Monday, July 25, 2005

Education Failure - Linking Verbs

Be am is are was were been being seem feel look appear become grow taste smell sound continue remain....

Freshmen English... 1958. Every morning for 6 weeks we repeated this refrain until it was indelibly etched in our minds. We were not allowed to be "creative" with our language. We had to learn it. Learning the technical aspects of our language was as important as writing an essay of our own thoughts.

Three years of Latin; three years of German; Shakespeare, Milton and Chaucer... learning the foundations of our language. No phonetics... no "hooked on phonics." Knowledge passed along rather than invented on the fly.

I found Thomas Sowell's article (and part 2) about the impact of passing along knowledge versus "facilitating" learning less than surprising. Oh, I know, Thomas Sowell is not exactly revered among the left-leaning and maybe too revered among the right-leaning. Okay, let's just say that my own experience says that I got more out of teachers who passed along the information and how it was relevant than those who simply handed out assignments and tested.

Teaching is not a process of "facilitating" learning and it is not a process of being "conveyors of knowledge who enlighten their students with what they know." It is a process of facilitating learning by conveying specific knowledge in ways that are relevant and interesting.

I once asked my son's geometry teacher if he ever attempted to relate that subject to everyday applications. He responded with a dull, blank expression and a simple, "No." That confirmed my son's opinion that this guy was putting in his time until retirement. I wanted to tell him how I built a two-level deck with a bay front on the back of my house using a level, chalkline and standard length lumber, plus what I had learned in geometry. No tape measure was needed.

The point is that teachers have to be more than "guides"; teachers must be surrogate parents. Before you get all huffy about teachers being surrogate parents, think about the reality of the situation. For the better part of the day, teachers must be the authority, the counselor, the guide, and the expert in our children's lives. Many teachers prefer just one or two of those roles, but the effective teachers establish a personal relationship based on strength of knowledge, strength of position and strength of character. They don't replace parents; they assume the temporary position of a parent who is educating many offspring.

My father taught me how to build and fix things. He showed me the right way, guided my hands-on efforts, and corrected me until I understood and was competent. He didn't hand me a power saw and just say "don't put your hand in front of the blade" while I "discovered" how to cut wood properly. He was a teaching parent. Good teachers understand that they are surrogate parents.

By the way, that English teacher who drilled those linking verbs into our collective consciousness was a reasonably good teacher. She had a difficult subject... grammar... and a difficult group of students... freshmen. But I never really understood until much later just why we were learning that list. Regardless (not irregardless), she did convey the knowledge needed to advance my understanding and proper use of English. Admittedly, I have become a little sloppy in my use of punctuation and, occasionally, grammar, but her efforts largely were successful.

Friday, July 15, 2005

China - Market Opportunity, Trading Partner, Competitor, Enemy?

Nothing is ever as simple as it first seems.

Triple your original estimate.

Ignore the man behind the curtain.


  • Market opportunity - GM goes in; Chery comes out
  • Trading Partner - jobs for cheap goods
  • Competitor - IBM, UNOCAL? (read the papers)
  • Enemy - We'll nuke you if you actively defend Taiwan

Read both parts.

Thursday, July 14, 2005

Education Failure - I'd Rather Not Go There

In Michigan:

State high school science test scores show a slight drop
In Detroit:
Earn your GED through television
In Ontario, Canada
Toyota to build 100,000 vehicles per year in Woodstock, Ont., starting 2008

Nissan and Honda have encountered difficulties getting new plants up to full production in recent years in Mississippi and Alabama due to an untrained - and often illiterate - workforce. In Alabama, trainers had to use "pictorials" to teach some illiterate workers how to use high-tech plant equipment.

"The educational level and the skill level of the people down there is so much lower than it is in Ontario."
(Thanks to Steven for the lead)

Alabama, Mississippi, Michigan, Detroit... what do they have in common?
a) What, me study?
b) A lot of free time.
c) Professional TV watchers
d) All of the above

Sunday, July 10, 2005

Ethnic Divisiveness - Biting The Hand That Feeds You

Gratitude: grat·i·tude

Pronunciation: 'gra-t&-"tüd, -"tyüd
Function: noun
Etymology: Middle English, from Middle French or Medieval Latin; Middle French, from Medieval Latin gratitudo, from Latin gratus grateful
: the state of being grateful : THANKFULNESS [Merriam-Webster Online]

The New York Times reports today:
Imran Waheed, a spokesman for a radical British-based group, Hizb ut Tahrir, which is allowed to function here but is banned in Germany and much of the Muslim world, said: "When Westerners get killed, the world cries. But if Muslims get killed in Iraq or Afghanistan, it's the smallest of news. I will condemn what happened in London only after there is the promise from Western leaders to condemn what they have done in Falluja and other parts of Iraq and in Afghanistan."

So far, there appears to be little effort to restrain outspoken clerics, including prominent extremists like Sheik Omar, who has reportedly been under investigation by Scotland Yard.

Sheik Omar, who remains free, is an example of the double-edged policies in Britain. He is a political refugee who was given asylum 19 years ago and is supported by public assistance. Asked in an interview in May how he felt about being barred from obtaining British citizenship, he replied, "I don't want to become a citizen of hell."
The Christian/Humanistic culture of the West may have a slight problem understanding the depth of Islamic thinking. On the other hand, radical Islamists may have a difficult time understanding why anyone would actually want to guarantee their civil rights... but they will certainly take advantage of it.

Friday, July 08, 2005

Environmental Extremism - If only I had a brain

The Scarecrow could be excused for his shallow thought process. After all, he didn't have a brain. But when our leaders and editors use the old "we should do something" as a statement of policy, it is hard to excuse.

In today's Detroit Free Press, columnist Tom Walsh wrote:

If the United States and other major economic powers were to switch from gasoline to hydrogen or another alternate fuel for cars and trucks, just imagine the geopolitical impact. Radical regimes in the Middle East would lose the only clout they have, as demand for oil falls along with its price.
Well, yes, if we just switched fuels that would be great. But, as I have written several times, each alternative has a price that, so far, we haven't been willing to pay.

A hydrogen-based transportation system would require massive efforts to build a distribution infrastructure. It would also require new nuclear or clean-burning coal power generation plants to make enough energy to create the hydrogen gas which, incidentally, is a storage medium like a battery, not an energy source. Even Greenpeace co-founder, Patrick Moore, agrees with that (see June 13).

Meanwhile, Congress toys with dismantling Amtrak which is a mass-transportation alternative.

But, we gotta do something... something. If I only had a brain to figure out what.

But as Tom Walsh put it:
I don't have a clue what will ultimately emerge as the best replacement for gasoline.
His solution:
Why not just put a lot of really smart people on the case, give them the money and resources they need, then light a fire under them and keep it lit until they find a way to kick the oil addiction?
Tom, the answers are already out there. It's just that our "leaders" don't want to face the heat from a "fire under them". And, quite frankly, neither do most citizens if it means $5.00/gallon gasoline.

Current energy alternatives to oil products and where best used:
  • nuclear power - regional/national (Chernobyl - not!)
  • clean-burning coal - regional/national (millions of tons of that stuff in our back yard)
  • tidal - regional/local
  • solar - regional/local/homes (heat and light)
  • wind - local/homes
  • geothermal - commercial buildings/homes
  • hydrogen - storage medium
  • batteries - storage medium
  • insulation - duh!
  • triple-pane low-e glass - duh!
  • skylights - duh!
  • sweaters - duh!
  • walking and bicycling - duh!
If I only had a brain.... No, if I only had the will.

Thursday, July 07, 2005

Ethnic Divisiveness - London Bombing

Today's bombing in London will create a temporary crisis of confidence... very temporary. What is more likely to happen is that Europeans will begin to view all Muslims with increasing hostility.

Why? Because most Muslims in Europe have not demonstrated any indication that they are against those who are responsible for a similar attack in Spain and the murder of a Danish film maker Theo Van Gogh, recently. There have been no clerics or leaders stepping forward denouncing these actions. Don't expect them in England. I suspect that even though the Muslims might be horrified by the actions, they are secretly delighted that the Europeans are getting "payback" for displacing the Ottoman Empire's glory.

The Middle Eastern version of Islam, particularly the religious state versions, have stifled the Muslims with regard to social, intellectual, and economic growth which they are all too willing to blame the on the West.

That said, it is unlikely that there will be any negative reaction coming out of the Muslim world... more likely a positive reaction to the murders in England.

What are the long term effects? I think that the Europeans will begin to resist further immigration of Muslims. It is likely that Turkey's efforts to join the European Union will be hurt further. Muslims living in Europe will find themselves the targets of hate crimes.

But what would surprise me least is that there may be secret communications by the European governments with the leaders of Iran and Syria warning that further attacks by the Muslim extremists will result in mysterious explosions in Damascus and Tehran. It is no secret that Iran and Syria directly and actively support the terrorists. They may not control them, but they give them sanctuary and resources. An EMP cruise missle or two would send a strong message: DON'T TREAD ON ME! It's time the jackels were restrained... or the lions may be unleashed.

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There is always an easy solution to every human problem—neat, plausible, and wrong.
Henry Louis Mencken (1880–1956)
“The Divine Afflatus,” A Mencken Chrestomathy, chapter 25, p. 443 (1949)
... and one could add "not all human problems really are."
It was beautiful and simple, as truly great swindles are.
- O. Henry
... The Government is on course for an embarrassing showdown with the European Union, business groups and environmental charities after refusing to guarantee that billions of pounds of revenue it stands to earn from carbon-permit trading will be spent on combating climate change.
The Independent (UK)

Tracking Interest Rates

Tracking Interest Rates


SEARCH BLOG: FEDERAL RESERVE for full versions... or use the Blog Archive pulldown menu.

February 3, 2006
Go back to 1999-2000 and see what the Fed did. They are following the same pattern for 2005-06. If it ain't broke, the Fed will fix it... and good!
August 29, 2006 The Federal Reserve always acts on old information... and is the only cause of U.S. recessions.
December 5, 2006 Last spring I wrote about what I saw to be a sharp downturn in the economy in the "rustbelt" states, particularly Michigan.
March 28, 2007
The Federal Reserve sees no need to cut interest rates in the light of adverse recent economic data, Ben Bernanke said on Wednesday.
The Fed chairman said ”to date, the incoming data have supported the view that the current stance of policy is likely to foster sustainable economic growth and a gradual ebbing in core inflation”.

July 21, 2007 My guess is that if there is an interest rate change, a cut is more likely than an increase. The key variables to be watching at this point are real estate prices and the inventory of unsold homes.
August 11, 2007 I suspect that within 6 months the Federal Reserve will be forced to lower interest rates before housing becomes a black hole.
September 11, 2007 It only means that the overall process has flaws guaranteeing it will be slow in responding to changes in the economy... and tend to over-react as a result.
September 18, 2007 I think a 4% rate is really what is needed to turn the economy back on the right course. The rate may not get there, but more cuts will be needed with employment rates down and foreclosure rates up.
October 25, 2007 How long will it be before I will be able to write: "The Federal Reserve lowered its lending rate to 4% in response to the collapse of the U.S. housing market and massive numbers of foreclosures that threaten the banking and mortgage sectors."
"Should the elevated turbulence persist, it would increase the possibility of further tightening in financial conditions for households and businesses," he said.

"Uncertainties about the economic outlook are unusually high right now," he said. "These uncertainties require flexible and pragmatic policymaking -- nimble is the adjective I used a few weeks ago."

December 11, 2007 Somehow the Fed misses the obvious.
[Image from:]
December 13, 2007 [from The Christian Science Monitor]
"The odds of a recession are now above 50 percent," says Mark Zandi, chief economist at Moody's "We are right on the edge of a recession in part because of the Fed's reluctance to reduce interest rates more aggressively." [see my comments of September 11]
January 7, 2008 The real problem now is that consumers can't rescue the economy and manufacturing, which is already weakening, will continue to weaken. We've gutted the forces that could avoid a downturn. The question is not whether there will be a recession, but can it be dampened sufficiently so that it is very short.
January 11, 2008 This is death by a thousand cuts.
January 13, 2008 [N.Y. Times]
“The question is not whether we will have a recession, but how deep and prolonged it will be,” said David Rosenberg, the chief North American economist at Merrill Lynch. “Even if the Fed’s moves are going to work, it will not show up until the later part of 2008 or 2009.
January 17, 2008 A few days ago, Anna Schwartz, nonagenarian economist, implicated the Federal Reserve as the cause of the present lending crisis [from the Telegraph - UK]:
The high priestess of US monetarism - a revered figure at the Fed - says the central bank is itself the chief cause of the credit bubble, and now seems stunned as the consequences of its own actions engulf the financial system. "The new group at the Fed is not equal to the problem that faces it," she says, daring to utter a thought that fellow critics mostly utter sotto voce.
January 22, 2008 The cut has become infected and a limb is in danger. Ben Bernanke is panicking and the Fed has its emergency triage team cutting rates... this time by 3/4%. ...

What should the Federal Reserve do now? Step back... and don't be so anxious to raise rates at the first sign of economic improvement.
Individuals and businesses need stability in their financial cost structures so that they can plan effectively and keep their ships afloat. Wildly fluctuating rates... regardless of what the absolute levels are... create problems. Either too much spending or too much fear. It's just not that difficult to comprehend. Why has it been so difficult for the Fed?

About Me

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Michigan, United States
Air Force (SAC) captain 1968-72. Retired after 35 years of business and logistical planning, including running a small business. Two sons with advanced degrees; one with a business and pre-law degree. Beautiful wife who has put up with me for 4 decades. Education: B.A. (Sociology major; minors in philosopy, English literature, and German) M.S. Operations Management (like a mixture of an MBA with logistical planning)