Month: April 2012

Monday

Student Loans

The student debt problem is getting more and more press . . . and more attention in Congress. The whole debate infuriates me. The federal government created this mess by throwing a ton of money at the higher education establishment, which caused tuition rates to rise astronomically over the past 25 years, so now students have to go deep in debt in order to afford it. Congress now wrings its hands and points accusing fingers at the private lenders and college admissions officers, even though the federal government put in the systemic conditions that created the situation.

You want to eliminate the student loan problem? Stop the federal government from guaranteeing the loans, stop the federal government from providing Pell grants and other forms of tuition assistance, stop the federal government from otherwise funding higher education. The price of tuition would drop through the floor, putting it in reach of everybody except the poor and near-poor.

I know, I know: That’s not fair to the poor. Well, tough. It is fair. It’s neutral, which makes it fair. And besides, there’d still be need-based private scholarships and part-time college course work while a person works a full-time job. So 20% of the population would have to struggle to get their family out of that lower 20%. That’s fine. It’d greatly lessen the burden on the middle 70%.

The more I think and read about it, incidentally, the more frustrated I get. The middle 70% are doofi. We repeatedly back politicians who cater to the top 10% and the lower 20% at the same time, all at our expense. We are the “forgotten man” … Read the rest

Saturday

Roman History

Finding myself firmly ensconced in middle age, there’s one small thing I regret: I never sat down and focused on one thing for a prolonged period. Sure, I kept my life focused on the big things: getting my professional degree, doing my job well, raising a large family, learning about my faith. But I’ve never taken a particular project and developed it over the course of years into something great.

A guy named “Mike Duncan” has done such a thing with a podcast called “The History of Rome.” If you ever listen to podcasts, and if you have any interest in Roman history, this podcast is mandatory. I just finished the 100th episode and I’m not remotely growing bored with it. Sure, I occasionally take a few weeks off and listen to something else, but I typically listen to 2-3 episodes a week, mostly while I’m walking to the office or working in my garden.

Duncan is probably in his mid-twenties (he just recently married). I’m guessing that his politics sway left and he’s a non-Christian, but that’s just a wild guess. He does a great job of not disclosing his personal biases, which I greatly appreciate, though I’m curious about how well he’ll do in this regard when he gets to Constantine. At that point, he’ll have a hard time concealing his proclivities, since Constantine is such a controversial and varied figure. Duncan’s mere selection of content should reveal oceans about his own beliefs, but maybe not, if he keeps the Christianity angle to, say, ten minutes or less.

Duncan says he spends six hours producing each podcast, not counting … Read the rest

Friday

BYCU

The Street says my Tigers charge more for beer than any other major league stadium. “Know that $214 million contract the Tigers gave slugger Prince Fielder? Well, fans are paying for it with a $2.75 hike in the price of a small beer. Granted, that small beer’s size just increased from 16 ounces to a Fielderesque 20 ounces, but that’s still an increase of more than three cents an ounce. Detroit’s “Halftime In America” just hit a wallet-sized speed bump between innings.”

But the Tigers say it’s not true. They say they even offer a $5.00 beer (12 ounces), which is virtually unheard of in the MLB today.

I doubt we’ll ever get to the bottom of it.

Well, at least I plan on never getting to the bottom of a glass there. I decline voluntary rape.

Historical Drinking Fact

“During the War of Independence, Americans drank an estimated 6.6 gallons of absolute alcohol per year–equivalent to 5.8 shot glasses of 80-proof liquor a day–for each adult fifteen or over.” Thaddeus Russell, A Renegade History of the United States. … Read the rest

Thursday

Random Quotes

“The opposite of intellect is dullness or slowness, but the opposite of wisdom is foolishness, which is far more dangerous.” Thomas Sowell

“One of the surprising privileges of intellectuals is that they are free to be scandalously asinine without harming their reputation.” Eric Hoffer

“If no one has even one percent of the knowledge currently available, not counting the vast amounts of knowledge yet to be discovered, the imposition from the top down of the notions in favor among elites, convinced of their own superior knowledge and virtue, is a formula for disaster.” Thomas Sowell

And that’s why John Dewey and his followers were and are asses: “Having the knowledge we may set hopefully at work upon a course of social invention and experimental engineering.” John Dewey. And we know modern education relies heavily on Dewey’s pioneering ideas, which is kind of like relying on retarded Lewis and Clarks to blaze the trail.

“[E]veryone wanted to be a Big Swinging Dick, even the women.” Michael Lewis, Liar’s Poker: Rising Through the Wreckage on Wall Street

“In Bakersfield, California, a Mexican strawberry picker with an income of $14,000 and no English was lent every penny he needed to buy a house for $724,000.” Michael Lewis, The Big Short

“Sufis . . . make up the majority of African Muslims.” Eliza Griswold, The Tenth Parallel

“Descartes . . . appears to have been correct in believing that our thoughts can exert a physical influence on, or at least cause a physical reaction in, our brains. We become, neurologicaly, what we think.” Nicholas Carr, The Shallows: What the Internet is Doing to Our Brains. Of … Read the rest

Wednesday

Death and Drinking Stuff

Can local regulation lead to suicide? Possibly. Click here for a disturbing description of the harassment that Andrew Wordes of Roswell, Georgia, endured. I would love to read the other side of the story, but if this piece is remotely balanced, it’s highly-disturbing. * * * * * * * Are you still a fan of the 21-year-old drinking age? Problem is, repression of things natural result in twisted eruptions. The most recent: teens drinking hand sanitizer to get drunk. Let the kids get blown up in some pointless war but deny them a beer. When you officially condone such idiocy, death by drinking hand sanitizer is the kind of idiocy you get. * * * * * * * Have I ever mentioned my idea of a drinking permit? It’d function much like a driver’s permit: After a few classes on drinking responsibly, a youngster would get a permit that allows him to drink, as long as he’s with a parent or guardian. The parent would be held unaccountable if the child drinks to excess and the child would lose his permit and not be allowed to drink until age 21. If the child drinks responsibly, he get his full-blown drinking license upon graduation from high school. Just a thought.

Read the rest

Tuesday

Bullets

For years, Nimrod meant “mighty hunter.” But then Looney Tunes used it to refer to a dumb person in an Elmer Fudd episode of Bugs Bunny. Since then, nimrod means stupid. Link. * * * * * * * Can you trust or believe any mainstream economists? Sure, a few. You might want to start with Robert Shiller. * * * * * * * Happy birthday to my Mom. * * * * * * * Remember that St. Patrick’s Day beating of that Baltimore tourist? Well, they’ve apprehended two of the miscreants and they’ve identified two more. Maybe we’ll get the full story. I can’t imagine those fine people did all that without proper provocation. I mean, there was the Zimmerman thing brewing. Ain’t that enough? * * * * * * * Prediction: On average, the perpetrators will serve less than one year in jail for the beating. * * * * * * * Wow. You’d think Obama might consider turning it down . . . Okay, not really: “Jon Corzine — under federal and congressional investigation following accusations that the securities firm he headed illegally took clients’ funds before collapsing — is among President Obama’s top re-election campaign bundlers, raising at least $500,000, according to the campaign’s filing Friday with the Federal Election Commission.” Link. … Read the rest

Monday

notebooks.jpgFrom the Notebooks

All people suffer from what Daniel Kahneman calls a “puzzling limitation” of the mind: “our excessive confidence in what we believe we know, and our apparent inability to acknowledge the full extent of our ignorance and the uncertainty of the world we live in.” Thinking, Fast and Slow. He also writes that there are “two important facts about our minds: we can be blind to the obvious, and we are also blind to our blindness.” Part Three of Thinking is devoted to this phenomenon with such statements like this, “Our comforting conviction that the world makes sense rests on a secure foundation: our almost unlimited ability to ignore our ignorance.”

These things resonate with me, no doubt because I am fan of Nassim Taleb, whose work relies heavily on the psychological advances of Kahneman and others of the skeptical ilk.

They also resonate with me because I love the way it turns the sword of skepticism on science itself. Science has historically been the bane of religion: by pointing out “scientific facts,” the sciences purported to replace the need for God and to debunk religious ideas and replace with them with “healthy skepticism” toward all things metaphysical.

But there have always been thinkers (beginning with the atheist (or agnostic?) David Hume) who have pointed out that science doesn’t know anything either. The type of extreme skepticism reflected in the thought of Hume and Karl Popper have long been derided by Christians because their skepticism strikes at many things that Christianity holds dear.

The tension between Christianity and these extreme skeptics is unfortunate. Sure, Christianity and skepticism have historically been foes, but … Read the rest