Archive for March, 2008
28 Mar 2008

Study Shows No Problem With Leftwing College Bias

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Campaign contributions by faculty and administrators at American colleges and universities routinely show a preference for democrat candidates in the high 90 percentages. Leftwing crazies and convicted terrorists have no problem being hired as faculty members, but a speech by a visiting member of the Bush Administration is typically a cause célèbre resulting in angry petitions and demonstrations.

“Who cares?” says Inside Higher Education, we have a study demonstrating that American higher education is a complete waste of time and has virtually no intellectual impact whatsoever.

We also know that when someone gets to frame the questions, choose the methodology, and select the data, he can “prove” anything he wants to prove.

One of the key arguments made by David Horowitz and his supporters in recent years is that a left-wing orientation among faculty members results in a lack of curricular balance, which in turn leads to students being indoctrinated rather than educated. The argument is probably made most directly in a film much plugged by Horowitz: “Indoctrinate U.”

A study that will appear soon in the journal PS: Political Science & Politics accepts the first part of the critique of academe and says that it’s true that the professoriate leans left. But the study — notably by one Republican professor and one Democratic professor — finds no evidence of indoctrination. Despite students being educated by liberal professors, their politics change only marginally in their undergraduate years, and that deflates the idea that cadres of tenured radicals are somehow corrupting America’s youth — or scaring them into adopting new political views.

28 Mar 2008

Earliest Known Sound Recording

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David Giovannoni displays phonoautogram

The New York Times reports on recent research in the history of audio recording demonstrating that the basic principle used by Thomas Edison in his phonograph was previously known and understood. Edison’s genius consisted of taking these kinds of ideas and making them practically useful, thus turning them into commercial products.

For more than a century, since he captured the spoken words “Mary had a little lamb” on a sheet of tinfoil, Thomas Edison has been considered the father of recorded sound. But researchers say they have unearthed a recording of the human voice, made by a little-known Frenchman, that predates Edison’s invention of the phonograph by nearly two decades.

The 19th-century phonautograph, which captured sounds visually but did not play them back, has yielded a discovery with help from modern technology.

The 10-second recording of a singer crooning the folk song “Au Clair de la Lune” was discovered earlier this month in an archive in Paris by a group of American audio historians. It was made, the researchers say, on April 9, 1860, on a phonautograph, a machine designed to record sounds visually, not to play them back. But the phonautograph recording, or phonautogram, was made playable — converted from squiggles on paper to sound — by scientists at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in Berkeley, Calif.

“This is a historic find, the earliest known recording of sound,” said Samuel Brylawski, the former head of the recorded-sound division of the Library of Congress, who is not affiliated with the research group but who was familiar with its findings. The audio excavation could give a new primacy to the phonautograph, once considered a curio, and its inventor, Édouard-Léon Scott de Martinville, a Parisian typesetter and tinkerer who went to his grave convinced that credit for his breakthroughs had been improperly bestowed on Edison.

Scott’s device had a barrel-shaped horn attached to a stylus, which etched sound waves onto sheets of paper blackened by smoke from an oil lamp. The recordings were not intended for listening; the idea of audio playback had not been conceived. Rather, Scott sought to create a paper record of human speech that could later be deciphered.

But the Lawrence Berkeley scientists used optical imaging and a “virtual stylus” on high-resolution scans of the phonautogram, deploying modern technology to extract sound from patterns inscribed on the soot-blackened paper almost a century and a half ago. The scientists belong to an informal collaborative called First Sounds that also includes audio historians and sound engineers.

Read the whole thing.

Mp3 link

27 Mar 2008

Daily Leftwing Misinformation: “Blackwater Fever Named for US Company”

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The leftwing Inter Press Service (“Journalism and Communication for Global Change!”) is peddling an anti-US propaganda meme, which ignorant leftist blogs like Think Progress are eager to lap up.

The reality is that blackwater fever is a term for a commonly fatal and very long known complication of malaria, hemoglobinuria, a condition in which the destruction of red blood cells by the malaria parasites floods the victim’s urine with hemoglobin, causing it to appear dark-red or black, producing the name “blackwater fever.”

Iraqi doctors in al-Anbar province warn of a new disease they call “Blackwater” that threatens the lives of thousands. The disease is named after Blackwater Worldwide, the U.S. mercenary company operating in Iraq.

“This disease is a severe form of malarial infection caused by the parasite plasmodium falciparum, which is considered the worst type of malarial infection,” Dr. Ali Hakki from Fallujah told IPS. “It is one of the complications of that infection, and not the ordinary picture of the disease. Because of its frequent and severe complications, such as Blackwater fever, and its resistance to treatment, P. falciparum can cause death within 24 hours.”

27 Mar 2008

For Liberals, Charity Begins and Ends at the Legislature

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George Will discusses the liberal approach to charity: “Let’s have the government make George do it.”

Residents of Austin, home of Texas’s government and flagship university, have very refined social consciences, if they do say so themselves, and they do say so, speaking via bumper stickers. Don R. Willett, a justice of the state Supreme Court, has commuted behind bumpers proclaiming “Better a Bleeding Heart Than None at All,” “Practice Random Acts of Kindness and Senseless Beauty,” “The Moral High Ground Is Built on Compassion,” “Arms Are For Hugging,” “Will Work (When the Jobs Come Back From India),” “Jesus Is a Liberal,” “God Wants Spiritual Fruits, Not Religious Nuts,” “The Road to Hell Is Paved With Republicans,” “Republicans Are People Too — Mean, Selfish, Greedy People” and so on. But Willett thinks Austin subverts a stereotype: “The belief that liberals care more about the poor may scratch a partisan or ideological itch, but the facts are hostile witnesses.”

Sixteen months ago, Arthur C. Brooks, a professor at Syracuse University, published “Who Really Cares: The Surprising Truth About Compassionate Conservatism.” The surprise is that liberals are markedly less charitable than conservatives.

If many conservatives are liberals who have been mugged by reality, Brooks, a registered independent, is, as a reviewer of his book said, a social scientist who has been mugged by data. They include these findings:

Although liberal families’ incomes average 6 percent higher than those of conservative families, conservative-headed households give, on average, 30 percent more to charity than the average liberal-headed household ($1,600 per year vs. $1,227).

Conservatives also donate more time and give more blood.

Residents of the states that voted for John Kerry in 2004 gave smaller percentages of their incomes to charity than did residents of states that voted for George Bush.

Bush carried 24 of the 25 states where charitable giving was above average.

In the 10 reddest states, in which Bush got more than 60 percent majorities, the average percentage of personal income donated to charity was 3.5. Residents of the bluest states, which gave Bush less than 40 percent, donated just 1.9 percent.

People who reject the idea that “government has a responsibility to reduce income inequality” give an average of four times more than people who accept that proposition.

Brooks demonstrates a correlation between charitable behavior and “the values that lie beneath” liberal and conservative labels. Two influences on charitable behavior are religion and attitudes about the proper role of government. …

Reviewing Brooks’s book in the Texas Review of Law & Politics, Justice Willett notes that Austin — it voted 56 percent for Kerry while he was getting just 38 percent statewide — is ranked by the Chronicle of Philanthropy as 48th out of America’s 50 largest cities in per capita charitable giving. Brooks’s data about disparities between liberals’ and conservatives’ charitable giving fit these facts: Democrats represent a majority of the wealthiest congressional districts, and half of America’s richest households live in states where both senators are Democrats.

While conservatives tend to regard giving as a personal rather than governmental responsibility, some liberals consider private charity a retrograde phenomenon — a poor palliative for an inadequate welfare state and a distraction from achieving adequacy by force, by increasing taxes. Ralph Nader, running for president in 2000, said: “A society that has more justice is a society that needs less charity.” Brooks, however, warns: “If support for a policy that does not exist . . . substitutes for private charity, the needy are left worse off than before. It is one of the bitterest ironies of liberal politics today that political opinions are apparently taking the place of help for others.”

In 2000, brows were furrowed in perplexity because Vice President Al Gore’s charitable contributions, as a percentage of his income, were below the national average: He gave 0.2 percent of his family income, one-seventh of the average for donating households. But Gore “gave at the office.” By using public office to give other people’s money to government programs, he was being charitable, as liberals increasingly, and conveniently, understand that word.

26 Mar 2008

CEO’s Gift to College Has String Attached

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Charlotte Observer (3/23):

As a college student in Chapel Hill, John Allison stumbled across a collection of essays by Ayn Rand and was hooked by her philosophy of self-interest and limited government. As he rose over the decades to chief executive of BB&T, one of the country’s leading regional banks, Rand remained his muse.

He’s trying to replicate that encounter through the charitable arm of his Winston-Salem-based company, which since 1999 has awarded more than $28 million to 27 colleges to support the study of capitalism from a moral perspective. But on at least 17 of those campuses, including UNC Charlotte, N.C. State and Johnson C. Smith University, the gifts come with an unusual stipulation: Rand’s novel, “Atlas Shrugged,” is included in a course as required reading.

The schools’ agreements have drawn criticism from some faculty, who say it compromises academic integrity. In higher education, the power to decide course content is supposed to rest with professors, not donors. Debate about the gifts, which arose at UNCC this month, illustrates tensions that exist over corporate influence on college campuses.

UNCC received its $1 million gift pledge in 2005, but details about the “Atlas Shrugged” requirement came to light as the school dedicated an Ayn Rand reading room March 12.

“It’s going to make us look like a rinky-dink university,” UNCC religious studies professor Richard Cohen said Thursday after UNCC Chancellor Phil Dubois told the faculty council about the gift. “It’s like teaching the Bible as a requirement.”

Dubois, who learned of the book requirement this month, says it was ill-advised. He may ask Allison to reconsider it, he told faculty.

Allison has been surprised that the gifts can generate controversy. He says he simply wants students exposed to the late author’s ideas, which he believes the academic community has largely ignored. He welcomes opposing ideas.

He also points out that the schools approached the foundation, not the other way around.

Yale bent over backwards (as it were) to negotiate a deal allowing the administration to save face while accepting an alumni gift to endow a program of Gay Studies amounting to virtual advocacy. Ayn Rand’s philosophic views are hardly a less legitimate subject for academic study.

25 Mar 2008

Staring into the Abyss

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Und wenn du lange in einen Abgrund blickst, blickt der Abgrund auch in dich hinein. (And when you stare long into the Abyss, the Abyss looks also into you.)

Friedrich Nietzsche, Jenseits von Gut und Böse (Beyond Good and Evil), 4:146


25 Mar 2008

A Standard of Perfection

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Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Ladin neglected to go down to the county courthouse and file a signed and notarized partnership agreement. Instead, Iraq’s government covertly supplied funding and weapons and provided training facilities, medical treatment, and sanctuary to individual terrorist leaders and to a confusing array of variously named and affiliated terrorist groups.

Deniability is, of course, precisely why governments, like that of the former Baathist regime of Iraq, employ surrogate non-state actors as instruments of violence against Western states. If Iraq attacked the United States openly, the legitimacy of a full-scale US military response would have been unquestioned. Because actual attacks are committed by a handful of individuals affiliated with obscure jihadist entities, leftwing members of the US Intelligence Community always find themselves conveniently able to maintain that no definitive proof linking a sponsoring state like Iraq is available.

Michael Tanji explains how the game is played.

There is perhaps no clearer example of why the U.S. intelligence community has such a serious credibility problem than the recently released report on the relationship between Saddam Hussein’s Iraq and terrorist groups. Media outlets friendly to the meme that there was no such connection were leaked a copy of the report and latched on to the statement that there was no “smoking gun” linking Saddam and al-Qaeda. Clearly, however, none of those reporters bothered to actually read the report or ask any critical questions.

Anyone with a basic knowledge of Islamic terrorism who read the early headlines and then read the report cannot help but come away with a severe case of cognitive dissonance. Iraq was a state sponsor of terrorism and had we not gone to war with Iraq after 9/11, it would still be a focal point in our fight against Islamic terror. That Saddam and bin Laden never shook hands–presumably the only “smoking gun” that the most obtuse analysts of this subject would accept–is hardly the point. …

Nothing illustrates this more clearly than documents from Saddam’s own intelligence service, which confirm that the regime was funding the group Egyptian Islamic Jihad in the early 1990s. Led by Ayman al Zawahiri, the EIJ eventually morphed into what most observers call “core” al Qaeda. Zawahiri became al Qaeda’s second in command when al Qaeda was formed in the late 1980s. Saying Iraq was not supporting al Qaeda, when there was no meaningful distinction between the EIJ and al Qaeda, strains credulity.

Therein lies the problem: this report–and every assessment dealing with intelligence or national security matters–is crafted with such extreme precision in an impossible quest to be “right” that they end up being absurdly wrong. This quest for false precision skews our understanding of very clear and simple truths. This is part of the reason why so many policymakers of all political persuasions hold intelligence in such disdain. The books and articles that document Saddam’s relationship with terrorist groups that were published before this report was issued are numerous and draw largely the same conclusions that this review of classified material shows. Secrets are only valuable if they tell you something meaningful that you didn’t already know.

This is a problem that is endemic in the intelligence community and particularly bad in agencies that have taken a beating in recent years for providing incomplete information about the threat posed by Iraq’s WMD programs. To compensate, agencies caveat their work to the point that ten different people reading the same report will come away with at least nine different interpretations of the report’s findings. By not making unambiguous calls about what is known and more importantly what is unknown, intelligence agencies don’t serve their consumers; they confuse and infuriate them.

Ambiguity, a permanent feature of Intelligence, becomes in the hands of the sophists of the Intelligence Community’s anti-Bush establishment a very effective tool for undermining policy. By utilizing a 100% standard of certainty, requiring unimpeachable and totally disinterested first-hand witnesses of excellent character, and clear documentary evidence, it becomes possible to exculpate both pre-2003 Iraq and today’s Iran of any role in terrorism or efforts to acquire WMD at all, and thereby to delegitimize the Bush Administration’s casus belli.

25 Mar 2008

Google Interviews

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Google is a prestigious company, pays well, has terrific benefits, pampers employees with perqs, and (back when the market was moving in the right direction) had highly attractive stock options to pass out. Information Technology professionals are consequently very eager to apply for openings at Google, but Google insiders are notoriously egomanaical and capricious, and even fewer job interviews than usual seem to end favorably when Google is the prospective employer.

So notorious is the “rejected by Google” experience, that it seems a new literary genre (kind of in the spirit of the satires of Martial) describing “How I Blew my Google Interview” has been identified by Henry Blodget.

Hat tip to Karen Myers.

25 Mar 2008

Times Reports Global Warming Skepticism

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Is it possible? Here’s the New York Times actually reporting without derision scientific questioning of the responsibility of Anthropogenic Global Warming for an observed instance of change in the natural world.

In the scientific equivalent of the board game Clue, teams of biologists have been sifting spotty evidence and pointing to various culprits in the widespread vanishing of harlequin frogs.

The amphibians, of the genus Atelopus — actually toads despite their common name — once hopped in great numbers along stream banks on misty slopes from the Andes to Costa Rica. After 20 years of die-offs, they are listed as critically endangered by conservation groups and are mainly seen in zoos.

It looked as if one research team was a winner in 2006 when global warming was identified as the “trigger” in the extinctions by the authors of a much-cited paper in Nature. The researchers said they had found a clear link between unusually warm years and the vanishing of mountainside frog populations.

The “bullet,” the researchers said, appeared to be a chytrid fungus that has attacked amphibian populations in many parts of the world but thrives best in particular climate conditions. …

Other researchers have been questioning that connection. Last year, two short responses in Nature questioned facets of the 2006 paper. In the journal, Dr. Pounds and his team said the new analyses in fact backed their view that “global warming contributes to the present amphibian crisis,” but avoided language saying it was “a key factor,” as they wrote in 2006.

Now, in the March 25 issue of PLoS Biology, another team argues that the die-offs of harlequins and some other amphibians reflect the spread and repeated introductions of the chytrid fungus. They question the analysis linking the disappearances to climate change. …

“There is so much we still do not know!” David B. Wake, a biologist at the University of California, Berkeley, wrote in an e-mail note after reading the new paper. The origin of the fungus and the way it kills amphibians remain unknown, he said, and there are ample mysteries about why it breaks out in certain places and times and not others.

Ah! but here we go, wait for it, here comes the Times’ conclusion:

Ross A. Alford, a tropical biologist at James Cook University in Townsville, Australia, said such scientific tussles, while important, could be a distraction, particularly when considering the uncertain risks attending global warming.

“Arguing about whether we can or cannot already see the effects,” he said, “is like sitting in a house soaked in gasoline, having just dropped a lit match, and arguing about whether we can actually see the flames yet, while waiting to see if maybe it might go out on its own.”

25 Mar 2008

US in Trouble?

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Jane’s Information Group launched last month a new intelligence service providing “Country Risk Ratings” evaluating the stability of 232 countries, non-contiguous territories and de facto independent political entities on the basis of two dozen security factors.

The London Times reports that the US failed to make the top cut, coming in as number 22. Vatican City was at the top of the list. And Labour Britain (7) beat out Switzerland (17).

Switzerland lost points for some sort of deficiency in “social achievements,” presumably meaning it didn’t have enough Socialism.

The US did so poorly because of “the proliferation of small arms owned by Americans” and “the threat posed by the flow of drugs across the Mexican border.”

What a bunch of Euro-wussies they’ve got at Jane’s! These are the guys assessing the merits of different weapons systems?

Americans are safer than Europeans precisely because we own guns, and can in an emergency shoot the criminal, repel the invasion, or overthrow the government. Sophisticated Americans, particularly those of us who were at Woodstock, look upon recreational drugs as “the doors of perception,” or an alternative form of weekend conviviality, not as a threat to national security. Those Jane’s analysts really need to go over to Amsterdam and undertake some first hand research.

They don’t like guns. They don’t like drugs. The list of “security factors” was hidden behind a subscription barrier, but I suspect that sex and Rock & Roll must have been in there, too.

24 Mar 2008

Media Celebrates US Death Toll Reaching 4000

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AP (employer of terrorist photographers) gleefully reports:

– A roadside bomb killed four U.S. soldiers in Baghdad on Sunday, the military said, pushing the overall American death toll in the five-year war to at least 4,000.

It’s sad, of course, that 4000 American soldiers lost their lives over the course of five years in Iraq, but… the casualties entailed by current US military operations are, in fact, very small compared to losses in countless individual battles in previous wars. Grant lost 7000 men in twenty minutes at Cold Harbor, June 3, 1864, at a time when the US population was roughly one tenth the size of today’s. Imagine 70,000 casualties in twenty minutes.

In WWII, the Battle of Iwo Jima lasted under six weeks, not five years, and the US conquest of that small island cost 7000 Americans lives.

source: Congresssional Report

24 Mar 2008

Victor Davis Hanson Sees Right Through Obama’s Speech

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A number of commentators on the Right (mostly chicks) responded to Obama’s speech with adulation.

But curmudgeonly old Victor Davis Hanson does not get misty quite so easily. In fact, he is enough of a spoilsport to undermine all those rapturous cries of admiration from the establishment punditocracy by remarking, sotto voce, that the Emperor Obama’s rhetorical wardrobe of political change amounts to no clothes at all.

The latest polls reflecting Obama’s near-collapse should serve as a morality tale of John Edwards’s two Americas — the political obtuseness of the intellectual elite juxtaposed to the common sense of the working classes.

For some bizarre reason, Obama aimed his speech at winning praise from National Public Radio, the New York Times, and Harvard, and solidifying an already 90-percent solid African-American base — while apparently insulting the intelligence of everyone else.

Indeed, the more op-eds and pundits praised the courage of Barack Obama, the more the polls showed that there was a growing distrust that the eloquent and inspirational candidate has used his great gifts, in the end, to excuse the inexcusable.

The speech and Obama’s subsequent interviews neither explained his disastrous association with Wright, nor dared open up a true discussion of race — which by needs would have to include, in addition to white racism, taboo subjects ranging from disproportionate illegitimacy and drug usage to higher-than-average criminality to disturbing values espoused in rap music and unaddressed anti-Semitism. We learn now that Obama is the last person who wants to end the establishment notion that a few elite African Americans negotiate with liberal white America over the terms of grievance and entitlement — without which all of us really would be transracial persons, in which happiness and gloom hinge, and are seen to do so, on one’s own individual success or failure.

Instead there were the tired platitudes, evasions, and politicking. The intelligentsia is well aware of how postmodern cultural equivalence, black liberation theory, and moral relativism seeped into Obama’s speech, and thus was not offended by an “everybody does it” and “who’s to judge?/eye of the beholder” defense. But to most others the effect was Clintonian. Somehow Obama could not just say,

There is nothing to be offered for Rev. Wright except my deepest apologies for not speaking out against his venom far earlier. We in the African-American community know better than anyone the deleterious effects of racist speech, and so it is time for Rev. Wright and myself to part company, since we have profoundly different views of both present- and future-day America.

The more the pundits gushed about the speech, the more the average Americans thought, “Wait a minute — did he just say what I thought he said?” It’s not lost on Joe Q. Public that Obama justified Wright’s racism by offering us a “landmark” speech on race that:

(1) Compared Wright’s felony to the misdemeanors of his grandmother, Geraldine Ferraro, the Reagan Coalition, corporate culture, and the kitchen sink.

(2) Established the precedent that context excuses everything, in the sense that what good a Wright did (or an Imus did) in the past outweighs any racist outburst of the present.

(3) Claimed that the voice of the oppressed is not to be judged by the same rules of censure as the dominant majority that has no similar claim on victim status.

What is happening, ever so slowly, is that the public is beginning to realize that it knows even less after the speech than it did before about what exactly Obama knew (and when) about Wright’s racism and hatred.

Even elites will wake up to the fact that they’ve been had, in a sense, once they deconstruct the speech carefully and fathom that their utopian candidate just may have managed to destroy what was once a near-certain Democratic sweep in the fall.

Read the whole thing.

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