August 15, 2006
SAT vs. ACT
Posted by Mitch Kokai at 10:15 PM
Scroll down today's blog board to get Shannon's take on Newsweek's discussion of "25 New Ivies" -- schools such as UNC-CH and Davidson that win kudos from the magazine.
In the same issue, I found interesting this sidebar about the competition between the two major college-entrance exams. The article tells us that Wake Forest was one of the last bastions of SAT preference. Now that Wake will accept ACT scores from prospective freshmen, only one California college continues to spurn the SAT competitor.
Eighteen years have passed since I dragged myself into a lecture hall to take the SAT the day after junior-year classes ended. I remember little about the test, but I do recall thinking at the time that the ACT seemed more closely linked to the skills and facts we learned in high school.
Earmarks for North Carolina
Posted by Jon Ham at 8:44 PM
Here's a list. The big winner is Asheville with $1.25 million for Mission Hospitals. This is from a Labor, Health and Human Services appropriations measure that contains 1,867 earmarks worth more than a half-billion tax
dollars and averaging nearly $268,000 each. Problem is, no sponsoring congressman's name appears on the earmarks.
That's why The Examiner newspapers, the Sunlight Foundation, Porkbusters.org, and Citizens Against Government Waste
have joined forces to try to put names to earmarks. See if your town or county is
on this list and then call your congressman and ask if he or she
sponsored the earmark. If they say yes, ask them why they aren't proud
enough of it to link their name to it. Then call the earmark recipient
and ask how they plan to spend the money.
An unintentionally funny statement
Posted by Mitch Kokai at 6:04 PM
An environmentalist's take on the U.S. Defense Department's plan to test a coal-based synthetic gas in its B-52 bombers:
"An institution like the Defense Department needs to be thinking beyond just alternatives that will cause the same amount of damage."
I agree; the Defense Department should think about alternatives that cause more damage. The more lethal the force, the more American lives are saved in the long run.
Somehow, I doubt that was the point David Hawkins of the National Resources Defense Council was trying to make.
Re: Wikipedia sans Hayek
Posted by Jon Sanders at 5:17 PMJoe: My objection on that count, I suppose, is definitional. The thing calls itself an encyclopedia — veracity and completeness are implied. Thus my warning for those who would rely on Wiki as a source.
Robert McHenry, former editor in chief of the Encyclopædia Britannica and author of How to Know, captures some of my objections with TechCentralStation article:
In other words, the process allows Wikipedia to approach the truth asymptotically. The basis for the assertion that this is advantageous vis-à-vis the traditional method of editing an encyclopedia remains, however, unclear. ...
It is true, unfortunately, that many encyclopedia users, like many encyclopedia reviewers, have low expectations. They are satisfied to find an answer to their questions. I would argue that more serious users, however, have two requirements: first, an answer to their questions; second, that those answers be correct. Of course, this may be just me. I have had the experience of making this argument before a roomful of sales executives and marketing people and being met with looks of bafflement on the one hand and dismissal on the other.
The user who visits Wikipedia to learn about some subject, to confirm some matter of fact, is rather in the position of a visitor to a public restroom. It may be obviously dirty, so that he knows to exercise great care, or it may seem fairly clean, so that he may be lulled into a false sense of security. What he certainly does not know is who has used the facilities before him.
HT: Rockin' Barry B.
I think this guy just ensured making general
Posted by Jon Ham at 4:49 PM
Or maybe even Congress later. I'm talking about Lt. Col. Randolph C. White Jr. giving the graduation speech to an infantry class at Fort Benning, Ga. He had my vote at: "The latte-biscotte crowd are just background chatter."
Re: Deflector shields
Posted by Jon Ham at 3:55 PM
You may be right in defending Julie Robinson. It's entirely possible that, when speaking to the reporter, her complete statement was diced and then reused. But, I still maintain that the amount of legislation passed during the short session is being touted as a "successful session" in order to deflect criticism -- which was the crux of my post.
I think this defense flows from a sound clip on WUNC (which I heard on the morning after the session closed, though can't locate the sound bite) and this news report.
I think the story's leading nature is more reflective of reality than the reporter may have realized.
Posted by Mitch Kokai at 3:47 PM
Michael Sanera explains one of the key points of the latest John Locke Foundation report here.
You can learn more here.
Posted by Mitch Kokai at 3:40 PM
A judge has denied a request to delay North Carolina's next execution.
The condemned prisoner's family had filed suit because 45 family members wanted to witness the execution.
Having watched one of North Carolina's executions, I can confirm that there is no way 45 people could comfortably view anything from the death chamber's witness room.
Rowan County: School Board bans "Sex-based" Clubs.
Posted by Michael Moore at 3:36 PM
This article in the Salisbury Post seems interesting, it caught my eye when Jennifer Rudinger of the ACLU said:
"We (the ACLU) have successfully represented students who
wanted to have a Bible club at schools and were initially banned. She
said the same law protects the Gay/Straight Alliance."
Posted by Joseph Coletti at 3:24 PM
Blogs have potential for public relations -- as Wal-Mart has already learned.
Re: Hayek and Wikipedia
Posted by Joseph Coletti at 3:17 PM
You don't need to verify the veracity of the source, you just have
to verify the information. That's why it compares well with open source
and markets. Nobody really sets the price for oil -- as we all learned
at Five Minute University, it's supply and demand -- the price emerges
from the interactions. Do you know who contributed code to Firefox 1.5?
I don't and I don't care, any more than I care who worked the assembly
line in Marysville, Ohio, when my Civic was built.
Do you shop
around, ask questions and check Consumer Reports when you make a major
purchase or do you rely on the salesman at one store? Wikipedia is a
source. If it were the only one, I would sympathize more with your
complaints. Fortunately, we don't have to rely on Granma, Reuters, and KCNA for all our news, and we don't have to rely on Wikipedia for all our definitions.
Re: Deflector shields
Posted by Mitch Kokai at 3:13 PM
In fairness to the speaker's office, the two references to the "successful" legislative session appear to have come from the same quote.
The first reference appears to paraphrase the full quote used later in the story.
You can still raise a concern about the evasiveness of the quote, but I don't think we can say that Julie Robinson is repeating herself.
Re: Hayek and Wikipedia
Posted by Mitch Kokai at 3:13 PM
Joe and Jon,
I think that the very weakness of Wiki is also its strength. For those "trolls" that want to sabotage an entry, their incentive is to apply humor and misinformation to show to others that they've manipulated the system.
For those of us who use Wiki as a source of information, our incentive is to add our own expertise to the entry, thereby garnering our own notoriety. Just like the "troll" -- though by an entirely different motivator -- we have a desire to add our own knowledge to the system as a whole, thereby contributing a part of us to the greater system.
Therefore, we don't need to necessarily know if where the information comes from, as long as we have a belief that the underlying human desire to be a part of the whole is a motivator, and that there are inherently more "good" people in the world than "bad".
Re: Hayek and Wikipedia
Posted by Jon Sanders at 2:51 PMJoe, good point about "Trust but verify." My concern with Wikipedia is that it cloaks the source in the process, so that it asks too much on the "trust" portion and doesn't give enough information for the "verify" part.
Take, for example, your Wiki link below. Someone who wasn't "present at the creation" of the neologism "fisking" would have to trust the institution of Wiki to have the sources to have gotten the definition correct. The individual[s] who submitted the definition is [are] unknown to the seeker, however. What if a fellow by name of, say, Robert Fisk had submitted the definition? The seeker wouldn't know — he can't know where in the editing process the entry is.
Posted by Jon Sanders at 2:49 PM
As more Dems turn on Black, Black and his spokesperson have administered the best defense:
"This year's legislative session was one of the most successful in recent memory."
It was used twice in this story.
Re: Hayek and Wikipedia
Posted by Joseph Coletti at 2:38 PM
The common element between Wikipedia, the MSM, and the blogosphere is the need to trust but verify what you see and read. Open source software (Firefox, Linux, OpenOffice), the Internet,
and markets have tremendous advantages over proprietary systems and
government-sanctioned monopolies (ok, that's redundant), in part
because they can more rapidly evolve. Even Google's searches are based
on self organization
in the same way that prices are. In short, just as no single blog is
the ultimate source of wisdom, Wikipedia is not either. Then again,
even Encyclopedia Britannica misses some of the great contributors to culture. The great thing is that so many people enjoy fisking that they've done half the work for you.
Hayek and Wikipedia
Posted by Jon Sanders at 1:59 PMThis New Yorker article on Wikipedia contains a surprising quotation from founder Jimmy Wales:
In his view, misinformation, propaganda, and ignorance are responsible for many of the world’s ills. “I’m very much an Enlightenment kind of guy,” Wales told me. The promise of the Internet is free knowledge for everyone, he recalls thinking. How do we make that happen?
As an undergraduate, he had read Friedrich Hayek’s 1945 free-market manifesto, “The Use of Knowledge in Society,” which argues that a person’s knowledge is by definition partial, and that truth is established only when people pool their wisdom. Wales thought of the essay again in the nineteen-nineties, when he began reading about the open-source movement, a group of programmers who believed that software should be free and distributed in such a way that anyone could modify the code. He was particularly impressed by “The Cathedral and the Bazaar,” an essay, later expanded into a book, by Eric Raymond, one of the movement’s founders. “It opened my eyes to the possibility of mass collaboration,” Wales said.
I made a similar point last week, citing Hayek in discussing why the blogosphere was structurally superior to the old-media model of seeking out the truth. But I have been quite suspicious of Wikipedia.
My question is: Am I being unfair to Wikipedia? I must admit, my concern with the site is that it is susceptible, at least in the short term, to misinformation and propaganda. My suspicion of Wiki is in keeping with my suspicion of "indymedia" free-for-all "citizen-reporter" blogs — but whereas I tarred Wiki by association with them, I sought to differentiate blogs that build credibility from those kind of blogs from, as I called them, "barking mad ravers." Wiki may have its Hayekian underpinning, but it is also based in the open-source movement, a movement that's behind indymedia. I appear to have applied a double standard in my treatment of Wikipedia and the blogosphere.
The New Yorker article discussed aspects of those problems I had with Wiki, including "WikiTrolls" ("user[s] who persistently violat[e] the site’s guidelines or otherwise engages in disruptive behavior"), "editing wars," and most crucially, the problem that "[f]or all its protocol, Wikipedia’s bureaucracy doesn’t necessarily favor truth."
To answer my question, I think that yes, I am being too hard on Wikipedia to call it a "socialist's encyclopedia." Wiki is open to socialist propaganda (and other kinds as well), however, but as the article describes, the site is developing guidelines and regulations to police itself. So it has features a Hayekian could well appreciate, and that's an aspect of Wikipedia I had missed despite seeing it in the blogosphere at large.
Nevertheless, I don't think it's unfair at all to counsel potential Wiki users to "be exceedingly cautious about using Wikipedia as a source for anything; at best it could be used as a starting point for investigation into a topic." One cannot know at any point when an entry is reliable or when it has just been sabotaged by a propagandist or troll. On individual blogs, however, one knows who the contributor is and can judge credibility accordingly — Wiki doesn't afford readers that luxury, leaving them to rely upon the Wiki process to ensure the credibility of the entry. That process may very well work in the aggregate, but it still renders the credibility of any particular entry too uncertain for my taste.
Dear local gas retailers,
Posted by Jon Sanders at 10:55 AMOK, guys, it's time you dropped your prices. Mostly because it will benefit me, the consumer, because I have put off filling up in anticipation of a price drop. Why do I expect that? Because, counter to all the media fearmongering last week in light of BP's closing its Alaska oil pipeline, I know that the futures price of gasoline has dropped. It's dropped considerably. It's down 26 cents per gallon since last Monday, when the BP news was announced. But you, the retailers on my commute (yes, you, on Hwy. 401 S) — you're down only two cents since last week.
Now, maybe you're making up for not raising your prices above $3/gallon a couple of weeks ago when you probably could have. Believe me, I'm grateful. But just two weeks ago, I noticed, when futures priced dropped 10 cents in a week (from $2.31 on July 24 to $2.21 on July 31), well, by Aug. 3 you had dropped 10 cents too (to $2.899). But you have hardly budged since then — you're collectively at $2.879 although since last Thursday the futures price has hovered around the $2/gal mark, closing Thursday and yesterday (Monday) barely below $2.
So cut it out. I'm on fumes. I see no need to pay 25 cents per gallon more than I should. That adds up to almost $5 dollars more than necessary.
And don't worry. I give the state hell about its insane gasoline tax, too. After all, that's 50 cents more than I should have to pay. But it's bad enough that, because of taxes, I'm having to tack on an additional $10 per fill-up; let's not make it $15.
The New Ivies
Posted by Shannon Blosser at 10:37 AM
week has an article in which the authors declare that the Ivy League or
high-caliber schools should be extended to include a list of what they
considered to be the top 25 schools in the nation. Among the schools
listed in the article's proposed new Ivy League are UNC-Chapel Hill and
My first guess is that this is another in the long line
of useless raitings of colleges that attempt to promote the college
football poll system to analyze the quality of institutions.
Other schools on the list include Notre Dame, Boston College, UCLA,
Vanderbilt, Rice, Michigan, Emory University, and the University of
Virginia among others. Not included in the article was Duke University,
which was considered as a competitor to several of the new "ivies."
Let's Float on Down that Green River.....
Posted by Michael Moore at 09:34 AM
Up in Western North Carolina the Green River runs through Polk and
Rutherford Counties, and it has always been a place for
recreation. According to this article, its time to tighten up on the laws down the Green River. I can't help but think of that song about the Green River in Kentucky.
Federal bureaucrats are not exactly underpaid
Posted by George Leef at 09:30 AM
So argues this editorial in today's Wall Street Journal.
An excellent piece. Read the whole thing.
A vote for context
Posted by Joseph Coletti at 08:59 AM
As our Shaftesbury speaker yesterday has found, simply asking questions can change the behavior of respondents. It seems, too, that voting in a school can make voters more likely to support a school-related tax increase.
Tuition increases in the UNC system
Posted by George Leef at 08:32 AM
According to this story in the News and Observer, the NC Center for Public Policy is raising the alarm over possible lawsuits against the UNC system for its tuition increases in recent years -- 71 percent from 1999 to 2004. The state constitution has a provision stating that the cost of attending UNC should be kept "as low as practicable" and every time tuition is increased, we hear people complaining that the new tuition level is unconstitutionally high.
Should UNC really worry about this? I don't think so. Despite all the talk, no one has sued over previous tuition increases and I suspect that's because no lawyer wants to take on this loser. The "as low as practicable" language can only mean that the legislature is charged with making the decision on how high tuition needs to be given the totality of the state's fiscal situation. I find it very hard to believe that any judge, much less an appellate court, would so overstep the boundary between judicial and legislative authority as to say, "No, the tuition level that has been set is not as low as practicable and it must be lowered by $500."
Keep in mind also that while the 71 percent increase figure seems very high, the increases in tuition are based on a low starting point. North Carolina has had and continues to have one of the most highly subsidized state university systems in the country, requiring low and middle income workers to pay taxes to help give the kids of wealthy families a huge bargain in the cost of attending Chapel Hill, NC State, UNC-Charlotte, and other state universities.
More on Freedom
Posted by Hal Young at 00:03 AM
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