October 30, 2007

And now for something completely different

Okay, it's not completely different. Rather, it's a topic that I almost never bring up here on the blog. Megan McArdle has a series of posts on vouchers, all of which you should read. I'll excerpt from a couple. Number 1:

Forgive me--I'm about to get testy again--but this thread on 11D really does seem to me to showcase in stunning technocolor the moral bankruptcy of voucher opponents who have pulled their own kids out of failing inner city schools. They have no good answer for why their choice is morally worthy, but vouchers are horrifying; their response to the deep need of kids in failing schools is a slightly gussied up version of "screw you, I've got mine." Their children's future, you see, is an infinitely precious resource that trumps their principles of distributional justice and community solidarity, but they cannot imagine putting the futures of poorer, darker skinned children ahead of sacred principles such as "Thou shalt not allow children to attend schools run by the Catholic Church" and "Supporting the public schools (even when they suck)". I could do a better job arguing against school vouchers.

Number 2:

How many educated people who:

a) Oppose vouchers
b) Have children who do not attend inner city public schools

would still oppose vouchers if they were the only way to get their child out of an inner city public school? How many of them would accept that their child had to be left in that school because the systemic effects of allowing their child to exit that repulsive school would be dreadful?

Respectfully, I believe the answer is "null set".

And the money quote here in number 3:

Empirically, I may be wrong; vouchers may not work. But we know that the current system isn't working. And poor kids should not bear the burden of making affluent liberals feel better about themselves.

I believe that OUCH is the word you're looking for.

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October 18, 2007

A possible future

By Doug Ross@Journal.

These are the politicians that stopped international terrorist wiretaps in a play for political power.

Don't worry: they'll blame Bush. Heck, I always do.

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Quote of the day

And it comes from Stephen Green:

It only took six years of constant, strong growth, record-low unemployment, low interest rates, several years of a housing boom, and new stock market records... for the MSM to finally convince almost half the population that we're in a recession.

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October 08, 2007

Some common sense

Lots of people talk past their political opponents with regards to the current US troops still in Iraq. Gerard reposts an excerpt from his 2004 pre-election column and adds some more insightful comments. While it's entirely possible for reasonable to read Gerard's analysis and remain unconvinced, he does present a compelling argument for his case. Excerpt:

Given these five reasons derived from the facts on the ground in late 2004, it would be suicidal for the United States to withdraw militarily from Iraq for at least ten years and probably 20. The level of forces needed to maintain control can fluctuate as the situation dictates, but the presence of significant forces is a necessity.

This is not to say that the United States will not withdraw, but only to underscore the price of such foolishness. The United States has, through bad politics, misdirection and clouded thinking, made monstrous errors of judgment in the past and is certainly capable of doing so in the future. It is only to say that should we, through a posturing for mere political power at home, cede military control of Iraq and hence the Middle East before the matter of Islamic fundamentalism is settled, and the Islamic cultures fully assimilated into the 21st century, departure early would only require our subsequent return. And that return will be far more bloody and necessary than anything seen to date in what is still a brush-fire war.

I'm certain that John Cole will posit that this post is more proof that the center/right side of the blogosphere has gotten dumber since he left it.

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October 03, 2007

The rich get richer

Colleges and university endowments, that is. Gregg Easterbrook, in TMQ this week, makes one of his usual detours into a non-sports topic and, as usual, makes a pretty good analysis. Excerpt:

At Least Harvard Hasn't Demanded a Seat on the G-8 -- Yet: According to last week's Wall Street Journal, Harvard's endowment is up to $34.9 billion and Yale's has risen to $22.5 billion. To put those numbers into perspective, the Harvard endowment now exceeds the gross domestic product of Sri Lanka or Kenya and the Yale endowment exceeds the GDP of Costa Rica or Iceland.

It's wonderful that such great institutions of higher learning are funded so well, with assets that seem to assure their continued existence for centuries. But as Tuesday Morning Quarterback asked last year when Harvard's endowment hit a mere $29 billion, why does anyone pay anything at all to attend this school?

Conservatively managed investments using low-risk strategies yield 5 to 7 percent per year; federal law requires many types of philanthropies to disburse a minimum of 5 percent per year or lose their tax-exempt status. At 5 percent, the Harvard endowment would throw off $1.7 billion annually. That's $104,000 for each of the 16,715 undergrads and graduate students currently attending the university. Yet according to College Board figures, the average undergrad who lives on campus at Harvard this year will pay $37,900, that being the official price minus average financial aid award. Can Harvard seriously expect us to believe it is spending $144,000 per year per undergraduate? (That's the actual payments from students plus 5 percent of the endowment.) Shifting Harvard's endowment spending from empire-building to reducing tuition -- either lower prices for everyone, or, say, eliminating all costs for students from families that make $200,000 or less -- would be a tremendous progressive step without jeopardizing Harvard's legitimate desire to hold a rich endowment into the indefinite future.

Instead, Harvard just keeps charging an arm and a leg and the endowment keeps empire-building. One result of the extremely high cost of private colleges is that many graduates feel they must go into high-paying professions to justify what was just spent. If Harvard were free for students whose families aren't rich, or cost much less for all students, perhaps graduates would be more likely to become public-school teachers or Peace Corps volunteers or work for the U.S. Public Health Service or in legal-aid settings. Rather than use its colossal financial assets to educate a generation of smart people willing to serve society in thanks for a great education at little cost, Harvard continues to soak parents, teach money obsession and set an example of hoarding.

Update: Uh uh. I bet that Mr. Easterbrook won't be invited to any TNR reunions anytime soon.

Exaggerating the Case Against Bush Only Lessens the Focus on His Real Faults: There's a lot to dislike about the George W. Bush administration -- the Iraq war, lack of action on petroleum waste, wiretapping -- but in the rush to make Bush seem as bad as possible, the establishment media consistently have distorted his domestic environmental record, which is basically fine. Air, water and toxic pollution have declined since Bush took office; all U.S. environmental indicators except greenhouse gas emissions have been positive for 20 to 30 years, which you'd never know from opening the morning newspaper.

A problem is that environmental journalists are genetically programmed to spin all stories as bad news while ignoring progress. A classic example is stories expressing horror and outrage that environmental prosecutions initiated by the EPA or filed by the Justice Department are declining, as they have been since the middle of the Clinton administration. But it's good that environmental prosecutions are declining -- the reason is that pollution is declining! As pollution declines, there are fewer violations to prosecute. If speeding declined, police would write fewer tickets: Would we be glad speeding was declining or express horror over the shocking, shocking reduction in prosecution of speeders?

There the canard was again as the Sunday lead-headline story of The Washington Post: "The Environmental Protection Agency's pursuit of criminal cases against polluters has dropped off sharply during the Bush administration, with the number of prosecutions, new investigations and total convictions all down by more than a third," the story began. Of course environmental prosecution is declining, there is less to prosecute every year! The Post's banner story ran 38 paragraphs but never mentioned that all forms of pollution except greenhouse gases are declining, and because greenhouse-gas emissions are legal, there's nothing to prosecute. Mention that pollution is in long-term decline, and Sunday's front-page banner story in The Washington Post goes "poof."

Honesty. It's something that The New Republic seems to have forgotten.

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