EppsNet Archive: Philip Greenspun

Lost in Translation

26 Jul 2016 /

Via Philip Greenspun:

Tel Aviv cab driver: “I told my kids that the only place ‘Success’ comes before ‘Hard Work’ is in the dictionary.” (works better in Hebrew, presumably)


The Smartest Kids in the World

12 Jul 2014 /

Via Philip Greenspun:

Amanda Ripley identifies the following major problems with American schools:

  • people who are poorly educated are hired as schoolteachers
  • teachers have limited autonomy (partly as a result of their low level of knowledge and ability)
  • schools have multiple missions, only one of which is education, which leads to a loss of focus
  • teachers and administrators dwell on student and family backgrounds so as to build up a catalog of excuses for poor educational outcomes
  • parents are complacent regarding the low expectations set for their children

Tax Rate Hike and Increased Unemployment Payments on the Same Day

2 Jan 2013 /

According to this White House press release, the federal government is ringing in the new year by simultaneously raising tax rates (i.e., penalizing people for working) and extending payments to two million people who do not work (i.e., rewarding people for playing Xbox). Has this ever happened before at any time in the history of the U.S. (or anywhere else in the world for that matter)?


Ted Kennedy and Mary Jo Kopechne

29 Aug 2009 /

The most fitting eulogy I’ve read for Senator Kennedy . . .

A Senator from Massachusetts has left office in the only manner possible for an incumbent Democrat, i.e., in a coffin. The New York Times leads off their story on Ted Kennedy’s death with “his sometimes-stormy personal life.” When I think of Ted Kennedy, though, my first thought is always sadness at the death of Mary Jo Kopechne, a promising young woman killed by Kennedy, who waited more than eight hours before seeking help for her rescue. One expects politicians to impoverish constituents with reckless spending; one does not expect them to kill constituents. . . .

[Some friends asked today how I would have summarized Ted Kennedy’s biography, if not the way the New York Times did. I observed that he had spent his entire life either as the child of a wealthy family or as a government employee. Never having held a job in the private sector and never having been exposed to the risk of losing a job or a paycheck (either as a child or an adult), he created many new laws and regulations on private businesses (most of the laws that apply to private employers do not apply to Senators themselves in their relations with staff). In his personal life, rather than donating to charity (source) or working directly with the unfortunate, he enjoyed drinking and partying. He drove a car off a bridge, trapping a young woman inside, managed to save his own skin, left her to die, and did not attempt to summon help that could have saved her.]

Update: I just noticed that Barack Obama gave a televised speech from Martha’s Vineyard in praise of Ted Kennedy. Though he was speaking just a few miles from where Mary Jo Kopechne died, President Obama did not mention her. Barack Obama did note that there was nobody in the Senate who had earned more “respect” and that he was one of “the most accomplished Americans ever to serve our democracy.” I guess if all of our government workers were similarly accomplished we would no longer have to worry about overpopulation.


Comfortable With Our Stupid Children

16 Aug 2009 /

Researchers have found that generic American parents, faced with a child who can’t do math or science, will say “Don’t worry, Johnny, because you have so many other talents.” Asian parents, supposedly, will say “Since you aren’t apparently naturally gifted at math or science you’ll have to study extra hard in these areas,” and not stop nagging until the kid is doing well.


Cash for Clunkers

11 Aug 2009 /

Cash for Clunkers has the following elements of spectacle:

  • Americans destroying perfectly functional cars
  • Americans whose skills are uncompetitive in the global marketplace driving around in fancy new cars

Somewhere in China and India they must be having a good laugh.


Carbon Emissions Reduction, Biden Style

2 Aug 2009 /

There is a permanently restricted area of airspace to the NW of the [Wilmington, Delaware] airport, around [VP Joe] Biden’s weekend house. The airport gets shut down every time Biden commutes home at taxpayer expense. What kind of plane does Biden, a tireless advocate of reduced carbon emissions (source), use for the 15-minute flight from D.C.? “Boeing 757,” was the report from the ramp. “You wonder how the government can criticize private companies for using light jets when they themselves ride solo in the back of a 757.”

[Note: the shortest version of the Boeing 757 can hold up to 234 passengers plus a crew of at least 7 (source).]


California Fiscal Crisis

23 Jul 2009 /

The median wage of a California state employee is $66,000 (source). The median wage among all Californians (including those state workers) is just over $36,000. The state employee can retire with a full pension in his or her late 40s or early 50s, which essentially means that the taxpayers have to pay for double the number of state workers that are required to provide current services. In addition to salaries that are much higher than private sector equivalents, the state employee has health care and other benefits that by themselves may exceed the total compensation of a full-time private sector employee. The reasonable question to ask is not “How did they run out of cash?” but “How was this ever supposed to work?”


Stimulus Bill is Creating Jobs

2 Mar 2009 /

A friend works at a wind energy company. I asked him if he was getting his share of the money from our new planned economy. His response: “We are stimulated! There is some good stuff in there for renewable. We may need to open a DC office just to chase the $$.”

As long as we think that we can grow GDP by having an ever-larger proportion of our best citizens working as full-time lobbyists, it would seem that the stimulus bill is working as advertised.


The Forgotten Man, Ted Kennedy and Warren Buffett

16 Jul 2008 /

As Ted Kennedy has spent virtually all of his personal wealth on personal consumption of mansions, private jets, women, booze, etc., any help that he has provided to Americans has come at the expense of the “forgotten man” paying taxes. Ted’s own contributions to charity have been minimal (source).

Let’s compare to Warren Buffett. . . . Buffett has spent a negligible portion of his $60+ billion in personal wealth on personal consumption, giving almost all of it away to charity.

Perhaps Buffet is “the forgotten man.” He creates jobs by the thousands. He pays taxes by the $billions. He consumes very modestly considering his means. Yet Buffett is not considered a hero here in Massachusetts, at least.


President Obama

15 Dec 2007 /

In December 2009 we will suffer a massive nationwide psychological depression. People assume that all of their problems can be blamed on George W. Bush personally. When the hated King Bush II has been back to Texas for a year and the beloved Obama has been in office for a year, people will look around for a quick status check. They will still be stuck in horrific traffic. They will still be paying insane prices for crummy housing in bleak, lonely communities. Their children will be getting a terrible education at the local public school, perhaps developing to about 15 percent of their potential. If in a hip urban area, criminals will still be smashing their car windows and taking their GPS. They will realize that virtually none of the things that are unpleasant about their life have anything to do with the federal government, except for the war in Iraq, which a quick check of the headlines will reveal that we are still losing.


What Has Steve Jobs Done With His Money?

28 Oct 2006 /

Bill Gates and the Microsoft crowd have been very prominent in charitable circles, saving Africans from disease, etc. By contrast, a Google search for “Steve Jobs charity” or “Steve Jobs donation” turns up nothing except an article on how Apple bought him a $90 million Gulfstream bizjet.

So… if Steve Jobs doesn’t give money to charity and doesn’t pay for his own jet, is he doing something interesting with his $billions?


Best Explanation of the Spanish Election Results

17 Mar 2004 /

Even the mere threat of Islamic terrorism has for several decades been very effective at steering European nations’ foreign policy. Going back further consider the Germans in the 1930s and early 1940s. A small minority of people living in Europe had an ideology and the will to use violence to back up that ideology. Without a whole lot of effort or actual force they were able to conquer nearly every other European nation and convince those Europeans to accept major elements of their ideology. European democracies appear strong but apparently are easy to control by anyone who threatens to disrupt the bourgeois comforts of the populace. Nor do Europeans have the internal strength to dislodge violent minorities who’ve gained control of their societies. In the 1940s it was the leveling of German cities by the British and American air forces and Soviet artillery that convinced Europeans of the impracticality of Naziism.