Monday, August 29, 2005

Katrina "proves" Bush failed New Orleans? yaright

Bob Brigham is busted, big-time. (When the alliteration is this easy, you HAVE to take it, right?)

Bob rants about how the damage from Hurricane Katrina is Bush's fault. The article he linked, where the pull quotes came from, contains a KEY sentence that he somehow neglected to quote:

"Congress is setting the Corps budget."

That's right. Congress, not the Administration. Further, the article makes it pretty clear that the reason the Democratic Representative was upset about the cuts was that they were pork-barrel cuts. Nary a word about public safety - her concern was for the poor contractors who wouldn't be able to line up at the public trough.

If he wants his argument to stick, he needs to demonstrate (not merely insinuate) that the unfunded projects would have made a lick of difference faced with 165mph winds and a 28-foot storm surge.

Here's a bit of unpleasant calculus for you. Libs seem to forget that W is a Harvard MBA. One of the things you learn in biz school is risk management. Sometimes it's a wiser course of action to maintain liquid funds that can be used to pick up the pieces if an unlikely event occurs (or be otherwise usefully employed if it does not occur), than sink those funds in risk-prevention that might not work.

The risk-prevention we have undertaken in Afghanistan and Iraq has been demonstrably effective. It's not at all clear that dumping a few billion bucks into New Orleans levees would save / would have saved the city from Katrina.

Friday, August 26, 2005

Michael Yon - Gates of Fire

If you have not read Michael Yon's latest dispatch from Mosul, stop what you are doing and take the ten minutes needed.

Then take another moment to thank God that we have men such as LTC Erik Kurrilla in our Armed forces, and Michael Yon to tell us about them.

Because as sure as Hell is hot, the mainstream media would never tell this story.

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

No excuse

Robertson backs off Chavez assassination call:
"'There are a number of ways of taking out a dictator from power besides killing him. I was misinterpreted,' Robertson added. Robertson, the founder of the Christian Coalition and a presidential candidate in 1988, said on Monday of Chavez, one of Bush's most vocal critics: 'If he thinks we're trying to assassinate him, I think that we really ought to go ahead and do it.'"
"I was misinterpreted" doesn't fly.

Jesus of the Bunnies

Remember that 70's eco-sci-fi Bruce Dern flick "Silent Running"? I always liked it. I mean, you had SFX by Doug trumbull, a score by Peter "PDQ Bach" Schickele, ATVs, and R2D2-precursor robots. So what if it was dripping in 70's sentiment? James Lileks takes it apart in typical Lileks style. "Near-fatal dose of Joan Baez ... Marty Feldman Ocular Protrusion Acting Method." He's dead on target, of course, which is what makes it so danged funny.

This hits close to home

Breakthrough Work Converts Stem Cells into Lung Tissue

I've got pretty severe asthma, and over the years it's resulted in significant, permanent tissue damage. I live on the equivalent of less than one lung.

So if someone offered me an injection that promised to repair my damaged lung tissue, would I take it?

Well, DUH. Here's my arm, d00d. Gimme teh goodz!!

But what if the label stated that it was derived from embryonic stem cells?

Well, DUH. No way, d00d.

I didn't really have to think about it, somewhat to my surprise. I'm not willing to sacrifice a child to save my own life.

And this is a *bad* thing?

The L.A. Times breathlessly reports that - GASP! - conservative, Christian organizations are training young men and women for public service.

Thursday, August 18, 2005

al Qaeda's Mein Kampf

The Word Unheard: Zarqawi to Journalist: al Qaeda's Seven Steps to Caliphate Hitler wrote Mein Kampf in jail. The book outlined his plans for world domination. Once he was free, he began to carry out the plan. If the world had taken him seriously enough, early enough, WWII might have been averted. Now, it appears that Zabu al-Zarkawi, the al-Qaida mastermind in Iraq, has confided to a Jordanian journalist his seven-phase plan to bring the world under Islamist sharia law and usher in the new caliphate. We need to take him at his word. Scary stuff. Brings a new light to Revelation. ht: Donald Sensing

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

So that's what a corrie looks like

Down the corrie wall ... from Exiled from GROGGS

Can we major on the majors, please? reports on a tiff between Christianity Today and Focus on the Family.

Come ON, people! While there still is vigorous disagreement over the extent to which human activity causes climate change, there is little doubt that climate change IS in fact occuring. How can looking into ways to mitigate human contributions to global warming be anything but A Good Thing?

I've been a fan of Dobson and his organization for a long time, but why Focus on the Family is wading into environmental policy I have NO idea.

Sometimes I just wanna smack people... In love, of course.

Fighting Sioux, indeed!

Thanks to Hugh Hewitt for posting a link ot this. Open letter to the NCAA from the President of the University of North Dakota. As brilliant a fisking as I have ever seen. Powererfully understated.
Is it the use of the names of tribes that you find hostile and abusive? Not long ago I took a trip to make a proposal to establish an epidemiological program to support American Indian health throughout the Upper Great Plains. On this trip I left a state called North Dakota. (Dakota is one of the names the indigenous people of this region actually call themselves.) I flew over South Dakota, crossing the Sioux River several times, and finally landed in Sioux City, Iowa, just south of Sioux Falls, South Dakota. The airplane in which I traveled that day was called a Cheyenne. I think you should find my confusion here understandable, since obviously if we were to call our teams “The Dakotans,” we would actually be in more direct violation of what apparently you are trying to establish as a rule, even though this is the name of our state. ... Is it only about applying names to sports teams? If so, would this be extended to the use of the names of all people, or is it just American Indians? Why would you exempt the “Fighting Irish” from your consideration, for example? Or “Vikings,” which are really fighting Scandinavians, or “Warriors,” which I suppose could be described as fighting anybodies? Wouldn’t it be “discrimination on account of race” to have a policy that applies to Indians but not to Scandinavians or the Irish, or anybody else for that matter? ... Help me understand why you think “hostile and abusive” applies to us. We have more than 25 separate programs in support of American Indian students here receiving high-end university educations. Included among these is an “Indians Into Medicine” program, now 30+ years running, that has generated 20 percent of all American Indian doctors in the United States. We have a similar program in Nursing, one in Clinical Psychology, and we are about to launch an “Indians into Aviation” program in conjunction with our world-class Odegard School of Aerospace Sciences. I am very proud when I visit reservations in our state to see that a large number of the teachers, doctors, Tribal College presidents, and other leaders are graduates of the University of North Dakota. Do you really expect us to host a tournament in which these names and images are covered in some way that would imply that we are ashamed of them? ...
If President Kupchella ever tires of academic life, he should start a blog. Now then, I'm a fan of the Cleveland Indians. I like the "cheesy grin" of the Chief Wahoo logo. I can understand how some Natives, though, don't find him endearing. I grew up with stereotypical cartoon depictions of "Negros" with big noses and lips, family members who used the "n-word" simply as a descriptive term without malice, but I find those images and terms unsettling today. I used to live in a desperately poor neighborhood with a large Native population. Community activists were trying hard to build on "Native Pride". it was an uphill struggle, especially since their cousins on the reservation south of the city were growing rich from casino gambling. As a person of Acadian descent, I refuse to see any Adam Sandler vehicle because of his offensive "Cajun Man" routine on Saturday Night Live. I'm not closely connected to my Cajun heritage, but his depiction offended me deeply. Many people don't know that the Cajun people are survivors of one of the first attempts at ethnic cleansing in North America. Longfellow's epic poem "Evangeline" describes in romantic terms a fictional account of a real event - the forced eviction of the Acadian people from their land in 1755 by the British, aided by the Governor of the Colony of Massachusets. Families were separated. People were killed. The territory of Acadia was emptied of Acadians. Do I have a right to be offended? Sure. Do I have the right, because I - a descendant of survivors of ethnic cleansing - find him offensive, to ban Adam Sandler movies from the theaters or airwaves?

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Begin with the end in mind

Harvard jumps into evolution debate -

"'My expectation is that we will be able to reduce this to a very simple series of logical events that could have taken place with no divine intervention,' said David R. Liu, a professor of chemistry and chemical biology at Harvard."

Well, if that's what they expect to find, I'm certain they will find it. Or more likely, they'll issue a report that says, "Well, we still don't know how life began, but we're completely confident that God didn't do it. Can we have some more money?"

Friday, August 12, 2005

For cryin out loud

Students at a Kutztown PA school figured out the admin password on the laptops they had been issued. (It was printed on the back of the computer.) They used the admin access to get around the laptop's lockdown and install P2P software, chat, etc.

They've been charged with a 3rd-degree felony for "Computer Vandalism."

If they'd driven over the laptops with their bikes, that would have only been a misdemeanor.

Sure, they violated the school AUP and deserve some sort of sanction - but a FELONY CHARGE?

Free curriculum - at what cost?

Jimbo (Wikipedia) Wales guest-posts at Lawrence Lessig's blog

He is going down a list of "Ten things that will be free." Not should be free, but will be free. #2 is Curriculum.

Commentor Frank has a very good point - there's a financial incentive to produce non-free curricula. What's the incentive to produce free curricula? A sense of public service? A tiny bit of ego perhaps (but let's call it Mazlowvian self-actualization)?

This was echoed in a recent discussion on ITFORUM on the value that publishers add in the new world of online self-publishing. David Wiley made the point that the real value that publishers can bring is the process of editing and providing a structure for peer-review of content. (One might counter that that's the same argument made by the "MSM" against blogs, invoking the high and mighty system of "journalistic checks and balances.")

The main problem that I see is that without a well thought out compensation model, the quality of freely-produced content is going to be all over the map. As was pointed out in the comments, good writing and good illustrations matter a great deal and take time and effort. Where does this time and effort come from? Wikipedia is an interesting model of how people can and will contribute their spare time (and I've certainly done my bit), but the product that results is inconsistent.

How do you enforce a style sheet on unmanaged and unmanageable volunteers? Without a system of compensation, how do you make clear roles and expectations? If Expert A doesn't like the edits that Writer B makes to his ramblings, he can pack up his kit and go away, leaving an article - or a book - or an interactive multimedia program - high and dry. What then? Do we blithely assume that someone else with copious amounts of free time will just step in and pick up the pieces out of a sense of social contribution? That certainly seems to be the case.

Finally, I have to say that I find the political tone of some of the comments amusing, if not surprising. There seems to be an assumption that all forward-thinking educators drink from the same pool of social progressivism. Not so. Some of us are shockingly conservative in our worldview. :-)

Thursday, August 11, 2005

Fundamentalists and heretics

Short Attention Span - Blog Archive - Fundamentalists and heretics

Kevin over at Short Attention Span hits the nail on the head regarding anti-ID fundamentalists.

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

Are you a good learning theory or a bad learning theory?

State of the Art Instructional Video Games Working my way through the current issue of Innovate Online, from Nova Southeastern. J.P. Gee opines that successful video games are based on "good theories of learning" while much traditional instruction is based on "bad theories." It will be interesting to see how he dichotomizes them. Gee says that distributed authentic professional expertise (DAPE - my acronym) is a "good learning theory. He doesn't say why, other than to note that the real world is typically characterized by this. While I agree with his premise that dropping an unguided learner into a rich environment is not a good idea, that doesn't automatically make DAPE "good learning theory." He says this: "Good video games, like Full Spectrum Warrior, distribute authentic professional expertise between the virtual character(s) and the real-world player." Maybe I'm reading in a syllogism that doesn't exist, but there are plenty of good games without DAPE. And I suspect there are DAPEful games that are lousy games. But maybe I'm seeing things that aren't there. Back to the article... Alright, finished. I'm disappointed. Gee didn't really explain why DAPE is superior. Indeed, his "state of the art" instructional model looks an awful like cogntive apprenticeship, a topic on which I presented way back in 1997. Well, on tot he next article.