Monthly Archives: November 2012

A word of caution before entering the cloud. These are real concerns, and the inefficiency of the cloud is too infrequently discussed.

A public health proposal to issue Smokers Licenses. I’ll get on board with this as soon as we issue “alcohol drinking licenses.” The arguments for alcohol licensure is stronger. If we’re going to do this, we shouldn’t just target icky people we don’t like.

Meanwhile, on the subject of alcohol, we’re actually moving in the opposite direction. I think this is okay, but our increasingly critical legislation and proposals aimed at smokers and the obese should not be allowing this to happen. Yet here we are. It’s almost as though we are inclined to regulate the behavior of people we don’t like while supporting deregulation for behavior that allows us to do what we want.

The major thing that’s pushing teachers out of the profession isn’t training or salaries, but principals.

If liberals want regulation to become more popular (or less unpopular) and/or redeem the government as being something that is here to help, they need to take a hard look at things like this.

The New York Times looks at the drug shortage.

McMegan writes about The Incredible Shrinking Sugar Bag. I believe she’s quite wrong on this. If we’re looking at rising prices or smaller packaging, we should go with the latter. It can help people by reducing spoilage, among other things.

The case for cheap purchases. Actually, it’s more about the whole “experiences and connections over things.” It corresponds nicely with arguments about money not being everything. Wise words that nobody actually lives by.

Reason looks at politicians offering subsidies to movemakers for superhero films. When I read the title “Superhero Subsidies” it actually made me think of one of the Manhunter comic books wherein Star City tries to recruit Manhunter to relocate there as a tourist attraction.

Colorado’s new pot law could lead to a black market boon! That’s not the way it’s supposed to work, but it still deals with supply deficits and a lack of financial punishment will lead in some degree to increased demand.

Maddox tells truth. The degree of signalling going on with I F***ing Love Science is significant. And, at least in my cohort, it is a degree of signalling not easily disassociated with (ir)religion and politics.

Category: Newsroom

It amazed me that on an issue where pro-life sentiment is at record highs, and when the Democratic Party has moved even further to the left on the issue, that nonetheless the issue appeared to be electorally beneficial to the Democrats. My conclusion was that the Republicans framed the issue so badly that they came out on the losing end. It’s actually worse than that. Recent events (and I believe pro-lifers themselves) have actually pushed the country in a pro-choice direction.

Michael Weinreb has a worthwhile take on Big Ten’s decision to expand into New Jersey and Maryland. The Big Ten is, for my money, the most overrated conference of the major five. This isn’t going to help.

Our legislators almost slipped a law through that would have reduced royalties for web radio. Alas, it was not to be. The libertarian in me can appreciate where the artists are coming from, but this seems to be an area where… things aren’t working right.

I’m impressed that the New York Times ran this while Chris Christie laments the death of the Jersey Shore and New York recovers. I’d expect them to run it when some stupid red state with its stupid inhabitants gets hit. It brings up a good point, particularly for those who believe that the ocean levels are going to rise due to global warming.

Patrick Ruffini pens a really good article at something the GOP needs to look at. It has nothing to do with policy, and more to do with human capital. This was something that Karl Rove understood.

Kay Hymowitz takes a look at the political gender gap and thinks it has less to do with actual gender than we think. There’s something to this. It also strikes me that one of the things that makes the GOP vulnerable in the longer run is – as much as other things discussed – the increasing dissolution of the family itself.

Mitt Romney may have paid squat in taxes, but yes millionaires do pay high rates. My fear is akin to that old joke about NCAA Sanctions Committee: They get so irate at the Miami Hurricanes that they put Miami of Ohio on probation.

Some conspiracy theory sites are just beautiful. Some are not.

An indepth article on the evolution of online collegiate learning. Meanwhile, maybe we can learn something from India and institute federal universities. I actually think that’s a pretty solid idea. If anyone is interested (or maybe even if no one is), I’ll write a post on the subject.

The title of this article (“Why do we let our kids play tackle football”) had me expecting to object, but the contents and suggestions for reform are really quite reasonable.

Category: Newsroom

Phone makers are apparently hoping to cash in on a Samsungian niche of “phablets.” That area between phone and tablet. Samsung, of course, got the ball rolling with the Galaxy Note.

I actually figured that the Note would be a failure. They seem to have moved away from the full tablet sized version, but it’s apparently become quite popular. Which is one of the reasons why it’s so important that the iPhone is no longer sucking all of the oxygen out of the room. They might actually release one of these things someday, but like the iPad Mini, only if someone else demonstrated a market for them.

Now, my animosity towards the iPhone has almost dissipated. I have what I want, and Apple controls a relatively small minority of the market. The only dangling issue are the lawsuits, but even a billion dollar verdict can’t stop Android’s momentum. This isn’t an entirely good thing, because I worry about Microsoft Windows Phone’s continued participation in the market and I’d prefer at least three options. The last outstanding concern I’ve had is “what happens if/when Google decides it’s simply not making money off of these things?”

Most likely, either the handset makers enter into some sort of Symbian-like consortium, or the code gets turned over to Apache or a like organization. Long-term, it could get overtaken by someone else when someone figures out the next Big Leap like Apple did.

There was a brief window where I wasn’t positive that this was going to be the case. Some of my apprehension towards the iPhone was based on an underlying fear that they would actually accomplish their goal of conforming the consumers to their own designs. And this horrified me not just because their design did not match my preference, but because I was concerned that something like the phablet wouldn’t actually come to fruition. Or good smartphones with physical keyboards or even slightly larger screens.

On the other hand, I am a bit glad that Apple is the way it is. Otherwise, they’d be fewer gaps for Samsung to have exploited. If Apple had been just flexible enough to keep more people in their ecosphere, then I’d really be screwed.

Category: Theater

ScreenRant thinks Justice League can relaunch a DC Movie universe. This really is a page that DC should take from Marvel. Green Lantern flopped, but a Green Lantern that’s part of a larger story has greater potential.

Though I support gay marriage, a lot of my attitudes towards marriage tend towards the traditional. A lot of this stuff makes my stomach churn. In part because a lot of it is put forth by my allies on SSM.

A profile on the next Archbishop of Canterbury (the Anglican/Episcopal pope).

Not to be outdone by Best Buy, who called the Treasury Department when someone tried to use $2 bills, Walmart allegedly tore up a couple $100 bills.

Is there a better way of improving online player behavior? It certainly sounds nicer than Microsoft’s. I wonder if this would work on blog commenting sections.

Jon Last looks at the demographic arc of South Korea. The moving parts of gender selection and government meddling in reproduction are interestingly put together.

Apparently, TSA gets better uniform perks than the Marines.

Tim Harford writes of the complexities of the notion of a “living wage.”

Category: Newsroom

My Linkluster post last week to Matt Yglesias’s comments seemed to get the most attention. So I’ve been doing some more thinking on it. I also read an article that he linked to:

According to the Institute of International Education and U.S. Dept. of State, there now there were around 720,000 international students at U.S. colleges in the 2011 academic year. They estimate that these students contribute $21 billion to the economy through tuition and spending. I don’t know where they get their estimate, but this is around $30,000 per student and that sounds like a sensible enough number for a back-of-the-envelope estimate.

So how many international students could we handle? There are currently around 21 million college students in the U.S., with around 18 million in undergrad and 3 million in graduate. If we increased the number of international students by 5 million then around 1-in-5 college students would be international. Is this unthinkably high? Well it’s still below the ratio at the colleges in this country with the most international student enrollment. At the New School, for example, about 1-in-4 students is international. Given that Harvard, Princeton, Yale, and MIT have 10% or more international students, it doesn’t appear that a high ratio holds a university back academically.

Ozimek addresses my primary concern, which is that increasing the number of foreign students would have the end result of crowding out American students. Not crowding out American students from college generally, but rather shuffling them off directional schools due to enrollment caps and the like.

There is no reason that there would have to be enrollment caps, of course. And Ozimek could just as easily reply that if there were, then that wouldn’t actually be his plan in action and so perhaps I shouldn’t criticize the plan on that basis.

I do harbor the fear, though, because enrollment caps do exist. They exist in universities that could expand if they were so inclined. They exist precisely to tighten entrance requirements and propel schools up the USNWR list and others.

My alma mater, Southern Tech, is one such school. Sotech is not exactly in the upper echelon of universities, but presently rejects over a third of its applicants and that number is climbing. Purposefully so. The problem that Sotech faces is that when it admits more students, it gets hit twice by the various rankings. First, because it’s admission profile is lower than it otherwise would be. Second, because some higher percentage of students will fail out.

The main reason that the university doesn’t limit expansion more is… money. Recruiting more international students could be a nice way around this.

There is the argument that if students are failing out then perhaps it is best not to admit them in the first place. This is often used as a knock against for-profit schools. The students are failing and therefore it’s an indication that they are being taken advantage of. Is Sotech doing the same? Maybe. On the other hand, both for-profits and Sotech are arguably doing a disservice to those who would graduate by keeping those who wouldn’t out. (Beyond which, it’s often external circumstances rather than academic profile that makes students hit graduation benchmarks).

On the other side of things, if there is so much money to be made here, why aren’t more schools already doing it? The US apparently doesn’t limit the number of student visas it gives out (this suggests we don’t). Why are schools and states leaving this money on the table?

I particularly think of some of the schools in lower population states. The University of Wyoming and the University of North Dakota – to name two – aggressively recruit out-of-state students because without them, their schools would look like the University of South Dakota (half the size of the other two).

It’s also the case that some of these states could use people. There’d be no way to necessarily hold on to them after graduation, but there is at least some degree of inertia involved. You go somewhere and you leave if you’re uncomfortable but stay if you are and if you don’t go there to begin with it would never occur to you that you would be comfortable staying. That sort of thing.

I might expect one of them to be fear of becoming an “Asian school” (not that all International students would be coming from Asia, but a significant number would).

I am also reminded on this piece about former Boston University president John Silber. Silber sought to limit enrollment to the University of Texas (where he was a high-ranking dean) because he feared what would be lost along the way towards a mega-university. It should come as no surprise that I am glad he lost that particular battle, but it would help explain why at least the more prestigious large schools might be antsy.

None of this would explain why schools like DeVry wouldn’t do it. I mean, every student is another ounce of profit for them, isn’t it? I doubt they’re worried much about student composition.

I assume that there is something holding this back. I just can’t figure out what. Despite my above-mentioned concerns, I see significant room for opportunity here. Not just as a money-making venture, but as general policy as well. If handled right. I’m not sure how much confidence I have of that.

Category: School

Antcars are better drivers than people, leading to greater salience behind my hypothetical. On the other hand, maybe technology will improve us to the point of making it moot.

The Dutch is experiencing a crime increase after banning pot sales to foreigners and the problems pot tourism wrought. Meanwhile, Denmark is like Vince Young are not uncommon. I tend to be supportive of the NFL players’ union (in contrast to MLB and NBA), but if they ever wanted my enthusiastic support, it would be in transitioning from boatloads of money up front towards a pension program over a longer period of time.

Android is ramping up 6x faster than the iPhone and has a remarkable 75% market-share. The degree of widespread adoption genuinely surprises me (not that Apple minds, given their profit margins).

Is the solution to climate change going to be adaptation? I’m really starting to suspect that it will be.

Adam Ozimek on the lack of substance behind the criticisms of diet soft drinks. The first comment hits on my objection, which is that there is reason to believe that it might be a contributor to obesity. More.

I previously linked to an article about one-room schools. Here’s another one on the struggle of small schools in West Virginia to keep from being consolidated.

An interesting article from the Washington Post on how our cities are becoming hubs for Mexican drug cartels. I wasn’t aware the extent to which they’d made inroads on the meth market. I didn’t figure there was enough money in it for it to be worth their time.

Category: Newsroom

Like most people, I was surprised to hear of General Petraeus’s sudden resignation on the account of an affair. Not so much that he’d had one (I don’t spend time thinking about such things), but I didn’t know that even CIA chiefs would resign due to them. I will note that some are suspicious that this had more to do with his pending testimony on Banghazi, but it’s nonetheless noteworthy that this is the explanation that was given. Anyhow, Dr. Phi – having spent time in the same room as the man – is not the least bit surprised.

Back in high school there was a coach. Coach Montgomery. We never actually saw anything occur, but the… I don’t know… familiarity with which he presented himself to the female students did not go unnoticed. Well, we partially noticed because during indoor free periods the less popular among us were having basketballs thrown at our heads while he was too busy talking to female students to notice. We didn’t like Coach M. Partially due to the fact that he wasn’t there to instill order when it was needed. But also because when he was paying attention to us, he terrified the crap out of us. He honestly struck us as a roidhead. A roidhead who would probably sleep with a female student if he had the chance.

A couple years after he graduated he was arrested. It was actually his suicide attempt that got him in the news. Our response to this was… not generous. We thought it was funny as heck. We could just imagine Big Strong Coach M scared spitless of what was an impending arrest and taking the proverbial coward’s way out. I can’t say I am remarkably proud of this response. In one sense, I am not hugely bothered by what he did. She was sixteen. A teacher (or coach) should be fired for such a thing, but I’m not sure about arrested (a subject worthy of exploration in the future) absent a degree of coercion beyond the basic power differential. A year or so after that I would be exposed to the destruction of suicide (not mine, obviously) and the funny part didn’t seem so funny anymore.

But before my better angels got a chance to catch up with me, I have to believe that I would smile all over again at having my negative confirmations of a man I disliked intensely being confirmed.

So a question for all y’all… has this ever happened to you? Wherein you’re looking at something that just doesn’t quite seem right and later it turns out that everything is unraveled in a rather public fashion?

At some point in the past, I remember seeing some interaction between a colleague of my wife and his nurse and getting a definite vibe of something. As far as I know, nothing ever came of it. It was probably nothing. Of course, if you’d asked me in all seriousness in high school, I probably would have said the same of Coach M.

Category: Newsroom, School

-{Note: This was supposed to go up before the election. I apparently muffed the scheduling.}-

If you haven’t seen this video, it’s quite interesting. It involves a Mormon settlement in Mexico and their standoffs against the drug cartels.

Also, Steve Sailer asks:

[W]hat will happen among Mormons if Romney is defeated in sizable part because he’s so Mormon in affect, values, and behavior? Will they redouble their efforts to be even more what they are? Will they decide they have to loosen up and get funky? Will we see more ads on TV featuring Mormon Tongan NFL players?

Or, feeling rejected as a people, will Mormons go off in a new, subversive direction of … what?

Mormons aren’t a huge group (usually said to be about 9 million). And they aren’t hugely talented. They generally seem to be about the white American average — but that puts them increasingly above the American average. And they are better organized, more cohesive, and less dysfunctional than most. So, if they move in a particular direction, it could be moderately significant.

The most likely reaction would probably be to modernize by accelerating the Third Worldization of Mormonism. That would be the easy, socially acceptable path. But that way leads to irrelevance because nobody cares much about nonblack nonwhites, especially ones who choose to assimilate into polite Mormonhood rather than riot over YouTube videos.

This was written before Romney’s polling surge after the debates. What I say about now, however, was even more true then. It simply doesn’t appear to me that if Romney loses that it will have much to do with his Mormonism. There has, as Mr. Blue recently put it, a greater percentage in it for Democrats to portray him as a Dirty Jew than a Creepy Mormon. I have no doubt that Obama would have gone there had it proven advantageous, but there were more and better avenues of attack.

Though I don’t live in Mormonland anymore, I am still at least somewhat plugged into it and have gotten little indication that a Romney loss would involve a change in trajectory.

But a change of trajectory somewhere along the line does seem possible. The Romney loss could play a roll in it, but I think being on what will be the losing side of the gay marriage issue will be a bigger one. To be clear, I don’t think the LDS Church will ever formally or informally endorse same-sex marriage. Civil unions and such yes, but marriage never. But I think their experiences with Proposition 8 and the backlash they faced may have jarred them a little (it sure as heck would have jarred me). Not just that they were publicly reviled, but it was the conspicuousness with which they were targeted. It’s not that they don’t like attention – they clearly do – but they have always seemed at least a little wary of being seen as backwards. It’s actually a bit difficult to describe, but many southern evangelicals seem to revel in being the big, bad guy to their opponents. Mormons maintain their distinctness, to be sure, but perhaps because of a history of having been on the wrong side of public backlashes, they are reluctant to be too different.

I think there may come a point where, culturally speaking, they wish to unhitch their wagon to the evangelicals and far right of the Republican Party. We might start hearing more about their broadly liberal immigration preferences and economic liberalism that they presently seem to downplay.

Category: Church

Jalopnik asks what old-style feature from cars do we miss the most? His answer:

As for me, there’s a lot that I could list, but I especially miss pop-up headlights. Maybe it has something to do with growing up in the 80s and 90s, but I just think they’re so damned cool, you know?

So many great cars used to have illuminators that rose from the hood on demand: the Porsche 928 and 944, the NSX (for the first few years, anyway), three generations of RX-7s, a whole plethora of Corvettes… the list goes on an on.

Mine is more general. I miss the slightly boxier design of old cars. As cars have become more aerodynamic, they ironically look like they’re trying to look cool even though the design is (I am pretty sure) for function as much as anything. There is a stupid little practical aspect to my yearning for yesteryear however. I was looking at a late-model Camry the other day and noticed that it would be hard to put a soft drink or something on the back hood because it’s not as level as the old Camry that we currently have.

Another thing – and this is relatively minor – is that it used to be a lot more common for cars to have hitches available than today. I don’t know if it is due to liability or cost-cutting, but I don’t think they offer that as much as they used to.

A last thing are a few models and model types… it’d be cool if Subaru still offered the Justy in the US. Dodge should still have a car called the Dodge Colt (well, it was actually a Mitsubishi, but Mitsubishi at least has a cool name for its current small car).

Category: Road

I believe in one sense that this election is closer than a lot of folks around here, in that those arguing that it was never close cause the state polls and projections persistently leaned in Obama’s favor were off-base. It’s moot now because I agree with the projections insofar as Romney never sealed the deal and the last-minute national movement appears to be in Obama’s direction. I consider the likelihood of a reverse-verdict to be greater, but I consider the greatest likelihood to be an Obama win that will not come down to the wire.

I believe Obama will win the popular vote by somewhere between 1.5% and 2%. If it’s closer to the latter, you can probably flip Florida into the Obama column (maybe you can anyway…).

Having said all of that, I do want to submit something else: There’s nothing wrong with a degree of poll-skepticism. They’re probably right. This year, I believe they are. But one of these years, they will be wrong. The likelihood of getting caught between shifting demographics, last-minute undecideds, cell phones*, and lower response rates will make polling increasingly difficult and the accommodations made for these realities will either fail to compensate or will create their own problems.

The polls have failed us before, and they’ll fail us again. Improved scientific technique seems likely to me to have a hard time compensating for various problems that will increasingly aggravate.

There are ways that this may favor Republicans in polling, and ways that it may favor Democrats. It depends on where the problem occurs, and how the pollsters respond to it.

My hope is that when it occurs, it will be something that brings a 9% margin down to a 5% or vice-versa and not something that flips an election. My belief that it could is one of the reasons I have been relatively uptight this cycle on the subject.

* – Yes, I am aware that cell phones are included in many polls. However, response rates from cell phones are likely to be lower and cell phone numbers are less likely to be up-to-date.

Category: Statehouse