Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Stir-Fried Random

Via Reddit, I saw this gem about a guy who essentially did a self-IPO and puts shares of himself up for bid to raise money. The result was that his investors had an outsized effect on his life, going so far as to make decisions about the gender of the people he should date and his political registration. It was a pretty interesting, if poorly-ended read.

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Everything’s Fine!

I’m pretty much blatantly ripping off Atrios for this one, but it is what it is: just incredible. Guy steals $69,000 of money that isn’t his, he gets arrested and charged with felonies. Guys steal $1.6 billion of money that isn’t theirs in essentially the same way, and everybody just sits around hemming and hawing. As the article says, this isn’t complicated like JP Morgan: customers deposit money, money is stolen from accounts to cover debts. So far, though, nobody has been charged with 20,000 felonies. Or even one.

With this, JP Morgan, the hilariously botched and now investigated Facebook IPO, and Europe debating whether to continue to bleed the anemic patient, it’s hard reading the news these days.

Changing the cost of college

Recently, the University of Minnesota’s Carlson School of Management put forward a plan to charge more in tuition for undergraduates than the rest of the U. The plan, which would charge an extra $2,000 a year in order to recruit and retain more faculty members, would change the egalitarian tuition policy that the U has had for more than 20 years. Although I don’t have an opinion one way or the other on this policy, it does bring to light one issue that I think we should be discussing: the cost of a college education, or more specifically, the “egalitarian” tuition model that prices degrees similarly. I think that policy hurts more than it helps, and it’s time to change the price we pay for degrees.

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Division I Stupidity

There’s little to add to my friend Murali’s thoughts on the Penn State shame, but it’s still fun to try. I’ve also had a pretty dim view of Division I college sports ever since I was in school when Clem Haskins managed to pull a Minitrue and get the Gopher’s appearance in the 1997 NCAA tournament erased from history. It’s a money machine that puts the best interests of the players below that of the dollar, yadda yadda. It’s nothing new, but it is still wildly popular, and financially lucrative.

Popular as it is, however, I never would have expected riots over the firing of a coach who turned a blind eye to child abuse. That’s what this boils down to: people at Penn State knew what was going on, but instead of going to the authorities and risking a blemish on their record, they tried to ignore it. The program was more important than protecting these victims. Not only back then, but even today according to some people.

This does beg for a comparison with the coverups in the Catholic Church. While there is no excuse in either situation, at least with the church, I can almost imagine how some people who invested their lives and very definition of self in their religion would want to defend it. But college football? Really? Their lives are over because a coach was fired?

I don’t care about Joe Paterno’s legacy or the lives of those players who are now worried about whether a game is going to be played. The only people who merit concern are the victims who were ignored.

Combination Of The Two

I saw this touching story on the MPR website a few days ago, and paid special attention to the comments. Usually, when there are stories like this, somebody will come along to say that doing something like this is wrong, because it dilutes the message to kids that life is hard and nobody out there is going to give you any slack and that you have to earn everything you get. And yes, there are some people who insist on teaching kids these lessons as early as possible, even for kids who need a little extra help.

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Independence Day Photos

I took some pictures of the fireworks in Minneapolis on July 4th, and they are available here. Samples below the jump.

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The tempest over Obama’s school speech

The controversy surrounding today’s speech to school children by President Obama really did become ridiculous. In the end, I hope that the text of the message, and its non-political content, will put to rest at least some of the more reality-based opposition to it (of course, a good deal of the opposition was completely insane , and no amount of cool-headed introspection after the fact will change it). Even complaints based on the worry that he would somehow be “indoctrinating” kids or use the speech for political purproses were a bit ridiculous, though: as if Obama would fill the speech with exhortations to vote Democratic or else he will personally kill every child’s puppy, or something like that. Despite what certain Republicans would lead you to believe, the Obama administration is not so off the deep end that they would consider this to be an acceptable event.

I’ve thought less about the content of the speech and the objections thereof, though, and more about something that, to my knowledge, has not been touched upon very much by the media. There is an important reason why Obama should talk to school kids in this manner, but a lot of people completely missed this message (and as you’ll see in a moment, the fact that they missed this message is terribly telling).

I’m a white guy. All throughout my life, when parents and teachers told me I could do anything, I had no reason to doubt them. After all, whenever I turned on the TV or read history books or opened a newspaper, I saw plenty of white guys leading the way. Presidents, CEOs, news anchors, sports greats, politicians…they were all pretty much like me in a superficial, first impression kind of way, despite the fact that white guys make up a minority of the U.S. population (and an even tinier minority of the world population).

For a lot of students who aren’t white guys, though, statements like “You can do anything with your life if you stay in school, maybe even become president!” could ring a bit hollow; given the much more obvious lack of real-world evidence that this was true. It’s not that hard to see how some people, seeing the gaping chasm between platitude and reality, would grow a bit cynical. Toss in a bit of history (it’s only been a couple of generations since the firehoses, women have been able to vote for less than a century) and it’s clear that you can’t just talk the talk, you’ve got to have some evidence that you can walk the walk.

And this is exactly why Obama’s speech was not only appropriate, but a fantastically important event. Not just because of who he is, but because he is one of the largest examples of how barriers are breaking down everywhere: let’s not forget that a woman had a very credible shot of becoming the Democratic nominee and then president, and a woman was a vice presidential candidate for only the second time on a major ticket. When Obama says that staying in school, setting goals, and working hard can lead you to great things, a lot more kids will be able to identify with him, and hence with that message.

It’s sad that so many people overlooked this important take on the issue. However, the people that control our discourse are the same people who never would have doubted that they could do anything they wanted when they were kids; in their minds, how could any child think differently? While they may not see the importance of this message, fortunately plenty of others do.

Health care: What Nate Silver says

Too tired to write a full post about health care, so just read what Nate Silver of FiveThirtyEight says.

The comments are a good, if ridiculous, read too. People still don’t seem to get that health care is not a free market. Nate hits all the salient points, but people still don’t get that unlike buying a car for example, when it is possible for people to decide that something is too expensive, few people are going to pass on a heart bypass procedure because it “costs too much”.