Climate change in one comic strip

Wow– this XKCD makes a compelling point:

4.5 Degrees

Sadly, this post needs to be filed under not just science, but politics.

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The militarization of the police

Interesting Times article on the increasing policy of sending military equipment to police forces:

The 9-foot-tall armored truck was intended for an overseas battlefield. But as President Obama ushers in the end of what he called America’s “long season of war,” the former tools of combat — M-16 rifles, grenade launchers, silencers and more — are ending up in local police departments, often with little public notice.

During the Obama administration, according to Pentagon data, police departments have received tens of thousands of machine guns; nearly 200,000 ammunition magazines; thousands of pieces of camouflage and night-vision equipment; and hundreds of silencers, armored cars and aircraft.

The equipment has been added to the armories of police departments that already look and act like military units. Police SWAT teams are now deployed tens of thousands of times each year, increasingly for routine jobs.Masked, heavily armed police officers in Louisiana raided a nightclub in 2006 as part of a liquor inspection. In Florida in 2010, officers in SWAT gear and with guns drawn carried out raids on barbershops that mostly led only to charges of “barbering without a license.”

Absurd, yes, but what’s even more absurd is to hear a local police chief justify it thusly:

Neenah’s police chief, Kevin E. Wilkinson, said he understood the concern. At first, he thought the anti-mine truck was too big. But the department’s old armored car could not withstand high-powered gunfire, he said.

“I don’t like it. I wish it were the way it was when I was a kid,” he said. But he said the possibility of violence, however remote, required taking precautions. [emphasis mine]

Seriously?!  “However remote.”  Why, hello Dick Cheney.  We don’t make policy based on try to address everything with a non-zero probability.  That’s insanity.  Now, maybe there are good reasons for all this (I’m dubious), but the idea that “however remote” i.e., any chance whatsoever, is a reason to adopt a policy is just ludicrous.

Photo of the day

From the Telegraph Animal photos of the week:

An egret preens itself as it stands on a branch along the River Brahmaputra in Gauhati, India

An egret preens itself as it stands on a branch along the River Brahmaputra in Gauhati, IndiaPicture: Anupam Nath/AP

Education as a means to a political end

Sadly, I truly don’t believe NC Republican legislators have much interest in actually providing quality public education to NC children.  They do, however, know that voters expect them to care about this.  I think Thomas Mills gets it just right:

When the GOP enacted the voucher system, they were playing mainly to their religious base that wants the public to subsidize their fundamentalist private schools so we can raise a generation of children who believe dinosaurs lived with humans. Their move last week to endCommon Core was less about implementing any reliable standards than it was about holding on to the Greg Brannon wing of the party that thinks Common Core is a plot by Obama to indoctrinate our kids. And Phil Berger’s argument that eliminating teacher assistants is backed up by research is just cherry-picking data to justify a bad bill instead of letting research drive public policy. 

It’s clear that the GOP has no comprehensive education policy. Instead, they’ve passed a mishmash of legislation designed to appeal to their base and spend as little as possible. Their priorities are clear: 1) fund tax cuts for the wealthy and big corporations; 2) mollify their right wing base; 3) keep the general public off their backs by appearing to give a damn about public schools by offering teachers raises while slashing resources in the classroom. 

All of their goals are politically motivated, not policy driven. The losers here are our kids.

Ugh.  And, yes, this especially bothers me because those “our kids” are literally my kids.  Of course, my kids with their genes and their stable home that prioritizes education, will be just fine in the end, but damn it, all NC kids deserve more than this legislature is interested in them getting.

Chart of the day

Wonder why higher education costs have been going up so much.  It’s not increased spending on tenure-track faculty, that’s for sure.  It’s adminstrators (and dare I say administrative bloat).  In fact, just the other day a colleague of mine was looking at our college budget and remarking upon how the only unit to see a substantial increase in budget size was the Dean’s office.  Clearly, we’re not alone.  Check this out:

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