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September 30, 2014

"The Middle East’s Maze of Alliances"

Victor Davis Hanson: "About the best choice is to support without qualification the only two pro-American and constitutional groups in the Middle East, the Israelis and Kurds."

Works for me.

"Top Ten Things Parents Hate About Common Core"

I don't agree with everything--on #5, I think kids need a lot more "workforce-prep mentality" from the schools and on #8, lots of things make little kids cry, including the current curriculum--but for both supporters and opponents of Common Core there's food for thought here

And see also former engineer, now math teacher, Cynthia Walker's piece, "Un-Common, Not Core".

I predict that if we continue implementing Common Core, average students will drop out of math as early as they are allowed.  Even math-bright students will hate math.  Tutoring companies will proliferate to serve wealthy families.  The educational gap between rich and poor will widen.  If we want to destroy math and science education in this country, keep Common Core.

"Connecting Some Random Dots"

"So corporate insiders are using company cash and borrowed money to buy back company shares while selling the same shares from their personal accounts. Venture capital firms are IPOing their portfolios as fast as they can get them out the door. Private equity firms are selling. And AAII members are buying, leaving their cash levels at the lowest since 2000."

"We Are Bigoted Against the Old"

And as the government pays for more and more of our health care, you ain't seen nothing yet

"Americans Are O.K. With Big Business. It’s Business Lobbying Power They Hate."

New York Times columnist stumbles onto truth. But instead of lamenting how big business has gotten, why not greatly decrease what they can lobby for by limiting government?

September 29, 2014

"Dr. Ezekiel Emanuel to Me and Others: Don’t Live Past 75!"

In case you missed it, Ezekiel Emanuel, supposedly one of the country's leading bioethicists and an important advisor for Obamacare, recently wrote in The Atlantic that he hopes to die at age 75. 75 years is enough, he writes. 

I was going to post that if this is "bioethics," I absolutely don't want any. But as with many other things, the Net has already done a far better job. Ron Radosh offers a biting response. Excerpt:

This, of course, is the quintessential mind of modern liberalism: those not fit to rule and to contribute in the manner deemed essential by the liberal elites, of which Dr. Emanuel is a part, should pack it in. This is the slippery slope to the eugenics of Nazi ideology, whose practitioners readily killed the infirm, the handicapped, and those considered ill-suited to be part of the human race, like Jews, Gypsies, gay people and others. I know Dr. Emanuel makes it quite clear that he is a strong opponent of both assisted suicide and euthanasia. He does not seem to realize, however, that his own arguments give much meat to those who in fact do favor such a course.

Victor Davis Hanson, as usual, launches heavy artillery:

Age is no absolute barometer. We all know those who at 75 are far more vigorous than others who are couch potatoes at 40. If Emanuel’s point is that living beyond 75 is unwise given the odds that society will reap less achievement per resources invested, then that frightening anti-humanist argument can be extended to almost any category.

Should we do away with health care for those with chronic debilitating diseases on the theory that society inordinately gives them too much time and capital and gets very little in return? Events of the 20th century should warn us about where such government decision-making on health has led.

Why incarcerate prisoners for life sentences? They will likely produce little behind bars. Take values, morality and collective debt for past services out of the equation, and we could just as easily choose not to treat severely wounded veterans, given that they are unlikely to return to the battlefield.

Damon Linker, a contributing editor at The New Republic, writes in "Should you hope to die at 75? Absolutely not":

. . . what's most noteworthy about the essay is its stunning combination of wisdom and insight with moral idiocy. . . . 

This is eugenics induced by narcissism.

Glenn Reynolds responds precisely to Emanuel's advice: "But how long will it stay 'advice?'"

Eugene Volokh writes there is "much I strongly disagree with there" but is reminded of a Kipling poem. Glenn Reynolds cites a better Kipling poem.

Finally, hints of what might be coming if we can keep people like Dr. Emanuel from interfering: "Scientists have discovered an on/off switch for ageing cells" and "Ageing Isn’t Inevitable, Which Means We Can Manipulate It To Make Us Live Longer".

"U.C. Berkeley Chancellor Nicholas Dirks Gets Free Speech Very Wrong"

As complete and razor-sharp a takedown of a prominent person as I've seen in a while.

Pardon my incivility, Chancellor Dirks, but I don't give a shit whether you wish to honor an ideal; I care whether you will comply with the law. If you don't, you should be compelled to do so at the point of a lawsuit. You will find litigation rather uncivil.

Link via Mike Munger.

"Thinking About Unions Post Market Basket: Public Versus Private"

Noted attorney Harvey Silverglate:

. . . . just about everywhere we turn, when we see the results of organized labor in the public sphere, we see disaster—not for the workers, but for those who are supposed to be served by vital public institutions and services.

With a very interesting personal anecdote about a teachers' union.

"Obamacare: Fewer Doctors, More Demand"

"One doesn’t have to be an economic genius to realize that increasing demand while decreasing supply is likely to cause a problem."

Truer words were never written.

Related: "Doctoring in the Age of ObamaCare: Endlessly entering data or calling for permission to prescribe or trying to avoid Medicare penalties—when should I see patients?"

"The 'Coincidence' of CVS and Tobacco"

Surprise, surprise, there was plenty of politics involved.

With the federal government taking over a large share of the health care business through the new Affordable Care Act exchanges, providers such as CVS need to be in regulators' good books. CVS's drug business is at the mercy of regulators from the Food and Drug Administration, the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services, and numerous other agencies within the Department of Health and Human Services and elsewhere.

The company is taking no chances that it could fall out of government's favor. CVS spent $13 million on lobbying in 2013, according to the Center for Responsive Politics, over 17 times as much as the firm spent in 2007.

"14 Million Refugees Make the Levant Unmanageable"

David P. Goldman, world-class pessimism about the Middle East

When I wrote about the region’s refugee disaster at Tablet in July (“Between the Settlers and Unsettlers, the One State Solution is On Our Doorstep“) the going estimate was only 10 million. A new UN study, though, claims that half of Syrians are displaced. Many of them will have nothing to go back to. When people have nothing to lose, they fight to the death and inflict horrors on others.

That is what civilizational decline looks like in real time. 

September 28, 2014

"Jacoby Brissett Refuses To Be Tackled"

In case you haven't seen it, here's NC State's quarterback making a simply terrific play against FSU yesterday.

"The Truffle Oil Shuffle"

You've probably heard how a lot of extra virgin olive oil is a scam. It turns out so's "truffle oil". 

"Ask Well: Plantar Fasciitis Relief"

A year and a half ago I had some medium intensity pain in my left foot that caused me to limp for a couple of weeks. I was surprised how many of my colleagues either had had, or knew somebody who had had, plantar fasciitis. (It shouldn't have surprised me; Hammacher Schlemmer sends me mail-order catalogs and every other page there's something for plantar fasciitis sufferers.)

It turned out I didn't have plantar fasciitis, but I'm keeping this article for future reference.

September 27, 2014

"The 9 Best New University Buildings Around The World"

Glass seems to be in.

Trouble in the Big House

"Michigan Wolverines Football: From Sellouts To Handouts In Just 4 Years".

"The [athletic] department now has all the credibility of Pravda, and half the charm."

"Mighty Mites Crash Into Banner"

"Nothing gets a football team fired up for a big game like running past its cheering fans and smashing through a sign to enter the field -- except when the banner wins."

UPDATED: Working link. Thanks, Faul.

September 26, 2014

"When we were small: Ben & Jerry’s"

Story of how the ice cream mavens got their start.

"Capitalism Is Saving the Climate, You Hippies"

"Protesters might have flooded Wall Street to demand a greener world, but Wall Street is financing the construction of a post-carbon economy in a way that government can’t."

"Is Obamacare Working?"

John C. Goodman:

Sarah Kliff, another Obamacare supporter, estimates that health reform has enabled about 5 million people to become newly insured. But that’s only about 10 percent of the uninsured. What happened to the mandate that required that everyone have health insurance this year or face a fine? Turns out that the mandate doesn’t actually apply to millions of people. In fact, the Congressional Budget Office estimates that 90 percent of the uninsured are exempt from the mandate.

"Twins Pitcher Loses $500,000 In The Worst Way Possible"

Interesting story.

But given that Mr. Hughes earns a reported $8 million/year (and also given his likely tax bracket, therefore), I can't feel too sorry for him.

September 25, 2014

"Development of Tiny Thorium Reactors Could Wean the World Off Oil In Just Five Years"

I can't evaluate the science or engineering, but if this even half right, shouldn't we have an Apollo-like project to do this ASAP?

(Or maybe this: "What If Giant Space-Based Solar Panels Could Beam Unlimited Power To The Earth?")

"How Understanding Randomness Will Give You Mind-Reading Powers"

I don't know about "mind-reading," but it will make you better informed than the average person.

More recently, psychologists Amos Tversky and Daniel Kahneman proposed the so-called Law of Small Numbers, a theory that accounts for human misunderstandings of randomness. Specifically, we wrongly expect small samples to behave like very large ones. So if you toss a coin five times, you assume that you'll get some variation of a pattern that includes two or three heads and two or three tails. If your coin lands on tails five times in a row, you tend to believe that it can't be a coincidence. But in fact, the odds of five tails in a row are 1 in 32—not especially common, but not terribly rare, either. "So we have all these sort of false positives where we figure there must be something wrong with that coin, or maybe the person's got some magic hot-hand in tossing coins," Poundstone says.

"Do You Have Any Clue What Major U.S. Cities Look Like?"

I scored 10 out of 14.

"The Reformer: An Interactive Tool to Fix Social Security"

Fix Social Security yourself. Economically easy.

Politically, hugely difficult.

September 24, 2014

"Can you inherit experiences? Inside the weird world of epigenetics"

Weird is right.

Experiments have shown, for example, that the experiences of a parent might lead to molecular changes that aren't encoded in DNA but can still be passed down to children, affecting the health and behavior of future generations.

"The Secret Rules of Adjective Order"

"A long fascinating article—or is it a fascinating long article?"

"Most memorable resume lies"

Examples of what not to do.

September 23, 2014

"The Exaggerated Death of Inflation"

By Kenneth Rogoff of Harvard. Not known to be a gold bug or a right-wing nut. 

I am not arguing that inflation will return anytime soon in safe-haven economies such as the US or Japan. Though US labor markets are tightening, and the new Fed chair has emphatically emphasized the importance of maximum employment, there is still little risk of high inflation in the near future.

Still, over the longer run, there is no guarantee that any central bank will be able to hold the line in the face of adverse shocks such as continuing slow productivity growth, high debt levels, and pressure to reduce inequality through government transfers. The risk would be particularly high in the event of other major shocks – say, a general rise in global real interest rates.

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