Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Moorestown flags

A grand recent day for the Grand Old Flag.
(4 pics)

Monday, June 27, 2005

Oil war gaming

Do any of the following events seem particularly unlikely?
(1) Instability leading to oil company withdrawal in Nigeria.
(2) An unusually cold North American winter.
(3) A minor terrorist incident aimed at Westerners in Saudi Arabia.
(4) A terrorist strike on an oil port in Alaska.
I didn't think so, either. These were the components of a recent energy crisis simulation (like a war game) enacted by former government officials. The results: not good.

Newspaper coverage of the event was poor. Fox News seems to have done the best, both in print and on the air (.wmv). Also, Dan Markel has some interesting observations from the audience.


Yes, I got the memo. I know, I know, we're putting cover sheets on all of our TPS reports now before they go out.

Sunday, June 26, 2005

An end to the world

Billy Graham preaching today at his Crusade in Queens:
Almost everyone today understands that we're approaching a climactic moment in history. There's going to come an end to the world. Not the earth, but the world system in which we live, which the Bible calls "of Satan."
What's he talking about in the first sentence, peak oil? According to the Times,
He simply cited a few national headlines—the disappearance of an 18-year-old Alabama girl in Aruba, the three children in New Jersey found dead in a car trunk last week—as evidence that end times are near.
People have been predicting and preaching the end times for thousands of years! Can't Graham do better than this for evidence? I know I could.

Wikipedia Sunday

Here is a list of alternative, speculative and disputed theories. An old favorite: orgone theory. A new one: polywater.

How does the Wikipedia, which anyone can edit (although a few people become banned), handle controversial topics? Suprisingly well, thanks to cultural norms and a variety of dispute resolution procedures. For instance, the list above is currently being voted on for deletion, and its neutrality and factual accuracy are being "officially" disputed. It's fascinating to see democratic (e.g. voting), anarchic (e.g. open editing) and other formal and informal mechanisms result in (usually) worthwhile articles.

Thursday, June 23, 2005

Academic coercion

Lt. Gen. Roger Brady commenting on his report on allegations of religious discrimination at the Air Force Academy:
There were cases where people have said things from a lectern that were overreaching, forgetting their position, that put cadets in an untenable position, in terms of, "Gee, am I going to pass Physics 101 if I don't agree with that."
From the American Association of University Professors' Statement of Principles on Academic Freedom and Tenure:
Teachers are entitled to freedom in the classroom in discussing their subject, but they should be careful not to introduce into their teaching controversial matter which has no relation to their subject.
AAUP was dead right on this one, 65 years ago. And I thought liberal (athiest, Marxist, ...) professors were supposed to be the ones indoctrinating their students.

I'm assuming that this particular example was poorly chosen by Lt. Gen. Brady. If the Air Force Academy has such lax standards that grades in a physics class, of all subjects, could be tipped by the politics of faith, it has far more serious problems than have been reported.

Deep Springs College, June 17-20

My first visit, thanks to the Telluride Association Convention.

Gentlemen, “For what came ye into the wilderness?” Not for conventional scholastic training; not for ranch life; not to become proficient in commercial or professional pursuits for personal gain. You came to prepare for a life of service, with the understanding that superior ability and generous purpose would be expected of you, and this expectation must be justified.L.L. Nunn, February 17, 1923

Thursday, June 16, 2005


I'm sitting in the Las Vegas airport. There are slot machines. Lots of slot machines. I have four quarters in my pocket. You do the math.

I'll be at Deep Springs through Monday. I doubt I'll do any blogging there, but there'll be pictures when I get back.

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

The court of public opinion

In a 2-1 ruling, an NJ appellate court held that gay marriage is not required by the state constitution. This decision will be appealed to the state supreme court.

Steve Goldstein, who leads Garden State Equality, is happy about the ruling, reports the Inquirer.
The appellate decision means that gay marriage will not be an election-year issue, and that's a relief, Goldstein said.

"We think we're in terrible shape, both because of public opinion, which is in favor of gay marriage in New Jersey, and because of all of our years of work on this issue," he said.
If Goldstein really believes gay marriage won't be an issue in the governor's race, he's probably wrong, given the national prominence of the issue.

The candidates' strategies will be interesting. Forrester knows that emphasizing "cultural" issues is dangerous, but if he entirely neglects the cultural-conservative wing of his party he risks losing the Schundler voters. If Forrester decides to punt, will Corzine choose to take advantage of the apparent popularity of gay marriage around these parts?

No GPA left behind

Delsea Regional High School, here in South Jersey, had a problem:
"We were seeing GPAs decline, and we wondered what we could do about it," principal Joseph Sottosanti said.
So Delsea decided to stop holding midterm and final exams, instead relying on "projects, papers and presentations."

Sure, this is a great way to inflate grades. After all, finals are hard -- they force students to demonstrate knowledge of a whole year's material, not just what teacher taught last week. And some people aren't very good at high-stakes tests. But I don't see the educational purpose.

In an ideal world, kids would spend the time they would have spent cramming by doing stimulating, creative and challenging projects. Why don't I think that's happening at Delsea? The article has a photograph (not available online) that gives a hint. The caption reads: "Delsea freshman Tatyana Eades makes a piñata for a Spanish project."

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

What is the "larger strategic question"?

Very little of substance has been reported regarding Jeff Lehman's sudden resignation from Cornell's presidency. Lehman's "airplane flying to Bali" metaphor doesn't cut it.

Yesterday, in an interview with the Sun, Lehman elaborated, but only slightly:
I understand why people are hungry for more detail, but the way I've come to think of it is this: There's no small, no single incident or decision or disagreement that was pivotal or decisive. There is a larger strategic question that is still open, and I don't want to put that out in public, because I think that could distort the way that is discussed by the board. I think that it's become clear to me that I'm not the right person to lead that internal conversation in a way that is effective.
So there is, in fact, a major policy debate taking place at the highest levels. It's a shame that the major players in this -- Lehman and Peter Meinig -- aren't talking. A university ought to be run in the spirit of open debate. In the academic context, legitimacy is created by the inclusion of stakeholders, if not in decision-making then at least in decision-spectating. In other words, the Board of Trustees is not the only group with a right to discuss Cornell's future.

Openness, so strikingly absent from this weekend's news, once seemed characteristic of Lehman's presidency. It was the spirit behind his impressive Call to Engagement.

So, President Lehman and Chairman Meinig, we deserve to know: What is Cornell's "larger strategic question"?