Saturday, February 16, 2008


An increasing number of American universities are setting up shop overseas, as reported by the New York Times. The pros: these institutions could be excellent vehicles to disseminate Western values (like freedom and religous tolerance) and culture (more Faulkner, less 50-Cent). The cons: American universities may collaborate with local tyrants and fanatics in censoring their normal curricula and indulging anti-Western attitudes, and such overseas campuses may be developed at the neglect of the needs of American students and through their tuition.
Whither Tuition?

University of Michigan President Mary Sue Coleman heads of to Africa to promote "research and academic ties" with the countries of Ghana and South Africa. The press release makes the goals sound very noble and worthy. Just over breakfast one could dream up a hundred noble and worthy projects that the University could start or expand. Given the dire economic circumstances of the state, perhaps some focus on programs that assist Michigan's economic competitiveness may be a higher priority. Or perhaps spending less, asking the state for a smaller increase in assistance, or saddling the students and families with a smaller increase in tuition might be a priority, too.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

So Much For That Critical Priority.

Much hot gas has been expelled by both parties on the need to research and develop alternative energy and fuel sources. However, the Congerscritters decided that punishing the Administration for holding firm on the spending ceiling had higher priority, and one of their targets was the White House science budget (which was planned to see generous increases in R&D). As a result, the Department of Energy has been forced to curtail research on solar energy, hydrogen, and advanced nuclear energy technology. Also cut was Bush's "American Competitiveness Initiative", a program to invigorate US tech leadership. (Source: Physics Today, Feb 2008)

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Would a Flex-Fuel Vehicle Requirement Work?

Bob Zubrin suggests that "flex-fuel" vehicles be mandated;
he was interviewed on the Glenn and Helen Show, and his idea of creating a competitive market for transportation fuels by immediate demand for it (unlike supplying the fuel first before compatible vehicles) may have some merit. The problems of alcohol (both ethanol and methanol) production capacity and transportation limitations, and the unintended consequences of a mandate for flex fueling must be considered (for some examples of current vehicle availability, go to this link).

Corn based ethanol subsidies, however, still remains a bad idea, and is just political pandering to the Grain Belt.
A Veep for McCain.

There are a list of tired, uninspiring names being floated around for consideration as John McCain's nominee for Vice President. How about a bold choice such as J Kenneth Blackwell or Colin Powell?
Remember Tet.

John McCain embraced the "surge" in Iraq, and has benefitted politically from its success. However, the Islamofascists may not want to chance a McCain presidency (they have a guaranteed victory in 2010 with a Clinton or Obama presidency), and certainly appreciate the staggering punch dealt to American public opinion by the Tet Offensive in Vietnam during late January 1968. Let's keep our right guard up in the coming months to protect against such a jab.
Endowment Hoarding.

Today's Ann Arbor News features a story on the University of Michigan's whopping $7.1B endowment, which has doubled since 2003 (a return of 14.9% per annum). UM keeps raising tuition (7% last year) and begging for more state funding, while spending only $200M of the endowment toward operation of the school.

What is an $7.1B endowment for? How about decreasing the onerous costs borne by students and their families? For example, if the green eyeshades at the U can average a return of half of that for the previous five years, then after budgeting inflation (about 3%) they could still apply the net $320M toward school operations and - gasp! - rollback tuition for 40,000 students by $3000 per student. This would be a decrease of the present tuition and fees by 30%!