Thursday Mashup (10/11/12)

October 11, 2012
  • Gosh, Willard Mitt Romney just looks so presidential here, doesn’t he?…

    Mitt Romney called Monday for a change of course in America’s Middle East policy, accusing President Obama of sitting on the sidelines in the face of a “profound upheaval” across the region. The Republican nominee pledged that, if elected, he would prosecute a far more engaged foreign policy, including helping to arm the opposition in Syria’s bloody civil war.

    “Hope is not a strategy,” Romney said.

    In response, Juan Cole, who I’m sure has forgotten more about Syria and the Middle East in general than Romney will ever know, outlines at least ten reasons here why arming the Syrian rebels would be a terrible idea (let’s see, one of the rebel groups is affiliated with al Qaeda; another, the Syrian Muslim Brotherhood, is pals with Hamas; flooding the region with weapons makes for an already volatile mix given Israel’s continued intransigence on those godawful settlements, etc.).

    Oh, and it’s not as if Romney’s supposed foreign policy strategy is so different from Obama’s anyway (I mean, to the extent that we can trust Romney at all on this subject, as noted here…and it looks like Romney shook that Etch-a-Sketch, or something, on this issue here).

    Not to be outdone, though, Romney’s fellow U.S. House Repugs carried out another little dog-and-pony show in lieu of actual governance here concerning the attack on our embassy in Libya and the killing of Ambassador Chris Stevens and three others.

    Um, correct me if I’m wrong, but isn’t the U.S. House responsible for funding government operations? Such as security for our embassy personnel (with Repug Jason Chaffetz being dumb enough to give away the proverbial game here…and by the way, it looks like Chaffetz stepped in deep doo-doo again here)?

  • Next, I give you someone named Jay Greene, who claims to be “a fellow at the George W. Bush Institute” (not something I would advertise if it were me, actually – here)…

    Last week’s presidential debate revealed one area of agreement between the candidates: We need more teachers. “Let’s hire another hundred thousand math and science teachers,” proposed President Obama, adding that “Governor Romney doesn’t think we need more teachers.”

    Mr. Romney quickly replied, “I reject the idea that I don’t believe in great teachers or more teachers.” He just opposes earmarking federal dollars for this purpose, believing instead that “every school district, every state should make that decision on their own.”

    As noted here and here, Willard Mitt mocked Obama for wanting to hire more teachers, even though, as noted here, 100,000 teachers have lost their jobs over the prior year (yikes!).

    Continuing with Greene…

    Let’s hope state and local officials have that discretion—and choose to shrink the teacher labor force rather than expand it. Hiring hundreds of thousands of additional teachers won’t improve student achievement. It will bankrupt state and local governments, whose finances are already buckling under bloated payrolls with overly generous and grossly underfunded pension and health benefits.

    Concerning those “overly generous and grossly underfunded pension and health benefits”…well, they were “grossly underfunded” for a reason – namely because states were legally obligated to contribute matching amounts but refused to do so (here).

    And get a load of this generalization from Greene…

    Most people expect that more individualized attention from teachers should help students learn. The problem is that expanding the number of hires means dipping deeper into the potential teacher labor pool. That means additional teachers are likely to be weaker than current ones.

    Couldn’t you say that about every occupation if you wanted to, then? Besides, what about degreed teachers who aren’t able to find work in their profession, but instead are working other jobs (such as at Lowe’s, Wal-Mart or Applebee’s until, hopefully, a legitimate teaching job opens up)?

    Also…

    Then there is the trade-off between labor and capital. Instead of hiring an army of additional teachers, we could have developed and purchased innovative educational technology. The path to productivity increases in every industry comes through the substitution of capital for labor. We use better and cheaper technology so that we don’t need as many expensive people. But education has gone in the opposite direction, making little use of technology and hiring many more expensive people.

    I would be shocked to find out if this guy actually had a son or daughter attending a public or parochial school. Having a state-of-the-art white board doesn’t mean a damn thing if all the teacher does is use it for presentations while he/she sits at their desk and catches up on Facebook or their Email instead of using their people skills and training to, y’know, actually teach their students.

    As usual, a Repug thinks so little of anything related to liberal arts that they think technology can totally replace the function that a certain individual committed a great deal of money and a significant amount of time to learn about as part of their course of study.

    One more thing…here is a reminder here that teachers, as well as public sector workers in general, do indeed contribute to economic growth (silly to feel compelled to point that out, but we are where we are – and as long as Greene said that Obama’s call for more teachers is a “Solyndra-like solution”…an idiotic statement because there is no comparison between the Solyndra loan and teachers…the following should be noted from here).

  • Continuing, I give you Fix Noise “Democrat” Pat Caddell here

    A few weeks ago I wrote a piece which was called “The Audacity of Cronyism ” in Breitbart, and my talk today is “The Audacity of Corruption.” What I pointed out was, that it was appalling that Valerie Jarrett had a Secret Service detail. A staff member in the White House who is a senior aide and has a full Secret Service detail, even while on vacation, and nobody in the press had asked why. That has become more poignant, as I said, last week, when we discovered that we had an American ambassador, on the anniversary of 9/11, who was without adequate security—while she still has a Secret Service detail assigned to her full-time, at a massive cost, and no one in the media has gone to ask why.

    This tells us, among other things, that there were multiple teams of armed guards at the Libyan consulate. Also, Dubya designated more of his appointees for Secret Service protection than Obama, as noted here (and yes, this is a recording)

    And based on this, if Caddell is a “Democrat,” then I’m the illegitimate love child of William F. Buckley (and rest assured that I’m not).

  • Further, it’s time to pick the proverbial low-hanging fruit with Thomas Sowell (here, he decries the “name calling” of President Obama and his supporters)…

    In response, Sowell referred to “green bigot” environmentalists here, called Teresa Heinz-Kerry “rich white trash” here, and (just for kicks I suppose) called for a military coup here.

    As usual, a conservative looks in the mirror and sees the reflection of everyone but him (or her) self.

  • Moving on, it looks like Catholics supposedly aren’t supporting Obama after all (oh noes!) according to “The Catholic Association” (here).

    Meanwhile, this Pew poll tells a very different story (praise the Lord!).

  • Finally, I give you the following from The Hill (here)…

    House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Fred Upton (R-Mich.) is questioning Obama administration financial support for green energy companies in former Vice President Al Gore’s portfolio, calling it part of a “disturbing pattern.”

    Upton is quoted in a Washington Post story on Gore’s success as an investor in green technology companies, which the Post reports has helped boost Gore’s wealth to an estimated $100 million.

    The Post reports that 14 green tech companies that Gore invested in directly or indirectly have “benefited from more than $2.5 billion in loans, grants and tax breaks, part of President Obama’s historic push to seed a U.S. renewable-energy industry with public money.”

    Upton, a frequent critic of federal green energy support, calls the aid “reflective of a disturbing pattern that those closest to the president have been rewarded with billions of taxpayer dollars . . . and benefited from the administration’s green bonanza in the rush to spend stimulus cash.”

    This is utterly farcical, of course, but there’s a method to Upton’s wingnuttery, in case we had any doubt about that.

    Here, Upton called for end to oil subsidies after repeatedly voting to preserve them; this tells us that he has received about $144 K from the oil and gas sector in the way of campaign contributions – and Upton is chair of the House Energy Subcommittee (can you say, “conflict of interest”?); and here, Upton claimed that the passage of the Affordable Care Law was the first occasion where legislation was passed with no support from the Repugs – the only problem is that the first Clinton budget, which ushered in the longest period of prosperity this country has seen (or maybe ever will see) was voted on the same way.

    I would say that one’s notion of a “disturbing pattern” is in the eye of the beholder, wouldn’t you?

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    An Obama “Reset” On NCLB?

    April 6, 2009

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    The ever-busy Murdoch Street Journal editorial page tells us here that…

    President Obama’s stimulus is sending some $100 billion to the nation’s school districts. What will he demand in return? The state budget passed by the New York legislature last week freezes funding for (charter schools) but increases it by more that $400 million for other public schools. Perhaps a visit to a charter school in Harlem would help Mr. Obama honor his reform pledge. “I’m looking at the data here in front of me,” Mr. Duncan told the New York Post. “Graduation rates are up. Test scores are up. Teacher salaries are up. Social promotion was eliminated. Dramatically increasing parental choice. That’s real progress.”

    Mr. Duncan’s help in New York is in stark contrast to his department’s decision to sit on a performance review of the D.C. voucher program while Congress debated its future in March. The latest annual evaluation was finally released Friday, and it shows measurable academic gains. The Opportunity Scholarship Program provides $7,500 vouchers to 1,700 low-income families in D.C. to send their children to private schools. Ninety-nine percent of the children are black or Hispanic, and there are more than four applicants for each scholarship.

    The 2008 report demonstrated progress among certain subgroups of children but not everyone. This year’s report shows statistically significant academic gains for the entire voucher-receiving population. Children attending private schools with the aid of the scholarships are reading nearly a half-grade ahead of their peers who did not receive vouchers. Voucher recipients are doing no better in math but they’re doing no worse. Which means that no voucher participant is in worse academic shape than before, and many students are much better off.

    However, we learn the following from here…

    Over its short life, the (D.C.) program proved almost entirely ineffective. Actually, its only real success was as a stimulus for D.C.’s beleaguered Catholic schools — they, not the students, proved to be the vouchers’ biggest beneficiaries.

    Obviously, there can be some benefit — even just an emotional one, rather than something that can be measured — to getting out of one of D.C.’s public schools, which can be a bad environment, and into a better one. But that assumes the students were getting out of the worst schools and into appreciably better ones, and that wasn’t always the case. (In fact, kids who attended the city’s worst schools were proportionally less likely to receive vouchers.) Moreover, when it came to academic performance, studies repeatedly showed no significant effect. The RAND Corporation summarized the Department of Education’s first impact study of the program this way:

    Because the program was oversubscribed, scholarships were awarded by lottery. To examine total program impact on student achievement, the study compared the results of lottery winners with those of lottery losers (regardless of whether the winners actually used their scholarships or whether the losers attended public schools). The authors found no impact, positive or negative, on average test scores in reading or math. Similarly, they found no impact of the effect of using a voucher to attend a private school on average reading or math test scores.

    On top of that, the program was poorly run; it lacked proper oversight, and had some fairly obvious, and quite serious, flaws. Those were exposed in a 2007 report by the Government Accountability Office, which savaged the voucher system generally, along with the Washington Scholarship Fund (WSF), which administered it. Among other problems, the GAO found that, in the 2004-2005 school year, “at least 3 of 52 schools that participated that year indicated that at least half of their teachers did not have at least a bachelor’s degree, and 6 schools indicated that about 10 to 20 percent of their teachers lacked at least a bachelor’s degree. Further, many of the schools were not accredited, and there is no evidence that they submitted evidence of educational soundness.”

    Something else I wanted to note here about the quality of schools generally has to do with how well they are able to accommodate special needs students, which isn’t something that can be easily quantified either.

    This tells us about a voucher program in Florida, a statewide school choice program that provides a voucher for any public school student with an IEP (Individualized Education Plan) prepared for students with certified disabilities (and I assume the participating private school would be legally obligated to abide by the IEP). However, as noted here (NY Times content), just because a public school is legally obligated to provide and abide by an IEP also doesn’t mean that it may be inclined to support it in the event of limited resources.

    I generally oppose vouchers since they constitute a drain on the public schools of this country, and I think making parents choose between funding for public vs. parochial schools is a disgusting game played by opportunistic politicians using our kids as pawns. However, it seems that Duncan is prudently trying not to undo the good that has been accomplished by the charter school in Harlem (the Journal editorial more or less dovetails the subject of charter schools into vouchers; this AFL-CIO post notes, however, that charter schools routinely fall behind public schools concerning academic performance).

    If the kids are used to the Harlem charter school and successful test results can be verified, then let it stand. However, IMHO, that should serve as the exception instead of the rule.


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