Sep 182017
 

More catch up as I transfer choice material from my tablet at home …

More people all the time look nervously at the effect Google has in their markets, wondering what might happen if the behemoth turns to the dark side. A journalist talks of how his profession has been transformed by Google, for example. The company enabled entirely new business processes for these writers … and now almost exclusively controls what writers can draw from it. Others go further, pointing out how the company has bullied others in order to have its way.

[You need not look very far these days to find many more examples emerging. The informal motto for Google was “don’t be evil.” We knew from the start that the moment a company feels compelled to assure you it is not evil, the more of the underworld has been on its minds.]

And finally we offer a very nice article about the specifics by which technology companies gain control. It is through leveraging intellectual property that (according to the author, with whom we concur) we are experiencing a modern sort of feudalism, in which don’t necessarily own much property, rather, we must ask for permission and hope the corporate owners has a benign eye upon our requests.

 Posted by at 5:58 pm on September 18, 2017
Aug 232017
 

That’s the new slogan promoted by the Washington Post, reprising a truism that has been around for years. It also describes what some state officials are apparently okay with.

Jumping on the virtue-signaling bandwagon, Maryland Governor Larry Hogan (leading the trust which is in charge of statehouse facilities) recently enabled removal of a statue of Roger Taney from a place of honor in our capitol. What makes Taney worthy of being wiped clean from history? As Chief Justice of the US Supreme Court he authored the Dred Scott decision in 1857.

Removing statuary of people who would be panned on social media today is of course the ‘in’ thing. Social Justice Warriors thus knew that Taney had to go. And perhaps so, notwithstanding the missed opportunities for education, deference to a symbol of the good will of people who came before us – including, yes, liberals – or respect for a lifetime of public service.

But how we do things is just as important as what we do. And how this was done is just wrong. It was done in darkness, both figuratively (decisions made in virtual secret) and literally (the statue was removed in the middle of the night.)

That was the point made by Senate President Mike Miller who is not only part of the trust that made this decision but also an avid historian with special expertise in affairs of the mid-19th century. President Miller penned a letter that paints a more complex picture of Taney and calls out Hogan for conducting such business in darkness. (His letter was published by several news sources and we mirror it here. It is worth your full consideration.)

What is missed by people who are inclined to burn books instead of read them is that Taney was an anti-slavery activist who gave a lifetime of service to our state and country. His sin was reaching a decision based on law instead of the outcomes sought by political opportunists who came 160 years later. It sure looks like the man recognized slavery was wrong but also that how the country got to that conclusion was important. It needed legislators to be involved, for example. You know … the people who create laws in the first place.

Process is important, which brings us back to Hogan and the Taney statuary. As Miller laments, this affair was conducted out of the public eye. If proponents of the move were proud of what they did, then they should have been eager for a public forum to explain their position and persuade as to its merits. That they did not do so speaks volumes. Our state community is diminished accordingly.

 Posted by at 9:03 pm on August 23, 2017
Aug 232017
 

The Sun tells what everyone already pretty much knows: fewer than half of the students in Maryland public schools are on track for college readiness, according to latest PARCC scores, or Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers. This is grim news given that the instrument is itself only the most basic indicator of college preparation.

Preparation is worst where the state spent most. Quoting the linked article:

In Baltimore, math scores held steady while English scores inched up. Still, fewer city students passed the exams than in neighboring districts. Only about three of every 20 city students in grades three through eight passed both math and English. Almost 12 percent passed math, about the same as last year. Fifteen percent passed English, an increase of 1.4 percentage points from last year.

Maryland implements spending plans, not education plans. For those keeping score, the state dramatically ramped up funding for public schools over the last twenty five years, measuring its success by how much it spends, not what students can do as a result of their often not-so-close encounters with schools. As a result, the present news will be viewed by officials as a success … after all, the checks cleared, which was the whole point. Too bad for parents who thought their taxes were supposed to have been buying more than teacher union fealty.

Anyone who thinks this doesn’t impact us at College Park is kidding himself. This is a campus that lists skin color and orientation (among other characteristics) among ways an applicant can be deemed prepared for the flagship, so dismal PARCC scores which don’t factor in those characteristics won’t significantly affect our admission practices. We will maintain business as usual at the front door. But the professoriate in charge of generating scholarship will increasingly struggle in the face of a student base that similarly struggles with preparation. Time spent back-filling substandard education coming in to the flagship is time not spent pushing back the frontiers of knowledge in our respective disciplines.

All this is a recipe for implosion. The entrepreneurial mindset of public school officials does not stop at our front door; overall we continue to increase tuition beyond sensible limits, basically just raking in cash because it is on the table. Thoughtful people watch this knowing it is not sustainable. We have previously pointed out here how the bubble is already bursting around us, and we thus say it again: the market will reach a tipping point, after which consumers will demand to know why they pay so much for such poor outcomes, often in restrictive environments that negate the entire argument for campus as a place of free expression and thought in the first place.

We’re doing it wrong.

 Posted by at 12:31 pm on August 23, 2017
Jun 202017
 

A Supreme Court decision this week took a little step back toward sanity in allowing people some bit of flexibility in what it is they can do with “stuff” they buy. In this case it was with ink cartridges for printers, but it will be applied in more ways we trust.

Who’d have thought you didn’t have freedom to do things with such tangible products? The companies that want to use intellectual property and contract laws to prevent you from doing things other than pay money on their products. Read up on it at New technology is eroding your right to tinker with things you own.

This still doesn’t help much on software, which today you almost never are able to buy – only to pay for license, which gives the product creator control over what you do with it. What’s important is not what you want to do but what he wants to do, they argue.

 Posted by at 7:58 pm on June 20, 2017
Jun 192017
 

Reckless Exploit: Mexican Journalists, Lawyers, and a Child Targeted with NSO Spyware is another fine bit of investigative reporting by Citizenlab.org (a group that is worth following.) Read at this link the use of spyware to target journalists and advocates of views that are inconvenient to what some might view are corrupt officials.

 Posted by at 9:01 am on June 19, 2017
Aug 252016
 

… where your cronies give you a $75,000 bonus without feeling the need to actually explain what it is for. Maybe they felt sorry for him trying to scrape by on just $600,000 a year in salary and the housing, travel and administrative expenses they pick up for him on top of that.

STEM majors paying differential tuition and increasing fees here at College Park might want to look into whether we offer any classes on being a chancellor, so they can learn how to get by like this someday. (Our view: maybe he did something worthy of a bonus, but the fat-cats writing that check should be on the hook to explain to hard-working taxpayers what it is for.)

 Posted by at 8:09 am on August 25, 2016
Aug 242016
 

Bloomberg reports on Baltimore Secret Cameras, which constantly record in the city. It’s a good article on how much surveillance really goes on … and in a city that has just been issued a scathing report from the Department of Justice on persistent and long-term civil rights violations in its police department. Yes, it does seem like these things go together, doesn’t it?

 Posted by at 6:31 pm on August 24, 2016
Aug 142016
 

The Purple Line’s funding issues have recently slowed its early construction efforts, but never fear, its proponents – including, we presume UM President Wallace Loh, who single-handedly overcame local opposition and championed this campus-splitting project’s approval – remain optimistic about its prospects.

Which is more optimism than we can muster for traffic conditions during said implementation based on reading the Washington Post’s article about a similar light rail project in Charlotte. Read for yourself the devastating effect that project has on the region there.

 Posted by at 9:34 pm on August 14, 2016