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Archive for February, 2010

Who are You, and What Have You Done with Lord Saletan?

[ 0 ] February 2, 2010 |

Wow. Since when is Will Saletan capable of making sense?

Pam’s story certainly is moving. But as a guide to making abortion decisions, it’s misleading. Doctors are right to worry about continuing pregnancies like hers. Placental abruption has killed thousands of women and fetuses. No doubt some of these women trusted in God and said no to abortion, as she did. But they didn’t end up with Heisman-winning sons. They ended up dead.

Being dead is just the first problem with dying in pregnancy. Another problem is that the fetus you were trying to save dies with you. A third problem is that your existing kids lose their mother. A fourth problem is that if you had aborted the pregnancy, you might have gotten pregnant again and brought a new baby into the world, but now you can’t. And now the Tebows have exposed a fifth problem: You can’t make a TV ad.

Via Ta-Nehisi Coates.


Dumbest Crayon Scribblings At Fred Hiatt’s Place Today

[ 0 ] February 2, 2010 |

Richard Cohen. The fact that a plausible list of the worst WaPo columnists could be compiled an not include him remains amazing; as Paul says, it’s like a mirror image of the 1975 Reds.

What is it, with students and, with commas?

[ 0 ] February 2, 2010 |

I write some, variation of this every time I’m, marking papers, but these, little, Shatners, they leave me no choice. At Unfogged earlier, we were discussing whether the ubiquity of text-based interfaces had a beneficial effect on student writing, and I neglected to mention the blindingly obvious: these fancy new text interfaces not only don’t require commas, their limit on the number of characters actively encourages people to write without them. The result is that students form a mental picture of what a text looks like and it has nary, a comma, in it.

So when they’re asked to write in formal, comma-containing sentences, they don’t distribute the commas according to grammatical rules or the natural rhythms of a sentence; instead, they place their commas according to some aesthetic ideal of what an academic paper looks like. They’re little, abstract, painters, who need to dribble a bit more punctuation here, and a bit more, there, in order to complete, their masterpiece.

I’m tempted to mock up that classic comma joke in a way that’ll be memorable to them:

Let’s eat Shatner!

Let’s eat, Shatner!

Commas: they save lives.

I think I might have to replace “Shatner” with “Priceline Negotiator” if I want them to recognize the reference.

Game Plans

[ 0 ] February 1, 2010 |

Kayvan Farzaneh informs us that the Pentagon has been worrying about terrorists using World of Warcraft to plot attacks. Considering a Wisconsin appeals court recently upheld the right of prisons to ban inmates from playing Dungeons and Dragons, lest they “foster an inmate’s obsession with escaping from the real-life correctional environment,” this sort of paranoia is not just funny but genuinely troubling.

Too bad the “right to play” in international law only applies to children…

Blaming the Victim

[ 0 ] February 1, 2010 |

Since it might be unsuccessful in denying Jamie Leigh Jones her access to the courts, I suppose it’s not surprising that KBR has tried floating some of the smears against her that it apparently believes wouldn’t withstand the scrutiny of an independent tribunal. Unsurprising, but certainly appalling. (Via Lithwick, who has much more.)

QDR Blogging: Climate Change and the DoD

[ 0 ] February 1, 2010 |

See Loomis.

QDR Blogging: Acquisition Reform and the Civilian Workforce

[ 0 ] February 1, 2010 |

While the 2006 QDR talked a bit about problems in acquisition and the need for acquisition reform, and a bit about the need to hire and retain the right skills in the DoD civilian workforce, but didn’t really draw any connections between the two. The 2010 QDR (p.76):

The Pentagon’s acquisition workforce has been allowed to atrophy, exacerbating a decline in the critical skills necessary for effective oversight. For example, over the past ten years, the Department’s contractual obligations have nearly tripled while our acquisition workforce fell by more than 10 percent. The Department also has great difficulty hiring qualified senior acquisition officials. Over the past eight years the Department has operated with vacancies in key acquisition positions averaging from 13 percent in the Army to 43 percent in the Air Force. There remains an urgent need for technically trained personnel-cost estimators, systems engineers, and acquisition managers-to conduct effective oversight.

On the next page, the QDR calls for the hiring of 20000 additional acquisitions personnel to make up for this shortfall. I suspect that the major reason that we see this in the 2010 QDR and not in the 2006 is that the Obama administration has rejected the idea that essential DoD responsibilities can be privatized and out-sourced. The downsizing and outsourcing of the acquisitions workforce isn’t entirely the responsibility of the Bush administration, as it was also pursued under Clinton. Lead Systems Integrators, in which civilian contractors managed major programs such the Coast Guard’s Deepwater program and the Army’s Future Combat Systems, were part of this project. LSIs were also one of the very, very few “privatization” initiatives that failed so abjectly that pretty much no one wants to try them again.

See also Spencer on this point.

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