St. Cloud State economics professor King Banaian wrote a perfectly good blog post the other day about how scholars use data and studies (in this case about global warming) to test their beliefs about the world.
"And what you think is true evolves, with questioning and skepticism all along the way," the professor concludes.
Apparently such thinking is not required when professors tweet — or respond to tweets — but let's assume 140 characters is just a limitation on discussion, not skeptical thinking.
My own skepticism was triggered by King's claim:
$2500 Tata Nano will cost $8000 after the EU and US regulators get done with it. The UAW says THANKS! http://is.gd/6meIu
The source for this insight, or at least his link, is this one paragraph:
-- The world's cheapest car ($2,500) is being readied for sale in the
U.S., but by the time India's Tata Nano is retrofitted to meet
emissions and safety standards, it won't be that cheap. Tata Motors
already has made a European version of the four-seat car that will cost
about $8,000 when it debuts in 2011, and a Tata Technologies official
said privately that the U.S. version is expected to have a comparable
Cute on the outside, Tata Nano base model is a bit... basic.
Now maybe the professor intended it as a one-liner, but my hobby is digging into one-liners attempting to become political memes — in this case, that government regulation is denying American consumers a great, inexpensive mode of transportation.
You know, like it denies toddlers baby charms made with lead, forcing their moms to buy cadmium instead. I mean, how many kids actually gnaw on their bracelets?
But the young fella with only $3000 to spend on a car can buy it in India but not in the US due to regulators. Is that right?
No, it's not.
Here's a bit more about the Tata Nano, from Car and Driver.
We must not forget that the Nano is first and foremost a car for India,
a country of about one billion people where fewer than two percent own
a car. It was instigated by Ratan Tata, the chairman of the Tata
conglomerate, India’s biggest corporation, in a gesture that looks as
much philanthropic as business savvy. Watching the way whole families
travel on motorcycles—rider, pillion passenger, and two children
hanging on—and noting the terrible toll in road deaths involving
two-wheelers, Tata called for a safer four-wheeled vehicle that bike
riders could afford.
To be able to make a car so cheaply, the designers threw out safety features like airbags and stability control. Ever driven a golf cart at full throttle? Well, the Nano's flat-land top speed is allegedly 65 mph on 12-inch wheels. They also put no emission controls on what's essentially a pepped-up, 35 hp lawnmower motor.
Oh, yes, and how many US drivers with $3,000 to spend will like to
drive a manual transmission that takes them from 0 to 37 mph in 8
Tata cut other corners as well.
That $8,000 price tag for the Euro version includes an engine nearly twice the size of the $2,500 Indian model, a five-speed transmission, and accessories US drivers (not regulators) might require, such as heat, cooling, audio and decent seats.
In other words, Tata is not just responding to regulators as it gets ready to bring the Nano to other countries. It's responding to their markets. Failure to do that would kill the Nano dead in its tiny American tracks.
As an economist, maybe King understands the difference between selling a product in an actual market and to selling it to make an ideological statement. Maybe he also knows that concept cars and manufacturer hype often don't live up to expectations — or live at all.
Still, he insists that a US business should be able to sell this product without interference if someone wants it.
Never mind that America is already loaded with $2,500 cars equipped for these roads and traffic conditions, as well as companies catering to the limited street-legal golf cart market. Never mind that for India's hundreds of millions of potential drivers, the base Nano is a step up, while for even Yugo owners, it would be a step down.
It's the principle!
Somehow, King would magically import these $2,500 beauties made by cheap foreign labor, develop distributorships and change consumer perceptions about tiny, unsafe and polluting autos with little comfort and no accessories, while keeping that dazzling price point — and finding enough buyers to keep from losing his professor's salary many times over.
I suggest testing the market first with the young fellas in LA, El Paso, or say, Green Valley, Arizona. The Michigan dealer franchise can wait.
Beyond my "Shorter Kersten" tweets, I don't bother commenting on Katherine Kersten's column any more. Now that she's out from under the Strib wing, her work has become even more predictable — and repetitive, which is even worse.
She wrote two columns in recent weeks about the University of Minnesota's School of Education brainwashing students regarding diversity. Liberals, of course, have already gone over to the side of fighting white oppression and thinking about how different cultures view the world. Kersten doesn't think all teachers should have to be exposed to that claptrap, especially if such training might be required professionally.
Well, I'm decidedly liberal and equally not a professional teacher. I thought I'd share how I work with my preschoolers with only my liberal bias to lean on.
Yesterday, for example, I took five kids and we played Street TV, a game I invented in which the kids look out the window and find things to comment on.
For example, yesterday, we discussed snow removal techniques; buildings and their features that would present different challenges to Spiderman; and the various specialized cargos and uses of buses and trucks passing on Washington Avenue.
These four year olds participated in the diversity discussion at different levels, but for example, they were able to distinguish between food trucks, moving trucks and cable company trucks. We saw at least five distinct sizes of trucks with booms or cargo arms and talked about the different lifting jobs they performed. And they were able to tell me the difference between regular and extended city buses, out-of-town buses, school buses and "Bible study buses."
Another exercise in diversity came up while we were waiting for a tardy lunch to be delivered to the room. (All the kids were washed up and seated.) A teacher asked the kids what they thought was going to be on the menu. One kid said, "chicken noodle soup," which was a fairly educated guess.
I started a little chant that went: "Chicken noodle soup! Chicken noodle soup! I like chicken in my chicken noodle soup!" After the kids joined me, and we ran through it a few times, I changed chicken to noodle, and we ran through it twice more.
Then they started adding their own ingredients. The first, believe it or not, was broccoli, then carrots, peanuts, pizza and ice cream to increasing hilarity. When I suggested broth, they made a face. I could be wrong, but it might've been because it was the only item that did not fit the meter of the chant.
Lunch was turkey, mashed potatoes and gravy, with apple sauce and... broccoli!
I hesitate to bring any politics into my discussion of what happens in the classroom with these kids. I don't want to suggest that conservatives and Republicans are not also at work in our shelters. They are and they are doing good work.
Anyone who thinks this work is about political ideology or brainwashing or limiting freedom seriously needs to spend a year with a bunch of these kids.
There is no terror in the bang, only the anticipation of it.
– Alfred Hitchcock
Plantary Gears ruminates on a few points from Horton's essay about fear of cycling, including this...
Until the 1920s-30s or thereabouts, streets served as a conduit of
traffic, but also as an unstructured social area, children's play area,
etc. As more people started driving cars, it became clear that the
streets could either remain multipurpose social/transportation spaces,
or they could be dedicated to the efficient flow of automobile traffic,
but not both. Obviously the trend was, and continues to be toward
permitting the cars to be driven unfettered, and effectively, if not
legally, prohibiting the activities of people who aren't in cars.
And then drifts into a discussion, which continues in the comments, about the need of certain people to segment themselves into evermore specialized subcultures.
Former Senator Dave Durenburger's commentary about reforming health care made mention of El Paso, Texas, and its relatively low costs compared to other parts of the country. It reminded my of this post, which was still sitting in my hopper.
A city of illegal immigrants with easy access to guns, just across the
river from a metropolis ripped apart by brutal drug war violence.
Should be a bloodbath, right? [...] Many criminologists say El Paso isn't safe despite its high proportion of immigrants, it's safe because of them.
"If you want to find a safe city, first determine the size of the immigrant population," says Jack Levin,
a criminologist at Northeastern University in Massachusetts. "If the
immigrant community represents a large proportion of the population,
you're likely in one of the country's safer cities. San Diego, Laredo,
El Paso—these cities are teeming with immigrants, and they're some of
the safest places in the country."
Rates of crime and conviction for undocumented
immigrants are far below those for the native born, and according to social scientists, that's not surprising. It's the general pattern with immigrant groups throughout history.
"Overall, immigrants have a stake in this
country, and they recognize it," Northeastern University's Levin says.
"They're really an exceptional sort of American. They come here having
left their family and friends back home. They come at some cost to
themselves in terms of security and social relationships. They are
extremely success-oriented, and adjust very well to the competitive
circumstances in the United States."
With the Red River still yet to crest, the Strib commenters rush in. One theme is that some people "deserve" help and others don't.
No need to guess who's who. The comments start off with this exchange [click link above for full comment]:
People should be able to live where they want and be responsible for
where they live as long as they don't look to the Feds for help. If the
North Dakota government wants to provide assistance for their own
people for the choices they have made, so bet [sic] it.
posted by nomeds on Mar. 27, 09 at 7:48 AM
[...] At least
the people along the Red River use the fed money to fortify their flood
defenses. New Orleans used the fed money to build river boat gambling
operations and yacht slips. Also, there will be no blame of Obama for
the flooding along the Red like Bush was blamed for Katrina. The people
along the Red are fighting the disaster to save their cities. The
people of New Orleans used the Katrina disaster to riot, loot, rape and
murder. If anyone deserves federal aid, it's the people along the Red -
they've earned the right to get help.
I would be remiss, however, if I did not mention the ethnocentrism in this celebration. Barbie's influence extends even to the Muslim world, where Fulla shows little girls how they can indulge their wholesome fantasies in private before venturing out into the world, ever so modestly, to smell the flowers. [h/t Deanette]
There's an interesting interview with anthropologist Karen Ho, who studied the culture of investment banking and found that Wall Street capitalism tends to operate based on the culture, values and relatively privileged circumstances of the bankers — and not so much according to the even hand of the free market.
Ho says of the investment bankers, who are finally getting a taste of what they have wrought:
Investment bankers are structured toward the next bonus. They're
compensated on how many deals they can push through, not on the quality
of the deals or long-term strategy. Investment bankers have tons of job
insecurity; they are a total revolving door. But what's interesting is
that because of their fairly elite biographies and kind of privileged
networks they move in, as well as their lavish compensation, the way
they experience downsizing is very different from that of the average
Restructuring and downsizing looks different when operating on a substantial social and financial cushion, she says:
They can say, "Hey look, I
have a really risky job, but that's why I just got paid $1 million last
year." They'll actually recommend this kind of churning for other
workers who have a very different experience. This actually affects
corporate America, how other industries are operating.
Ho's research adds more evidence that the financial meltdown was driven by compensation practices that rewarded quantity of deal making, not quality. She has a forthcoming book, some of which may be foreshadowed in her chapter in The Anthropology of Globalization, which contains this quote from Anna Tsing:
Several features attract and engage an expanding audience for imagining the globe: first, its futurism, that is, its ability not only to name an era but to predict its progress; second, its conflations of varied projects through which the populist and the corporate, the scientific and the cultural, the excluded margins and the newly thriving centers, all seem wrapped up in the same energetic movement; and, third, its rhetoric of linkage and circulation as the overcoming of boundaries and restrictions, through which all this excitement appears positive for everyone involved.
On July 22nd, 2005, a Brazilian electrician named Jean Charles de Menezes was killed by police who believed he was one of the bombers responsible for a failed attack on the London Underground system.
As I wrote at the time, the rumors and misinformation surrounding his death provided a telling look at our terrorist fears, racial prejudices, attitudes toward guns and the unreliability of eyewitness testimony.
More than three years later, the jury at an inquest decided on an "open verdict" — the most critical finding possible after the coroner ruled out the option of returning a verdict of
"unlawful killing" by police.
The jury was instructed it could not "return a
verdict which found any individual or institution criminally or civilly
liable." That meant lawful killing or open verdict were the only possible outcomes of the inquiry.
It's unlikely the inquest will erase the falsehoods that became embedded in the original story — that he wore a bulky jacket that could've concealed a bomb; that he hurdled the turnstile and ran from police; that he ignored police warnings and made a move as if to attack.
Several video works have gone back and recreated that day. One is evocative, simply reenacting de Menezes' mundane trip to the station. Another is forensic, annotating the CCTV security tapes. The last is stupid, pretenious and badly-executed all at once. Finally, Hollywood provided an inadvertant commentary on this sad affair.
In September when the jury visited Stockwell station where de Menezes was killed, a poster for the movie Righteous Kill was on the wall, featuring this line: "There's nothing wrong with a little shooting as long as the right people get shot." Ironically, most versions of the movie posters said: "Most people respect the badge. Everybody respects the gun."
As the facts gradually trickled out, it appeared de Menezes was never given a chance to respect the badge.
Occasionally, I stumble across an essay in Power Line that makes me work my way through the smug conservatism and tin ear lawyer prose. The latest example, Scott Johnson's "From Keith Ellison to Barack Obama, " starts out this way:
After Barack Obama clinched the Democratic presidential nomination
this past June, I set out a comparison between Minnesota Fifth District
Rep. Keith Ellison and Barack Obama. (Minnesota's Fifth District covers
Minneapolis and its inner-ring suburbs.) I think the comparison remains
both valid and illuminating. I am taking the liberty of revisiting my
argument this morning.
Watching the emergence of Barack Obama this year I have experienced
at least a slight sense of déjà vu. With modifications and variations,
the Obama phenomenon was anticipated by the rise of Keith Ellison in
What evoked this at least slight tingle? Johnson provides the context.
After I first posted an item or two about Ellison in June on Power
Line, writing about him as carefully as I could, I started getting
calls from prominent Democrats and other knowledgeable sources with
first-hand knowledge of Ellison. They were unhappy at the thought that
Keith Ellison might become the face of the Democratic Party in
Minnesota's largest city. [Emphasis mine.]
In other words, the same types who feed their "concerns" to Michael Brodkorb, so they can undermine their in-party opponents, came to Johnson for some dirty work. After all, no Minnesota Democrat hoping for the party's nomination could suggest a black face would be the wrong one to replace the farina-hued countenance of Rep. Martin Sabo.
The media conspired in the political correctness, according to Johnson, by not sufficiently exposing Ellison's supposed radical Islamic affiliations.
Johnson continues in this fashion, conflating Ellison's embrace of Islam with Barack Hussein Obama's embrace of...
Obama nevertheless found the functional equivalent of Farrakhan in
Jeremiah Wright. Wright had no such reservations regarding Farrakhan.
He has an enduring relationship with Farrakhan that goes back at least
as far as their joint trip to visit Col. Gadaffi in 1984. In casting
his lot with Wright's Trinity United Church of Christ, Obama found the
useful Christian analogue of the Nation of Islam.
Both Ellison and Obama have friends among home-grown terrorists.
Johnson can't see the actual pragmatism that links these "leftward-most viable candidates" (they both voted for the Wall Street rescue bills), but mentions their shared opposition to the Iraq War.
Obama staked his campaign on the proposition that he was the Ivory Soap candidate on the issue of Iraq.
Johnson no doubt means this as "100% Pure" on the war, but how many people will read the text and ignore its strong subtext?
And how does Johnson clinch his comparison?
Despite the natural alliance that should exist between them, Obama has scrupulously avoided Ellison.
See, being black lefties and all, the two should be tight, but Obama doesn't want to be seen as Muslim. Isn't their lack of association an important clue to Obama's real self?
Sort of like Johnson's piece provides a glimpse into the dark heart of today's conservatism.