Sunday, November 25, 2012

Scripture And Song Of The Week: Thanksgiving Edition

Psalm 92
1: It is a good thing to give thanks unto the Lord, and to sing praises unto thy name, O Most High:

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Trying The Same Thing That Didn't Work, Only Harder

Wayne Lewis, a survivor of the Dust Bowl and Great Depression discusses the attitude that many during the Depression possessed:
“We always had hope that next year was gonna be better. We learned slowly, and what didn’t work, you tried it harder the next time. You didn’t try something different. You just tried harder, the same thing that didn’t work.”
That attitude seems remarkably similar to that of South Dakota's K-12 education community, a group that continually trusts the legislature and the governor to provide adequate funding. Every year, school boards and teachers get the same negative results. Each year, they continue to try the same methods that didn't work during the previous legislative session.

Most importantly, like the Dust Bowl farmers, the education community shows it knows how to work hard.; they work harder to use the same methods on the same legislators every year.

A Minor Musing About Waste And Stupidity

Yeah, I'm gonna be the old curmudgeon who complains that things were better back in the day.

Dana Gunderson notes, "Today, we’re discarding 50% more food in the U.S. than we did in the 1970s." Gunderson elaborates,
People all around the world are investing time, land, water, energy, and loads of other resources to grow, store, process, and transport food, only for nearly half of that food to be thrown away.  Those potatoes on a breakfast platter get shrugged at because of a low-carb diet.  The cheese, for which the kid screamed bloody murder, only gets one bite before that kid is off to play again.  The chips remain at the bottom of the nacho plate because who can really eat that many chips.

In the United States today, about 40 percent of all food goes uneaten.  Each year Americans are throwing away the equivalent of $165 billion in uneaten food, making food the single largest component of solid waste in our landfills. This costs the average family of four between $1350 and $2275 annually.
Maybe there's not connection, but I'm going to blame the increased promotion of Black Friday. The shopping day that's designed to appeal to Americans' irrationality:
The big problem with Black Friday, from a behavioral economist's perspective, is that every incentive a consumer could possibly have to participate — the promise of "doorbuster" deals on big-ticket items like TVs and computers, the opportunity to get all your holiday shopping done at once — is either largely illusory or outweighed by a disincentive on the other side. It's a nationwide experiment in consumer irrationality, dressed up as a cheerful holiday add-on.

As Dan Ariely explains in his book, Predictably Irrational, "We all make the same types of mistakes over and over, because of the basic wiring of our brains."

This applies to shopping on the other 364 days of the year, too. But on Black Friday, our rational decision-making faculties are at their weakest, just as stores are trying their hardest to maximize your mistakes.
There's something perversely American about turning a day of thanks into a day of waste and then following that debacle with a day of stupid consumption. The combination certainly appeals to lesser angels of our nature.

Monday, November 19, 2012

We Need More Collective Nouns To Identify Political Group

Conor Friedersdorf creates a list of collective nouns to add to one's political vocabulary. I note that none of the groups are associated with "pride."
An axis of wonks.
A muzak of talking heads.
A friedman of taxi drivers.
A scandal of senators.
A capra of filibusters.
A cabinet of secretaries.
A forge (or jones) of Smithsonians.
A molestation of TSA agents.
A hospice of Supreme Court justices.
A stipend of interns.
A deceit of talking points.
A bordello of lobbyists.
A belligerence of neocons.
An obama of drone casualties.
A cyclotron of press secretaries.
A euphemism of atrocities.
An ostrich of climate-change skeptics.
A david gergen of David Gergens.
A cirrhosis of happy hours.
A per diem of fundraisers.
A peroxide of Fox News anchors.
A slumlord of rent-control advocates.
A kabuki of debates.
A baldwin of Romneys.
"A bordello of lobbyists descended on Pierre" does have a nice ring to it. So does "An obama of drone casualties has created a euphemism of atrocities."

Quotation Of The Day: We Iz All Dum Edition

At least according to Professor Gerald Crabtree:
"A hunter-gatherer who did not correctly conceive a solution to providing food or shelter probably died, along with his or her progeny, whereas a modern Wall Street executive that made a similar conceptual mistake would receive a substantial bonus and be a more attractive mate. Clearly, extreme selection is a thing of the past."

Based on the rate at which harmful mutations in our genes happen, and the particular susceptibility of those genes related to intellectual and emotional function, Prof Crabtree calculated that humans "reached a peak" 2,000 to 6,000 years ago.

"I would wager that if an average citizen from Athens of 1000 BC were to appear suddenly among us, he or she would be among the brightest and most intellectually alive of our colleagues and companions, with a good memory, a broad range of ideas, and a clear-sighted view of important issues," he said
I'm unsure if I agree with Crabtree, but I will recommend this article to the next student who claims that my grading procedures hurt his self-esteem.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

I Can't Wait To Hear These Scenarios When I Judge Policy Debate This Weekend

I love listening to disaster scenarios that high school policy debaters run.  This one will be new:

 This one is based on a classic:

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Quotation Of The Day: Republican Party Perception And Reality Edition

From this Daniel Larison post at The American Conservative:
Regardless, it’s also important to understand that those conservatives interested in a political vision of “rugged individualism, privacy, [and] minimal government” had no major party candidate available in this election. The younger cohorts of voters have never encountered a Republican ticket that supported these things in practice. When it has been in power, the Republican Party they know best has been the fiscally irresponsible, welfare state-expanding party of unnecessary wars, torture, and intrusive and illegal anti-terrorist measures. The modern Republican Party is the party of the entitlement status quo for current beneficiaries, the national security state, and an ever-expanding military budget. That is hardly promoting “rugged individualism, privacy, and minimal government.”
As I have repeatedly said, I am troubled by the "unnecessary wars, torture, and intrusive and illegal anti-terrorist measures . . . the national security state, and an ever-expanding military budget." Equally troubling is the fact many of the current entitlements go to corporate welfare which Republicans nearly unanimously support.

I don't think Democrats have all or even most, of the answers, but perpetual war, torture, the expanded security state, and corporate welfare are a noxious mix that prevent me from ever seriously considering myself a Republican.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Quotation Of The Day: Why People Shouldn't Drink And Blog Edition

I have to blame alcohol for this Brad Ford post trying to explain why he believes "racial blending" to be evil and why those who question his word choice and ideas are Nazis. There's no logical reason a sober person could have for writing this post. It's so convoluted that it can't be taken as satire:
My observation that “Gay sex will prosper, racial blending will see a surge, women will be prominent in the consumer-driven workforce” was intended as a statement of fact, not of bias.   Do you really think that Americans are better educated or more intelligent than the Germans who fell for Hitler?
Social engineering doesn’t just happen by itself.  There also has to be effective enforcement.  The Nazis had the Gestapo and Goebbels–all public “officials”.  South Dakota has its left-wing blogs with conservative Republicans and liberal democrats now freely mingling.  A perverse circle jerk where demagoguery and political correctness hold court, unashamed.  Hello more white guilt and censorship.  Goodbye freedom of discussion.  Goodbye freedom.
There are no words to describe the total lack of coherent thought in these paragraphs or the whole post. Male, female, and transgendered Americans have all contributed to pernicious consumerism. Who these people have sex with is not a commercial question unless Ford is contending that all Americans are prostitutes. The connection that any of those issues has with one's race or ethnicity is even more disconcerting

Further, how does the fact that Democrats and Republicans "mingle" on blogs lead to an end of the "freedom of discussion"? How does questioning what Ford meant by "racial blending" in his earlier post or this post constitute censorship? Cory Heidelberger, Troy Jones, Pat Powers, and I all claimed that Ford has the right to express his confused and frightening racial views. Likewise, we all have the right to strongly assert our belief that those views should not become part of South Dakota's political mainstream.

Finally, comparing one's opponents to Nazis and using crude sexual metaphors to describe the consensus concerning the expression of confusing and disturbing ideas doesn't merit rebuttal. It simply proves that the person expressing those ideas has nothing important to say.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Scripture And Song Of The Week: Jeremiah Edition

Jeremiah 22

1 This is what the Lord says: “Go down to the palace of the king of Judah and proclaim this message there: 2 ‘Hear the word of the Lord to you, king of Judah, you who sit on David’s throne—you, your officials and your people who come through these gates. 3 This is what the Lord says: Do what is just and right. Rescue from the hand of the oppressor the one who has been robbed. Do no wrong or violence to the foreigner, the fatherless or the widow, and do not shed innocent blood in this place.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Person Who Helps Determine What Goes In Nation's Textbooks Claims People Who Voted For Obama Racist Maggotss

Given some of the hyperbolic reactions that South Dakotans have had to Obama's re-election, (sorry, I can't bring myself to link to Howie's site to back up my point about hyperbole) one should have expected that Texas would do it much bigger. Hardin County Republican treasurer Peter Morrison wants to separate from the Untied States:
"Let each go her own way," he writes, demanding an "amicable divorce" from the U.S. and from the "maggots" who re-elected President Obama.

Evoking the history of Confederate soldiers who refused to surrender after Gettysburg, Morrison, 33, calls for Texans to fight "in hopes that Providence might shine upon our cause."

Morrison is particularly angry at Asian-Americans and Hispanics who backed Obama, accusing them of voting on an "ethnic basis."

"'They' re-elected Obama," Morrison wrote. "He is their president."
Given that I don't know who chairs the Democratic or Republican parties locally, I really shouldn't care what a racist Texan writes in a "race-heavy newsletter."

On the other hand, "Morrison was chosen by former State Board of Education Chairman Don McLeroy to help screen Texas public school textbooks."

It's taken as an article of faith in the education community that Texas has a disproportionate impact on the textbooks used the nation's schools. Even Fox News says so:
Since Texas is the second largest consumer of textbooks in the U.S., publishers often create a book that meets Texas standards and then sell the same version to school districts across the country.
I hope Dr. Blanchard has posts some back up material to help South Dakota history teachers remind students that the Civil War was about slavery and nothing else. I have no desire to parse the sentence: "Everyone who voted for President Obama is a maggot." I don't want to use that sentence as an example of a metaphor either.

Morrision's ideas, however, may make my job as a debate coach easier. Last session, Representative Steve Hickey pushed through a resolution urging schools to teach the Bible. Romans 13 poses some interesting questions about succession or "separation."
1 Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. 2 Consequently, whoever rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves.
The Bible also has that pesky little reminder that everyone is created in God's image; it's tough to see how people created in God's image and who did their duty and voted are "maggots," but I don't live in Texas and I'm not a Republican.
Read more here:

Some Musings About Reactions To Obama's Election

First, I want to thank Cory, Pat Powers, and Troy Jones for dealing with the vile bilge that Brad Ford published on Gordon Howie's website a few days ago. The responses are here, here, and here. (Troy's take downs are in the comments.)

I am running behind the past few days, and I have no desire to get to Howie's site, but Cory pointed to separate Ford and Randazzo posts that express dismay over recent political results.

If I may be so presumptions, allow me to off some scriptural advice to Mssrs. Ford and Randazzo.  First, remember that politics is an earthly thing, and believers should not set store in earthly things. From Colossians 3:
3 Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. 2 Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things.
If one needs red-letter confirmation of that fact, I think that Jesus' parable in Matthew 7 will make the same point:

24 Therefore whosoever heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them, I will liken him unto a wise man, which built his house upon a rock: 25 And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell not: for it was founded upon a rock. 26 And every one that heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them not, shall be likened unto a foolish man, which built his house upon the sand: 27 And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell: and great was the fall of it.
That whole thing about the 47% shouldn't be a problem. Believers have enough of their own problems to worry about. Philippians 2 points out:
12 Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed—not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence—continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, 13 for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose. 14 Do everything without grumbling or arguing, 15 so that you may become blameless and pure, “children of God without fault in a warped and crooked generation.”[c] Then you will shine among them like stars in the sky 16 as you hold firmly to the word of life. And then I will be able to boast on the day of Christ that I did not run or labor in vain
Working out salvation should take a whole lot of time. Besides, Brad and Ed, all of this whining about Obama's victory makes it easy to pull out those other verses from Matthew 7. You know the ones I mean, don't you guys?
5. Thou hypocrite, first cast out the beam out of thine own eye; and then shalt thou see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy brother's eye. . . . . 21 Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven. 22 Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? 23 And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.
Oh, by the way on that 47% point, I know Flannery O'Connor was a woman and all, but the conclusions her short story "Revelation" does tie in pretty well with the preceding verses and some God-fearing folks' concerns about the 47% beneath them on the social ladder.
Until the sun slipped finally behind the tree line, Mrs. Turpin remained there with her gaze bent to them as if she were absorbing some abysmal life-giving knowledge. At last she lifted her head. There was only a purple streak in the sky, cutting through a field of crimson and leading, like an extension of the highway, into the descending dusk. She raised her hands from the side of the pen in a gesture hieratic and profound. A visionary light settled in her eyes. She saw the streak as a vast swinging bridge extending upward from the earth through a field of living fire. Upon it a vast horde of souls were tumbling toward heaven. There were whole companies of white trash, clean for the first time in their lives, and bands of black[s] . . . in white robes, and battalions of freaks and lunatics shouting and clapping and leaping like frogs. And bringing up the end of the procession was a tribe of people whom she recognized at once as those who, like herself and Claud, had always had a little of everything and the God-given wit to use it right. She leaned forward to observe them closer. They were marching behind the others with great dignity, accountable as they had always been for good order and common sense and respectable behavior. They, alone were on key. Yet she could see by their shocked and altered faces even their virtues were being burned away. She lowered her hands and gripped the rail of the hog pen, her eyes small but fixed unblinkingly on what lay ahead. In a moment the vision faded but she remained where she was, immobile.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Grading My Election Predictions

In late June, I made a few predictiosn about election day.  Here's the report card.

I predicted that Romney would win with 57%. The Secretary of State's website has Romney with 57.89%. I'll take an "A" for that prediction.

My guess on the Noem Varilek race was not as good. I predicted Noem would take in 54% if the vote. She got 57.45%. I can only give myself a "B-" on this one. The 4% difference is within most polls margin of error, but I really believed that Varilek would get 45% and that Romney would outpoll Noem by at least 2%.

I predicted that Democrats would make small gains in the state senate but still have a caucus with fewer than 10 members. David Montgomery gives the results as of late last night:
With current results at 2:30 a.m., the Democrats have picked up two seats in the state Senate, for a total of 7. That’s with the Rave-Ahlers race in District 25 still undecided, the Republican Rave ahead by 300 votes with five of 11 precincts fully reporting. Ahlers could conceivably win that and become the eighth Democratic senator.
I'll give myself an "A" for that one.

I also predicted that the sales tax initiative would fail with 60% of the vote. That prediction, like the Noem/Varilek prediction, deserves a "B-." It failed, but 56.72% is barely within traditional polls' margins of error.

My prediction on the large project development fund was, as the young'uns say, an epic fail. I was certain it would pass; it did not. I was also wrong about the HB 1234/RL16 campaign. SDEA ran a good campaign, and Governor Daugaard and his allies did not spend huge amount of cash.

Finally, I'll give myself a "B-" for predicting that Senator Thune would not be Romney's Veep pick. I incorrectly picked Portman instead of Ryan.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

How I Voted: 2012 Election Edition

For President: Gary Johnson

I'm not a Libertarian, and I firmly believe that a Libertarian majority would destroy the social safety net. Yet, Libertarians are the only party talking about the perils of the security state, the loss of civil liberties, and the need to end foreign adventuring. All three of those issues are as important as, if not more important than, the social safety net.

For House: Matt Varilek

Kristi Noem is a walking chimera who combines the Scarecrow, the Lion, and the Tin Man from the Wizard of Oz; she lacks intellect, the courage to stand up to her own party, and the heart necessary to truly make a difference for South Dakota. I believe that Varilek has intellect and heart; two out of three ain't bad. (Yes, I am channelling my inner Meat Loaf.)

For PUC: Matt McGovern

Fiegen's tenure as a member on various corporate boards of directors strikes me as asking the fox to guard the hen house.

Ballot Measures: No on all

RL 16 is a solution in search of a problem and bureaucratic nightmare waiting to come to life. IM 15 would increase South Dakota's sales tax on food and necessities, so I couldn't vote for it. I also doubted the assertion that the legislature couldn't change the funding formula to use only the new sales tax revenue to fund K-12 education and Medicaid. The other ballot measures seemed faulty.

Local Legislators: Hunhoff, Hunhoff, and Stevens.

  Jean Hunhoff voted against HB 1234. (I am close to being a single-issue voter this election.) Bernie Hunhoff has done as well as can be expected with a permanent minority. Mike Stevens seemed to understand education issues when he served on the Yankton School Board.

I'm not sure if my vote will affect any of the results, but tt's been my experience that I will live long enough to regret every vote I've cast today.

Quotation Of The Day: America's Flawed Voting System Edition

From this David Frum piece on
Almost everywhere else, elections are run by impartial voting agencies. In France, elections are the responsibility of the Ministry of the Interior, which establishes places and hours of voting, prints ballots (France still uses paper) and counts the votes. In Germany, an independent federal returning officer oversees a complex state and federal voting system. In Canada, federal elections are managed by a specialized agency, Elections Canada. Mexico, emerging from a sad history of electoral manipulation, created in the 1990s a respected independent agency, the Federal Electoral Institute. Brazil has nationwide electronic voting, producing instantaneous, uncontested results.
No voting system is perfect. Britain has faced allegations of chronic fraud in absentee balloting. As I write, Lithuanian politics are convulsed by allegations of vote buying by one of its political parties.
But here's what doesn't happen in other democracies:
Politicians of one party do not set voting schedules to favor their side and harm the other. Politicians do not move around voting places to gain advantages for themselves or to disadvantage their opponents. In fact, in almost no other country do politicians have any say in the administration of elections at all.

Monday, November 5, 2012

And One More Election Eve Musing

Tomorrow's elections will change little. The differences between Obama and Romney are minimal. The latter will make me a bit more angry when I turn on the TV, but both will continue to pursue policies that erode civil liberties and expand the security state.

In South Dakota, Kristi Noem will win re-election. She will return to the Oz of Washington DC, but unlike the Scarecrow, Lion, and Tin Man from The Wizard of Oz, she will never develop intellect, courage, and heart.Governor Daugaard and his administration will continue their war on teachers no matter what the results on RL 16 and IM 15. They will also continue to cut the state's social safety net while enhancing corporate welfare.

Since the big elections will not change anything, one must look for some small victories.  Last night, I got a call from a young lady who got the position she wanted in her sorority. She was happy, and that joy made me smile a bit. For this year, it's the only election that I'm going to care about.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Scripture And Song Of The Week: Gospel Of Mark Edition

Mark 10
23 Jesus looked around and said to his disciples, “How hard it is for the rich to enter the kingdom of God!”

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Quotation Of The Day: Being Analytical And Compassionate Edition

The human brain is unquestioningly an amazing thing. But for all its strengths, it can be pretty glitchy at times. And indeed, as new research from Case Western Reserve has revealed, our brains have two very important functions that tend to work quite well — just not simultaneously. It turns out that when we’re being analytical, the empathetic parts of our brain shuts down, and vice versa. The insight may help to explain not just the limits to human cognition, but also what may be going wrong in the brains of people with social disorders.
According to new research by Anthony Jack and his colleagues, the brain contains two different networks that are in constant tension. Normally, when we’re not called upon to think too deeply or consider moral issues, our brains idle and toggle between two cognitive modes, what are called the social network and the analytical network.
So, when we do things like math or our personal accounting, we’re pulling from the analytical network. And when we’re thinking about the needs of others or certain ethical conundrums, we draw from the social network.