Displaying posts published in

August 2015

Shaky Studies on Women and STEM By John Rosenberg

Readers of the higher education press and literature may be forgiven for supposing that there is more research on why there are not more women in STEM fields than there is actual research in the STEM fields themselves. The latest addition to this growing pile of studies appeared a few months ago in Science, and now Science has just published a new study refuting the earlier one.

In the earlier study, “Expectations of Brilliance Underlie Gender Distributions Across Academic Disciplines,” Sarah-Jane Leslie, a philosophy professor at Princeton, and several co-authors surveyed more than 1800 academics across 30 disciplines — graduate students, postdocs, junior and senior faculty — to determine the extent of their agreement with such statements as, “Being a top scholar of [your field] requires a special aptitude that just can’t be taught” and whether “men are more often suited than women to do high-level work in [your field.]”

Fields that believe innate brilliance is essential to high success, such as physics and philosophy, have a significantly smaller proportion of women than fields that don’t, such as Psychology and Molecular Biology.

Donald Trump Sounds Like a Drug-Addled Rock Star By Charles C. W. Cooke

Before his bombastic concert-in-the-park performance in Mobile, Donald Trump had come across chiefly as an amusing amateur whose total lack of basic political knowledge and essential reasoning ability had rendered him unwilling to do interviews that he could not phone in from the confines of his office. In Alabama, he broke out, transforming himself in the process into something else altogether. One part Alan Ginsberg, one part Jim Morrison, and one part Roderick Spode, Trump strode onto the Southern stage as might a troubled rock star. This, his insolent upper lip told the camera, was show time.

Attempting manfully to keep up with the spectacle, C-SPAN warned viewers bloodlessly that its closed-captioning system sometimes made mistakes and was therefore not to be trusted. One had to wonder how anybody could have known either way. Words, you see, are for losers. For the overrated. For the establishment. Real candidates leer and emote and strut back and forth.

At times resembling a man who hoped to discover whether methamphetamine or LSD served as the best accompaniment to a mostly whisky diet, Trump stood throughout his pageant in a cocksure fighting pose, breaking his stance only to turn around and bathe in the adulation. When he spoke, he did so as might a half-awake stranger at an underground poetry slam. His thoughts were meandering, irrational, and wholly self-contradictory; his grasp of reality left much to be desired; his aim was to offer up a firework-laden piece of self-serving performance art, aimed squarely at the unserious and the easily led. “I know how Billy Graham felt,” Trump preached before he launched into his quasi-hallucinogenic diatribe. Superficially, perhaps he does. But Graham, recall, was preaching about an external God.

With His Health-Care Plan, Scott Walker Shows His Titanium Core By Deroy Murdock —

Scott Walker got two things right recently. He got tough, and he got specific.

Walker’s toughness is one of his most valuable traits. In 2011, he withstood wily, obstructionist Democratic state senators who literally decamped Wisconsin for Illinois to prevent a quorum and thereby stymie Walker’s legislative agenda. He endured loud protests by some 100,000 ferocious, union-fueled demonstrators. Some of them urinated on his office door. Others scattered bullets on the state-capitol grounds. Walker survived chillingly specific death threats against him, his parents, and his children. The latter included details of the bus routes his sons took home from school.

Undaunted, Walker pushed ahead with landmark labor reforms. With equal courage, he won a vicious recall election, signed tax cuts and school-choice bills, terminated taxpayer funds to Planned Parenthood, and then faced down Democrats and free-spending union bosses at the polls last November. Walker easily secured reelection and, early this year, approved legislation that made Wisconsin a right-to-work state.

Despite his titanium core, however, Walker’s exterior demeanor is low-key, unassuming, and modest. The phrase “Sylvester Stallone trapped in Mister Rogers’s body” overstates both characteristics, but that vivid image telegraphs the point.

Dem Poll: Sanders Leads Hillary in New Hampshire By Joel Gehrke

Vermont senator Bernie Sanders is beating Hillary Clinton in New Hampshire, according to a survey of the presidential primary conducted by a Democratic-leaning firm.

Sanders leads Clinton 42 to 35 among New Hampshire Democrats. “We still find Hillary Clinton well ahead everywhere else, but it’s clear at this point that there’s a real race in the Granite State,” said Dean Debnam, the president of Public Policy Polling.

Clinton, who made a dramatic comeback victory in New Hampshire after losing to Barack Obama in the 2008 Iowa caucuses, has seen her approval rating there slip 15 points since April. “The main story in New Hampshire is how universally popular Sanders has become with the Democratic electorate,” according to PPP. “78 percent see him favorably to only 12 percent with a negative opinion — that makes him easily the most popular candidate on either side with their party’s voters. Meanwhile Hillary Clinton’s favorability numbers have taken a little bit of a hit — she was at 78/10 with Democratic [New Hampshire] primary voters in April, but now she’s at a 63/25 spread.”

Two Cheers for Ignorance Small Minds, Big Problems By Kevin D. Williamson

Among the many memorable sights and sounds (and smells) of Occupy Wall Street was the young man who was very eager to speak to me about derivatives trading, which, he promised me, was positioned to sucker-punch the world economy even more brutally than the mortgage bubble had. He seemed to have a great deal of information at his command: The derivatives market was so many trillions of dollars and was inadequately regulated in such-and-such a way, etc. Listening to him speak for a bit, I told him I had only one question that I’d like him to answer:

“What’s a derivative?”

Sputter, stutter, stammer, hem and haw. He had no idea. It was something Wall Street types did, and it was . . . bad.

Manually dislocating one’s opinions from one’s lower intestine is not a vice unique to soapbox speakers on public squares. A year or so ago, there was a big Russia story in the news, and late in the afternoon I received a panicky mass e-mail from a cable-news producer inviting every Russia “expert” in his contacts list to high-tail it to the studio for a live segment that was starting in 90 minutes or so but which was at that moment short on Russia expertise. I am about as much of an expert on Russia as I am on the civil-engineering challenges of contemporary Cairo, and for a gleefully malicious moment I was tempted to go on the show and do something funny. I thought better of it. But there are people who care a great deal more about being on television than I do, and who will respond to any invitation, regardless of their level of relevant knowledge. And I’ve made that mistake, too: Occasionally on those long panel shows, you’ll get asked about something you weren’t expecting to speak about, and the perceived need to say something is an invitation to error that I have, in the moment and to my shame, answered.

Inspector General Slams Ambassador to Japan Caroline Kennedy’s Embassy as Amateur Hour By Claudia Rosett

Having a celebrity socialite run the huge embassy was as foolish as it looked.

When President Obama nominated Caroline Kennedy in 2013 to serve as America’s ambassador to Japan, there were those who had their misgivings [1]. On the celebrity social circuit, Kennedy knows her game — daughter of the lionized JFK, enthusiastic supporter of Obama, and guest earlier this month of the Obama family at their summer holiday [2] enclave on Martha’s Vineyard.

But Kennedy came to her ambassador’s post with no foreign policy experience, no particular background in Japan or Asia generally, and apparently not much skill at running the $93.6 million-per-year operation that is the U.S. Embassy in Tokyo.

This embassy is one of America’s most important outposts, representing American interests to a strategically vital democratic ally and economic partner in an increasingly troubled region. Japan faces a militarizing, expansionist, and economically roiled China, an aggressively rearming Russia, and a nuclear-arming North Korea.

EPA Misses Deadline to Turn Over Documents About Nasty Mine Spill Posted By Bridget Johnson

The Environmental Protection Agency missed a congressional deadline to turn over documents related to its spill of toxic sludge into a southwest Colorado River.

The House Science, Space and Technology Committee sent a letter to EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy on Aug. 10 requesting documents and materials relating to the work that caused the Aug. 5 spill as well as information on “whether the polluted water poses health risks to humans or animals.”

Committee Chairman Lamar Smith (R-Texas) sought documents on the chemicals in the mine waste and information on the waste water being treated in holding ponds at the mine site.

He asked for the documents no later than yesterday. Some were released to the entire public by the EPA, but the majority of what they requested has not been released or turned over, the committee said.

Nine Experts Slam EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy’s ‘Clean Power Plan’ Speech By Tom Harris

Anyone trying to understand why the climate change debate has become so toxic need look no further than the August 11 speech by U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Gina McCarthy.

In her presentation [1] at the Resources for the Future [2] (RFF) Policy Leadership Forum, her first public appearance since the August 3 release of the EPA’s “Clean Power Plan [3]“ (CPP), McCarthy demonstrated everything that is wrong with the Obama administration’s approach to the issue. The EPA employs error-riddled interpretations of climate science and economics, and couples this with language designed to trick the public and the press into thinking the plan is something it is not.

Energy Secretary: If U.S. ‘Undermines’ Iran Deal, ‘It’s Not Going to Be a Very Good Day After’ By Nicholas Ballasy (Huh?)

Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz downplayed concerns that Iran could secretly develop a nuclear weapon with the current agreement in effect, saying the U.S. would “know within weeks” if Iran cheated.

“The number one point is that the current reactor will not completed, actually a key central component, it’s called the calandria, is going to be removed and literally filled with concrete so that it cannot be used again,” Moniz said in a discussion held by the Jewish Federations of North America.

“Then, the P5+1, which will include the United States, will oversee the redesign of that reactor, the parameters are already agreed to on what that reactor can do, it’s two pages in the agreement if you want to look it up. As I said, it will be roughly a factor of 10 in the amount of plutonium reduction,” he added.

Moniz said that plutonium would not be “weapons grade.”

Saudi Cleric Who Issued Fatwa on WMD Permissibility Pledges Allegiance to ISIS By Bridget Johnson

A prominent Saudi cleric and ally of Osama bin Laden who issued a 2003 fatwa permitting the use of weapons of mass destruction in jihad has pledged his allegiance to the Islamic State.

Nasser bin Hamad al-Fahd is behind bars in Saudi Arabia, but his direction for squabbling Muslim factions to unite behind Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi as caliph could have significant reach — along with the fresh distribution of his fatwas on social media networks.

“I advise you to join, all of you, the Islamic State and to pledge allegiance to its leader, Amir al-Mumineen Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi – may Allah protect him – and fight under his banner,” al-Fahd wrote. “It is the state that raised the banner of Islam, and established Tawhid, and destroyed the idols, and implemented the Sharia. Allah has purified it from implementing man-made laws, from standing with the Disbelievers, and from supporting the Tawaghit, and has protected it from innovations, and misleading paths.”