Maarten

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Posts posted by Maarten


  1. Great topic! I'm watching different areas of the country and looking forward to see where they are going. NH has a lot of great things going for it, the change over of the state legislative bodies is significant and holds a lot of promise. What other trends are you seeing in NH?

    Well, before the election I noticed that our local liberal stronghold was quite demoralized; there were barely any signs out for their chosen candidates, and in the primary for the 2nd CD the Republican primary had about twice as many votes cast as the Democratic one, even though both were quite competitive. And because we have an open primary, it also suggested that independents were breaking heavily for Republicans; it doesn't make much sense for someone to vote in the Republican primary and then vote Democratic in the general, and that looks like it didn't happen.

    One other interesting thing here is that our Democratic governor won re-election fairly comfortably, and won almost every county in the state with 8-10% (or more) margin. He's actually pretty decent, and before the legislature flipped to Democratic control in 2006 he did a good job with a Republican legislature. So a lot of people ended up voting for him, and voting straight Republican on the rest of the ticket.

    The response locally was quite hilarious, though. NHPR had a bunch of state Democrats on and they all swore up and down that this couldn't possibly have anything to do with them overreaching; even the (fairly leftist) NHPR host was incredulous about that. Which only ends up hurting them in the end, because it makes clear how little regard they have for voters. All the arguments I've heard both in the state as well as nationally revolve around voters being angry/confused/afraid, and I can't see how that's a good strategy. Oh well, all the more power to us. :D

    Last year it was quite funny, the legislature passed a "LLC tax" that basically taxed any business owner for 5% of their profits, and they signed it but then went ahead and repealed it once it became obvious how incensed the people here were about it. But they do have a long way to go, and the budget has some problematic areas because of the State Supreme Court ruling the state has to fund education, and I bet another huge expense is the inflated medicaid rolls...

    Maybe that's another thing we can look forward to. In the WSJ an article mentioned that several states are now looking at roadblocking the proposed Medicaid expansions in PPACA (Obamacare), but it looks like they can only really do that if they give up Medicaid entirely. Let's hope some states do that, it would be a wonderful precedent both because it allows them to set up their own, better program instead as well as it shifting costs to the national level, making Obamacare even more expensive (and likely unpopular). It definitely looks like come January the list of states suing the Government over Obamacare will grow :D


  2. Oh, I agree that we're certainly nowhere close to being home free. I live in one of the more liberal parts of NH so my own state senator and state representatives are probably the most liberal of the bunch. This collection of towns usually votes about 3-4 to 1 for the Democrats, and they almost managed to cancel out Bass's lead in the more sane southern part of the state (thankfully they didn't, the Democratic nominee for NH 2nd district was terrible). I think I will spend a good amount of time writing letters to various legislators to try and give them feedback and keep them on the right track. I was incredibly encouraged, though, when reading the right-leaning Unionleader where by far the majority of people said explicitly they didn't want the Republican legislature to do anything except focus on the budget and jobs, and making it easier to do business here (we dropped quite significantly as a good place to do business since the Dems took over in '06). The Senate leader definitely sounded off on a good note, and I think the people in the house will be fairly sane as well. Our legislature only works for about 6 months out of the year, and then a few days a week (and they're not really paid), so I am hoping that the economy/budget will keep them busy enough not to get into any social engineering shenanigans.

    There are some very good bills that got shelved last session, though. In no particular order:

    - A state constitutional amendment proposal that would restore some sanity to education funding; our supreme court ruled that the state has an obligation to fund local districts and it's really killing the budget because it puts the largest sector completely off-limits from cuts. If they can pass that it would be an enormous success. There really is no sane reason to hard-code annual 5-6% increases into perpetuity. And I am quite sure that one would pass both the legislature and pass on the next ballot in '12, even our liberal town voted down the school budget last year which was unheard of.

    - The last legislature passed some really big restrictions on homeschooling that made it a huge pain, as you had to get approval from the local school board for a lot of stuff, making you entirely dependent on whatever ideas the school superintendent in your district has on homeschooling. What it basically came down to was that you had to move to somewhere where the district didn't completely despise homeschooling. I think that'll pass, as it almost did last year and a lot of the same sponsors are now empowered with a majority :D

    - I think they're likely to reduce the rooms and meals tax back to what it was before the Democrats raised it, and possibly the increase in the cigarette tax can be undone. For all the howling the left was doing here about how you can't possibly cut any more from the budget, it remains a fact that spending increased by about 20% per legislative session, and you can't tell me that is all impossible to cut. I think almost any state would have been fine through the financial downturn if they hadn't increased spending so much. No wonder you run into deficits if spending goes up 40% while revenues stay flat. A five year old could probably tell you that's an issue =P


  3. Apparently, Ron Paul is the next person up for the chairmanship of the Monetary Policy subcommittee:

    http://www.cnbc.com/id/40013227

    Doesn't mean it'll actually happen; I wouldn't be at all surprised if, given Paul's views, all of Washington does its utmost to keep him from chairing this committee. Still, could you imagine the look on Bernanke's face if it actually happened?

    I wouldn't be too surprised if he became chairman of that committee. He is the ranking member, and it's pretty unusual to bypass someone. If the Republican leaders in the house didn't want him there they wouldn't have put him on that committee in a senior position. I certainly don't agree with all of Ron Paul's views, but I think it would both be hilarious as well as potentially very effective to see what he can do in terms of oversight and monetary reform. Can you imagine how amazing it would be if we get back on the gold standard in, say, the next decade?


  4. Hi everyone! I hope I'm not the only one who was encouraged by last Tuesday's results. Part of me is actually glad the GOP didn't take a majority in the senate because it makes it a lot harder for Obama and national Democrats to blame the country's problems (that will likely still be substantial, especially if Obama vetoes everything the House passes), and I think leaves a better chance to get someone else as President in two years. And the arrogance that national Democrats displayed afterwards was stunning to me, not a single important figure conceded they may have overreached, and now we're getting an early Christmas present in Pelosi staying on as minority leader. That's about the worst signal Democrats could have sent to voters; it's pretty much a big middle finger saying they don't care what Americans think. So that should severely increase the chances this will last.

    One of the things I found most encouraging, though, was the total bloodbath that were the state legislatures. Even here in New England the Republicans took several legislatures; where I live now in New Hampshire the GOP went from 175 seats in the house (400 total) and 10 seats in the senate (out of 24), to 298 and 19 seats, respectively. I think 14 or 15 other legislatures changed hands to give the Republicans control of almost 30 state's legislatures. I can't speak for how the state parties are in other places, but here the 4 years of Democratic rule have been horrible. The only positive thing they accomplished has been passing gay marriage... but they increased spending enormously, tried to pass all sorts of taxes, restricted homeschooling, started all sorts of new environmental regulations and pretty much tried to run the state into the ground. The new state senate president and the house leaders all responded in a very encouraging manner, saying that they understood this election was about economic issues and that's what they were going to focus on.

    Ewv, do you have any comments about the virtual clean sweep Republicans made in Maine? I've read so many of your posts about the things the Maine government was doing that were terrible that it must be an enormous relief to get them out?


  5. Another huge issue is whether the government generally respects individual rights. Not paying much in nominal taxes doesn't really mean much if you have no freedom from various forms of government coercion, or if there's a poorly functioning rule of law in that particular country. Such considerations are probably more important than tax rates as they form the foundation for making money successfully.


  6. The problem is as they discuss in certain of the emails, that most journals aren't accepting papers that challenge the concensus; the reviewers and editors hold them back or refuse to publish them. So the scientific literature is very much biased in a lot of journals that publish on the subject.

    But don't believe much of what you hear about the consensus, anyway. The media ENORMOUSLY overstates the conclusions of even the most flagrantly alarmist "scientific" reports written by the IPCC and other groups. When you actually read the papers and studies, even the alarmists don't claim half the things that most media outlets claim they say. They just take advantage of the reputation of the scientists and of the fact that most people won't bother to actually read the source material that's quoted (or don't have access to it).


  7. The impression I have is that America was uniquely affected by the progressive movement in education; apparently Europe and other places weren't as disastrously influenced.

    There were unique aspects to American education following the progressives, but the whole theory and philosophy of education was 'inspired' by European intellectuals, who have been more destructive faster in Europe than in America. Whatever the comparisons of education and school behavior in different parts of the world and within America, there is a big problem.

    Yeah, I think originally the American system of local teachers that taught the children of a village or town was replaced by the Prussian organized education system, with strict discipline and larger classes and all that. I think that is one event that really moved education into the wrong direction because the German type education was much more collectivist and intended to produce loyal citizens and all that, and I think one of the greatest tragedies of the 19th century is the gradual elimination of free schooling that existed before that time.


  8. Agreed completely. That talk is amazing and I would strongly encourage everyone to take the time to watch it. He both exposes the lack of scientific evidence underlying many public pronouncements and policies, as well as the actual models.

    One thing that struck me was his comment that they basically already published the same (radiation) data in 2000, yet apparently no one bothered to change the models. It's bizarre to me that people cling to their beliefs so strongly that they simply ignore what reality says; at any point when your hypothesis is contradicted by the experimental data, you need to change it. That is one of the most basic principles of science, and any honest scientist should know that, and not simply change things around enough so that the data somehow still fits.

    That simply puts global warming "science" into the same ballpark as marxist theories that were proven false time and time again, and its proponents simply changed their story enough so that the theory once again (sort of) fit history. I thought science was beyond that, but apparently there is enough government involvement distorting that to make that not true any longer.


  9. Yes, it seemed that schools were much less affected by Progressive educational philosophy back in the Netherlands. Especially when I was in elementary school it was much harder and more rigorous; for my younger siblings not so much. Even the two years' difference between my sister and me made a fairly large difference because I think it started going downhill in the 90s, as well. Then they reformed the high school system to make it more modern or something, and quality again suffered quite a lot. Compared to the exams the people a few years before me had to take, we had it extremely easy, and after that it was made easier year by year because the students complained that tests were too hard, etc. It was quite sad to see that.

    I think one thing that helped a lot was that the Dutch education system is divided into tiers starting in the first grade of high school (that's age 12/13 there), and then again in the second grade. That allows them to separate the students' abilities much better and make sure there is not too much difference between the fastest and slowest learners in each class. Also, they have tracks that students choose that determine to a certain extent what classes you need to take, so if someone is really interested in liberal arts they take mostly courses in that area and have less science/math courses, and vice versa for science people. While it makes people less well-rounded than a traditional education here in the US makes them, the specialization aspect works quite well and I think to a certain degree it is responsible for students from those countries being further ahead in their field of study.

    After about age 15 I didn't really have to take many languages or liberal arts courses any more, and in college I only took classes in my major. This allowed us to study so many more aspects of the discipline that I think it gives you a huge head-start over an American student who is forced to take a lot of courses they aren't necessarily interested in, or that even have any application to what they want to do in life.

    On the downside, it does require students to know what they want to do at a really early stage, long before they need to make these choices in the US. You start the process at age 15, and then you choose your major right after graduating high school. For the people who aren't sure what to do it doesn't work very well because they tend to just do one thing and then change, or have to backtrack because they miss certain courses. But I think for the ones who know what they want it allows them to go through a more demanding curriculum that places them ahead of most students over here.


  10. Carlos,

    not to mention that you have no choice over what public school your child is sent to. Sometimes they mess with districts because of racial quotas and your child gets sent to a further away school, meaning they spend an extra hour a day traveling. As if they don't have better stuff to do...


  11. ewv,

    I do agree with what you and Carlos are saying. It is incredibly important to have a good education available to children here, because that to a very large extent makes any kind of cultural change possible. That won't ever happen if kids continue to be so poorly educated that they can barely understand basic arguments and concepts.

    My point was primarily that taken by itself, an open immigration policy is a desirable thing and it does make the country and everyone living here better off. It is by no means the most important component, though, and I should have chosen better words than I used before.

    I did not mean to sound like you were uncaring of what is happening, I just wanted to emphasize how bad it is, and how the situation may not be as stable as it looks.

    Yeah, I can see that part of it myself as well. It seems like year by year what freedoms still exist in schooling are being eroded ever so slowly. Some of these voucher programs are a good sign but they are so limited in scope that it's not really going to make a difference unless they apply them on a massive scale in the near future (and no Democrat is going to support that because the unions oppose school choice).

    Part of my reasons for home-schooling revolve around the fact that I would very much like to spend that much time with my kids; being around them and seeing them develop is one of the most profoundly selfish values I can achieve in my life and I would love to maximize that. I also believe I can give them a very good education. But the other component is definitely that most alternatives are so horrible that home-schooling is also a damage control measure of sorts. I don't know of any awesome private schools around here and I don't know if I could afford to send my kids to one even if there was one, so it seems like it is the only viable option in that case if you want your children to have a good education none-the-less.

    A lot of education policy is made on the local and state level, though, and I think certain states are much better than others. That helps a lot because it doesn't tend to be as vulnerable to huge changes in public opinion. At least, the better states (in this respect) seem more stable than the federal Gov't is.


  12. ewv,

    I do agree with what you and Carlos are saying. It is incredibly important to have a good education available to children here, because that to a very large extent makes any kind of cultural change possible. That won't ever happen if kids continue to be so poorly educated that they can barely understand basic arguments and concepts.

    My point was primarily that taken by itself, an open immigration policy is a desirable thing and it does make the country and everyone living here better off. It is by no means the most important component, though, and I should have chosen better words than I used before.


  13. Having better immigration policies would alleviate this problem to a very large extent, though. There is really no negative I can easily think of for just importing your scientists...
    Besides the crushed dreams and ambitions of many American high school/undergraduate/graduate students who wanted to be engineers or scientists but soon discovered that they were never taught the basic skills needed, and now find themselves in the situation years later where they need those skills but have neither the time nor inner-fire left to correct and fill the gaping holes in their knowledge?

    Agreed. It is a terrible tragedy that current US education is so bad. I was certainly not saying that this is a desirable or tenable situation. However, if it was very easy to immigrate here there would be many more highly educated scientists here, and no matter how you slice it that's a good thing.

    This is a generation by generation rape of intellectual potential in our young; the Eddy Willers lack the inner-strength and/or mental ability to push themselves and independently make up for the education they didn't receive, and the Dagni Taggarts still manage to succeed, but at a reduced rate because so much of their mental energy was wasted on re-educating themselves and dealing with the mental anguish of an education system that was designed to fail.

    When I was a tutor for Texas Tech I encountered kids who came from schools in farm-towns that care more about Friday night football than every day education, and I saw first-hand the tragic futility of their efforts to catch up on the knowledge in college that they should have already had in high school.

    Some kids like me can find ways to make up for their lacking education; others can't and fail at their original academic aspiration. Fail or succeed though, their full potential was permanently clipped by their original education, and this is a serious thing that no one seems to care about in America.

    I really don't see that situation improving in public schools, though. I think in most places those are just too far gone and too unionized to have any chance at reforming them. I think all we can hope for is making it easier and cheaper for people to access alternatives like private schools for their kids.

    and the U.S. still vastly outperforms the rest of the world in terms of patents, research articles published, clinical trials and many other measures of intellectual productivity. I don't think it matters what nationality the producers are, as long as they choose to live and work in the U.S.
    So long as the economic differences between their home countries and America is enough of a potential to drive them through the cultural and immigration/legal barrier, then America will have Scientists. If the economic difference continues to shrink while the immigration barrier continues to grow, as they both are doing now, we may find that the influx of Scientists starts drying up.

    Again, I agree with that. But it's why removing those immigration barriers would be so beneficial.

    I most definitely am not going to send my kids through public schools. I may send them to a good private school if they want the social interactions when they're slightly older, but I intend to home school them (virtually) all the way because I know for sure that I can teach many subjects better and in a more integrated and personalized manner than almost any school right now could. That, and just showing them the joy of thinking and teaching them how the basics of that work.
    How long will you have the option of private school or homeschooling? Leftists hate private schools and homeschooling, as it is explicitly anti-collectivist.

    In both cases, you can't continue to rely on alternatives that have no long-term stability in this country.

    I come from a country where home-schooling is illegal as such. They can literally take your kids away from you if you want to home-school because your kids are required to be in a public school. One of my friends had to fight for about a decade to finally get permission to be home-schooled, and that was just in their situation where they somehow convinced a bureaucrat that it was okay.

    The thing is, if I have kids in a few years' time I think it is highly unlikely that the educational system has improved by a vast amount, and I see home-schooling (or finding a really nice private school close by) is really the only viable alternative you have as a parent if you have the time for it.

    I can and will speak out in favor of education reform, but it's not something you can count on to happen in the next few years, and you just have to make do with your current options. If they ever banned home-schooling in my state I'd probably move, because some states are much more pro-freedom in that respect than others. Yes, it's a stopgap measure, but you have to live within the system while we work to (hopefully) improve it. If that happens before my kids are older, then great. But I don't want to count on a total reversal of educational policy here in the next fifteen years, because I sincerely doubt that will ever happen in that time frame.


  14. 2. Agree on the "Americans are dumb" assertion.

    They aren't dumb, they just have received basically zero formal education of any quality, and as a result are innocently ignorant of what education even is anymore.

    Having better immigration policies would alleviate this problem to a very large extent, though. There is really no negative I can easily think of for just importing your scientists; and the U.S. still vastly outperforms the rest of the world in terms of patents, research articles published, clinical trials and many other measures of intellectual productivity. I don't think it matters what nationality the producers are, as long as they choose to live and work in the U.S.

    But agreed, I can see first-hand that in many ways curricula here are nowhere near as demanding as they were back home; although I also work harder than I used to so that may make it easier as well, and I think most of my professors are better. But the basic material in school also put much higher expectations on you when I was a student in the Netherlands, both through elementary and high school and undergraduate years.

    One example there is just how absolutely absent any kind of mathematics is from many life science disciplines... We had tons of courses in undergrad on calculating growth rates, yields and productivities for cell systems, as well as trying to model them correctly. I have never seen anything like that in my classes here in the US (even graduate level), and the one time a professor here tried the basic stuff he lost literally 95% of the class' attention and they just couldn't do it.

    I most definitely am not going to send my kids through public schools. I may send them to a good private school if they want the social interactions when they're slightly older, but I intend to home school them (virtually) all the way because I know for sure that I can teach many subjects better and in a more integrated and personalized manner than almost any school right now could. That, and just showing them the joy of thinking and teaching them how the basics of that work.


  15. I don't think federal (or state) law titles have any bearing whatsoever to what the law actually does. They just make them sound innocuous most of the time. Not having read the law, I think it is pretty easy to imagine that it does indeed prohibit smoking even outdoors, title notwithstanding. It would require too much honesty on the part of lawmakers to actually name the laws after their real purpose...


  16. I am currently reading Timothy Sandefur's book: The cornerstone of liberty, property rights in 21st century America. First, let me say it's a wonderful book and I recommend it to everyone if they haven't read it.

    My question is this. Mr. Sandefur talks about many instances where government violates property rights on a massive scale, and a lot of times it is more the local and state governments that are the worst violators of our rights. That left me wondering if anyone was aware of which states are generally very good at protecting our property rights. Does anyone know of a state where eminent domain is (almost) entirely absent and where bureaucrats aren't just allowed to grab someone's land? That would still leave a person vulnerable to those federal landgrabs, but at least it would make for a better place to buy a property.

    Which states do you think are really good at protecting the property of their citizens (comparatively speaking anyway), and why do you think that's the case?


  17. Hi,

    How are US laws retired? E.g., if there was a large number of congressmen (or if the president) wanting to retire SOx, how would they go about it?

    Thanks,

    JD

    Not sure what you mean by SOx, but laws don't retire, they are repealed or there is a provision in the law stating that it will be effective for a certain time period.

    Today's liberals typically ignore laws they don't want to enforce or use the judicial system to create laws without a legislative process. Many laws are overturned on judicial review.

    I think SOx is sarbanes-oxley.


  18. I see. Thanks for the feedback. I'm wondering if it affects all cells in the same way. If so, there are libel to be bad side affects, I would think.

    Well, it is somewhat more complicated in humans than in the animals used to test the drugs on initially. But the basic premise is that there is very little blood vessel growth going on in a healthy individual. All the blood vessels in your body have already grown to completion and have supporting tissue, so they're not really affected. Pretty much the only time you get blood vessel growth is in response to injury, and that doesn't happen that often. So the side effects are theoretically fairly limited, especially because the doses tend to be low and continuous instead of giving a lot at once every week or two (like most traditional chemotherapy drugs).

    They are highly lethal to developing fetuses, so you can't use them when you're pregnant. One infamous compound that has anti-angiogenic purposes is thalidomide, and it was responsible for some serious birth defects (and ultimately set into effect a lot of the regulations we have now, even though that was totally overblown because it wasn't an issue in the US). But they're using it now in clinical trials to treat cancer and it is very effective from what I've heard.

    The other thing is that the blood vessels cancer cells create (in response to their lack of oxygen) are different. They do not have nearly as much supporting tissue surrounding it (both because they're newer and because the tumor cells don't care about having a sustainable system, they just randomly throw darts, so to speak), and that makes them a lot more vulnerable to treatments than normal endothelial cells are (those are the cells that form blood vessels).

    It does have more side effects in humans, so far, but I think the basic premise of this approach is very valuable. We just need improved compounds that are more effective. One way in which anti-angiogenic drugs are very effective is in combination with normal anti-tumor drugs.


  19. The amount of these collateral vessels that people have seems to vary widely, but it is a very small number for anyone compared to the total number of vessels in our body. One of the professors I met last week basically studies how these collateral vessels develop so we can get more understanding of why certain people have more than others, and perhaps figure out how we can use that knowledge to protect people from thrombotic events.

    Wow, this sounds interesting. I always thought of the vascular system as aorta -> arteries -> aterioles -> capillaries -> venoles -> veins -> vena cava. I had no idea that arteries could join to other arteries.

    Shows how much I know. :lol:

    Exactly. That's the way the normal blood system works, but this is a (rare) exception that basically gives arteries a backup supply in case one of the main branches ever gets blocked. It is really quite ingenious :D One example from the fifties was a guy who died in a car accident. His heart was taken out after his death, and the physician was amazed that he hadn't had any heart problems, because there were major obstructions in his heart's arteries that would have killed anyone else. But he was perfectly fine, because of several connecting branches that allowed blood flow to continue =)

    As for the angiogenesis, let me get back to that later today :D


  20. Marten, It sounds like you have found a subject that interest you very much, congratulations. I first learned about angiogenesis when reading about Dr. Judah Folkman and his research. I, like you, found it a very interesting subject.

    Jordan, now you might understand why I left school behind and never looked back with regret.

    I know. Did you by any chance read the biographical book about his life and research? I think it was called something like: Dr. Folkman's war: angiogenesis and the struggle to defeat cancer. It was very inspiring to me. He had some flaws in that he was quite altruistic (it seemed) in his personal life, but the man was a great scientist. Going against mainstream science for almost 30 years and holding your own conclusions to be sacred is so important, and you rarely see it.

    Also, it is sad to think about how free scientific research used to be when he started his career. All those regulations about animal research, for example, have cost us so many advances...