Thursday, January 29, 2004

CNN.com - Report: Colleges unprepared for Latino students

I don't understand this CNN article. It seems like complete racist garbage, treating Hispanics as if they are different inherently from non-Hispanics.

The article mentions poverty, and how Hispanics might not be able to pay for college. Instead they tend to get jobs immediately to help 'dependents'.

Why the issue of poverty is unique to Hispanics is beyond me. What I think this is all about, rather, is having "Hispanic culture awareness days", and multicultural "training". It's a false veneer culture they are trying to create, perhaps for the purposes of indoctrination. I saw this again and again at both UCLA and NYU in working with university administration. Everything was about a "celebration of diversity", all without any real substance. Simply put, you don't need to make special cases for different people if there is no effective difference. Highlighting the difference through special programs, such as race specific advisors, or affirmative action, only divides groups and exaggerates differences.

The only issue I could imagine with Hispanics is one of language, which is common to many immigrants, but Hispanics are the largest immigrant minority. The article doesn't mention language.

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Wednesday, January 28, 2004

Iraqi govt. papers: Saddam bribed Chirac - (UPI)

If this is true, there will be consequences. But, my prediction is law suits will be settled with money.
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The Anti-Federalist Society

This is an excellent article in the Weekly Standard. It skips right past the trivial caucus/popular election system question, and addresses the issue that will really matter most for the stability of the region: how do you unify people of different ethnicities?

Clearly the American melting pot is a bad example to compare, because we started out as heterpgenous but sparse, then Europeans came and became the homogenous entity, discounting slavery. The point is that our multiculturalism arose slowly from voluntary immigration.

In Iraq, I can name at least half dozen distinct groups, and I'm no expert. The article describes how Syria, Iran, and Turkey all prefer a centralized government to keep their multi-ethnic nations together, and they would prefer this for Iraq. But the best way to keep heterogeneous groups together is to give each group power; i.e. decentralized authority with local governments having more power, is the most stable. When governments make decisions, even in a democracy, a minority will always disagree. The beauty of decentralized authority is that this minority is minimized, because decisions are made in a locally homogenous area.

This is why free markets are amazing: each decision is perfectly tailored to a homogeneous population of one: the individual. It is impossible, given appropriate limits of action, to infringe on the rights of a consumer or producer who has the power to choose in a market [which is why people suing McDonalds for being fat are ridiculous].

Hopefully this will be the outcome politically in Iraq.

On a side note, I find it interesting the way Iraq is somewhat of a dream for anyone interested in political experimentation. For instance, trade in and out of Iraq is free of tariffs, there is a flat tax, and the question of politics is only one of what kind of democracy will come about. These changes could only be made in America with great difficulty.

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Tuesday, January 27, 2004


I'm a bit worried about what will result from the Democratic Presidential Nomination when something like this happens:

"The trouble started when several supporters of fringe presidential candidate Lyndon Larouche began shouting accusations at Dean.

Franken emerged from the crowd and charged one male protester, grabbing him with a bear hug from behind and slamming him onto the floor. "

Franken then was quoted:
"I'm neutral in this race but I'm for freedom of speech, which means people should be able to assemble and speak without being shouted down."

Who does he think he is? Let me get this straight: denial of freedom of speech is bad. If someone is talking too loud, they aren't speaking fairly because others might want to say something, but not be heard. The solution: body-slam these instigators to the ground!

I love these new interpretations of the Constitution. So, let me get all their arguments together: a right to the pursuit of happiness means the government owes an income to every citizen though welfare & social security. The right to be alive means the government owes you your medical costs. Note that these two will inevitably make our government default, and are technically obligations of materials & goods, not a freedom from some oppression (the nature of the Bill of Rights).

And now the right to free speech is the right to speak but not when someone else doesn't like what you are saying. Then it's a right to be body-slammed. I suppose those darned protestors in Seattle & Genoa had it coming when they dared speak, while everyone knew it was the cops turn.

This is crazy.

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Friday, January 23, 2004

TCS: Tech Central Station - More Guns, Less Beeb?

Speaking of democracy, as per my last post, why aren't more laws made through direct democracy? I suppose most people would vote to eliminate taxes and increase entitlements, clearly an unworkable system (as our deficits prove).

The article above makes clear by, in Britain at least, people don't make laws.
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Paul Krugman: Democracy at Risk

Krugman is looking for conspiracies, and will believe his a priori impressions of the world, before believing evidence. In an article about democracy at risk from stolen elections using electronic voting, he opens:

"The disputed election of 2000 left a lasting scar on the nation's psyche. A recent Zogby poll found that even in red states, which voted for George W. Bush, 32 percent of the public believes that the election was stolen. In blue states, the fraction is 44 percent."

These must be a surprisingly large numbers to Krugman. I am not surprised at all: this fraction of the populous could easily be contained in a subset of Gore supporters. Of course the loser will be upset about losing, and look for reasons from the outside why they lost. If Gore was so much obviously better than Bush, why was the nation almost exactly split? People harp on the fact that Gore won the popular election, but forget that basically the same number of people voted for Bush.

Maybe "statisitically insignificant" is the phrase I'm looking for to describe the margin of victory. Either way, I never heard a 'mea culpa' from Gore. Of course he thinks he did everything right...

But I should add that I agree with the policy he advocates in the column. This just makes sense, and I'm surprised it isn't more obvious to those that make the voting machines:

"Representative Rush Holt has introduced a bill calling for each machine to produce a paper record that the voter verifies. The paper record would then be secured for any future audit. The bill requires that such verified voting be ready in time for the 2004 election — and that districts that can't meet the deadline use paper ballots instead. And it also requires surprise audits in each state."

The bill should also eliminate the Electoral College.

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Thursday, January 22, 2004

Thomas L. Friedman: War of Ideas, Part 5:

Friedman knows what he is talking about, when it comes to the crisis in the Muslim World. You can find all parts here, but a google search for the titles should get around buying them.

The final article is about an alternative to Bush's actions, not in principle, but in precision. Friedman claims that we didn't make a smooth transition in Iraq from Saddam to Jefferson. I think it is about as good as can be expected, and a 'smooth transition' is a pipe-dream because things can always be better.

The important points he makes are exactly what is lost on the minority of Americans that don't see the big picture in America's current foreign policy:

"First, this notion, put forward by Mr. Dean and Al Gore, that the war in Iraq has diverted us from the real war on 'terrorists' is just wrong. There is no war on 'terrorism' that does not address the misgovernance and pervasive sense of humiliation in the Muslim world. Sure, Al Qaeda and Saddam pose different threats, Mr. Marshall notes, 'but they emerge from the same pathology of widespread repression, economic stagnation and fear of cultural decline.' Building a decent Iraq is very much part of the war on terrorism.

Second, sometimes smashing someone in the face is necessary to signal others that they will be held accountable for the intolerance they incubate. Removing the Taliban and Saddam sent that message to every government in the area.

Third, the Iraq war may have created more hatred of the U.S., but it has also triggered a hugely important dialogue among Arabs and Muslims about the necessity of reform."

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Tuesday, January 13, 2004

China Poses Trade Worry as It Gains in Technology

Above is an interesting article about the rise of China as not just a market for technology products and a source of cheap manufacturing, but also as a competitor in the creation of these technologies.

Apparently American tech companies are concerns because, for example, China has the power to set its own standards outside of international standards boards. Also, unfair competition where foreign microchips are taxed at 15 percentage points higher than domestic microchips is rampant.

Summing up the standards issue:

"Given its huge consumer market and an economy in rapid ascent, trade experts say, China will increasingly have the power to influence standards in technology, just as Britain set standards in the 19th century and the United States in the 20th century."

As an indication of China's response to criticism:

"So far, China has shown little interest in addressing the grievances of American technology companies, according to industry executives and government officials. It responded to complaints about the wireless encryption standard by giving companies until June to comply, and has offered no indication that it plans to back off on enforcing its own standard."

This is a natural process of an extremely populous agrarian economy turning into a powerful, educated, and industrial economy. Of course China will have more power as this process continues!

But I should stress that closed societies will never match the capacity for growth, in the long term, as open societies. I am certain these issues will increase with China's power, but diminish as China becomes more open. For now, I'm confident that before China becomes an economic super-power, computer translation technology will work its magic, and we won’t have to learn Chinese :)

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The future of robotics is exhilerating indeed. Within the next ten months alone, I am gaurenteed to both repeat many times my desire for a robot butler, AND actually transform into one myself for the purposes of All Hallow's Eve.
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Friday, January 09, 2004

Return to the Moon & Mars

The New York Times, AP, and My Way all have stories about a Bush announcement next week which is expected to draw plans for a return to the moon with the eventual goal of going to Mars. Also check out Slashdot; my last count had somewhere over 1000 comments on this story.

This wouldn't be like the last moon landing. It would be deliberate, not a race. It would be to establish a permanent base, not a honeymoon vacation (I couldn't help the pun). It would be looking towards a bigger goal: inner Solar System exploration. This would be totally different than the "what now?" attitude which I think helped kill the Apollo program.

I am 100% for this effort. It needs to be done. The very fate of the human race depends on leaving this planet and eventually this solar system. The potential for mining of resources in space is absolutely essential to maintain growth in the coming centuries. Finding evidence of past or present alien life in places like Mars or Europa would send shockwaves throughout our society and culture.

I could go on, but the minimum motivation must be established. I woke up to talk radio the other day saying the money spent on the current mars rover would be better spent on some domestic initiatives. He called mars a desert not worth our attention. I would imagine 10, 100, or 1000 years from now when earth is faced with some inevitable global crisis which threatens all mankind, some might look back to opinions like those held by this particular talk-radio-host, and think, "it would be better for humanity of people like that never existed".

That said, a few things need to be addressed on how this should be done.

1) The NASA bureaucracy much be eliminated. The only way to make any of this cost-effective is to have the bare-bones operation. Things like their educational program are ok, and pay off in the end with more talented engineers. Things like their insistence to not ditch the shuttle are evidence of a command which moves like molasses.

2) Ditch the shuttle. The program never worked as it should, making weekly or monthly trips. It perpetually costs more and more. Currently a single flight costs around $1,000,000,000. That's plenty of zeros.

3) Fund those private entrepreneurs working on things like the X-Prize. Subsidizing 1000 private agencies with $1,000,000 each and saying "what is the cheapest and best way to get to mars and establish a base on the moon?" would be a much more useful effort than any single shuttle launch.

4) Solving some essential problems with long term space flight would be useful. Materials to block radiation on board, a system to cycle water & air, fusion, and other technologies are all helpful.

5) Place a high value on having a robot do anything that you don’t really need a human to do. I don’t think you need humans to construct a moon base. Tele-operation is all that is really needed. Making a good humanoid torso would be essential. A human on earth could tele-operate this whether it is in space or on the moon with a wheeled base. Tele-operation makes no sense on mars because of the light-speed time lag. More autonomous construction vehicles should be made. A ship on the way to mars could go much faster if most of the supplies where already on mars waiting for the crew.

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Wednesday, January 07, 2004

I Robot Now

This is a fake product: a fully functional domestic assistant that simply doesn't exist. It is part of a clever add campaigns for the IRobot movie to come out in the summer.

It does have a pretty good design though. Too bad we aren't even close to the advertised functionality.

By the way, I saw this from the Robotic Nation website.
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What's Wrong With Income Inequality?

The Instapundit, Glenn Reynolds, remarks on inequality in America. His remarks are fairly interesting, but the big point is with immagration. As summarized by Irwin Stelzer in The Times of London:

There is no question that statistics show a rise in inequality. The main reason: America welcomes more immigrants - legal and illegal - than all the other countries of the world combined. These newcomers typically start on the bottom rung of the economic ladder. Exclude them from the statistics, calculates Easterbrook, and the increase in inequality disappears. Indeed, for the nine out of ten Americans that are native born, inequality is declining. And here is the reason that will surprise America's critics: the decline in inequality is due in good part to the rising affluence of African Americans.

This leads me to think two things:

1) America is not just for rich-white-males. Everyone thrives. The existence of super-rich just makes you ignore how much better our poor and middle classes are doing than the rest of the world.

2) I think even more strongly that the recent policy to monitor foriegn visitors and the policy to document needed illegal workers with jobs are both correct policy decisions and will actually benefit immigrants.

The former will inconvenience many, greatly hurt potential terrorists, and allow us to leave our borders relatively open. The latter will be an invite to enterprising immigrants, saying "if you want to come here and work, go for it", and a bummer to those who would only tax our system's generous welfare entitlements paid to the poor.

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