Tuesday, July 28, 2009
A small reflection on science education
As I mentioned on my personal blog, my son was recently awarded the degree of Bachelor of Science with first-class honours in mathematics. I of course attended the graduation ceremony, which was for science graduates only. Such ceremonies are in general rather tedious, though we did have one good speech and some excellent music. So I amused myself while I was sitting there by speculating on the ethnicity of each graduand as he or she came forward. I was considerably assisted in that by my interest in onomastics. Names tell you a lot. The University of Queensland has a good international standing so the one undisputable fact was that the graduands came from all corners of the globe, Africa excepted. Though there was, I think, one African there. So what was the dominant ethnicity of those graduating with bachelor's degrees? Were they white Anglo/Celts like my son and myself? Far from it. The days of WASP domination of anything are now long gone and white Anglo/Celts were far from a majority among those graduating. The most prominent ethnicity was far and away Han Chinese -- comprising about 50% of the graduands, at a rough estimate.
So the 21st century will definitely be the century of China. That the sort of people who invented modern science are no longer much interested in it does bespeak decadence to me. Fortunately the population of Australia is at the present about 10% East Asian so they will help keep us afloat long after we would otherwise have sunken into drug and alcohol fueled decay. My son won't be "The last of the Mohicans" but he will be one of the few. (The Mohicans didn't die out anyway pace James Fenimore Cooper)
Some good thoughts on police matters from Casey Lartigue -- a light-skinned black man
His basic point is that politeness pays
The black president of the United States stupidly commented on the arrest of a black Harvard professor in his own home by a white police officer. Some random thoughts and memories:
* I'm sure most people are still trying to figure out who Prof. Gates is. As G.K. Chesterton once wrote: "Journalism consists largely in saying 'Lord Jones is dead' to people who never knew Lord Jones was alive."
* Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick said Gates' arrest was "every black man's nightmare." Perhaps. But having a criminal in my house is even more of a nightmare. Also, having the president of the United States talk off the cuff about me about something he doesn't know is pretty bad. And getting shot by a cop after I escalated a situation would also be worse than getting arrested.
Anyway, I have had my own dealings with the police over the years:
* Back when I was a college student many many moons ago, one of my brothers and I got stopped by police in Brookline, MA. I remember it clearly: we were returning from a meeting with other students. Less than an hour later we were waiting for a police officer to get a description of armed suspects. We were let go without incident after the officer heard on his radio that they were looking for two dark-skinned blacks. The cop even waved to us a few minutes later when he saw us. I wrote about it in the Harvard Crimson, generating several angry calls from other black Harvard students. I remember one woman in particular was distressed by the article, telling me repeatedly that my article "wasn't helpful."
* Shortly after my family arrived in Massachusetts back in 1985, one day we stopped at a bookstore so my father could check on a book. We were parked on the street....a few minutes later, a cop walked up to the car, talking to my mother... The cop said that someone had called 911 reporting that some black people were parked in front of the bank. As I recall, he said it was his duty to check it out, that he would say he had, and that was the end of it. I suppose we could have gone Gates-crazy on him, saying we had every right to be parked there, etc., that as black people we shouldn't be questioned about where we park legally (or not, I really don't recall that).
* I wrote a few years ago about helping to stop a white guy from beating up his white girlfriend or wife. I remember at one moment hoping the police would show up so they could do their duty...but also being scared to death they would show up at another moment as we (five, maybe six black men) were manhandling that one skinny white guy with his white girlfriend bruised, beaten and crying a short distance away. We would have been shot on sight, then asked questions if we had survived. What bothered us the most that night is that the cop initially treated us like we had done something wrong and the folks at the hotel weren't much better.
* Parenthetically, a Washington Post columnist (inaccurately) wrote about the rescue in front of the Mayflower Hotel a short time later. Every time I've been part of an organization or activity that has been written about in the newspaper I've wondered how they could get so many facts wrong. As Erwin Knol wrote: "Everything you read in newspapers is absolutely true, except for that rare story of which you happen to have first-hand knowledge."
* A few years ago I had to rush home when the alarm system went off at my home in Centreville, VA. As I approached my home, I called the police and ADT (the alarm system) to let them know I was almost home and would be going inside to check on the alarm...I didn't want to get shot while I was turning off the alarm in my home... I really should not have had to call to make sure I would not get shot in my own home, I know. But I did call. I'm more concerned with my safety than I am with making a political or public policy point.
* Two days before I left America earlier this month I was pulled over by a cop in Falls Church, VA. I had gone through a stop-sign trap leading off the main road onto a service road. I guess I should have gone Gates-crazy on him. But it wasn't a good situation for me. Driving a rental. Didn't have the rental car info. I asked for a warning, told him I was leaving the country soon. The cop issued me a warning, wished me well.
* One night when I was out with some other members of the Harvard Crimson, one top editor (who is now somewhat prominent) had a bright idea that we should trash the Harvard Lampoon. Which we did. Very long story kept short, we got caught by some members of the Lampoon. The Cambridge police were called (every Harvard student, regardless of race, prefers dealing with the Harvard rather than Cambridge police), we argued in front of the cops for an hour or so before the business manager of the Crimson agreed to pay for the damages. The cops let us all go after a short lecture.
* I still take my cue from Richard Pryor when it comes to cops..."I'M REACHING INTO MY POCKET FOR MY LICENSE. BECAUSE I DON'T WANT TO BE NO MUTHAFUCKING ACCIDENT."
Obama dangerously wishy-washy on Afghanistan
In the dark days of May 1940, Winston Churchill famously outlined the task before the British people: "You ask, what is our aim? I can answer in one word. It is victory. Victory at all costs, victory in spite of all terrors, victory however long and hard the road may be — for without victory there is no survival."
Contrast that with what the president told ABC News last Thursday: "I'm always worried about using the word victory, because, you know, it invokes this notion of Emperor Hirohito coming down and signing a surrender to MacArthur."
If the goal of the U.S. in Afghanistan isn't victory, what is the purpose of the blood, toil, tears and sweat of our forces? What is the meaning of the struggle and suffering of their families? According to Vince Lombardi, "If you can accept losing, you can't win."
Now, in fairness to our president, he doesn't seem to be saying that losing is an option. He noted in the same interview that "when you have a nonstate actor, a shadowy operation like al-Qaida, our goal is to make sure they can't attack the United States." Going on, he said the U.S. "will continue to contract the ability of al-Qaida to operate," which the president called "absolutely critical." We agree.
But we are at something of a crossroads in Afghanistan. The toil, tears, sweat — and especially blood — have increased of late. As a result, public displeasure is on the rise in Britain, Canada and Germany, which with their tens of thousands of troops are taking part in the U.S.-led coalition — the kind of coalition, by the way, that liberal Democrats consider absolutely vital before fighting wars against terror states. Our allies could eventually pull out. So at a time like this, the job of the president is to remind them, and the American people, that we are in a world war against a network of evildoers.
Barely two months into this administration, the Pentagon was sent a memo announcing that we were no longer engaged in a global war on terror; this was not a "long war" the American people were faced with. No, the endeavor U.S. servicemen and women were being asked to spill their blood for would from now on be called an "overseas contingency operation." How's that to stir your patriotism?
Imagine the message that al-Qaida, the mullahcracy in Iran and nuclear-armed North Korea take from these choices of language. The U.S. doesn't consider "victory" to be its goal in Afghanistan; the U.S. no longer believes it is engaged in a "war" against the Islamists who killed thousands of Americans on American soil in 2001.
Apparently, "winning" a "war" is passe to our 21st century way of thinking. Using an "overseas contingency operation" to "contract the ability" of "nonstate actors" is the enlightened phrasing. Was the same mind-set behind the president's decision last week to second-guess police officers without knowing the facts? The "good guys vs. bad guys" mentality just isn't nuanced enough.
The truth is that eschewing plain language in favor of this kind of muddled babble sends a message of weakness to our enemies around the world. And it downplays what is at stake at a time when the American people and our allies are in dire need of some unvarnished, old-fashioned, Churchillian truth telling.
Obama's accidental gift on race: "Less than a month after being confirmed as the nation's attorney General, Eric H. Holder Jr. called out the American people as "essentially a nation of cowards" for refusing to talk openly about race. So, thank you, professor Henry Louis Gates Jr. and President Obama, for starting the long-awaited national discussion on black and white identity - while averting our attention from the cockamamie scheme to nationalize health care. And kudos to the professor and the president for choosing Sgt. James Crowley of the Cambridge Police Department as the representative of the Caucasian-American side of this difficult and much-needed historic debate. Sgt. Crowley waged a swift and effective public relations campaign that quashed the racism meme that Mr. Gates was recklessly pushing. Of course, the attorney general is essentially right in his assessment. Much of America is petrified to bring up race, especially in public forums - the media, in particular. But for exactly the opposite reasons Mr. Holder, the Obama administration and the brain trust of modern liberalism assert. Americans, especially nonblacks, are deeply fearful that the dynamic is predicated on an un-American premise: presumed guilt. Innocence, under the extra-constitutional reign of political correctness, liberalism's brand of soft Shariah law, must be proved ex post facto. Think not? Ask the Duke lacrosse team... The mainstream media choose to flaunt story lines that make white America appear guilty of continued institutional racism, while black racism against whites is ignored. Sgt. Crowley, a proud and defiant public professional, played the moment perfectly and stopped his own assassination by media. Talk about a postmodern hero... Now that the facts of the case show that his friend the professor was the man doing the racial profiling, the president wants to end the discussion. Now we see what the attorney general meant when he spoke of cowards."
Indian moon mission succeeds: "While the world has been gripped by nostalgia for the Apollo 11 landing - the culmination of the first manned mission to the moon, which took place 40 years ago this week - India has quietly been completing its own lunar mission. The sub-continental nation launched its voyage to the stars on October 22 last year, becoming the fifth to do so, after the USA, Russia, China and Japan. On November 14 its unmanned probe landed and began sending back signals to Earth via satellite. The Indian space rocket is called Chandrayaan-1, which means “moon craft” in Sanskrit, and is currently in lunar orbit, taking 3D lunar images as part of its two-year mission to find out more about the moon’s geological, mineral and chemical composition."
India launches nuclear sub : “India formally unveiled its first home-built nuclear submarine on Sunday, joining a select band of five nations that have the capability to build the sophisticated weapons system. As the country’s electronic news media waxed jingoistic about the development, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh stressed that New Delhi had no aggressive designs nor meant to threaten anyone. India, he said, merely sought ‘an external environment in its region and beyond that was conducive for its peaceful development and the protection of its value systems.’ Only the United States, Russia, Britain, France and China have the capability to launch nuclear weapons from submarines. Sunday’s launch also moves India closer to the nuclear triad, or the capability to deliver nuclear weapons from platforms based on land, air and sea.”
In defense of organ-legging : “Writing in the New York Post, Brian Kates and William Sherman build on a Brooklyn rabbi’s arrest on ‘organ trafficking’ charges to bemoan the fact that American patients wait three years for a kidney, ‘driv[ing] many to the underground market,’ where they may pay in excess of $100,000 to a ‘broker’ to procure the organ for them. This procurement process may involve bringing a poor donor from the Third World to the US, or require the patient to travel in the other direction. What the authors don’t mention is why it takes three years for a transplant patient to get a kidney in the United States. And that reason is? If you guessed ‘government,’ you guessed right.” [See also Sally Satel on this]
Affirmative actions and related collectivisms: "For collectivists individuals don’t matter, groups do. For some it is the entire human race that is of sole concern, for others it is members of a given race or nation or ethnic or some other smaller group. Collectivists have an explicit doctrine about this, no one need to be guessing. Individuals are figments of our social imagination. They exist no more than do cells in our bodies exist as independent, sovereign entities. Sovereignty, the right of self-government, belongs only to the group. You and I and the rest of individuals are parts or elements, just as ants are in an ant colony or bees in a bee hive. The colony or the hive matters. This is why collectivists always fret about society or community. For them these are not what people individually choose to be part of, no way. These are what all ‘individuals’ literally belong to.”
Myth #1 Health Care Costs Are Soaring: "No, they are not. The amount we spend on health care has indeed risen, in absolute terms, after inflation, and as a percentage of our incomes and GDP. That does not mean costs are soaring. You cannot judge the “cost” of something by simply what you spend. You must also judge what you get. I’m reasonably certain the cost of 1950s level health care has dropped in real terms over the last 60 years (and you can probably have a barber from the year 1500 bleed you for almost nothing nowadays). Of course, with 1950s health care, lots of things will kill you that 2009 health care would prevent. Also, your quality of life, in many instances, would be far worse, but you will have a little bit more change in your pocket as the price will be lower. Want to take the deal? Health care today is a combination of stuff that has existed for a while and a set of entirely new things that look like (and really are) miracles from the lens of even a few years ago. We spend more on health care because it’s better. Say it with me again, slowly—this is a good thing, not a bad thing. . . ."
Bureaucracy drives up health care plan's costs: "The health care reform plan proposed by House Democrats would create at least a dozen new federal programs, boards and task forces, contributing to the proposal's hefty price tag that has drawn criticism from Congress' official scorekeeper. Democrats say the bureaucratic infrastructure is necessary to administer the expansion of health care benefits to the tens of millions of uninsured Americans while creating more competition for private insurers to drive down out-of-control costs. The health care reform bill, which is expected to cost roughly $1 trillion over 10 years, would create a public health insurance plan and a health insurance "exchange," a clearinghouse where consumers will be able to shop for public or private coverage. The programs will require a massive undertaking by the federal government that analysts say likely will take years to fully implement. Much of the concern on Capitol Hill, both among Senate Democrats and Blue Dog Democrats in the House, centers on the proposals' cost. In its preliminary review of the House's version, the Congressional Budget Office said the bill would raise the federal deficit by $239 billion over 10 years. The figure has been disputed by Democrats, who say the CBO can't fully judge the bill's cost-cutting measures. But the office's top official made headlines when he said neither the House nor Senate bills addressed the costs of health care, the primary reason President Obama has taken on the politically dangerous endeavor." [See more on this on my SOCIALIZED MEDICINE blog]
New Mexican truck rules a defeat for unions: "A plan containing guidelines on getting Mexican trucks back on U.S. highways has gone through bureaucratic review, the first step toward ending Mexican tariffs on $2.4 billion worth of U.S. goods. Implementing the plan would quell growing dissent among U.S. businesses that are hurt by Mexico's tariffs and that continue to besiege Washington with claims that doing nothing will result in job losses. The tariffs were imposed as retaliation for legislation enacted in March that took Mexican trucks off American highways, despite the North American Free Trade Agreement's program to let them into the United States.
There is a new lot of postings by Chris Brand just up -- on his usual vastly "incorrect" themes of race, genes, IQ etc.
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The Big Lie of the late 20th century was that Nazism was Rightist. It was in fact typical of the Leftism of its day. It was only to the Right of Stalin's Communism. The very word "Nazi" is a German abbreviation for "National Socialist" (Nationalsozialist) and the full name of Hitler's political party (translated) was "The National Socialist German Workers' Party" (In German: Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei)
Posted by JR at 12:37 AM