Hypothetical, Third Party (in the U.S.)

As some people who read this blog might guess, I am an independent with regards to my political affiliation.  While I haven't created a blog post that specifically points to the weaknesses in Democratic theories/dogma, I could posit as many problems with liberal ideas as I do with neo-conservative approaches.  Both sides often take hard-line stances on issues which precludes rational discourse and reasonable legislation.  I could also find fault with all of the well-known, third parties including the Libertarians and the Green Party.  With that said, I thought I would quickly outline my ideas for a hypothetical, new party.

Right off the bat, I will acknowledge that no party is ever going to be created using my guidelines.  At the same time, any, third party would have to overcome almost insurmountable hurdles in order to actually gain relevance in the U.S.  One only has to look at American post-bellum, American politics to realize this fact.  The Grangers, the Socialists, the Bull Moosers, Ross Perot's followers (whatever they called themselves), and others could never achieve any lasting prominence.  Even so, I think it benefits Americans to try to imagine what a third party might look like; they can compare their construct to the extant parties and thereby gain a better understanding of the methods, philosophies, infrastructures and motivations which define modern, American politics.

I am not sure what I would name the party.  The rationalists would accurately describe its philosophical focus; however, rationalism is too closely tied to atheism.  I need a more inclusive name...Perhaps the Independent Party; that one has a nice ring to it and may appeal to frustrated voters.

The platforms of all the major political groups, including the small, third parties, represent positions on certain issues.  They favor this bill or are averse to this economic policy, etc.  By contrast, my party would adopt a method as its key, platform proposal.  Politicians from the Independent Party would promise their supporters that they would use empirical methods to create the best legislation and determine the best political strategies, ie. for dealing with foreign countries.  The key aspects of this ideology are below:

1) Emotion/Empathy are important but should be mitigated by reason.
2) Rely on data to drive conclusions.  Don't pick and choose (and warp) data to make it fit your ideological principles.
3) Political discussion should take into account the desires and needs of all stakeholders--not just one's followers.  Two corollaries follow from this view.
        A) Focus on discourse with politicians from other parties and not just on debate.
        B) Compromise is okay and in fact it is welcomed.
4) Put the interests of the nation over your own interests.

That's a very brief description of my hypothetical, third party.  If I were to continue the exercise, I would flesh out the party's principles, organizing strategies, infrastructure, etc. over the course of several months/years.  In the end, my final document would be much larger than this one. :)

From a Graduate Student Consumer's Perspective--Views on Graduate Education in the U.S.

I have had the opportunity to matriculate in graduate courses in several areas of study and have spoken to post-baccalaureates at numerous institutions.  As such, I feel that the views expressed in this post have some merit.  In keeping with the my blog's mission statement, consider this post to be a rough draft of my thoughts--a quick fleshing out of my opinions as opposed to a carefully crafted, highly edited paper.

A large percentage of graduate students cheat.  From what I have noticed, a large percentage of graduate students cheat.  This problem (if we'd like to call it a problem) is not confined to traditionally competitive programs like law and business, it is prevalent in all graduate fields.  Ironically, graduate students cheat even when they do not fear failure, ie. in programs that will not flunk even the worst students.  While individual graduate students might posit any of a variety of reasons for committing these acts, the high prevalence of cheating is due to a permissive culture.  Many students do not believe that cheating is an unethical behavior.

Universities need to standardize their graduate grading systems.  University administrators need to request individual schools and programs to adopt the same grading system for graduate students.  Grades may not be important for some firms, ie. universities looking to fill academic seats; however, most companies would like a graduate student's grades to reflect that individual's abilities and work ethic.  It is difficult for a corporation to put any faith in this variable when post-graduate scoring systems vary widely between programs within a particular school, much less between graduate schools within a university (or between universities).  For the same reasons that researchers use standardized measures assay an issue, businesses would like to universities to use a standard grading system for all graduate students.

Some program heads may cry foul if the university moves towards standardizing grading systems at its institution.  They will argue that this action limits their program's/school's autonomy.  However, in my opinion, the benefits outweigh any disadvantages when it comes to creating standardized grading systems for graduate students.

Graduate programs should use 3.0 as a minimum.  Obviously, schools want to promulgate the view (sometimes an illusion) that their graduate students are a step up from undergraduates.  At the same time, they want to promote the belief that graduate education is more rigorous and serious than its undergraduate counterpart.  Sometimes these hypotheses are accurate and sometimes they are no more than myths.  For instance, I can point to numerous instances in which a school's undergraduates are more intellectually capable than their graduate peers.

Be that as it may, it does not behoove graduate programs to enforce a policy of "No C's" or "2 C's and you are out."  This policy causes a host of problems, especially for programs who are averse to flunking out any students.  Perhaps most insidious are the instances in which professors feel it necessary to pass a student with a 'B,' even though that individual did absolutely nothing to deserve it.  I would suggest that programs instead adopt a 3.0 minimum.  It would allow professors more leeway in handing out grades which are commensurate with a student's abilities/efforts as well as allowing programs to differentiate between high achievers, middle-of-the road performers, and weak students.


Is Peak Oil a Worry?

Below, I have copied my response to "The Future Can't Pay Its Bills" by the John Michael Greer.  It is located at the blog, The Arch Druid Report  The response, like most of the ones I post on here, was written fairly quickly and thus has weaknesses (perhaps a lot of weaknesses); however, it represents my "honest" opinion on the subject.  Oddly enough, I responded to his blog post several days ago; however, I don't think he has yet posted my rejoinder.

I am not sure your hypothesis is correct.  You tie the current, worldwide economic malaise to a shortage of cheap energy (ie. easily obtainable oil supplies).  However, it is quite possible that developed countries will transition from using oil as a fuel to utilizing some other source.  We (the world) have ample supplies of coal and we are quickly reaching the point where we can tap into clean sources of energy from the sun and from wind.  Who is to say that once the price/industrial requirements of oil reaches a certain point, society won't invest the resources necessary to make the shift?

In short, the economic issues we face right now (in the U.S. and throughout much of the developed and developing world) might more closely resemble the Gilded Age in America than the late Roman Empire (which also suffered from resource shortages).  Whereas the economic problems in the U.S. during that period (and again in the 1930s) signaled a shift from the 1st Industrial Age to the 2nd Industrial Age, the current economic woes are only a hiccup between economic modal types.  In this case, from the Information Age, which itself started up during the 1970s stagflation period, to the Internet/web-based Age?


The E-Publishing Revolution Is Advantageous both for Readers and for Writers

This entry is a copy of my response to a post a on 'Official Blog of Joslyn Corvis,' which is titled, "Is an E-Book Still a Book?”  The author of that post is Joslyn Corvis.  You can find it here:

Speaking as a reader (of books), I prefer electronic literature, including e-books, over their paper based predecessors.  For one thing, a collection of e-novellas don't take up much space and they are quite portable.  It is much easier to transport a 1-2 pound notepad computer library from place to place than it is to move a collection of books around.  Additionally, assuming an individual maintains his/her on-line service or download the necessary computer updates, that person won't have to worry about misplacing books or losing them in a fire, flood, or due to wear and tear.  One caveat, as e-publishing becomes the norm, it will become more difficult for people to save money via buying second-hand books.  This will be problematic for some; however, I think the pros outweigh the cons on this issue.

While the shift to e-publishing will make it easier for people like myself to carry and store volumes, that is not the chief reason that I prefer electronic media.  Rather, by using the computer keypad, I can easily locate specific passages or topics when perusing an e-book, which compares against the vast amounts of time I have to spend flitting from page to page to find specific passages in paper-bound copies.  As such, it is much easier and efficient for me (and for anyone) to research papers, projects, and other things using electronic media.  That being said, you and other authors might also eventually come to prefer e-publishing.

I can posit numerous reasons why an author would prefer an e-publishing platform over a paper-based one; however, for the sake of brevity, I will only mention one reason here.  Namely, an e-book writer has more freedom to create a dynamic, interactive literary piece.  With a book, the author's views/visions are limited by the linear, one-dimensional nature of the medium.  In an e-book, the author can include videos in the novel, or he/she can create multiple endings (letting the reader choose the ending).  Perhaps most importantly, the writer can easily go back and update the volume if new information comes to light.  This is particularly important for science fiction writers, as many of their views/ideas/background which are feasible/logical this year will become outdated/impossible in a few years (given the pace of scientific progress).  


Fantasy Football--Questions Entering this Week's Slate of Games

Well, all of my fantasy teams have made it to the semi-finals in their respective leagues.  On most of my teams, I have had to make (or will make by Sunday morning) some difficult decisions regarding who to sit/start.  Additionally, I will be sweating it out while I watch to see if my stars come through for me.  With that in mind, here are some questions that I have been asking myself this week.  Most of the queries won't be answered until Sunday.

How will Jordy Nelson respond to playing WR1 instead of WR2?  For that matter, how productive will he be given that his WR2 is either Jones or Driver?

Can Drew Brees come through with another 300+ yard, multi-touchdown performance?  Will Darren Sproles and/or Marquis Colston post good numbers this week?

Assuming Laurent Robinson plays (I will check on his status before game time tonight), will he post good numbers?  I hope that he does since all four of my teams own him, and I am starting him on three of those squads.

Speaking of Dallas, how will Felix Jones perform?  Heck, the more important question--will he be able to stay healthy for the entire game?

Can the Denver defense hold Tom Brady to under 300 yards and one touchdown?

Will Tennessee's defense come through big against Indianapolis?  I hope that they do, as I am starting them in all four leagues.

Oh, yeah, and the big one...Can all four teams advance given that I have am depending on players scoring for some teams while at the same time hoping that these players don't score too much, as they are on one or more of my opponent's squads?  I think almost every fantasy footballer who owns multiple teams has faced this issue at one time or another.

Well, that's all for now...good luck to everyone this Saturday and Sunday.


Have Colleges Lost the Ability to Transmit Information Effectively?

Below, I have copied a response that I posited yesterday in the blog, Learning with 'e's.  I was commenting on a blog post by Steve Wheeler (the host of Learning with 'e's), titled, "Conversation as curriculum."  Steve's article contends that current pedagogical theories and methods used by most college and university professors is outdated.  You can find his article here:

My responses to blog posts are usually both brief and ad hoc.  In other words, I write what comes to mind and don't edit for content/grammar.  As such, this response suffers/benefits from even less editing than usual.

Great post...I agree with the hypothesis you put forward.  Perhaps I can provide an additional perspective on the issue, having recently graduated (in May) with a M.S. in Healthcare Administration.

Not only is the pedagogical content outdated, many of the memes/theories do not adequately describe the "world."  Further, these theories, even when valuable, have limited "visions."  They therefore create students with provincial mindsets who are not prepared for the dynamic, "real world." 

Worse, most professors use antiquated methods, such as one-dimensional (purely text based) PowerPoint presentations and lectures, to transfer information to their students.  These techniques may have worked wonders in educating students for an Industrial based culture but are inadequate in helping people develop their critical thinking skills.  In other words, graduate programs (at least the ones I have seen) do an excellent job of creating students who can follow directions and please teachers but do an inadequate job of training individuals to rapidly assess the pros and cons a decision (ie. the stakeholders involved, the environment that constrains the choice, the ramifications of the decision, etc.).

Finally, our society is transforming from one that is dependent on materials and manufacturing to one that relies on technology and knowledge.  As such it behooves universities to train their students to utilize the technologies to the fullest advantage and to understand how the Internet and computers will (and are) transform ethics, behaviors, values, etc.  Sadly, most graduate and undergraduate programs (that I have experience with) do not achieve this goal.  Rather, they are still thinking in 2-D when the world revolves in 3-D.


Death Gives Meaning to Life?

A (very brief) synopsis of one of the thoughts/musings that has transcribed a path through my mind today.

Death Gives Meaning to Life?

I cannot count the times I have heard this phrase uttered by scholars and pundits, including Bill McKibben, Daniel Callahan, and Leon Kass (if anyone wants any references, I can find articles/books by these authors which refer to this issue).  They argue against pursuing radical life span extension because it will make life boring and/or meaningless by removing this tenet.  Is their hypothesis correct?

I am not sure that we can even radically extend human lifespans; I am highly skeptical that this phenomenon will occur in my lifetime.  Regardless, I do not think that human beings' lives will suddenly be bereft of meaning if their maximum lifespans increased from the current 90-120 years to centuries.  People will simply set artificial deadlines and use these limits to guide their behaviors and decisions.  We already do it now.  How many times have we heard someone say, "I want to achieve these goals by the time I'm..." 20 or 30 or 40 (or whatever age)?  Their timetable may or may not be dependent on aging; however, it is unlikely due to any worries about dying (especially for people in their teens and twenties who utter these pronouncements).

I'm sure that some proponents of radical lifespan extension or perhaps even some detractors have noted this fact; however, I can't think of anyone who has broached this hypothesis off-hand.  If readers can think of anyone who has proposed this view, let me know.


Fantasy Football Teams:Fin de Sicle

I'm sure readers can peruse through my two posts on my fantasy football teams and note the strengths and weaknesses of my logic/decisions.  As for my teams, well, the team discussed in Part 2 (the keeper league, PPR team) has already won its game and is heading to its fantasy semi-finals.  The other team ran into a bit of bad luck (and perhaps questionable decision-making on my part in who to start) when Demarco Murray was injured with only 3.1 fantasy points.  I will need 53 yards from Brandon Lloyd tonight in order to move on to the semi-finals in that league.  I don't hold out much hope of Lloyd accomplishing this task, but, referencing an old cliche, "One can always hope."

***Update, my fantasy football team won the game by a final score of 96.98 to 94.04. :)


My Fantasy Football Teams: Part 2

One of my other fantasy football teams is in the playoffs this week.  As a brief background, the league is a PPR, keeper league and consists of 12 teams.  6 of those squads make the playoffs.  Teams receive 6 points for any touchdown (including quarterback passes), 1 point for every 50 passing yards, 20 yards rushing, 25 yards receiving, sack, and reception.  Players lose 2 points for each fumble/interception and defenses gain 2 points for these stats as well as for safeties.  1 bonus point is awarded when a passer reaches 200, 300, 400, and 500 yards and when receivers/running backs reach 100, 150, 200, 250, and 300 yards.  Rosters consist of 16 players--three of these people can be kept to the next year (no fees or anything assessed to keepers).  Teams start 1 QB, 2 RB's, 3 WR/TE's, 1 K, and 1 Def.  The best scores usually range from 90-over 100, though only 1 or 2 teams (and sometimes 0) score over 100 in any given week.

My match-up is as follows:

My Team                                                       Competitor’s Team

QB: Matthew Stafford                                      QB: Tom Brady
Michael Bush                                             RB: Arian Foster
RB: Brandon Saine                                            RB: Dexter McCluster
WR/TE: Brandon Lloyd                                    WR/TE: Mike Wallace
WR/TE: Antonio Brown                                   WR/TE: Jordy Nelson
WR/TE: Jason Witten                                       WR/TE: Stevie Johnson
K: Mason Crosby                                              K: Robbie Gould
Def.: N.Y. Jets                                                  DEF: Detroit Lions

On paper, my competitor has a pretty significant advantage over me.  Arian Foster could outscore both of my running backs combined.  Tom Brady is a slightly better fantasy quarterback than Matt Stafford.  His three wide-outs are slightly better than mine.  Usually, I would put the odds on the Jets outscoring the Lions (given the match-ups for each defense); however, the Lions have the edge if both Ponder and Peterson do not play (and it is highly likely that both player sit this one out).

My competitor does not really have any choices to make before Sunday's start; those are his best players by far.  I had to decide among three quarterbacks--Matt Stafford, Ben Roethlisberger, and Alex Smith.  I chose Stafford over the other two because a) he plays in a pass first offense and has a great first wide-out and a decent (though inconsistent) second wide-out and b) he had the best match-up (even better than Alex Smith's in my opinion).  I did worry that Detroit's lack of a running game would hurt their passing; however, I decided to roll the dice with Stafford.  Perhaps that decision will come back to haunt me given that Ben scored 16 points on my bench on Thursday.

I don't have a lot of good options at running back this week.  I'm starting Bush because he at least has a chance of getting some fantasy points against Green Bay's defense.  For my second running back, I would usually start Beanie Wells (on my bench); however, Wells has not been catching passes of late and won't likely score many points via the ground game.  If he scores a touchdown, I might regret benching him.  It then had to choose between Maurice Morris and Brandon Saine.  Morris is a known quantity--he will likely catch  3-5 passes for 40-70 yards and run for another 40 yards, which will yield me 6-9 points.  He might score a touchdown; however I doubt it.  My other choice (and the one I went with) is Brandon Saine.  He should get about half the RB touches this week since Stark is out.  He is a high risk/high reward player in my opinion.  Starting Saine represents a huge gamble on my part; however, I feel that it is necessary to take the risk, as I need to do something to "even the odds" in a match I am projected to lose by 20+ points.

I started the wide receiving core you see above and benched Brent Celek and Laurent Robinson.  I originally had Celek in for Brandon Lloyd; however, I changed that decision a few hours ago when I read that Bradford has a better than 50% chance to start.  Again, Brandon is a risky start given the St. Louis QB situation and Seattle's recent defensive dominance; however, I think Brandon has a chance to score more points than Celek.  Refer to Part 1 of my fantasy football post to see why I am benching Laurent Robinson.

The rest of my line-up was a "no brainer."  I only have one kicker on my team and only one other defense, Tennessee.  I think that the Jets have a much better match-up this week.

While my odds of winning this game are not very good, I did catch a break on Thursday when the Mike Wallace touchdown was overturned on review and Antonio Brown scored his long touchdown.  I'm currently ahead 17-9 and at least feel I have a chance to win.  We'll see what happens...


My Fantasy Football Teams: Part 1

Well, all four of my fantasy football teams have made it to the post-season.  Two of the fantasy playoffs start this week and two begin next week.  As a result, I thought it would be worthwhile to posit some of my thoughts on starting line-ups for one of this week's playoff teams. I should probably note upfront that this post is not totally ad hoc/unedited.  I have been mulling over who to start on this fantasy football team for several days.  What might be refreshing/unique about this post is that it will provide readers with a real life fantasy footballs scenario.

My team is in a 10 team, non-PPR draft and play league; 8 of the teams make the playoffs.  I finished in 1st place in the league and am playing the 8th place team.  While that would normally be a good thing, in this match-up, I am likely the underdog.  The points system generally follows Yahoo's default settings with the exception that quarterbacks receive 6 points for each passing touchdown.

First off: here's a side by side comparison of the starting line-ups with the caveat that either of us might change a player or two by Sunday.

(NO - QB)Description: Player notes
(GB - QB)Player notes
(SD - WR)Description: Player notes
(Pit - WR)New player notes
(SD - WR)Description: Player notes
(NE - WR)Player notes
(Dal - RB)Description: Player notes
(Ten - RB)Player notes
(Bal - RB)Description: Player notes
(Was - RB)Player notes
(NO - TE)Description: Player notes
(GB - TE)Player notes
(Oak - RB)Description: Player notes
(Car - RB)Player notes
(Pit - K)Description: Player notes
(Oak - K)Player notes
(Den - DEF)Description: No new player Notes
(NYJ - DEF)No new player Notes

As for my competitor, he doesn't really have any choices regarding who to start at qb, rb, def, or te.  He may choose to sub out Deion Branch for Robert Meacham or sub Meacham for DeAngelo Williams in the w/r spot.  He also has Vincent Brown on his bench; however, I doubt he will start him for obvious reasons (3rd wr on team that focuses on Floyd, Jackson, and Gates and running backs).

As for myself, I could have gone with either Matt Stafford (who is on my bench) or Drew Brees.  The latter qb has been the most consistent scorer for me this year and has outperformed Stafford almost every week regardless of match-up; therefore, I opted to go with Brees.  I think it unlikely that Brees will outscore Aaron Rogers; however, he might keep it close in that head to head match-up.

In respect to running backs, I had to choose between Ray Rice, Demarco Murray, Michael Bush, Toby Gerhart, Marion Barber, and Beanie Wells.  I eliminated Beanie Wells from consideration because he is going against the best run defense in the league this week.  I eliminated Marion Barber from consideration because I don't like the match-up against the Denver defense--especially considering Caleb Hanie's inability to focus a defense's attention on the pass.  Marion Barber will be running against 8-man fronts and bunched up secondaries all day; that is not a good situation for him.  I eliminated Toby Gerhart from consideration based somewhat on gut feelings; I just don't think he will perform well against Detroit's defense (even given the absence of Suh).

On the flip side, I decided to start Ray Rice (a "no brainer" IMO) because he is a) one of the top fantasy rb's in the league and b) he is running on one of the worst defenses in the league.  I worry about Michael Bush's production against Green Bay.  Will I see the Michael Bush that exploded for a lot of yards and a touchdown or two a few weeks ago, or will I get a repeat of last week's anemic performance.  I think it will partly depend on whether or not the Oakland offensive line improves its play from last week and partially on whether the Raiders can keep the score close.  That being said, I decided to run with Bush this week over the other choices on my bench.  I have some of the same issues with Murray (and he also has to fight off Felix Jones).  In Murray's case, I think that he will pick-up his run game this week for two reasons--a) the Giants run def. is not very good and b) his full back is returning to action.

I think that Ray Rice will be able to keep pace with Chris Johnson and Demarco Murray will score about the same number of points as Roy Helu.  I hope that I have an edge in the Bush v. Williams category; however, that is somewhat of a wild card.

I think that my strongest advantage vis-a-vis my competitor is in the wide receiver category.  I will take you through some of my thinking regarding this position.

At the start of the week, my fantasy roster contained Laurent Miles, Brandon Lloyd, and Vincent Jackson.  I decided to drop Laurent Miles when it became obvious that a) Miles Austin is playing this Sunday and b) Laurent Miles is dealing with an injury issue that may limit his playing time or on field effectiveness.  In his place I picked-up Malcolm Floyd.  I decided to start both Floyd and Jackson this week for several reasons. First, I don't like Brandon Lloyd's potential vs. a good Seattle defense knowing that Lloyd may be catching passes from the third string quarterback.  Second, I think (perhaps more like hope given San Diego's inconsistency) that the San Diego offensive will perform well against the fairly weak Buffalo passing defense, especially considering that the game will be played in warm weather (and not in cold, snowy Buffalo).  I think that one or maybe even both of my wide-outs will score a touchdown and one or both will exceed 100 yards receiving.

It is quite possible, though certainly not guaranteed, that my wide receivers will outscore his two wide-outs by 15 points or more.  This scenario is more likely given that Mike Wallace has already played and only scored 7.8.  I will need to win these two match-ups if I have any hope of beating my competitor this week, especially considering that my kicker only scored 2 points.  I am going to need to win the wr battle in order to offset what will likely be a 10-11 point differential in the kicking category.

I should have an advantage at the tight end position; however, that one is a real wildcard in my opinion, given the fact that Jermichael Finley has the potential to score a touchdown or two.

At the beginning of the week, my kicker was Robbie Gould.  I picked-up Gould a few weeks back and have had success using him until Jay Cutler injured his hand and Caleb Hanie took over the qb reins in Chicago.  After that point, Gould became more of a liability than an asset (3 points last week for instance).  I don't expect things to improve this week, so I cut Gould and added Shaun Suisham.  I had a choice between Suisham and Matt Prater (and other, weaker kickers); I chose Suisham based on his match-up with Cleveland and the fact that, over the course of the season, he has had more field goal opportunities.  While my thinking may (or may not) have been sound, my pick turned into a disaster, as he only scored 2 points.  Thank goodness than Mike Wallace (on my competitor's team) only scored 7.8; I would have been really feeling the heat if his touchdown catch had not been overturned.

I think our defenses are about equal with the wild-card being defensive touchdowns scored.

In conclusion, I think that I am a slight underdog this week.  I will need my two wide-outs to really perform well to have a chance to win this contest.  I will see what happens on Sunday!

***An update: I decided to switch out Malcolm Floyd and insert Brandon Lloyd earlier today after reading that Sean Bradford has a good chance of playing in Monday's game.