Russian Federation Fires on, Sinks Chinese Ship

Without comment:

BEIJING, Feb. 21 (UPI) — Russia’s attitude and response to the sinking of a Chinese cargo ship in Russian waters is unacceptable, Beijing’s foreign ministry says.

Zhang Xiyun, director general of the foreign ministry’s Department of European-Central Asian Affairs, Friday lodged formal protests with Russian Minister Counselor to China Morgulov Igor regarding the Feb. 14 incident involving the ship New Star, Xinhua, the state-run Chinese news agency reported.

A Russian warship fired 500 rounds at the New Star, sinking it during stormy weather in Russian waters near the eastern port city

of Vladivostok, The New York Times reported.

via China protests Russia’s ship actions – UPI.com.

See also: China Demands Russia Explain Ship Sinking.

Self-efficacy, not self-esteem

Chicago Boyz had an interesting thread comparing the self-esteem movement to China’s focus on engineering education.

It is worth while, but it’s important to note two things that I have observed teaching 400-level classes in educational psychology

1) no serious researcher takes self-esteem seriously
2) nearly every pre-service teacher takes self-esteem seriously

I suspect this is becasue of the influence of the regular education faculty, who have limited training in the theory and methods of psychology, but a lot of exposure to educational fads like emotional intelligence.

To complicated matters, there is a predctively valid concept caled “sellf-efficacy,” which unfortunately shares the same initials as self-efficayc.

Here are examples of self-esteem questions

  • I feel good about myself (True / False)
  • I am a good person (True / False)
  • I am happy with who I am (True False)
  • I am good at math (True False)

Here are examples of self efficacy questions

On a scale of 0 to 100, how confident are you that you can perform the following tasks?

  • Correctly add these two numbers: 5 and 3
  • Correctly add these two numbers: 5353 less 3349
  • Correctly subtract these two numbers: 5 less 3
  • Correctly subtractthese two numbers: 5353 and 3349
  • Correctly multiple these two numbers: 5 and 3
  • Correctly multiplethese two numbers: 5353 and 3349
  • Correctly divide these two numbers: 5 into 3
  • Correctly divide these two numbers: 5353 into 3349

No one takes self-esteem seriously. Criticizing it is like criticizing holocaust denial: an excersize in frustration.

Self-efficacy is one of the best motivational constructs we have.

Update: Using the terms ‘entitlement’ (think: ‘self esteem’) and ‘locus of control’ (think: ‘self efficacy’) the New York Times covers similar ground.

Obama’s Distracting Fear-based Unilateralism

Protectionism may be Obama’s Iraq War, a huge, costly, error-prone, distracting, program that generates enemies and just might work.

The enemies are all over, including the generally pro-Obama CNBC

Just as Bush’s foreign policy was consumed by the Iraq War, there are signs that Obama’s economic plans may consume his foreign policy.

On Obama’s visit to our largest trade partner:

US President Barack Obama said he had assured Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper on Thursday that a “Buy American” clause in his new economic stimulus law would not harm trade between the two allies.
Obama was asked about the language in the package, which he signed into law on Tuesday, during a press appearance with Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper here

On Secretary of State Clinton’s visit to Japan:

TOKYO, Feb 5 (Reuters) – Japan has sent a letter to the United States expressing concern about protectionism stemming from a “Buy American” plan in Washington’s mammoth stimulus package, the top government spokesman said on Thursday.

The letter, sent on Wednesday to top aides of U.S. President Barack Obama and the Senate’s majority and minority leaders, echoes concerns by other U.S. trading partners, including Canada and the European Union. [ID:nN03517537]

“The common responsibility shared by the two countries, which are the world’s No.1 and No.2 economies, is to resist protectionism together,” Chief Cabinet Secretary Takeo Kawamura told a news conference.

On Secretary of State Clinton’s visit to China:

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton travels to Beijing, where Chinese leaders’ are concerned about the “Buy American” clause in the stimulus package. Steve Chiotakis talks to Marketplace’s Scott Tong about why China and the U.S. are both worried.

“Old Europe” piles on:

BRUSSELS (Reuters) – The European Commission will monitor closely a “Buy American” requirement in a $787 billion U.S. economic stimulus package, the EU executive said in its first response since the bill came into force on Tuesday.

“Following the concerns expressed both in the U.S. and internationally, President (Barack) Obama’s administration has assured its partners that it will adhere to its international commitments,” the Commission said in a statement to Reuters.

Obama has signed two “Buy American” laws: one to keep out foreign workers, and another to keep out foreign goods. Obama’s first moves have President have been to cave in to fear, turn his back on allies, and go-it-alone on the most important foreign policy issue we have.

Blog buzz for ‘Threats in the Age of Obama’

I am amazed at how popular Threats in the Age of Obama has been in the blogosphere.

Currently, 30 of the top 30 google results for Threats in the Age of Obama brings up mentions of the book that Mike Tanji edited (and for which I wrote a chapter, “An Outbreak of Democracy.”). Just as cool, searching for in the age of obama brings up three references to our edited volume, and two to Gwen Ifil’s The Breakthrough: Politics and Race in the Age of Obama. (And she has the publicity of PBS behind her — we just have a legion fo co-authors and fans, such as Radio Patriot, Devost.net, and others!)

threats_in_the_age_of_obama_cropped_cover

Zenpundit now links to a review by Pundita (cross-posted at The Real Barack Obama) of the book. Here’s what Pundita had to say:

The opinion of academics whose conclusions most closely serve the administration’s partisan leanings and defense goals come to dominate foreign policy. And because the academics are specialists, who are rarely given to investigating outside their discipline, galactic-sized chunks of reality completely escape their attention.

That explains the utter weirdness that has characterized U.S. foreign policy for decades and the escalating number of purported Black Swan events to beset these shores. (’Well it just happened like a bolt out of the blue, Mr President.’)

Tanji, a former supervisory intelligence officer at the Defense Intelligence Agency, is well-aware of the limitations of the Virtual Think Tank (see his essay on the topic, which I’ve linked to above). But clearly he hopes its unfettered scope will prevent the worst oversights to arise from the blinkered research

Very cool! Threats in the Age of Obama can be purchased from Amazon.com.

Academic inferiority, its recognition and treatment

One of the reasons that No Child Left Behind is such a wonderful program is that it forces schools to recognize the poor performance of their black and hispanic students.

Before George Bush’s “No Child Left Behind” Act, schools sweep their failure to teach black and hispanic students under the rug. The mandatory testing and requirement for continuous improvements forces schools to come to grip with the particularly awful education that this country provides for too many black and hispanic children, and deal with it.

The compassioniate way to fix the problem is to fix education, to do the hard work to make sure that black and hispanic children are prepared to learn.

The way popular among many school bureaucrats is to deny the problem.

To wit:

Unless you believe that African-American and Latino kids are somehow, as a group, academically inferior to white kids,” Welner said, “then you have to believe there are a lot of kids in those lower-track classes who have the potential for tremendous academic success.”

The way that African-American and Latino kids are somehow, as a group, ‘academically inferior is that schoold don’t educate them. What person believes that blacks and hispanics earn graduate degrees, earn undergradate degrees, or graduate high school at the same rate of whites? Who thinks that blacks and hispanics enter the 12th, 11th, 10th, 9th, 8th, 7th, 6th, 5th, 4th, 3rd, 2nd, or 1st grades, or kindergarten for that matter, with the same academic advantages as white children?

The context for the above quote is a story, courtesy of Half-Sigma titled “Higher learning: More middle-schoolers leapfrog into advanced classes — but are minorities being left behind?:”

For decades, high-school students have taken community-college courses to dress up their resumes and prepare for college.

Now, competitive middle-schoolers in Florida are flocking to sign up for high-school classes.

For parents and students, it’s a great chance to get ahead. And school districts have something else to brag about: seventh- and eighth-graders completing courses such as Algebra II Honors and biology that had been reserved primarily for ninth- and 10th-graders.

But the nation’s foremost scholars in middle-school education are worried the fast-growing trend is leaving minority children behind. They also question whether the practice is legal because, nationwide, it has tended to result in students being segregated by race.

In Florida, high-school-level classes at middle schools are filled mostly with white kids. That’s the case even at some schools where most of the kids are black or Hispanic, according to an Orlando Sentinel analysis of public records from the Florida Department of Education and school districts.

The trend has sparked a lively debate nationwide between those who say middle-school students aren’t ready to be treated like high-school students and those arguing that the brightest children shouldn’t be held back because minorities aren’t signing up for certain courses.

Some disparities in Central Florida this school year include:

*At Lee Middle School in Orlando, 93 percent of the kids who take high-school geometry and 77 percent who take Earth-Space science are white. Meanwhile, 29 percent of all Lee students are white.

Predictably, the leftists want to criminalize education, both to hold down high-performing kids and hide exposing the fact taht schools leave blacks and hispanics as the low performing kids:

Though officials at the federal Office of Civil Rights wouldn’t speculate about whether local schools have broken any rules, some of the country’s leading scholars say it could be just a matter of time before such disparities trigger an investigation.

George Bush was the greatest President for civil rights that America ever had. While other Presidents either ignored the issue or took the easy way out by puffing their chests and staging worthless shows of force, Bush recognized the crucial role that education plays. George Bush revolutionaized America’s educational system, creating the “No Child Left Behind” framework that forces schools to objective assess students and show continuous improvements.

While leftists, both in this article and elsewhere, want to make American education equally useless to everyone, those who care about our nation’s future want every student to be rigorously educated. Even if the first step in that process is recognizing that we fall short of that goal now.

Reid caved, America suffers

Last month, I was temporarily impressed with Senator Majority Leader Harry Reid, when he vowed to use the Senate’s power to hold up the confirmation of Roland Burris, appointed by former Governor Blagoevich. But Reid, as those who thought less of Reid than I did expected, caved to identity politics and made Burris the junior Senator from Illinoise. Burris’s vote became critical for the Obama stimulus. And now, everyone is regretting it:

Sen. Roland Burris (D-Ill.) must go. – washingtonpost.com
From the moment that Mr. Burris was selected, he strove to portray himself as a blameless public servant. The sad pictures of Mr. Burris being cast out into the rain by the Democratic leadership of the Senate, which initially refused to seat him, turned public opinion in his favor. Mr. Burris got his seat. But this latest revelation makes a mockery of his professions of no quid pro quo. It is a violation of the public trust. The people of Illinois have suffered enough. Mr. Burris should resign.

If Reid had kept his word, Burris would not be a Senator, Illinois would not be embarrassed again, and the Obama Stimulus would not have passed in its current form.

As I said, Tammy Duckworth would have been a better choice.

Only fools bought houses they could afford

the_housing_bailout_w480
(Based on the Detroit Bailout, using a photo from Wikimedia Commons)

A nice follow out to only fools pay their mortgages

By David Leonhardt (corutesy Calculated Risk):

Now, not all economists buy this argument. They say that the psychology of the current bust is different from what it was in Boston in the early 1990s. In a handful of metropolitan areas, including Phoenix, prices have fallen almost 50 percent from their 2006 peak.

Homeowners in such places may wonder if their houses will ever be worth more than their mortgages. So fairly small changes in their lives — like a reduction in work hours or the breakdown of a car — may lead them to walk away from their homes.

“I would not minimize that risk at all,” said Frederic Mishkin, a member of the Fed’s board of governors until last year.

If even 10 percent of the underwater homeowners walked away, Mishkin notes, foreclosures would soar, exacerbating the economy’s many problems.

Other economists who share his view are calling for across-the-board programs that would reduce interest rates or otherwise juice the housing market. They are worried that without bolder government actions, the housing market will continue to spiral downward.

In the end, the choice between the two approaches becomes a matter of cost-benefit analysis. The more aggressive approach would almost certainly do more to reduce foreclosures. But it would also be enormously more expensive.

If the economists from the Boston Fed are right — or even close to right — then the aggressive approach may cost something like $500 billion to prevent 500,000 foreclosures.

That’s $1 million per prevented foreclosure. Is that really worth it? Or could the money be better spent in other ways? (There is also the small matter of whether Congress would be willing to spend another $500 billion anytime soon.)

An example of the sort of house that you may soon be paying for are these McMansiosn in California, which have lost a million dollars worth of value.

Iraq’s 2009 Provincial Elections: Consequences

Catholicgauze has his latest report from Iraq.

In the Sunni provinces, the Iraqi Islamic Party has gained ground at the expense of the Kurdish parties (the small Kurdish minority outvoted the Arab Sunnis in 2005). The only exception was in Anbar were the ruling IIP lost to an urban/tribal coalition.

The election results in Anbar have many wondering “what next?” Those in power with the IIP may have to face corruption charges for the graft that made them infamous. Hamas-al-Iraq and 1920s Revolutionary Brigades, two insurgent groups who hate al Qaeda more than the Coalition Forces but not by much, have long been allied with IIP to give them cover. The new ruling coalition is much more American-friendly. These nationalist insurgents must weigh their loyalty to the IIP against their loyalty to Anbar and its government which wants a peaceful withdrawal of American forces.

Read the whole thing.