Category: culture

Source of Educated Idiots

Many of us have wondered for years how all those idiots in Congress graduated the Ivy League universities on their resumes. You read about Hollywood figures’ idiotic and uneducated opinions who went to Ivy League schools. How does this happen?

Come on, folks. All our lives we have known that wealthy people have not only a leg up in life, but their families make sure their children are part of top tier educational networking groups. They keep it in the family.

The Kennedy’s, with the exception of Teddy, went to Harvard. Al Gore went to Yale, with his roommate being Tommy Lee Jones. The Bushes went to Yale. Not all of these people were idiots, but some stress the boundaries.

I am sure that a lot of the children of the rich and famous are intelligent in their own right. However, it is the Al Gore’s of the world that give education a bad name. Gore’s major talent is using his contacts to make money while he moralizes his way to the bank. His ideas are off the scale with respect to stupidity.

The nation is now in the beginning of the biggest education scandal in history.  Wealthy people have been caught buying their kids higher SAT scores to get them into tier one colleges. For every bogus student like this, a hard working, smart and talented kid is denied access to the educational promised land.

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is a cum laude (with honors) graduate of Boston University. BU is not exactly a top tier institution, but something similar is going on when someone of AOC’s intellectual shortcomings are cum laude graduates. So many universities have become politically correct baby-sitting operations.

The much vaunted liberal arts degree is no more.  In many schools grades are not given, and kids don’t fail. This is primarily in the humanities. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is the poster child for this historical fault in our educational system.

So, there it is. If you are rich enough, or have the right connections, you can get your kid accepted into a top tier institution. If you kid is a dummy that is not problem. Nobody fails once accepted into the college club. Your kid is home free.

Now I understand where all  those idiot celebrities and politicians come from.

Echo Chambers – Good Or Bad?

One of the most common criticisms of those who discuss and argue politics is that the other person just hangs around their own particular echo chamber, eschewing information from other sources. Therefore, their arguments are wrong.

Here is the Wikipedia definition of an political echo chamber.

In news media, echo chamber is a metaphorical description of a situation in which beliefs are amplified or reinforced by communication and repetition inside a closed system. By visiting an “echo chamber”, people are able to seek out information which reinforces their existing views.
 
Most people consider echo chambers to be a bad thing. After wallowing in my echo chamber for years and years, I believe that echo chambers are good things, and that everybody has their own version whether they admit it or not.
 
The assumption is that people will tune into a limited set of news sources, and their thoughts and actions will be influenced by what they hear. This idea appeals to Marxists, and uses the “stupid people” hypothesis. People are smart enough to know who they are and what they think before choosing a news environment.
 
People start hanging around echo chambers because they find places where they hear things they like. The chamber does not frame people’s opinion, but the people frame the chamber’s content. Individuals define and influence group dynamics.
 
In defense of a diversity of news and opinion I and others monitor different news and opinion sources just to see what’s going on. I don’t believe many opinions have been changed by the daily screed broadcast on CNN or any of the NBC blocks. I don’t see a lot of news on those networks, but just a constant meme of unsubstantiated speculation.
 
Fox News is part of my echo chamber, but I detest the style of contentious guests and passive moderators on the network. All I want is the current news without adornment of meaningless and awkward comments of anchors like Shepard Smith, or the continuous prattle of Shawn Hannity. 
 
I can do without the opinion programs altogether. I am better equipped to analyze the news than the average news anchor. A lot of people feel that way and have more to offer their echo chambers than they get.
 
How about you?
 

The World Held Hostage

graphic from Charlie Hebdo web page
Graphic From Charlie Hebdo Web Page

For two days this week the world was held hostage by three terrorists weilding assault rifles in Paris, France. The French police are denied the right to carry fire arms, and were sitting ducks for the terrorists, as were the journalists and cartoonists at Charlie Hebdo,  a magazine that specializes in publishing satirical articles and cartoons.

Thirteen people were murdered, including an unarmed French policeman. The terrorist spotted the wounded policeman, and walked up to him and killed him with his rifle. The terrorists, as of this morning, are dead. The French police stormed the terrorists who were hiding in a large printing plant, and they also killed an allied terrorist in a Jewish deli where there were hostages.

One of favorite targets of Charlie Hebdo is Mohammed, the self proclaimed prophet of Islam. Another target of Charlie Hebdo is Jesus Christ, the embodiment of God for Christians. Christians don’t like the defilement of Jesus, but instead of beheading those who do, Christians pray for those who blaspheme.

Muslims treat Mohammed like a god, and in their eyes it is more than a sin to criticize Muhammad. Indeed, our backward Islamic friends consider any slight of Mohammed to be a crime punishable by death.

Islam is steeped in ancient tribal traditions, like cutting off the hand of a thief; executing a woman for adultery while the equally guilty man goes free; and its priesthood (Imams) issuing death warrants for perceived slights by anyone who does not agree with their world view. Islam is all about death, and a dead prophet.

Islam cannot exist in a world of competing ideas and religions without resorting to violence. Christianity has prospered for over two thousand years in this kind of world, even with physical persecution.  There is no negotiating with Muslims, and any words contrary to their belief system are not to be tolerated.

Charlie Hebdo Cartoon
Charlie Hebdo Cartoon

To make matters worse, there is an entire class of people in the Western world who excuse the actions of the misguided world of Islam. Included in this portion of our population is our very own President, Barack Obama. If you remember when he started his presidential campaign, many of us noted that Obama had no professional record of any note, and that his childhood was spent in households where the dominant talk and thought were alternately socialistic and Islamic.

President Obama may be a very smart man, but he has been deluded by the bankrupt ideas of his parents. Now, we see the hypocrisy of the media in not vetting the lackluster man who would become our President.

We can vote out the liberal, politically correct and intellectually dishonest Democrats, but we can do very little about the world wide problem of Islamic terrorism without a leader in our country prepared to meet the challenge. The United States has been fulfilling a leadership role in the protection of democracy and freedom around the world since World War I in the early twentieth century. Backing down from this very important responsibility is exactly the wrong thing to do.

President Barack Obama does not get it.

The Dirty Little Health Care Secret

In reading the book Antifragile: Things That Gain From Disorder by Nassim Nicholas Taleb, I learned about a field of study called, iatrogenesis.

Iatrogenesis is the degree of harm committed on patients by doctors and the health  care systems. In other words, iatrogenesis is all about how many people die because of errors by physicians and hospitals. The numbers are staggering.

According to one source, the number of deaths in the United States due to medical error is approximately 98,000! Remember, this number is from reported deaths, and may or may not be correct depending on how or whether errors are reported within a given hospital system.

The 98,000 to 100,000 number is supported by the references in this Newsweek article.

Other sources credit the number of deaths as over 225,000 patients. This is the number that brings iatrogenesis deaths up to the third largest killer in the nation. Even if this number is not correct, the 98,000 to 100,000 number is roughly equivalent to the deaths that would have been caused by a jumbo jet crashing, everyday.

One thing we do know is that the 100,000 level of iatrogenic deaths is conservative. Some say it is very conservative.

So, how does this affect us today? How does this affect Obama care? Here is my reasoning.

1. The mortality numbers published for the United States show our health system to be more deadly that many other countries. This difference is in large part attributable to our much larger number of doctors, hospitals, MRI and CT Scan machines per capita than any other country in the world.

2. It is obvious that the more health care you get, the greater you are at risk for being killed by the system.

3. According to Nicholas Taleb, the life expectancy of Americans will get longer as our medical care becomes rationed more and more like European health care.

You will notice that I have found one of the only positive things about Obama care. Even though everybody will pay more for healthcare, and everybody will get less healthcare, more people will live through the experience.

We will get the shaft from Obama in our healthcare system. Simply by the principles revealed in iatrogenesis, we should benefit.

How do you like them apples?

Doom! Gloom! Boom!

We get lots of propaganda from union leaders and politicians that capitalism has failed. We hear from the main stream media that climate change is the biggest threat to humanity since Godzilla. The medical community almost daily comes up with a new way you can die if you eat the wrong stuff.

Doom! Gloom! Boom! In the last century with the election of Bill Clinton, the big scare was AIDS. According to the simpletons in the Clinton Administration, AIDS was the biggest threat to the human race since Lot’s wife turned into a pillar of salt in the aftermath of Sodom and Gomorrah. Spicy language not necessary.

It is true that large populations in Africa are at risk of contracting the AIDS virus, but that is a direct result of a cultural standard of infidelity in marriage. Thanks to President George W Bush, many in Africa are being educated as to what kills people, and are now receiving treatment for that social disease.

How do all these alarmist claims originate? Most alarming, gloom and doom claims are the product of the same set of people that brought forward the last round of alarming predictions. Most famous is Paul Ehrlich, author of the 1968 book, Population Bomb, where he forecast billions of people in famine by 1980 because of the increase on world population, and the shrinking of the earth’s resources.

None of his predictions even came close to being true, and he has tried the same crap again, and again. His notable fans include Dr John Holdren, co-author with Ehrlich, and personal science adviser to Barack Obama. You will note that crazy people hang together.

www.cartoonsbyjosh.com
http://www.cartoonsbyjosh.com

It is no wonder that the American people are viewing so-called climate change with a jaundiced eye. The reason is that none of the well publicized increases in long term global average temperatures, extreme weather, or other signature global warming events have ever come to pass. There is not only no evidence of extreme weather events due to global warming, but the evidence NOAA has refutes that claim, altogether.

You can’t fool all the people all the time. However, Paul R Erhlich and others of his ilk also believe that if you tell a lie often enough, people will believe it.

Not only are these predictions of doom, gloom, and boom false, they are the product of a political scam. Who will benefit, you might ask. The politicians, socialists, and people who want to ruin your life are the first ones in line to nationalize you retirements savings, your bank accounts, and your thoughts.

All this stuff is a scientific and political scam.

Downton Abbey And Asheville’s Biltmore Estate

Highclere Castle - Television's Downton Abbey
Highclere Castle – Television’s Downton Abbey

My wife and I are currently enthralled with the PBS television series, Downtown Abbey. It is a series about an extremely rich English family at the turn of the century. We are currently watching Season 3.

The story is multi-generational, but centers on the Earl of Downton, his wife and mother, and their three daughters. Of course, the entire servant staffs’ stories are intertwined with the upper class, and one daughter even runs away with the chauffeur. The stories about the daughters are not those of a randy bunch of girls, but are told in a realistic and sensitive way.

You get into the whole turn-of-the-century English Lord and Lady thing. It is very entertaining.

The unspoken star of the series is the house, itself. The actual structure used is Highclere Castle, a famous and picturesque castle in its own right.

Picture of Biltmore House
The Biltmore Estate – Ashville, NC

This last week, we made the trip to Asheville, North Carolina and visited the Biltmore House. This is the house built by George Washington Vanderbilt II, grand-son of the fabulously wealthy shipping magnate, Cornelius Vanderbilt. G W received about $2 million after granddad’s death in 1877, equivalent to almost $40 million in today’s dollars.

The Biltmore estate was originally composed of 125,000 acres in the Smokey Mountains of North Carolina. It is only about 8,000 acres today. There is the Biltmore House itself, a winery, several gardens, and other attractions on the grounds. Having consumed a couple of bottles of their house brand of wine since the visit, I can say that the wine is generally good. Specifically, the Pinot Grigi0 and Cabernet Blanc are good, and the Cabernet Sauvignon is drinkable. The prices ran about $15 to $20 per bottle, which was a bit high for the quality received.

On the other hand, what do you expect from a tourist operation like the Biltmore House? Certainly, many of the visitors know about wines, but I have a suspicion that many do not. It certainly seems to me that they could profitably operate a whiskey distillery, or at least a brew pub. The laws in North Carolina may prohibit those activities, though.

The Biltmore house contains 175,000 square feet, divided into 250 rooms. Thirty-five are guest rooms and forty-three are bathrooms. When visiting, you must use public restrooms in another structure. So, take care of details before entering the house.

We didn’t allow time to get down to the basement which houses the servants quarters, the swimming pool and the engineering spaces. When the house was constructed, the electric power world had not matured, with Thomas Edison and George Westinghouse fighting for supremacy between Edison’s Direct Current standard, and Westinghouse and Tesla’s Alternating Current. The Biltmore House was therefore wired for AC and DC. The first electric service was a DC generator in the basement. When an AC generating plant was built in Asheville, the Biltmore’s DC generator was changed out for a bank of mercury vapor rectifiers to change the city’s AC to DC for the house.

When you tour the extravagant rooms of the Biltmore House, you cannot but help to compare it to the house in Downton Abbey. George Vanderbilt had provided not only comfortable rooms for guests, but he also provided three kitchens to feed them, libraries for reading and intellectual pursuits, stables to care for polo and carriage horses, an indoor swimming pool, and numerous gardens and walking paths to keep those guests entertained. The house itself is a beautiful structure, and from almost any part of the house you have breathtaking views of the North Carolina mountains.

The designer of the house was Richard Morris Hunt, an architect of note who had designed several of the Vanderbilt houses. The grounds were designed by Frederick Law Olmsted who numbered the landscape design of New York City’s Central Park among his successes.

Similar to the story in Downton Abbey, I could not help but be struck by the sheer extravagance of the two houses, and the wastefulness represented by those estates of the very rich. Indeed, the Vanderbilt houses in America represent what has become known as the guilded age. We may think that the American guilded age and the lavish British Victorian age are long gone, but the very rich are still with us.

Similar to lottery winners, even the Vanderbilts ran the risk of running out of wealth because of their extravagant ways. The estate is still owned by the family, but is operated as a business. Since it is in private hands, I don’t know how well the business performs, but you can see everything for about $50.00, US currency. Or, you can buy a pass good for one year and unlimited visits for $130.00. Equestrian activities cost more.

Who Pays For Scientific Research?

Every day we read news releases about new scientific developments, and about how the current administration is entranced with protecting the climate, and pushing “green” technology and jobs. The problem is that many of the news releases are just that, news releases meant for publicity and do not herald the great break-through they promise. You can know this by making a note of these extraordinary pieces of scientific news, and by consulting your notes six to twelve months after the news release. If you do a Google search you will learn that a significant portion of those announcements did not mature into their promise.

This is not unusual. Scientists, universities, foundations, and government officials who have approved massive funding for some of these projects are under pressure to produce, so they put the pressure on the institution that got the funding. From there, the scientists are pushed to announce something. Of course, these scientists are basically dishonest in the first place, and would do anything to keep getting government grant money for their nefarious and various projects. They have to make a living, too.

The Federal Government funds the lion’s share of scientific research. The following graph shows the Federal funding for research in fiscal years 1995 – 2011.

File:U.S. research funding.png

As you can see, the spending on research in 2011 was about $60 Billion. That spending includes Defense, NASA, National Science Foundation, and about a dozen other departments and offices of the United States Government. Most of these offices dispense these funds to other institutions like universities and think tanks in addition to funding internal programs.

The Federal Government supports a huge amount of university scientific research in this country. In 2009, that amounted to the Federal Government supporting about $33 billion of universities’ total annual R&D spending of $55 billion. As you can quickly calculate, this is sixty percent of the research done at our universities.  About seventy percent of science and engineering graduate students are funded by these Federal funds. This is an important fact.

President Obama’s proposed 2011 budget included $2.56 Billion for climate research. Since the science of global warming and climate change is settled (according to a large number of people in the research business), why does the Federal Government continue to spend billions of dollars in this field. Could it be that they still don’t know what is going on?

If you are a cynical character such as I, you will consider the facts as outlined. Climate scientists education are paid by the Federal Government. Climate scientists swear that global warming is a threat to society if we don’t do something about it. The Federal Government says it can do something about global warming by establishing carbon taxes and strangling the US economy by implementing inefficient energy sources, i.e., wind power and solar power. The Federal Government pays for climate science PhD’s education, and it gets the research it demands from the academic community. University programs cannot exist without Federal funding, and the Government cannot implement a carbon tax without the questionable climate research being done.

There is a symbiotic relationship between the university system and the Federal Government. This relationship results in an insidious culture with corrupt science, money, and the power.

I would be overjoyed for someone to tell me how government funding of science can have any good result. The fact is that the government simply cannot manage an economy, much less the broad and complex world of science. Do you remember Solyndra?

The citizens and taxpayers of the United States pay for all this research. Some of it is over the top. Some is useless. When the Federal Government funds academics, things are unavoidably political, and science becomes a charade that makes losers of us all.