Saturday, March 03, 2007

Okay....NOW I'm Mad.

A child is not revenue. She's a child.

This gem of statist reasoning, from the Raleigh NEWS AND OBSERVER, got me thinking about school choice, and "revenue":

Some excerpts from the story by Samiha Khanna, Staff Writer for N&O, with my most insightful comments in caps:

DURHAM - ...The opening of Durham's eighth charter will expand a $6 million dent in the school system's budget.

Though charter schools are public schools, they operate independently from the local school district. They receive money from the state, and for each student from the Durham school district who enrolls in a charter, a certain per-student allowance follows him. (BUT...BUT...BUT THE SCHOOL DISTRICT ALSO DOESN'T HAVE TO PROVIDE A SEAT FOR THAT STUDENT, OR SCHOOL BUS SERVICES! AT A TIME WHEN SCHOOLS ARE OVERCROWDED, HOW CAN THIS BE A COST? UNLESS...UNLESS YOU JUST THINK THE LOSS OF CONTROL OVER CITIZEN CHOICE IS A COST, RIGHT?)

This will make difficult several projects coming up for Durham Public Schools, including the opening of a new middle school and three small high schools in the fall. (AGAIN, THEY ONLY NEED TO DO THAT IF THEY ARE OVERCROWDED. AND SENDING KIDS TO CHARTERS RELIEVES OVERCROWDING. FURTHER, CHARTERS SAVE THE STATE MONEY, BECAUSE THEY DON'T PROVIDE LUNCH, OR BUS SERVICE, AND GET MUCH LESS PER STUDENT THAN THE STATE-RUN SCHOOLS.)

"We're trying to do a lot of things that require revenue," said Hank Hurd, associate superintendent of administrative services for Durham Public Schools. "Charters are depleting some of the resources that we need to address the student population at large." (STOP DOING THOSE THINGS! THAT'S NOT "REVENUE!" THAT'S MONEY TAKEN AT GUNPOINT FROM PEOPLE WHO ARE DESPERATE TO SEND THEIR CHILDREN TO BETTER SCHOOLS!)

When it opens in the fall, Voyager will serve about 320 students in grades four through seven. Its home will be the 40,000-square-foot former Little River Elementary School in the northern Durham town of Bahama. (NO NEW BUILDING, AND NO STATE COSTS, EXCEPT THE RENTAL. LESS THAN HALF AS EXPENSIVE FOR TAXPAYERS, AND HIGHER QUALITY EDUCATION.)

The school will expand to eighth grade the following year, and eventually cap growth at 500 students, according to a plan the school's board of directors submitted to the state.

As of this week, the school received about 400 letters of interest from parents in Durham and as far away as Hillsborough and Roxboro....(GOSH, SOUNDS LIKE MAYBE THE DURHAM SCHOOLS AREN'T REALLY DOING THEIR JOB. AND THEIR PROPOSED SOLUTION IS...PREVENT PARENTS FROM HAVING ANY CHOICES? IT IS TRUE THAT WITHOUT CHOICES, THE DURHAM SCHOOLS WOULD HAVE MORE STUDENTS. WHY NOT PURSUE THAT A LITTLE FURTHER? IF WE CRIMINALIZE READING, WE CAN JUST USE THE PRISONS FOR SCHOOLS, AND THEN WE CAN REALLY MAKE SOME REVENUE! USE THE SCHOOLS MONEY TO BUILD NEW PRISONS!)

...At Voyager, the emphasis will be on hands-on projects and other interactive activities, said Christy Whiteside, a contractor who worked with the school's board to create its education plan.

Teachers also will focus on character education and public speaking. Directors are still trying to solidify a partnership with the Kenan Institute for Ethics at Duke University, Forsyth said.

Parents and students won't know until March 31 who will attend Voyager. If the school gets more applications than there are spaces available, it will choose by lottery. (I'M GUESSING THEY ARE GOING TO NEED A LOTTERY. SOUNDS LIKE A PRETTY GOOD EXPERIMENT IN EDUCATION, AND IT WILL CUT COSTS TO TAXPAYERS.)

Most of Voyager's students are likely to come from Durham, so administrators with the school system can expect to send at least an additional $800,000 to the new school in per-student allowances, plus state resources allotted based on enrollment, Hurd said. (AAARGH! WHERE DO YOU START HERE? IT IS NOT DURHAM'S MONEY TO LOSE! THAT IS TAXPAYER MONEY. CHARTER SCHOOLS JUST LET PARENTS MAKE THEIR OWN CHOICES WITH THEIR OWN MONEY! HOW DARE DURHAM BUREAUCRATS TALK ABOUT "LOSING" MONEY? THEY HAVE LOST THE SENSE THAT THEY ARE SUPPOSED TO SERVE THE PUBLIC, THAT'S WHAT THEY HAVE LOST!)

....Durham administrators tried to drive home the point last fall, when enrollment in traditional public schools in Durham increased less than 1 percent and charter enrollment soared by almost 22 percent.


*****************

After reading that story, I had to just go sit on the floor in the corner, hugging my knees, rocking back and forth, and making little whimpering sounds.

Remember, charter enrollment is capped by capacity. That 22 % growth is not the number of people who WANT to send their kids to charters. That is the actual number of seats filled by parents who are going crazy with worry about how their kids are treated in the schools runs by teachers' unions and indifferent, revenue-maximzing bureaucrats.

If more charter schools were available, thousands of parents would transfer their kids. Some would be good schools, some not so good. But what would happen to the bad ones? They would lose enrollment, and close? What happens to Durham PUBLIC schools that are bad? We all spend more money on them. They never close, because there is no competition and no standard of quality to meet.

Anything that improves choice, improves education. Charters, and vouchers, are a good start. Let's get started!

Friday, March 02, 2007

Those....Those Swiss! I thought they were neutral....

Swiss troops, who had no ammunition, invade Lichtenstein, which has no army.

ZURICH, Switzerland (AP) -- What began as a routine training exercise almost ended in an embarrassing diplomatic incident after a company of Swiss soldiers got lost at night and marched into neighboring Liechtenstein.

According to Swiss daily Blick, the 170 infantry soldiers wandered 2 kilometers (1.2 miles) across an unmarked border into the tiny principality early Thursday before realizing their mistake and turning back.

A spokesman for the Swiss army confirmed the story but said that there were unlikely to be any serious repercussions for the mistaken invasion.

''We've spoken to the authorities in Liechtenstein and it's not a problem,'' Daniel Reist told The Associated Press.


ATSRTWT

(Nod to LC, who knows things)

Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Large Guns Man Speaks

My good friend Large Guns Man sent the following:

Well I knew our nations gun laws wouldn't last forever but this piece of legislation is nuts. What's next banning sling shots and squirt guns?

The best part is Section 3 part L that bans...

"A semiautomatic rifle or shotgun originally designed for military or law enforcement use, or a firearm based on the design of such a firearm, that is not particularly suitable for sporting purposes, as determined by the Attorney General. In making the determination, there shall be a rebuttable presumption that a firearm procured for use by the United States military or any Federal law enforcement agency is not particularly suitable for sporting purposes, and a firearm shall not be determined to be particularly suitable for sporting purposes solely because the firearm is suitable for use in a sporting event.'."

Since when do firearms simply have to be for sport? Isn't a right to personal defense enshrined in our federal and state constitution? Are we all going to be limited to muzzle loading smooth bore muskets?

Did I miss the huge gun riot after the Clinton ban sun setted that requires such a broad weapons ban? What does this bill do to address the MILLIONS of these firearms already LEAGALY owned by law abiding citizens?

I know I will feel much safer when it's illegal to own or use any of these weapons. I sure wouldn't want people to be able to defend themselves from oppressive governments or criminals.


Now, LGM may have a point. When I read the 2nd Amendment, to me it says this:

A well regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed.

Now, most legal scholars would argue that the clause at the outset, about a well-regulated militia, means that none of the rest matters.

And I would argue that most legal scholars are full of oatmeal. The first clause is the REASON we have the right. But the right itself is still: "the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed."

Famously, the (otherwise) liberal Sandy Levinson exposed the nakedness of the left-wing emporer on this question, in his forthrightly titled "The Embarrassing Second Amendment." I was Sandy's colleague at UT-Austin when this piece came out, and Sandy was pretty well beaten up by the "rights conscious" lefties. They were very strong about defending rights they happened to agree with, but on the 2nd Amdmt they made up ridiculous arguments about why individual rights, in this ONE instance, were not important, and the Constitution didn't really mean what it seemed to....etc.

Of course, the Const meant JUST what it seemed to when it protected Daniel Ellsberg, or people who wanted to burn flags, or etc. (Don't get me wrong: Daniel E is fine by me, and people who want to burn flags are welcome to; just don't do it my flag, or on my property!)

Sandy happens to think that guns should be rather sharply controlled, maybe even prohibited in some instances. But the 2nd Amdmt MUST confer SOME individual rights, or else it just has no meaning. And, if we can selectively "nullify" parts of the constitution, at our whim....Well, John C. Calhoun didn't get to do it, why should anti-gun nuts?

So, Sandy said there is a perfectly good remedy: Amend the Constitution. Either strike the 2nd Amendment, or change it to read, "Only guns suitable only for sport can be borne by the people." (Okay, Sandy didn't say that last part; I'm just trying to make Large Guns Man angry. But Sandy did say: "You don't like the 2nd Amdmt? Amend it! You can't ignore it." Consistency. I give a guy a lot of credit for consistency. Sandy is a fine man.)

“...No one has ever described the Constitution as a marvel of clarity, and the Second Amendment is perhaps one of the worst drafted of all its provisions...[we no longer need militias, but]...it is hard for me to see how one can argue that circumstances have so changed as to make mass disarmament constitutionally unproblematic.”

So, Large Guns Man, there is the answer: THE CONSTITUTION! LOVE IT OR AMEND IT.

Go shoot something for me, LGM. And then give me one of the hindquarters, so I can make some sausage or something.

***************************

A nice link, partly from Volokh and Reynolds...

Some stuff on actual paper:

Sanford Levinson, The Embarrassing Second Amendment, 99 Yale L.J. 637 (1989)

William Van Alstyne, The Second Amendment and the Personal Right to Arms, 43 Duke L.J. 1236 (1994)

Monday, February 26, 2007

Kevin's Brain

Duke has been doing a study of how the brain processes mathematical problems.

My son Kevin was a participant.

We got some cool pictures of his brain.


From the top....(he's wearing headphones, to receive instruction. He doesn't have bones in his ears)





















From the back....



They said his capacity to solve math problems immediately was remarkable. Of course, they were READING from the instruction manual, so I think that was a Lake Wobegon kind of compliment.

On Friday night, he and some friends went to a Waffle House, after going to a play over in Durham. I don't know just what happened, but I do know that there were attempts to jump over his car (an old 95 Mustang). The result was a kid in the hospital, broken collarbone, severe concussion, bruised lung. And a dent in the top of Kevin's car.

WHERE THE HELL WAS HIS BRAIN THEN? If someone tells you that they can jump over your car, get in your car and drive away.

Thank goodness he showed the good judgment to go to a Waffle House. If this had happened at a McDonalds, I might have had to take the car away. At least Waffle House is a classy place.

Meetings: The Unled Guiding the Uninterested

From MSNBC:

People have a harder time coming up with alternative solutions to a problem when they are part of a group, new research suggests....

When a group gets together, they can miss out on good options,” study team member H. Shanker Krishnan told LiveScience. This could mean ordering from a pizza place advertised on television even if there’s a better option, or making a poor decision in the boardroom. “Whether it’s with family or a group of co-workers, we could very quickly fixate on things and all come up with the same options.”...

The researchers speculate that when a group of people receives information, the inclination is to discuss it. The more times one option is said aloud, the harder it is for individuals to recall other options, explained Krishnan, associate professor of marketing at Indiana University.


Meetings down at old Duke U...go in dumb, come out dumber, too! (thanks to Randy Newman, and thanks also to his OFFENSIVE: WARNING! but great lyrics to "Rednecks")

(Nod to AV, who goes to meetings all the time. He must be a total idiot by now.)

Sunday, February 25, 2007

O'Rourke on Smith

Just finished reading PJ O'Rourke's new book, on Adam Smith's Wealth of Nations.

A disappointment. To be fair, I am a really, really big fan of both O'Rourke and of Smith, so my hopes were perhaps unrealistically high.

But Smith is subtle, and it is hard to understand his main thesis on division of labor. PJ apparently doesn't, or at least skips over it any real discussion. He wastes chapters paraphrasing Smith's language, instead of summarizing his ideas.

PJ is capable of deep understanding, as his famous essay, "How to Drive Fast on Drugs While Getting Your Wing-Wang Squeezed and Not Spill Your Drink" illustrates. That article changed my life, and dating/driving habits.

Seriously, I thought Parliament of Whores was so good I use several chapters in class. And All the Trouble in the World...well, the chapters on environmentalism are simply brilliant.

And, to be fair, O'Rourke's analysis of Smith does have a couple of terrific chapters. Chapter 7, on power and regulation, is outstanding. Not just funny, but fundamentally insightul. And Chapter 13, "An Inquiry into Adam Smith," is a wonderful overview of the man's life.

But too many of the other chapters just don't rise to that standard. Okay, but not great. You are still better off, if you don't want to read the whole WoN, just studying Book I and Book IV carefully, IMHO.

(cross-posted from DoL)

How to Talk About Books You Haven't Read: NYTimes II

From the NYTimes, again. For those who find that reading takes away from their video game, and arguing about Britney/Fed-ex, time....

PARIS, Feb. 23 — It may well be that too many books are published, but by good fortune, not all must be read. In practice, primed by publishers, critics, teachers, authors and word-of-mouth, a form of natural selection limits essential reading to those classics and best sellers that become part of civilized intellectual and social discourse.

Of course, many people don’t get through these books, either, and too embarrassed to admit it, they worry constantly about being exposed as philistines.

Now Pierre Bayard, a Paris University literature professor, has come to their rescue with a survivor’s guide to life in the chattering classes. And it is evidently much in need. “How to Talk About Books You Haven’t Read?” has become a best seller here, with translation rights snapped up across Europe and under negotiation in Britain and the United States.

“I am surprised because I hadn’t imagined how guilty nonreaders feel,” Mr. Bayard, 52, said in an interview. “With this book, they can shake off their guilt without psychoanalysis, so it’s much cheaper.”

Mr. Bayard reassures them that there is no obligation to read, and confesses to lecturing students on books that he has either not read or has merely skimmed. And he recalls passionate exchanges with people who also have not read the book under discussion.

He further cites writers like Montaigne, who could not remember what he read, and Paul Valéry, who found ways of praising authors whose books he had never opened. Mr. Bayard finds characters in novels by Graham Greene, David Lodge and others who cheerfully question the need to read at all. And he refuses to be intimidated by Proust or Joyce.

Having demonstrated that non-readers are in good company, Mr. Bayard then offers tips on how to cover up ignorance of a “must-read” book.

Meeting a book’s author can be particularly tricky. Here, Mr. Bayard said there was no need to display knowledge of the book, since the author already has his own ideas about it. Rather, he said, the answer is “to speak well of it without entering into details.” Indeed, all the author needs to hear is that “one has loved what he has written.”


Ha! If someone tells me they love one of my books, I know right away they are lying. No one who has read my books loves them. My mom loved them, but she didn't read them.

(Nod to Anonyman, who reads. The articles, I mean, not just the centerfolds. No, really.)

Got Pole? NYTimes I

From the NYT: A story on pole dancing craze.

Now, don't get me wrong, I think this is a most EXCELLENT "turn" of events. "Tone your body, blow your mind!" indeed.

But I'm not sure my wife would really wear a tank-top that says, "Got Pole?"

I can imagine her pole-dancing, though. In fact, whenever I have to get a filling at the dentist or have to listen to a long sociology lecture (these two events are barely distinguishable, by the way), I intend to close my eyes and imagine my wife pole-dancing. I'm sure it will make the time pass much more quickly.

(Nod to Anonyman. I tried to imagine HIM pole dancing, and it cured my need for lunch)