Friday, March 30, 2007

Why I Like Newt Gingrich

None of this pussy-footing around, diplomacy crap: via Hugh Hewitt (Hat Tip: Tammy Bruce and Mark Steyn:
HH: Now let’s get to the first major issue of the day, which is Iran. Mr. Speaker, if the United Kingdom feels obliged to use force, if diplomacy fails to get their people back, will you applaud?

NG: I think there are two very simple steps that should be taken. The first is to use a covert operation, or a special forces operation to knock out the only gasoline producing refinery in Iran. There’s only one. And the second is to simply intercede by Naval force, and block any tankers from bringing gasoline to Iran…

HH: Would you do, would you urge them…

NG: And say to the Iranians, you know, you can keep the sailors as long as you want, but in about 30 days, everybody in your country will be walking.

HH: So how long would you give them, to give them that ultimatum, the Iranians?

NG: I would literally do that. I would say to them, I would right now say to them privately, within the next week, your refinery will no longer work. And within the following week, there will be no tankers arriving. Now if you would like to avoid being humiliated publicly, we recommend you calmly and quietly give them back now. But frankly, if you’d prefer to show the planet that you’re tiny and we’re not, we’re prepared to simply cut off your economy, and allow you to go back to walking and using oxen to pull carts, because you will have no gasoline left.

HH: I agree with that 100%. Would your recommendation to the United States President be the same if Iran seized our forces?

NG: Absolutely. I mean, the reason I say that, it is the least violent, least direct thing you can do. It uses our greatest strength…you know, the mismatch in Naval power is absolute. And so you don’t have to send troops into Iran. Everybody on the left is waiting for conservatives to say things that allow them to run amok and parade in San Francisco, and claim that we’re warmongers. I want to avoid war by intelligently using our power to eliminate the option of sustaining an economy, so that the Iranian dictatorship will be shown to be the hollow dictatorship it is, so the people of Iran decide they’d like to have a decent government with real electricity and real gasoline, so they overthrow it. And I want to do that without risking a single American life, or being engaged in a single direct confrontation. And Naval power lets you do that.
Now it is easy to say that when standing on the sidelines, but it is a fabulous idea.

U.S. Attorney Firings Not Politically Smart in the Long Term

John Podhoretz has be pretty good description of this "scandal" that most Americans could care less about.
In pursuit of a short-term political benefit, Democrats are in danger of establishing a ruinous new standard in American politics - one they'll come to regret and rue when they take the White House again.

They're contending, in effect, that the president and his staff should not have untrammeled authority to fire political appointees.

By inflating the dismissal of eight U.S. attorneys into a major political scandal with the suggestion that the act of dismissing them is a scandal demanding congressional oversight, they're creating a new political reality.

The American people - or whatever fragment of them is paying attention to the matter - surely now thinks that the president had no right to fire these attorneys and that he probably acted in an illegitimate way by doing so.

The longer this goes on, the easier it will be for pseudoscandals to be ginned up in the future whenever a certain type of official working in the executive branch is removed from his job.

That's just wrong - as a matter of law, of policy and of the proper functioning of our constitutional system.

What is a "political appointee"? The term refers to the tiny number of employees in the federal government. There were 2,876 political appointees in 2005; they comprise a tenth of one percent of the 2.72 million federal-government employees. They range in power from the secretary of State to a secretary working in the West Wing.
Thus the danger of political witchhunts. This includes the GOP when they do the same thing. If Congress is going to make a big deal out of the inner workings of the executive branch, they need to make sure that there is a real reason for it and not "politics." And the firing of political appointees, however ineptly handled is not an issue to be pursued for short term political gain.

Could Congress reform the manner in which U.S. Attorney's are nomiated and hired? Sure, and a term limit or for cause dimissal clause might not be a bad idea. But this investigation is going to be remembered and woe unto the Democratic president who does something similar.

Frederick County MD to Restructure Middle Schools

Now I like living in Frederick County, MD, but the local newspaper leaves much to be desired. This story tells us about a signficant change to the county's middle school structure, but doesn't do much to tell us what those changes would be. Here is the only graph telling us what might change:
Potential changes range from modifying instruction techniques for gifted students, to introducing reading programs designed to give teachers instantaneous reports on student performance, to creating a unified daily schedule for all 13 middle schools in the county.
Be nice to what is going on.

The other question I have is why it took the county 11 years to revisit middle school structure. It just seems to me that middle schoolers get lost both academically and administratively.

Flood Insurance Overhaul

Reps. Barney Frank (D-MA) and Judy Biggert (R-IL) are working on a bill that would reform the National Flood Insurance Program, which following Hurricane Katrina is some $20 Billion in the red.
The lawmakers introduced legislation this week that would lift the program’s borrowing authority to $21.5 billion from $20.775 billion, enough to cover claims still trickling in from Katrina victims.

It also would increase the cap on coverage for a home to $335,000 from $250,000; abolish subsidized coverage for vacation homes; and raise the maximum premium increases from 10 to 15 percent — reforms the insurance industry believes will enhance the program’s viability over the long term.


In addition to eliminating the subsidies for vacation homes, the bill would have wiped away all of NFIP’s debts and allowed 25 percent annual premium hikes on properties that had suffered repeated losses.

It had the full support of the Senate Banking Committee but was blocked by Louisiana’s two senators, Mary Landrieu (D) and David Vitter (R), who believed it would be too onerous for Gulf Coast policyholders.
Now I am all for improving the program to make it more solvent. But let's be honest about the "onerous" burden placed on Gulf Coast policyholders. We are talking about Louisiana policyholders, many of them poor. But federal law requires
Homeowners with a federally backed mortgage who live in an area with a 1 percent annual risk of flooding are required to buy flood insurance.
If you live in a flood plain you should have flood insurance. But the problem is that unlike a lot of insurances, floods are a serious risk in some areas of hte country, like say parts of New Orleans, which sits under sea level.

So in order to prevent a burden on poor people, we are going to saddle the entire federal government with a bad debt. That is not a particularly solid system of fiscal management.

Blogging Update

Sharp eyed visitors will note that the numbers in the labels section have gotten significantly bigger over the past couple of weeks. While I have been more prolific in my posting, I haven't been that prolific. I have updated old posts with labels so that all posts have a label. Those numbers may change over the next few days/weeks as I tweak the lables a little.

Also, I have joined the Maryland Blogger's Alliance, whose blogroll is located on teh left beneath the labels section. This Alliance is a eclectic group of bloggers and the only requirement is that they be residents of Maryland and blogging. So check out those sites. Lots of pretty good content there.

Immigration Raids in Baltimore

Yesterday, Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents raised several Baltimore area businesses looking for temp workers employed by Jones Industrial Network, a local firm that boasts and ability to send hundreds of workers to a client at one time. According to the Baltimore Sun, ICE agents arrested 69 individuals in the raids.

From the story:
The raids come a day after a federal judge imposed a five-month prison sentence on the owner of local Japanese restaurants for hiring illegal workers. The raids are part of a national effort to dissuade employers from violating federal immigration law.

Federal officials said their investigation focuses on the temp agency.
This temp agency has provided workers to Under Armour (the sportswear manufacturer) and other private firms in the area and the Maryland Department of Education and State Highway Administration. Immigration officials have not filed charges against the temp agency or any of its clients, noting that none of agency's clients is a target of the investigation which began in 2006. However, charges have not been ruled out against the agency's officers.

What sounds like a pretty run of the mill (if infreqent) immigration raid took on a different tact yesterday. From the Sun:
Many of the detainees are from Central American countries, including El Salvador, Honduras and Costa Rica. They are being held at the York County Prison in Pennsylvania and the Dorchester County and Worcester County detention centers, immigration officials said.

By late afternoon, word of the arrests spread throughout the city's Latino community, and advocacy groups held a news conference to denounce the arrests.

"We cannot wait any more and stand by the side while our community is being demoralized, breaking apart, divided by a broken law, which is this immigration law," said Juan Carlos Ruiz, a spokesman for the Fair Immigration Reform Movement based in Washington. "We don't believe this is right. We don't believe this is the way you view America."

Ruiz was joined by about three dozen mostly Spanish-speaking people outside Jones' headquarters. Those saying they were related to people arrested spoke, including the sister of a 4-month-old baby who said their mother was among those detained.

Immigration officials said detainees with dependents could be released with supervision. Dinkins said the detainees are asked four times throughout processing whether they have dependent children, and he said 20 of the people detained yesterday might qualify for humanitarian release.

Representatives of CASA of Maryland, the state's largest immigrant advocacy organization though, were still critical of the process.

"We want fair and comprehensive immigration reform now which does not terrorize our community," said Christy Swanson, director of services of CASA. "Their families are being asked to live in terror without knowing what will happen next. We're calling for a moratorium on deportation and ICE raids while we firmly and fairly debate the need for comprehensive immigration reform."

A judge will ultimately determine whether any of the detainees would be removed from the country.
So, people who are being arrested for violating the law may be eligible for humanitarian release!!!. If a person is arrested for violating, say the law against stealing, there is no doubt in my mind that they would not be granted a "humanitarian release" because they have children at home. Bail, perhaps, would be granted, but not a free pass.

Second, CASA of Maryland is asking that the current law not be enforced until Congress has finished the debate on a new law? What is the logic in that? CASA does not like the current law so that law should be ignored until a new one is passed. What if that one is unacceptable? Should that one be ignored too! Must be nice to live in a world where people only have to obey the laws they like.

CASA is also looking for a law that does not "terrorize" the illegal community. So they want an immigration law that will look the other way on illegals because an illegal status is a actually victimhood. Oh and apparently being worried about being arrested for being illegal is now government "terrorism." Please, if you are on the lam for committing a burglary, that is not terrorism by the government, that is an investigation and manhunt.

Oh, and if CASA wants to make a point about "our community" then having a woman with the whitest possible name may not be the best spokesperson (but that is just me).

UPDATE 12:56pm: Welcome Michelle Malkin readers--thanks for dropping by. The Balitmore Sun has an op-ed by Jean Marbella in which she writes:
So now what? Even these stepped-up enforcement efforts are barely making a dent in that 12 million figure. There's the ship-'em-all-back mindset, but unless there's also a plan for who will take all those suddenly vacant and mostly low-wage jobs, that's more bluster than realistic option.

Maybe it's simply time to face the fact that we're addicted to this steady pool of cheap labor, and figure out how to deal with it. Maybe it's a guest worker program -- which a Time magazine poll last year found was supported by nearly 80 percent of those surveyed -- or maybe it's some other process that allows illegals who have demonstrated that they want to work to do so legally.
While we may be addicted to the cheap labor, it is not a reason to ignore the legal realities.

The larger problem is that the United States has always looked at immigration as a labor issue, one in which immigrants, legal and illegal, provide cheap labor and thus we should look the other way since it keeps our economy humming along. While that mindset might have been fine in the 19th and early 20th Century, in the late 20th Century and today, the issue is more a matter of law enforcement and national security than labor. We must look beyond the labor/economy argument and ask ourselves, are we any safer by allowing illegals into this country?

Oops, Did I Say That?

Here is what Chuck Hagel (R-NE) and Joe Biden (D-DE) said in 2002 about the war in Iraq:
Although no one doubts our forces will prevail over Saddam Hussein's, key regional leaders confirm what the Foreign Relations Committee emphasized in its Iraq hearings last summer: The most challenging phase will likely be the day after -- or, more accurately, the decade after -- Saddam Hussein.

Once he is gone, expectations are high that coalition forces will remain in large numbers to stabilize Iraq and support a civilian administration. That presence will be necessary for several years, given the vacuum there, which a divided Iraqi opposition will have trouble filling and which some new Iraqi military strongman must not fill.
The Corner, via the Instapundit. Hmm, by my count we are in a bout year 3 since Saddam's capture, almost year 4. That leaves about 6 to go, but then I do my math in the real world.

Rosie Melts Down

If I were advising Elizabeth Hasslebeck I would tell her to get off the show as soon as possible.

Rosie O'Donnell in a total meltdown. Hot Air has teh clip.

Key highlight: "for the first time in hisotry fire melted Steel." Um, first, does Rosie even now how steel is made--here's a description which uses heat--lots and lots of heat.

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Dems Not Feeling the Love After 100 Days

Check out these results from a Pew Study of the Congressional leadership in 2007 as compared to 1995 (after the GOP takeover).

An important stat that I think says it all:

Is party keeping its promises? In 1995 regarding the GOP, 59% said yes and 30% said no, with 11% saying they didn't know. In 2007, 40% of the people say the Dems are keeping their promises, 38% say no and 22% say they don't know.

The Dems have two problems. One, they are keeping their promises and two they are not telling people about the promises they do keep.

Not a good sign.

Germany Doesn't Like the U.S., Fear American, but OK with Iran

This is an interesting article about German feelings about the U.S.
Forty-eight percent of Germans think the United States is more dangerous than Iran, a new survey shows, with only 31 percent believing the opposite. Germans' fundamental hypocrisy about the US suggests that it's high time for a new bout of re-education.

The Germans have believed in many things in the course of their recent history. They've believed in colonies in Africa and in the Kaiser. They even believed in the Kaiser when he told them that there would be no more political parties, only soldiers on the front.

Not too long afterwards, they believed that Jews should be placed into ghettos and concentration camps because they were the enemies of the people. Then they believed in the autobahn and that the Third Reich would ultimately be victorious. A few years later, they believed in the Deutsche mark. They believed that the Berlin Wall would be there forever and that their pensions were safe. They believed in recycling and environmental protection. They even believed in a German victory at the soccer World Cup.

Now they believe that the United States is a greater threat to world peace than Iran. This was the by-no-means-surprising result of a Forsa opinion poll commissioned by Stern magazine. Young Germans in particular -- 57 percent of 18-to-29-year-olds, to be precise -- said they considered the United States more dangerous than the religious regime in Iran.
I have friends who just returned from living for nearly seven years in Germany. They don't like the Bush Administration's handling of the Iraq war, but they are not so stupid as to not believe Iran is not dangerous. How's this for skewering Germany public opinion:
Anti-Americanism is hypocrisy at its finest. You can spend your evening catching the latest episode of "24" and then complain about Guantanamo the next morning. You can claim that the Americans have themselves to blame for terrorism, while at the same time calling for tougher restrictions on Muslim immigration to Germany. You can call the American president a mass murderer and book a flight to New York the next day. You can lament the average American's supposed lack of culture and savvy and meanwhile send off for the documents for the Green Card lottery.

Not a day passes in Germany when someone isn't making the wildest claims, hurling the vilest insults or spreading the most outlandish conspiracy theories about the United States. But there's no risk involved and it all serves mainly to boost the German feeling of self-righteousness.

A New Knowledge on Teachers

My last post on the subject of teaching involved references to Michael Lewis' Moneyball, that the same kinds of techniques that helped a much poorer baseball team compete in the Major Leagues, can probably be used in education to help schools, parents, policy makers and teachers better understand what makes a better teacher. If you have better teachers, you have better schools and you have a better educated child and ultimately happier parents and policy makers. So the goal is to find some statistics and data that will help us achive that goal.

Allow me to set the stage a little. The current regime of school data is almost entirely student centered, very little data beyond some very basic information is captured about teachers specifically. As a result, the data that is generated about school quality and teacher quality is at best derivative and doesn't tell a particularly detailed story of teacher quality and effectiveness. I don't mean this as a criticims of the student data currently gathered, but if we as a nation are to dramatically improve our schools, we need to look beyond the temporary, albeit, important denziens of the system and look to the most important factor in student success--the teacher.

The current school data, being student centered and currently gathered under NCLB and other federal programs is pretty easy to game. We have seen the results, where states announce X% of schools being quality schools, but NAEP scores telling a different story. Here is the best way to game a system.

Let us take a typical school in a working class/middle class neighborhood. A given percentage of students are going to be ranked proficient or otherwise pass the mandated exams (the quality of the exams is an altogether different post). Likewise, whether we like it or not, a smaller percentage of students will not pass. Thus, schools will focus efforts on that percentage of students who are borderline. While we may reel in shock about this "triage" it is natural given the stakes invovled.

This gaming relates to teachers in the manner in which a school deploys its teaching resources. Let us assume that 10 percent of teachers that our fictious school are truly outstanding, gifted teachers. It would behoove teh principal to assign our border line students to these teachers, the ones most likely to help their students make the greatest strides. The result is a much higher percentage of students passing the standardized tests, which in turn creates the public impression of a quality school, when in fact the schoold is just ordinary. In other, a small cadre of excellent teachers, if properly employed, raises a school's "quality" ranking, despite the fact that their teaching corps in general is nothing spectacular.

But my interest in this scenario is that cadre of excellent teachers. Assume that each teacher has between 100 and 150 students in their charge during a given year. We now have thousands of interactions and data points that can be measured. In Moneyball, Michael Lewis noted that everything that happens in baseball has happened thousands of times before. Similarly, everything that has happened in a clasroom has happened thousands, if not millions of times before. There is simply not enough variation in behavior for this observation to not be fact. So the challenge if figuring out not only what, but how to measure teacher performance and therefore make deductions about future performance.The question, of course, is how?

Heisenberg's principal states that the mere act of observing a thing changes that thing. Unlike baseball players or the stock market or other matters that can be quantitatively analyzed, teachers operate largely in private. Baseball games have hundreds of people watching for the only purpose of gathering data. Sabermetrics is an advanced statistical science that is remarkably good at analyzing past performance as a predictor (not a 100% accurate predictor, but a pretty good one) of future performance. But because teachers work largely on their own without a great deal of observation by anyone other than their students, we have a massive data collection problem. Students may not be perceptive enough to make the necessary observations. Self-reporting by teachers presents a conflict of interest matter that cannot be resolved in order to accumulate data.

Some information can be gleaned, by derivative, from student test scores, but that is only part of the equation, a results part of the equation. Another part is the day to day interactions with students, the pacing and completeness of curriculum, even the level and amount of homework given by a given teacher, i.e. the process part of the equation. So that the end result of the teacher's quality would be something like this:

Teacher Quality=Intrinsic qualities+Results data+process data+historical performance

Intrinsic qualities would be things like years of experience, years in current school, years in current job (like teaching English, etc.), personal educational degrees, certifications, continuing education credits, other experiences, etc. These would be matters apart from their interactions with students. This data would be easy to gather and while it counts toward teacher quality, it is not the most important. these are also data points we already collect

Results data would have to be derivative of and/or based upon student performance on tests. These data points would have to be weighted somewhat less because there is no or very little control as teacher has once the student begins a test. But this data would have some more bulk to it since each student will have multiple data points, data points that can be plotted and examined over time and should be tied to individual teachers.

Process Data is far and away, at least in my current hypothesis, to be the most important. Data collection would be largest for this cohort of data, but it is the most difficult to collect and right now has very little definition.

Historical performance is related to that teacher's personal perfomance from prior years. Solid professional teachers should experience a dramatic rise in year to year performance in their early careers followed by a gradual leveling as they gain more experience. These same professionals will also seek to keep the skill slope as steep as possible over time.

So right now we have a data definition problem and a data collection problem. Anyone have any suggestions?

Shocking: Drudge Links to

I'm Shocked, just shocked!!

One of two things is happening and probably both. First, maybe, just maybe, to boost their readership, has an approved leaking policy with Drudge. Drudge and Instapundit and a few other sites have the ability to boost readership. If Politico is doing this, it is just smart marketing.

Second, maybe is doing a good job with its reporting and Drudge thinks they are link worthy. If only Drudge would like my stuff.

I don't see anything sinister in this.

Chicago Tribune on Charter School Limitation Legislation

An editorial in teh Chicago Tribune yesterday:
No one makes a better argument for why charter schools should exist than the very person who leads the state in opposing them. State Rep. Monique Davis (D-Chicago), vice-chairperson of the House Elementary and Secondary Education Committee, wants to limit charter school growth. She filed legislation that would effectively halt Chicago's plans, already in the works, to open 10 new charter schools in the next two years.

Why? Because charters have become too popular. Heaven forbid, they're creating ... competition among parents for public schools. Charters offer students a choice where none previously existed.

If parents are turning away from the traditional public schools in their neighborhoods, Davis says, teachers and administrators should figure out why and fix the problems.

Amen. That's partly why charters exist -- to allow room for experimentation and to create new models for teaching disadvantaged students.
Charter schools have done for teh education system what 30 years of ever-growing public expenditures and "reform efforts" have failed to do, provide real world, measurable success in areas where success was not thought possible. Charters are the engines of innovation in public education--not traditional public schools. Roughly 20,000 studnets in Illinois have attended charter schools in the state's 10 year program and another 10,000 sit on waiting lists to get in. Although the editorial doesn't say so, my guess is that every charter school in Illinois has to hold a lottery for admitting new students.
According to Davis, as quoted in Thursday's Tribune, the rise in applications to charters "is a sad commentary on our existing public schools." Again, agreed.

Then her logic ends. "Instead of opening charter schools, we need to go in there and see what the hell is going on in our schools," she said.

How about both, Ms. Davis? Without the success of charter schools, most parents stuck in perpetually failing neighborhood schools might not know better alternatives exist for their kids.

So Davis' response to the growing popularity of charter schools around the state -- and in her own Chicago district -- is to prohibit existing charters from adding new campuses. Chicago has nearly reached its charter cap, so schools have been created by adding new campuses under existing charters.
So waht is Rep. Davis' motivation--politics:
But leaders of the Chicago Teachers Union dislike charter schools. Charters drain money from traditional neighborhood schools, they argue. Never mind that they are public schools, open to anybody. Never mind that charters receive less state money than traditional schools. Never mind that most have shown impressive results. Or that a handful have shown astonishing success and have been recognized nationwide.

Here's the real reason this stinker of a bill made it out of a House committee: Charter teachers don't have to be union members, which drives the teachers unions bonkers.


But Ms. Davis won't listen to the thousands of parents or their kids trying to get into a charter school. All they want is a good education.

What do they know?
Of course, parents don't know anything, right.

A School Budget Symptom

Here is one problem with school budgets--stupid expenditures. The price tag for a six weekend, intensive training course for "potential parent leaders" in Baltimore is $110,306. This may seem a trivial amount for a school system with a budget of $1.2 billion, but the spending is indicative of some rather skewed priorities.
The $110,306 contract - approved Tuesday night by a 5-3 vote, with one board member absent - is designed to increase parental involvement in city schools by providing 25 potential parent leaders with three weekends of intense training.

The parents, as well as seven conference facilitators and one city school administrator, will stay at the Radisson Hotel at Cross Keys during each of the weekends. The system will pay $149 a night for each of 17 rooms, with two people in most rooms. Meals for 33 people will cost $18,309, or $555 apiece.

No board member disputed the need to get parents more involved in city schools. Also, the federal funds that will pay for the training must be spent by the end of the fiscal year in June, or the school system will lose the money. How the funds should be spent, though, was a matter of dispute.
A dispute indeed.

Surely these funds could be better spent by having a larger group of parents not staying in hotels and not using at one of the more expensive downtown hotels.
LaVerne Sykes, the system's director of parent and community involvement, said parents will participate in events from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. or 11 p.m. The parents will be selected from the city's Title 1 schools, which serve low-income populations.
Baltimore is not that big geographcially and has a pretty good public transit system (not as extensive as New York, but it does allow people to get around pretty well). The travel time involved might be 30 minutes or less in most cases. Why do these parents need to stay the night?

Add to the fact that the Baltimore schools has 83,000 students and only 25 parents are going to be involved in this training, although it is expected that these 25 will train other parents, the scope of this program seems just a tad small. While most of the money will go to the vendor providing the training, the cost just shows how poorly schools manage budgets.

Md. Gov. Supports In-state Tuition for Illegals

Maryland Governor Martin O'Malley (D) yesterday expressed support for a bill winding its way through the Maryland legislature that would allow illegal aliens to pay in-state tuition at Maryland universities, provided they graduated from a Maryland high school.
Gov. Martin O'Malley pledged yesterday to sign a bill allowing some illegal immigrants to pay in-state tuition at public universities in Maryland, giving a boost to a contentious measure that has unleashed an impassioned debate over civil rights and the failures of federal immigration policy.

"We are not a people or a country that has ever willfully chosen to condemn people to live in the shadows of our society," O'Malley said yesterday after the House passed the bill 81-57 late Monday. "Education is the light that allows individuals to create greater opportunity for all of us."
Yes education is important, but so is adhering to the law and by definition illegal immigrants are breaking the law. I don't think that people in this country illegally shoud benefit from breaks that apply to citizens and legal aliens, those people who follow the rules.

However, there is some light at the end of the tunnel for people who oppose this bill--the state's fiscal crisis. There is a cost for this bill since the difference in tuition rates at University of Maryland College Park, the state's flagship university is $13,439 ($21, 345 for out-of-state students versus $7,906 for Maryland residents). Right now estimates for illegal immigrants attending Maryland colleges would be pretty small, about $1.1 million according to the state, but not very many illegals attend colleges and most of those attend community colleges. However, it is not known how many would attend colleges under the new law. In addition, the fact taht these students would be ineligible to apply for financial aid under federal law makes it unlikely that a large number of students would apply to colleges.

But those statistics draw attention away from the fact that a benefit is being accorded to some people that is normally given to citizens. Although by the terms of the bill, legal resident aliens would receive the same benefit, we are still left with the issue of supporting illegal behavior. Admittedly, these students may be damaged by actions taken by their parents and not themselves, but that is not an argument that is particularly persuasive for me. While their parents brought the child to the country illegally, the suffering of the child may very well be the proper price to pay for the parents. It may seem cold and callous, but it is the very lack of consequences for illegal actions that continues to spur the illegal immigration.

Lawsuit Againt Anti-Cheating Company

The Washington Post is reporting on a lawsuit involving two Fairfax County (VA) and two Arizona students who are suing Turnitin, a company that helps schools check for plagarism. Their theory is that the service makes offers a commercial service using copyrighted material.
Two McLean High School students have launched a court challenge against a California company hired by their school to catch cheaters, claiming the anti-plagiarism service violates copyright laws.

The lawsuit, filed this week in U.S. District Court in Alexandria, seeks $900,000 in damages from the for-profit service known as Turnitin. The service seeks to root out cheaters by comparing student term papers and essays against a database of more than 22 million student papers as well as online sources and electronic archives of journals. In the process, the student papers are added to the database.


Kevin Wade, that plaintiff's father, said he thinks schools should focus on teaching students cheating is wrong.

"You can't take a person's work and run it through a computer and make an honest person out of them," Wade said. "My son's major objection is that he does not cheat, and this assumes he does. This case is not about money, and we don't expect to get that."
I don't know enough about copyright law to make a judgment about the merits of their case, but I included the quote from the father for a different reason.

First, while the school has a role in preventing cheating and should instruct students about the consequences of cheating, parents are the ultimate teachers about cheating. The schools are simply trying to prevent students from benefiting from nefarious means.

Second, I don't think that school systems using Turnitin or other similar services assume that their students are cheating, but are simply taking care that cheaters don't prosper. But if one were to look at some previous op-eds carried in the Washington Post, one could easily see that teachers know that some dishonesty is going on, whether intentional or not.

Third and finally, if the boy doesn't cheat, why then worry? He is not being singled out since I am sure that all papers that are turned in get the same treatment. Likewise, I am sure that other copyrighted material is in turnitin's database. If I were to hold a copyright on material, I would not want others using my words and thoughts without attribution and so would not object to my material being used by Turnitin and others to protect my copyright.

This will, no doubt, be an interesting case.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

The Daily Top Five: March 28, 2007

1. Rudy Giuliani on Economics. Giuliani had a great fiscally conservative record in New York and there is no reason to suspect he would change that in the White House. I don't know if a Steve Forbes endorsement will help in the general public, but it will mean something among staunch fiscal conservatives.

2. Michelle Malkin at Hot Air takes on the John Doe/Flying Imam Witness Protection case. Good peice worth watching.

3. From this week's Carnival of Education comes this post from Scheiss Weekly about the poor dress of today's young kids and who is really at fault. Hint: It ain't the GAP or other clothing manufacturers or TV.
Remember when little kids were allowed to look, dress, and act like little kids?


Honestly, it wouldn't surprise me if little five-year-old girls started getting off the school bus with shaved heads and no underpants. Wouldn't that be COOL?
Read on.

4. Edspresso writes "one of the bigger problems with education policy today is a lack of political will." Ryan Boots is talking about the flip-flopping of Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick on the issue of charter schools.

5. Fellow Maryland blogger, Monoblogue has an interesting post about the Maryland GOP. The title is misleading, but the points he makes are spot on.

Flip-Flop Editors at WaPost?

Paul Sherman cries foul on the editors of the Washington Post, who once railed against the limits on party spending on behalf of candidates, but now don't like that very provision. The provision in question was offered as an amendment to the bill that will require electronic filing with teh FEC for Senate candidates. Click on the link to read more.

Student Drunk in High School

Breaking news from my local high school:
A Tuscarora High School student was taken to Frederick Memorial Hospital this morning after school officials discovered he was intoxicated.
The student's mother was called to take the student from school, but she felt she was not equipped to handle the student on her own, Frederick County Public Schools spokeswoman Marita Loose said.
The student faces a penalty of five days suspension on up to expulsion.

My bet is that not only can the mother not handle a drunk child, she probably can't keep the kid from drinking either.

I will also bet that the student will spend a few hours at the hospital, which along with the ambulance ride, will cost the the county money, for which it won't be reimbursed.

Crime and Punishment at Columbia University

The New York Times reports:
Columbia University has warned or censured eight students who were involved in disrupting speakers from the Minuteman Project last October in a melee that cut short the program, a university spokesman said yesterday.

In the televised fracas, protesters stormed a stage at the university and were attacked by others, shutting down speeches by the group, which opposes illegal immigration and has mounted civilian border patrols. The event hurtled the university back into the debate over free speech. Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg chastised Columbia at the time.

The warnings and censures will be noted on the students’ transcripts for varying lengths of time, said Robert Hornsby, a Columbia spokesman. None will remain on the records after graduation. But if students face other disciplinary proceedings, they will face harsher penalties. "All of these punishments have a gravity to them and they should not be taken lightly," Mr. Hornsby said.

Tim Bueler, a spokesman for the Minuteman Project, called Columbia’s disciplinary actions "a travesty of justice" and said that Columbia "is going be losing its status as a prestigious university because they continue to allow these things to happen."
A warning or censure that doesn't last beyond graduation. Seems kind of weak. Of course, the University may not have anything short of expulsion (which I wouldn't support) to impose that would be stronger than censure.

One wonders if the College Republicans had swarmed the stage during a College Democrat sponsored event, would the punishments have been as light?

D.C. Mayoral School Takeover Cost $86 million

According to a report in the Washington Times:
D.C. Mayor Adrian M. Fenty's takeover of the public school system would cost the city $86.5 million over four years, but could be funded through the mayor's proposed budget and financial plan, officials said.

In a financial analysis dated Monday, Chief Financial Officer Natwar M. Gandhi told D.C. Council Chairman Vincent C. Gray that "funds are sufficient in [the mayor's plan] to implement the provisions of the proposed legislation as introduced."

However, Mr. Gandhi cautioned that his office's study "focuses only on the implications of the restructuring" of the education system under Mr. Fenty's proposal and does not take into account later decisions that may be made by the mayor's office under the reform.
It seems like a stiff price tag, but then again, if it works, the price is peanuts compared to the current morass.

Maryland Mulls Unconstitional Electoral College Bill

The news out of Annapolis and the Maryland legislature is rarely good for conservatives living in the Free State. Occiasionally, though, the stupidity is pretty entertaining. The latest move being considered by the Maryland Senate is a bill that would sidestep the Electoral College. From the Washington Times:
The state Senate likely will approve a bill that would sidestep the Electoral College and promote the national popular vote in presidential contests.

After two days of debate that at times resembled a grade-school civics course, senators decided yesterday to call a final vote on a plan to award Maryland's 10 electoral votes to the winner of the national popular vote, not the state's popular vote.

Senators could vote as early as today.

The idea is being considered across the country as a way to pull the teeth out of the Electoral College and avoid a scenario in which a candidate wins the most votes nationwide but loses the election, as Democrat Al Gore did in 2000.

"Why shouldn't we have a direct popular vote where every vote counts equally?" asked Sen. Jamin B. "Jamie" Raskin, a Montgomery County Democrat and law professor who sponsored the bill.

Supporters also say the Electoral College should be scrapped because it leads to presidential candidates spending much of their campaigning in a few battleground states. Candidates often ignore states where presidential contests aren't considered close, no matter how many electoral votes they wield. (Emphasis added)
First, Sen. Raskin, as a law professor, should know better. The U.S. Constitution provides for the Electoral College to choose the President. The only way to change that is through a Constitutional Amendment and that is not what is being proposed. What is being proposed is a part of a nation wide effort to pass legislation to change the way the selection of the president is done, through state legislatures, which have no power to effect this change.

Only two ways exist to amend the Constitution. Congress, by a vote of 2/3 of both the House and Senate can propose amendments. Atlernatively, 2/3 of the state legislatures can call for a constitutional convention to amend the Constituion. After that 3/4 of the state legislatures must approve the amendment for it to become effective. However,
[l]ike the Arkansas plan, Maryland's would take effect only after enough states representing a majority of the country's 538 electoral votes adopt it. That provision makes it unlikely the popular-vote plan would be in effect for next year's presidential election.
So this change is clearly unconstitutional.

But the plan is also doomed to failure for political reasons. If a straight popular vote replaced the electoral college, Maryland and other small states would not benefit in the least. Candidates would spend their time where teh voters are and that translates to the same states where they spend their time now: California, Texas, Florida, New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio and Illinois. These seven states hold the most voters and these seven states would probably decided the fate of most elections.

The other political issue that will not survive a Constitutional Amendment is that the popular vote would benefit the Democrats in the short term, a matter that is known by many Republican controlled legislatures and you can rest assured that the GOP will find at least 14 GOP controlled or shared controlled legislature to kill any amendment.

While we have to suffer the fools of the Maryland legislature, but at least they can be entertaining fools on occaision.

On Race and an MBA

A dispute has been brewing in Maryland regardig MBA programs at two Baltimore area colleges, the majority white and surging Towswon State University, a part of the University System of Maryland, and Morgan State University, a historically black college, about the propriety of a new MBA program at Towson. The problem stems from an old Supreme Court ruling:
In the 1992 case United States v. Fordice, the Supreme Court held that, barring "sound educational justification," duplication of specialized and graduate academic programs at historically black and white colleges violates the equal protection clause of the 14th Amendment. The court has placed the burden of desegregation on government, not on historically black institutions.
Morgan State is pushing a bill in the General Assembly
that could lead to the dismantling of Towson's MBA program. The bill is based on the argument that by allowing Towson to duplicate a program offered at nearby Morgan State, Maryland is promoting racial segregation.


Supporters of the bill, including the General Assembly's black caucus, say the Maryland Higher Education Commission violated a landmark U.S. Supreme Court civil rights ruling when it voted 10-1 to let majority-white Towson join the University of Baltimore in offering an MBA. The long-established MBA program at UB is not endangered.

"If you want to be in compliance with federal and state law, you should pass the bill," said Sen. Joan Carter Conway, a Baltimore Democrat and the legislation's lead sponsor. "It's about the law."

Opponents say the bill is a last-ditch attempt by Morgan President Earl S. Richardson to shield his school's faltering MBA program from competition. Critics say Morgan has neglected its program for years.
The statistics bear out a couple of points, first that apparently Morgan State has ignored its MBA program. According to teh Baltimore Sun report,
Enrollment in Morgan's MBA program dropped from more than 250 students, many of them white, in the 1970s, to 28, none of them white, in 2005.
On teh other hand Towson is regarded as a regional leader in business education, with a strong undergraduate program that University leaders felt would sustain an MBA program. University officials also felt that failure to establish a program would endanger their ability to attract and maintain a first class business faculty.

There are also signs that the bill may not be necessary because enrollment at both institutions is on the rise.

But the implementation of the bill, which has already passed the Maryland Senate in a contentious debate and is now heading to the House of Delegates, may mean that Towson could lose the program if no educational benefit is found or if officials determine that the program would encourage racial segregation. The disheartening fact is that race is being used to punish students who make a free choice to attend one school over another. But a larger problem is that if passed, the bill would provide for judicial review of educational programs, so that the courts would get invovled in decisions regarding the types of educational programs schools could offer. Judicial review is a bad idea.

However, the Democratic caucus is exremely sensitive to charges from black caucus members that the Democratic leadership (which is all white) is insenstive to the needs of the black population in Maryland. Which means that the bill may pass the House of Delegates and Governor Martin O'Malley has indicated he may sign such a bill.

Bad news indeed.

A Lesson From Down Under

Apparently school principals are tired of their schools becoming the parents to Austrialia's school children and are demanding a change.
The Australian Primary Principals Association, representing more than 7000 government and non-government primary schools, will today release a position paper calling for a charter to redefine the role of primary schools and cull the curriculum to focus on education rather than social welfare.

APPA president Leonie Trimper called on the nation's education ministers to discuss the issue at their meeting next month and form an independent group of primary educators to draft a charter.

Ms Trimper said it was time to reassess the curriculum and the importance placed on different aspects of traditional subjects like literacy.


Ms Trimper said rather than schools supplementing parental responsibilities, the pendulum had swung too far. Schools were now forced to offer breakfast programs, values education, nutrition, personal finance, road safety, and even awareness of dog-biting and parenting programs.


Ms Trimper said the needs of primary schools rarely featured in public debate or government policy.

The policy paper prepared by Greg Robson, from Edith Cowan University, says the pressures placed on primary schools "may well be undermining their capacity to deliver continuing success".

"The pressures are significant, the expectations unrealistic, the appreciation of what is needed underdeveloped and the phase has lost its pre-eminence as a point of focus in education," the paper says.
While some social programs are useful and schools are in a position to fulfill some of them, the fact is that schools are responsible for education, not parenting. Too many American school leaders have forgotten that.

Hat Tip: Mike Antonucci

House Votes to Protect John Does

From the Washington Times:
Republicans said the lawsuit filed by six Muslim imams against US Airways and "John Does," passengers who reported suspicious behavior, could have a "chilling effect" on passengers who may fear being sued for acting vigilant.

Rep. Peter T. King, New York Republican and ranking member of the House Homeland Security Committee, offered the motion saying all Americans -- airline passengers included -- must be protected from lawsuits if they report suspicious behavior that may foreshadow a terrorist attack.

"All of our lives changed after September 11, and one of the most important things we have done is ask local citizens to do what they can to avoid another terrorist attack, if you see something, say something," said Mr. King.

"We have to stand by our people and report suspicious activity," he said. "I cannot imagine anyone would be opposed to this."

Mr. King called it a "disgrace" that the suit seeks to identify "people who acted out of good faith and reported what they thought was suspicious activity."

Rep. Bennie Thompson, Mississippi Democrat and chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, opposed the motion over loud objections from colleagues on the House floor, forcing several calls to order from the chair.

"Absolutely they should have the ability to seek redress in a court of law," said Mr. Thompson, who suggested that protecting passengers from a lawsuit would encourage racial profiling.
While this is a good move by the House, there are an awful lot of Members who voted against this protection. What this protection against John Doe lawsuits does is not racial profiling, but protecting travelers and preventing witness intimidation.

The whole point in the imam's lawsuit of naming John Does is to prevent witnesses from coming forward. Under our laws, you cannot bring a civil rights suit against a private person for discrimination--that simply leads to thought police.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

The Daily Top Five: March 27, 2007

1. Darren over at Right on the Left Coast has a post entitled Propagandizing in the Classroom, where he talks about the Al Gore movie, an Inconvient Truth and he has a plan:
What's missing here? Debate. Inquiry. Critical thinking. All those things we say we want to develop in our students, until our students start believing things we don't want them to believe--then we need to serve up the propaganda and brainwash, and question the intelligence and morality of anyone whe dares to disagree with the party line.


I ordered my copy of their movie, and it sits here on my desk as I type this post. I'm going to put this dvd, still in its plastic wrap, in my safe here at home, where it will remain for 20 years. Twenty years from now (I'll be on the verge of retirement) I'll pull this movie out and see who was right--Al Gore, or me. Maybe then I'll show it in class, and we'll talk about hysteria, about certainty in science, about doom and gloom scenarios, about honesty and cynicism. Maybe then we'll be able to have the debate, inquiry, and critical thinking that are apparently lacking where this subject is concerned. Until then, that's one teacher and hundreds upon hundreds of students (per year) who will not sit through this particular message from the one they call the Goracle.
Of course, if Al Gore is right we may all be dead.

2. The Top 35 Law Schools. Well mine is not on the list.

3. You know that gun that Jim Webb supposedly gave to his staffer, well not so much.

4. The Sydney Morning Herald is reporting the capture/arrest of the leaders of a car-bombing ring in Baghdad.
The US military has captured the leaders of a car-bombing ring blamed for killing hundreds of Iraqis.

The news came as the departing US ambassador said Americans are in ongoing talks with insurgent representatives to try to persuade them to turn against al-Qaeda.

The US command said one of the car-bombers, Haitham al-Shimari, was suspected in the "planning and execution of the majority of car bombs which have killed hundreds of Iraqi citizens in Sadr City," a Shi'ite enclave of Baghdad.
Very good news.

5. Here is a worthless poll and I don't even like Hillary Clinton. Who cares what adults or a voting age sample would do. The only reliable polling sample on electoral matters starts and ends with likely voters.

Moneyball and Money Teachers

A few years ago, I had a boss who was constantly hammering into those of us working for him that numbers matter, statistics matter and we can make more money if we pay attention to metrics and past performance. Because we were in a political business, that of managing software and political action committees, I thought he was nuts. But, trying to keep an open mind, I went along with a couple of his experiments, examining costs to achieve certain results, time spent on activities, and other ideas that led to some hard numbers about our performance. The results were impressive, we were able to cut costs, cut time on common tasks by spending the time and money to build tools and processes to cut time and reduce error. As a result, we were able to take more clients and make more money.

I have been revisiting the idea by reading Moneyball, the fabulous book by Michael Lewis about how the Oakland A's baseball team that was able to win so many games with a payroll that was a fraction of the big teams' salaries. Billy Beane, the general manager of the A's instituted a program where he studied stats and examined the data behind the most successful players and games. With his system of hard data examination, he was able to achieve practical miracles that countered everything "baseball experts," including his own staff, thought would happen.

Moneyball, this post by a new blog, The Common School, and this post by Brett Pawlowski at the DeHaviland Blog have gotten me thinking about what metrics we can use in schools to measure teacher effectiveness.

Right now we have lots of metrics and measurements. The NCLB proficiency ratings, state school assessments, individual test scores, and on and on and on. But do we really have stats on teachers? If we as a society do, we certainly don't talk about them and we certainly use them to determine what works and what does not.

In Moneyball, Billy Beane and his team learned that among the most important factors in winning baseball games was on-base percentage (that is how likely a person is going to get on base every time they come to the plate--this includes walks) and slugging percentage, (that is the number of bases a person is likely to get for each hit). Teams and players that had high percentages were more likely to win games because they would score runs, you can't score runs if you don't have players on base and if players are on base they are not adding to the out count.

So if the goal is the successful education of children, then we need to determine what factors increase the likelihood of a well-educated child. As the Common Room recently noted (and many others) the single most important factor is the quality of the teacher.
First of all, teacher experience and licensure rank near the top of the list while class size reduction and teacher's having master's degrees rank at the bottom. But more important than the ranking is how much smaller of an impact class-size has than some of these other factors. For example, having a teacher who is not a novice (7.2% - 9.1% SD) exerts an influence 3½ to 7 times greater than the impact of reducing class size by 5 students (1.0% -2.5% SD).
So that is one factor, but experience is hardly the only determinant of quality teachers. So what are some of the other factors, i.e. statistics, that can be determined and applied.

Well, some obvious ones would be proficiency on state/federally mandated tests, i.e. are the teachers students below, at or above grade level. Another would be the difference in these numbers relative to their peers with the same task/experience level. Thus you would be comparing 6th grade Math teachers with 4 years of experience with other 6th grade math teachers with 4 years of experience.

Keeping with that theme, how many students changed their proficience level relative to last year. For example, how many (what percentage of students) went from basic to proficient or vice versa? Now these may be a little broad, so if the criteria were narrowed to look at test scores themselve, i.e. the raw scale change in scores.

Of course, of the the most common complaints from teachers is that they have little control over the assingment of students to their classroom. So measurements like those above may be skewed unfairly by poor student assignment luck. But such concerns can be alleviated by pre-and post testing, that is test given at teh start and end of the year on matters of curricula. You test students at teh start of the year to see what they know and the same thing at the end of the year. Good teachers should be able to increase the knowledge base better than their peers. These kinds of stats would allow for each teacher to be judged on what they accomplished with what they had. Plus as an added bonus the teacher can use the results to help tailor curricula.

There have been a number of times where I discussed the need for treating teachers as professional and having teachers act like professionals. One of the most important things for us to do is find a way to empiracally study teachers, i.e. come up with a way of measuring their effeciveness. Teachers who are effective should be examined to see what can be replicated and I refuse to believe that successful teachers are "magical" in some indefinable way that cannot be replicated.

But we don't have any data.

Any other suggestions for measurement?

Lefties Abandoning Pelosi & Co.

Thomas Sowell's latest at talks about what happens when demagogues become elected officials--people take them at their word and feel betrayed when words don't become actions.
One of the dangers in being a demagogue is that some of your own supporters -- those who take you literally -- can turn against you when you start letting your actions be influenced by realities, instead of following the logic of your ringing rhetoric.

That is what seems to be happening to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and other liberal Democrats in Congress.

Anti-war protesters in Washington and outside her home in San Francisco are denouncing Pelosi and other Congressional Democrats for not cutting off the money to fight the war in Iraq.

If the war in Iraq is such an unnecessary and futile expenditure of blood and treasure as Pelosi et al. have been saying, why not put an end to it?

But to do that would mean taking responsibility for the consequences -- and those consequences would be disastrous and lasting. They would probably still be lasting when the 2008 elections come around.

The Democrats cannot risk that. They have taken over Congress by a very clever and very disciplined strategy of constantly criticizing the Republicans, without taking the risk of presenting an alternative for whose results they can be held responsible.

There is no sign that they want to change that politically winning strategy now. Their non-binding resolutions against the war are a perfect expression of that strategy.

These resolutions put them on record as being against the war without taking the responsibility for ending it.

Unfortunately for the Congressional Democrats, their left-wing supporters have taken the anti-war rhetoric of Pelosi, Murtha, et al., at face value and consider it a betrayal that they talk the talk but will not walk the walk.
One could say that the true believers of the anti-war crowd don't understand the political reality of defunding the war, but I think they do and thus choose to ignore practical consequences of abandoning Iraq.

But Pelosi & Co. are having a much more difficult go of the matter. Pelosi is experiencing two contradictory pressures and impatience on the Democrats Iraq stance. One the left is teh out of Iraq crowd who are mad that Pelosi lacks the backbone to exercise the Congressional power of the purse. Leaving aside teh issue that Pelosi doesn't have the votes to pass such a measure, this faction is at least being honest about their goal and about their chosen method.

On Pelosi's right is teh group of Members representing conservative districts who think we should be staying in Iraq, but with tighter oversight of what is going on. Other than that, they believe the President is the Commander in Chief and should be permitted to set strategy.

Pelosi & Co. cannot reconcile these stances along with the failed understanding of why she is in power in the first place. Pelosi is learning that the problem with winning an election is that now people expect you to keep your promises. Don't be surprised if the liberal vote totals fall in 2008 as disillusionment with all talk, no action grows.

Good Samaritan Law limited

At least that is what one California court is saying. See Overlawyered.

This is a troubling development. Not all the facts are present, i.e. was there a fire in the wrecked vehicle, etc.

I think this is a pretty good case for a reasonable person standard, that is would a reasonable person in similar circumstances act in the same way. I am hoping an appeals court will over turn this ruling, if for not other reason than we wan't people to help others in an accident.

Dumb Ideas, Part 1,000,000

This has to be one of the dumbest ideas ever to be uttered by a United States Senator (and they constantly say stupid things) (via WaPost):
In one of the more unusual proposals to emerge in the Senate debate on Iraq withdrawal, Sen. Mark Pryor wants to keep any plans for bringing troops home a secret.

The Arkansas Democrat is a key holdout on his party's proposal to approve $122 billion for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan while setting a goal of March 31, 2008, for winding up military operations in Iraq. Unlike the plan's Republican opponents, Pryor wants a withdrawal deadline of some kind. He just doesn't want anyone outside the White House, Congress and the Iraqi government to know what it is.
The length of time a secret will stay secret is inversely proportional to the number of people who know it. So let us do some math here:

1 President, 1 Vice President, 1 chief of staff, 1 Sec Def and probably 5 other senior officials and about 300 civilian and military staff in the White House and Pentagon (conservative estimate)

Total so far (309)

535 Senators and Members of Congress and 5 Delegates (assuming they are told)

Total So far (849)

At lest one, probably as many as 5 congressional staffers per Member (between 540 and 2700)

Total so far (as little as 1389 and as much as 3549).

So the life expectancy of that secret is about 3 seconds in Washington. At that point why just invite reporters into the briefing!!!

That doesn't even count the Iraqi government and their porous security arrangements.

Need a Good Laugh? Dean Barnett on the Iraqi War Supplemental Pork

This post by Dean Barnett offers just a few of teh pork projects larded into the supplemental appropriations bill. Among my favorites:
4) $2.1 billion for crop production losses. Remember, this is a bill to support the troops.

5) $1.5 billion for livestock production losses. That’s a lot of livestock.

6) $100 million for Dairy Production Losses. Is there any industry in America that’s losing money that this bill doesn’t offer a handout to?

7) $13 million for Ewe Lamb Replacement and Retention Program.
The problem with ewes is you feed them, you train them, you love them, and when they finally become useful they take a better paying job. Ewes are fickle beasts who show not an ounce of loyalty. Even $13 million to replace and retain them won’t do any good.

8) $32 million for Livestock Indemnity Program. Good to have in case your chicken pecks out the neighbor’s kid’s eye. Gotta have indemnity for your livestock. Much more important than funding the troops.

9) $40 million for the Tree Assistance Program. Aaah, trees – the cathedrals of nature. I bet this one was John Kerry’s idea.
Hard to believe huh!

The Case Against Fred Thompson

Fred Thompson, or more specifically those who want Fred Thompson to run, hav been making a lot of noise about his candidacy. I would like to know more, but here is a case against a Fred Thompson candidacy. the biggest problem may be that he has not been tested as a candidate and
Thompson would have to start entirely from scratch, building the organiztion and fundraising networks to compete with Mitt Romney, Rudy Giuliani, and even John McCain. And he's starting far behind them. Thompson doesn't have a great deal of experience in doing such, which isn't to say he can't, but he has fought neither a difficult race in hostile territory like Rudy and Mitt nor a Presidential race like McCain. It's not to say he can't do it, but it is to say that being "drafted" and simply wanting to is enough.
A good post.

Profound Regret: Slavery, Maryland and Non-Apologies.

Yesterday the the Maryland House of Delegates approved a bill that acknowledged the state's involvement in the slave trade and expressed profound regret for its role. From the Baltimore Sun:
The passage of both versions follows decades of wrangling over the question, and the Virginia legislature's recent acknowledgement of that state's role in slavery. The resolutions stop short of an outright apology, which has raised the question of reparations in other states.

"I think it was long overdue and I am pleased that the state of Maryland has taken this historic step," said Del. Michael L. Vaughn, a Prince George's County Democrat who sponsored the House resolution.

The House measure states in part: "Slavery's legacy has afflicted the citizens of our state down to the present. ... The state of Maryland expresses profound regret for the role that Maryland played in instituting and maintaining slavery and for the discrimination that was slavery's legacy."
The Maryland Senate had approved a similar bill last month.

First, the fact that the state of Maryland was involved in the slave trade is not new information, in fact it is very old information. Second, profound regret means nothing. I have profound regret that I didn't go to Harvard, but the fact is I didn't and nothing can change that fact.

These state wide "apologies" or non-apologies are more an attempt to appear inclusive than anyting else. Slavery was bad, no one seriously doubts it and no one seriously believes that people were not harmed by the slave trade. But the people who were harmed are dead. Teh people who engaged in the slave trade are dead. The slave trade, while morally abhorrant, was perfectly legal. These are historical facts and nothing we can do will change them.

That racial problems still exist in this country is not a result of the slave trade, but a result of our inability to look past our history to our current situation. Current racial problems don't stem from a state's invovlement in teh slave trade, but from the state's inability to address real problems of culture, crime and demographics. I will admit to the possiblity that slavery had a hand in creation of the inequities, but their continuation is not the fault of slavery but failure of leadership and a failure of responsibility.

YouTube Outrunning the FEC?

I don't know if the title of Rich Lowry's piece at Real Clear Politics is accurate, but the anonymity of the video sharing site surely makes it the online video equivalent of Mrs. McIntyre's handbill in the same way that an anonymous or pseudonymous (is that a word?) blog is.
For now, the Federal Election Commission doesn’t have YouTube entirely in its officious grasp, and that’s a wonderful thing. It helps make the video-sharing Web site a robustly unregulated — and thus invaluable — political marketplace.

It’s no accident that the most memorable political advertisement in recent years was posted anonymously on YouTube, the famous 1984-themed anti-Hillary Clinton ad. A takeoff on an Apple Computer Super Bowl ad, the spot featured a woman in a Barack Obama T-shirt throwing a sledgehammer at a video screen filled with an ominous Hillary. The sledgehammer could just as well have been aimed at all the regulators, politicians, media pooh-bahs and professional hand-wringers who perennially worry that the political debate is too “uncontrolled” and set out to better control it.
Like most political technology "innovations," I think it may be too easy to acribe to the new model some sort of "earth shattering" importance to the big initial splash.

Will YouTube play a role in elections in the future? Without a doubt it will, but will the impact be so great as to fundamentally alter the manner in which elections are conducted and campaigns measured? I don't think so. YouTube will be a tool more of the dedicated "anti," someone opposed to a candidate or a cause that is willing to spend the time and effort to craft a video and the connections necessary to move past the tipping point in to viral status. That will be a rare video indeed that will have an impact. Even the "1984" ad attacking Hillary Clinton will have a minimal impact on the race.

Whether sites like YouTube will be regulated will be difficult at best and the current law does not appear to provide an avenue for the FEC to regulate YouTube or other video sharing services. Certainly, the "blogger" exemption would indicate that the FEC does not seem to think it has the power to regulate the services or the content posted by users. Congress will no doubt look at whether or not to regulate the content, perhaps even passing legislation to require disclosure of the creator. But coming on the heels of McCain-Feingold and its limitations on advertising prior to elections, such a move may not sit well politically. As was seen during the attempt to regulate bloggers, video posters on either side of the aisle may agree on nothing else but their ability to undertake their craft.

But YouTube already has its own mechanisms for determining the value of any given video. There are literally tens of thousands of politically relevant videos on YouTube, some will be good and other won't. Lowry points out at the end of his column:
Yes, there is plenty of vile and false material on the Internet. And things aren’t always what they seem — the anti-Hillary spot was created by a professional employed by a firm that was on contract with Obama. But the public can be trusted to separate the wheat from the chaff, which is its proper role in an open society. The hand-wringers look at the 1984 ad and see an awful trend, potentially dragging down our politics. Instead, they should see freedom. Get over it.
Congress still operates from the position that it must be the guardians of political discourse, but such a paternalistic stance treats the voters like children or worse like idiots. The American public is more than capable of determining value.

MCain-Feingold "Victory Lap"

This week is the fifth anniversary of teh enactment of that wonderful McCain-Feingold campaign finance "reform" bill. This monstrosity, complete with constitutionally suspect provisions, is the subject of Ryan Sager's lastest piece in the New York Sun. Looking at the purposes of the ban, Sager writes:
Take as a prime example of the reformers' boasting a statement put out yesterday by the Reform Institute, a non-profit group affiliated with Senator McCain of Arizona. The statement claims that BCRA has "succeeded in its objectives." How so? It "significantly reduced the corrupting influence of campaign contributions and enhanced the participation of small donors in the process."

Let's take those two claims one at a time.

As to the first part, that corruption has been reduced, this is a simple assertion, with not a single piece of evidence to back it up. There's a reason for that: There is no evidence. By what metric does one measure "corruption"? Mr. McCain and his crew couldn't define it before they passed McCain-Feingold; they can't define it now; and, thus, there's no way to measure it. Anyone paying attention to politics in the last couple years, however, would be surprised to find out corruption has been "significantly reduced." The names of three former Republican congressmen — Tom DeLay (departed from Congress under indictment), Duke Cunningham (in jail for accepting bribes), and Bob Ney (pleaded guilty to corruption charges) — jump to mind.

As for the enhanced participation of small donors in the political process, here's a question: If Messrs. McCain and Feingold took credit for water running downhill, would that mean they could slap it on their resumes? Small donors are participating more in politics because politicians are learning how to harness the Internet. So, unless Mr. McCain invented the Internet — and not Al Gore as we all learned in our civics textbooks — no one ought to be attributing this development to BCRA.

But was reducing indefinable "corruption" and upping the number of small donors really all McCain-Feingold promised?
The problem with "reducing corruption" as a goal is that, like Sager writes, no measurement of corruption. DeLay, Cunningham, Ney and potentially William Jefferson aside, corruption of the kind these men are guilty and/accused of has nothing to do with campaign finance, but rather with abuse of power. Even the cleanest campaign finance law you can imagine or even public funding will not prevent the kind of abuse of power that is true corruption.

The reduction of the influence of wealthy donors, obstensibly a goal of McCain-Feingold is contradicted by the very langauge of the law. First, prior to McCain-Feingold, the individual limit per election was $1,000 per person. However, McCain-Feingold not only raised that limit to $2,000 per election, but scaled it to inflation so that the limit is now $2,300 per person per election. Right now a wealthy couple can give almost as much to a candidate as the largest political action committee. In 2009, the individual limit will be raised again and will probably be around $2,500 or $2,600 per election. That will mean a wealty couple will be able to give as much or more than a political action committee, which is limited to $5,000 per election.

If McCain-Feingold was designed to get more small donors involved in politics, the law itself contradicts that goal as well. First, PACs and parties, the two entities most likely to pool the resources of smaller donors, do not get an individual limit ($5,000 per year to pacs and $25,000 to parties) that are indexed for inflation like the limit to candidates. Second, the growth of small donors in PACs and parties is directly realted to the ability of these groups to harness to low- to no-cost fundraising prowess of the internet and microtargeting, not McCain-Feingold.

The sucess of McCain-Feingold is a figment of spin and imagination. The unfair treatment and blatant incumbent protection of the Millionaire's Amendment and the ban on non-PAC funded advertising in the weeks leading up to primaries and election days means that groups with an interest in teh outcome of elections may not be able to make their viewpoint heard. The law has achieved no laudable goal and actually limits that which its sponsors say they hold dear--the limiting of the political speech rights of the little guy.

Monday, March 26, 2007

Bad Ideas Resurrected: Part II

From the Washington Post:
Democratic presidential hopeful Hillary Rodham Clinton vowed Monday to create a universal health care system if elected, saying she "learned a lot" during the failed health care effort of her husband's presidency.

"We're going to have universal health care when I'm president _ there's no doubt about that. We're going to get it done," the New York senator and front-runner for the 2008 nomination said.
Health care is one of those triangle problems as far as I am concerned. Health has three attributes: affordable, comprehensive and universal--policy makers can choose only two. Hillary Clinton wants universal, but there will be a trade in either cost or the amount of care--neither of which is going to sit will with Americans.

600,000 Missing?

Now I know that ICE is often overworked, but can't anyone get a decent earmark to prevent something like this? Oh, of course not, because then we would be racist or mean.
Teams assigned to make sure foreigners ordered out of the United States actually leave have a backlog of more than 600,000 cases and can't accurately account for the fugitives' whereabouts, the government reported Monday.
The report by the Homeland Security Department's inspector general found that the effectiveness of teams assigned to find the fugitives was hampered by "insufficient detention capacity, limitations of an immigration database and inadequate working space."

Even though more than $204 million was allocated for 52 fugitive operations teams since 2003, a backlog of 623,292 cases existed as of August of 2006, the report said.
Of course, the Bush Adminsitration will be blamed for this even though it is more of an appropriations problem.

Dispositions: The Political Litmus Test for Ed Schools

The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education has been fighting against the "dispositions" litmus test in America's ed schools. In summary, dispositions is a code word for liberal ideology in college's education schools. FIRE has been engaged in a two year struggle and in a recent story in the March 30 edition of the Chronicle of Higher Education, FIRE President Greg Lukianoff is calling these schools on the practice. Lukianoff
discusses the fact that these institutions are telling students what beliefs and even what political views they must have in order to get a teaching degree. Noting that Teachers College requires students to believe that "social inequalities are often produced and perpetuated through systematic discrimination and justified by societal ideology of merit, social mobility, and individual responsibility," Greg asks, "Does Teachers College really believe that a student who thinks ‘social responsibility’ and ‘merit’ are positive societal values would not make a good teacher?"

The Daily Top Five: March 26, 2007

1. Moral Equivalence Revived? See Suzanne Fields excellent piece:
The intellectual elites of the left, both here and in Britain and Europe, are resuscitating moral equivalence, this time promoting the idea that the values of the West are no better than the nostrums of the Islamists. Bernard Lewis, the distinguished scholar of the history of the Middle East, doesn't like the terms "left" and "right," but he applies them to Europeans of the left who encourage radical Muslims who spout anti-American slogans and the Europeans on the right who encourage Muslims who vow to destroy the Jews: "In Europe, their hatreds outweigh their loyalties."

Bruce Bawer makes this point in his book, "While Europe Slept: How Radicalism Is Destroying the West from Within." One of the most disgraceful developments of our time, he writes, "is that many Western intellectuals who pride themselves on being liberals have effectively aligned themselves with an outrageously illiberal movement that rejects equal rights for women, that believes gays and Jews should be executed, that supports the cold-blooded murder of one's own children in the name of honor." Young Europeans who wear Che Guevara T-shirts and Palestinian scarves, to identify with a "glamorous" revolution that exists only in their naive imaginations, are dangerously out of touch with the authentic peril in the world.
Not all ideologies are compatibale with Western democracy and a rule of secular law. The sooner we recognize that fact the better off we as a civiliation will be.

2. This is not good news in relation to the British military personell currently being held by Iran.
The British Foreign Office said Ambassador Geoffrey Adams met with senior Iranian officials and demanded the immediate release of the captured personnel, the Foreign Office said.

Iran's top military official, Gen. Ali Reza Afshar, said on Saturday the seized Britons were taken to Tehran for questioning and had confessed to what he called an "aggression into the Islamic Republic of Iran's waters." He did not say what would happen to them but said all were being treated well and were in good health.

The Foreign Office said Sunday that British requests for access to the 15 Britons have been denied.
. Iran is also saying the Briton confessed to being in Iranian waters. Forgive my impertinance, but hogwash!!

3. Hmmm! Not sure how to take this one. Details via Drudge:
Phillip Thompson, executive assistant to Senator James Webb (D-VA ), has been arrested by Capitol Hill Police on Monday for 'inadvertently' holding the senator's loaded gun, according to a person close to the investigation. A Senate staffer reports that Thompson was arrested for carrying the gun in a bag through security at the Russell Senate Office building while the Senator was parking his car. Thompson was booked for carrying a pistol without a license (CPWL) and for possessing unregistered ammunition.

4. This is the tragic response to the success of charter schools--stop charters from opening because parents are abandoning traditional schools in droves.
Some 15,000 children applied to the state's 29 charter schools in 2005-06, but only about 5,000 new students were accepted, state data show. The number of children turned away--about 10,000--was significantly larger than in each of the previous two years, when roughly 5,500 to 6,500 children were not accepted.

This school year, 34 charter schools are operating, most of them in Chicago, serving an estimated 19,960 students.


The rise in applications to charter schools "is a sad commentary on our existing public schools," said State Rep. Monique Davis (D-Chicago), who has filed legislation to stop the proliferation of charter schools.

If parents are turning away from the traditional public schools in their neighborhoods, she said, teachers and administrators should figure out why and fix the problems.

"Instead of opening charter schools, we need to go in there and see what the hell is going on in our schools," Davis said.
With a decade of data of successful chaters schools, the fact that traditional schools are not learning from chaters indicates the stagnation of public schools even more than the massive numbers of applicants demonstrates.

5. Like the Instapundit, I liked this article title: Fred Thompson and the Hunt for a red November?

Bush Isolation

This piece by Robert Novak has been making the rounds. Most people have quoted this portion:
In half a century, I have not seen a president so isolated from his own party in Congress -- not Jimmy Carter, not even Richard Nixon as he faced impeachment.

Republicans in Congress do not trust their president to protect them. That alone is sufficient reason to withhold statements of support for Gonzales, when such a gesture could be quickly followed by his resignation under pressure. Rep. Adam Putnam, the highly regarded young chairman of the House Republican Conference, praised Donald Rumsfeld last November, only to find him sacked shortly thereafter.
But I find this segment a little more telling of what is happening:
The I-word (for incompetence) is used by Republicans in describing the Bush administration generally. Several of them I talked to described a trifecta of incompetence: the Walter Reed hospital scandal, the FBI's misuse of the Patriot Act and the U.S. attorneys firing fiasco. "We always have claimed that we were the party of better management," one House leader told me. "How can we claim that anymore?"

The reconstruction of his government after Bush's re-election in 2004, though a year late, clearly improved the president's team. Yet the addition of extraordinary public servants Josh Bolten, Tony Snow and Rob Portman has not changed the image of incompetence.

A few Republicans blame incessant attack from the new Democratic majority in Congress for that image. Many more say today's problems by the administration derive from yesterday's mistakes, whose impact persists. The answer that is not entertained by the president's most severe GOP critics, even when not speaking for quotation, is that this is just the governing style of George W. Bush and never will change while he is in the Oval Office.
One of the President's greatest traits is that he is not a fickle weather-vane of public opinion like his predecessor. However, this stubbornness and loyalty to staff is clearly getting him in trouble with members of his own party. I think that the recent "scandals" have caused something of a bunker mentality in the West Wing, a mentality that is not leading to fresh ideas and fresh motivations. I think the President can change, but only if the aforementioned servants, Bolten, Snow and Portman displace his current inner circle, something I don't forsee happening.

A Longer School Day for Failing Schools

The New York Times had this story about a number of governors who are proposing longer school days for failing schools in order to bring them up to standard.
States and school districts nationwide are moving to lengthen the day at struggling schools, spurred by grim test results suggesting that more than 10,000 schools are likely to be declared failing under federal law next year.

In Massachusetts, in the forefront of the movement, Gov. Deval L. Patrick is allocating $6.5 million this year for longer days and can barely keep pace with demand: 84 schools have expressed interest.

Gov. Eliot Spitzer of New York has proposed an extended day as one of five options for his state’s troubled schools, part of a $7 billion increase in spending on education over the next four years — apart from the 37 minutes of extra tutoring that children in some city schools already receive four times a week.

And Gov. M. Jodi Rell of Connecticut is proposing to lengthen the day at persistently failing schools as part of a push to raise state spending on education by $1 billion.

"In 15 years, I’d be very surprised if the old school calendar still dominates in urban settings," said Mark Roosevelt, superintendent of schools in Pittsburgh, which has added 45 minutes a day at eight of its lowest-performing schools and 10 more days to their academic year.

But the movement, which has expanded the day in some schools by as little as 30 minutes or as much as two hours, has many critics: among administrators, who worry about the cost; among teachers, whose unions say they work hard enough as it is, and have sought more pay and renegotiation of contracts; and among parents, who say their children spend enough time in school already.

Still others question the equity of moving toward a system where students at low-performing, often urban, schools get more teaching than students at other schools.
As described, there are many problems. Let us examine first the concerns of the naysayers. The unions, quite whining! Sorry, but you have an out, that is the renegotiation of contracts. Administrators are next up on the totem pole. Cost is a legitimate concern, but if the taxpayers are footing the bill, what specifically is your beef? Your are sure to get funds to cover the additional costs.

Parents and students have a legitimate complaint. Most kids are in school, that is physically in teh building or going to an from school for 8 plus hours. Taking on additional time is a burden. I can see their frustration, particularly at a specific point.

Ann Althouse calls the additonal time immoral.
In fact, I think it is a morally wrong solution. It's bad enough that children are cooped up and physically restrained for as long as they are to get through a school day. To justify that physical restraint, adults owe children a lot. If the adults are now failing to do what they owe children to justify physically restraining them, it is outrageous to attempt to make up for their own failure by increasing the restraint. What makes it worse is that the solution is inflicted disproportionately on minority kids.
The immorality however is not the length of the day itself, but the fact that their day will be lengthened to spend more time in a school that is already failing them!!!

Let's say a school has children from 9 to 3 and the school is being ordered to stay open for an extra hour to compensate for the poor education these kids have already been delivered. So instead of six hours with adults who have failed them, these students are being asked to spend seven hours with the same adults. If the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result, why is this proposal not a prime example of insanity?

Unless the entire staff is replaced or dramatically restructured, then simply extending the day is morally reprehensible. However, if the school is restaffed with better teachers, then extending the day moves from a question of morality and propriety to one of logistics and parental choice, a far safer ground for the school system.

As for children paying the price for the failure of adults, this is nothing new. Successive generations have alwasy paid the price for the failings of their predecessors. It is nothing new and probably won't change any time soon, it is human nature to be self-centered and pass costs on to someone else. Not particularly moral, but human nature.