Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Dear Prudence: Feminists are upset that I don’t have much sexism to complain about in my STEM career.

Dear Prudence: Feminists are upset that I don’t have much sexism to complain about in my STEM career.: "A: How strange that people who say they are fighting for equality are dismayed when they encounter it. How sad that they don’t want to hear the good news that you have been welcomed into this traditionally male field, that your male peers and bosses treat you wonderfully, and that you are thriving. It’s exciting this has been your experience—what a great ambassador you can be for younger women seeking to enter your field. There is an unfortunate strain of obsessive grievance-mongering in feminism today. It’s a kind of sport for these self-proclaimed guardians to venomously attack those they feel don’t precisely toe their line. You’re a scientist who lives in the world of facts. You are finding that ideologues aren’t interested in facts, thus they go after you when your reality trumps their ideology. My general advice is that it’s best not to engage with unpleasant people, especially those who seek to lecture you about your own experiences. Feel free to extract yourself and say, “You’ll have to excuse me, but I’ve got to get back to the lab.” But if you feel like it, you can also counterpunch by saying something like, “It’s funny, but the only people who try to bully me are women who aren’t in my profession.”"



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Tuesday, February 24, 2015

A Modest Proposal For Amendments to the Constitution | Power Line

A Modest Proposal For Amendments to the Constitution | Power Line: "First, President Obama has asserted the power to issue decrees or executive orders that have the force of law. This seems plainly at odds with the framework of the Constitution, but pundits and politicians have not been able to reach a consensus that such rule by executive order is improper. So, to resolve the issue once and for all, I propose that the following language be added to the Constitution:

All legislative Powers herein granted shall be vested in a Congress of the United States, which shall consist of a Senate and House of Representatives. 
 That would make it crystal clear that only Congress can enact legislation."



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The post continues in this vein.


Debate - King v. Burwell and the Validity of Federal Tax Subsidies Under the Affordable Care Act

Debate - <i>King v. Burwell</i> and the Validity of Federal Tax Subsidies Under the Affordable Care Act: "But, as we know, Justice Roberts decided to join the four moderates on the Court and uphold the mandate—not as an exercise of the Commerce Clause power but rather as a legitimate tax.xv The ACA, and its three-legged stool, lived for another day (though the Court struck down a significant aspect of the law’s Medicaid expansion)."



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This is the most obnoxious political-spin-as-legal-analysis article I've read in a while.

Sunday, February 15, 2015

C.I.A. Is Said to Have Bought and Destroyed Iraqi Chemical Weapons - NYTimes.com

C.I.A. Is Said to Have Bought and Destroyed Iraqi Chemical Weapons - NYTimes.com: "The Central Intelligence Agency, working with American troops during the occupation of Iraq, repeatedly purchased nerve-agent rockets from a secretive Iraqi seller, part of a previously undisclosed effort to ensure that old chemical weapons remaining in Iraq did not fall into the hands of terrorists or militant groups, according to current and former American officials.



 The extraordinary arms purchase plan, known as Operation Avarice, began in 2005 and continued into 2006, and the American military deemed it a nonproliferation success. It led to the United States’ acquiring and destroying at least 400 Borak rockets, one of the internationally condemned chemical weapons that Saddam Hussein’s Baathist government manufactured in the 1980s but that were not accounted for by United Nations inspections mandated after the 1991 Persian Gulf war."



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You've got to wonder why we're only hearing about this now. This would have been very useful information to know back when we were making decisions about who should lead the country.

Friday, February 6, 2015

Facebook

Facebook: "“When is the time you felt most broken?”
“I first ran for Congress in 1999, and I got beat. I just got whooped. I had been in the state legislature for a long time, I was in the minority party, I wasn’t getting a lot done, and I was away from my family and putting a lot of strain on Michelle. Then for me to run and lose that bad, I was thinking maybe this isn’t what I was cut out to do. I was forty years old, and I’d invested a lot of time and effort into something that didn’t seem to be working. But the thing that got me through that moment, and any other time that I’ve felt stuck, is to remind myself that it’s about the work. Because if you’re worrying about yourself—if you’re thinking: ‘Am I succeeding? Am I in the right position? Am I being appreciated?’ --- then you’re going to end up feeling frustrated and stuck. But if you can keep it about the work, you’ll always have a path. There’s always something to be done.”"



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Here's something Obama said that I appreciate.




Sunday, February 1, 2015

Education Debate

I had the following debate with a co-worker on whether common core was a good idea. His arguments in favor of common core were:


  1. The states are not doing a good job educating our students
  2. We need to do a better job educating so we don't live in a county of idiots, who will elect Sarah Palin!
  3. The states' main obstacle to doing a good job is the teachers unions
  4. States cannot take on the teachers union, even in Republican states. Its easier for unions to buy off state governments than it is to buy off the federal government
  5. The federal government will require accountability from state schools through common core
  6. The evidence that the federal government will do this is common core itself. The fact that teachers unions hate common core is evidence the federal government is sticking it to common core
  7. Might as well try something. We can't screw it up too badly, since our education is already screwed up
  8. Creating a basic curriculum and enforcing compliance with it is not so complicated that the federal government can't pull it off, and
  9. Vouchers would work, but that is not a politically feasible solution
My arguments against:
  1. I agree, our education system is not great
  2. The states do not do a good job because they have the wrong incentives. We need to properly align the decision makers and incentives to get a good education system
  3. Parents have the most invested in their children and the strongest incentive to get their kids a good education. The largest problem is that parents cannot control their kids' education, other than by moving out of the school districts. The school districts in rich neighborhoods are usually good, because those parents have chosen those schools. Poor parents often don't have that option of moving their children into good school districts, and are so are stuck sending their kids to the schools in the district where they live. A voucher system would give parents control
  4. Putting the federal government in charge of curriculum goes the opposite direction from aligning incentives. It makes it even less likely that a parent can influence the kind of education the child is getting
  5. What examples are their of the federal government taking on a problem and actually improving it? The federal government does not usually solve problems it tackles
  6. Teachers unions are a problem, but largely created by government privileges given to unions.
  7. In fact, putting the federal government in charge may make a bad situation worse.
Arguments I wish I'd made:
  1. Why was no child left behind not enough accountability? Where is the evidence that it worked?
  2. Why should we believe that the federal government is going to stand up to unions? Particularly in the face of at least two counter examples I can think of:
    1. The GM bailout: investors and bond holders took a haircut; the union did not
    2. Teachers unions hated the DC voucher program, and President Obama did their biding and defunded it in his budget, even though it was popular in DC.

Friday, January 30, 2015

YCHIBW: Big Corporations and the Teat Edition «

YCHIBW: Big Corporations and the Teat Edition «: "(1) Corporations like Walmart disproportionately benefit from the existence of antipoverty programs like Medicaid and Food Stamps. Why? Because when these are available to people, Walmart does not have to provide people with a wage that, alone, would be enough for these workers to sustain themselves since the government is already providing it.



(2) Corporations like Walmart disproportionately benefit from the existence of antipoverty programs like the Earned Income Tax Credit. Why? Because when the government provides a tax credit to people that are working, they are more likely to work, and therefore Walmart does not have to pay the workers as much as it “normally” would in order to attract them.



Only one of these can be right."



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It took me a moment to figure this one out.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Gates v. Jobs

I'm starting to think this is going to be an awkward conversation if we ever have this book club since, so far, I'm not impressed with Outliers.

In support of his theroy that almost anyone can achieve excellence with 10,000 hours of practice, Gladwell spills considerable ink documenting the confluence of events that allowed Bill Gates to get his 10,000 programming hours. Gate's proficiency at programming, we are told, is not because Gates is especially talented in any way, but because he logged a lot of programming hours. He was lucky to get access to a computer between the hours of 3 am and 6 am. He was lucky to live in proximity to a computer in the 60s. He was lucky to get released from school to do a special programming task.

I concede that there is some luck in being in the right place at the right time. But I took a different lesson away from this events. Bill Gates was extremely motivated to learn programming. He wanted to spend all his after-school time programming. He was willing to get up in the middle of the night to program, and hide that from his parents. Yes, he was lucky to be close to a computer, but more so, he was really motivated to learn.

But when the book gets to Steve Jobs, it really goes off the rails. There we learn that Steve Jobs didn't have computer terminal access, but he had another advantage: free computer parts! Those parts, Gladwell tells us, are "on par with Bill Gates getting unlimited access to a time-share terminal at age thirteen."

Funny, but I don't see a parallel at all.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

More Outliers

I'm starting to see some tension in the thesis  (or theses) of Outliers.

Chapter One: Professional sports and higher education are not really meritocracies. Those who succeed do so because of a random advantage given them by being older and more developed.

Chapter Two: There are no naturally gifted people or naturally disadvantaged people. All you have to do is spend 10,000 hours practicing to reach an expert level of performance.

A world where everyone has the power to achieve excellence by merely put in the work, is a fairer world than the one I observe. And I generally believe the developed world, despite its injustices, is, on average, a meritocracy.

Monday, January 19, 2015

Outliers Bleg

I'm reading Outliers for a (potential) book club. I'm wondering if there is a good, critical, comprehensive review of the book. Particularly I'm interested in the argument made in the first chapter: older children are favored in certain sports and, even college attendance, because they are more physically and mentally developed than their younger peers, and as a result, receive more attention and positive reinforcement, giving them a life-long advantage.

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Eric Metaxas: Science Increasingly Makes the Case for God - WSJ

Eric Metaxas: Science Increasingly Makes the Case for God - WSJ: "As factors continued to be discovered, the number of possible planets hit zero, and kept going. In other words, the odds turned against any planet in the universe supporting life, including this one. Probability said that even we shouldn’t be here.

Today there are more than 200 known parameters necessary for a planet to support life—every single one of which must be perfectly met, or the whole thing falls apart. Without a massive planet like Jupiter nearby, whose gravity will draw away asteroids, a thousand times as many would hit Earth’s surface. The odds against life in the universe are simply astonishing."



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Monday, December 29, 2014

Whose Liberalism? | National Review Online

Whose Liberalism? | National Review Online: "There is a great deal of argument on the subject of capitalism that could be superseded by coming to some agreement about what we talk about when we talk about capitalism. If by “capitalism” we mean (a) what happens when a few million grocers and the mind-bendingly complex chains of production behind them compete for the custom of a few hundred million hungry Americans, that’s one thing; if by “capitalism” we mean (b) bank bailouts and General Electric’s defense-contracting division, that’s another thing. There are critics of capitalism who argue that (a) leads inevitably to (b); one need not necessarily take a position on the merits of that claim to understand that (a) and (b) are nonetheless different things, and that if we take “capitalism” to mean (b) then we need another term — “free enterprise,” “laissez-faire,” etc. — to denote (a)."



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Friday, December 12, 2014

The Mormon Advantage | National Review Online

The Mormon Advantage | National Review Online: "Thomas were trying to learn from the LDS experience how a countercultural minority can thrive and grow in order to learn lessons for counterinsurgency nation-building. Among their conclusions: Mormons do not convert by preaching. They do help ensure uniformity in what their church teaches by centralizing curriculum and materials, but these materials are used mostly to “preach to the converted.” Instead they focus on building social bonds, inviting the former stranger into a network of ever-growing belonging, before broaching theology or ideology. Preach incessantly to those in your pews, but reach out with love, affection, Boy Scouts, and practical help to the unconverted. It sounds a lot like the way the Catholic Church used to evangelize."



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The Mormon Advantage | National Review Online

The Mormon Advantage | National Review Online: "More than any other group in America, and despite very large theological differences with orthodox Protestants or Catholics (Mormons are not Trinitarians, to name just one basic belief), the LDS church is far more effectively passing on classic Christian cultural beliefs, attitudes, and practices about marriage."



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Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Concha: Lena Dunham’s Republican-Raped-Me Story Crumbles as Legal Action Looms | Mediaite

Concha: Lena Dunham’s Republican-Raped-Me Story Crumbles as Legal Action Looms | Mediaite: "Campus rape has been, and continues to be, a serious problem in this country despite some relatively good news from the Department of Justice on the number incidents apparently being on the decline (down 58 percent between 1995 and 2010 – the most updated numbers available). Still, that doesn’t include the many incidents that go unreported. "



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I see a problem with the conclusion:"Still, that doesn't include the many incidents that go unreported." Do you see it?