Thursday, September 29, 2011

QOD: Small Businesses, Small Payrolls?

“Eighty percent of U.S. small companies that remained in business from 2000 to 2003 ... didn’t add a single employee.”

Rethinking the Boosterism About Small Business, Charles Kenny (Bloomberg BusinessWeek)

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Parents and Education

The states of California, Texas and Mississippi have passed laws that allow parents to initiate a schools their children's school's conversion to a charter and/or the firing of the staff. The details of these so-called "trigger laws" vary from state to state but California's law has been used only once, in Compton. As the inevitable law suits play themselves out, backers of the law are having second thoughts:
Proponents are now out campaigning to remind parents the laws have to be about more than just signing a petition and hoping the rest will take care of itself. They argue the trigger attempt should be a starting point for parents to organize, rally, meet and educate themselves. They've even started handing out what they call a Parent Power Handbook, a slim pocket-size notebook with hints about how parents can stay involved and remain active in the day-to-day operations of their children's school. [emphasis added]

NBC Nightly News
These parents are acting out a sense of powerlessness. They either have not taken the time to stay involved in the school, have faced a brick wall when attempting to do so or are in a situation where the factors impeding effective education are nearly insurmountable. Do we really expect a bunch of parents to come in and fix the situation? This is not something a bake sale can fix. These are challenges that the entire country is struggling with and, in my opinion and that of most real experts, failing at.

The most likely outcome I can see is that these unfortunate and frustrated families will fall prey to slick marketing from some charter school operator and realize only when it is too late for their kids that there was no quick fix.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

QOD: The World in 3D Edition

“Thinking like economists” is kind of like looking at the world with 3-D glasses. When you’re watching a 3-D movie, it makes it so that you see really neat things. When you’re not watching a 3-D movie, then everything looks red and blue and kind of weird. But economists still like wearing their 3-D glasses.

Naked Capitalism Blog

Wednesday, September 21, 2011


“The values to which people cling most stubbornly under inappropriate conditions are those values that were previously the source of their greatest triumphs over adversity.”

Jared Diamond

Friday, September 16, 2011

Without a Paddle

Did Friedrich Hayek, a godfather of Libertarianism, support government supported medical care? Paul Krugman refers to "The Road to Serfdom" where Hayek supports
“a comprehensive system of social insurance” to protect citizens against “the common hazards of life,” and singled out health in particular.

Through Adam Smith's belief in protecting the common good against the sometime evil tendencies of capitalism and you have to wonder what the hell conservatives are talking about!

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Tasty Filling

Did Tolkien invent Lembas merely to fill in a hole in his plot - "How in the world did Sam and Frodo carry enough food to travel all that way?"

[edit: fixed spelling of "Lembas"]

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Whole, Part or Not?

Over on Undeception, Steve reacts to a Focus on the Family video in which one Del Tackett paints a picture of Creation inside a box and God existing completely outside the box, poking his finger in to move things along. Steve's reaction is to consider panentheism as a better possible model of God's relation to the universe. (For the uninitiated, panentheism claims that the universe is a part of God but that God extends infinitely beyond its confines as opposed to pantheism which claims that God and the universe and co-equal or that God is animating spirit of the universe).

Now I am reluctant to attack Christians directly. I don't want to be THAT kind of atheist. However, The Outsider Test can be a powerful tool to refining our thinking. I seem to have anointed myself The Outsider Test Crusader! Or is it the Hyphenated Avenger (See below)? In either case, if the job comes with a cape, I'll take it :)

As The Outsider, I must say that discussion of pantheism, panentheism and outside-the-boxism strikes me as an angels-dancing-on-the-head-of-a-pin discussion. While the selected view point may make sense of an individual's definition of God's nature, the matter is as immune to examination as invisible angels doing the hokey-pokey. Each theory produces the same set of results: the sun comes up and goes down, humans do bad things to each other, cries for deliverance from an indifferent universe rise up to the heavens. The position from which the creator hears these cries seems to have no impact on his or her or its response. Is there even a God? That is a separate question but spinning these bizzaro theories in order to save a concept based on personal preference and vapor makes you look irrelevant at best and kooky at worst.

Just to prove that I hold myself to the Outsider Test, I plan to give Tackett's critique of Carl Sagan's box - "The cosmos is all there is, or was, or ever will be." - a good think today.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

More Rankings Bleh

One thing that bothers me about all these rankings (colleges, great-places-to-live) is that the rankings change every year. Have the conditions at the University of Chicago improved so much in the space of twelve months to justify it moving up four spots? What does that say about the poor freshman who discovers that the highly ranked school where she matriculated has tanked by the time she reaches graduation?

It seems to me that the essential things that make for a great university would be less ephemeral - and sell fewer magazines!

Forget the Kids! Where's My Alma Mater?

U.S. News & World Report has released its much awaited/hated 2011 university rankings. In reading all the discussion concerning how students and parents should use this information when applying for college I have experienced a growing suspicion that the ratings aren't even about future students.

What if the business model of USN&WR relies on the fact that most of the copies will be bought by adults trying to see where the school they attended ranks. Let's face it. There aren't that many parents deciding between Princeton and Harvard. There are far more Michigan and North Carolina graduates trying to feel better about their education and hoping that perspective employers are reading the same rankings. And Tufts administrators hoping that these alumni will feel good enough about their school add them to their will!

Or maybe it's just me...

QOD: Noah's Ark

Somehow making the story of Noah into a children's bed time story and wallpaper design is like creating a Ford's Theater play set or a Titanic for the bathtub.

The Biblical World: The Ever Evolving Story of Noah's Ark

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

QOD: Appealingly Counter-Intuitive Edition

The story would go that reducing the deficit would lower interest rates, thereby encouraging businesses to invest. (Actually most research shows that investment is not very responsive to interest rates.) [emphasis added]

Dean Baker, Beat The Press blog

Is this true? Do interest rates not have a strong effect on investment. This is appealingly counter-intuitive so I need to be careful here.

If Only We Had Schools Like China's

A millionaire who works in the coal industry, who also spoke on condition of anonymity, said the main push behind his plans to emigrate is China's test-centric school system, often criticized for producing students who can pass exams but who lack skills for the world of work.

Top of Chinese wealthy's wish list? To leave China,

It's funny that although the US lags many countries in performance on International assessments, it is consistently rated near the top in competitiveness. Yeah I know, changing economy and all that, but don't count us out yet. I used to worry about American anti-intellectualism until I started paying attention to what people in places like India, China and Japan believe. Other countries have their share of problems.