Unbearable sanctimoniousness

(On screen.) Recently Netflix CEO Reed Hastings put his foot in his mouth when, in response to complaints about Netflix’s lower prices in Canada, he called Americans “self-absorbed”.

Laura Curtis notes that Hastings donates a lot of money to liberal political candidates, and then offers a nice gallery of liberal “heed my words, not my deeds” hypocrisy.

I had no time for conservative hypocrites who talk the talk but do not walk the walk. However, their sanctimonious counterparts on the left manage to make them look good in comparison.

Book: “Mad as hell: how the Tea Party movement is fundamentally remaking our two-party system” by Scott Rasmussen and Doug Schoen

I am currently (during my commutes) reading this book on my iPad.

The main author, pollster Scott Rasmussen of rasmussenreports.com, actually strikes a similar note as Angelo Codevilla in his seminal essay “The ruling class” (an expanded version of which is now available in book and eBook form). That is, of a large group of Middle America that feels ever more alienated from a political class (Democrats and establishment Republicans alike) that is both more internally homogenous than ever and more out of touch with the rest of the country in every way.

Rasmussen reiterates time and again that: (a) the Tea Party includes a substantial number of Independents and ex-Democrats alike; (b) the fact that it is likely to support Republican candidates over Democrats in elections is essentially on a “they both suck, but the elephant sucks less than the donk” basis; (c) that the GOP would be sorely mistaken to take Tea Party support for granted. Establishment Beltway GOP types know this, which explains much of their ambivalence towards the movement.

While Rasmussen does not skirt some shady and ugly things/characters that have hitched their wagon to the Tea Party train, he points out time and again that these are unrepresentative and that it in fact expresses the all-too-real concerns of a large swath of Middle America.

Rasmussen extensively quotes sources that nobody would think of as Tea Party or even small-government sympathies (such as Frank Rich [!] or Glenn Greenwald [?!?]) expressing sentiments surprisingly similar to what one can hear from some Tea Partiers.

The book appears to have been rushed into press (commercially a very smart move, as the subject matter could not be timelier), and it shows here and there in poor editing. Yet I warmly recommend it for Tea Party advocates and detractors alike — in fact, for anybody seeking to understand what is going on in American politics these days.

Hopefully, I will be able to update this mini-review once I shall be finished with the book.
And on that note, I wish my Jewish readers a spiritually fulfilling Yom Kippur and an easy fast.

Private property in California… isn’t so private


Now a California legislator has said that, yes, California Consumer Affairs agents have the power to seize private property for testing, and do not pay compensation. The furniture or other item seized is destroyed in the tests. No compensation is paid and in the case under discussion no receipt was given; the agent suggested that the shop owner try her insurance company. The $1400  couch was confiscated to be tested for fire resistance to cigarette butts. Whether the state ought to be paying agents to go about seizing private property for destructive testing is a question worth debate, but apparently has not been debated.

But we were born free.

Whatever happened to this pesky little thing:

Amendment V

No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a grand jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the militia, when in actual service in time of war or public danger; nor shall any person be subject for the same offense to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb; nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.

Add this to the list of reasons (approaching the length of the Nile) why I will never live in the People’s Republic of California again…

The higher education bubble

Glenn Reynolds has been blogging up a storm about the higher education bubble. Here is a link that will conveniently get you all of his posts together:


I, for one, have never understood the wisdom behind spending $50K/year on vapid “studies” programs, nor the bizarre concept that everybody (including those in the two bottom quartiles of the IQ distribution, presumably) should get a college degree. This sort of thinking has already led to a disastrous dumbing down of high-school, and this trend now extends to universities. Nor is it limited to the USA — I have seen similar tendencies in Europe and Israel.

For example, Belgian friends have told me that when they were young, all it took to become a bank teller was a high-school disploma. Subsequent ‘degree inflation’ went as follows. Banks started to first request ‘maturity certificates’ (a college admission requirement), at which point high schools started basically giving them to all graduates. Then the banks started requiring the Belgian equivalent of associate degrees from junior colleges. Currently they require college degrees. And bank tellers are not necessarily more konledgeable or intellectually acute. All the banks really wanted was people with above-average intelligence — and the credentials guaranteeing that kept going up as programs were dumbed-down in fallacious pursuit of higher credentialing rates.

This type of ‘degree inflation’ took place in the natural sciences as well, to the extent that employers in, say, the chemical industry there there that used to require a ‘licentiate’ (a.k.a. ‘Diplom’, the primary Euro college degree, kind-of in between a BSc and MSc) started requiring a doctorate, and now might even expect some postdoctoral experience.

Educational institutions (and Education ministries wrongly looking at credentialing percentages as a measurement of success) appear to be engaged in the intellectual equivalent of ‘printing more money’. At some point, something will have to give, or the academic ‘currency’ will lose all market value and alternative ‘currencies’ will emerge, akin to the use of scarce commodities as barter currencies in countries stricken by hyperinflation.

5771: l’shana tova

To my fellow Jews: a happy New Year 5771!

Walter Russell Mead wrote an article that reflects on the trying times America is going through, and how it made it through: Buck Up, America!

As a turbulent year that was (generally but also personally) passes before me in review, I give you Dream Theater’s  intrumental “Stream of consciousness”.

UPDATE: after posting this, I just found out that, unbelievably, Dream Theater founder Mike Portnoy called it quits. “A change of seasons” indeed…

Philly voter rolls reveal dead people, people under 18, convicted felons,…

An ex-DoJ lawyer crunched some numbers on the Philadelphia voter rolls and found some rather… interesting things.

  • 102.5% of the citizen voting age population was registered to vote on Election Day 2004.
  • Out of a random sample, at least 130 registered voters were under 18.
  • 54 more in the sample had birth dates ranging from 1825 to 1899. Either the City of Brotherly Love is also the City of the Fountain of Youth, or it does not discriminate on the basis of presence or absence of a pulse.
  • 12 others were incarcerated felons (not eligible to vote according to local law).
  • Out of a sample of 385 registered voters allegedly born between 1900 and 1905, 51 (i.e., 13%) were listed as deceased in the Social Security Death Index.

And this is just one county in Pennsylvania.

Assume that there were just 400 or so ineligible voters from all of Philadelphia, and not just from a small sample. Philadelphia is just one of 67 counties in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. If every county had 400 or more ineligible voters on their lists for any given election, and those voters actually voted, roughly 26,800 votes would be ineligible. Multiply that by 50 states and one would be hard-pressed to successfully argue that a problem doesn’t exist when relevant portions of the National Voter Registration Act, such as Section 8, are not enforced — as the DOJ’s Julie Fernandes instructed.

If it is true that the DOJ, as a matter of policy, will not enforce this statute, it is frightening to think of the consequences. Would anyone be able to trust the electoral process knowing that dead or otherwise ineligible voters are casting votes?

The right to vote in America is sacred and should remain as pure as our Founding Fathers intended. (Those same Founding Fathers who declared America a free and independent country during a hot summer in 1776 in … Philadelphia.)

It is time to take action. If the DOJ will not enforce the law, the people must — the Motor Voter law allows private citizens to bring suit against states and voter registrars for not properly maintaining the rolls.

Our right to vote is what gives us the power to choose the government that works for us — “consent of the governed” is a hollow phrase if voter rolls do not accurately reflect “the governed.”


Zombie: Proposals for an Educational Renaissance

Zombie, as the final chapter of a 5-part series on US Education, has some proposals for an Educational Renaissance.

They basically boil down to:

(a) back to basics. Focus on children actually learning something (language, math, and sciences first and foremost, but also useful day-to-day skills), and eliminate ideological claptrap from left and right alike

(b) the more competition between schools, the better. Encourage this by school vouchers or tax credits, encouraging homeschooling,… I would personally add: do away with school catchment areas. One reason (as John Stossel discovered) why state-run and state-subsidized schools in, e.g., Belgium deliver better quality for less money per pupil is that parents can send their children to any public or state-subsidized school of their choice, regardless of where they live. This creates internal competition on quality between schools in the same system.

There is a lively discussion in the comments. Get thee there and read it.

/Now back to the salt mine…

Zombie: Ideological war spells doom for America’s schoolkids

Still totally overwhelmed with relocation and work in realspace, so sorry for the light blogging.

My blog-ancestor has a 5-part series of essays on the culture wars in the US elementary and secondary school systems. Thus far, three four parts are up:

Go and read them all. You may not agree with everything you read (I have some qualms about the bits on Texas), but I agree with his/her basic premise, which is expressed in the title.

<a href="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gW8nh9c1C3ASlayer: Expendable youth (embedding disabled).