Borked

I often use a term “borked” to mean to fail in a spectacular fashion. (The official definition is: obstruct (someone, especially a candidate for public office) through systematic defamation or vilification.)

The “fake” news about President Trump wanting to end Mueller’s investigation in the Russia connection reminds me of origin of this word.

President Nixon ordered the firing of an independent special prosecutor looking into the Watergate scandal. The Attorney General refused and resigned in protest. The deputy who was then acting also resigned in protest. The Solicitor General, Robert Bork, was the new acting AG and fired the special prosecutor.

Bork’s memoir stated Nixon promised him a Supreme Court seat afterwards for his loyalty. Instead, he was given an appeals court seat by Reagan in 1982. Then Reagan put him up for a Supreme Court seat in 1987. He was so strongly opposed that we got a new word from it. There were 46 Senators in Reagan’s party and 6 voted against Bork. Justice Kennedy was then appointed and managed to get confirmed 97-0.

Weird that I missed the stories celebrating the 30th anniversary of the nomination on July 1, 1987. The nomination vote was October 6th, so there is still time!

The current witch hunt firestorm makes me curious what new terminology we will have in 30 years because of current events.

Voting Rights Act

The Voting Rights Act of 1965 protects people from malicious actions by state and local governments to prevent people from voting. Yes, we have a president of African-American descent. Yes, the United States Supreme Court took no action. However, the majority opinion statement that, “We are a very different nation,” suggests it could be repealed. The argument against maintaining the law seems to be since governments are behaving now no law is needed.

Are they? The DOJ disallowed a Georgia program to cull voters from the databases who might not be citizens. This strikes me as just like the Florida Central Voter File program in 1998-2006 to cull ex-felons from voter lists. Since they just used names, it was highly inaccurate and wrongly disenfranchised thousands in 2000… in Florida… the state which made international headlines as the place unable to count ballots. When Congress renewed it in 2006, “It held extensive hearings and produced voluminous evidence that minority voters continue to face significant obstacles.” [NYT] I may have to go looking for this in the Congressional Record.

With the protests happening in Iran right now about voter irregularities, is this the time to repeal one of the few deterrents against future abuses to erode the significant improvements over the past 40 years?

2nd Blackboard Blog

A blog without comments to me isn’t a blog. Blog posts are about stimulating discussion, so the comments are most important feature. Content without feedback is a publicity or news story not a blog. So Blackboard Blogs at educateinnovate.com isn’t really a blog.

Steve Feldman, Bb performance engineer, had the first Blackboard Inc blog with Seven Seconds. He mysteriously stopped last fall. 🙁

Ray Henderson, new Bb President for Learn, has a blog. Read this introduction post. He specifically wants discussion and dialog. Someone at Blackboard who understands The Cluetrain Manifesto? I am hopeful this is a sign of positive change.

TED Talk: Liz Coleman’s call to reinvent liberal arts education

About this talk from the TED site:

Bennington president Liz Coleman delivers a call-to-arms for radical reform in higher education. Bucking the trend to push students toward increasingly narrow areas of study, she proposes a truly cross-disciplinary education — one that dynamically combines all areas of study to address the great problems of our day.

She goes further than this blurb would indicate. She claims the drive towards professional degrees, aka “learning more and more about less and less”, results in a toxic brew dismantling Liberal Arts education. Losing this cross-disciplinary approach results in an inability to tackle the country’s and world’s problems which often require more than one discipline to understand them.

Focus on higher education as a means to a profession ignores these questions:

  • What kind of a world are we making?
  • What kind of a world should we be making?
  • What kind of a world can we be making?

Parents are sending their children to college to get a good job. Solving the world’s problems isn’t part of the American dream. Well… outside of academia.
🙂

Little Changes

Flipping channels, I ran across Deep Impact during a speech given by the president (played by Morgan Freeman).

The black president didn’t amaze me. Hollywood figured out how to portray them a decade before the US figured out how to elect one.

What amazed me is that with all the really cool forward looking technology for the time, instructions for how to communicate the evacuation was sent by fax to news agencies. Yeah, it wasn’t emailed. The White House didn’t post it on a web site. No mention of Facebook. 😀

Is NASA powering landing craft with nuclear drives?

At least since this movie aired we have implemented programs to discover both the large and medium objects capable of regional to global catastrophes.

We still need a plan to do something about the ones we anticipate will hit us. Or how about a plan to save our legacies? (The children, art, history)

Relative Truth

Found an interesting comment on an article the state of Georgia observing the Confederate Memorial Day….

The truth of history means very little to those who are dead set against learning anything from it. No matter what the history books used in our public school system say, most will never believe anything other than their own opinion about the Civil War. History revisionist are the celebs of the day. As long as people like Rev. Wright, and David Duke exist, history’s truth will be filtered through lies and distortions. Few observe Confederate Memorial Day: UGA to display original constitution; state offices closed

Truth may very well be completely relative. Back during the US Presidential election, I ran across an interesting article in the Washington Post discussing research John Bullock did about the effects of misinformation and idealogical bias ties. I used to think it had to do with a handful of people stuck in their green, second ammendment, pro-life, pro-choice, capitalist, regulation views. My favorite pasttime in college was assuming positions contrary to others even when I agree with the others.

I doubt the effect solely affects conservatives as was proposed in the article. More likely everyone has some blindspots in determing truth from myth or fiction kind of like optical illusions. (Yes, even myself.) We have to choose which information to believe any time we interact with information. Much of the rules in philosophy and science are built around combatting the biases we have.

Rather than force ideas on others, I think we should be teaching children from an early age to recognize when others and most especially themselves are operating under a bias. Its the only way to find detachment.

How Do I Get to Be Black Like Obama?

Barack Obama is called a lot of things. Being a candidate for President of the United States means a lot of people apply a lot of different labels, good or bad or indifferent, to categorize you and anticipate your every move.

I find it interesting people use the labels “African American” or “Black” to describe him instead of “Biracial”, “Multiracial”, or “Interracial”. The frustration I dealt with for most of my life was neither being Black or White enough to be accepted as belonging. Is it a case of, “If you have even a drop of a Black blood-line, then you are Black not White?” These musing about Obama did start after a Black homeless guy downtown looked at me and stated that I didn’t understand his point because I am not Black. See, I wasn’t kidding in that not Black enough post. By the two generation ratio of blood-lines, I am just as Black as Obama.

What makes Barack African American and me not African American?

  1. We both have fathers of African descent.
  2. We both have mothers of European descent.
  3. I at least had the influence of my father and his aunts and his cousins and my cousins to show me African culture. Barack had two White grandparents.
  4. Barack’s close friends in high school and college were of African descent. My close friends during those periods were all of European descent.
  5. Barack worked with and for people of African descent at the community level. I’m ecstatic just to have > 10% people of African descent in the cube area. It is new for me. I like it.

This is more important to me than the politics.

What does a CIO do?

I guess it depends on who you ask.

Well, the CIO’s thought they were most effective as classic IT-support providers. That’s basically putting PC’s on desktops. But their managers thought that CIO’s were most effective in explaining and determining the college’s technology course into the future. Managers really want their CIO’s to be “informaticists.” Wayne A. Brown, Johnson County Community College Are College CIOs Thinking What Their Bosses Are Thinking?

Self-reporting is a notoriously bad means of measuring behavior. So I take these sorts of things with a grain of salt.

I have read many times the view CIOs need to educate higher education administrators about technology to help shape the vision of where higher education is headed. When Joe Newton at Valdosta State took over as CIO, he found Ronald Zaccari, expected more than just “putting PCs on desks”. Ron also expected seamless services, a data warehouse, IT to work with every facet of the university, and even to help the cabinet shape its direction by providing how technology can help. The previous president didn’t even check his own email. So to have one who better understood technology meant having to step up to a higher standard.

Another aspect I found interesting was about degrees. Wayne suggested a positive direction was CIOs having degrees in technology management. A commenter preferred CIOs having a Ph.D. in an academic discipline and secondarily “technology qualifications” so they would understand teaching and learning. I find this hilarious because all too often I hear complaints Ph.D. programs teach people how to do research and present… not teach.

Also, the comments make a distinction between presidents and provosts versus deans and department heads. The latter are the “academic administrators”.

All that said, I just want a CIO to figure out what management wants done, prevent them from having too high expectations, and provide the resources for me to do it.

On Oil

Hubbert Peak Theory
Hubbert Peak Theory (image via Wikipedia)

A while ago, George wrote about the new fees for flying. Lacey pointed out how the price of oil affects the cost of running an airline. Thoughts about these have been lurking in my head ever since. Today I have watched a couple times a speech given by Congressman Roscoe Bartlett on how oil production is about to peak. The transcript helped the second time through. (Wikipedia on Hubbert Peak Theory) I also watched A Crude Awakening: The Oil Crash on Netflix’s Watch Instantly.

Bartlett quoted Thomas Friedman:

Our problem is so much worse than you think. We have no energy strategy. If you are going to use tax policy to shape energy strategy, then you want to raise taxes on the things that you want to discourage — gasoline consumption and gas-guzzling cars — and you want to lower taxes on the things you want to encourage — new renewable energy technologies. We are doing just the opposite.

(Bolded for emphasis; even though italics is emphasis.)

While this may not be a strategy, Bartlett does not point out keeping our economy in a positive growth direction has been the emphasis for the past 30 years. Cheap oil keeps factories running, keeps transportation moving, and forms the basis of our plastic-based society. Without cheap oil, we could not maintain the wonderful society we have today.

In Europe, they discourage the use of oil by much high taxes on it. The cost of this approach is we would almost certainly also enter into a recession for some time. Would it be the end of the world? No.

I don’t think our leaders completely ignored the problem as Bartlett suggests. They gambled on the choice technology would make alternatives cheaper by now and conservation would bridge the gap. They wanted their party to remain in power, so they would not have Instituted policy which would cause voters short-term pain with long-term benefits (despite the long-term benefits once through the pain).

That may be the kind of leader we need, but I would be surprised for such a person to get elected President of the United States.

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National Debt

Saw a graph showing the United States national debt color coded by presidential party. The intent is to illustrate how Republican presidents are the big spenders.

Unfortunately, all too many Americans believe presidential candidates when they claim they will do some action or another. The farce is the President of the United States sends a wishlist of priorities to Congress (the State of the Union). It is Congress which sets the actual budget by passing appropriation bills. Congress has no obligation to include anything the President asks to be in the bill. The President can only veto each bill which usually contain budgets for hundreds of departments.

In my opinion, the chart ought to show who holds the majority of the houses of Congress (red for Republican, blue for Democrats, purple for one of each).