Good news out of the Census Bureau today: Estimates that the uninsured have reached 47 million were overstated, the real number is closer to 45 million. That's two million fewer people than we though [sic] lacking coverage, which is a welcome surprise.Just the opposite in my view. There aren't actually 2 million fewer uninsured than there was before, so we haven't actually gained anything in terms of general welfare. At the same time, we've somewhat eroded the apparent urgency of the problem since the revision will strike many people vaguely like an improvement of some kind. I think I'd rather we somewhat overstate the magnitude of the problem for the time being and wait until we've solved the problem before we start making revisions of our measurements.
Monday, March 26, 2007
Relatedly, the Wii is surprisingly cool, as well as shockingly elusive given that it's been out for more than four months now.
That being said, I would have liked the article to distinguish a little more clearly between extending the school day and adding days to the school year, which are really two very different policy changes with very different purposes, costs, and complications. Very roughly, the primary merits of extending the school day have to do with increasing the amount of time kids, especially those in the lower income brackets, spend being supervised by adults. The educational benefits probably aren't that tremendous, but the sociological advantages are considerable. (Even the article acknowledges this in an off-hand sort of way, saying that "adding hours alone may not do much" "unless the time students are engaged in active learning — mastering academic subjects - is increased".)
Extending the school year, by contrast, has the potential to seriously reduce the amount of knowledge that students lose over their summer vacations - an amount that is currently the equivalent of over a year's worth of school by the time kids finish elementary school. Yes, that's right: kids waste about a school-year's worth of their lives because of poorly-planned vacation periods. (And people say I'm inconsiderate of kids' time!) Unfortunately, the article makes it sound like what most schools are doing is just tacking on another week or two to either end of the school year, which really doesn't do much to address the summer brain drain. What really needs to be happening is a rearrangement of the school year so that students don't have more than two weeks or so off at a time.
Wednesday, March 21, 2007
The U.N. recently told us something I've known since I turned vegan almost ten years ago:
The livestock sector emerges as one of the top two or three most significant contributors to the most serious environmental problems, at every scale from local to global.Yet many self-described environmentalists (who tisk dispprovingly at Hummers and buy pesticide-free apples and turn down the heater in winter) aren't giving up (or reducing) pork chops without a fight.
The comments (I stopped reading at about 113) were discouraging, largely in favor of telling vegans to stop whining and start minding their own business (because we all know that "good" progressives shut up and never tell other people what to do). But what's most annoying is when omnivores will fabricate information or turn to prejudice to justify a culturally-sanctioned action that's a major detriment to environmental sustainability. A summary of the comments:
1) Eating organic, locally-farmed meat uses less resources than eating non-local plant-based food!
This was a popular one which, coincidentally, is entirely made up. This might be an example of well-meaning progressives favoring aesthetics over substance. It's the idea behind eating a cow from a neighboring county that appeals to us; nevermind if eating meat still uses ten times the gasoline, water, and fertilizer as eating only plants. But saying that I buy local meat sounds like I'm trying! I blame Michael Pollan. Anyhow, if you're spending the extra time and money to buy only local animal products in the name of environmental stewardship, why not maximize your efforts and buy only local plant products?
2) Being vegan is too expensive.
Which explains why all the poorest nations subsist almost entirely on plant products. Okay, if as a vegan you eat exactly what omnivores eat, just with "gourmet" soy-based substitute products in place of meat and dairy, then taking the moral high ground can cost you. Not only is this dietary chicanery financially expensive, it's also boring and gross. Otherwise, vegan food is the world's cheapest. Beans, whole grains, rice, vegetables, quinoa, fruits--you can't any thriftier than that.
3) Vegan food is tasteless and gross.
My friend, you haven't experienced Millennium. Or my chocolate chip cookies, for that matter. Mmmm ... Earth Balance.
4) If I don't eat meat I get weak and sick.
Then you're doing it wrong. There's an art to getting all of your nutritional bases covered without eating other animals, and it takes practice. But it's a small price to pay if environmental sustainability is actually an important issue to you. Part of being a liberal is making sacrifices--that's what makes us better than conservatives--and it's dishonest to pat yourself on the back for sucking it up and reusing your grocery bags while simultaneously refusing to reduce your meat intake because it would be a pain in the ass.
5) I get to eat meat because vegans are preachy and annoying.
6) But some fancy-pants Berkeley researcher told me that tens of thousands of years ago the introduction of larger quantities of meat into the diet ushered in an era of profound cranial development and population growth among humans.
And this has to do with humans in 2007 how? Humans also used to poop outdoors. Live in the now! Plus Neanderthal's neighbors didn't have access to agriculture, so they had to diversify their diets in order to survive. (Prehistoric folks, for the record, also weren't consuming nonrenewable resources at alarming rates. They get a retroactive free pass from me.)
7) I totally don't eat meat ... that often! High Five!
A little defensive, aren't we Professor Lefty? But these folks have a point. In the battle against swiftly destroying the planet, every effort counts, and if giving up meat entirely isn't your game, try reducing a little (or a lot). It's like trading in your car for your bike Monday through Friday, but using the automobile when cycling isn't feasible (e.g., when you're picking up that $99 couch from IKEA). A pound of conventionally-produced meat sucks up over 2000 gallons of water (soybeans, by comparison, use fewer than 250); cut out a few quarter pounders a month and you've earned a gold star.
I don't expect everyone to throw down their forks and swear off ribs tomorrow in the name of "good" progressivism. But it's disingenuous to posture at (and congratulate yourself for) self-sacrificing efforts to conserve resources--by driving an expensive fuel-efficient car, taking shorter showers, or even buying locally-produced food--while also giving vegans a hard time for being self-righteous. There really couldn't be an easier way to reduce resource consumption than eschewing animal products. But because meat eating--moreso even than driving a car or running the AC--is so deeply ingrained in our culture as a staple, no, a RIGHT!, even the most self-congratulatory liberals will balk at the idea of taking a simple step toward practicing what they preach.
I Support The Occupation Of Iraq, But I Don't Support Our Troops:...Yes, occupying Iraq does require troops, but they are there for one reason and one reason only: to carry out the orders of the U.S. Defense Department. As far as their overall importance goes, they are no more worthy of our consideration than a box of nails. Ribbons and banners in ostensible "support" of the troops miss the whole point of the invasion, which is to gain a strategic hold over that volatile and lucrative geopolitical region....I speak from a position of personal experience when I say that, while I do not wish death for any of the troops, death tolls should not be our greatest concern. All that matters is the pursuit of the foreign-policy goals of this great land, the land I love. America.
Monday, March 19, 2007
Case in point. This is Morse v. Frederick. I wrote about this case for UCLA's Moot Court competition. I took the School's side, mostly for fun. In lieu of a long argument in favor of the school's side, let me at least show that it's far more complicated then Ms. Lithwick gives it credit for.
Then Starr says schools are charged with inculcating "habits and manners of civility" and "values of citizenship." Yes, sir. In the first six minutes of oral argument Starr has posited, without irony, a world in which students may not peaceably advocate for changes in the law, because they must be inculcated with the values of good citizenship.But the problem here is not 'peaceably advocating for changes in the law.' In fact, no one would care if this was 'peaceably advocating for changes in the law.' The problem, Starr argues, is that the student hijacked a school event to advocate for changes in the law.
In other words, if this was a case of a student assembly, and some kid ran up to the stage, grabbed the microphone, and started ranting about Jesus, you could punish him just fine. Why? Because schools do teach students that there is a time and a place for political advocacy, and that they do need to raise their hands to get called on. That much is settled law. The probably with this case is that it falls in the nasty crack between a) silently wearing a black armband (obviously fine) and b) ranting on stage during an assembly (not okay).
Chief Justice John Roberts wonders why students should be allowed to set the classroom agenda when teachers are trying to teach Shakespeare and Pythagoras. Starr says that in the Vietnam protest case, the school tried to "cast a pall of orthodoxy" by banning student protest. Whereas, he suggests—again without a whiff of irony—that students should be able to offer no dissenting opinions here because drugs, alcohol, and tobacco are bad.Aren't there pretty clear distinctions between the two types of speech? Surely there is a discernable difference between some kind of advocacy for illegal, dangerous conduct (drugs) and calling for an end to the Vietnam War. Again, bizzaro pro-pot messages fall in the nasty space between, for example, a t-shirt that says "Shoot your teachers in the head" (not okay) and a t-shirt that says "US out of Iraq" (obviously fine). The question is not that there IS a line, it's WHERE to draw it.
Whatever the decision in this case is, it will not give Educators the "limitless power" to define their educational mission this broadly. No one is arguing this. Kenneth Starr is arguing that it should be banned mostly because it's pro-drug -- with all the health and safety problems that entails -- or because it calls for arguably illegal conduct. Any other decision will overrule forty years of education case law, and Roberts has no particular motive to do that.
It's hard to imagine that the students of America will be better served by giving their educators the ultimate gateway drug: the apparently limitless power to define their "educational mission" in any way they please in order to suppress any and all student speech that doesn't conform. That kind of power strikes me as more addictive, and even more dangerous, than any drug.
Friday, March 16, 2007
Cleveland Cavaliers center Scot Pollard looked into the camera during a recent game and said, "Hey kids, do drugs." ...I dunno, I thought it was pretty funny.
"We have spoken with Scot and certainly do not condone his actions," general manager Danny Ferry said in a statement Wednesday. "He regrets his mistake, using inappropriate humor, particularly when he has always been very involved in the community, projecting positive messages to our youth. We will handle the issue internally."
Tuesday, March 13, 2007
I knew I was in the minority, but I didn't realize that cable-less Americans were so rare that the government could declare that security concerns are more important than free entertainment. (I wouldn't watch "How I Met Your Mother" if I had to pay for it, dammit!)
Analog TVs will no longer receive a signal come Feb. 19, 2009, unless users update their hardware to receive a digital signal. ...
The Department of Commerce's National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) said it is setting aside $990 million to pay for the boxes. Each home can request up to two $40 coupons for a digital-to-analog converter box, which consumer electronics makers such as RCA and LG plan to produce. Prices for the box have not been determined, but industry and consumer groups have estimated they will run $50 to $75 each. ...
"The whole digital TV transition will enable public safety responders to have more spectrum for more operability and public safety uses," said Todd Sedmak, a spokesman for the telecommunications administration. ...
But consumer groups worry that poor and middle-class families, who can't afford to spring for a new television, will get left behind in the move and that the $40 vouchers won't be enough.
"How do you get it to the people who need it?" said Mark Cooper, director of research for the Consumer Federation of America. "Has Congress set aside enough money to make sure everyone is held harmless? The answer is: probably not. Now you have a problem of certain consumers being hurt. They have a TV set that works today and won't work tomorrow and they have to spend money to make it work again."
I'm impressed (and thankful) that the government is recognizing that it's only fair to subsidize the cost of converting from analog to digital broadcasting if in fact the government is mandating that transition. I'm surprised about it, too, because I didn't think free television was considered an essential need worth being paid for by the state. Perhaps televisions can be construed as necessary because they broadcast essential safety information during emergencies. Do regulatory laws demand that the state provide coupons?
Can you think of any other reasons the federal government would be obligated to subsidize analog-to-digital TV converters?
Monday, March 12, 2007
I'm a politically involved person. So is everyone who writes for this site and so are you, probably. My personal world view consists of things like:
- The Christian right is crazier than anything on the left.
- America has the power to invade a country and drive out a specific bad leader and stop specific atrocities, but we don't have the power to bring democracy or stability if the country is inhospitable to it.
- Quote: "about zero percent of the electorate is primarily motivated by a principled opposition to state coercion"
- Liberals should not be afraid to stand up for what they believe in.
I fully admit to not being as open-minded as I would like to be. In high school, I was pro-life and vaguely anti-gay and even flirted with opposing contraception (it's an easy position for a Catholic who had never kissed a girl). All of these beliefs were reconsidered during the late 90'. Then I kind of stopped dramatically changing my positions on things. I tell myself that the facts on the ground don't warrant changing my position on X or Y, but that's just what I would think, isn't it? Now that I've identified with one side (liberal wonkosphere) there's a whole set of primal group dynamics encouraging me to stick with the others who've made the same decision.
So let's say that people form their opinions early in adulthood, group up, and then stick with those groups even if the case for those political ideas weakens. What you'd expect to see over the lifetime of a political movement is something like this:
- A set of problems mold the world-view of people with certain values. They group up and recommend certain policies.
- If they come to power, those policies gets enacted.
- The reality changes and the world-view is no longer accurate (either because the problem is solved or because their polices have proven ineffective).
- The group stops taking on new members as fewer people adopt the world-view.
- The groups fades away as members die out or find themselves unable to form political coalitions with other groups.
Kevin says conservatives would do well to ignore Fox News because it makes them complacent. I ask: Is Fox News making conservatives complacent and closed-minded or is conservative closed-mindedness and complacency making them seek out things like Fox news? Shouldn't we expect that a movement built in the 60's and 70's and which applied it's polices throughout the 80's and 90s would find it's world-view no longer appealing in the 00's? And do we really expect Republicans will change their world-view if only they stopped watching Fox News?
Granted, political movements as vast as conservatism should have some flexibility to adopt new understandings, but I suspect that those new world-views come from new recruits, not grizzled veterans. Basically, if you're the type of person who want to cocoon him/herself with Fox News, getting rid of Fox News isn't going to help you.
*The answer: earth, 1972
Sunday, March 11, 2007
I don’t quite understand why Fox News is supposed to be such an asset for Republicans. Isn’t it a liability?
After all, one of the biggest problems that Democrats faced 1992-2005 was their inability to get outside of their media cocoon – CNN/NYT/PBS, etc. It was an echo chamber! Democrats would spend a cozy two years locked in a hazy liberal bliss, then get socked in midterms or the Presidential election.
Isn’t Fox News – and its surrounding Conservative Blogosphere -- the exact same thing? And isn’t it leading to the exact same problems? Republican activist types never have to read the hated New York Times, or watch CNN, or do anything that would expose them to the larger world. And in the last midterms, the talking heads they were used to seeing on Fox and friends confidently predicted a Republican victory. Consequentially, there were no Republican vote-catching initiatives, no sense of urgency, just the same complacent cocoon we’re used to seeing on the Dem side. They never hear about any of the 70% of people who disapprove of Bush.
So if Republicans want to stick with Fox, and the
Friday, March 09, 2007
Thursday, March 08, 2007
Because the parallels between the Libby case and the Clinton thing are nearly uniform. Lets accept that there was no underlying crime in the Libby case -- as with Clinton. Lets accept that Libby was the target of a politicized investigation -- as with Clinton. Still, Republicans once said, perjury -- lying to the Rule of Law -- is enough of a violation to stick it to the man. Don't lie under oath! Don't lie to the Country! It's not hard!
They savoured that moral high ground, and why not? It's fun to be Mr. Rule of Law!
But now, when Libby does the same thing, they're willing to throw it away to secure his pardon? Why? Bush/Cheney are finished politically, and it's not like supporting them is supporting the future of the Republican Party. His conviction, unlike Clinton's hypothetical conviction, does nothing to the power of the Bush Administration. A pardon would, indeed, play into the hands of Democrats by being extra-shady. I don't see any crafty political reasons at all to support a pardon. Nor have any of the moral force arguments -- Rule of law, don't lie, etc -- changed since the late 1990s.
Indeed, the only reason for Republicans to change their position, as far as I can tell, is because it's a Republican on the block, this time around. That's it! Why give up such an attractive moral clarity -- a moral victory to savor in your own minds for decades to come -- for Scooter Libby?
Throw him to the dogs, and rejoice over the Clinton impeachment. Don't give him up, and look like hypocrites forever
Am I being fair in my description? No?
The different candidates have responded to the uproar with Edwards pulling out of the debate all together:
Edwards: NoCertain Nevada Democratic groups have also come out against it:
Obama: Decision will be made within the week
Clinton: Too early to make a decision
Dodd: They haven't decided yet
Biden: No response
WHEREAS, Fox News is not a neutral source of news - it's a right-wing mouthpiece like Rush Limbaugh that smears Democrats and spreads blatantly false information; andPersonally, I don't think Democrats should be treating Fox like a real news channel. Engagement is good, but Fox News doesn't offer that. It doesn't offer good-faith debate and consequently offers little to challenge the preconceived notions of liberals.
WHEREAS, Democrats granting Fox News the illusion of credibility would allow Fox to more easily "swiftboat" our 2008 candidates by pushing false Republican attacks into the mainstream media; and
WHEREAS, everyone supports reaching out to new people, but 1 day of Fox coverage is not worth legitimizing Fox's misinformation the other 364 days a year; and
WHEREAS, plenty of better alternatives exist to Fox News - in Nevada, MSNBC plus its NBC affiliates, for example, get approximately double the viewers of Fox cable plus its local affiliates; and
WHEREAS, we believe that Democrats need to fight back against Fox News and the right-wing smear machine in the 2008 election cycle--not enable it.
BE IT RESOLVED, the Carson City Democratic Central Committee opposes the proposal to let Fox News host a Democratic presidential debate and strongly urges the Nevada Democratic Party to drop that proposal.
Wednesday, March 07, 2007
Tuesday, March 06, 2007
In a letter this week to the board of the NAE, which claims 30 million members, Dobson and his two dozen co-signers said the Rev. Richard Cizik, the NAE's vice president for government relations, has waged a "relentless campaign" that is "dividing and demoralizing" evangelicals.Troubling to some evangelicals, including Dobson, is NAE's increased dedication to human rights and environmental responsibility because these issues are "associated it with leftists, limits on free enterprise and population control." After all, nothing says Jesus! like rampant capitalism, indiscriminant reproduction, and deregulation of industry carbon emissions.
Cizik has been a leader in efforts to broaden evangelicals' political agenda beyond abortion and same-sex marriage. He says Christians have a biblical imperative to protect the environment, which he calls "creation care."
From NAE's website, here's an example of the extremist lefty hippie pinko stuff Cizik and his ilk are trying to promote:
Attending to Human ConcernsOooh! Divisive! I guess right-wing Christians want to stick to evidence-based, controversy-squelching issues, and shy away from unproven, faction-splitting topics like global warming.
We stand committed to biblically defined family values, the sanctity of human life, and human rights. ...
NAE seeks the maximization and stewardship of all the resources God has given to us.
I'm rarely inclined to intellectually cooperate with any type of religious organization. They tend to shelter misogynist, racist, and homophobic doctrine under a roof of spiritual infallibility, and religion itself doesn't seem conducive to progressive ways of thinking. (Something about adhering to a static text as the sole moral guidance for the rest of eternity doesn't induce subversive behavior.) But if Christians (or any religious group whose principles dictate kindness to other people) can recognize that promoting life and happiness should apply to future humans as much as it does for existing humans, there could be a successful alliance between the fundamentalists and the environmentalist radicals. What could be more fundie Christian than taking action now to save the lives of children yet unborn? Fighting global warming: It's like being pro-life in the future.
Monday, March 05, 2007
The Ann Coulter/Edward's Bloggers bit forms a neat example. Both sides, acting independently, got the more extreme bits of the Edwards Campaign and the Republican Opposition neatly excised. Coulter may finally be finished on the national scene, as Conservative Bloggers call for her ouster. If you're fighting a war against Democrats, after all, you don't want such an obvious vulnerable point on your side.
Saturday, March 03, 2007
A left-wing extremist exhibits many, but not necessarily all, of the following attributes:
--believes the United States is a fundamentally negative force in the world.
--believes that American imperialism is the primary cause of Islamic radicalism.
--believes that the decision to go to war in Iraq was not an individual case of monumental stupidity, but a consequence of America’s fundamental imperialistic nature.
--tends to blame America for the failures of others—i.e. the failure of our NATO allies to fulfill their responsibilities in Afghanistan.
--doesn’t believe that capitalism, carefully regulated and progressively taxed, is the best liberal idea in human history.
--believes American society is fundamentally unfair (as opposed to having unfair aspects that need improvement).
--believes that eternal problems like crime and poverty are the primarily the fault of society.
--believes that America isn’t really a democracy.
--believes that corporations are fundamentally evil.
--believes in a corporate conspiracy that controls the world.
--is intolerant of good ideas when they come from conservative sources.
--dismissively mocks people of faith, especially those who are opposed to abortion and gay marriage.
--regularly uses harsh, vulgar, intolerant language to attack moderates or conservatives.
Is left-wing extremism worth worrying about? Discuss.
Update: Ezra Klein weighs in. He says Joe Klien is being "basically irresponsible".
Thursday, March 01, 2007
There's also a lot of talk about after-school programs, but it seems to me it makes more sense to just make the school day longer. Setting up a whole new system to put the kids through seems much less efficient than just adding a couple of hours to the already-existing school day. This seems especially obvious if the after-school programs in question keep the kids on the school site anyway. And much like extending the school year, making the school day longer would be especially beneficial for poorer students, who are less likely to be supervised at home in the afternoons. In any case, if you're going to keep the kids on campus and teach them stuff, that sounds an awfully lot like "school", and I think it makes sense to treat it that way.
I'm not all about locking kids up in schools, though. I'd be willing to make a few concessions to students, including putting less of an emphasis on homework and creating a vacation system similar to those offered to working adults. Actually, I imagine those would be the sorts of concessions parents would be looking for, too, if they weren't already pleased to have somebody looking after their kids while they're at work.