One day after President Bush vowed to reduce America's dependence on Middle East oil by cutting imports from there 75 percent by 2025, his energy secretary and national economic adviser said Wednesday that the president didn't mean it literally.
I guess it depends on what "is" is.
Bush's verbal sloppiness is actually encouraging in one respect. Recall his oft-repeated promise to "double the federal commitment to the most critical basic research programs in the physical sciences over the next 10 years". When I heard that, I felt the disappointing sssshhhWMP of a large bag of money falling into somebody else's pocket—sure I do basic research, but in mathy computer science, not in any of the physical sciences. Close, but not quite. But now that the White Houwse has clarified that Bush didn't mean exactly what he said on Tuesday, now I can relax. My future funding is secure.
Now if you'll excuse me, I have to go buy some pony chow.
I like to point out that there are only two kinds of grownups in modern American life who show up in public with as many contusions, lacerations, and bruises on their faces on such a regular basis as George W. Bush:
- Prizefighters; and
- Falling down drunks. [...]
But I'm completely serious about it. And anybody who just didn't wake up on Earth yesterday should be, too.
A beleaguered Michael Brown said Friday he doesn't know why he was removed from his onsite command of Hurricane Katrina relief efforts, but he does know the first thing he'll do when he returns to Washington.
''I'm going to go home and walk my dog and hug my wife, and maybe get a good Mexican meal and a stiff margarita and a full night's sleep,'' Brown told The Associated Press. ''And then I'm going to go right back to FEMA and continue to do all I can to help these victims.''
Heh. Improbable Research pointedly recalls the 2000 IgNobel Prize in Psychology, awarded to David Dunning and Justin Kreuger for their fascinating paper “Unskilled and Unaware of It: How Difficulties in Recognizing One's Own Incompetence Lead to Inflated Self-Assessments” [pdf]. Dunning and Kreuger subjected several dozen undergraduates to written tests on humor, grammar, and logic; they also asked the students to rate their own abilities relative to their peers and to predict their test scores. Not surprisingly, everybody thought that their abilities were above average. Students who preformed best slightly underestimated their ability; students who preformed worst grossly overestimated theirs.
Of course, the Lake Wobegon Effect is no surprise to anyone who has taught freshmen or non-majors, dealt with incompetent (but invariably "experienced") teachers or administrators, argued with intelligent design "experts", or read a newspaper in the last five years. The hardest thing for many people to learn, especially in a subject that they've never seriously encountered before, is that they don't know what's going on, that their opinions are not facts, that their intuition is not proof. This is especially frustrating in math and CS theory classes, where the students have the tools to check whether their answers are correct, if only they'd think to try them. It's almost impossible to actually learn anything if you don't realize that you have something to learn. The first step, as they say, is to admit that you have a problem.
That's one of the reasons for my "I don't know" policy—an answer of "I don't know" on any homework or exam question is worth 25% partial credit. A blank response doesn't count; to get the partial credit, you must explicitly acknowledge your ignorance. (The other reason, of course, is that it cuts way back on random nonsense maybe-I'll-get-pity-credit-for-stumbling-on-the-right-keywords answers, which makes grading much easier.)
Dunning and Kreuger's conclusion suggests a few possible causes for the Lake Wobegon effect. (References removed.)
One puzzling aspect of our results is how the incompetent fail, through life experience, to learn that they are unskilled. This is not a new puzzle. Sullivan, in 1953, marveled at "the failure of learning which has left their capacity for fantastic, self-centered delusions so utterly unaffected by a life-long history of educative events." With that observation in mind, it is striking that our student participants overestimated their standing on academically oriented tests as familiar to them as grammar and logical reasoning. Although our analysis suggests that incompetent individuals are unable to spot their poor performances themselves, one would have thought negative feedback would have been inevitable at some point in their academic career. So why had they not learned?
One reason is that people seldom receive negative feedback about their skills and abilities from others in everyday life. Even young children are familiar with the notion that "if you do not have something nice to say, don't say anything at all." Second, the bungled robbery attempt of McArthur Wheeler not withstanding, some tasks and settings preclude people from receiving self-correcting information that would reveal the suboptimal nature of their decisions. Third, even if people receive negative feedback, they still must come to an accurate understanding of why that failure has occurred. The problem with failure is that it is subject to more attributional ambiguity than success. For success to occur, many things must go right: The person must be skilled, apply effort, and perhaps be a bit lucky. For failure to occur, the lack of any one of these components is sufficient. Because of this, even if people receive feedback that points to a lack of skill, they may attribute it to some other factor.
Can you say social promotion? Grade inflation? Sure, I knew you could.
This is one of the reasons I find the current administration so scary. If the media is to be believed, George II surrounds himself with yes-men. He doesn't tolerate criticism in his environment, no matter how tangential. Conservative voters are drawn to his strong convictions, but those convictions never seemed to be tempered by honest criticism. He doesn't admit that he makes mistakes. He apparently doesn't believe that he might be wrong.
Is it any wonder, then, that Bush's hand-picked FEMA director did such a bad job? Given this environment in Washington, is anyone surprised that Brown doesn't know why he was removed from his post?
"In a sense, Louisiana is the flood plain of the nation," noted a 2002 FEMA report. "Louisiana waterways drain two-thirds of the continental United States. Precipitation in New York, the Dakotas, even Idaho and the Province of Alberta, finds its way to Louisiana's coastline." As a result, flooding is a constant threat, and the state has an estimated 18,000 buildings that have been repeatedly damaged by flood waters--the highest number of any state. And yet, this summer FEMA denied Louisiana communities' pre-disaster mitigation funding requests.
In Jefferson Parish, part of the New Orleans metropolitan area, flood zone manager Tom Rodrigue is baffled by the development. "You would think we would get maximum consideration" for the funds, he says. "This is what the grant program called for. We were more than qualified for it."
From Legal Affairs:
What is needed now is a framework for an international crime of terrorism. The framework should be incorporated into the U.N. Convention on Terrorism and should call for including the crime in domestic criminal law and perhaps the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court. This framework must recognize the unique threat that terrorists pose to nation-states, yet not grant them the legitimacy accorded to belligerent states. It must provide the foundation for a law that criminalizes not only terrorist acts but membership in a terrorist organization. It must define methods of punishment.
Coming up with such a framework would perhaps seem impossible, except that one already exists. Dusty and anachronistic, perhaps, but viable all the same. More than 2,000 years ago, Marcus Tullius Cicero defined pirates in Roman law as hostis humani generis, "enemies of the human race." From that day until now, pirates have held a unique status in the law as international criminals subject to universal jurisdiction—meaning that they may be captured wherever they are found, by any person who finds them. The ongoing war against pirates is the only known example of state vs. nonstate conflict until the advent of the war on terror, and its history is long and notable. More important, there are enormous potential benefits of applying this legal definition to contemporary terrorism.
Oh yeah? Then what about global warming?
I don't think that guaranteeing children access to information about their parentage would fully address the problems with donor conception. Like some donor offspring, I am opposed not just to anonymity in donor conception but to the practice of donor conception itself. My reasons for this position are explained in my earlier posts and in this paper, which I have continued to revise. My worry is that a purely affectional conception of marriage will tend to favor a purely affectional conception of parenthood. And I think that denying the importance of biological parenthood leads us to violate fundamental rights of children. Every human child has a mother and a father. And every child has a right to know its mother and father, and to be reared by them, unless the child's own interests dictate otherwise (as they often do in the case of adoption). Until I see specific proposals for protecting those rights under same-sex marriage, I can't support it.
Government plans to make fertility treatment more accessible to single women and lesbian couples are likely to be ineffective because of a severe shortage of sperm donors, a leading fertility expert has told the Guardian. [...]
Many clinics only offer fertility treatment to heterosexual couples to ensure they comply with the 1990 Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority Act. It states that clinics must consider the welfare of the future child and specifically the need for a father figure before offering treatment. [...]
Bill Ledger, who runs a fertility clinic in Sheffield, said the government's proposals were laudable but unlikely to be effective because of legal changes in April that removed the status of anonymity from sperm donors. Under the new law, any child born from donor sperm can request to know the identity of their biological father when they turn 18.
"We are seeing longer and longer waiting lists because of the loss of anonymity," Prof Ledger said. "The situation has become so bad, that we are looking at importing anonymous sperm from abroad." [...]
Professor Ledger argues that the websites should be regulated to ensure they provide a safe service but not banned outright. "Using these services has got to be a step better than asking some half-drunk man to have unprotected sex, which is presumably what happens otherwise," he said.
The motto of this new movement of chosen childlessness could be encapsulated by the bumper sticker put out by the Zero Population Growth group in the 1970s: "Make Love, Not Babies." This is the precise worldview the Scripture rejects. Marriage, sex and children are part of one package. To deny any part of this wholeness is to reject God's intention in creation -- and His mandate revealed in the Bible.
The sexual revolution has had many manifestations, but we can now see that modern Americans are determined not only to liberate sex from marriage (and even from gender), but also from procreation.
The Scripture does not even envision married couples who choose not to have children. The shocking reality is that some Christians have bought into this lifestyle and claim childlessness as a legitimate option. The rise of modern contraceptives has made this technologically possible. But the fact remains that though childlessness may be made possible by the contraceptive revolution, it remains a form of rebellion against God's design and order.
If Senator Dick Santorum actually believes the eponymous frothy mix he's spewing, he's insane. No, I don't believe it. A slimy opportunistic douchebag, sure, but an actual lunatic? No way. It's pure confrontational performance art, dripping with irony. Frothy brown irony.
While it is no excuse for this scandal, it is no surprise that Boston, a seat of academic, political and cultural liberalism in America, lies at the center of the storm.
The "storm", of course, is the Catholic Church's recent pedophilia scandal, where hundreds of children were victimized by priests—historically well known for their academic, political, and cultural liberalism—in Ireland and Kentucky.
Oh, well, yes, there was a mess in Boston, too, which ultimately led to the public excoriation of Cardinal Bernard Law—also well known for his academic, political, and cultural liberalism—just before he was invited to a post at the Vatican by Pope John Paul II.
See, it's all Harvard's fault!
The Pennsylvania senator recently penned a book, ''It Takes a Family," that blasts two-income families, divorce, cohabitation before marriage, and other social trends he considers liberal ills.
The book, set to be released later this month, blames ''radical feminism" for encouraging women to work outside the home. ''In far too many families with young children, both parents are working, when, if they really took an honest look at the budget, they might confess that both of them don't really need to or at least may not need to work as much as they do," Santorum wrote.
But then check out this AP interview from 2003:
AP: If you're saying that liberalism is taking power away from the families, how is conservatism giving more power to the families?
SANTORUM: Putting more money in their pocketbook is one. The more money you take away from families is the less power that family has. And that's a basic power.
Look! Right there! He's saying either that families don't really need conservatism or that families should have less power. It's brilliant! He gets people to vote for him by spewing obvious nonsense and telling them to their faces that they don't need what his party is offering! He's undermining the system from within!
Of course he refuses to back away from his obviously absurd position. That would ruin the art. Not to mention the sheets.
[via Bitch. Ph.D.]
Well, it was bound to happen eventually. Sandra Day O'Connor is retiring.
The good news:
Washington has, for the first time, acknowledged to the United Nations that prisoners have been tortured at US detention centres in Guantanamo Bay, as well as Afghanistan and Iraq, a UN source said.
The bad news: