Monday, October 18, 2010

The lighter side of PhD's

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PhD piled higher and dryer.

Can mean quite a few different things. Typically means means that you got into graduate school, did some research in the library, took a few courses, blended the two into an MA or MS.

Then you applied again to enter a PhD program. The professors looking at your app decided you were OK on two counts, and being way more of one than the other, might still have gotten you in over another applicant, who was evenly balanced.

The two counts:

Bright enough to understand and advance the work of one or more of the existing profs.

Subservient enough to do tons of grunt work to advance the work of one or more of the existing profs.

And in both cases, the applicant is obviously needy enough of the label to go through the process. Bill Gates was not so needy, neither was Ellison, neither Harlan Writer or Larry Oracle.

PhD is the Ponzi Pyramid scheme brought to academia, there are too few opening for full time professors at good salaries, except possibly in medicine.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

William Larson's Most Excellent Letter

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Dear neighbors and fellow citizens,

I write you as an independent-minded Democrat sickened by the corporate bailouts, yet extremely concerned by inconsistencies and dangers I see in your “populist” movement. My hope is that you will genuinely consider the following points, offered in respect.

Of first concern is the theoretical basis so often quoted by your members – i.e., returning to the original intent of the Founding Fathers and a strict interpretation of the constitution (as written in the 18th century). In fact, it is a misguided premise that there was any consensus among the original framers.

History clearly shows that the Fathers were sharply divided. Federalists, such as Hamilton and Adams, favored a strong central government; Republicans, such as Jefferson, Madison and Monroe, favored states' rights. Interestingly enough, the same conflict separating us now separated them.

There was one great difference between then and now, however. The unshakable faith of our ancestors in the need for ongoing negotiation! And their guts in staying at the bargaining table, sacrificing rigid positions for the national good. This was our founders original intent.

Secondly, there's no evidence suggesting our ancestors believed they had finalized a governing document meant never to be changed. In 1791, four years after our Constitution was ratified, the first U.S. Congress added the first 10 amendments – the Bill of Rights. Further amendments were added in 1795 and 1804.

Finally, in 1865, 1868 and 1869, the 13th, 14th and 15th Amendments abolished slavery and guaranteed full citizenship rights to racial minorities. These amendments were fully in line with the attitudes of the Northern Founders, and later, in 1920, the 19th Amendment was added, guaranteeing women the right to vote.

Constitutional history therefore points to one inescapable conclusion. It is impossible to be a true Constitutional originalist while, simultaneously, celebrating our country's ban on slavery and the granting of full citizenship to racial minorities and women.

One can't have it both ways. You either accept the injustices preserved under the original Constitution, or you believe in the amendment process that views the Constitution as a “living document” meant to evolve with the unfolding of our nation. Anything else is a deceit.

A far more crucial concern relates to the notion that the Tea Party is simply a populist grass roots movement. Accumulating evidence strongly suggests that several large corporations are co-opting your “insurrection” on behalf of their long-time agenda to basically eliminate governmental regulation of industry (particularly environmental protections). Please read Jane Mayer's article in the current New Yorker Magazine to see how corporate giants like Koch Industries are using the Tea Party to maximize profits by fighting governmental oversight of any sort (remember the Gulf oil spill?).

If you think this is mere liberal rhetoric, consider the words of Bruce Bartlett, as quoted in the Christian Science Monitor.

A conservative economist who worked for one of the Koch think tanks, Bartlett links Koch Industries to the Tea Party: “By giving money to educate, fund and organize the Tea Party protestors,” he states, “they have helped to turn their private agenda into a mass movement . . . trying to shape and control and channel the populist uprising into their own policies.” (September 19, 2010: “Who's Picking Up the Tab for the Tea Party?”)

Believe it, Koch Industries, et al have a huge vested interest in sabotaging constructive political discourse at all levels. This danger far outshines that of higher taxes or “creeping socialism.”

Abraham Lincoln saw it back in 1865 when he lamented, “Corporations have been enthroned, and corruption in high places will follow.” What's happening here is the old divide-and-conquer ploy used by invaders throughout history. By driving us apart, the corporate global cartel is co-opting you into a profit-driven crusade that will land us in a one-world government faster than the United Nations ever could. And friends, you are falling for it hook, line and sinker.

Please understand! I'm not saying your anti-tax crusade lacks merit. However, like moderate Christians and Muslims, I believe that core spiritual values have a role in formulating public policy.

Both religions teach compassion and care for the poor, along with fairness in our business and civic dealings. Corporate bailouts and giveaway tax breaks for the wealthy simply don't meet these criteria. What does meet this standard is negotiated agreements that includes the very best of what all sides have to offer. As tough as it may be to stomach, we need each other.

So here's a new “call to arms”: The only chance we have of sorting out our vast confusion of values, needs and politics is to stay at the negotiating table and work out meaningful compromise. That was true in the 18th century, and it's true now.

If we fail, we very likely do not deserve the rich living tradition bequeathed us by our divergently minded — but uniformly committed — forefathers.

William Larsen lives in Nevada City.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

American NAZI Crossroads Propaganda

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If you believe Ami Bera is some unknown, uneducated, out to make some bucks in politics, bad person to vote for, you are probably being influenced by groups like American Crossroads which is currently attempting to smear Dr. Ami Bera of UC Davis who is running for the 5th Congressional District. Their ad is classic propaganda, same brief mention over and over attempting to tie him to a semi angry scowl picture of Obama and Obamacare, with nary a mention of the fact that Ami Bera is a practising MD and professor at UC Davis.

Shame on the folks too unaware that will fall for this NAZI style propagnada, It's straight out of 1984.

BTW, American Crossroads does not identify its funders or principals on its website.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Getting Everyone to Read, Do Math

This is an updated version of something I've been pushing since the 1980's.

My simple simple system for getting kids to read is as follows:

1 free large flatscreen tv to each at risk kid household.

Free subscription at top level to Sat TV provider.

For each 1/2 hour of viewing, kid must input the answer to 20 math facts problems, e.g., 8 x9 =?

No sound, just subtitles.

1/4 of shows viewed must come from educational channels, National Geographics, NASA, PBS, History, Biography, etc.

Get two 1/2 hour math problem sets in a row correct on first try, earn 1 hour of audio viewing, but subtitles still visible.

These can be varied, but you get the basic idea.

Yes, they can use a calculator, but given the amount of viewing, over time, the whole household will learn those facts.

Main code to make the set operational for three days at a time is sent to, the kid’s principal.

Set will not accept external inputs, other than mated Sat dish receiver.