blueollie

27 April 2011: non workout stuff

Posts for the day:
This is the Obama reelection plan. We’ll see how it works. Things that we can’t control: gas prices and the quality of the Republican opposition.

Note: yes, the President released his “long form” birth certificate. I think that this is a master-stroke. Why? Well, the “birthers” will scream about how the certificate “looks faked” or “is fake”; remember that NOTHING will satisfy them. One can say the same for those who discount his academic success as “affirmative action”.

I have to admit that I have a couple of things to say about those who question the President’s academic credentials:
1. This impugns the academic integrity of every one of his professors…and does so without evidence.
2. Who CARES what Pat Buchanan thinks? The man is no intellectual giant…in fact he is a creationist idiot.

Humor
I don’t know where this was taken but this is sooooo Peoria:

epic fail photos - Walking The Dog FAIL
see more funny videos, and check out our Yo Dawg lols!

Back to politics

2012 Election
With President Obama so vulnerable, you’d think that the GOP 2012 field would be like a shark tank. But it isn’t; many are reluctant to run.
The problems: money (it takes a lot of it), a gross loss of privacy (more so in the youtube era), and, well, it is hard:

Haley Barbour’s decision to forgo a run for the presidency in 2012 puts him in the company of a half-dozen top Republicans who have considered — and rejected — a challenge to President Obama next year.

The question is: why? […]

But the publicly stated reasons often mask other considerations as politicians consider whether to run for president. Here are five reasons why some of the Republican Party’s brightest stars might be opting for the sidelines this year.

1. Biden. If Mr. Obama wins re-election, there is almost zero chance that Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. would run for the presidency in 2016, […]

2. The economy. Mr. Obama’s approval ratings have dipped below 50 percent, but he remains personally popular and by many calculations the economy appears to be improving — if slowly.[…]

3. Money. Mr. Obama is expected in some quarters to raise $1 billion for his re-election campaign, […]

4. The Tea Party. The emergence of the Tea Party movement as a force inside the Republican Party requires potential presidential candidates to pick sides in an intraparty philosophical struggle. […]

5. The media glare. […]

Now gas prices might be the card that trumps “the economy”. But factor 3 is interesting. The fact is that much of the Republican base is loud, obnoxious and intellectually retarded. Who wants to pander to THAT rabble? Also, the tea party might do to the GOP what it did to the GOP in Delaware: it might knock out a credible candidate and replace him (her?) with an idiot.

In all honesty, along with Mr. Pawlenty, Mr. Romney and Mr. Daniels, a moderate female such as Condoleezza Rice or Christine Todd Whitman might be formidable. I wonder if one of those two ladies would be on a running mate shortlist.

Economic Issues
No, the “growth in government spending” that is projected isn’t due to the growth of governmental programs; as Paul Krugman says, “Obama didn’t cause the baby boom”:

Rather than addressing these facts directly, Taylor now claims that Obama must have expanded government, because his budget projected spending of 24 percent of GDP in 2021, up from 19.6 percent in 2007, before the crisis struck.

But the great bulk of this projected rise has nothing whatsoever to do with Obama’s policies.

Let’s compare the CBO projections for 2021(pdf) with the historical data (pdf) for 2007. The projections shows spending rising from 19.6 percent of GDP to 24 percent; what’s behind that?

The answer:

So, Social Security is up. That has nothing to do with Obama, who hasn’t changed the program at all; it’s just demography, the baby boomers retiring.

Medicare is also up. Obama actually cut funds from Medicare, a fact trumpeted by Republicans. Nonetheless, projected spending is up, both because of demography and because of rising health costs.

Medicaid is up. Some of that is due to the expansion in the Affordable Care Act, but much of it is just more demography — most Medicaid funds are spent on the elderly and disabled — plus health care costs.

And net interest is up because of recent and current deficits, largely the result of the Great Recession.

The bottom line is that using 2021 projections to claim that Obama has massively expanded government is nonsense.

Medicare: no, “the magical market” isn’t the answer (hat tip: Lynn, by walking partner and yoga buddy)

Our faith in the power of the free market to solve our problems got a big endorsement from Congressman Paul Ryan. The Republican from Wisconsin believes there’s nothing so wrong with Medicare’s soaring spending that robust competition can’t fix. He’s proposed to shift Medicare clients to private insurance coverage by 2022, with the government chipping in the first $11,000 for most people.

The government’s cost would be capped. That’s where you derive the savings. Under the Ryan Plan–a pessimist might call it Ryan’s Hope–so many companies will be rushing in to provide health insurance to aging boomers that the competition should keep the price of premiums from rising much. “There’s no evidence of that,” says Yale School of Management professor Fiona Scott Morton. “There really isn’t. We have many uninsured people who are paying out of pocket for things, and it’s not driving down prices.”

[…]

Nowhere in the Adam Smith rule book does it say that prices have to come down every time new competitors show up. We tend to forget what a price does: it’s a mechanism for balancing supply and demand. It’s not necessarily price’s job to make steel less expensive. Price is about making steel available.

[…]
In health care, the consumer is at a disadvantage. The issue is called substitutability. We’re really good at picking out the most suitable of four available cereals or cars to meet our needs. We’re not good at substitution when it comes to health care. How qualified are you to evaluate the thousands of doctors in the area where you live? It’s also hard to shop for an orthopedic surgeon after you’ve just broken your leg.

Under the Ryan Plan, price could play a completely unintended role: it could ration demand rather than expand coverage. “This Republican plan is not solving the problem,” says Morton, an expert in competitive strategy. “It’s solving the problem of the cost of government’s health care. You’ll have people who can’t afford it. They’ll just die.” Economists call that demand shedding. That too is a market-based solution.

Nuclear Power
One of the issues with the nuclear industry is that, well, it is unlike other industries. Safety standards have to be merciless (as they are in the Navy nuclear power program). Judging safety is a job for experts. But who are the experts? By and large…they are the people already in the industry or people who have an interest in seeing the industry flourish. Hence there is a huge potential for conflict of interest and Japan’s nuclear industry is plagued with that:

In 2000, Kei Sugaoka, a Japanese-American nuclear inspector who had done work for General Electric at Daiichi, told Japan’s main nuclear regulator about a cracked steam dryer that he believed was being concealed. If exposed, the revelations could have forced the operator, Tokyo Electric Power, to do what utilities least want to do: undertake costly repairs.

What happened next was an example, critics have since said, of the collusive ties that bind the nation’s nuclear power companies, regulators and politicians.

Despite a new law shielding whistle-blowers, the regulator, the Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency, divulged Mr. Sugaoka’s identity to Tokyo Electric, effectively blackballing him from the industry. Instead of immediately deploying its own investigators to Daiichi, the agency instructed the company to inspect its own reactors. Regulators allowed the company to keep operating its reactors for the next two years even though, an investigation ultimately revealed, its executives had actually hidden other, far more serious problems, including cracks in the shrouds that cover reactor cores.

Investigators may take months or years to decide to what extent safety problems or weak regulation contributed to the disaster at Daiichi, the worst of its kind since Chernobyl. But as troubles at the plant and fears over radiation continue to rattle the nation, the Japanese are increasingly raising the possibility that a culture of complicity made the plant especially vulnerable to the natural disaster that struck the country on March 11.

Already, many Japanese and Western experts argue that inconsistent, nonexistent or unenforced regulations played a role in the accident — especially the low seawalls that failed to protect the plant against the tsunami and the decision to place backup diesel generators that power the reactors’ cooling system at ground level, which made them highly susceptible to flooding. […]

So while I am convinced that, on technical grounds, nuclear power can be made to work, I wonder if it can work in the United States. France makes it work, but France is more socialist than we are…and they don’t have all of the choices that we have.

Is it even possible to bring Navy like discipline into our nuclear industry?

April 27, 2011 Posted by | 2012 election, affirmative action, Barack Obama, Democrats, economics, economy, education, energy, health care, humor, Mitt Romney, Peoria, Peoria/local, politics, politics/social, racism, republicans, republicans political/social, republicans politics, science, technology, world events | 1 Comment

6 December 09

Workout notes 6.5 mile hike at McNaughton (2:02); I cut off the first “lower prairie loop”, the “outer prairie/heaven’s gate” loop and the foundation loop. This was about a 3:10 effort for only part of the course. I saw some deer including a buck with antlers.

Education
Here is an interesting take on “online courses” from Rate Your Students.

Religion and Society Scientists have little tolerance for nonsense:

Over at Foreign Policy, Robert Wright repeats his usual spiel against the “new atheists,” but this time he’s turned up the invective:

The accusations: […]
4. We’re intolerant and uncivil.

All the great religions have shown time and again that they’re capable of tolerance and civility when their adherents don’t feel threatened or disrespected. At the same time, as some New Atheists have now shown, you don’t have to believe in God to exhibit intolerance and incivility.

Yeah, right. Clearly it is the atheists who are responsible for making the faithful intolerant — we haven’t respected them enough! That, of course, is why the Catholic church prefers death by AIDS to the use of condoms, and why it frowns on homosexuals and women priests. Catholics wouldn’t do that if the atheists hadn’t backed them into a corner!

And that’s why Islam keeps suppressing women, preventing them from getting a decent education (and dousing them with acid if they try), swathing them in burqas, bumping them off in honor killings, and making them second class citizens (a woman’s testimony counts only half as much as a man’s in a sharia court). Clearly, Muslims do this only because they feel threatened. It would all stop if we’d just give them a little more respect!

Shame on Wright for making such ludicrous arguments, and for implying that Islam’s disenfranchising of half of its adherents stems from a lack of respect for Muslims. That’s ridiculous: it’s a result of their scripture and dogma, as are the Catholic stances on gays and AIDS. What world is Wright living in?

I’ll add: I am sure that our religious nut-jobs would embrace science if their position was respected by society. Oh wait…their position WAS the de-facto “real American” position and they didn’t.

Here is one thing that Professor Coyne didn’t catch: our “rationalist” worldview is…well…sexist! 🙂

Post Racial America: yeah right.

It appears that many feel that affirmative action gives minorities an advantage when it comes to education and jobs. Frankly, it does NOT help with the latter; in fact some minorities have taken to hide their race when they make up their resumes:

Tahani Tompkins was struggling to get callbacks for job interviews in the Chicago area this year when a friend made a suggestion: Change your name. Instead of Tahani, a distinctively African-American-sounding name, she began going by T. S. Tompkins in applications.

Yvonne Orr, also searching for work in Chicago, removed her bachelor’s degree from Hampton University, a historically black college, leaving just her master’s degree from Spertus Institute, a Jewish school. She also deleted a position she once held at an African-American nonprofit organization and rearranged her references so the first people listed were not black.

The dueling forces of assimilation and diversity have long battled for primacy in the American experience, most acutely among African-Americans. It’s not clear that assimilation has gained an edge here in the waning days of the decade, but the women’s behavior — “whitening” the résumé — is certainly not isolated. Ms. Tompkins and Ms. Orr were among the more than two dozen college-educated blacks interviewed for an article about racial disparities in hiring published last week on the front page of The New York Times. A half-dozen said they had taken steps to hide their race, or at least dial back the level of “blackness” signaled in their résumés.

That seemed startling somehow, maybe because of the popular perception that affirmative action still confers significant advantages to black job candidates, a perception that is not borne out in studies. Moreover, statistics show even college-educated blacks suffering disproportionately in this jobless environment compared with whites, as that article reported.

But if playing down blackness is a common strategy born of necessity, perceived or real, it still takes a psychic toll, maybe a greater one now, as people calibrate identity more carefully.

Again, this article it talking about jobs rather than about educational opportunities.

On the same topic, I remember reading this blogger’s article about his troubles finding employment:

have to confess that it chaps my ass whenever someone labels me with the stigma that I, a black man, am simply looking for a handout without putting in the work necessary to get ahead. I assure you that I have worked considerably hard. I have a bachelor’s degree in mathematics. I have nearly twenty years of experience in the development of various database applications systems on platforms from COBOL to Oracle to PL/SQL to Visual Basic to Microsoft Access. I have worked in industries such as oil and gas, communications, health insurance, architecture, commodities trading, risk analysis, and manufacturing and distributing. I learned carpentry and built houses with my own hands. I have helped others when I could and I have accepted help when I needed it. I have paid dues. […]

I applied for hundreds of jobs. I did dozens of phone interviews. I went to a lot of face to face interviews with several of them requiring me to go across country. I’ve never embellished my resume. But inevitably the first question I’m hit with is, tell me about your experience with quantum physics. I never worked with quantum physics. Well why did we bring you here? That’s something you have to tell me. I worked hard just to get employed. It is my personal belief that I worked a lot harder and jumped through more hoops than the average job applicant. There is no doubt in my mind. Maybe it’s the hair. It is far too ethnic for a lot of people. When I’m introduced to an interviewer and they briefly get that repulsed look or the look of being hit with a phaser set at maximum stun it would be a logical conclusion. When so many interviews start off with some pretense that there’s been a mistake the logical conclusion is that I am not conforming enough to the ethnic standards established for African Americans. I don’t know how but I lucked up on a job where the decision maker didn’t care about hair or ethnicity but about getting the job done. Although rare, there are jobs available where the person doing the hiring truly does not care.

I have to admit that, while I was happy that Barack Obama won the election, I really expected race relations to momentarily get worse. I figured that there would be a backlash of sorts.

Yes, I KNOW that all criticism of President Obama is NOT racial, but much of the very vocal stuff is. The New York Times has an article about what it is like for many African Americans right now:

A hundred and fifty years ago, Charles Dickens opened “A Tale of Two Cities” with the now-famous phrase: “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times. …”

Those words resonated with me recently while contemplating the impact of the Obama presidency on blacks in America. So far, it’s been mixed. Blacks are living a tale of two Americas — one of the ascension of the first black president with the cultural capital that accrues; the other of a collapsing quality of life and amplified racial tensions, while supporting a president who is loath to even acknowledge their pain, let alone commiserate in it.

Last year, blacks dared to dream anew, envisioning a future in which Obama’s election would be the catalyst for an era of prosperity and more racial harmony. Now that the election’s afterglow has nearly faded, the hysteria of hope is being ground against the hard stone of reality. Things have not gotten better. In many ways, they’ve gotten worse. […]

We are now inundated with examples of overt racism on a scale to which we are unaccustomed. Any protester with a racist poster can hijack a news cycle, while a racist image can live forever on the Internet. In fact, racially offensive images of the first couple are so prolific online that Google now runs an apologetic ad with the results of image searches of them.

And it’s not all words and images; it’s actions as well. According to the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s 2008 hate crimes data released last week, anti-black hate crimes rose 4 percent from 2007, while the combined hate crimes against all other racial categories declined 11 percent. If you look at the two-year trend, which would include Obama’s ascension as a candidate, anti-black hate crimes have risen 8 percent, while those against the other racial groups have fallen 19 percent. […]

The racial animosity that Obama’s election has stirred up may have contributed to a rallying effect among blacks. According to a Gallup report published on Nov. 24, Obama’s approval rating among whites has dropped to 39 percent, but among blacks it remains above 90 percent.

Read the rest of the article; basically it says that President Obama has to maintain his distance in order to appear to be neutral.

This reminds me a bit of when I heard a black basketball coach say that he’d rather have white referees at his games because, at times, if a black referee made a correct call that helped his team and the other coach was white, the other coach would “work” the referee by saying something like “oh, I see how it is”…hence the black referee would overcompensate in an effort to appear to be neutral.

I don’t like any of this, but ultimately I see this as growing pains that a multi-racial society has to go through.

December 6, 2009 Posted by | 2008 Election, affirmative action, atheism, Barack Obama, Blogroll, education, morons, politics, politics/social, racism, science, superstition, training, walking | Leave a comment

17 July 09 (am)

Workout notes I’ll do something akin to a glorified warm up followed by stretching; perhaps 2-4 miles. It is too pretty to NOT get outside a bit.

Update: 3 miles of recovery walking, push-ups (50, 30, 20), stretching, toe raises. Pretty day!

Articles

Science, Evolution and Nature Here is an article that suggests that “politeness” (e. g., turn taking) evolved way before humans did. What is especially interesting to me is that this sort of strategy would tend to evolve into behavior for game theoretic reasons.

Taking turns isn’t just a nice idea. It may be as much a part of the theory of evolution as survival of the fittest – at least that’s the conclusion that British researchers reached after running a genetic simulation through thousands of generations of evolutionary change.

Turn-taking behavior seem to come naturally to humans, whether it’s standing in line or deciding who’s going to do the dishes tonight. But such behavior has been observed in a wide variety of other species as well: Chimps take turns grooming each other, for example, and penguins take turns minding their eggs.

“It is far from obvious how turn-taking evolved without language or insight in animals shaped by natural selection to pursue their individual self-interests,” University of Leicester psychologist Andrew Colman said last week in a news release about the research.

Colman and a university colleague of his, Lindsay Browning, looked into the evolution of politeness for a paper published in the September issue of the journal Evolutionary Ecology Research – not by studying actual monkeys, penguins or line-standers, but by setting up a series of genetic simulations where they could dictate the rules of the evolutionary game.

The experiment was as much an exercise in game theory as in evolutionary biology. Colman and Browning programmed a computer to play a variety of games in which the payoff varied depending on whether the simulated players made the same or different choices.

Climate Change: may have direct political effects. Right now, enemies Pakistan and India have worked out a water sharing scheme; it has worked for 50 plus years. But climate change may well change the water balance (much of the water comes from seasonal melt).

1960, India and Pakistan agreed to divide the six tributaries that form the Indus River. India claimed the three eastern branches, which flow through Punjab. The water in the other three, which pass through Jammu and Kashmir, became Pakistan’s. The countries set a cap on how much land Kashmir could irrigate and agreed to strict regulations on how and where water could be stored. The resulting Indus Waters Treaty has survived three wars and nearly 50 years. It’s often cited as an example of how resource scarcity can lead to cooperation rather than conflict.

But the treaty’s success depends on the maintenance of a status quo that will be disrupted as the world warms. Traditionally, Kashmir’s waters have been naturally regulated by the glaciers in the Himalayas. Precipitation freezes during the coldest months and then melts during the agricultural season. But if global warming continues at its current rate, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change estimates, the glaciers could be mostly gone from the mountains by 2035. Water that once flowed for the planting will flush away in winter floods.

Health Care Alan Colmes talks about the Republican public relations strategy; look for the same old buzzwards. Of course, detractors aren’t above feeding false information.

Kevin Drum does a righteous smackdown of Bryan Caplan for arguing that we should oppose the House health reform bill because it would raise taxes in the midst of a recession. As Kevin points out, the provisions wouldn’t take effect for several years; it takes real chutzpah, given that obvious point, for Caplan to accuse me of being disingenuous. […]

What’s striking here is the cynicism. Feldstein, in particular, is surely a good enough economist to know better. But he and Caplan and others are prepared to grab any argument they can to block progressive reform.

But things might be looking up; even the American Medical Association has backed the House version of the health care bill?

So, what are the Republicans really afraid of? Here is a punchy, amusing cartoon. 🙂

World Politics
President Obama is reasonably popular in the world as a whole even though, when it comes to world strategy, our policies aren’t all that different NOW than they were when President Bush was still in office.

No, I am NOT making an “Obama = Bush” argument; for example I doubt that President Obama would have invaded Iraq. But what I am saying that, when it comes to dealing with the world, tone matters. Showing a bit of humility and explaining why we are doing what we are doing and admitting that we are sometimes wrong matters; this “we are going to this, god told me to do this and you are either with us or against us” doesn’t win any friends.

Sure, there are some who don’t like President Obama’s tone, but most Americans voted for what President Obama is bringing in terms of tone.

Racism and the Old GOP

Last night, Rachel Maddow had on Pat Buchanan; he is livid over Judge Sotomayor.

Note how he comes off issue (oh yes, Mr. Buchanan, the grade inflation that you are referring to is very real…TODAY…things were different when Judge Sotomayor was in college)

Disclaimer: I benefited from affirmative action to get into college. But, in my graduating class, my academic rank was 269 out of 969 at the United States Naval Academy; (I had a relatively weak first year where I was slightly below the median). So, no greatness for me, but I wasn’t the bottom of the barrel either, and I did go on to earn a Ph. D. in mathematics and publish research (including half of my thesis).

July 17, 2009 Posted by | 2008 Election, affirmative action, Barack Obama, economy, education, Judicial nominations, mathematics, mind, movies, nature, obama, politics, politics/social, pwnd, racism, republicans, science, SCOTUS, world events | 1 Comment

A couple of comments

President Obama’s weekly address:

An “issue” for the conservatives

Things are not going well for the conservatives hence they are trying to make a big deal out of this:

My guess is that the General probably shrugged and said “ok”. Yeah, this came across as being a bit snooty but I don’t know if the General was addressing males by “Senator” and not her (it does happen).

My guess is that Senator Boxer was overreacting; feminists seem to take pride in “finding” sexism in the most innocent of exchanges:

Barbara Boxer schools general in sexism
by John Aravosis (DC) on 6/18/2009 07:13:00 PM
Oh my. This is a great short video. Now, I feel a bit sorry for the general, because he may call all men “sir” and all women “ma’am.” I don’t per se find any problem with that. But still. I suspect women like Senator Boxer have been on the receiving end of sexist treatment for decades, so they know it when they see it.

(emphasis mine)

See the “know it when they see it” phrase? That is typical of the dogmatic person, be they religious fundamentalists, feminists, or whatever. If they have some inner conviction that something is true, in their “minds”, it must be so.

I suspect that reality is more like this: Senator Boxer really has encountered sexism in her life and is therefore more sensitive and possibly reacts to things that really aren’t sexist. My guess is that she is hardly unique.

But this demonstrates the value of diversity: one’s life experiences influences how one perceives things which is one reason I am glad that President Obama nominated a female to the Supreme Court.

I’ll give you one example from my blog: during the primary campaign, I had ridiculed then Senator Clinton being affable with Senator Obama on one day and then “angrily” calling him out the next day. I chuckled about Senator Clinton’s “mood swings” meaning that I thought that she was being deliberately calculating.

Other women saw my post and thought I was making a cruel reference about women being “moody” during PMS or during menopause; that was NOT my intention. I had no idea that women would see it that way.

June 20, 2009 Posted by | affirmative action, Barack Obama, Barbara Boxer, politics, politics/social, republicans, SCOTUS | Leave a comment

Racist Social Conservatives

I am still on vacation, so I am starting my run a bit later than normal (and getting some valuable heat conditioning out of it, I think). 🙂

Update Town Lake Trail (4.2 mile loop) in 36:42; I was 25:50 at 3 miles. It was HOT and I wore out very quickly. I cooled down with 1 mile of walking and some yoga. The heat got to me.

Posts

At the outset, I’ll stipulate that someone can be conservative because they believe that government interference with the economy can cause harm (e. g., the stifling of competition and innovation that went on in communist countries) or for other legitimate reasons.

But the fact is that a significant subset of the current group of conservatives are just plain racist.

Here is the evidence.

1. Racist e-mails

44presidents1

(hat tip: Sagacity)

2. I’ve talked about this already but if you haven’t seen this, check out The Good Kentuckian’s post. Yes, TGK is a “colbert-jesus general” type of blog. The information came from Alan Colmes’ blog.

3. Many of Judge Sotomayor’s detractors are making racist assumptions (e. g., Pat Buchanan and many of those in the rank and file)

The assumption seems to be this: Sotomayor was an affirmative action admit at Princeton and ended up finishing at the top of her class. Therefore her high class ranking must have come from preferential treatment while at Princeton and later while at Yale Law school.

Of course, such a claim is tantamount to claiming that her professors committed academic fraud while providing no evidence for the claim.

These critics should provide the evidence or shut up.

The other side

1. Affirmative Action does sometimes lower entrance standards for some.

My experience: I was admitted to Annapolis with lack luster entrance scores and grades. Yes, I did make straight “A’s” as a senior and mostly A’s as a junior in high school, but my freshman and sophomore grades were lousy. Yes, my ACT was only 30 and my SAT was in the high 1100s (PSAT was 57/70) and so I was a risky admit.

In college (Annapolis) I finished 26x out of 9xx in academic rank; my relatively poor first year hurt my ranking quite a bit. So, no, this wasn’t “first” but the point was that I improved my academic position relative to the rest of the class while I was there, moving from near the bottom to “upper third” . Of course, later I was to get a Ph. D. in mathematics and publish part of my dissertation.

The larger point: starting off lower than average (in entrance credentials) doesn’t mean that one can’t finish much higher than that.

2. Academics: on rare occasion, a professor does commit academic fraud by grading some students differently than others. But I’ve only seen evidence for this TWICE: while at the university of Texas, some of my fellow TAs worked for a professor who would take the graded exams and regrade all of the female exams. Now I have no evidence that this professor actually gave the females more points, but he/she did treat those students differently.

But, that was ONE TIME at the undergraduate level. The other time, a female grad student was given permission to take her comprehensive exams orally because she had flunked them repeatedly. Frankly, she was a diligent but dim witted student who ended up getting tenure at some “research optional” small college; I’ve seen other faculty who were of this caliber (males). The difference is that the males had to go to a third tier academic institution to get their “doctorates” whereas she was allowed to stay there.
Yes, her advisor all but wrote her dissertation for her.

So, it does happen, but I’ve seen evidence for it TWICE since 1985, and note that I’ve never seen it happen with first rank students, only the mediocre (or worse) ones.

Good schools are protective of their reputations and they don’t want to let others think that a moron can finish near the top of their classes.

3. Yes, President Obama being African American does change things a bit.
For example, during President Bush’s term, the following was circulated:

(larger)

If someone did this with President Obama, a huge cry of “racism” would go up. The bottom line: our country does have a racial history and people often DO compare African Americans to simians.

Note: I like the above photo as it does show the similarities between chimps and humans, and yes, I’d be happy to make such a spread with MY photo in place of President Bush’s. I see nothing especially simian about President Bush’s face; in fact my face is more simian like than his.

4. Some prominent Republicans have spoken in favor of Judge Sotomayor or at least have denounced the unfair attacks:

Here, here and here.

5. Racism isn’t unique to the Republican party (e. g., look up the stuff on the Kentucky and West Virginia Democratic primaries); that is why I said “racist social conservatives” rather than “racist Republicans”.

June 16, 2009 Posted by | affirmative action, Barack Obama, education, Judicial nominations, politics, politics/social, racism, ranting, republicans, SCOTUS | 4 Comments

15 June 09 (am)

Workout notes 1 mile drill, (two sets of 5 pull ups), loop in 49:57 (2-1, tried to “push” rather than “pull”), then 20 minutes of yoga (with 5 sets of 10 push ups). I wasn’t as sweaty as after my runs, but I got in a workout.

I did the yoga on one of the “piers” in the new park; I saw turtles and on the drive back I saw peacocks.

Posts.

You knew that this was coming. “Mittens” Romney blames President Obama for the Iranian fiasco; doesn’t give him credit for Hezbolla’s defeat in Lebanon.

Of course, there is hope; even the Supreme Leader is calling for an investigation (is this just a tease to shut up the protesters?)

Bigotry Sure, people can have different opinions on the merits of affirmative action. But this is downright insulting:

It almost seems silly to take issue with anything else Buchanan writes after he has expressed his preference for “the old bigotry,” but he churns out some other nonsense that requires response.

Buchanan:

Thus, Sotomayor got into Princeton, got her No. 1 ranking, was whisked into Yale Law School and made editor of the Yale Law Review — all because she was a Hispanic woman. And those two Ivy League institutions cheated more deserving students of what they had worked a lifetime to achieve, for reasons of race, gender or ethnicity.

Mr. Buchanan is just plain ignorant. Yes, affirmative action might make a difference as to who gets into a school but it does NOT affect their grades once they are in. To say otherwise is to insult the professors who taught those classes.

She EARNED her top ranking in Princeton and then, on the merits of that, was accepted by Yale Law.

More Buchanan:

Two weeks ago, The New York Times reported that, to get up to speed on her English skills at Princeton, Sotomayor was advised to read children’s classics and study basic grammar books during her summers. How do you graduate first in your class at Princeton if your summer reading consists of “Chicken Little” and “The Troll Under the Bridge”?

No. That is a lie. The New York Times did not report any such thing. The Times reported that Sotomayor “spent summers reading children’s classics she had missed in a Spanish-speaking home.” That’s different from reporting that she was advised to do so. And the Times gave no indication that such childrens’ classics were the extent of Sotomayor’s “summer reading,” or that “childrens’ classics” meant things like Chicken Little rather than, say, The Hobbit.

I see. I read Tom Sawyer later in life…along side the other books I was reading (including text books in geometric topology, mathematics articles, etc.)

Bigotry is alive and well.

Some people are speaking out against bigotry though:

I’m getting really sick of seeing news stories written like this one:

Police say two black men, armed with guns, broke into a home in the 1700 block of Broadway around 2:00 a.m. Police believe the men took off in a car.

I seem to recall from my years as a reporter and editor that the standard for dealing with the race of a suspect of a crime was to not mention it, unless it was somehow relevant to the crime or if giving a description of the suspects.

Other than “black males,” there is no description here.

I agree. If they wanted to say “dark black skin, 5′ 10″ to 6′, 200 pounds, early 20’s” that would be one thing. What was reported serves no useful purpose. Note that this blogger got a comment from a white power type.

Racists in the Military: sometimes it is open. Yes, there was racism in the Navy when I was in it, but it was a bit more soft core than what this article shows.

June 15, 2009 Posted by | affirmative action, Middle East, politics, politics/social, racewalking, racism, republicans, training, walking, world events | Leave a comment

3 June 2009 (am)

Mathematics and Statistics
Popular Statistics Here is a nice little primer on p-values. What people often forget: the p-value tells you how likely it would be to get this statistic (data outcome) were the null hypothesis true and NOT the other way around.

Geometry Fail

fail owned pwned pictures
see more Fail Blog

Science

Summer Reading: I am going to tackle these articles. These are blurbs written by scientists which describe some of the important, currently unsolved problems in their respective disciplines.

BURN!!!! Yes, Canada has to hassle with creationists; the United States is not alone in being plagued with these problems. But his is hilarious:

Alberta, Canada’s legislature passed a bill that allows parents to pull kids out of the classroom if evolution is taught, or almost anything else that the parents deem counter to their own religion. It’s a passive-aggressive response to laws that require non-discrimination against sexual orientation.

So check out someone’s response:

Even Albertans agree they don’t want to be Arkansas:

All they’ve done is make Alberta look like Northumberland and sound like Arkansas.’— Brian Mason, Alberta NDP leader

BURN!!!!!!!!!! 🙂 (via: Millard Fillmore’s Bathtub)

Climate Change Denial Crock

I like this video because it shows a controlled experiment (which is: does raising the carbon dioxide level of the air that plants breathe really benefit the plants). As is shown, there are some serious complications. True, perhaps after being in this atmosphere, the plants may well evolve some mechanism to thrive but how long will that take?

Nature: yes, animals can actually feel remorse and regret (of a kind).

Interesting that the line between “humans” and “non-humans” is becoming blurrier all of the time, no? 🙂

Politics

Paul Krugman has a couple of interesting blurbs:

He takes someone to task for making an elementary error in logic:

Ugh. Martin Feldstein has been making sense on macro issues, but this is a really bad column, on multiple levels. […]

Feldstein says this:

Since the U.S. share of global CO2 production is now less than 25 percent (and is projected to decline as China and other developing nations grow), a 15 percent fall in U.S. CO2 output would lower global CO2 output by less than 4 percent.

Um, in the absence of a cap-and-trade system, emissions would grow by quite a lot. So the right comparison is not with current emissions levels but with what they would have been in the absence of the policy — a much bigger number. That’s the sort of comparison economists always make — it’s definitely weird for Feldstein not to see this.

Ouch!

Krugman has stuff to say about economics as well (his specialty): here he takes conservatives to task for conflating an honest to good issue (stagflation) with an unrelated issue (“great society programs”)

Via Dean Baker, Robert Samuelson declares — as a simple fact — that

Johnson’s economic policies, inherited from Kennedy, proved disastrous; they led to the 1970s’ “stagflation.”

Wow. I didn’t know that. Neither, as far as I know, did any economist who has actually studied the issue. […]

The appearance of stagflation was a win for conservative economics, but it was conservative monetary economics that was partly vindicated: Milton Friedman’s assertion that there is no long-run tradeoff between inflation and unemployment turned out to be correct, and is now part of the standard canon.

But where is the Great Society in all this? Nowhere. The claim that stagflation proved the badness of liberal ideas is pure propaganda, which not even conservative economists believe.

Surf to read the causes of stagflation; Krugman gives a lay-person friendly explanation.

The Sotomayor nomination

The New York Times has a handy guide to Judge Sotomayor’s past decisions (for us rookies)

Of course I back her nomination and hope (and predict) that she will be confirmed. But this doesn’t mean that all criticism of her is bad and unwarranted. Here is criticism (by someone who wants her to be rejected) that I consider legitimate (though I disagree with it).

Bob Herbert wonders why the Republicans are, all of sudden, concerned with “racism”.

Karl Rove sneered that Ms. Sotomayor was “not necessarily” smart, thus managing to get the toxic issue of intelligence into play in the case of a woman who graduated summa cum laude from Princeton, went on to get a law degree from Yale and has more experience as a judge than any of the current justices had at the time of their nominations to the court.

[…]

Here’s the thing. Suddenly these hideously pompous and self-righteous white males of the right are all concerned about racism. They’re so concerned that they’re fully capable of finding it in places where it doesn’t for a moment exist. Not just finding it, but being outraged by it to the point of apoplexy. Oh, they tell us, this racism is a bad thing!

Are we supposed to not notice that these are the tribunes of a party that rose to power on the filthy waves of racial demagoguery. I don’t remember hearing their voices or the voices of their intellectual heroes when the Republican Party, as part of its Southern strategy, aggressively courted the bigots who fled the Democratic Party because the Democrats had become insufficiently hostile to blacks.

Where were the howls of outrage at this strategy that was articulated by Lee Atwater as follows: “By 1968, you can’t say ‘nigger’ — that hurts you. Backfires. So you say stuff like forced busing, states’ rights, and all that stuff.”

Never a peep did you hear.

Where were the right-wing protests when Ronald Reagan went out of his way to kick off his general election campaign in 1980 with a salute to states’ rights in, of all places, Philadelphia, Miss., not far from the site where three young civil rights workers had been snatched and murdered by real-life, rabid, blood-thirsty racists?

I must issue a slight correction to Mr. Herbert: the Republicans were concerned with racism during the Clarence Thomas nomination wars. 🙂

I should also point out: affirmative action (which I support) was championed by Richard Nixon.

But in the most far-reaching federal expansion of affirmative action, the “goals and timetables” plan was revived by President Nixon and Labor Secretary George Shultz in 1969. In issuing the so-called “Philadelphia Order,” Assistant Secretary Arthur Fletcher said:

Equal employment opportunity in these [construction] trades in the Philadelphia area is still far from a reality. The unions in these trades still have only about 1.6 percent minority group membership and they continue to engage in practices, including the granting of referral priorities to union members and to persons who have work experience under union contracts, which result in few negroes being referred for employment. We find, therefore, that special measures are required to provide equal employment opportunity in these seven trades. (5)

President Nixon later remembered, “A good job is as basic and important a civil right as a good education . . . I felt that the plan Shultz devised, which would require such [affirmative] action by law, was both necessary and right. We would not impose quotas, but would require federal contractors to show affirmative action’ to meet the goals of increasing minority employment.” (6)

Order No. 4 in 1970 extended the plan to non-construction federal contractors.

But, on the whole, I share Mr. Herbert’s cynicism, at least concerning this current crop of Republican political leaders.

Other topics

Does it make sense to supply police departments with assault weapons under the guise of counterterrorism?

Probably not.

Remember, the “terrorist threats” that plague Boston include blinking signs, blinking name badges, and Linux. Would you trust the police there with automatic weapons?

And anyway, how exactly does an police force armed with automatic weapons protect against terrorism? Does it make it harder for the terrorists to plant bombs? To hijack aircraft? Sure, you can invent a movie-plot scenario involving a Mumbai-like attack and have a Bruce Willis-like armed policeman save the day, but — realistically — is this really the best way for us to be spending our counterterrorism dollar?

President Obama: has a tricky task to accomplish during his “Muslim nation” trip.

June 3, 2009 Posted by | affirmative action, Barack Obama, civil liberties, creationism, Democrats, economy, education, evolution, free speech, Judicial nominations, mathematics, Middle East, nature, obama, politics, politics/social, religion, republicans, science, SCOTUS, statistics | Leave a comment

Why I don’t take opponents of affirmative action seriously

When it comes to the issue of affirmative action with respect to admission to colleges and universities, one often hears an argument of the following variety: “it ought to be on merit alone; giving a break to a racial minority is “reverse discrimination””.

Interestingly enough, I once said this at an ACLU meeting: “I’d be in favor of the following statement: “college admissions will be based on academic merit alone”, provided this policy would be rigorously enforced.”

People who know me (and know that I favor affirmative action) were aghast. I reminded them: “provided this policy would be rigorously enforced”, and the chances of that are next to zero.

Of course, we see things like George W. Bush getting admitted to Yale and Harvard. But those are private schools who have more leeway, and even William F. Buckley thought that such schools should be free to diversify their student body.

But what about public ones?

Yep, influence from the well to do is there too:

The University of Illinois scrambled Friday to explain how politically connected applicants with less-than-stellar resumes — including the relative of a convicted fundraiser for ousted Gov. Rod Blagojevich — gained entry into the school over more qualified students.

University President Joseph White said he plans to make clear to employees that no one should feel pressured to admit prospective students because the governor or anyone else with political clout takes an interest.

The scandal — reported Friday by the Chicago Tribune — riled state lawmakers. One said he wants any university trustee involved in trying to influence admissions to resign and another said he would press to end political appointments to public university trustee boards.

The university, considered one of the top public universities in the country, keeps a little-known list of applicants tracked by politicians and university trustees. The Tribune said the list often results in the admission of clout-heavy students over those with better qualifications.

“I’m putting out a communication today to the university community that makes it crystal clear that admissions are to be based on merit only and that our people are not to succumb to pressure to admit,” White told The Associated Press Friday.

The list included a relative of convicted political fundraiser Antoin “Tony” Rezko who got accepted to the school after then-Gov. Blagojevich made a request, according to the Tribune. The newspaper says Rezko’s relative was supposed to be denied admission before Blagojevich interceded.

Spokesman Thomas Hardy said Friday the problem was manageable and that likely only a handful of students at the university’s flagship campus in Urbana-Champaign are what he called questionable admissions.

“We don’t want a small number of questionable cases to lead to misperceptions about the quality of our process, the quality of our incoming class,” Hardy said. “The insinuation of pressure, either applied or implied, we need to eliminate that.”

Hardy said the list — dubbed “Category I” — contains more than 100 potential students each year whose applications legislators and trustees have been asked to check on by constituents, typically parents or other relatives of the applicants. This year, there are about 160 on the list, he said.

He said only some of those are admitted and noted that other universities keep similar lists.

The Tribune says 1,800 pages of documents obtained through the Freedom of Information Act show 77 percent of the 800 students placed on list since 2005 for admittance to the Urbana-Champaign campus were accepted. Meanwhile, the acceptance rate among other applicants stood at 69 percent.

The Urbana campus typically gets 23,000 or more applications for about 7,000 seats. This year there were 26,000.

Students accepted from the list who were freshman in 2008 on average ranked in the 76th percentile of their high school class, the Tribune said. The same year, the average high school ranking among all freshman was in the 88th percentile. […]

Gee, why don’t the “principled” conservatives raise a stink about this? 🙂

Here is one possible reason: look at who are some who make the most noise about affirmative action (and related topics).

True, this doesn’t represent all conservatives, but my guess is that this does represent a fair percentage of the extreme ones that you’ll see at places like CPAC.

I find it very odd that what conservatives consider “fair” just so happens to be what favors them! 🙂

May 31, 2009 Posted by | affirmative action, education, politics, politics/social, racism | Leave a comment

Unease and Discomfort

First, I’ll start with the easiest thoughts on my mind: sometimes an atheist is asked “what would make you believe”. Here are some ideas:

This kind of shows just how weak the claims of Christianity are, doesn’t it? Of course, the claims of the other religions are just as weak if not weaker; after all the story of Moses, Joseph Smith and Mohamed don’t impress me either.

Discomfort and Unease
Fictional

This is the trailer for the film The Reader. Don’t give up on the film too early; it gets better and even more disturbing. It is especially disturbing stuff given what our country is going though at the moment.

Real Life
Affirmative Action and Fairness

I don’t see a good solution to the current case involving fire fighters and racial discrimination:

The U.S. Supreme Court will consider later this month when the government can use race as a factor in its hiring and promotion decisions.

The reverse discrimination suit, Ricci v. DeStefano, was filed by white firefighters in New Haven, Conn., who passed a promotional exam, only to have the results thrown out because no blacks got top scores, the Christian Science Monitor reports. The plaintiffs claim violation of constitutional equal protection guarantees and the Civil Rights Act of 1964, according to the Los Angeles Times.

The case is scheduled for argument on April 22. It will give the Supreme Court under the leadership of Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. an opportunity to issue its first major decision on racial discrimination in employment, the New York Times reports.

The Los Angeles Times says the court’s decision could change hiring and promotion policies for public employees—and possibly for private workers.

In a 2007 case involving education, Roberts wrote the majority opinion holding that public schools improperly used race to decide school assignments. “The way to stop discrimination on the basis of race is to stop discriminating on the basis of race,” Roberts wrote.

The Obama administration filed a brief supporting New Haven, saying the city could throw out the test results if they had “gross exclusionary effects on minorities,” according to the Los Angeles Times. About 37 percent of New Haven’s population is black, according to 2000 censure figures. But 32 percent of the city’s entry-level firefighters are black and 15 percent of supervisory firefighters are black, according to 2007 figures.

In a nutshell what happened is that Blacks did poorly on the standardized tests and hence the results were thrown out. On the surface this seems ridiculous and in some settings, it would be.

For example: were these, say, masters degree examinations in mathematics, what counts is one’s knowledge of mathematics and that can be reliably tested via a written examination.

But in this case, we are talking about firefighting, and I don’t know enough about firefighting to know if a written exam is what you need to use.

Sure, the reasons for the exams are evident enough: mostly exams are used to put some subjectivity into the process. But evidently what exams are really measuring might be more about literacy than anything else, and is literacy really a fighter fighting skill? I don’t know.

Besides, literacy IS something that can be improved upon by a less racist society; studies have shown that one’s abilities to master written material is, in large part, determined by one’s early upbringing.

Let me be clear about this: as a citizen, I want competent fire fighters. But are written exams the best way to measure such competence (in this field)??? I don’t know.

I don’t have a good answer here; this is one of those cases in which I can see many sides of an issue.

Discomfort and Unease: US and torture.

Let’s face facts: as a country, we tortured people. The sorry facts are laid out here. Thank you, President Obama, for shining some sunlight on this.

So what are we going to do about it? Some are calling for us to impeach a Federal Judge who gave the Bush administration legal cover to torture. I’ll have to think about whether this is a good idea or not. On one hand, this sure sounds like we are sacrificing someone. On the other hand, the judge did what we said he did and he doesn’t belong on the bench; I sure don’t want him there.

But the reality is that the real people who should be brought to justice are: President Bush and Vice President Cheney. But doing that would be next to impossible; there is a reason that leaders are brought to justice only after the said country has been defeated in a war or if a long, long time had elapsed.

But the reality is that there are just too many people in the country who approve of what Bush-Cheney did. Going after those two would use every resource that we have and ultimately end up being unsuccessful.

Yes, I know, the Repukes impeached President Clinton over a lie about oral sex. But the country was better during that time, and that fiasco didn’t really help anything, did it? And besides, President Clinton was still in office; President Bush is not.

But one thing is for sure: we don’t have lots of moral high ground to stand on, do we? We are better than many but, on moral grounds, we aren’t really as superior as we’d like to think. Oh, the wingnuts will argue; after all they measure superiority by which religious fairy tale that one embraces.

I am disgusted but I really don’t see what we can or should do now, and I certainly don’t fault President Obama for being stuck in this rather tight box.

Personally, I’d like to see Congress run with this and do something, though I don’t have a clear idea as to exactly what should be done. And whatever we do can’t be a partisan operation and, to be frank, I see the Republicans as being morally bankrupt.

More unease and utter disgust

Yes, some societies still burn people alive for being “witches”.

This video is very, very disturbing.

Yes, this practice was condoned in the Bible.

Fear plus superstition equals horrific crimes.

April 20, 2009 Posted by | 2008 Election, affirmative action, atheism, Barack Obama, civil liberties, Democrats, movies, politics, politics/social, racism, religion, science, Spineless Democrats, superstition, world events | 1 Comment