January 22, 2007
Some Senate history
Posted by Mitch Kokai at 9:26 PM
It's interesting to read articles such as this one, in which journalists fret that an obstructionist U.S. Senate might not allow the House Democrats to achieve (or at least achieve quickly) all of the goals from their 100-hour plan.
We're seeing much less veneration these days of the Senate's deliberative nature.
One sentence in particulat drew my attention:
A constitutional amendment ratified in 1913 finally did away with the arcane process of letting state legislatures select senators in favor of statewide popular elections....
Writer Silla Brush ignores the reason why state legislatures selected senators for more than 120 years: the U.S. Constitution was designed to create a federal government. The Senate was supposed to give the states a check on an activist federal government.
One suspects the concentration of power in Washington today might not be as great if that progressive era change had never been made.
And just what is wrong with that?
Posted by Mitch Kokai at 8:41 PM
Regular U.S. News readers are bound to have noticed that the "One Week" section is usually devoted to a short editorialized missive on some news topic of the day.
It's never labeled as an opinion piece, but you'll not have much luck if you search for attribution of the thoughts and theories expressed from week to week.
This week, I'll ignore most of Brian Duffy's unattributed diatribe about global warming. (You can read it here.) One point does seem worthy of comment.
While whining that the federal government is not doing enough to address climate change, Duffy notes:
Ten major companies—industrial powerhouses like DuPont, General Electric, and Alcoa—are joining forces with leading environmental groups to urge a major nationwide cutback in carbon-dioxide emissions. This is big. Not only is most of the public light-years ahead of our politicians in addressing the planet's overheating; now Big Business is, too.
What strikes me about this information -- but probably does not cross Mr. Duffy's mind -- is that efforts in the private sector are likely to be more effective than any public sector efforts to deal with any problem that conceivably results from global warming.
Duffy suggests that the involvement of "Big Business" offers more proof that the federal government should do something about global warming.
On the other hand, I see this latest news as offering more proof that the government can address the issue most effectively by doing nothing. Government's coercive powers would only limit future options; government inaction today leaves many doors open in the future if global warming ever causes any real problems.
Re: Timeshares for the homeless
Posted by Jon Sanders at 7:42 PMJon, your post reminded me of this Onion point/counterpoint parody:
Timeshares for the homeless
Posted by Jon Ham at 5:26 PM
Not really, but almost. Daytona Beach is considering building a whole village just for homeless people, 2,500 of 'em. Here's what the developer said about it:
"This is for the people who can't work and can't integrate themselves into society. The answer is not to build a Hooverville of tents and trailers but to make these buildings attractive enough so that if you or I would went there, we would say, 'Wow, I'd live there.'"
But some people aren't so enthusiastic:
Critics worry that the Tiger Bay Village will only promote homelessness and that the population will relocate to rural areas.
Math Made Complicated
Posted by Lindalyn Kakadelis at 2:33 PM
This "You Tube" video is a must see for those who wonder why the education establishment is struggling with basic math skills. You have to wonder who dreams up these ideas?
Local Government’s Business?
Posted by Michael Moore at 1:35 PM
As citizens and taxpayers we should question government leaders when
there seem to be spending problems lurking on the horizon?
Sometimes government leaders are like teenagers with a credit card, you
can spend without guilt because you're not paying the bill, your parents
are or if you’re a policy maker the taxpayers are. Government
seems to be in the business of now doing activities that have always
been left to entrepreneurs. In North Carolina, and elsewhere in
America, local governments are now in the business of doing things that
were never meant to be in government’s control.
A small piece of this puzzle is local government golf courses. In
parts of North Carolina local governments have invested millions of tax
dollars in a whole host of activities that are not producing positive
outputs and are financing activities that have normally been left to
the private sector.
Thomasville, North Carolina’s municipal golf course is just one example
in North Carolina. The City’s Comprehensive Annual Financial
Reports show a major loss in the golf course, but when presented with
the numbers city official’s take offense.
Shouldn’t citizens ask for their leaders to provide services in the
most cost-effective way and hold the spenders of their tax dollars
accountable? Well, why are some activities even in the
government’s hands? In a way it’s like my Beagles running around
in circles chasing their tail, sooner or later they will stop and do
what they’re supposed to and go after rabbits. Hey, they may
enjoy going around in circles but in the end does it get
Mark Twain nails it
Posted by Dr. Roy Cordato at 10:20 AMIn his weekly e-newsletter. climate scientist and global warming skeptic and optimist, Fred Singer,
posts the following quote from Mark Twain. It captures the global warming alarmist and pessimist approach to climate change perfectly.
In the space of one hundred and seventy-six years the Lower Mississippi has shortened itself two hundred and forty-two miles. This is an
average of a trifle over one mile and a third per year. Therefore, any calm person, who is not blind or idiotic, can see that in the Old Oolithic Silurian Period, just a million years ago next November [sic], the Lower Mississippi River was upwards of one million three hundred thousand miles long, and stuck out over the Gulf of Mexico like a fishing rod. And by the same token, any person can see that seven hundred and forty-two years from now the Lower Mississippi will be only a mile and three quarters long, and Cairo and New Orleans will have joined their streets together, and be plodding comfortably along under a single mayor and a mutual board of aldermen.
There is something fascinating about science. One gets such wholesale returns of conjecture out of such a trifling investment of fact.
— Mark Twain
We've exhausted our taboos
Posted by Jon Ham at 10:17 AM
What does it tell you about our culture and society when a documentary about beastiality gets rave reviews at the Sundance Film Festival, the director calling sex with animals "the last taboo." We've exhausted all of our other taboos, it seems. I think this is what Pat Moynihan was talking about when he said we are defining deviancy down. This is about as "down" as it gets. Soon there will be children's books about beastiality, I'm sure. Will Mommy's Boyfriend Lives in the Barn soon join Heather Has Two Mommies on the list of books that shouldn't appear on elementary school bookshelves, but do?
Faculty bias must be just a myth
Posted by George Leef at 09:42 AM
Inside Higher Ed has a story today on a study that finds fault with the recent papers finding evidence that there is substantial leftist bias to be found on many American campuses.
Faculty bias is very difficult to quantify, but whether there is a lot of it or only a little of it doesn't really matter. If, say 30 years ago, a feminist had said that there is a lot of sexual harassment on campus, would it have been an appropriate response to demand exact quantification of the amount that occurs before taking any steps to guard against it? No. Similarly, whether the number of professors who use their classrooms to peddle their own socio-political views rather than teaching a course that imparts knowledge of an academic field is in the millions or in single digits, it shouldn't be tolerated at all.
The Source of Liberal Bias
Posted by Jenna Ashley Robinson at 09:31 AM
A new study conduucted by John B. Lee for the American Federation of Teachers concludes that liberal bias might come from a source other than liberal
Another theme [Lee] returns to over and over again is one of demonstrating...causal relationships. He notes that there are many explanations for political trends and demographics among the professoriate, so it is unfair to assume that a liberal tilt (assuming one exists) reflects bias. He notes, for example, that the studies do not explore whether there could be non-political explanations. I'm dying to know? What does cause liberal bias, if not underlying attitudes?
Even if we grant that liberals might self-select to be members of academe, that condition doesn't explain how something other than their attitudes creates bias in classroom experience, course material, etc.
Terry's education research corner
Posted by Dr. Terry Stoops at 07:42 AM
"Five Myths About U.S. Kids Outclassed by the Rest of the World" is an engaging article in yesterday's Washington Post. Paul Farhi argues that, contrary to media reports, U.S. students are not performing poorly on math, science, and civics tests compared to the rest of the world. Therefore, our public schools are not as bad as the media and public make them out to be. The five myths are as follows:
1. U.S. students rate poorly compared with those in the rest of the world.
2. U.S. students are falling behind.
3. U.S. students won't be well prepared for the modern workforce.
4. Bad schooling has undermined America's competitiveness.
5. How we stack up on international tests matters, if only for national pride.
I am not concerned about the last four myths because Farhi provides weak anecdotal evidence to rebut these claims. The first myth is a much more compelling issue.
According to a study that reassessed the international testing results, U.S. students had the highest civics scores in the world and scored slightly above average on science and math tests. Only 13 percent of countries had higher reading scores. I have not read the study, but I will accept the results for the sake of argument and generosity.
From the standpoint of outputs, that is not so bad. Nevertheless, the inputs make the case that the U.S. has a troubled education system. Farhi says very little about inputs - for good reason. We are getting a sorry return on our investment.
First, consider that in 2005 the United States has the second highest per pupil expenditure in the world, $11,152 (Switzerland had the highest). OECD counties as a whole spend $7,343 per pupil. In addition, teaching hours in U.S. public primary schools averaged 1,139 hours, compared to an average 795 hours for other OECD countries. This is a consistent trend throughout secondary school, even when compared to counties that have a longer school year than the U.S.
Therefore, to get our students to the average in math and science, the U.S. is spending buckets of money and expending an extraordinary amount of time. At best, this means that we have a bureaucratic system that simply needs to be streamlined. At worst, this means that something is very wrong with our schools. Any road you choose leads to serious educational reform.
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