Wednesday, October 31, 2007

ISU Arms Campus Police

The Iowa State Daily is reporting that their board of regents will adopt a security plan which will include campus police being armed. According to the article:
The Iowa Board of Regents passed a new comprehensive security plan that will, among other things, permit campus police officers to carry firearms.

Cmdr. Gene Deisinger of the ISU Police said the new policy is multifaceted.

"The training and arming of university police officers was one subsection of the overall policy that was submitted by the board," Deisinger said.
I am in favor of such a policy. No campus can ever be completely safe but an armed campus police force plus an enhanced communications system could go a long way toward making sure a killer doesn't take 2 hours to kill and reload for more killing. When a psychopathic killer is loose, a gun free zone full of unarmed victims is a welcome mat.

What do the students think of this?
Brian Phillips, senior in political science and president of the Government of Student Body, said the GSB was pleased that the regents had addressed the issue of arming police.

"Students were clearly in support of arming the officers, the PA systems, crisis management, interventions and things of that nature," Phillips said.

He said in August some student leaders at all three state universities conducted surveys at the behest of the Board of Regents to see how students reacted to the idea of arming police.

"At all three there was about 60 percent that agreed or strongly said that the police should carry arms, all three expressed overwhelming support," Phillips said.
I agree with this policy and hope other universities follow suit.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Lil' Junk Science Roundup

Galileo Blogs has a good post on how the environmental movement places nature above humans, this time in Atlanta, Georgia.
The city of Atlanta, Georgia, is running out of water. Despite this, the Army Corps of Engineers has ordered that sufficient water flows be drained out of Lake Lanier, the city's main reservoir, to keep alive the fat threeridge mussel located in Florida's Apalachicola River, some 350 miles away.
It is stories like this that prove beyond any shadow of a doubt the misanthropic credentials of environmentalism.
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At the website of ICECAP is a 10/26/07 article "Global Warming Is Not Caused By Carbon Dioxide" by Marc Moreno at the website of Gary Novak. It seems to be written for the non-scientist like me. Anyway, I've always thought that the so-called greenhouse gasses had no power to fry the earth. That's because neither carbon dioxide, nor any of the other GHGs for that matter, are capable of generating heat. They can only temporarily trap whatever heat was imparted to the earth by the sun.

Did you or your significant other ever pile on the blankets--3,4 or maybe even 5-- on a particularly cold winter night? Did you find that that person had ignited or melted or turned into a crispy critter the next morning? Of course not. It didn't happen for the same reason it isn't going to happen to planet earth. This article helps explain why.
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JunkScience.com of Oct. 29th. links to a NYT story that says
"After purchasing a vast unbroken wilderness in Adirondack Park which only loggers and a few hunters have ever seen, the Nature Conservancy will not preserve it all as public land."
I'm sure that the NC will not make any more money off this land than the $110 million they paid for it since they claim to be non-profit. Yeah right! I do think all wilderness should be privately owned but not for the expressed purpose of not using it for some purpose. And because of its shady past, I don't consider TNC a proper conservation group.
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Sandy Szwarc at JunkfoodScience does it again with another revealing article on how scare stories are manufactured. This time it's about how so-called 'epidemics' are created just by changing the definition of various diseases. We are now warned that:
With heart disease deaths dropping dramatically for the past half century, the world’s top four organizations representing heart disease interests have all gotten together to change the definition ... of a heart attack.
No doubt, in a year or so we'll be hearing of a new 'epidemic' of heart disease.
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Still at JunkfoodScience is another article on "more 'bad carb' myths" about how sugar and so-called bad carbs really don't cause type 2 diabetes.
One of the more popularized beliefs is that you can give yourself type 2 diabetes by eating sugars or ‘bad carbs’ because they cause blood sugars and insulin levels to surge. No matter how many times researchers have shown this not to be the case, myths surrounding dietary sugars and carbohydrates, especially those that come in the color white, continue, with each generation 'refining' their explanations.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Live and Learn

Did you ever have what you thought was a simple yet neato idea, a cool thing to do, and have it turn out to be a disaster? Well, that was me last week.

I had been impressed with a few friends who had pretty birds coming to bird feeders in the trees in their back yards. Now that the tree in my front yard was big enough, I decided to buy a feeder and be nice to nature. (Moron!) I bought a wild bird feeder at a local store. It was made of plastic, square and had four feeding ports. I bought a small bag of wild bird seed, hung the benevolence in my tree and waited for nature to show her gratitude. (Idiot!)

After an hour or so I looked out my front window and observed a handful of birds chowing down at the feeder and said unto myself "this is good!"

About 2 hrs later I looked again and observed about 35-40 birds in my tree waiting their turn. Then I noticed about 35-40 more birds on the ground apparently also feeding. But on what? I went outside to inspect and saw seed on the ground. The feeder trays had a tiny hole in them obviously for rainwater drainage. Evidently, some of the seeds were small enough to fall through. Either that or the feeder birds were sloppy eaters.

I went back into the house and watched as the 80 or so birds returned and said unto myself "Oh s--t!" I decided to step back and consider the facts I had observed on this day.

First, the birds were all sparrows, no pretty birds.

Second, at the base of my tree is a ring of white bricks which border a planting of Hens and Chicks which were growing nicely. But I noticed that my once green Hens and Chicks were now turning white along with parts of the lawn.

Third, those birds finished off about 2 pounds of feed in 5 hrs flat. Keeping it full was going to be expensive.

Fourth, I reasoned that if there are that many sparrows in my neighborhood, they certainly aren't in any danger of starving and definitely don't need me to feed them.

Fifth and lastly, since this was unfolding in my front yard, my neighbors had to be looking out their window wondering "WTF is he doing?"

So, since winter is almost here, I have decided to take down this particular feeder and do a little research over the winter. Maybe I'll think about getting special feeders like hummingbird or finch feeders or some such. Maybe I'll consider putting the feeders in my back yard perhaps hanging from the garage corners. In the meantime I will take solace in the idea that I didn't make a mistake but rather, had a learning experience, and that's a good thing.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Viva Carbon

John Brignell, moderator of Number Watch, has a pretty good post titled "In Praise of Carbon" which I highly recommend. (h/t JunkScience.com of Oct 22nd.) He puts the whole global warming issue in perspective. I thought his section "In The Stocks" about how AGW has become a secular religion was very perceptive. For example:
When you are establishing a new religion, it is necessary to create the basic infrastructure of sacrifice, ritual and credence. Commitment comes from the combination of these three, but the greatest of these is belief. It is not sufficient to induce just any undemanding belief, such as that the sky is blue. That would require no leap of faith and therefore no devotion. If you can induce a belief that is logically insupportable, such as the reward for immolating yourself and others being eternal attendance by somewhat implausibly numerous virgins, then you have established mastery. It is then, of course, absolutely necessary to cut off other interfering sources of information, which is why the Greenies made such strenuous, if covert, efforts to occupy the commanding heights of the scientific and media establishments, from which to orchestrate a blanket censorship of alternative views.

That is the perversity of some manifestations of religion. They operate on a principle of opposites in the nomination of that which is defined as evil. The contradictions are an essential part of the mystique. Religion creates commitment by belief and then adds reinforcement by demanding sacrifice and ritual. It is in the nature of man to deny that a sacrifice, once made, has been in vain, it offends his self regard, so that each further little discomfort and inconvenience affirms the dedication. They have been with us since the dawn of human language – doomsayers, puritans, flagellants, killjoys – the deniers of contentment and the promoters of pain. Every tiny pointless gesture reinforces the commitment: turn off the stand-by light, tolerate death-dealing maggots in the garbage bin, do without the holiday, abandon fresh milk and on and on. Each gesture must involve an element of pain or discomfort and be linkable by mangled logic to the realisation of the return to the supposed stone-age paradise.
Of course the sacrifice would entail the giving up of things as mentioned, the rituals to be performed would be all manner of things like using fluorescent bulbs, recycling, car-pooling, etc. Credence would be achieved by getting people to accept the notion that truth is determined by a "consensus" and by smearing those who don't share the consensus as heretics and non-believers by using the terms 'skeptics', 'deniers' and 'doubters.'

I think this sentence is very true: "It is in the nature of man to deny that a sacrifice, once made, has been in vain, it offends his self regard, so that each further little discomfort and inconvenience affirms the dedication." It is also why an enjoyment of life proper to a rational being in an industrial and technological society will evoke feelings of guilt in the believers and a desire to atone by performing more rituals and sacrifices.

Mr. Brignell ends his essay with:
So, if it is in your nature to give thanks for anything, spare a thought for the much maligned atom that is your primal ancestor and the provider of everything that you are, that you have and that keeps you alive.
A good idea. So, I now think I will write two essays the week of Thanksgiving: one thanking capitalism and modern technology and the other thanking the life giving gas of carbon dioxide. I will include a link to Mr. Brignell's article and may pattern mine after his own. Hell, it might even make a good LTE to the local papers. In fact, I would like to see all my readers follow Mr. Brignell's lead and write LTEs to their local papers Thanksgiving week in praise of carbon and its life sustaining dioxide.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Assault on the Profit Motive

My Congressional Representative sends out a newsletter about once a week. I sometimes write a short note agreeing and disagreeing on various of his positions. Today, I reprint below the first of my congressman's accomplishments:

House Adopts Legislation to Crack Down on Iraq Contracting Fraud

On October 9, the House of Representatives voted 375 to 3 to approve the War Profiteering Prevention Act [H.R. 400] to make war profiteering a felony, subject to up to 20 years in prison and fines of up to $1 million or twice the profits of the crime. There is currently no federal statute specifically targeted at prohibiting contracting fraud during times of war, military action, or reconstruction activities.

War profiteering and reconstruction fraud by U.S. companies has become a significant problem in the Iraq war. The U.S. has devoted more than $50 billion to U.S. contractors for relief and reconstruction activities in Iraq alone, with billions of these dollars unaccounted for. In February, the head of the Defense Contract Audit Agency testified that the agency estimated that there have been more than $10 billion in questioned and unsupported costs related to Iraq reconstruction and troop support contracts since 2003.

(link omitted)

So I sent this letter to his office.

Dear Congressman:

"I object to your voting for the anti-profiteering legislation regarding Iraq contractors.This is nothing but an attack on the concept of profits. I have no problem with prosecuting companies who actually commit fraud in their contracting. If you were serious about fraud, I would think you would go exclusively after that practice. But you don't. Your concern is also that someone may 'profit' from the fraud implying that if no profits were had, the deceit and dishonesty would not be as serious.

This evaluation is supported further by the fact that you specifically cite profits as evidence of possible fraud "War profiteering and construction fraud...". This means that any company making any money in Iraq is automatically suspect in your eyes.

The Constitution's declaration that every man has the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness is the first declaration in mans' history that held profits to be moral so long as the same right of others to profit is respected. In this light, equating fraud with profit making is very un-American.

The issue of whether profits were made is irrelevant to the issue of was a crime committed. Profits may be a motive-and often are-but never a proof of guilt, nor should they be the target of any legislation. HR400 "to make war profiteering a felony" which you supported, is a direct attack on profits, not fraud. Sure, the word fraud is mentioned several times in your newsletter, but it is not the main focus of HR400, profiteering, or making money, is.

I'm not saying that a thief shouldn't have his loot confiscated and returned to its rightful owner. I am saying that when he goes to jail, it's not because he stole an ipod instead of a toaster.

As mentioned, I'm 100% in support of your efforts to go after fraud. I'm 100% opposed to going after profits as if they were a sign of some kind of evil."
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I want to add that the concept of "profiteering" is a cognitive package deal. A package deal is a concept that destroys the valid meaning of a concept by replacing it with a pseudo or false meaning. In this case, the valid concept money making--the rational pursuit of wealth--is equated with the also valid but opposite meaning of--the irrational pursuit of wealth--in which thieves, robbers and con men indulge.

It is not the case that the users of that package deal are saying "We want a concept that refers to wealth gained by dishonest means but we don't want to disparage or smear in any way the concept of the rational pursuit of profit." No sir. The exact opposite is true. The users of 'profiteering' fully intend to obliterate the distinction between the honest (rational) and dishonest (irrational) pursuit of wealth.

The public is already familiar with the concept of racketeering (another package deal) and by means of association, will attribute the same negative or immoral connotation to 'profiteering'. Thus, when a member of the public hears the term 'profiteering', he will associate the negative or immoral meaning to it. He will also come to believe that the crime is not in the violation of some one's rights, but in profiting from that violation. This means that a bunch of CDs bought with the thousand dollars he just robbed at gun point is evil because he is 'profiteering'. But giving that stolen thousand dollars to his favorite charity is not 'profiteering' and so is not evil. (This last is called taxation.)

As a side note,the above mentioned concept 'racketeering' is also a package deal in that it refers only to that which is illegal and not necessarily a rights violation. It reminds me of the excellent analogy by Peter Schwartz in his CD lecture Clarity in Conceptualization: The Art of Identifying "Package Deals" which I recommend and can be purchased here. In it, Mr.Schwartz explains how the concept criminal could be destroyed by creating the concept 'rule ignorer'. In which case, the idea of a person who violates rights (criminal) is replaced by the idea of a person who ignores arbitrary rules like wearing white after Labor Day. In this way, the government, as a protector of individual rights, is replaced with the idea of government as the issuer of arbitrary rules which every one else must obey.
I would say that the concept 'racketeering' is a version of 'rule ignorer'. Again, I really recommend buying Mr. Schwartz's 4 CD set linked above. Knowing how to spot package deals is like having one's own mental firewall which helps one detect the viruses of package deals and anti-concepts which in turn destroy one's ability to think clearly.

Anyway, I couldn't let my congressman's chest beating go unchallenged. I don't expect him to convert to my way of thinking but I do want him to know there is a difference of registered voter opinion out there. Actually, my rep. is an old fashioned liberal, the old left, so there are fragments of his reasoning one can appeal to.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Ayaan Hirsi Ali Interview

Grant Jones at the Dougout posts on an interview of Ayaan Hirsi Ali by Reason magazine. If you read the whole article he links to, you'll see her level of conceptualization is considerably more advanced than the interviewer's. Consider this exerpt:
There comes a moment when you crush your enemy.

Reason: Militarily?

Hirsi Ali: In all forms, and if you don’t do that, then you have to live with the consequence of being crushed.

Reason: Are we really heading toward anything so ominous?
You'd think this last question was asked by a liberal or leftist in denial of reality but no, it was a conservative.

Or this exerpt from the article:
Reason: I want my government to protest the Rushdie fatwa. I’m not so sure they ought to diplomatically engage some idiots burning a piece of cloth or a straw figure in the streets of Islamabad. Isn’t there a huge difference between the two?

Hirsi Ali: It’s not just a piece of cloth. It’s a symbol. In a tribal mind-set, if I’m allowed to take something and get away with it, I’ll come back and take some more. In fact, I’ll come and take the whole place, especially since it’s my holy obligation to spread Islam to the outskirts of the earth and I know I’ll be rewarded in heaven. At that point, I’ve only done my religious obligation while you’re still sitting there rationalizing that your own flag is a piece of cloth.

We have to get serious about this. The Egyptian dictatorship would not allow many radical imams to preach in Cairo, but they’re free to preach in giant mosques in London. Why do we allow it?
Wow! Is this lady tuned in to a reality that the interviewer-and many in America's educated class-isn't? Read the whole article, an intellectual breath of fresh air.

Ignobel Peace Award

I swear if I should ever win a Nobel peace prize I would refuse it and make a public statement repudiating the award and the people behind it. I could not accept an award given to a terrorist like Arafat, a weakling like Carter and a second hander like Gore and help them pretend there is any merit to it whatsoever. Nuff said.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

"Successful" Pedagogy

Lisa VanDamme of VanDamme Academy gives us a glimpse into one of the classes at the Academy in a letter sent home to the parents of students. Reprinted below.


Pedagogically Correct Volume 2, Issue 2
October 5, 2007

"Pedagogy": The art and science of teaching.
:: Yesterday's Highlights: "Success"
:: Announcement: Pedagogically Correct Blog


Yesterday's Highlights: "Success"

In a letter called "Yesterday's Highlights," I periodically describe my observations of classes to the VanDamme Academy parents. I have decided to share these highlights with readers of this newsletter as well. I hope you enjoy your glimpse into a VanDamme Academy classroom.

Success

Dear Parents,

This week and last, I have had the pleasure of teaching poetry to Rooms 1-5. This gave me an opportunity to get to know each of the students a little better, and to share with them something I love.

In each class, we studied a poem that connects to the novel the class had recently completed. If you want to learn more about your child's education, help him study his poem, and ask him to explain how it relates to what he has been discussing in literature.

For example, Room 5 is memorizing the following gem of a poem, which I only recently discovered, and which immediately struck me as having an obvious connection to The Miracle Worker.

Success

If you want a thing bad enough To go out and fight for it, Work day and night for it, Give up your time and your peace and your sleep for it

If only desire of it Makes you quite mad enough Never to tire of it, Makes you hold all other things tawdry and cheap for it

If life seems all empty and useless without it And all that you scheme and you dream is about it,

If gladly you'll sweat for it, Fret for it, Plan for it, Lose all your terror of God or man for it,

If you'll simply go after that thing that you want. With all your capacity, Strength and sagacity, Faith, hope and confidence, stern pertinacity,

If neither cold poverty, famished and gaunt, Nor sickness nor pain Of body or brain Can turn you away from the thing that you want,

If dogged and grim you besiege and beset it, You'll get it!

BERTON BRALEY

The students were quick to identify and explain that this poem captured Annie Sullivan's dogged, dauntless determination to teach language to Helen Keller. They noted that she "gave up her sleep for it," immediately implementing ideas that struck her in the middle of the night; that she held Helen's obedience and grooming as "tawdry and cheap" compared to her need to learn language; that she endured the bodily pain of being slapped, kicked, stuck with a pin, and having her tooth knocked out, and never gave up on her goal; and that she lost all terror of God, man, and Captain Keller for it. Now, they have seen this theme demonstrated in the inspirational character of Annie Sullivan, and they have heard it eloquently captured in the words of Berton Braley.

Poetry is incredible fuel for the soul. After your children have memorized the poems, they will have a claim to them, and will have them at the ready when a relevant time arises. Just today, a parent shared with me a charming story of her daughters reciting their poem "Courage" to her when she was afraid to jump from the Jacuzzi into the pool.

I will take inspiration from "Success." This school is something I have had to "fret for" and "plan for," something that has at times taken all my "strength and sagacity," something I "schemed" and "dreamed" about. And my life would definitely be "empty and useless" without it. Thank you for helping all of us at VanDamme Academy achieve our "Success." We, in turn, will help your children to do the same.

Friday, October 05, 2007

Saving Michigan

As most of my readers know, Michigan's economy is in the dumps. This week's Detroit papers have been full of articles on the new budget just passed by the state legislature last weekend. As I look at the Detroit News of Tuesday Oct 2nd. I have to laugh at some things and shake my head at others.

First, objectivists understand that altruism is a morality of intentions over results and insists that one's actions should not be condemned or attacked if one's intentions are held to be noble and virtuous.

Well, in a special section called Michigan's Budget Solution, Governor Jennifer Granholm is quoted as saying "I'm very angry at those on the fringe who would attack legislators who voted their conscience." In other words, if you vote to do what you think is right, you should be exempt from criticism, regardless of the possibility those actions might do more harm than good by violating the rights of citizens.

Also implied in that statement is the notion that anyone who criticizes those "who voted their conscience" should not be taken seriously because they are on the "fringe" which means don't bother to examine their arguments, just dismiss them out of hand.

Lastly, the entire premise of the statement, "voted their conscience" is extremely, to the nth power, laughable. Why? In a News editorial it is pointed out that:
The size of the bureaucracy is not measurably shrinking, privatization of services is not significantly expanding, and the incentive for ongoing reforms is evaporating.

This budget promises to give state government a generous windfall. More than half of the $1.4 billion tax increase will go to cover the budget deficit pushed forward last year.

Once that bill is paid, nearly $800 million will be available in coming years to spend on new programs.

The expansion of the sales tax to certain services also gives lawmakers a convenient vehicle for raising future taxes. Expect the number of services covered to grow whenever the government needs more money.
Voted their conscience eh?

But what are those 'services' destined for tax increases?
Besides targeting mainstream industries such as consulting and financial planning, the sales tax changes strike the less familiar and the offbeat: Astrologers, psychics, phrenologists and numerologists would have to begin charging their clients an extra 6 percent.

"None of them contacted us," [State Rep. Steve] Bieda joked. "They must not have seen it coming."
For a complete list of targeted services go here and scroll down to "Taxed Services."

The very beginning of this article is also revealing.
Dating services are covered, but a round of golf is not.

Going skiing will be subject to the state's 6 percent sales tax but not going to see the Detroit Lions.

Consultants' services will be taxed, lawyers' won't be.
Yep, since many of our legislators are lawyers who like to golf, this is what "voted their conscience" looks like.

While there are many other absurdities and inanities in the articles in that edition, I will close with the above linked article's closing paragraphs:
While it's hard to determine how much those "industries" [seers] generate a year, psychic Nina Toro of Dearborn Heights said it's not much. "There is no profit in psychic reading," she said. "If business picked up I'd be more than willing to pay the 6 percent."

Layoffs and foreclosures have hurt her business as well. She typically charges $25 a session, but will drop her price to $10 for the unemployed.

As for the state's future: "I don't see any good."
Neither do I.

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Shooting Stars

Spiked has this video which will change the way you view shooting stars forever. heh

Darn

Gus Van Horn has a thank you and a bit of a tribute for Cox and Forkum who are ending their full time job as cartoonists. I too want to say thanks because I really enjoyed their cartoons and will miss them. They say they will continue to publish only on an occasional basis and I will look forward even to that. Gus also links to the official announcement here. The comments section is a pretty nice tribute in itself.