Archive for September, 2006

Quote Of The Day

Saturday, September 30th, 2006

“[E]ven after his two terms were over, when left-wing news sources sourly continued to portray his administration solely in terms of its faults, as nothing but a big deficit and the Iran-Contra scandal, I cannot remember Reagan ever ‘defending his legacy’ with anything more than a quip and a smile. Compare and contrast Clinton… ‘And you got that little smirk on your face and you think you’re so clever,’ Clinton told [Fox News’ Chris] Wallace, sounding for all the world like a 6-year-old girl scolding her playground rival. He then proceeded to try to rewrite his coulda-woulda-shoulda presidency by claiming to have had a much more focused and hard-lined approach to terrorism than any reading of his administration can support. Even Clinton counter-terrorism chief Richard Clarke’s book — which Clinton cited repeatedly during his tantrum — shows the president as too weak to order Osama bin Laden’s death. Other accounts are much less favorable” —novelist Andrew Klavan, writing in the Los Angeles Times.

Caring Vs Uncaring

Friday, September 29th, 2006

Walter Williams, professor of economics at George Mason University, shows how self interest goes much further than charity:

What human motivation leads to the most wonderful things getting done?

How about the charity and selflessness we’ve seen from people like Mother Teresa? What about the ceaseless and laudable work of organizations like the Red Cross, Habitat for Humanity and Salvation Army? What about the charitable donations of rich Americans, to use the silly phrase, who’ve given something back?

While the actions of these people and their organizations are laudable, results motivated by charity and selflessness pale in comparison to other motives behind getting good things done. Let’s look at it.

In December 1999, Stephen Moore and Julian L. Simon wrote an article titled “The Greatest Century That Ever Was,” published by the Washington, D.C.-based Cato Institute. In it they report: Over the course of the 20th century, life expectancy increased by 30 years; annual deaths from major killer diseases such as tuberculosis, polio, typhoid, whooping cough and pneumonia fell from 700 to fewer than 50 per 100,000 of the population; agricultural workers fell from 41 to 2.5 percent of the workforce; household auto ownership rose from one to 91 percent; household electrification rose from 8 to 99 percent; controlling for inflation, household assets rose from $6 trillion to $41 trillion between 1945 and 1998. These are but a few of the wonderful things that have occurred during the 20th century.

Returning to my initial question: What human motivation accounts for the accomplishment of these and many other wonderful things? The answer should be obvious. It was not accomplished by people’s concern for others but by people’s concern for themselves. In other words, it’s people seeking more for themselves that has produced a better life for all Americans.

The full article can be found here.

Quote Of The Day

Friday, September 29th, 2006

“From behind the benign facade and the tranquilizing smile, the real Bill Clinton emerged Sunday during Chris Wallace’s interview on Fox News Channel. There he was on live television, the man those who have worked for him have come to know — the angry, sarcastic, snarling, self-righteous, bombastic bully, roused to a fever pitch. The truer the accusation, the greater the feigned indignation. Clinton jabbed his finger in Wallace’s face, poking his knee, and invading the commentator’s space…. One also has to wonder when the volcanic rage beneath the surface of this would-be statesman will cool. When will the chip on his shoulder finally disappear? When will he feel sufficiently secure in his own legacy and his own skin not to boil over repeatedly in private and occasionally even in public?” —Dick Morris, former Clinton adviser, writing in The Hill newspaper.

Where Historians Often Go Wrong

Thursday, September 28th, 2006

Historian Thomas C. Reeves gives us the details of a talk that Alan Charles Kors, professor of history at the University of Pennsylvania, gave on the often incorrect paradigm of historians:

Secondly, Kors contends, ideologically driven historians misunderstand reality. They “imagine that goodness, wisdom, order, justice, peace, freedom, legal equality, mutual forbearance, and kindness are the default state of things in human affairs, and that it is malice, folly, disorder, war, coercion, legal inequality, intolerance, and cruelty that stand in need of purely historical explanation.” This is, of course, a misreading of human nature and of history that also sets the agenda for most journalists, which is why newspapers and television news programs dwell almost exclusively upon horror, evil, and insanity. The upshot of this misunderstanding is a history that focuses upon the worst that can be found or imagined, especially within the West.

Kors writes, “It is the existence and agency of Western values by which…injustice has been and is being progressively overcome that truly should excite our curiosity and awe. Anti-Semitism is not surprising; the opening of Christian America to Jews is what should amaze. Racial aversion and injustice are not the source of wonderment; the Fourteenth Amendment and its gradual implementation are what should astonish. It is not the abuse of power that requires explanation—that is surely the human condition—but the Western rule of law. Similarly, it is not coerced religious conformity that should leave us groping for understanding, but the forging of the values and institutions of religious toleration.”

Kors continues, “Most dramatically, of course, it is not slavery that requires explanation—slavery is one of the most universal of all human institutions—but, rather, the values and agency by which the West identified slavery as an evil, and, astonishment of astonishments, abolished it.” The existence of poverty, the author argues, should not be an occasion of wonder; hunger has always haunted humanity. “What we ignore are the values, institutions, knowledge, risk, ethics, and liberties that created prosperity to such a degree that pockets of poverty now draw public attention and the impulse to remediate them.”

Historians, in short, focus upon the wrong things, emphasizing the problems without acknowledging the accomplishments and aspirations of a civilization that produced more freedom and prosperity than any other has. Kors calls this “a failure of intellectual analysis,” which it clearly is.

The historians very often see only what they want to see, and the picture is often bleak. “In the midst of unparalleled social mobility in the West, they cry ‘caste,’ In a society of munificent goods and services, they cry either ‘poverty’ or ‘consumerism.’ In a society of ever richer, more varied, more productive, more self-defined, and more satisfying lives, they cry alienation. In a society that has liberated women, racial minorities, religious minorities, and gays and lesbians to an extent that no one could have dreamed possible just fifty years ago, they cry ‘oppression.’ In a society of boundless private charity, they cry ‘avarice.’ In a society in which hundreds of millions have been free riders upon the risk, knowledge, and capital of others, they cry ‘exploitation.’ In a society that broke, on behalf of merit, the seemingly eternal chains of station by birth, they cry ‘injustice.’”

The full article can be found here.

Quote Of The Day

Thursday, September 28th, 2006

“Now, let me zero in on #3. Because I think that health care is a major, major portion of why we spend so much time complaining about not being that much better off than we were in the 1970s. Contra “99”, health insurance hasn’t declined dramatically since 1973. Since 1987–the earliest year for which I could quickly lay my hands on census data–the number of uninsured Americans has skyrocketed from 12.9% to 15.9%. If we look only at native-born Americans, the numbers have been essentially unchanged since 1993 (again, the earliest census figures I could find). In 1993, 86.3% of native-born Americans had health insurance; in 2005 that figure was 86.6%. All of the increase in uninsured has come from immigrants . . . and I don’t think they’d be better off getting their health care back in Guatamala”. —Megan Mcardle, deputy countries editor of the Economist, writing in Asymmetrical Information

What Happens If A Company Pays Engineers The Same As Technicians

Wednesday, September 27th, 2006

What would happen if an engineering company decided to pay engineers the same as they pay technicians? You would get technician level engineers, that’s what would happen.

The same is true with regard to our public education. Because of unions, our public education system pays science teachers the same as english teachers, and given that science majors are in great demand in the private sector, this has a downward push on able science teachers.

Naked Economics, a book I finished reading a few months ago, explains it this way:

Meanwhile, American public education operates a lot more like North Korea than Silicon Valley. I will not wade into the school voucher debate, but I will discuss one striking phenomenon related to incentives in education that I have written about for the The Economist. The pay of American teachers is not linked in any way to performance; teachers’ unions have consistently opposed any kind of merit pay. Instead, salaries in nearly every public school district in the country are determined by a rigid formula based on experience and years of schooling, factors that researchers have found to be generally unrelated to performance in the classroom. This uniform pay scale creates a set of incentives that economists refer to as adverse selection. Since the most talented teachers are also likely to be good at other professions, they have a strong incentive to leave education for jobs in which pay is more closely linked to productivity. For the least talented, the incentives are just the opposite.

The theory is interesting; the data are amazing. When test scores are used as a proxy for ability, the brightest individuals shun the teaching profession at every juncture. The brightest students are the least likely to choose education as a college major. Among students who do major in education, those with higher test scores are less likely to become teachers. And among individuals who enter teaching, those with the highest test scores are the most likely to leave the profession early. None of this proves that America’s teachers are being paid enough. Many of them are not, especially those gifted individuals who stay in the profession because they love it. But the general problem remains: Any system that pays all teachers the same provides a strong incentive for the most talented among them to look for work elsewhere. (Naked Economics, Pg 28-29)

So we shouldn’t be surprised at news like this:

Science education in U.S. elementary and middle schools is overly broad and superficial, according to a government report issued Thursday that also faults science curricula for assuming children are simplistic thinkers.

“All children have basic reasoning skills, personal knowledge of the natural world, and curiosity that teachers can build on to achieve proficiency in science,” said the report from the National Research Council, one of the National Academies….

The report also criticized teacher training, saying undergraduate courses required for teachers were not substantial enough and schools need to support their teachers in learning more about their subject.

“Any grown-up who can read can teach middle school general sciences,” said Mara Cohen, an eighth grade science teacher in New York who was certified to instruct chemistry but also teaches life and general sciences.

Last year Cohen, who was not associated with the report, said she taught pupils who spoke English as a second language, and that they often failed to understand lessons and did poorly on standardized state tests.

The report found her students were not alone.

While “all students regardless of background have the capabilities needed to engage with and be successful in science,” students from low-income areas and certain language and ethnic groups fall behind, it said.

In other words, you have english level science teachers.

Quote Of The Day

Wednesday, September 27th, 2006

“One of the variables James and I have included in our model is the educational attainment of teachers. The expected result is that where a high proportion of teachers have at least a master’s degree, teaching should be better and drop-outs fewer. After all, a large percentage of the master’s degrees earned by teachers are from colleges of education, which should know something about good teaching. Yet we find NO statistically signficant relationship between high school dropouts and having teachers with a master’s (as opposed to a bachelor’s) degree”. —Richard Vedder, Center for College Affordability and Productivity

Killer King Hospital To Close

Tuesday, September 26th, 2006

When I lived in Compton it was common to hear horror stories of what went on at the city hospital, Martin Luther King Jr. hospital in Los Angeles. This was the go to hospital for families in Compton, Watts, and parts of LA, all areas with a very high concentration of gang violence. Many in the community, including myself, have lost friends and/or family in this hospital and the horror stories were so bad – the wrong leg getting amputated, involuntary euthanasia, and others – that the hospital was referred to as ‘Killer King’.

Well now, it seems those horror stories have come back to haunt the hospital, the LA Times reports:

King/Drew Fails Final U.S. Test
The hospital will lose all federal money by year’s end, throwing its fate in doubt. Supervisors will hold an emergency meeting Monday.

Federal regulators notified Martin Luther King Jr./Drew Medical Center late Friday that it had failed what was billed as a “make or break” inspection and would lose annual funding of about $200 million — more than half the hospital’s budget — at the end of the year.

The move is likely to force Los Angeles County to close the long-troubled public hospital, give it to someone else to run or turn it into a clinic, as officials have repeatedly acknowledged.

During a lengthy meeting, federal inspectors told King/Drew officials that the hospital still did not meet minimum patient-care standards.

King/Drew has been out of compliance with federal guidelines since January 2004, when it was first cited for serious lapses in care that had injured and killed patients.

During the latest inspection, the hospital failed nine of the government’s 23 conditions for federal funding, according to a letter from the U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services that was hand-delivered Friday to King/Drew’s administrator.

Federal regulators identified problems in nursing, pharmacy, infection control, surgical services, rehabilitation services, quality control, patients’ rights and the hospital’s governing body and physical plant.

In fact, inspectors found more problems in the supposedly reformed King/Drew than they had at any time in the last three years. Some of the life-threatening lapses cited were nearly identical to those found in the past.

For instance, the letter said, “there were no appropriately trained and competent staff, on the 3E unit, assigned to watch the heart monitors of seriously ill patients who required cardiorespiratory monitoring. This is especially troublesome, because previously documented cases showed that patients died when nurses at King/Drew failed to heed heart monitor warnings.”

Staff members also admitted to inspectors that they had hit a patient’s morphine pump at least five times to deliver additional sedation, even though the device is intended only to be used by patients. The inspectors called this “a very unsafe practice that can lead to over-sedation, respiratory depression or even death,” the letter says.

“Termination of the Medicare provider agreement is final,” the letter states in underlined text….

he 252-bed hospital south of Watts is one of the few sources of acute healthcare for the uninsured in South Los Angeles, most of them African American or Latino. King/Drew has enormous symbolic value as well: It was created to remedy racial inequities in healthcare after the 1965 Watts riots and has long been a source of pride — and jobs — in the community.

King/Drew, the second smallest of the county’s four general hospitals, has 2,238 full-time employees and last year treated 11,000 inpatients and 167,000 outpatients.

The hospital has been beset by patient care lapses and other crises almost since it opened in 1972. But the last three years have been its most challenging. The latest crisis began in August 2003 when The Times reported that two women connected to cardiac monitors died after nurses failed to notice their vital signs deteriorating.

Since then, the newspaper and government inspectors have identified case after case in which patients have been harmed or killed because of serious lapses in care. The Medicare agency’s inspectors now have visited the hospital 15 times.

In December 2004, The Times ran a five-part series detailing how King/Drew was much more dangerous than the public knew. The newspaper found that, by a variety of measures, King/Drew was among the worst hospitals in the state, and even the nation.

The hospital’s failings did not stem from a lack of money, as its supporters long contended. King/Drew spent more per patient than any of the three other general hospitals run by Los Angeles County.

I hope this brings the community a much better hospital. The full article can be found here.

Quote Of The Day

Tuesday, September 26th, 2006

“When I talk to legislative groups, which is fairly frequently, I often claim that one reform that would improve K-12 schools significantly would be to make it a felony for a principal or school superintendent to knowingly hire a graduate of a college of education. Everyone laughs, and I am not entirely serious, but the idea is not without its merit. On virtually every campus, the college of education is viewed as an intellectually lightweight part of the school, sometimes almost an embarassment. Good schools have largely rid themselves of undergraduate schools of education, in some instances keeping them for graduate study. The Holmes Group is a group of universities that has taken the the position that pedagogical training should come only after students have a good grounding in subject matter as undergraduates, a position with which I wholeheartedly agree in principle”. —Richard Vedder, Center for College Affordability and Productivity

Global Poverty Is Not What It Used To Be

Monday, September 25th, 2006

Hans Rosling, a Swedish professor on international health and economic development, did a presentation on global poverty. Along with great visuals, the presentation is both an uplifting and shocking view of how global poverty has changed and what it now looks like at the beginning of the twenty-first century.

It is a must see: Click here.

God Bless Capitalism!

Quote Of The Day

Monday, September 25th, 2006

“Altogether, spending on all elementary and secondary education topped more than $500 billion in 2003-04, or about 4.7 percent of the entire economy as measured by GDP. The U.S. spends more on K-12 education than the Philippines, Saudi Arabia, or Sweden spends on everything”. —Dan Lips, an Education Analyst at the Heritage Foundation

Quote Of The Day

Saturday, September 23rd, 2006

“It is staggering that anyone could be so self-infatuated as to single out their own particular policy preferences as “anti-war.” Anyone who is not a sadist or an idiot is anti-war. The only serious issue is how best to limit, deter or conclude war. But responsibility for confronting this issue is evaded by those preoccupied with the moral preening of being “anti-war.””–Thomas Sowell

Will the Problem Fix Itself? by Stephen J. Trejo

Friday, September 22nd, 2006

Stephen J. Trejo gave the final response on the Cato Unbound discussion Mexicans In America. I quote his article in full:

Given how hard it seems to forge a political consensus over what to do about Mexican immigration, I find some comfort in the indications that immigration flows from Mexico to the United States could decrease substantially in the not too distant future. Over the past half century, fertility rates in Mexico have declined sharply to less than a third of their initial levels, and these rates are expected to continue to fall until they reach replacement levels or below. At the same time, the rapid rise of average educational attainment and women’s labor force participation in Mexico suggest that the country is poised to make extensive economic and social advances. As the Mexican population becomes older and richer, the pressure for immigration to the United States will diminish, and the best available projections have immigration flows from Mexico starting to decline in the very near future. In this sense, the “problem” of Mexican immigration may ease on its own. Of course, even if this happens, there remains the important issue of how to facilitate integration for the millions of legal and illegal Mexican immigrants already in the United States, but reduced inflows of new immigrants would certainly help this process along.

The article can be found here.

Quote Of The Day

Friday, September 22nd, 2006

“It’s true that the middle class is shrinking — but that’s because more families are better off. The share of prime-age adults in households with real incomes above $100,000 rose by 13.1 percentage points from 1979 to 2004. The share of households making less than $75,000 dropped by 14 percent”.–Stephen Rose at the American Prospect

Tie Up NAFTA’s Loose Ends by Douglas S. Massey

Thursday, September 21st, 2006

Continuing the discussion at Cato Unbound on Mexicans In America, Douglas S. Massey responded to Victor Davis Hanson article. Here is a teaser of what he wrote,

It is clear to me that repressive immigration policies toward Mexico have failed at great cost to taxpayers and that a different approach is called for. I believe that the United States should treat Mexico in much the same way that Western Europe treated Spain and Portugal when they were brought into the European Union, and the way that Western Europe is now treating Poland and other nations in Eastern Europe. If we worked with Mexico to improve its markets for capital, credit, and insurance and raise the level of its infrastructure, we would eliminate the economic incentives that now drive migration within the decade. And in the short term, if we were to offer temporary worker visas to Mexicans, many of those now in the country would ultimately return home. For those who are too deeply enmeshed in the United States to return at this point, a legalization program is the only humane alternative. People who entered the country as minors should be given blanket amnesty as long as they have no criminal record, for they are guilty of nothing more than obeying their parents. For the remainder, they should be given provisional legalization, and a path to legal permanent residence should be established to allow them to adjust status through the accumulation of credits for paying taxes, learning English, staying employed, having US-born children, and generally staying out of trouble.

If we did these things, I believe everyone would be better off—Mexicans in Mexico, Americans here, and the migrants themselves. If we bring migrants above ground, charge fees for temporary labor visas, and collect taxes from all migrants, it would be possible to create a pool of money to offset the very real costs of immigration to state and local governments, mainly for heath care and education. American workers would also benefit by competing against workers with full labor rights rather than comepeting against an exploitable underground pool, especially if the measures I propose were to be accompanied by a simple employment verification program required of all employers to confirm the right to work.

The full article can be found here. His final article can be found here.

Quote Of The Day

Thursday, September 21st, 2006

“I think part of the problem is that nominal inequality is confused with material inequality—differences in material living conditions. But while nominal inequality is increasing, material inequality continues to decrease. As market competition pushes prices down, goods at the bottom of the price range more and more closely approximate goods at the top of the price range. (Which is why efficiency and equality are complements.) Food is probably the most striking example of material equalization. If you compare the diets of the top and bottom quintiles 100 years ago with the diets of the top and bottom quintiles now, you’ll see that we have become immensely more equal, not less. My favorite pair of jeans, which I bought at Wal-Mart for $16, is a close substitute for jeans that cost 5 times more”. —Will Wilkinson, about the irrelevance of income inequality