Hot Fudge Friday; Head Start blues; Stark Raving Mad

View 762 Friday, February 15, 2013

Hot Fudge Friday

1230: I am at Boskone and won’t have time to comment much but it was pretty spectacular. I keep getting references to spectacular events in the sky, but the hotel TV isn’t useful for finding things. For once I will have to ignore breaking news until I have more. It is said that some stuff has fallen on Russia, and some satellites have been affected, but I don’t know enough on any of that to have comments. I’ll just have to wait for more information. Clearly we’re all still here…


1750: I have a panel in ten minutes. Clearly there were some major meteorite events in Siberia. So far the only reports I have seen on casualties are injuries, and damage is minimal probably because the stony body disintegrated a relatively high altitude. One video sequence shows a disintegration/violent explosion with something leading out of it and apparently going on to ground. There is no indication of a crater, but I suppose that’s possible – say a nickel-iron small body as part of a larger mostly stone structure. When the pressures reach sufficient levels the stony parts literally disintegrate, lots of energy is released without radiation, and the metallic part goes on to ground where depending on size it will make a crater.

Still don’t know anything.

Hot Fudge Friday.  And I am off to talk. The rest of this was written earlier today in parts.



Hot Fudge Friday

(Note – I put "Hot Fudge Friday" on my calendar sometime last year…)



For those who don’t know, the title is a reference to Lucifer’s Hammer.  Which, of course, you can buy as an eBook.  And I have to get lunch.


Wrong Way Meteor


Now we have one massively improbable coincidence. The meteor that hit Russia was on a totally different trajectory than the asteroid that will make a close approach later today.

The Russians claim that they intercepted the meteor. If they can intercept an object that has a velocity of 50km/s then their interceptors have scary capability. I doubt this.

The good news for you and Niven is that sales of Lucifers Hammer will soar, LOL.

James Crawford=

Different orbit trajectory is not unlikely. Chances that the Russians could have actually done something like this are low. Chances that they could have done it without everyone knowing it are miniscule. I haven’t seen any such claim, but I would look carefully at the source if I had.  I could wish the Russians had such a capability but I don’t believe it for a moment.



Head Start  Blues

One of the items in President Obama’s State of the Union address was a call for expanding and extending Pre-Kindergarten education programs such as Head Start. Everyone likes the idea of Head Start. Everyone wants it to work. It just seems fair, and the argument that it is a good investment that will save money in future education costs, and moreover have big payoffs in increasing future productivity when the Head Start beneficiaries grow up, is compelling. It just looks like a good idea.

Unfortunately, while it may be fair, it is not a good investment. The recently published Health and Human Services evaluation of Head Start found that whatever gains came from Head Start vanished by the end of third grade. Charles Murray reported that years ago: everyone including him wanted to show that Head Start was a good, even great, idea, but every study, every one of them including some that were clearly biased in favor of finding good results, found that in fourth grade Head Start students were indistinguishable from children who had not been through Head Start. Every one of them. It was not a result anyone wanted to find, but that was the result of all such studies. Now HHS has confirmed it. Head Start usually is a pleasant experience for those who get into it, but it does them no detectable lasting good.

This has long been known. I wrote about it when Newt Gingrich was still Minority Whip. We talked about on one of my visits to Washington. What could be done to make Head Start more effective? I suggested that one lasting difference a Head Start program could make would be to teach the children to read. Yes, it was a Pre-Kindergarten program, a Nursery School program if you like; but for a very long time the normal way English upper and upper middle class children learned to read is they were taught by nannies in the nursery, so that by the time they reached a schoolroom they could already read. Perhaps if Head Start did that? Because at the time Head Start didn’t allow teachers to teach reading at all.

That started a minor furor. The Head Start officials in Washington said that Head Start teachers were not forbidden to teach reading. I knew teachers who had been so forbidden. Eventually it came out: Head Start was confined to teaching “developmentally appropriate” skills, and no one of Head Start age was considered to have reached a stage of development that would be appropriate for learning to read. Considering that we have a great deal of experience demonstrating that quite a lot of children can and do learn to read at ages 4 and 5, and have done so for hundreds of years; that we have educational tools for teaching reading English that work quite well and have been demonstrated to do so; and there is no obvious reason why Head Start children should be considered insufficiently developed compared to, say, English middle class children in the 1920’s who were taught by the peers of Mary Poppins – considering all that, the “reading experts” controlling the Head Start curriculum should be prepared to produce evidence for their conclusions, but they don’t have any. What they have is evidence that their theories about reading and reading education are flat wrong, and they have union solidarity to prevent anyone official from saying different. Education is peculiarly subject to Pournelle’s Iron Law, and those who assert that Head Start children wouldn’t profit from a real head start were their teachers prepared to give it to them never have a chance to prove their point. Head Start jobs are far more important than Head Start children, and don’t you forget it.

The President clearly has bought the official Big Education line, but he has little skin in the game of improving US schools. While the Congress has the Constitutional authority to set up any number of experimental schools in the District of Columbia and choose among them to institute the techniques that give the best results, you would think that the District school system would be the best in the world; but greed and the Iron Law condemn that. So there as well as across the nation, Head Start is not allowed to teach pre-school children to read. Now that would be a real head start.

If you know any children of Head Start age and want them to learn to read, learn more by looking up Mrs. Pournelle’s literacy connection The program is old but it works.



The late Petr Beckmann instituted a feature in his excellent Access to Energy newsletter called Stark Raving Mad, which spotlighted a particularly benighted government activity that continued despite its obvious counterproductivity. Artuhur Robinson who became editor and publisher on Beckmann’s death has continued the feature. I have often thought it appropriate for many activities that Beckmann and later Robinson didn’t have time for. Here’s one of them.

Perform Criminal Background Checks at Your Peril

A federal policy intended to help minorities is likely to have the opposite effect.


Should it be a federal crime for businesses to refuse to hire ex-convicts? Yes, according to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, which recently released 20,000 convoluted words of regulatory "guidance" to direct businesses to hire more felons and other ex-offenders.

In the late 1970s, the EEOC began stretching Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act to sue businesses for practically any hiring practice that adversely affected minorities. In 1989, the agency sued Carolina Freight Carrier Corp. of Hollywood, Fla., for refusing to hire as a truck driver a Hispanic man who had multiple arrests and had served 18 months in prison for larceny. The EEOC argued that the only legitimate qualification for the job was the ability to operate a tractor trailer

It gets worse. In one case state law forbids hiring felons for certain jobs; but the EEOC demands that minority felons be hired anyway for security positions. And more. Stark Raving Mad. The Iron Law at work, of course.


It’s bed time. Hot Fudge Friday is over. Apparently the Russian meteor/meteorite was coincidental to the near miss asteroid. As if the cosmic warning was emphasized to make certain we know; we are not safe down here.




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