Monday, February 21, 2011

A REAL Hero!!

We throw the word "hero" around pretty easily these days. I have probably written here that Dave Barry is one of my heroes. Win the big game, you are a hero. Last week Kip and I went to the opera for her birthday, and the cast received a standing ovation, as if they had done something heroic. Not to belittle these achievements, but are athletes, singers and even Dave Barry really heroic?

They aren't compared to the Congressman John Lewis. The Boulder International Film Festival took place over the weekend, and we went yesterday afternoon to see the film "Freedom Riders", a documentary about the brave young men and women who took on the Jim Crow laws of the south in the early 60's. It is an amazing story that shows the courage of these people, who faced beatings and abuse at the hands of cowardly racists, who attacked small groups of non-violent young people in armed mobs with the protection of corrupt police. At the same time, this film made me feel ashamed that I am a white American yet proud of how far our nation has progressed in 50 years.

One of the Freedom Riders was John Lewis, who is now a Democratic Congressman from Georgia, a state where he would likely have been unable to safely vote in 1961. Rep. Lewis also attended the screening, and answered questions afterward. I realized during the film and as he spoke that for one of the few times in my life, I was in the presence of a real hero. Here is a guy who risked his life to right a wrong, stuck to his non-violent convictions, and helped change the world for the better. He could easily have stayed in law school and let others fight the fight, but he acted.

Lewis of course received a hearty standing ovation from the audience when he came on stage after the film. After, I said to Kip that if the audience had given a standing ovation to the opera singers we had seen on Tuesday, that Lewis deserved something about 10 times as enthusiastic.

I know some of my students and former students read this blog, and many are young enough that this kind of racism in America seems like distant history. When Obama was elected and I told my class I never thought I would live to see a black president, many didn't see what the big deal was. While it is great that today's young people see race far differently than older generations, they should still understand the struggles that had to take place for us to get here.

The good news about this film is that you will be able to watch it in May, as it was made for American Experience on PBS. And there is already a web site for the film, which you can visit HERE. Don't miss it!

Oh, interesting side note: Congressman Lewis was introduced by our Congressman, Jared Polis, who is openly gay. Lewis made it clear that he supports equality among all people!

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Who pays for the war on drugs

One of the things that economists know for sure (and there aren't many!) is that if you want less of something, tax it. I am pretty sure most economists would prefer a legalize and tax approach to drugs than our expensive, destructive, and unsuccessful "WAR ON DRUGS".

From today's NY Times, you should enjoy this short little take on how the costs of drugs are pushed onto poor people, without any compensation for it. Another reason to re-think a horrible policy, especially at a time when everyone is concerned about government spending.

Friday, February 11, 2011

I Swear I Beat This Guy at Bowling!

Here is a picture of my high school friend Mark Murphy holding up the Super Bowl trophy. Am I jealous? HELL YES!!! I just wish he had been a dick instead of a good guy, so I could hate him.

One of my other high school friends asked this question: How many guys have Super Bowl rings earned as both players and executives? Anyone think of another?

Congrats Murph! Everyone who knew you in school was a Packers fan the past few weeks!

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

No Wonder Our Students Know Little About Science

A few weeks a report came out about how few American students had the scientific knowledge that they should have. One reason for this might be explained by examining incentives, as we like to do in Economics. Schools get judged now mostly on how students do in reading and math. So, the incentive is for schools to focus on reading and math so they don't get shut down. That leaves less focus on other subjects. Less science, less history, less phys ed.

Today's NY Times has a story that may also explain it. It appears only 28% of biology teachers are teaching it properly, and by that I mean teaching evolution as scientific fact. Instead, most choose to hedge somewhere in the middle and discuss creationism, or "intelligent design" as an option to believe in. And the story estimates that 15-20% are teaching creationism.

How can this be? How can we allow science teachers to promote such nonsense? And how did they even become science teachers if they can't understand science?

If you were a math teacher teaching kids that 2+2=5, or an English teacher teaching that xojhsdf is how you spell cat, you would be fired in minutes. Yet science is given the same weight as a silly myth?

Maybe tomorrow I will teach my students that prices are not based on supply and demand, but are set by an invisible man in the sky.

Thursday, February 3, 2011


With the Super Bowl (Go Pack!) coming up on Sunday, what better time to take another blast at the taxpayers getting reamed in stadium funding deals (sorry Art!). If you follow football at all, you are already aware of Jerry Jones $1.2B monument to his giant ego, funded with $350M of taxpayer money (and that's just the explicit part). You can be sure they won't mention what a bad deal taxpayer funding has turned out to be for those poor schmucks called taxpayers, as the sports media tends to be big cheerleaders for this kind of financial rape.

Thank goodness for Mark Yost's story in the WSJ that discusses how taxpayers are constantly shafted (my words....the WSJ would never use such language!). It has a particularly nice list of debts still owed on facilities that have been torn down, such as the old Giants Stadium and the Astrodome. He even suggests that the Tea Party should be raging against taxpayer funded facilities.

I recently read "Field of Schemes" by Neil deMause and Joanna Cagan, a somewhat dated book (published almost 10 years ago) tale of how stadiums conned fans into new stadiums. Thanks to Yost's article, I discoverd that deMause also has a blog by that name, which I have today added to my list of Fun Eco Blogs on the right.

Good advice: Just vote "NO!!".

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

The Onion on TV

In case you have been living in a cave, there is a humerous newspaper that comes out every week called The Onion. They also have a pretty funny web site.

The paper generally has very funny headlines (Man from future: "Everyone is eating Dippin Dots"), but the articles that followed tended to run out of funny after the first paragraph.

In the past month, The Onion has debutted 2 new TV shows. Tuesdays on Comedy Central, you can catch their parody of Sportscenter called "SportDome". On Fridays on IFC, get a half-hour report from the Onion News Network, a send-up of CNN.

I am a bit surprised but very pleased to say that, from what I have seen, this is good stuff. They are not afraid to be outrageous, with features like "Who would you kill", or the sports shows running coverage one week of a boxing match where everyone was hoping for the big story, which would be the death of one of the fighters. Maybe that doesn't sound funny here, but they pulled it off. I was afraid the news show would look like a Daily Show rip-off, but it has it's own voice.

So, kudos for the Onion for coming up with 2 very witty shows. Let's hope they can keep up the good satire.