Thursday, September 29, 2011

Credit Give and Take

George W. Bush speech after capture of Saddam Hussein:

The success of yesterday's mission is a tribute to our men and women now serving in Iraq.  The operation was based on the superb work of intelligence analysts who found the dictator's footprints in a vast country. The operation was carried out with skill and precision by a brave fighting force. Our servicemen and women and our coalition allies have faced many dangers in the hunt for members of the fallen regime, and in their effort to bring hope and freedom to the Iraqi people. Their work continues, and so do the risks. Today, on behalf of the nation, I thank the members of our Armed Forces and I congratulate them.

Barack Hussein Obama speech, Sunday, May 1, 2011:

And so shortly after taking office, I directed Leon Panetta, the director of the CIA, to make the killing or capture of bin Laden the top priority of our war against al Qaeda, even as I continued our broader efforts to disrupt, dismantle, and defeat his network.

Then, last August, after years of painstaking work by my intelligence community, I was briefed on a possible lead to bin Laden. It was far from certain, and it took many months to run this thread to ground. I met repeatedly with my national security team as we developed more information about the possibility that we had located bin Laden hiding within a compound deep inside of Pakistan . And finally, last week, I determined that I had enough intelligence to take action, and authorized an operation to get Osama bin Laden and bring him to justice. Today, at my direction, the United States launched a targeted operation against that compound in Abbottabad , Pakistan .

Monday, September 26, 2011

Tobacco Management II: Field Report

I had my first cigar a few weeks ago at my advisor’s farewell and graduation party.  It was a Java (or I think it was; I also had my first Jack Daniels, so my recollection of the evening might be a little off).  J, the other PhD graduate who gave it to me said he bought it in a tobacco shop for $15, although they seem to be available online for about half that.

J assured me that the cigar would be “smooth”.  Although I lack any basis for comparison, but I was surprised how easy smoking turned out to be.  (I hasten to add that it’s less easy to look cool doing it, which I assuredly did not.)  I knew in advance that I would never get through a whole cigar, so I asked for and received about an inch and a half worth.  J warned that a cigar that short might burn a little, but that really wasn’t my experience beyond the one time I accidentally inhaled.

I had expected that whatever effect one would get from tobacco smoke would be felt immediately, but that turned out not to be true.  I gamely puffed away about a quarter inch before saying, “Don’t take this personally, but your cigar is doing nothing for me.  It’s mainly just a lot of work.”  But I had no sooner snuffed out the remainder when I began to feel it:  a pleasantly dizzying sensation.  I might say that the cigar intensified the effect of the Gentleman Jack, but “intensify” seems a poor choice given that the cumulative sensation was very mellowing.  I found myself uncharacteristically relaxed and talkative.

A word on the after effects.  I drank plenty of water that evening, so I didn’t have anything like a hangover the next morning, but both my breath and the clothes I was wearing felt and smelled like an ashtray.  And . . . I woke up the next morning thinking about cigars!  Along the lines of, “Mmmm, cigars . . . .”  Kind of a lot.  Fortunately, the craving went away by midday, but I can kinda see how someone who woke up in the morning with those kind of thoughts and who had tobacco on hand would be tempted to light up.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Applied Rationalizing

In an otherwise thought-provoking post on adultery and divorce, Athol Kay writes:

Which leads us obviously to the question of "What about the children?"

My feeling is that someone who is a terrible spouse, is very frequently a terrible parent.

  • An alcoholic husband, is an alcoholic father.
  • A Batshit Crazy wife, is a Batshit Crazy mother.
  • A chronically unemployed husband, is a chronically unemployed father.
  • An absent cheating wife, is an absent neglecting mother.
  • A criminally involved husband, is a criminally involved father.
  • A slovenly hoarding wife, is a slovenly hoarding mother.

And I'm sure you get the idea....

So yeah... what about the children? Shouldn't you be doing something?

Unsurprisingly, I’m oppose divorce on first-order grounds.  Perhaps surprising is that I do so knowing that what I ask – spending one’s entire life intimately attached to another human being – is supremely unnatural.  So I get the frustrations and disappointments, and I understand that many people will fail to keep the vows they make.  Yet I reply:  be as happy as you can, enduring what you must.

Precisely because the project is so difficult, we should be especially keen to avoid abetting the female (and let’s face it, when we’re talking about people who initiate divorce, we’re usually talking about women) tendency towards self-rationalization, and nothing reeks of self-rationalization like claiming to be getting divorced “for the good of the children.”

First of all, the data on the negative outcomes for the children of divorce is sufficiently established that it hardly needs citation.  I’m frankly surprised that Athol writes as if he is unaware of it.

But second of all, let’s walk through the list above:  alcoholism, unemployment, infidelity, criminality, slovenliness, and “batshit crazy” (by which I assume Athol means mental illness).  Of these, only two, alcoholism and mental illness, have any relationship to a child’s physical safety, and not always even then.  The other flaws are certainly bad examples to set for children, assuming the children are aware of them and lack any forceful countervailing influence.  More than likely, though, it is the aggrieved wife that brings her husband’s shortcomings to the children’s attention as a way of self-validation, which kind of deprives her of the moral high ground regarding bad examples.

Even so, the parenting would have to be, not just bad, but pathologically bad for single parenthood to be the preferred solution.  The generality is that children are made worse off by divorce; that you happen to know of counterexamples doesn’t mean you are smart enough to predict yourself one of them.

Is this a compelling reason for a woman (or a man, for that matter) to stay in a bad marriage?  Maybe, maybe not.  The point is that someone contemplating divorce should be fully cognizant of the tradeoff he is making:  his own happiness and well-being (possibly) for his children’s (probably).

Monday, September 19, 2011

Your Air Force In Action

From the archives of The USAFA Educator, Fall 2006

DF’s Inclusive Excellence Initiative

Col Rita Jordan, Professor and Head, Department of Management

Higher education is at a defining moment as institutions of learning look to educate students to become multiculturally proficient, informed about the human and natural world, and empowered to act responsibly and with moral courage in a fast-changing, stratified, and globally interdependent world.

Globalization is changing the face of the world, making it more competitive, both economically and intellectually.  The United States cannot expect to continue as leader if its largest pools of talent remain untapped.  Therefore, organizations are aspiring to a more heterogeneous workforce, one that enables leadership to draw upon the abilities and perspectives of all members to offer a range of creative solutions.

Higher education is responsible for producing this next generation of leaders, of all races and ethnicities, who can be agents of change and who will lead people and ideas in diverse workplaces.  Multicultural skills and knowledge now are integral to the flexible, inquisitive, and synergistic thinking that is a hallmark of an educated person.

The Association of American Colleges and Universities (AAC&U) has had a long standing interest in diversity efforts that value die contributions of all students. This initiative is known as "Inclusive Excellence." In an inclusive excellence curriculum, faculty create appropriate learning experiences that chart pathways of success for all students.  To better understand AAC&U's initiative, two key definitions are offered:

  • Diversity - individual differences (e.g., race/ethnicity, class, gender, country of origin, cultural, political, religious, or other affiliations) that can be engaged in the service of learning.
  • Inclusion - consists of an active, intentional, and on-going engagement with diversity in people, in the curriculum, and in the communities (social, cultural, intellectual, and geographical) with which individuals might connect in ways that would increase awareness, content knowledge, cognitive sophistication and empathic understanding of the complex ways individuals interact within systems and institutions.

The Dean of Faculty's Inclusive Excellence Initiative is a developmental approach which extends beyond merely increasing the number of women and minorities on faculty.  It also seeks to develop and enhance faculty understanding of the value and importance of inclusion resulting in integration of multicultural experience opportunities with course learning goals. Inclusive excellence is fundamental to DF's Learning Focused Initiative and integrally linked to USAFA's educational outcomes.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Attack of the Yalies

OneSTDV turned me on to Tiffany Alvord, whose collaboration with Kurt Hugo Schneider produced an amazingly virtuoso Taylor Swift medley.

OneSTDV thinks that while her talent is impressive, Alvord's commercial potential is limited.  I’m inclined to disagree, and for once feel like I’m getting in on the ground floor, or at least qualifying myself as an early adopter.

But here’s a question for my more pop-culture savvy readers:  is my impression correct that these kids really did come out of middle class backgrounds in Nowheresville, PA to achieve YouTube stardom, completely bypassing the studio system?  Not even Taylor Swift did that! 

(For those of you keeping score at home, I could find no evidence that Schneider is Jewish, while Sam Tsui is part Chinese and Alvord is apparently a Mormon.)

An unrelated question:  what are the copyright implications of recording a song that somebody else wrote?  Commercial performers do this all the time, but I assume they have to buy permission.  Does it matter that the song is released non-commercially?

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Considering themselves wise . . .

Robin Hanson celebrates 9-11:

In the decade since 9/11 over half a billion people have died worldwide. A great many choices could have delayed such deaths, including personal choices to smoke less or exercise more, and collective choices like allowing more immigration. And cryonics might have saved most of them.

Yet, to show solidarity with these three thousand victims, we have pissed away three trillion dollars ($1 billion per victim), and trashed long-standing legal principles. And now we’ll waste a day remembering them, instead of thinking seriously about how to save billions of others. I would rather we just forgot 9/11.

Do I sound insensitive? If so, good — 9/11 deaths were less than one part in a hundred thousand of deaths since then, and don’t deserve to be sensed much more than that fraction. If your feelings say otherwise, that just shows how full fricking far your mind has gone.

Let’s help him out:

  • Of last decade’s half-billion dead, most succumbed to natural causes and accidents.  Don’t take it personally.
  • Of those that died by direct human agency, most shared no meaningful ties of blood, culture, or nation with us.  I wish them no ill, but I haven’t the energy to feign much sympathy.
  • Of those that were Americans, most were killed by other Americans.  These may, in fact, deserve more attention than they receive; if so, we should start by reporting them honestly.

The attacks on 9-11 were especially salient because a sizeable number of our fellow countrymen were dramatically murdered by aliens on behalf of an alien ideological agenda.  That this commands special attention among Americans is pretty basic to an understanding of human nature, and if Robin’s feelings say otherwise, that just shows how full fricking far his mind has gone.

More foolishness:

I am a proud resident of Fairfax County, in the U.S. state of Virginia. Today, I want to warn my fine fellow Fairfax folk: we interact too promiscuously with outsiders! For example, we are allowed to buy things made outside Fairfax, and leave the county to travel or work. Fairfax firms can even choose outsiders as investors, employees, and suppliers . . . .

I pretty much stopped reading right there, since I long ago outgrew a taste for comparing actual human ties and sentiments with fictitious ones.  But as long as we’re playing reductio ad absurdum, let me have a go at it:

I am a proud resident of the Hanson household.  Today, I want to warn my fine fellow Hansons:  we allow outsiders too much access to our domicile.  Non-Hansons are allowed to enter at will without so much as a by-your-leave.  They consume more of family resources than they contribute, they strain the carrying capacity of the living room sofa during “What Not to Where,” and they fail to respect household social norms like flushing the toilet and not hitting others . . . .

Once we come to see our nation as an extended family, then the sentiments of ordinary Americans become a lot more understandable, perhaps even to economists.

Monday, September 12, 2011

News from Our Coming Alien Overlords

[The following is from a recently-arrived chain mail.  Snopes examines it in detail.]
"You old white people. It is your duty to die."
  • Augustin Cebada, Brown Berets:  "Go back to Boston! Go back to Plymouth Rock, Pilgrims! Get out! We are the future. You are old and tired. Go on. We have beaten you. Leave like beaten rats. You old white people. It is your duty to die ... Through love of having children, we are going to take over.”
  • Richard Alatorre, Los Angeles City Council:  "They're afraid we're going to take over the governmental institutions and other institutions. They're right. We will take them over ... We are here to stay."
  • Excelsior, the national newspaper of Mexico, "The American southwest seems to be slowly returning to the jurisdiction of Mexico without firing a single shot."
  • Professor Jose Angel Gutierrez, University of Texas; "We have an aging white America. They are not making babies. They are dying. The explosion is in our population ... I love it. They are shitting in their pants with fear. I love it."
  • Art Torres, Chairman of the California Democratic Party, "Remember 187 — proposition to deny taxpayer funds for services to non-citizens — was the last gasp of white America in California."
  • Gloria Molina, Los Angeles County Supervisor, "We are politicizing every single one of these new citizens that are becoming citizens of this country ... I gotta tell you that a lot of people are saying, "I'm going to go out there and vote because I want to pay them back."
  • Mario Obledo, California Coalition of Hispanic Organizations and California State Secretary of Health, Education and Welfare under Governor Jerry Brown, also awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Bill Clinton, "California is going to be a Hispanic state. Anyone who doesn't like it should leave."
  • Jose Pescador Osuna, Mexican Consul General , "We are practicing 'La Reconquista' in California."
  • Professor Fernando Guerra, Loyola Marymount University; "We need to avoid a white backlash by using codes understood by Latinos ..."

Are these just the words of a few extremists? Consider that we could fill up many pages with such quotes. Also, consider that these are mainstream Mexican leaders.


On February 15, 1998, the U.S. and Mexican soccer teams met at the Los Angeles Coliseum. The crowd was overwhelmingly pro-Mexican even though most lived in this country. They booed during the National Anthem and U.S. flags were held upside down. As the match progressed, supporters of the U.S. team were insulted, pelted with projectiles, punched and spat upon. Beer and trash were thrown at the U.S. players before and after the match. The coach of the U.S. team, Steve Sampson said, "This was the most painful experience I have ever had in this profession."

Did you know that immigrants from Mexico and other non-European countries can come to this country and get preferences in jobs, education, and government contracts? It's called affirmative action or racial privilege. The Emperor of Japan or the President of Mexico could migrate here and immediately be eligible for special rights unavailable for Americans of European descent. Recently, a vote was taken in the U.S. Congress to end this practice. It was defeated. Every single Democratic senator except Ernest Hollings voted to maintain special privileges for Hispanic, Asian and African immigrants. They were joined by thirteen Republicans. Bill Clinton and Al Gore have repeatedly stated that they believe that massive immigration from countries like Mexico is good. They have also backed special privileges for these immigrants.

Corporate America has signed on to the idea that minorities and third world immigrants should get special, privileged status. Some examples are Exxon, Texaco, Merrill Lynch, Boeing, Paine Weber, Starbucks and many more.

DID YOU KNOW? Did you know that Mexico regularly intercedes on the side of the defense in criminal cases involving Mexican nationals? Did you know that Mexico has NEVER extradited a Mexican national accused of murder in the U.S. in spite of agreements to do so?*  According to the L.A. Times, Orange County, California is home to 275 gangs with 17,000 members; 98% of which are Mexican and Asian. How's your county doing?

According to a New York Times article dated May 19, 1994, 20 years after the great influx of legal immigrants from Southeast Asia, 30% are still on welfare compared to 8% of households nationwide. A Wall Street Journal editorial dated December 5, 1994 quotes law enforcement officials as stating that Asian mobsters are the "greatest criminal challenge the country faces." Not bad for a group that is still under 5% of the population.

Is education important to you? Here are the words of a teacher who spent over 20 years in the Los Angeles School system. "Imagine teachers in classes containing 30-40 students of widely varying attention spans and motivation, many of whom aren't fluent in English. Educators seek learning materials likely to reach the majority of students and that means fewer words and math problems and more pictures and multicultural references."

And did you know that at the hospital these illegals cannot be turned down if they can't pay and they certainly don't pay. I saw a man on TV who took his Caucasian neighbor to an emergency room. He was slowly bleeding to death yet he had to wait for three hours for emergency treatment because the staff was busy giving prenatal treatment, cold and flu remedies, aspirin, etc., to illegals who could not speak English. They were all treated for free. When the bleeding Caucasian man's turn finally came they would not touch him until he proved that he had insurance.

Because of the overwhelming number of illegals in this country, this past year alone 84 hospitals in the Los Angeles area went out of business.

If you think there is something seriously sick going on in our country you had better write a letter to your congressman letting him know how you feel. Soon it will be too late so you might consider getting a head start and enrolling in a Spanish class.


* This is the one fact that Snopes claims the email gets wrong:  “In December 2005, the Mexican government extradited Raul Gomez García to the U.S. to stand trial in Colorado for the murder of Denver Police Officer Donald Young and the attempted murder of Officer John Bishop.”  The link is to the U. S. Embassy in Mexico.  Wikipedia gives the details:

While murdering a police officer is usually a capital offense in Colorado, on June 9, 2005, Denver District Attorney Mitch Morrisey announced that Gómez-García would be charged with second degree murder and first degree attempted murder. These charges posed a maximum of 32–96 years in prison. Morrisey justified the charges, stating, "It is my understanding that I would be prohibited from extraditing him if I sought first-degree murder charges in this case."

Thursday, September 08, 2011

Interview Tips and Tricks

I've been on three interviews now during which I have been asked a variation of this question:

The most popular variant is: "What would you do if you got behind on a project?" Not knowing the correct answer, I answer honestly: "Revisit the requirements." This is also the true answer in that I became familiar with the research to which Alice refers, although I usually wind up saying that working harder is an option if the work is sufficiently interesting.

But let me throw the question to my readers: what are interviewers expecting here? The simplistic answer is: "Sure, I'll work 14 hour days for you, such is my dedication to my work." But I'm pretty sure that's not it.

Another tricky one: having gone in to interview for a job in field X, the interviewer starts asking my thoughts on related fields Y and Z. Not knowing the correct answer, I answer (somewhat evasively) by talking about my experience in fields Y and Z to the extent I have it. If I don't, or if I'm otherwise cornered, I answer honestly: "While I will consider all offers, I believe my greatest potential lies in field X." But again let me ask my readers if they know what's being sought? This one, it seems, could go either way. On the one hand, the company might actually have work in fields Y and Z and needs employees to be flexible about their assigned tasks. On the other hand, saying that you'll do whatever sounds ingratiating and poorly specialized.

Monday, September 05, 2011

Secrets of Success

From The Pawnbroker (1964):

I guess I should object to Sol Nazerman’s assertion that the Jews don’t have a land myth; on the contrary, at 3800 years old, Zionism takes the cake for the most enduring land myth in history.

Otherwise, several things stand out:

  • Sidney Lumet made this movie in 1964.  I’m guessing that the image of a Jew operating a small independent shop in an inner city neighborhood resonated with audiences back then in a way that it doesn’t today.  Besides the fact that Gentiles are today actively discouraged from thinking of Jews at all except as yet another victim class, most Jews today have evolved beyond the “middleman minority” role.
  • As Andrew Young got himself fired for pointing out, Jewish shopkeepers were replaced in the inner city by Koreans, who were themselves replaced by Persians and Arabs.  Their experiences have much in common with one another:  a high degree of frugality; cultural insularity; and strained relations with the surrounding community.
  • Sidney Lumet gives us an unromantic view of the inner city that has more in common with The Wire than with media portrayals of “the black experience” in most of the intervening period.  It shows, not just crime, but a wide range of dysfunction including prostitution and drug addiction.  But this dysfunction, or the perception of it, is behind the negative views that middleman minorities have of most of their customers.
  • I was surprised to find nudity in this film.  The MPAA rating system wouldn’t be introduced until 1968, and the Hays Code was still in effect.  Can anybody think of instances of other mainstream films from this area that show a woman’s breasts?

Tech bleg:  I had no sooner uploaded this movie to YouTube when I received an email:

Dear Phi:

Your video, The Pawnbroker (1964) - Secrets of Success, may have content that is owned or licensed by UMG.

Wow!  How did YouTube figure this out so fast?  Could material copied from a DVD, decrypted, and edited in Windows Live Movie Maker still have metadata that would identify its origins?  Because it boggles the mind that YouTube has a computer that can recognize a particular movie scene.

Thought for the Day

Jimmy Stewart schools Lee Remick on wifely decorum.


Well said.

A possibly related article at Scragged:  Friends Don’t Let Friends Shag Feminists.