Saturday, October 2, 2010

Gandhi's Birthday

From we learn that Gandhi developed a notion of seven deadly sins
Seven Deadly Sins

* Wealth without work
* Pleasure without conscience
* Science without humanity
* Knowledge without character
* Politics without principle
* Commerce without morality
* Worship without sacrifice

Er, Um, Ah


Friday, October 1, 2010

Teachers Aren't to Blame

Diane Ravich on market based reforms

Tests that assess what students have learned are not intended to be, nor are they, measures of teacher quality. It is easier for teachers to get higher test scores if they teach advantaged students. If they teach children who are poor or children who are English language learners, or homeless children, or children with disabilities, they will not get big score gains. So, the result of this approach—judging teachers by the score gains of their students—will incentivize teachers to avoid students with the greatest needs. This is just plain stupid as a matter of policy.
Diane Ravich on those who tout "value added" testing
This past summer, the Los Angeles Times published a database in which they rated 6,000 elementary teachers as effective or ineffective, using what is called "value-added methodology," that is, whether their students' scores went up. Their decision to do this was denounced by testing experts and applauded by Secretary Duncan. Testing experts tried to explain why this method is likely to mislabel teachers and why it is so error-prone that it must be used—if at all—with extreme caution. One teacher who was rated "less effective" than his peers was Rigoberto Ruelas. A few days ago, Mr. Ruelas committed suicide. Many educators blamed the Los Angeles Times for his death, but it is impossible to know what his state of mind was. The Times reported his death and noted that he taught in a neighborhood that was one of the city's most impoverished and gang-ridden, and that he had a nearly perfect attendance record. Former students of Mr. Ruelas' wrote on websites to express their admiration for him, to explain how he reached out to the most difficult students, how he was so kind and gentle in a tough, tough neighborhood, how he was the best teacher they ever had.  None of the current remedies now embraced by the Obama administration, the Gates Foundation, the Broad Foundation, the GOP, Davis Guggenheim, or other so-called reformers will improve education. Making war on teachers and principals is ridiculous, outrageous. None of the people at the foundations or in the policymaking circles work as hard as the average teacher, face as many challenges every day, for as little pay. None of the pundits who blithely denounce teachers would work 20 years with the hope of getting a salary (today) of $52,000.
As a related activity compare Yglesias' notion of structural unemployment and the Chinese currency debacle with Krugman on the same issues.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

How Russ Got His Groove Back

For any number of decades now, manufacturers and accountants have been shipping jobs overseas because it makes short term economic sense.  Ron Johnson touts his manufacturing and accountancy bona fides as reason to vote for him as Wisconsin's, a state that benefited from immigration as great naturalized American citizen and proud Wisconsonian Carl Schurz[1]recognized some time ago, next Senator.  Russ Feingold points out that Johnson is full of hooey:

And as by the way, "creative destruction" is Joseph Schumpeter's notion of the
opening up of new markets, foreign or domestic, and the organizational development from the craft shop and factory to such concerns as U.S. Steel illustrate the same process of industrial mutation–if I may use that biological term–that incessantly revolutionizes the economic structure from within, incessantly destroying the old one, incessantly creating a new one. This process of Creative Destruction is the essential fact about capitalism.
There is no sense of moral or socially beneficial change but rather the iron necessity of change for change's sake. Creative destruction is a fact of the matter only so far as one is concerned with profit and exploitation.

[1] His memoirs are really worth reading.


Lots of people are complaining, lauding, and generally talking about the fictional aspects of the film Social Network.  Here's the thing, no hollywoodland film about an actual event approaches fact. Remember  Guadalcanal Diary  from 1943 when there were still folks around who lived through it?  Anthony Quinn runs without opposition until some dastardly Japanese flings a knife into his back. Think that was accurate? Gentleman Jim Corbett was no more like Errol Flynn than was George Armstrong Custer was like Errol Flynn or Queen Elizabeth like Bette Davis and Essex like Errol Flynn.  They were fictional movies; Social Network is a fictional movie. People who want to argue about the accuracy of fictional films are like people who read a novel about WWI and think that they have learned something about WWI. Dopes, in short.  One reason there is so much hub bub, bub, might be because lots of people thought that Sorkin's West Wing was a documentary.  It wasn't.  No really it wasn't.  It was a melodrama parading as a mirror of princes.  You want the true story Facebook's development?  Wait a while and some historian or another will take up the task. Want to know what Aaron Sorkin thinks about humanity's vanity and related whatnotery, go see the movie.

Music Explained

First Explanation:
Four Chords:

Second Explanation:


Liberalism Makes a Comeback

As this post shows workers are going to be better off with Obamacare than they are now with the crappy insurance extended them by their benevolent overlords.  Today, it seems, Russ Feingold, who is running for Senate in the fall color behued state of Wisconsin, decided to tout his support for this major and important reform.

Johnson says he entered the race solely because of his anger over the health care bill. In his appearances and speeches, Johnson rarely misses a chance to call the law "the greatest assault on our freedom in my lifetime."

He wants it repealed and, if elected, it's high on his to-do list.
Repealing the tyranny affordable health insurance is high the list of things our manufacturer and accountant hates, like the crazies with their global warming and "science," because all Americans, regardless of income, ought to enjoy equally their natural born freedom to . . .  What exactly? Not only sleep under the same bridges but to not get timely access to competent health professionals?


Yglesias is, go figure, wrong in his estimation of the quality of work of that other great galloping font of glib, Malcolm Gladwell.

Health Insurance

ED Kain explains why it's a good thing that MacDonald's is going to stop providing health insurance for its workers. The short answer is the workers can get better and cheaper health insurance under Obamacare.  See also.

To Whom is He Speaking?

Matt Yglesias on, of all things, frozen veggies:
I sometimes feel like California-based foodies have produced some kind of mass hallucination around the subject of fresh vegetables. But if you poke around your local supermarket, you’ll find that they have tons and tons of big freezer full of little conveniently portioned bags of vegetables. Just like pizza or egg rolls. But healthier. Is it 100 percent as tasty as farm-fresh locally grown in-season produce? No. But it’s convenient as heck and very very inexpensive. Part of my recent weight loss strategy (down a bit over 60 pounds since the beginning of March) has been to try to adopt microwaving frozen vegetables as a go-to quick meal for one option.
Like most of his posts, this one takes on an issue raised by someone else and then provides as an answer something utterly banal while trying to pretend that he is far sighted.

He also, as is his wont, misunderstands or seems to one of the article's main points. The author argued that people don't eat vegetables because they don't like vegetables.  People, by and large, know about frozen vegetables and people, by and large, don't eat them because they don't eat vegetables not  because they need to know about frozen vegetables. This post really is as smug and self-satisfied as it gets.

[lightly edited for clarity]
(h/t Susan of Texas)

Sunspot Patriots

Here in Wisconsin, home of that great American Fighting Bob La Follette, Ron Johnson and Russ Feingold are running for US Senate.

Johnson thinks sunspots cause global warming because:
"I absolutely do not believe in the science of man-caused climate change," Johnson said. "It's not proven by any stretch of the imagination."

Johnson, in an interview last month, described believers in manmade causes of climate change as "crazy" and the theory as "lunacy."

He ought to know from science because he is, after all, a manufacturer and accountant.

Feingold, on the other hand, was the only Senator not to be bullyragged into voting for the Patriot Act and he tried to stop the amnesty for Telecoms during the Bush-era illegal wiretapping of whoever they felt like.  Because, one assumes, he is lawyer enough to see the unnecessary expansion of the surveillance state and protecting criminal behavior for what they are: bad, Unamerican policies..

So the choice is clear: vote for sunspots or vote for a patriot.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Speaking of Wisconsin

Russ Feingold is running for the senate in the great state of Wisconsin, which is the 8th smartest state in the Union, allegedly wasn't going to attend yesterday's Obama speech.  He did; he gave  nice speech himself.  I was, to be frank, shocked, not really, at the silly comments of Channel 15 here in the great city of Madison, whose University actively encourages 1st generation college goers in big and important ways, about Feingold's disdain for Obama.

As by the way, Feingold's position on the issues might best be understood by the out-of-state dolts who oppose him and the kind of politicians they endorse.

No Party, No Clique; Almost

Ron Johnson, running for senate in the great state of Wisconsin, a leader in the production of ducks and other fine agricultural products, once opposed a law that would have allowed abused children to sue malefactors who aided and abetted their abusers through lax or no supervision.  Why?  Because
it is extremely important to consider the economic havoc and the other victims [the Wisconsin Child Victims Act] would likely create.
See, its not like being a manufacturer and accountant made him hard-hearted, it's just that economic considerations are much more important than justice for victims of sexual and other forms of abuse. Not a bit of it.  It was rather because he
was on the Green Bay Dioceses Finance Council at the time he testified.
And they were being sued because they had aided and abetted a sexual predator. See also. So independent Conservative Ron Johnson only acts to protect child abusers when it is in serves someone or another's economic interests.  Which is very reassuring because senators are never asked to put the narrow economic interests of one or another of their contributors over the broad interests of their constituents. Are they?

More of a Fantasist Than a Liar

Fred Clark argues that Christine O'Donnell is making stuff up when she discusses witchcraft because when she said
"I dabbled into witchcraft. I hung around people who were doing these things,". . . . This is not true. The wholly imaginary form of Satan-worshipping "witchcraft" in which O'Donnell claimed to have dabbled has never actually existed. You can't dabble in things that don't exist.
That Christine O'Donnell would repeat such well-established lies as facts -- embellishing them with additional patently false claims of first-hand experience -- is not surprising. Her entire political career has taken place within the strand of the evangelical Christian anti-abortion movement that is driven and shaped by this very same late-20th Century variant of the medieval blood libel. These imaginary Satanic baby killers form the core of her identity -- they are the Other against whom she has always defined herself. They are the enemy in contrast to whom O'Donnell and her supporters are able to feel good and righteous and special. That these enemies do not, in fact, exist -- that they have never, in fact, existed -- only highlights the desperate insecurity of O'Donnell and her witch-hunting comrades.
His post is well worth reading.

Is This Creepy?


Some might disparage fact checking liars and in the course of so doing might make the laughable claim that Glenn Beck is a facts and bolts kinds guy, hint he isn't; others point out that fact checking shows liars lie.

A Licit Religious Test

Everyone is in a tizzy about Pew's new religion quiz.  The numbers break down like this:

Pew doesn't, for some reason, give all 32 questions but only fifteen, you can take it here. I'll wait. 

What struck me was how much people don't know:
Only 39% of the test takers knew who Job was? 40% understood the controversy over Transubstantiation? If I thought like the educational reformers who wanted fire all the "bad" teachers because they have failed the "value added" test, every priest or pastor, be they a man, woman, or child, in the land would be out on their ear by sundown.  Sometimes assessment measures fail to capture effort expended by students and teachers.

While 89% understood the establishment clause; only 23% understood the difference between proselytizing and study. Apparently, the ranting ranters ranting about secular machines are more effective than the truth.

My score, you ask?

Do I Contradict Myself?

Yglesias mentioned that
I was discussing the tit-for-tat cycle of Senate procedural abuse with someone over the weekend who compared it to a late Roman Republic dynamic.
What tit-for-tat cycle might that be?  The one where the Roman senate assassinated the Grachii brothers when they tried to reduce or remove the inequalities of wealth and property ownership followed from decades of successful imperialism?  Or the resultant rise of private armies more loyal to their generals than to Rome, like Marius' Mules and the consequent internecine civil war, Marius then Sulla a pause and then the divine Mr. J, that finally came to end when Octavian defeated Marc Anthony?   How is that tit for tat? And in any event he
like Neil Sinhababu, I think the proper analogy is to the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth which institutionalized a version of what DeMint is doing, the liberum veto that let any member of the assembly of nobles block action.
 See what he did there?

Still wearing his serious historians hat, he claims that  he is "not generally a fan of citing the founders as authorities[.]" Because? He lost the notes from that class? He goes on to claim that
since some people are under the misimpression that Senate dysfunction is part of some genius founding scheme, it’s worth observing that according to Hamilton; Madison, a Polish-style national legislation is precisely what they’re trying to avoid:
 If more direct examples were wanting, Poland, as a government over local sovereigns, might not improperly be taken notice of. Nor could any proof more striking be given of the calamities flowing from such institutions. Equally unfit for self-government and self-defense, it has long been at the mercy of its powerful neighbors; who have lately had the mercy to disburden it of one third of its people and territories.
 Indeed, Poland would be further partitioned twice more and go out of existence before 1800. That said, I’ve long harbored doubts about the Hamilton/Madison theory of historical causation here. But there’s some evidence for the thesis, and one way or another it’s perfectly clear that this was the outcome the founders didn’t want.
 So when he was praising the Republicans for abusing procedures to stop any legislation with which they disagreed he really meant to warn against abusing procedures to stop any legislation. Walt Whitman he ain't, although he is large enough to contradict himself.

This is What Obsession Looks Like

An assistant district attorney in Michigan has more time then sense. Full story here

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

And So To Bed

From Mat Tabai
"The scooters are because of Medicare," he whispers helpfully. "They have these commercials down here: 'You won't even have to pay for your scooter! Medicare will pay!' Practically everyone in Kentucky has one."
A hall full of elderly white people in Medicare-paid scooters, railing against government spending and imagining themselves revolutionaries as they cheer on the vice-presidential puppet hand-picked by the GOP establishment. If there exists a better snapshot of everything the Tea Party represents, I can't imagine it.
Party on Party of Freedom from the Federal Government.

He's Right, You Know That.

Ed, from Ginandtacos, makes the point that
Arguments are incoherent, childish, and bilious. In short, it isn't a bunch of people devoting their non-negligible intellectual skills to a topic of little relevance. It's just a bunch of retards screaming, fueled by anger and entirely uninterested in making sense
He's not, as you might think, castigating Yglesias, Goldberg, et alia, rather he refutes Chomsky, which takes some work. And as by the way, I have been trying to take the Pew survey on religion but the site is overwhelmed with folks determined to be better informed than the great unwashed.

How Not to See the President in Person

Don't roll up 15 mins before the "doors open."  Because 50 thousand folks are there before; on the other hand do randomly drive by the hotel he was at just as the motorcade drives away.  Wave and he waves back.

Jonah Goldberg Still Dumb

Recently, Goldberg attempts to make sense of the relationship between Liberalism and the failure of American Education.  He claims that
[i]n 2008-2009, the  District of Columbia spent $1.3 billion dollars on 45,858 students. That is slightly less than the entire GDP of Belize. In 2007, 8 percent of DC eighth graders were able to do math at the eighth grade level. Clearly what’s needed is more money!
According to this
 the DC Public Schools gross budget for fiscal year 2008 as of October 1, 2007
was $949,087,062. Goldberg doesn't provide a link for his claim so  maybe there is another number out there, but he appears to have misplaced a decimal or so.

He continues
Yes, yes, the horrid state of American education is an American problem, and to that extent we’re all to blame in some abstract sort of way. But is there another major area of American public policy that is more screwed up and more completely the fault of one ideological side? 
 In 1980 Milwaukee began an experiment with charter schools, vouchers and all that right wing gobbledygook. The system created redundant schools, drained funding from the public schools, and more generally, sought to use market-based reforms to fix something that isn't a market.  The net result? Vouchers and the rest don't work.  How many school districts have had to deal with this kind of nonsense day after day? How much of the Conservative rage about education has funneled itself into this specific set of policy prescriptions? All of it.  The news that vouchers et alia didn't work led long timer supporter, Diane Ravich, of vouchers and similar reforms to conclude that these kinds of reforms don't work and are actually undermining successful reform efforts.

Ravich also argues that
Teachers feel, with justification, that they are being scapegoated and blamed whenever test scores don't go up. My book appeared at a time when there was only one narrative about school reform, which privileged the views of businessmen, lawyers, politicians, foundation executives, and government officials who are imposing their ideas without regard to the wisdom and experience of those who must implement them.
While Goldberg frets that 
[i]n the last few presidential elections I’ve heard more from Democrats — by far — complaining about leaky school roofs, cracking paint, and the need for more computers in the classroom than I’ve heard about the fact it’s easier to find and train a brontosaurus than it is to fire a horrible teacher.
It really is all the teachers fault and we need more market based solutions.

He then fumes that
I’m sure not that many people follow the DC education controversy, but in a nutshell: Mayor Adrian Fenty lost his reelection bid in large part because he tried, through Michelle Rhee the education chancellor, to fix the schools over the objections of the teachers’ unions. Fenty’s opponent and the liberal black establishment turned it into a racial issue (surprise!) and now education reform in DC is seriously in doubt. 
Rhee's favored solution was firing teachers.  The Teacher's Union, indeed any union, has as one of its main priorities protecting its members from being fired.  Goldberg seems not to have paid attention to the past 30 years of American history, during which the lessons of PATCO went unlearned by "centrists" while movement conservatives sought to destroy more unions, deregulate more industries, and, in the end, succeeded in screwing up the country.

He concludes with anguished cry over the unfairness of it all.  Because  if
you listen to these endless seminars and interviews on NBC and its various platforms, I never seem to hear Matt Lauer or David Gregory ask “Isn’t the education crisis a failure of liberalism?” After all, liberals insist all social problems can be reduced to root causes. Well, they’ve been in charge of the roots for generations and look at the mess they’ve made. Look at it.
Largely because of the Iraq war,  Katrina and Bush’s unpopularity,  a host of liberal intellectuals pronounced conservatism to be dead. The decrepit state of American education is a far more sweeping, profound and lasting indictment of the very heart of liberalism and yet the response from everyone is “Let’s give these guys another try!”
Actually, no. The problems we face today are  the result of the Neoliberal, Reaganite, Glibbertarian, and Thatcherite crap that has dominated policy making for the past 30 years. Starve the state of revenue, destroy unions, blame workers, traduce the state's ability to do what it has been doing successfully for since at least 1933, and deregulate.  What has this led to?  Look out your window.

In a sign of their seriousness about tackling education reform, when a recent study came out that showed that Head Start made little or no difference in academic achievement, Conservative demanded its immediate dismantlement and used as a stick to beat the stupid Liberals and the Liberal Liberalness.  Of course, they missed the fact that individuals who had the pleasure of Head Start did better by other measure, time in jail, etc, than their peers who did not benefit.

Can we all do better in the process of continuing to reform our educational system?  Yes we can.  Does this require jettisoning Neoliberal, Reaganite, Glibbertarian, and Thatcherite critiques of a by and large successful system?  Yes, it does.  We cannot afford to let these flying monkeys back into power. No, we can't

And as a bonus, remember that Yglesias wants the same market-based, Olive-Gardenesque reforms and thinks that firing teachers is the first step to nirvana.  It ain't.

Goldberg's claim about 8% is in error.  In their self assessment DC schools have a 48% in "elementary math" on a nationally administered test they have, for 2008-09, 11%.  They did, it's true, have 8% on the nation test in 2007-08, but they improved their scores.

Remember "Good ideas do not need lots of lies told about them in order to gain public acceptance"

Wait, What?

Ron Johnson is running against Russ Feingold for Senate in the great state of Wisconsin, long may she wave.  In his most recent advertisement, Johnson avers that
I'm not a politician. I'm an accountant and a manufacturer. I know how to balance a budget, and I do know how to create jobs. Now that's something we could really use.
Jobs are, of course, something we could use.  Manufacturing jobs are something we could use.  What have manufacturers and accountants been doing for the past however long it has been?  Moving jobs from here to low wage, no environmental, no labor law, no etc states, that's what.

Which party has supported this more than the other? The Republicans, that's who.  Why just today the Democratic majority tried to run roughshod over the Republicans, well actually they followed procedure and the all the Republicans with a few of the nominal Democrats voted against a bill designed to encourage a reversal of this trend.

Ron Johnson, in short, as an accountant, a manufacturer, and a Republican is more, rather than less, likely to ship jobs oversees or to cut wages in the name of economic efficiency and his party is more likely than not going to continue to give tax breaks to the rest of those pirates as they continued their never ending war on truth, justice and the American way.

Tom Waits' Iron Man II Theme Song


Didn't make the cut, lord know why.

Monday, September 27, 2010

God, I Hate Football.

The Packers really suck but not because McAarthy is a coach who lacks the ability to inculcate discipline.  I am, to be frank, certain that it is Favre's fault.

Yglesias Explained

Speaking of which, if you went to Harvard or one of its ilk you're more likely to be a success regardless of merit. See also, too.


Via TPM come this is which an outraged Fox newsbot feels the pain of those making over 350,000 per year only hang onto .50 per 1.00 over 350,000, which isn't true but still means that if you get to phenomenally rich and have your garbage picked up.  Plus taxes are socialism and being the first into the trough is merit.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Reverse Keynesianism

Keynes once quipped "when the facts change, I change my mind. What do you do, sir?"

Yglesias engages in a bit of reverse Keynesiansim in his steadfast defense of using market-based reforms on problems that have nothing to do with the market. Unlike the profit and loss calculations that drive Olive Garden, continuing to improve our educational systems requires thinking about in non-economic ways. The other day, Yglesias remarked that
Linda Pearlstein summarizes a pretty good new controlled study from Vanderbilt University that tested the idea that offering teachers bonuses of up to $15,000 could improve student outcomes. The results—nope
Leaving aside how well situated Yglesias is to judge the goodness of the survey, he seems, at least partially to accept that the study has made claims about merit pay and incentives untenable. For example, he insist that  he
 never really liked the term “merit pay” or the rhetoric around it. The right way to think about teacher compensation, I think, is this. You could have a system in which all teachers are paid the same amount. But we don’t have that system. Instead we have a system where veteran teachers are paid much more than novice teachers, and teachers with master’s degrees are paid more than teachers without master’s degrees. We could switch this to a system where teachers whose kids do much worse than average on value-added measures get fired , and teachers whose kids to much better than average get paid more than average teachers.
Value added?  Does he mean improved on some outcome assessment measures that acurately capture how much students are learning and how well teachers are teaching?  But lets be clear here, his ideal system is not "merit pay" or punishing "bad" teachers it is, rather, paying good teachers more and firing bad teachers, which is like totally different, somehow. Because he is, at least dimly, aware that the system he just described is identical to merit pay and incentive systems, he has to deny that paying "better" teachers more while firing "bad" teachers might be creating
an “incentive” as simply [a means] to ensure that the best teachers aren’t tempted to leave the profession while the worst teachers are encouraged to do so.
[i]f you want to do something through a bonus/incentive mechanism, what would make sense is to offer teachers extra money to take on challenging assignments in high poverty schools.
See?  Paying more and punishing more aren't merit based incentive systems, which don't work, but rather incentives are things that reward risk taking.

Later that same day, Yglesias trys to rename merit pay incentive systems when he explains that
for my part when I talk about differentiated compensation for teachers, this is what I have in mind. Yes, reduce barriers to getting rid of teachers who do much worse than average. But also offer the best performers substantially more money than teachers currently get. That means the best teachers will keep teaching and also that a wider range of people will consider teaching as a possible career choice.
See, offering good teachers an incentive through higher pay is wholly different that offering teachers incentives through bonuses.  And, I'm sure, that the attempt to "reduce barriers" will in no way require weakening teacher's unions.

If the facts change and your proposed solution remains the same, you might be an ideologue .