Archive for February 2010

Where will the professors go?

Posted: Sunday, February 28, 2010 at 1:51 pm
By: David Newquist
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Jonathan R. Cole, former provost of Columbia University, has a new book on the history of the Ameican University,  The Great American University.  While the 616-page book does a cogent and comprehensive job of outlining the history of the American university and the role it has played in the development of the nation,  it also poses some incisive questions about the future of the university–and, therefore, our nation.

The  book notes the formation of American universities in colonial and early federalist times,  but cites the important historical events that gave them their unique identity and made them a driving force in American life:

  • The Land Grant College  (Morrell) Act of 1862:  At the height of the Civil War, Congress voted the authorization and support for the provisions that would initiate and implement the formation of our public college and university system.
  • Hitler’s and Franklin Roosevelt’s assumption of power in 1933:  Up until this time, German universities led the world, but as Hitler came to power, professors, such as Einstein,  realized that their institutions would come under the dictates of the Nazi state and began their migration to other countries,   a migration was of huge benefit to U.S. universities.
  • The end of World War II in 1945:  the G.I. Bill brought a strong and ambitious student population to the campuses and the work of scholars in the war effort motivated Congress to channel research funding through the American universities,  a move which moved them to the head of the world class. 

Cole points out that the list of the world’s best universities are dominated by American institutions, with other countries lagging far behind.  However, he also points out that other countries are moving aggressively to bring their institutions into contention and to surpass the American higher education system.  In a discussion of his book with other academic leaders on C-Span, Cole warned that American pre-eminence in higher education is vulnerable. 

Cole cites the politicization of colleges and universities through repressive legislation and politics-based personnel decisions as suppressions of the academic freedom and neutrality that has been the life-blood of their success.  As examples, he lists the political intrusion into some areas of research, such as stem cells, and features of the Patriot Act, which restrict some of the most promising students and researchers from being enrolled or given work visas, as limiting America’s one area where its exports exceed its imports:  higher education. 

Just as the professors in Germany  in 1933 migrated to countries where they could conduct their work without interference,  American professors are looking for places they can go to continue unfettered in their research and teaching. 

The renewal of the Patriot Act without significant revisions does not signal a bright future for American universities.  Ironically, two of my acquaintances in American universities are negotiating terms with German institutions.  

The countries doing the heaviest recruiting of American professors are China, India, Russia, and a number of European countries.

What goes around does seem to come around.

Obama Endorses Bush on Surveillance

Posted: Sunday, February 28, 2010 at 12:29 am
By: Ken Blanchard
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bush_patriot_actIt is a commonplace on the Left that the anti-terrorism policies of George W. Bush represented a grave threat to civil liberties.  This view centered chiefly on two aspects of his policy: the enhanced interrogation procedures, like water-boarding, and surveillance procedures authorized under the Patriot Act.

As to the former, the Obama Justice Department pretended for a while that it might prosecute Bush Administration lawyers for advising then President Bush that the interrogation procedures were legal.  This week that pretense was dropped.  That hardly amounts to an endorsement of the Bush policies, but it is just as surely inconsistent with the view that those policies amounted to a serious violation of law or human rights.

Today President Obama signed an extension of the Patriot Act.  The MSM has been rather quiet about this.  Neither the Washington Post nor the New York Times has done their own story.  Both rely on the AP story, and both bury it where only a search can find it.  Here are some bits from the AP story as it appears in the WaPo:

The act, which was adopted in the weeks after the Sept. 11, 2001 terror attacks, expands the government’s ability to monitor Americans in the name of national security.

Three sections of the Patriot Act that stay in force will:

-Authorize court-approved roving wiretaps that permit surveillance on multiple phones.

-Allow court-approved seizure of records and property in anti-terrorism operations.

-Permit surveillance against a so-called lone wolf, a non-U.S. citizen engaged in terrorism who may not be part of a recognized terrorist group.

Obama’s signature comes after the House voted 315 to 97 Thursday to extend the measure.

The Senate also approved the measure, with privacy protections cast aside when Senate Democrats lacked the necessary 60-vote supermajority to pass them. Thrown away were restrictions and greater scrutiny on the government’s authority to spy on Americans and seize their records.

The Patriot Act has been kept, without changes that some critics in the Senate wanted.  That does count as an unambiguous endorsement of Bush’s surveillance policies.  President Obama is now responsible for protecting Americans against terrorists, and he wants the same powers that Bush wanted and got from Congress.  Powerline says:

I suppose it’s too much to expect the Democrats to admit they were wrong all along.

Yes, and it’s too much to expect from our major newspapers.

Brookings Man OK After Chile Quake

Posted: Saturday, February 27, 2010 at 12:14 pm
By: RadioActive Chief
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Brookings native James Francis has been reported safe in Santiago, Chile in the aftermath of the massive 8.8 magnitude earthquake that struck the South American country early this morning.

Francis, a graduate of Brookings HS,  is currently serving a two-year mission in Chile for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.  His mother, Madelyn Francis has received a report that all the LDS Church’s missionaries are reported safe and accounted for after the quake.  She reported that her son had noted that a couple of weeks ago all of the missionaries serving in Chile were given water filtration bottles, and received contingency training for surviving earthquakes and dealing with the aftermath.

In other accounts Chile, with it’s well-developed infrastructure and more modern building codes is withstanding its heavy damage with less harm to human life than Haiti did.

Now…after getting past tsunamis and aftershocks, the task of search, rescue, and damage clearance starts and will continue.

Glowbull Warming Reaches Pierre & SD Blogosphere

Posted: Friday, February 26, 2010 at 8:54 am
By: RadioActive Chief
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There is just too much discussion going on worthy of reply about this to let it go without additional comment.

The starting reference point is HC1009, labeled: A CONCURRENT RESOLUTION, Calling for balanced teaching of global warming in the public schools of South Dakota.

The Chief has taught HS sciences for a quarter century…and the prevailing orthodoxy on AGW (anthropogenic global warming: you know, man made!) is junk science at best, and at worst is totally bogus intellectual fraud. After formally studying a number of relevant scientific disciplines, IMHO AlGore and the glowbull warming advocates are claiming far, far more than is supported by the VALID evidence…which looks better and better with every successive debunking of junk “evidence” that has been used by the IPCC, and other agencies like the UK Meteorological Office, East Anglia University Climate Unit, etc.

The US science teaching establishment to a large extent has drunk the AlGore Kool Aid…and has little bashfulness about promoting what IMHO is a grossly distorted pseudoscientific dogma in the classroom.

This is the backstory on HC1009…which is well intentioned, but is in need of some important correction to be credible. Some of these corrections have been noted several places in the blogosphere. Badlands Blue and Madville Times both have erupted on this to some degree at least…CAH seems to be a bit more sensible in his comments, but admittedly both have properly noted some real problems, which were also noted with a bit more specificity in a posting from SD Politics.

Overall, the Chief concurs with the latter of these, not so much with the former commenters. The references in the bill to “astrology(!)”, “thermography”, and “interrelativity” (which suggests some sort of warp drive travel or something) obviously (at least to me!) need to be cleaned up.

There is one additional wording change that I would heartily suggest. The passage in the bill that states “That global warming is a scientific theory rather than a proven fact;” is also incorrect in this context.

The Chief continually stressed to his students that a “scientific theory” is NOT a guess about something…it is rather a unified explanation that is able to account for a large body of related proven scientific phenomena. The idea a man-made glowbull warming is IMHO a LONG way from reaching the level of established theory. A more appropriate statement in the bill at that point would be “That global warming is a scientific hypothesis rather than a proven fact”.

In science, a hypothesis is a proposed explanation for a scientific question. The validity or non-validity of the explanation may be established by the process of experimentation. To be supported, a hypothesis must be demonstrated REPEATEDLY by experiments (or data) that are clearly and concisely defined, and are available to anyone else interested in the topic, who then is able to also demonstrate the same conclusion. If the conclusion can not be logically and unambiguously supported from a number of independent sources then if cannot be considered as being scientifically valid.

That is the current state of the hypothesis of AGW today, and as more and more cases of shoddy research, flawed and/or missing critical data, and evident “rigging” of the scientific review process comes to light, it becomes less and less likely that AlGore and others of his enviromental ilk are correct in their assertions of “established science”.

So, what’s to get exercised about concerning the scientific Waterloo being defended by the orthodox “warmists”? It is neatly summarized in Ken’s concluding paragraph in his above- noted and linked post at SD Politics:

Climate change alarmism is in a crisis right now, for good reason. Cap and Trade legislation, a very costly proposal based on very dubious quazi-scientific ideas, is something the State of South Dakota ought to be concerned about. It is easy to make mistakes when putting a resolution together, but if we are going to weigh in on this we need to be rather more careful in our choice of words.

Hear, hear!

SD State Legislature on Global Warming

Posted: Thursday, February 25, 2010 at 11:04 pm
By: Ken Blanchard
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I was quite ready to take issue with Badlands Blue and the Madville Times on HCR 1009.  I am doubtful that global warming or the teaching of such in our state High Schools are topics that call for a resolution.  After a brief read, I thought that most of the resolution was basically on target.

However, while I certainly do not endorse my blogosphere colleagues’ snide remarks about our legislators, they were right to make fun of one part of the resolution.  The problem is this passage:

That there are a variety of climatological, meteorological, astrological, thermological, cosmological, and ecological dynamics that can effect world weather phenomena and that the significance and interrelativity of these factors is largely speculative…

This is basically correct, except for a couple of words.  “Astrological”?  This word refers to astrology.  Does it affect global climate when the moon is in Virgo, and anyone who is a Gemini need beware?  Probably the right word would be “astronomical”.

What about “Thermology”?  That, I gather, refers to the infrared imaging of the human body.  I have heard it said that whenever Al Gore shows up to give a speech on global warming, the local temperatures plunge by ten or twenty degrees and it snows.  Could he really exercise such a cooling effect?  Until some study confirms it, thermology probably doesn’t belong in this bill.

Also, I don’t think “interrelativity” is a real word or a useful coinage.  Perhaps “interrelationship” might have been better.

Climate change alarmism is in a crisis right now, for good reason.  Cap and Trade legislation, a very costly proposal based on very dubious quazi-scientific ideas, is something the State of South Dakota ought to be concerned about.  It is easy to make mistakes when putting a resolution together, but if we are going to weigh in on this we need to be rather more careful in our choice of words.

Health Care End Game

Posted: Wednesday, February 24, 2010 at 11:43 pm
By: Ken Blanchard
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bobsledcrash

Tomorrow the President holds his summit with Republicans.  His strategy is somewhat mysterious, but here are some speculations.

What is the purpose of the summit?

We know what the President does when he really wants to broker a deal: he meets behind closed doors, with Democrats.  The invitation to the summit that was issued to Republicans made it clear that only some version of the existing House and Senate bills would be entertained.  The President’s own proposal, too vague on numbers to be scored by the CBO, is an example.  The length of the summit, six hours, makes it pretty certain that few Americans will watch it.  It is designed to provide a lot of material out of which clips and bites can be excerpted in order to paint an unflattering picture of the opposition.  There is nothing wrong with any of this.  The President is playing the cards he has, and this is his best chance to gain some ground on the GOP.  But it’s helpful to realize what it is.

What does the President hope to gain by it?

Barack Obama clearly has a high opinion of his own rhetorical powers, so perhaps he thinks he can swing public opinion behind the Democratic legislation.  He has utterly failed to do so in dozens of speeches so far, but perhaps his rhetoric will be more persuasive with the Republicans present to compare him to.  A significant shift in public opinion at this point would be a heroic achievement and it’s conceptually impossible.  More realistically, the President can hope to make the Republicans look bad.

Caveat

The President might attempt a game-changer by offering the GOP a major concession or two, like real tort reform or interstate competition for health insurance markets.  That would require, however, that he is in a position to make those offers.  It would also allow the Republicans to call for rewriting the bills.

What is the strategy after the summit?

Short of a sudden and more or less miraculous change in public opinion, the Democrats collectively and individually have to decide whether they are better off passing health care legislation or letting it die.  Collectively they think they are better off passing it.

This is not because they still believe that the public will punish them for doing nothing; rather, the Democrats think they have lost pretty much everyone for whom voting Republican is thinkable.  They can’t do any more damage to their brand among independents, let alone moderate conservatives.  What they have to fear now is that a lot of liberals and those further to left will sit this fall’s elections out.  Passing legislation would likely energize the remaining base, and that might make the difference between a merely terrible election and an apocalyptic defeat.

Besides, this is as close as they have ever come to realizing their ancient dream of government controlled health care.  If not now, then when?

Can the Democrats pass a bill?

Reid, Pelosi, and company say they are prepared to move ahead with legislation and try to pass it by means of a reconciliation bill.  Short of a Captain Kirk rhetorical victory at the Summit, this doesn’t look likely.

The real trouble now is the House, not the Senate.  The House bill passed with only a handful of votes to spare.  Even if it looks like the Democrats need to pass a bill, the House is full of individual Democrats who have to wonder how they can get their butts back into the next Congress.  It appears that the House will have to go first in passing the Senate bill and an accompanying reconciliation bill.  There are still parliamentary procedures that might allow Republicans to then stall the bill in the Senate.  So Pelosi must ask House members to go out on a really shaky limb and vote for a deeply unpopular bill, knowing that it still might not pass.

House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer let slip that the votes just aren’t there.  I am guessing that means the votes just aren’t there.  John Judis, in the New Republic, gives us a glimpse at why.

According to the Franklin and Marshall poll, which surveyed 1,143 residents of Pennsylvania, former Representative Pat Toomey–a Republican disciple of Steve Forbes and the Club for Growth–leads Democratic Senator Arlen Specter in the senate race by 44 to 34 percent among likely voters. He leads Democratic Representative Joe Sestak by 38 to 20 percent. If you want to get really worried about Democratic prospects, look at the breakdown. Toomey leads Specter among whites by 53 to 24 percent and among voters from union households by 44 to 41 percent. The only groups among whom Specter does well (besides registered Democrats) are non-whites and people with no religious affiliation. He’s got that vaunted McGovern coalition wrapped up.

Is this Strategy or Inertia?

The summit is brilliant, tactically.  The Republicans are surely afraid, thinking they can’t wiggle out and can only lose.  But tactics are useless unless they contribute to a strategy.  If the President cannot change the whole board, all the way down to the ground in Pennsylvania, then it’s hard to see what the strategy is.  Failing to pass an unpopular bill means the Dems get blamed for the bill’s unpopularity without getting much reward for their effort.  Perhaps this isn’t strategy at all, but mere inertia.  The Democrats know they are racing toward the precipice, but they can’t get out of the sled.

SD Humor

Posted: Wednesday, February 24, 2010 at 10:18 am
By: RadioActive Chief
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H/T to e-mail correspondents:

This was at the pull off at Hwy 385 and Sheridan Lake Rd. in the Black Hills west of Rapid City.

A deer was hit there. The couch was dumped there previously.

Day two the deer was on the couch.

Day three the end table and lamp showed up.

Day four the TV and TV stand, and the sign showed up.

Note the sign in front of the deer on the couch: “Sorry Hunters, Obama ruined healthcare. We can’t afford to have injured hunters on our conscience – Stayin home, sorry – the Deer.”

deer at home

The SDHP Troopers had to call Pennington County DOT because of all the people stopping to take pictures.

Recovery or Not: Truth or Consequences

Posted: Tuesday, February 23, 2010 at 4:28 pm
By: RadioActive Chief
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One always has the choice of accepting hard truth, or not. One does not have the option of evading the consequences of that decision.

Economic Depression: A Better Definition

“How can you keep talking about a depression,” asks a Dear Reader, “when the economy is clearly recovering just as it should be.”

Ah ha! We’ll explain in a minute.

First, the latest from Wall Street: The Dow fell 18 points yesterday. We’re still not sure whether the final, fading phase of the bear market has begun or not. This bounce took the Dow back to 10,725 on January 19th. It hasn’t seen that level since. Was that it? Was that as high as it’s going to get? Is it down from here on out…until the Dow finally bottoms out somewhere south of 5,000?

We don’t know. We’ll just have to wait to find out…along with everyone else.

Now…back to that ‘recovery’….

It’s true that there are some signs of “stabilization.” The unemployment rate is not getting badder as fast as it was a few months ago. And house prices seem to have stopped falling – for the moment. It’s also true that the economy managed to register positive ‘growth’ in the last quarter…mostly thanks to government spending and inventory restocking.

The trouble is, all of these things are consistent with a depression – especially a depression that the feds are fighting every inch of the way. In the 1930s, there were several years of growth…and there were great years for the stock market too. Then, things fell apart again. The nation ended the ’30s not one penny richer than it had been when it began them.

And Japan has seen some good years and some bad years, too, since its depression began in 1990. Oddly, Japan’s population is falling…so in per capita terms, Japan’s downturn hasn’t really been so bad. Per person, the Japanese got richer over the last 10 years.

It’s also true that here at The Daily Reckoning, we use the term ‘depression’ a bit differently than most economists. Most economists believe GDP growth represents increasing prosperity. They think a depression is merely a recession, with negative GDP growth, that lasts longer and goes more deeply than normal.
Our definitions are better:

A recession is a pause during a period of growth. A depression marks the end of the period of growth…giving the economy a chance to make adjustments so that a new period of growth may begin.

THAT makes real sense, especially compared to “Hope and Change”. Of course one can also continue to partake of the “H & C” Koolaid. It’s your call, but don’t come ’round looking for a bail-out!

The rest of the piece has more development and illustration of this principle…it’s well worth taking a look.

Flood Tax?

Posted: Monday, February 22, 2010 at 7:27 pm
By: Joel Rosenthal
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South Dakota for the most part had a very wet fall, the ground is saturated. Winter snowfalls have been high and wet. March is historically the month with the highest snowfall and then there is the possibility of spring rains. Meteorologists are predicting flooding and perhaps heavy flooding in South Dakota.

If the melt is not slow we might expect sustained and heavy flooding. Associated Press writer, Chet Brokaw, covers the situation extensively in this report. Extensive flooding will take a heavy toll on infrastructure. Expect damage and loss of bridges, county and township roads and well as state highways. Raging water knows few boundaries, besides public property, there will be loss to personal and business property as well. Hopefully loss of life can be avoided but remains a tragic possibility.

Governor Rounds is suggesting a temporary increase in taxes might be needed. The revenues from this tax would be used as the State and Local match for FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency) funds that would be available upon the State or specified Counties being declared a Disaster Area. Factor the fact that the State is broke and there has been little suggestion to raise taxes to meet budget shortfalls. To the contrary there is little appetite to raise taxes during tough economic times.

There are some interesting politics ahead. As background: The Legislature is heavily anti tax and our State Constitution requires a two-thirds voted to enact a tax increase. The Governor recognizes this. That is why he is pre educating the Legislature and the Public about the possibility he might ask for what is now (pre flooding) what is probably thought to be an unnecessary tax. The Governor said, “There is a possibility we may very well have to go back to the Legislature and ask for additional revenue.”

It is hard to know at this point that he will ask for the tax, rather wait for the flooding and for the Legislature to return for Veto Days in late March. Hence the Gov’s statement, “If they have their high-water waders on, it’s a lot easier to start thinking about revenues.”

Once the floods come, the Legislator will create a torrent of there own in overwhelmingly passing the necessary revenue improvements (don’t you just hate the T word?). Taxes just are not that hard to enact when there is a specific identifiable need.

Endbar – Flood damage is easily recognized and well understood. Too bad that unmaintained highways are harder to see and understand. I guess we won’t provide the resources to maintain our roads until like the floods they are broken beyond reasonable repair.  

To comment on this post go to South Dakota Straight Talk.

SD House 1278 and 1277 Fail to Get Committee Support

Posted: Monday, February 22, 2010 at 1:18 pm
By: Ken Blanchard
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That’s what Pat Powers is reporting.