Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Technological fixes are only part of the solution

Articles like this drive me nuts. I don't disagree with the idea of green vehicles, but the rosy outcomes offered by the "magic pill" of new technologies is typical of short sighted, quick fix, too often American perspective. One excerpt shows the error:

Switching from a car that gets 20 mpg to one that gets 50 mpg will save the
average American nearly $1,100/year in gas costs at $3/gallon (given the average
distance Americans drive per year – about 12,000 miles; savings rise
considerably as gas prices and miles driven go up). That savings is nearly two
times the cash provided to us by our 2008 stimulus checks! Multiply that by the
112 million households in the U.S. alone, and that’s $123.2 billion/year that
American households are now spending on gas that with a mandate for more
efficient vehicles, they would have to spend on…everything else.

And what kind of products are we going to spend that extra cash on? We could buy a bigger house that requires more heat and air conditioning. How about a second energy hogging plasma screen TV. Or how about a bigger car, so instead of 50mpg, it is just 35?

I think the effect(s) I am pointing out here are negative feedbacks...unanticipated negatives from a positive change.

What we need to do is a combination of technological fixes and some behaviorial change. Personally, I don't think appeals ot ethics and what not are likely to be very effective. I think we need a serious carbon tax...I think there needs to be a cap and trade and dividend on business and a good tax on households with that tax money spent on sustainability models, climate change mitigation, and adaptation efforts, and a push to move us away from petroleum based fuel (or crude alternatives like ethanol) for our transportation needs.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Men and Women view Caroline Kennedy kidding

News reports about a poll that show men and women view Caroline Kennedy (Schlosberg)'s quaqlifications differently. Women more likely to see her qualified while men do not. Ho hum. What a surprise. I wonder how many polls were taken with the appointment of the following: Jean Carnahan, Lisa Murkowski, Muriel Humphrey?

How much controversy was there around Muriel Humphrey being appointed to serve until a special election was held to elect a new senator to Sen. Humphrey's Minnesota seat after he died. Heck, Jean Carnahan's husband died before actually being elected yet he still beat John Ashcroft.

Frank Murkowski appointed his own daughter to succeed him when he left the Senate to become governor of Alaska.

Is the controversy a signal of women's growing equality? Hmm.

I think Ms. (Kennedy) Schlosberg (when did she drop her married name anyway?) is qualified but I wonder about her motivations. She claims that Barack Obama inspired her (yeah, and milions of others). If she is inspired to public service, then why not City Council, or a state legislative seat. Senate?

If Jean Carnahan, Lisa Murkowski, Muriel Humphrey, Rose Long, Dixie Bibb Graves, Vera Bushfield, Eva Bowring, Elaine Edwards, Maryon Allen, and Jocelyn Burdick (Rebublicans in italics) can be appointed, with apparent little controversy, is it only because Caroline (Kennedy) Schlossberg is who she is?

My prediction: Patterson appoints Cuomo in order to eliminate him as competition for the governor's race that Patterson will enter. He'll bet that Kennedy (Schlosberg's) inspiration doesn't include such lowly seats as governor of New York.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Can we sustain our dependence on personal cars?

previously published in the Terre Haute Tribune Star, 12/28/2008

I’ve owned 12 cars. I expect to have a couple more before I’m finished. Whether people are willing to admit it or not, cars are more than just a means of transportation. Were cars just transportation, then we would not have so many colors, so many types, so many brands, and so many options. Cars are an extension of our living rooms, a status symbol, and part of our identity.

Are personal cars as the primary means of transportation for Americans, “sustainable?” I admit, up front, that I hope the answer is yes.

“Sustainability” is not such a new idea, though it is getting increased attention these days. The most widely used definition of sustainability is the one used by the UN, adopted in 1983: “Sustainable development is development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.”

It is easy to show the “irrationality” of relying on personal cars as the primary mode of transportation in the US or anywhere else. The current system is not sustainable as the recent flirtation with $5 gasoline showed us. Two key American values, convenience and freedom, are likely to make any radical change very difficult. Cars embody both of these values, perhaps more than any other product does (cell phones an exception). Cars give us the convenience and freedom to move about when and where we want. Never mind the incredible expense, both personally and socially, of this method of transportation. Automobile accidents kill about 40,000 to 50,000 Americans every year. Personal cars led to dependence on foreign oil and warps foreign policy in a way that nothing else does. All this and more in the name of convenience and the freedom to go 0-60mph in under ten seconds.

It doesn’t seem possible that we are going to sustain personal cars without some changes. Dependence on foreign (expensive) oil is what has our attention this time. We didn’t learn much from the 1973 oil embargo. Less than 10 years after that we were buying SUVs (stupid useless vehicles). The real threat to sustaining our love affair with cars is global warming. About half of carbon emissions come from our tailpipes.

According to figures compiled by the Sightline Institute (, a single rider in an SUV is the worst contributor to tailpipe born greenhouse gases, 1.6lbs of CO2 per passenger mile. Carpooling with one other person reduces that figure almost in half (the extra passenger is not carbon free but the increase is very small). The two person SUV contributes about the same amount as a local transit bus ¼ full. A solo rider in a passenger car contributes about 1.2lbs of CO2 per passenger mile. Adding one car pooler brings the contribution down to about that of a Prius (Toyota’s electric-gas hybrid vehicle) with a solo driver.

Based on this, the solution is to reduce greenhouse emissions from our cars by just switching to hybrid vehicles. We could get even more reduction with the next generation of hybrid vehicle, the plug-in hybrid. This vehicle stores enough energy to run the car without the gas motor for between 20 to 50 miles. An oft cited statistic from a 1990 US Dept of Transportation study, is that 70% of Americans drive less than 33 miles per day. I wonder if that statistic is still true today, but even if the daily drive has increased to 50 miles, that is still a lot of miles covered without emitting carbon from our tailpipes.

The plug-in hybrid has a “long tailpipe,” however. The energy to run it is coming from electric generating plants. As we move toward more and more wind and solar energy, that long tailpipe becomes less of a concern. How fast are we moving?

Electric cars are not as convenient as our current cars. Think of how many times you forget to charge up your cell phone. A day without your cell phone is different than a day without your car or the amount of gas used due to forgetting to plug the car in.

Based on my and my wife’s daily drives, a plug-in hybrid would work for us. Based on the life cycle of our cars, assuming a suitable model is available, we could buy one in the next two years and the second one in four to five years. If that is average, is that fast enough to reduce carbon emissions to a sustainable level? Across the world? Unfortunately, I doubt it.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Walk like an Iranian, throw a shoe

I admit it, I am just wasting time. I should be writing a lit review for a grant application, but alas, I just can't seem to stay focused on the work.

I am surprised by how much the shoe throwing journalist has generated buzz. No not by our snarky media in the US,,,,I figured it would be a big deal here. Lots of jokes as has happened. But how Arabs and others in the middle east are responding to it, surprises me. I'm not sure this incident needs Jay Leno to keep it going.

I heard on the BBC this morning, that in Iran, street vendors are setting up targets of Pres Bush and people take out their frustrations by throwing their shoes at him. So, here is my little Iranian street vendor,....

According to Time,

And one major issue will undoubtedly be case of shoe-tossing journalist Muntader al-Zaidi, who became a hero on
the streets of Iraq and much of the Arab world after his failed attempt to bean
President Bush at a press conference. Zaidi is to stand trial on New Year's Eve,
Abdul Satar Birqadr, the spokesman for Iraq's High Judicial Council said Monday,
on charges of "assaulting a foreign head of state visiting Iraq." Even if
putting Zaidi on trial appears to risk igniting public hostility, Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki
may yet seek to make the case work to his a political advantage ahead of next
month's poll, for which some 17.5 million are registered to vote.

The former speaker of the Iraqi Parliament praised Muntader the shoe thrower as "brave."

The newly resigned Iraqi parliament speaker on Wednesday praised the
journalist who threw shoes at President George W. Bush and said the legislature
should have supported him.

Is this a sign of a maturing democracy where "Muntader the shoe thrower" becomes a celebrity and hero of the political opposition aka Joe the Plumber? Such political characters have a long history in the US, so why not in Iraq?

But the effects of Muntader the shoe thrower go beyond just Iraqi politics. It has become a basis for pride and self esteem for Iraqi outside the borders of Iraq. For instance,

The Iraqi people are courageous people,” a taxi driver in Amman, Jordan, told me
a few days ago. It was strange to hear this praise after hearing years of verbal
abuse from Arabs in Jordan and Syria. When my uncle was shopping in the market
in Amman recently he heard a voice yell: “Are you Iraqi?” In the past this would
be followed by a speech about the war and the Americans. Instead the man yelled
to my uncle: “You made us proud.”

If this raises Iraqi's pride, egads, what would something more, erhm, lethal have done? Makes me kind of wonder. Political violence is one thing, but makes me feel good violence is another.

I don't really get it. But then, I didn't really get the outrage at the Danish cartoons. Ha, ha. And we should all be able to laugh a bit at ourselves. Now, I can laugh at Muntader the shoe thrower, but I don't get 'brave' (perhaps misguided, impetuous, maybe even dumb). I think it goes to show how different our respective perspectives are. And how much folks in that part of the world dislike us. I don't think it is just Pres. Bush (I really wish it were), but he is a stand-in for the rest of us.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Merry Christmas and here is your daily downer

30 years ago, President Jimmy Carter (remember him, he was a barrel of laughs), gave us this in a speech from 7/15/79:

“Energy will be the immediate test of our ability to unite this nation, and it can also be the standard around which we rally. On the battlefield of energy we can win for our nation a new confidence, and we can seize control again of our common destiny. Our excessive dependence on OPEC has already taken a tremendous toll on our economy and our people. It's a cause of the increased inflation and unemployment that we now face. This intolerable dependence on foreign oil threatens our economic independence and the very security of our nation.
The energy crisis is real. It is worldwide. It is a clear and present danger to our nation. These are facts and we simply must face them.”

But Ronald Reagan won the 1980 election. Almost a year to the day of Pres. Carter's speech, Ronald Reagan accepted his party's nomination for the Presidency. An excerpt from that speech shows you the path taken that has lead us to our mess today:

Those who preside over the worst energy shortage in our history tell us to
use less, so that we will run out of oil, gasoline, and natural gas a little
more slowly. Conservation is desirable, of course, for we must not waste energy.
But conservation is not the sole answer to our energy needs.

America must get to work producing more energy. The Republican program
for solving economic problems is based on growth and productivity.

Large amounts of oil and natural gas lay beneath our land and off our
shores, untouched because the present administration seems to believe the
American people would rather see more regulation, taxes and controls than more

Coal offers great potential. So does nuclear energy produced under
rigorous safety standards. It could supply electricity for thousands of
industries and millions of jobs and homes. It must not be thwarted by a tiny
minority opposed to economic growth which often finds friendly ears in
regulatory agencies for its obstructionist campaigns.

Make no mistake. We will not permit the safety of our people or our
environment heritage to be jeopardized, but we are going to reaffirm that the
economic prosperity of our people is a fundamental part of our

Shouldn't the goal be: energy without poisoning our future? Nuclear produces incredibly toxic waste; coal is not clean...lots o greenhouse gas, ... and when hasn't economic growth come with development of new technologies? Well, the threat to other industries is what stops the development of new technologies mnore than its real feasibility. Hell, the Saudis work on thwarting non petroleum energy sources.

...on a completely different track....I see blue sky. Seems like a week since I saw that. A clear blue Christmas is what I prefer today.

Update (later on Christmas Day). This is from a Sept 11, 2008 article in The Economist.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Does Obama like Spam?

I feel for our President while he vacations in Hawaii. Tough duty, but hey, I love Hawaii.

The reporters that follow our President-elect around though are getting ridiculous. As reported over at Politico (sorry, no link to this one...I almost feel embarassed), a reporter got a look at the snacks Pres-e Obama ordered and on the ticket was Spam musobi. Here is a pic, don't know if the Spam can is real or not, but what is pictured is apparently the spam delight.
Okay, here is the deal. I will admit it. I like Spam. Yup. Grew up eating the stuff. And not as a regular food,,,no, this was a treat mind you. My dad and I did a lot of fishing when I was a kid, both salt and freshwater....all day, all weekend trips. Always, for lunch, we packed a can of Spam (the old stuff was packed in a gelatinous goo that we typically washed off in river, lake or gulf), and very salty. Spam sandwiches...."Hillbilly" bread (that was a brand in those days), Spam, mustard, and onions (and my dad always, always added salt...he salted bacon. a great Christmas gift for him was a salt lick). The spam always had to be cut thin as did the onions. We usually ate two apiece. I was taught how to filet fish and make spam sandwiches about at the same time. (with the same knife as I recall...yup, we used the fish cleaning knife to cut our spam and onions)
Come on my few readers....leave me a comment....tell me your Spam stories. Everyone has one. Spam is ubiquitous, else why would Spam not have come to refer to unwanted mass junk email? Share your stories here. If we get some good ones, we'll send them to President Obama. Or, if we begin a cult from this exercise, we'll change President Obama's name to President Ospama.
President Ospama conjures up all kinds of possibilities doesn't it.?.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

There is no pornography here

Mona Charen has a column on pornography. Read it here
Align Center
While she tries to create a divide between the right and left on this topic, pornography is the one topic that I think the right and left actually can find some agreement. Charen's agrument sounds like a pretty conventional feminist argument to me:

Psychiatrist and psychoanalyst Norman Doidge, author of "The Brain That Changes
Itself," noted that pornography use actually changes the brains of consumers.
Like other addictions, pornography use breeds tolerance and the need for more
intensity to get the desired result. He quoted Tom Wolfe's "I Am Charlotte
Simmons," in which a college kid asks casually, "Anybody got porn?" He is told
that there are magazines on the third floor. He responds, "I've built up a
tolerance to magazines … I need videos." Tolerance is the medically correct
term, Doidge notes, which is why pornography becomes more and more graphic.

Pornography seems to desensitize its consumers to real sex. Now, she goes on to make an argument that I wish she quoted credible research on. I really wonder if there is anything but anecdotal evidence for this:

The men (and they are overwhelmingly men) who become hooked on this bilge
are often miserable about it. They know that it affects their capacity to love
and be loved by real women. As Doidge explained, "Pornographers promise healthy
pleasure and a release from sexual tension, but what they often deliver is an
addiction, tolerance, and an eventual decrease in pleasure. Paradoxically, the
male patients I worked with often craved pornography but didn't like it." Hugh
Hefner, the godfather of mainstream porn, apparently does not have normal sex
with his many girlfriends. Despite the presence of up to seven comely young
women in his bed at a time, he uses porn for sexual satisfaction. Think about

Internet pornography truly is, as one researcher put it, "a hidden
public health hazard." It isn't cute or funny. Relationships are crashing, women
are suffering in silence, and men and boys are becoming entrapped by it. The
Witherspoon Institute has done a valuable thing by starting a more public
conversation about this cultural poison.

I'd have no problem, assuming credible evidence, if pornography were declared a public health problem. Of course, it has taken, what, 35 years and more to see alcoholism and binge drinking as a public health problem. And obesity and diabetes are beginning to be viewed that way. But pornography is protected as free speech so it will be much harder to deal with. It cannot effectively be banned and I don't think we are far from porn becoming completely mainstream. Charen's observations about Victoria's Secret and the racy ads for pajamagrams are exactly right.

I wonder, however, if a saturation might eventually occur. Porn is new for the US. Yeah, it has always been around, but the seeming privacy and anonymity of the internet has let it explode. What about societies where porn has been more readily available like the Netherlands and the Scandinavian countries? I don't know if relationships are ruined, but I do have to admit, their birth rates are very instead of real sex?

I'm not sure there is any way to stop porn. Sexuality education (as opposed to sex education) in our schools might help, but I don;t see that happening anytime soon.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Justice for torture regime?

Now, a bipartisan report by the Senate Armed Services Committee has made
what amounts to a strong case for bringing criminal charges against former
Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld; his legal counsel, William J. Haynes; and
potentially other top officials, including the former White House counsel
Alberto Gonzales and David Addington, Vice President Dick Cheney’s former chief
of staff.

Read the rest here

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

President Bush knows what is best....

On CNN yesterday Pres Bush made this startling admission:

BUSH; Well, I have obviously made a decision to make sure the economy doesn’t
collapse. I’ve abandoned free market principles to save the free market system.
I think when people review what’s taken place in the last six months, uh, and
put it all in one, in one, (sigh), you know, in one package, they’re realize how
significantly we have moved.

It seems this has surprised people (at least in the blogosphere, both right and left).

But why should it? Isn't this also the same President who ignored the US Constitution in order to save it? He swore to this oath:

"I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully execute the office of
President of the United States, and will to the best of my ability, preserve,
protect and defend the Constitution of the United States."

Ignored reality in order to preserve fantasy (global warming, contaminants in drinking water, etc).

Why should anyone be surprised?

Monday, December 15, 2008

Will nanotechnology be new front in culture war?

Previously published in the Terre Haute Tribune Star 12/14/07

There could be very small problems lurking in your home. Do you have any of these products?: Wilson nCode tennis racket; NDlinx golf balls; a pair of stain resistant khaki pants from Dockers or Lands End; Sharper Image’s antibacterial Silver athletic and lounging socks; POUTlandish Hypermoist lip paint; NewBalance Skye crop sports bra; Fresherlonger food storage containers; FX Diamond razors; L’Oreal or Lancome “microlifting” skin cream; or Behr’s house paint; recently purchased sunglasses with anti-scratch and anti-reflective coatings.

These are just a short list of consumer products that employ nanotechnology. Nanotechnology, according to Wikipedia, “is a field whose theme is the control of matter on an atomic and molecular scale. Generally nanotechnology deals with structures of the size 100 nanometers or smaller, and involves developing materials or devices within that size.” A nanometer is very, very small. Too small really to readily understand, but a sheet of paper is about 100,000 nanometers thick. Nanotechnology is manufacturing products at the molecular (or smaller) level.
What are the possibilities for improving the human condition beyond the trivial (poutier lips and bouncier balls)? According to UNESCO, vastly improved drug delivery, the precision deployment of anti-cancer treatments at the cellular level, and improved therapies for many diseases, improved water filtration techniques that could deliver astounding health and development benefits to poor nations where major shortages of drinkable water are a daily threat, vastly improved batteries (a major advancement as we try to wean ourselves from using oil for transportation purposes). There are many others.

What is the small problem lurking in your home? According to a recent issue of “Environmental Toxicity and Chemistry” there might be many. Among them: nanoparticles may be toxic due to metals associated with their structure or their structure themselves; ingestions of nanoparticles by insects can affect their metabolic processes; absorption of nanoparticles on algal cell walls can be toxic; some garden vegetables, like tomatoes, can be effected; the list goes on. The point is that something this small can get in lots of places that we don’t know the effects of. Uncertainty is always scary and after about 20 years of development and application, we are just now beginning to carefully examine the “downsides.”

This week three studies were released that according to one of the teams, nanotechnology poses the possibility for another front in the “culture war.” Why? Because it appears that values influence our view of nanotechnology (surprise, surprise, values matter). The Yale study of 1500 US adults found that once learning about the new science, “the determining factor in how people responded was their cultural values. … People who had more individualistic, pro-commerce values, tended to infer that nanotechnology is safe. … while people who are more worried about economic inequality read the same information as implying that nanotechnology is likely to be dangerous.”

In another study, by North Carolina State University and Arizona State University researchers, Americans were found to be more willing to support nanotechnology when the activity is not seen as “playing God.” So, a better drug delivery system is okay, but “enhancing” human performance is not.

Lastly, a comparative study of the US and European countries, found that in the US and a few European countries where religion plays a larger role in everyday life such as Italy, Austria, and Ireland, “nantechnology and its potential to alter living organisms .. is perceived as less morally acceptable.” In more secular European societies, like France and Germany, “individuals are … less likely to view nanotechnology through the prism of religion and find it ethically suspect.” In short, according to the study’s lead author, “religion was the strongest influence over everything.”

Nano-pollution likely will lead to the unintentional altering of living organisms. Is that okay? How many human lives are worth stain resistant pants, poutier lips, or bouncier balls? How many human lives are worth nano-manufactured cancer therapies that save human lives? Bio-ethicists seem confident that we can come to ethical decisions about this technology. But will that happen before it it used to open a new front in the culture wars, which is arguably a creation only to gain advantage in electoral politics.

It takes two sides to go to war, even a culture war. Proponents of nanotechnology should avoid dismissing concerns arising from religious positions about it. Similarly, those with moral and religious concerns should not move to ban such technology because that would leave the leadership in its development to countries without the moral “breaks” we have in the United States.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Wind, Water And Sun Beat Biofuels, Nuclear And Coal For Clean Energy

Fron Science Daily News:

The best ways to improve energy security, mitigate global warming and reduce the number of deaths caused by air pollution are blowing in the wind and rippling in the water, not growing on prairies or glowing inside nuclear power plants, says Mark Z. Jacobson, a professor of civil and environmental engineering at Stanford.

But big money interests are heavily weighted on the dirtier alternatives.

Read the rest here.

Monday, December 8, 2008

First the press, now universities....the demonization continues

I think Mary Grabar's critique is an excellent example of what is wrong with American Higher Ed. The triumph of opinion over reason. Yup. that is right. All Ms. Grabar is doing is disgreeing with a study because, well, she disagrees with it. She doesn't examine the methdology, she doesn't examine the evidence, only the conclusions and since it is contrary with her views, then she dismisses it. That is exactly what I teach my students...ignore all evidence to the contrary. Actually, that pretty much defines 'stereotype'....a characterization of a people (or institution in this case) that ignores differences and persists despite contrary evidence.

I tried to get a look at "Closed Minds? Politics and Ideology in American Universities” but alas, I would have to purchase it or get it from my library. My library doesn't have it yet, and it is snowy out and I don't feel like running out to purchase. I do recall and earlier discussion of this, and there are some questions about the methodology, but more to the point, whether college should be more important to this issues than family, previous schooling, etc.

What does Mr. Grabar offer as evidence? Only her anecdotal examples. That is not systematic, it is not reproducible...all canons of science...which, by the way, conservatives have an issue with, too.

I'm not going to argue that there isn't alot of ideology in the classroom ,college or public or parochial school. Mostly what I find in my students is just ignorance...which is really the point of Closed Minds. It is entire areas that are no longer taught, like polical and military history. Why??????????????

I am a sociologist. My university just closed us down. It wasn't because we didn't have students, we did. The reason? We were politically weak. But now, there is no institutional examination of inequality, poverty, social class, the effect of religion on society and vice versa, no more examination of the importance of human values in society......One long term project I have been doing with my students is to calculate how much they "cost." Not how much they spend, but how much they cost. Because that class is likely to never be taught here again, that exercise is not likely to be taught again. It is a real mind opener, I promise you, regardless of political stripe.

When higher ed became just a processor of human capital, that spelled the end of the stuff that matters to folks who care about the ideology of college professors. Adam who? (Smith), Ayn who? (Rand), karl who? (marx?) Except for college professors, what is any of that going to help in the workplace? That is the watchword today, especially in public schools where academic freedom is praciced at its strongest.

Finally, since we are dealing in the anecdotal. My experience is that most faculty teach "theory" and "persepctive" that they don't connect to existing political ideological scales. I've heard those who teach evolutionary perspectives argue both: 1) it is liberal because it undermines ideas of morality; 2) it is conservative because it suggets biological basis for things like gender, achievement, etc. So, which is it? ahhhh...perhaps it isn't ideological until someone uses it that way. Of course to even recognize the difference between ideology and "science" is to suggest a finely tuned critical ability that is absent in Ms. Grabar's critique.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

A different perspective on US education woes

We see a familiar education discussion beginning again. For example, see here. The conservative, free market answer: do away with public schools, pay for performance among teachers, even pay for performance (cash)for students, bust up teacher unions, and do away with the professionalization of teachers. On the other side are the liberal "reformers:" they cite the public's continued support for the concept of public schools (although the numbers heading to private or private-lite schools keep increasing, especially among the middle classes),they advocate smaller classes and teacher quality. The arguments are old, evidence is almost always self-serving, depending on the evidence provided.

I'll provide some evidence here, enough I think to make the prima facie argument. First off, my evidence comes from the BLS annual surveys on wages and salaries and the data I could obtain online is over a ten year period, 1997 to 2007 and I offer data from 97 to 07 to make the point.

Okay, here are my facts: teachers have been historically and continue to be today, mostly female. Indeed, teaching today is probably more female dominated than 20 years ago...we are beginning to show the problem already.

Second, the occupational and economic opportunities for talented women have increased astronomically over the last 35 years...that is important because the teachers from 35 years ago, faced a very different opportunity structure than do women today.

So, think of it this way: In the mid 1970s, 75% of women worked as teachers, nurses, secretaries, librarians, and in food service. hence, the most talented women were likely distributed between nursing and teaching. Now i don't have salary data for then, but I do for 1997, by then the opportunity structure had really begun to change. but I think the point will still be made:

In 1997 Registered nurses averaged $41,400 a year. In 1997 teachers averaged, depending on what kind, kindergarten, elementary, seconary, or special ed, 34,100; 37,300; 39,010; 39,200. These are comparable salaries.

But, by '97 the opportunity structure for women, especially for talented women, had changed. Among the most rapidly feminizing occupations were accountants and editors. In 1997 the average pay for those occupations was 45,500 and 36,940 respectively. These are still comparable to that of teaching, though accounting is clearly more pay.

Now for the point. If talented women once concentrated in teaching, and one thing that no one seems to disagree with is that the teacher matters, is that the talent level among today's teachers is likely less than what it was in the past. This is an unintentional downside to greater economic equality for women.

In May 2007 look at the average pay differences among these occupations. Nurses increased by 50% to 62,480. accountants increased 39% to 63,180; editors increased by 49% to 55,020. Nurses have kept up with the occupations that once were not available to women. what about teachers? for kindergarten teachers pay has increased 40% to 47,750; elementary teachers have increased 34% to 50,040, secondary teachers have increased 34% to 52450; special ed teachers have increased 33% to 52000.

In short, if you believe that talent follows the money, one traditional female occupation, nurse, has kept up economically with the new opportunities for talented women. But teaching has lagged behind, seriously behind.

Now, someone who really understands this stuff will say, now wait a minute there is much behind these statistics....they are averages, they don't show starting salaries or the effects of lenght of time in service, etc. All that is correct....but then those who disagree with the main points here, do that analysis. I'm standing pat for now on this.

Increasing economic opporunties for women have, inadvertently hurt the teaching profession, which in turn, has hurt education, especially public education. The solution is to make teaching as economically attractive as other professions requiring similar talent, like nursing, editing, and accounting. how that is done, whether through merit pay or just raising the salaries (productivity increases are not likely to increase the pay..indeed, more teachers are needed, not less), is one key to improving US public education.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Patriot or Trader?

My title is meant to be provocative. I have no doubt the answer is patriot. A couple of days ago the Washington Post printed a column by a former interrogator working in Iraq. Complete article here (you should read it)

Why do I say patriot and not rrader? Because:
I'm not some ivory-tower type; I served for 14 years in the U.S. Air Force, began my career as a Special Operations pilot flying helicopters, saw combat in Bosnia and Kosovo, became an Air Force counterintelligence agent, then volunteered to go to Iraq to work as a senior interrogator. What I saw in Iraq still rattles me -- both because it betrays our traditions and because it just doesn't work.

Not only is torture a betrayal of our American traditions and it doesn't makes things worse:
Torture and abuse are against my moral fabric. The cliche still bears repeating: Such outrages are inconsistent with American principles. And then there's the pragmatic side: Torture and abuse cost American lives.

I learned in Iraq that the No. 1 reason foreign fighters flocked there to fight were the abuses carried out at Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo. Our policy of torture was directly and swiftly recruiting fighters for al-Qaeda in Iraq. The large majority of suicide bombings in Iraq are still carried out by these foreigners. They are also involved in most of the attacks on U.S. and coalition forces in Iraq. It's no exaggeration to say that at least half of our losses and casualties in that country have come at the hands of foreigners who joined the fray because of our program of detainee abuse. The number of U.S. soldiers who have died because of our torture policy will never be definitively known, but it is fair to say that it is close to the number of lives lost on Sept. 11, 2001. How anyone can say that torture keeps Americans safe is beyond me -- unless you don't count American soldiers as Americans.

Then should we conclude that those who authorized the use of torture have American blood on their hands?
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