Monthly Archive for May, 2010

Why Are We Drilling At 5,000 Feet?

Charles Krauthammer writes:

“Why are we drilling in 5,000 feet of water in the first place?

Many reasons, but this one goes unmentioned: Environmental chic has driven us out there. As production from the shallower Gulf of Mexico wells declines, we go deep (1,000 feet and more) and ultra deep (5,000 feet and more), in part because environmentalists have succeeded in rendering the Pacific and nearly all the Atlantic coast off-limits to oil production (see map above, source).

And of course, in the safest of all places, on land, we’ve had a 30-year ban on drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.  So we go deep, ultradeep — to such a technological frontier that no precedent exists for the April 20 blowout in the Gulf of Mexico.”

Full article here.

Teachers Unions vs Students

If you want to see how teachers union stand in the way of educational progress, read this New York Times article.

My favorite part of the article:

A building on 118th Street is one reason that the parents who are Perkins’s constituents know that charters can work. On one side there’s the Harlem Success Academy, a kindergarten-through-fourth-grade charter with 508 students. On the other side, there’s a regular public school, P.S. 149, with 438 pre-K to 8th-grade students. They are separated only by a fire door in the middle; they share a gym and cafeteria. School reformers would argue that the difference between the two demonstrates what happens when you remove three ingredients from public education — the union, big-system bureaucracy and low expectations for disadvantaged children.

Same buildings, same resources and in many cases, the same family. In fact, the charter school often has more students per teacher than the public school.

The results?

But while the public side spends more, it produces less. P.S. 149 is rated by the city as doing comparatively well in terms of student achievement and has improved since Mayor Michael Bloomberg took over the city’s schools in 2002 and appointed Joel Klein as chancellor. Nonetheless, its students are performing significantly behind the charter kids on the other side of the wall. To take one representative example, 51 percent of the third-grade students in the public school last year were reading at grade level, 49 percent were reading below grade level and none were reading above. In the charter, 72 percent were at grade level, 5 percent were reading below level and 23 percent were reading above level. In math, the charter third graders tied for top performing school in the state, surpassing such high-end public school districts as Scarsdale.

Same building. Same community. Sometimes even the same parents. And the classrooms have almost exactly the same number of students. In fact, the charter school averages a student or two more per class. This calculus challenges the teachers unions’ and Perkins’s “resources” argument — that hiring more teachers so that classrooms will be smaller makes the most difference. (That’s also the bedrock of the union refrain that what’s good for teachers — hiring more of them — is always what’s good for the children.) Indeed, the core of the reformers’ argument, and the essence of the Obama approach to the Race to the Top, is that a slew of research over the last decade has discovered that what makes the most difference is the quality of the teachers and the principals who supervise them. Dan Goldhaber, an education researcher at the University of Washington, reported, “The effect of increases in teacher quality swamps the impact of any other educational investment, such as reductions in class size.”

This building on 118th Street could be Exhibit A for that conclusion.

The full article can be found here.

Why Democrats Fear Vouchers

[youtube:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QuDu61p-Sk4&feature=player_embedded]

A quick look will show you why: vouchers pits two traditionally Democratic constituents against each other, minorities and teachers union.  In case you were wondering, I am on the side of the minorities.

In this case, the voucher bill passed and the school choice effort marches on.

Quote Of The Day

“Then there is the even more significant fact that what were once viewed as controversial right-wing, Bush/Cheney Terrorism policies have been transformed, under Obama, into bipartisan consensus.  Whereas the vast majority of Democrats spent the last eight years claiming to vehemently oppose policies such as indefinite detention, military commissions, and secrecy claims, they now actively defend them or (at best) remain meekly silent because it’s now their political party, rather than the GOP, that is responsible for them.  By embracing as his own many of the very policies he vowed to uproot, Obama has gutted the core of public opposition to those policies.  Is it really a surprise, then, that public opinion on these questions has worsened under Obama” — Glenn Greenwald, arguing that Obama has moved public opinion in support of civil-liberty violations

John Yoo On Elena Kagan

He writes:

What if a college dean barred from campus recruiting any law firm that provided free representation to al Qaeda terrorists? Suppose she believes that the firms are providing aid and comfort to the enemy in wartime.

There would be an avalanche of criticism from the media, the bar, and the professoriat because the dean had elevated her personal views above a university’s commitment to free and open access.

Nothing like that ever happened to Elena Kagan, President Obama’s solicitor general and his choice to replace Justice John Paul Stevens on the Supreme Court. When she served as dean of Harvard Law School, Kagan prohibited the U.S. military from recruiting students on campus. Why? Because it discriminates against gays and lesbians under the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy.

Kagan’s decision does not just express an anti-military bias, as many conservative critics claim; it shows her attachment to the lazy liberalism of the faculty lounge. Rather than an act on principle, her decision to bar the military was the easy and popular thing to do on college and university campuses.

Her views on presidential power, which would find independent counsels to be constitutional, and her attacks on Justice Clarence Thomas reveal the same easy allegiance to the conventional wisdom of the academic Left.

Full post here.

Quote Of The Day

“Liberals sometimes argue that their preferred approach to family life reduces the need for abortion. In reality, it may depend on abortion to succeed. The teen pregnancy rate in blue Connecticut, for instance, is roughly identical to the teen pregnancy rate in red Montana. But in Connecticut, those pregnancies are half as likely to be carried to term. Over all, the abortion rate is twice as high in New York as in Texas and three times as high in Massachusetts as in Utah.” —Ross Douthat, writing in the New York Times, more here.

Quote Of The Day

the C.B.O. has released a new estimate of how much additional discretionary spending — on implementation costs, further subsidies for new and existing programs, etc. — health care reform is likely to generate over the first 10 years. The total comes to $115 billion above and beyond the official price tag, a sum that would almost wipe out the bill’s projected deficit savings in the first decade.” —Ross Douthat, on the just added ObamaCare bill

Quote Of The Day

“Just think about what that means.  If the choice is Kagan, you’ll have huge numbers of Democrats and progressives running around saying, in essence:  “I have no idea what Kagan thinks or believes about virtually anything, and it’s quite possible she’ll move the Court to the Right, but I support her nomination and think Obama made a great choice.”  In other words, according to Chemerinksy and Yglesias, progressives will view Obama’s choice as a good one by virtue of the fact that it’s Obama choice.  Isn’t that a pure embodiment of mindless tribalism and authoritarianism?  Democrats love to mock the Right for their propensity to engage in party-line, close-minded adherence to their Leaders, but compare what conservatives did with Bush’s selection of Harriet Miers to what progressives are almost certain to do with Obama’s selection of someone who is, at best, an absolute blank slate. ” — Glenn Greenwald

Unions Kill Voucher Bill In Chicago

The Chicago Tribune gives the details:

The legislation got through the Senate in March after being championed by Sen. James Meeks, D-Chicago, and suburban Republicans. But by Wednesday, teachers unions had regrouped and its supporters found themselves pleading with opponents to overcome a furious lobbying effort to stop the bill.

“Think back to why you ran for office,” said sponsoring Rep. Kevin Joyce, D-Chicago. “Was it for a pension? I doubt it. Was it to protect the leadership of a union? I doubt that. Actually in all cases, I believe each and every one of us here got involved to try and make a difference in the lives of our fellow man.”

Joyce could muster only 48 of the 60 votes needed to pass a bill that would have allowed students to get vouchers worth about $3,700 to switch to private or parochial schools beginning in fall 2011.

Joyce said the bill would have passed if it had not faced the union opposition. The bill got support from 26 Republicans and 22 Democrats, fewer votes than Joyce had expected from his fellow Democrats.

Fighting back tears during the lengthy debate, Rep. Suzanne Bassi, R-Palatine, called on fellow lawmakers to “search your souls” to support the measure because “we have failed these kids in the inner-city schools.”

“I’m pleading with you,” said Rep. Ken Dunkin, D-Chicago, who represents an area with four public schools where students would have been eligible for vouchers. “I’m begging you. Help me help kids in my district.”

Jay P. Greene has more here.

Blaming The Teachers Union For Our Failed Education System

Some people think I am being overly partisan when I blame the teachers union for a good part of our education failure. Well Intelligence Squared sponsored a debate in NYC on exactly that question. Greene reports, “On the union side was Randi Weingarten and two union bosses whose names are not worth remembering. On the other side was a dream team of Terry Moe, Rod Paige, and Larry Sand”. The results?

Let’s just say that the debate wasn’t close. Before the debate the audience was polled and 24% believed teacher unions were not to blame, 43% believed they were to blame, and 33% were undecided. By the end of the evening 25% believed the teacher unions were not to be blamed, 68% believed they were, and 7% remained undecided. Given the quality of the arguments made by Moe, Paige, and Sand and the lame responses from Weingarten, et al, it’s easy to see how the union side gained virtually no supporters while the union-critics won over an additional 25% of the audience.

If your interested in balanced look at this issue, I highly recommend reading the debate here (pdf) and here (click on Audio/Video to watch the debate). Jay P. Greene has more here.

Quote Of The Day

“All of this hints at the problems that plague many of the studies Ezra and others have been citing, showing marvelous results from insurance:  as I said in the beginning, uninsured are not like the rest of us.  Do I think that my risks would shoot up to match those found by the studies Ezra likes?  No I do not, and I doubt that Ezra would try to argue otherwise.  I have immense resources at my disposal, most of them non-monetary.  There are many ways in which I would like to even out those differences, but privilege cannot be transferred into someone else’s checking account.  Indeed, as libertarians are fond of pointing out, government systems can frequently end up catering to privilege even more than the private sector; check out which post codes in Britain or Canada get the best medical services, or check out the massive disparities between the educations received by the poor children in New York City public schools, and the educations received by the middle class kids whose parents lightheartedly imagine that by siphoning an excess share of the system’s resources into their little darlings, they are somehow supporting the cause of educational equality.” — Megan McArdle, responding to Ezra Klein on the studies citing the benefits of health insurance