not everybody needs to go to college anyway; some folks will be better served by going to a trade school or taking some training and going to work. Or try this on for size: some people who go to college can't handle it because they've had almost no meaningful education in high school. I know I spend far too much time helping freshmen students make up deficiencies before I can even move onto the real college classroom material. (I.e., it's hopeless asking a kid to analyze and contextualize -- say -- a primary historical source if the kid -- for instance -- cannot grasp basic writing skills or has no ability to look at history except as a great big Whack-A-Mole game of "Let's Find the Oppressor.") Learn the three R's and then get back to me. Oh, and learn some work ethics too. All too often the only significant thing that students learn in high school is pompously unfounded self-esteem and the toxic idea of diva-like entitlement to everything without working for anything.

I'll tell you this too. Remember Obama's great big speech to Congress a while back? The one where he flourished around this supposedly magnificent idea about "education"? Right that, a fellow nerd/teacher and I were on the phone talking about it. The mood was despair. The phraseology: "OMG. OMG." We work hard as the teaching peons of academia, and I'll tell you this: I felt fully then as though Obama had just declared -- to great Congressional applause and pop-up standing ovations by the Nancy Pelosi-crats -- that he was going to make my job and life even more difficult. (And that's not even getting into stupid economic policy!)

In the end:
  • "Everyone in college" = lowering admissions standards.
  • "Everyone successful in college" = lowering just about every other kind of standard.
  • "Success" itself becomes meaningless. It'll simply mean "Hey, I showed up, mucked about, and collected a piece of paper. I iz a collej gradooyet!"

One more rantful thought: whenever the government gets involved in anything, that thing usually ends up getting worse. Don't even get me started on student loans or No Child Left Behind. Plus, I do NOT want ANY (MORE) GOVERNMENT EDU-CRATS breathing down the necks of nerds. As some other teacherly friends and I were just discussing last week, the whole education superstructure is a mess because most of the high muckymuck policy-pushers in it do not teach and have no pragmatic or realistic idea of what teaching IS and what the actual classroom is even like. (And NO, the classroom is NOT some laboratory for social engineering!)

Oh, oh! And this bleeding-heart social-engineering idea about how everybody should go to college. It's almost exactly like the bleeding-heart social-engineering idea about how everybody should own a home. That turned out really well, didn't it? I'm just SAYING. (Previous ranty post here.)

One last bit from the Inside Higher Ed piece to gild the lily:
The administration officials said that the president would also stress the need for states to develop and use data systems that can track the progress of students from preschool through college. Many states have systems for different pieces of their education systems, but relatively few states have integrated them into one common system and even fewer have refined them to the point that they produce useful data.
BIG BROTHER NERD IS WATCHING! Oh, for goodness sake. Of course, I am philosophically against big databases of personal information.

As for the whole general idea of "improvement" in education, I want to know "improvement according to whom" and "improvement as measured by what."

(End of rant.)