Thursday, December 21, 2006

Gender equity runs amok

Here's the story:

An NCAA committee recommends prohibiting the practice of women's basketball teams from scrimmaging against men. They say it is contrary to the spirit of Title IX, and that it "implies an archaic notion of male preeminence that continues to impede progress toward gender equity and inclusion."

In other words, I guess, scrimmaging against men implies that men are better at basketball, which is contrary to what they wish was true. So if they prohibit it, what they wish was true might actually come true.

What a bunch of nonsense. Women basketball coaches, of course, want to keep scrimmaging against men. It seems they are more worried about developing their players than about some feminist political agenda.

Let me get this straight...

So a bike nazi was demonstrating during one of the Critical Mass rides, standing on the sidewalk next to his bike, when a police officer told him to move along. He refused, and the policeman gave him a ticket for impeding traffic and for failing to obey a police officer.

The bike nazi goes to court, and argues that the impeding traffic charge cannot apply because the law applies to "people driving cars and riding bikes." Since he wasn't riding his bike at the time, he argued that he couldn't be in violation of the law.

Attorney General Hardy Meyers conceded the point, and the Court of Appeals dismissed the ticket!

So let me get this straight.... by this reasoning I could drive my car into an intersection, get out of the car and stand on the sidewalk, and I couldn't be charged with impeding traffic? After all, I wouldn't be "driving."

On second thought, if I did do this, they'd probably give me a reward rather than a ticket. After all, I'd be advancing their agenda of creating as much congestion as possible.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Anti Union Unions

This reported today on WSJ's

With a decision expected any day on where the Democratic Party will hold its 2008 national convention, a union leader in Denver has refused to sign a no-strike pledge, a move one organizer called a possible deal-breaker," reports Denver's KMGH-TV:

Jim Taylor, head of the Local No. 7 International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees, is refusing to sign the agreement pledging not to strike if the convention comes to Denver, labor officials told The Denver Post. . . .

Debbie Willhite, executive director of Denver's host committee, told the Post that a lack of full union support for the city's bid is "probably a deal-breaker" for the Democratic National Committee.

Apparently the Democrats are for organized labor, except when it inconveniences them.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Study shows climate goes through 1500 year cycles

A new study of geologic evidence concluded that the earth's climate goes through consistent 1500 year warming/cooling cycles within the known 90,000 year ice-age cycles.

The upshot is that our current warming is simply due to being on the upslope of a 1500 year cycle, and is nothing out of the ordinary compared to global temperatures in the past. The current warming started about 1850, after a global cooling that ranged from about 1300 - 1850. Prior to 1300 the earth was in a "medieval warm period."

The study looked at data gleaned from all sorts of temperature proxies - ice cores, lake bed sediment, stalagmites, pollen data, and others.

The study was done by Dr. Fred Singer, a known global warming skeptic. He is a fellow at the National Center for Policy Analysis. Now, I am certain that global warming believers will point out that NCPA and Dr. Singer have received money from energy companies for their research projects, and so their research is tainted and should be dismissed.

OK, fine. Then of course we should dismiss any research paid for by federal government grants, too, right? After all, the official position of all the federal agencies that fund such research is that global warming is a huge problem. Researchers whose results prove otherwise might be kicked off the grant gravy train.

Actually, the data should stand on its own. Argue the data, not who brought it to the discussion. Read this study and ask if the case it makes isn't pretty compelling.

Hat tip to Andy for sending me the link to the study.

Monday, December 18, 2006

Rex explains himself

In today's Oregonian, Rex Burkholder tries to back away from his now famous statement that "every penny spent on transportation is wasted." He apologizes if he "offended" any "transportation engineers, planners and construction crews or my fellow policy-makers and transportation advocates."

The problem wasn't that anyone was offended, Rex. The problem with what you said is that it reveals you to be an extremist.

Your explanation of what you really meant actually makes it worse. Your explanation is incoherent, and simply shows that you want to use land use and transportation policy for social engineering.

You say that what you meant to point out by your statement was that transportation was expensive, and that it is a "cost to avoid or minimize." That doesn't help much, Rex. In fact, it says pretty much the same thing - you don't want to spend money on transportation. You want to spend as little as possible, presumably because you think it is a waste of money.

However, to be charitable, perhaps what you meant was that you want transportation spending to minimize the cost per passenger mile of moving people. That is something I would totally support. Resources are scarce, and we should choose transportation investments that give us maximum value - those that are most efficient in terms of cost per passenger mile.

But although you try to pretend you care about efficiency, if you actually did, you would never support light rail. It is the most expensive and least efficient method of moving people we have tried. So your actions show that you don't care about minimizing the cost per passenger mile - you want to minimize how much we spend on transportation, period.

Which is exactly what you said before.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

On the bleeding edge again

Why does Oregon always have to be the first state to try out major social reforms that are touted as "models for the nation," but somehow never end up being copied (and almost always end up failing.)

I'm sorry, but our politicians are not smarter than those in every other state. But they certainly do have a much higher level of hubris. Time and again they have decided they know how to restructure major institutions, and again and again they have fallen flat.

But they are up to it again. Comprehensive health care is coming to Oregon. A Senate commission co-chaired by the state's newest Democrat Ben Westlund has released its recommendation (to the plaudits of the Oregonian, of course who has cheerleaded every one of Oregon's failed experiments) for a universal health care system.

The Oregonian said Westlund's commission "took a giant step forward by endorsing the general shape of a first-in-the-nation plan for universal health care."

Now, says Westlund, "All eyes are once again on Oregon."

Yes, that is probably right. I'm sure they are all watching to figure out just what NOT to do, just like when precisely zero states copied CIM and CAM, or our land use planning system, or Oregon's first attempt at Kitzhaber-care.

What is the huge innovation that came out of the committee? Well, the details are vague. In fact, there are no details. "Virtually all the details have yet to be worked out..." the Oregonian tells us.

Huh? Just what did the Senate Commission endorse, then? They proposed "framework" for a plan that would cover every Oregonian, including 600,000 who currently don't have insurance.

What is innovative about that? Well, nothing, really. What the Oregonian is all excited about is that there seems to be a change in attitude where it is OK for state leaders to "talk openly of the need for universal health care."

Well, yeah, there has been. I think it was during the election. Democrats are in charge, and they have nothing but open field in front of them.

And so I am sure they will be able to put this "potentially historic" system in the end zone, and Oregon will once again get to make all the costly mistakes while other states look on, snickering.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Verizon was taught new new math

This is unreal.

This poor guy was quoted a data transfer rate of .002 cents per kilobyte by Verizon, and then was billed .002 dollars per kilobyte.

He called the customer service rep to straighten it out, and despite repeated attempts with several customer service managers, couldn't get them to even recognize that .002 cents is not the same as .002 dollars!

He recorded the phone calls and posted them in YouTube. It is hard to believe that such ignorance can be sustained up through several levels of Verizon.

Listen to it! It is hysterical!

Friday, December 08, 2006

Betcha the Oregonian won't report this

Philosphical question of the day: If scientists testify to a Senate Committee, and their testimony contradicts the fervently held views of our daily newspaper, did their testimony merit reporting?

The U.S. Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works held hearings two days ago on Climate Change and the Media.

Here's what they heard from Dr. David Deming University of Oklahoma College of Earth and Energy

The amount of climatic warming that has taken place in the past 150 years is poorly constrained, and its cause--human or natural--is unknown. There is no sound scientific basis for predicting future climate change with any degree of certainty. If the climate does warm, it is likely to be beneficial to humanity rather than harmful. In my opinion, it would be foolish to establish national energy policy on the basis of misinformation and irrational hysteria.

And this from an abstract of a paper submitted by Dr. R.M. Carter Marine Geophysical Laboratory James Cook University AUSTRALIA (PDF)

There is a strong conflict between current public alarm regarding human-caused climate change and the science justification for that alarm. The media serve to convey to the public the facts and hypotheses of climate change as provided by individual scientists, government and international research agencies and NGO lobby groups.

In general, the media have propagated an alarmist cause for climate change, and they have certainly failed to convey to the public both the degree of uncertainty that is characteristic of climate science and many essential facts that are relevant to considerations of human causation. Ways in which the public debate is directed along alarmist lines are discussed.

It is concluded that natural climate change is a hazard that - like other similar natural hazards - should be dealt with by adaptation. Attempting to mitigate human-caused climate change is an expensive exercise in futility.

Wait a minute! I thought Al Gore said that the "science is decided."

What is the chance that the Oregonian will report anything about this hearing?

Want to read a very good, comprehensive expose of the Global Warming Scam? Read this Skeptics Guide by US Senator Inhofe.

They aren't usually this honest

They don't usually come right out and say it. Usually we have to dig around a bit to reveal their real goal, or even read between the lines to surmise what they really mean.

For instance, usually you have to wade through the hundreds of pages of Metro's "2040 Plan" to find that their plan calls for tripling congestion in the Portland area. Or you have to interpret strange statements from Rex Burkholder such as "Every penny spent on transportation is wasted."

So it is oddly refreshing when one of the "smart-growth" zealots actually comes right out and says it. It happened today in the Portland Tribune.

It came from Chris Smith. He's the guy who writes the ever-so-entertaining Portland Transport blog that chronicles all the goofy tram/streetcar/light rail/tax abated condo/traffic calming/couplet/and every other anti-car project in the city.

He was talking about Sam the Tram's new plan to put a streetcar in the middle of the city's only east/west arterial, which everyone admits would reduce Burnside Street's capacity to carry automobiles and move people where they need to go.

Big problem, right? How to balance things such as the streetcar with the need to move people efficiently around the region?

Not for the likes of Chris Smith. No, for him and those like him (which means the PDC, Tri-Met, Metro Council, Portland City Council, Multnomah County Commission, and the rest of the Portland area political establishment) the fact that the streetcar would hinder automobile traffic is just another of the many benefits that come from installing 19th century technology in Portland.

Explaining why he thinks the feds should loosen their guidelines that require a minimum cost effectiveness for transit projects in terms of how many people get moved, Smith said:

“The easier it is to move people from point A to point B, the harder it is to contain sprawl.”

There you have it. Congestion is a strategy to prevent sprawl. If we make it easy to move around, people will choose to live in the suburbs. So we have to muck up the region's transportation system so badly that people will be forced to live close to downtown.

These are the same people who constantly accuse conservatives of wanting to use public policy to "tell people how to live."

And sadly, these people are in charge around here.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

PPS continues fuzzy math

Article yesterday in the Oregonian about the Portland School District requiring the same math curriculum at every high school. The controversy is whether it makes sense to have one curriculum at every school, since it might not fit every student.

This question is fine, as far as it goes. But the article failed completely to mention the fact that the curriculum in question, ill-named "College Preparatory Mathematics," is one of the fuzzy math programs that have basically destroyed math education in the U.S.

A large group of parents in Beaverton have organized to stop another of these horrible programs, called "Integrated Math Project."

I've written about this topic a lot, so I won't reiterate all the reasons these curricula are awful. I was forced to take my own kids out of public school because the school had bought in to another version of this cancer. I chronicled my experience in a long article in Oregon's Future Magazine.

Another place to learn about this stuff is the Mathematically Correct website, which has chronicled the "Math Wars" for about a decade. It has great curriculum reviews of all the offending programs.

If you think the best way to learn math is in groups, and that the tradional sequence of the discipline is outmoded, and that rather than textbooks and worksheets it is more effective to have "strings and blocks and hooks and rubber bands," then perhaps the new math is for you.

PPS adopted a Fuzzy Math curriculum for middle schools in 1999, and now they are just moving more completely down thas same path by putting it into the high schools as well.

Expect to see more of that "deer in the headlights" look when you give a clerk a $5 bill and a quarter to pay for a $3.18 cent item.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Sam's Couplet

Why do they call it a "couplet," anyway?

Sam Adams wants to tear up Burnside and Couch streets downtown, turning them into one way streets and putting a streetcar through them. $80 million dollars (estimated - and we know how THAT works) to slow down cars and make the downtown core that much more hostile to automobiles.

I want to say "when will it end?" but there is no reason it will. This is what Portland wants.

That is why Rex Burkholder can say "Every penny spent on transportation is wasted," and not be dismissed as a charlatan. In Portland, saying such things makes you visionary, and the Tribune writes glowing articles about your influence on the region's transportation policy.

It's going to get a lot, lot worse before it even thinks about getting better.