30 January 2009

Stinky and stinkier

In InstapunditAnn AlthouseThe Daily Beast is the quote from an unnamed Republican about President Obama pushing the Porkalooza —

he didn’t convince anyone. After he left, we looked at each other, and said, “How can they stick him with this garbage?”

Why not? Much of the American Street will simply not vote for Republicans just “because”, regardless of actual policies or the effects of those policies. Beyond that, much of the GOP has become part of the old style Democratic Party ruling class which means there’s not much alternative. So why worry about whether the plan Obama is peddling makes any sense?

28 January 2009

Followup

Has anyone gotten back to Peggy Joseph and asked her how those mortgage payments are going?

27 January 2009

Security Theater Watch

Via Samizdata is a report about “security theater” —

The same one-size-fits-all regulations will apply to both passenger airliners and non-commercial, business-owned jets that are used to move cargo and personnel. For instance, the “no-fly” list and Air Marshall provisions will apply to business planes even though the pilots usually know everyone on board personally. The definition of “large aircraft” is arbitrary, applying both to planes as small as 12,500 pounds and to 747’s ten times that weight. Items that are prohibited in passenger jets will also be banned to employees in these smaller business planes, even if they are needed for their work. (Just think of what that will do to business efficiency in this time of recession.) Airplane owners will be forced to pay, at their own expense, for audits of their safety compliance. The audits won’t even be done by government inspectors, but by private consultants. These rules can potentially expand to all aircraft and all airports.

Yes, clearly we need protection from the endless waves of attacks by private aircraft. And I am sure this will be a big help in these tough economic times.

P.S. I couldn’t access the actual post cited by Samizdata but did get to this page from the AOPA which describes the proposed regulation.

Too rude for the schoolyard

Hot Air reports that New York Governor Patterson and the Kennedy Clan are about to throw down over the botched psuedo-nomination of Caroline Kennedy to take Secretary of State Clinton’s former Senate seat.

Count me in as one of the cheering crowd. I never did that when I was in school but I am not nearly as mature now as I was then.

26 January 2009

Spotlight

SWIPIAW was watching some concert on the TV last night. I noticed that, as usual, the performers were all sweating up a storm. My understanding is that this is generally do to the massive arrays of lights shining on the stage. What I wondered was, should LED based lighting become powerful enough to work in such situations, would the heat level be much less? And if so, would the performers sweat less? Would that detract from the authenticity of the event? Or do popular music performances demand so much activity from the performers that they’ll be sweating in anything more than arctic conditions?

25 January 2009

Mistaking the symptoms for the disease

Via Instapundit, a quote

The ramifications of losing revenue-producing businesses and highly-skilled workers to lower-tax states should by now be apparent even to big-spending governors like Maryland’s Martin O’Malley and California’s Arnold Schwarzenegger - long-term economic decline.
You’d think

It’s irrelevant whether this is apparent to big-spending governors. What matters is whether it is apparent to the voters and clearly, it is not. We can see this in the fact that these losers get re-elected and that so many emigres vote for the same failed policies in their new residences, as if the outcome will be different.

Stolen by aliens perhaps?

Here’s a quote —

the Financial Times Martin Wolf commented that British banks may be too big to rescue “with balance sheets equal to 440 percent of the gross domestic product.”

What I want to know is, where did all that money go? Was it effectively burned? Surely not it could not all have been invested in things that now have an effective value of zero. I wonder how much of this over-burden of debt is ultimately circular because of the complex financial instruments created and isn’t really debt, just accounting. Or did the banks let others keep the physical assets while they transferred their reserves over to these more ethereal assets?

No on Geithner

Senator Durbin;

I strongly hope that you will vote “no” on confirming Timothy Geithner as Secretary of Treasury. Not only is he obviously a tax cheat, but it was on his watch at the New York Federal Reserve that so many large financial corporations dug themselves into massive holes. Geithner either didn’t notice or couldn’t be bothered to act. Is that really the sort of demonstrated incompetence we need running the Department of the Treasury? Would not such a confirmation make a mockery of President Obama’s stated commitment to ethical and professional governance?

Manufacturing Nobility

Our little group has been noting this cult video from a group of Hollywood types. Beyond the high level cult creepiness, the most trenchant observation is how shallow all of these people are, that they couldn’t make the kind of efforts they pledge in the video until President Obama took office. Just somehow, it would not have been right or even possible to “end global slavery” while former President Bush was in office.

I think, though, that it’s worth re-examing because it fits in to a larger scheme of “morality by proxy”. In our current culture, and especially in Hollywood (as evidenced by the content they produce), something that automatically ennobles a person is sacrifice preferably the kind that inolves suffering. You can see it in how any person suffering from AIDS is a near saint, regardless of behavior. Or how an “oppressed class” gets the same free pass on their actions. It’s a deeply held assumption.

BUT! sacrifice, especially the kind that involves suffering, can be darn inconvenient. How can one put on the aura of noblity that comes with it, without actually being inconvenienced? Why, by using a proxy. By making someone else sacrifice while claiming the nobility for one’s self. By spending other people to power your own aura.

You can see this theme running through so much of the MAL’s activities. Take the video mentioned above. Ignoring the near certainty that the pledgers have likely already forgotten what they said, would the people pledging actually do any of that stuff? No — their effort would consist of getting other people to do that. Or pay the price for the action. Look at the ROE the MAL wants to impose — our troops will pay and the MAL will be noble. Or welfare spending — the taxpayers will pay and the Congress Critters will be ennobled. Closing Guantanamo Bay fits exactly the same template.

I see people write about such things with “don’t they realize the price that will be paid?”. I think they do, I think they realize that it will be paid by others while they reap the psychological and public relations reward, and they like it that way.

Real people and the others

Deutsche Welle Radio was on this morning and it had a “man in the street” section asking European what they most wanted / expected from President Obama. “Ending the war in Iraq” was a big winner, something I found rather odd. First there is the fact that to a large extent the war is over. And second, which has puzzled me from the beginning, how an American President could end a war between various sects in a foreign country other than by invasion and occupation. I suspect the subconscious, unexamined axiom that if West isn’t directly involved, it doesn’t actually count as “war” since it’s just wogs slaughtering each other. Or it was just a catch phrase they picked up from European Old Media and regurgitated because that’s what they think is expected of them. Insular and mindlessly conformist, that’s modern Wester Europe.

Sense of Time

Gravity affects time. The strong the gravity field, the slower a clock in that field runs compared to clocks in zero gravity. If you could generate gravity on demand, you could preserve things fo very long periods of your subjective time, although it might be a bit expensive.

But what I wondered was, if you could generate anti-gravity, wouldn’t that make clocks in the field run faster compared to outside the field?

24 January 2009

Ideological starvation yields thin words

Orrin Judd asks, with regard to President Obama,

But he only gets one bite at stuff like the Convention Speech and the Inaugural and they’ve been historically awful. Given how much everyone on the Left loves him, is it really that hard to hire someone who can write a decent speech?

Probably not. Writing good speeches requires a coherent set of political principles, which are illuminated via the speech. No principles, no good speech. As Random Jottings notes frequently, much of the motivation for the MAL is poser-nihilism, a “philosophy” that has the trappings of Russian nihilism but with the unthought presumption that everything can collapse without endangering its proponents pampered lives.

23 January 2009

Grant III Watch

Instapundit quotes a column by Michael Silence about the current “bailout” turning in to a Comedy of Corruption.

[US Representative] Frank, by his own account, wrote into the TARP bill a provision specifically aimed at helping this particular home-state bank. And later, he acknowledges, he spoke to regulators urging that OneUnited be considered for a cash injection.

Grant’s second third term is getting on the road.

Basic mechanics

At Brothers Judd is a post about solving the end of The Italian Job, apparently a famous movie I haven’t seen. There was a contest to come up with a solution to a bus, balanced on the edge of a cliff, with gold in the back and the crew in the front. The winning solution is a complex series of actions, but I think that looks like a overly complex solution to what is really a simple problem.

The two halves of the bus serve as lever arms from the point of contact on the edge of the cliff. The longer the lever arm, the more force is multiplied. So you can compensate for the missing weight of the guy who goes out to get rocks by having some of the remaining guys crawl out the front door and sit on the front edge of the hood. Depending on where they were all sitting, just moving everyone to the front of the bus might do it. Moreover, the winning solution requires moving people toward the rear of the bus, which might well be enough tip it over the cliff.

22 January 2009

Jobs Americans won't do

President Obama’s first official call to a head of state was to President Abbas of the Palestinian Authority. I think the symbolism here, combined with Obama’s closure of the Guantanamo Bay prison and the “black sites” in Europe means that he plans on using Fatah as his outsourcing group for information extraction, rather than doing it in house. It is, after all, the Clinton style. Given that Fatah is currently engaging in some rather vigorous torture I think we can safely say that getting that Abbas getting first Obama call means that’s just fine with the current White House.

What is success?

Yet again, I have been pre-empted. I wanted to write something like this but was slow as usual off the mark.

What I think one of the issues with “wishing the President success” is that “success” has two very different primary meanings. There is success of the politician who occupies the office, which consists of getting the policies he likes enacted, and there is the success of the President, which consists of good governance of the nation. I think it should be clear that there is no a priori relationship between these and one can easily hope for one but not the other. I think former President Clinton is an excellent example of someone who, based on his pre-election rhetoric, failed as a politician, but did reasonably well as President1.

I think that it is a deficiency of the MAL that they can no longer distinguish these two things, either for former President Bush nor for President Obama.


1 Primarily because a GOP dominated Congress forced him to, but still credit is due because there are many who wouldn’t have been as pragmatic.

Taking lessons from the losers

The typical yet utterly incomprehensible mindset of the Modern American Left — Quincy Jones speaking about opportunities with a new President.

We’re getting a petition together for a secretary of the arts with a real Cabinet membership and all, because America is the only country — whose music is probably most imitated in any country in the world — the only country without a minister of culture or a secretary of the arts. And I think it’s very important, could change this country …

So, American music is winning as indicated by it being the “most imitated in any country in the world” so obviously the thing to do is to “change this country” to be like other the other countries that are losing. Perhaps, just maybe, there is some correlation between not having a Minister of Culture and having a culture that others want to imitate? Nah, mindless conformism, that’s the ticket!

21 January 2009

Buggy debuggers

I had a bunch of links saved up to write about but I lost them last evening because FireFox didn’t save my session data. I think it’s because I have the Firebug installed to debug various web projects. It’s buggy and flaky but works well enough that it is very valuable in figuring out where the problem is. Still, I kind of remember a few of them so perhaps I won’t be completely silent.

Name games

Last weekend Boy One had some friends over and they wanted to play Rise of Nations which is a computer game distributed by Microsoft. Because there were a lot of them, I decided I would install it on my Vista machine as I don’t use it as much as my primary machine.

The game installed cleanly but then failed when I tried to update it to the version running on the other machines. I netsearched and checked the Dark Empire’s help site to find the problem, but to no avail. I decided to try something a little different. Because the machine is a 64 bit machine, it is running 64 bit Vista. By default, 32 bit applications (such as this game) are installed in the directory “Program Files (x86)”, continuing the tradition of Microsoft officially using non-standard and likely to break existing programs names for directories. And lo, that was it. I installed the game to “Games” instead and the update went without a hitch. Microsoft broke their own backwards compatibility on their own operating system for their own games by choosing a stupid name for a directory.

This wasn’t the first time I had encountered this, however. I was trying to build FireFox because I am doing some browser plugin development and ran in to the same problem. The FireFox build system would fail in a mysterious way. I suspected the file name problem but didn’t actually track it down as it was much easier to move the build to an XP based machine. But now I know.

Today, I am a Twit

So Right Wing News is promoting Twitter again. SWIPIAW signed up last September and used it for a week or two and then forgot about it. I went ahead and signed up a few weeks ago because it’s sufficiently popular that I should be at least passingly familiar with it.

As best as I can gather, though, from RWN the point is either as a more persistent form of instant messaging or it’s a tool to promote yourself or your products. I can understand the former, but the latter? What’s in it for the non-promoters? I am supposed to sign up for Twitter so that various people can basically fling advertisements at me? Besides, I have been signed up for weeks and I don’t have a single follower (and I only follow one Twitter, SWIPIAW).

RWN does note

about 99% of the posts on Twitter overall are dull. So, you need to really comb through Twitter and find people who are either genuinely fascinating or that you are fascinated with.

Is my problem that I don’t find anyone fascinating, except for SWIPIAW and I don’t need Twitter to track her utterances? I find ideas fascinating and I enjoy reading articles with ideas, but I don’t much care who writes them except as a rough grade of likely quality.

The one use I did think of for Twitter that would be useful for me would be as basically a memo machine, to write notes to my future self as ideas come to me. But that kind of defeats it being a social networking website.

When it's the same product, only branding matters

Ann Althouse quotes

I think those of us who voted for McCain are going to be a lot happier with Obama than the people who voted for him.

What I wonder is whether many who voted for McCain are going to be happier (less unhappier?) with Obama than with McCain. It would be interesting, as the years roll by, to keep a list of stupid, destructive policies pursued by President Obama that would not have been supported by the contra-factual President McCain. Heck, we could get good data by watching Senator McCain. And I think that I, in a gesture of grace and compromise with our current President, will make that judgement whenever I rant on something he’s done or supported.

P.S. Someone else is thinking the same thing.

20 January 2009

Bad precedent

From Brothers Judd

When John McCain similarly stumbled over campaign finance rules he dedicated himself to cleaning up the system. Were Mr. Geithner to use his time in office to focus on tax simplification it would be well spent.

Given the results from the events described in the first sentence, I don’t see how the second one follows.

Cocoons make you flabby

Via Brothers Judd is an editorial by Peter Beinart about why the MAL should admit that the surge in Iraq worked.

That’s fine, but I found this the most interesting bit

Younger liberals, by contrast, have had no such chastening experiences. Watching the Bush administration flit from disaster to disaster, they have grown increasingly dismissive of conservatives in the process. They consume partisan media, where Republican malevolence is taken for granted. They laugh along with the “Colbert Report,” the whole premise of which is that conservatives are bombastic, chauvinistic and dumb. They have never had the ideologically humbling experience of watching the people whose politics they loathe be proven right.

No wonder so many young liberals are nearly incapable of providing actual arguments when challenged.

Potemkin Administration

Sorry to have been so unresponsive the last week or so, just having some personal issues. I would like to blame President Elect Obama for that, but

  1. It’s not really him, it’s the cultish worship of him by my fellow citizens
  2. And it’s not really even that, as politics don’t actually consume my entire life.

Anyway, I just thought I would rant a bit about how I had to disconnect from society even more today than usual because of the relentless cult of personality tributes for a two-bit Chicago political hack that I can barely stand to listen to when he speaks. Am I the only one who is actually going to miss listening to President Bush compared to Obama? Obama is just so grating and vacuous. Bush, for all his speaking issues, at least addresses substance in his good speeches. I will avoid going on about how much I enjoy Govenor Palin’s voice and delivery, even without comparing it to Vice President Elect Biden.

I expect the Obama Cultism to go on for a while, as any good thing happens will be declared to be an effect of Obama’s “light working”, while anything bad will be either redefined as good (not closing the prison at Guantanamo Bay) or blamed on the “toxic legacy of the Bush Administration”. What’s worrisome is not Obama’s blatant efforts to take advantage of this, but the desperate eagerness of Old Media and much of the citizenry to be taken advantage of. It’s another aspect of why conspiracy theories are so attractive. Bush will continue to be reviled by many precisely because it enables the creation of a Potemkin village around the Obama Administration.

P.S. Best quote on the ceremony concerning the obligatory poetry —

At least it isn’t Maya Angelou

09 January 2009

Speaking from personal knowledge

I found this post by Orrin Judd amusing in the context of my previous post about marriage. Judd writes

IT’S A SHORT STEP FROM CONTROLLING INCONVENIENT BEHAVIORS … to getting rid of inconvenient people.

I think Judd knows of what he speaks here, given his eliminationist approach to witches and homosexuals.

Breed or die

In my view, the primary goal of any society is reproduction, both physical and cultural. Absent success at that the society will cease to exist and therefore irrelevant. This basic fact seems to get lost in most discussions on the subject of marriage, but it remains nonetheless. Even individuals in a society who do not personally engage in reproduction are dependent on the societal success in that regard1. You can’t live on retirement savings, you can only trade them for needed goods and services with future successfully reproduced members of your society.

In this regard I have been meaning to write about polygamy, which seems to be having a bit of a resurgence in the Anglosphere (especially in the UK, where is is government supported via the welfare state). I had a better link but lost it, and then was reminded by this post about a Canadian about a court case involving polygyny in a non-mainstream Mormon sect. Interesting, only of the Juddernauts brought it up in this post about same sex marriage.

I certainly can see the point that opponents of legalizing same sex marriage were mocked when they suggested a slippery slope to polygamy, yet how else can this be described? On the other hand, I think those who state that the slope starts well before same sex marriage have a strong position as well, as once you have easy divorce and overwhelming social acceptance of fornication both same sex marriage and polygamy have been de facto decriminalized.

Still, I agree with Mr. Penny that decriminalization is better than legal recognition. There is a lot to be said for hypocrisy in greasing the gears of a working society. In my view, a key distinction between libertarians (like me) and libertines is the recognition that in many situations, while it is wrong to have the state enforce ban something, it is not only permissible but a positive good to have social discouragement of the practice2.

With regard to polygamy, I am not particularly worried about its effects on general society despite its strongly negative effects on women and even men. This is because I am not aware of any non-fringe interest in it in the Anglosphere. When it does come up, it’s always with a very socially isolated cult or immigrants, and even in the latter situation I am not aware of any naturalized immigrant voluntarily becoming a non-primary wife. There is certainly an issue with children raised to view polygyny as normal3 as in the Canadian situation but unfortunately I don’t see any cure that’s better than the original problem, even from a Anglosphere Christian point of view.

In the end, the best form of human reproduction is the standard heterosexual marriage, and it is that (if anything) the state should recognize and encourage. I don’t think the state should, or is even capable of, intervening to prohibit other forms of adult grouping but I do think they should not be encouraged by the state4.

P.S. Wow, this is a popular topic this week.


1 It seems obvious to me, but sometimes this gets lost as well — successful societal reproduction is a statistical thing and therefore requires statistical, not universal, success. I.e., a society can successfully reproduce without requiring every single woman in it to reproduce.

2 In fact, one strong argument in this regard is that there is a tipping point (which we may have already passed) where increasing dependence on the state for enforcement leads to the view that if something were bad, it would be illegal, leading to either degeneracy and / or totalitarianism. It’s the same process of where attempting to pad all the rough corners of life leads to people who are incapable of dealing with adversity and presume that anything they are permitted to do is safe.

3 How could I disappoint Mr. Burnet by not bringing this up?

4 I am OK with civil unions, although as has been pointed out by Mr. Burnet again, it’s very hard to say why such a thing should be restricted to pairs of adults of the same sex once civil unions are provided for groupings other than heterosexual (presumed breeding) pairs.

All the world's a stage

I saw this photograph at Little Green Footballs where it was a topic of “fake or not?”. The matter was considered settled when some one found another photograph by a different photographer of the same strike.

I was reminded of when I (through no fault of my own) caught a segment on CNN about riots in Oakland where the protestors were trying to destroy a police car. What I notice was a good number of people with very nice cameras hanging about, not counting the CNN crew.

Both of these are linked by the (to me) oddity of having so many pro or semi-pro photographers in apparently dangerous situations. The Oakland riots video clips were the most interesting, as it looked more like a “How It Was Made” retrospective for a movie than a real event. And how really deadly can the bombing in Gaza be if so many photographers are able to be there and get photographs that they get photographs of the exact same bomb strike? Not different bombs on the same target, but literally the same strike1.

The line between reality, staging, and politics is becoming more blurred all the time. Perhaps instead of “war is politics by other means” we are entering the era of “violence is just an Internet flame war by other means”.


1 Although the Israeli government policy of phoning in warnings may have made this somewhat easier.

07 January 2009

… and then you realize the pig likes it

I have been seeing some mentions lately on various weblogs about the “2008 Weblog Awards”. What is amazing to me is that some normally reasonable people take these seriously. For example, Little Green Footballs is concerned that Juan Cole is leading one category. While I am in complete agreement concerning Cole himself, so what if he wins this? Any contest with Internet based voting is going to smell quite gamey to start with, but this one lets you vote again every so often. It’s clearly designed to favor weblogs with the most fanatical fans which is rarely a mark of quality. The few categories I haved looked at from those various mentions are all being won by what seem to be the most infantile and angry content. I will treat the winners the same way I do winners of the Nobel Peace Prize — people whose humanity (or basic sanity) is suspect until proven otherwise.

Acausality in action

The mind of the modern journalist is opaque to me. Via Harry’s Place is this article in The Atlantic by Jeffery Goldberg. The main thesis is that journalist focus obsessively on the moral failings of Israelis and the Israeli government, and that as a result don’t report accurately and often collaborate with Hamas to stage anti-Israeli propaganda in horrible and disgusting ways.

Then Goldberg notes, in a parenthetical remark, that

Israel stupidly won’t allow foreign reporters into Gaza

Did Goldberg not read his own writing, which might provide some non-stupid basis for Israeal doing that?

I think I will start a series on “acausality”, the mental affliction which causes people to forget that all actions have consequences, that all effects from from a cause. Acauslity isn’t someone not realizing a specific cause and effect relationship (we all have our little blindspots) but an apparent lack of the very concept of cause and effect generally demonstrated (as in this case) by discussing clearly and explicitly a cause or effect and then blithely ignoring it as a cause or effect.

A Burris under the saddle

While some conservatives seem upset about it, I must agree with Michael Steele

the reality of it for them is there’s no legal reason not to seat him [Roland Burris]

I just don’t see the legal basis for this. I agree with the view of hte Constitution that the US Senate can only refuse to seat for cause related to being legally entitled to be in the Senate. But there’s not much doubt that Burris is legally appointed. Illinois Sectretary of State White’s refusal to sign off is obnoxious grandstanding which he has no right to be doing.

The Illinois legislature declined to act to prevent Governor “The” Rod Blagojevich from appointing Burris so they get to reap their harvest.

05 January 2009

What's the moral?

The Wall Street Journal has an editorial about the state of New Jersey as an object lesson in the folly of MAL style governance. It’s an interesting article but I think it draws the wrong conclusion —

the People’s Republic of New Jersey offers America something truly unique: the perfect bad example

A bad example? On the contrary, it shows that with the proper rhetoric and propaganda, a policitical party (the state Democratic Party) can run a state in to the ground economically yet still be successful at the ballot box. The author writes

What governors and citizens alike need most is a growing economy

Uh, no. What governors need is to be re-elected and to accumulate personal wealth and / or power. This may or not be best facilitated by a growing economy. It seems to me that the economic situation in New Jersey clearly shows that in practice those interests can be very divergent.

What’s the matter with Kansas had as its thesis that GOP voters would vote for ideology over pocketbook, but it seems to me that cities and states run by the Democratic Party are very strong evidence that it’s the opposite, with New Jersey as described in this editorial a prime example.

04 January 2009

The odd one out

The more I see things like this the more I wonder about Governor Janet Napolitano. I mean, as far as I can tell, she’s not a crook, a terrorist, or a left wing delusionist so why did President-Elect Obama nominate her?

03 January 2009

Always finding the downside

Random Jottings asks

If high gas prices meant that were being ripped off by Big Oil … do low gas prices mean the oil companies are doing something good?

Of course, he’s just kidding. But it reminded me of another BAM from NPR. The story was on the reduction of the amount of garbage generated by the New York City metroplex due to the economic problems. It was of course cast as a problem because the sanitation workers were having to take pay cuts because they were working fewer hours. So much for being green when an attack on America and general nihilism is calling.

P.S. Just like the report from on Old Media on how a decline in violence in Iraq was hurting the cemetery workers.

A matter of technique

Random Jottings cites William Katz

Oh, by the way, having bashed a sitting governor, Sarah Palin, as unqualified to be vice president, how will Democrats defend the qualifications of Caroline Kennedy for the U.S. Senate? Just asking.

I expect the way South Park handles Kenny’s death every episode. Not with denial, or obsfucation, but an attitude that the very question is the sign of a delusional mind. A central point of MAL is to replace thought with catch phrases, and Caroline Kennedy has one of the ultimate catch phrases going — “Kennedy”.

Celebrating tyranny

I wanted to write this, but Daimnation beat me to it —

Of course, it’s not just the likes of the Morning Star that use some variation of this line about Cuba:
When lame-duck US President George Bush leaves office this month, the revolution will have outlasted 10 US leaders.
Well, it’s kind of easy to “outlast” a string of term-limited American Presidents when you don’t put yourselves up for re-election, isn’t it?

That phrase is certainly one of my pet peeves, indicating as it does the kind of superficial unawareness that is the bane of modern journalism. They don’t even realize they are celebrating tyranny, only that it’s deliciously anti-American.

02 January 2009

Becoming your enemy

I have been reading some discussions of the tenure system in modern American academia, particularly this post at Critical Mass, which contains this quote —

We can’t reasonably ask them [prospective professors] to complete five to eight years as doctoral students and post-docs and not provide some stability once they’ve finished. We also can’t make them directly subject to forces as volatile as student enrollments, endowment fluctuation, and annual budgeting.

Why not, I wondered. Sure as heck anyone in my field has to spend years to get properly trained and is then subjected to things just as volatile (just ask any of the geeks on the street in California who were also on the street after the Dot Com Bust of 2000). It seems to me that the problem is more about why would anyone need that much training to be a professor? Surely a better solution would be to reduce the time investment required. But of course, the reason there’s such a requirement is because it’s about culling, not training, which tells you just how desirable those positions are.

I was lead, though, on to a larger related thought, twigged by one of the othe comments. Isn’t it interesting that despite the despite of the humanities for the sciences and engineering, the former has been remade in the image of the latter? All the research, papers, publishing, etc., the jargon and putatively rigor? All copied, quite inappropriately and uncomphrehendingly, from the technoids, in the process destroying what value was there.

Mud in your eye

I have a very low opinion of Illinois Governor “The” Rod Blagojevich, but I have to say his appointement of Roland Burris to the US Senate has got to be about the best political payback I have seen in a long time. It’s a massive middle fingered jab right in the eye of the rest of the Illinois ruling class with not much downside for The Rod. And anything that spiteful and entertaining for that crew I must acknowledge.