Archive for February, 2011

It’s so heartening to see spokespersons for the batshit-crazy movements come completely unglued.  (Updated with link.)  We must have been especially good recently, since we’re getting two within a week!  You know you’re rocking the house when the least insane thing you have to say is that you’re standing by your good friend, Moammar Qaddafi.

Farrakhan also said he had spent time at the Church of Scientology’s celebrity center in Los Angeles and had been impressed with the church’s method of “auditing” — a process he said was comparable to therapy.

He said the church’s founder L. Ron Hubbard had a mission to “civilize white people,” adding that Hubbard “is so exceedingly valuable to every white person on this earth.”

He warned that non-believers and the sinful would face the wrath of God through high-technology UFOs or “wheels” that he has often described in previous addresses.

When your Fearless Leader starts talking about flying saucers, it’s time to pull a Beatles and send him off the road in a car crash to be replaced by a lookalike – sure, he won’t perform quite as well as the original, but if it keeps your entire message from being destroyed…what, you don’t think that happened?

This may be where the line is drawn

Posted: February 28, 2011 by aliceaitch in Geektasticity, Random Crap

between non-nerd and nerd. (Not the pic, it’s at the link.)  I’m going to guess Ember, Alex, and Chad already have matched sets in their closets.  The only reason we don’t have a set is because they’re not here yet.

(h/t geekologie)

Real life Milton Friedman style Monopoly?

Posted: February 28, 2011 by chad98036 in Uncategorized

Updated

Last week I posted about an article in the NY Times entitled Monopoly, the Milton Friedman Way.  It was about a game of Monopoly played according to rules derived from Friedman’s monetary theories.  The relevant part read:

Prices shot up, which we all knew, even in that inebriated state, was the consequence of expanding the money supply. (After all, the great economist told us, “Inflation is always and everywhere a monetary phenomenon.”)

The inflation became so extreme that we eventually voted to alter the rules again: we’d cut the money supply. Any money we printed that came back to the bank would be taken out of circulation.

A severe depression kicked in, of course. Prices plummeted and it was a race to liquidate assets. One by one the players quickly went bankrupt, and sometime around 4 that morning the game was over.

Now according to at least one economic analyst we are on the verge of seeing this play out in real life:

A Republican plan to sharply cut federal spending this year would destroy 700,000 jobs through 2012, according to an independent economic analysis set for release Monday.

Zandi, an architect of the 2009 stimulus package who has advised both political parties, predicts that the GOP package would reduce economic growth by 0.5 percentage points this year, and by 0.2 percentage points in 2012, resulting in 700,000 fewer jobs by the end of next year.

"Significant government spending restraint is vital, but given the still halting economic recovery, it would be counterproductive for that restraint to begin until the economy is creating enough jobs to bring down the still very high unemployment rate," Zandi writes. "Shutting the government down for any length of time would also be taking a big chance with the recovery, not only because of the disruption to government services, but also due to the potential hit to the fragile collective psyche."

This is the exact lesson that I have taken from my, admittedly very limited, reading of Friedman – Deflation is worse than inflation and the way to avoid deflation is to keep the monetary supply at a steady level.  If inflation has occurred suddenly decreasing the monetary supply will cause an economic contraction.  We may be in a position to test those theories again shortly.


Update: 3/1/2011 3:00pm

Per this article on “The Hill”, Ben Bernanke disagrees with the assessment above. He estimates that the 60 to 100 billion dollars in cuts proposed by the GOP would only slow growth by .1 to .2%.

Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke says a plan from House Republicans to cut $61 billion in spending this year would not harm economic growth.

The GOP’s proposed spending cuts, passed as part of a continuing resolution, would probably reduce “growth on the margins” and lower gross domestic product by only one- or two-tenths of a percent, Bernanke told the Senate Banking Committee.

He reiterated previous statements that, while the debt and deficits are major issues for the nation, Congress needs to tackle the issue of long-term budget imbalances.

“Sixty billion won’t have much impact on the long run,” he said. “Congress needs to address the budget deficit over a 5- to 10-year window.”

Bernanke said he would like to see the nation’s structural budget deficit reduced by 2 to 3 percentage points in the next decade.

I ask that as a semi-serious question.  I believe the answer is “yes”, but need the expert advice of the Moron Nation.

Romer sets up the inflation argument as the noble “empiricists” against the damn dirty “theorists”.

Throughout Romer’s piece, she keeps referring to the relationship between inflation and unemployment.  Though she does not mention it explicitly, she seems to be referring to the Phillips curve, which I thought had been pretty –you know– empirically debunked by the observation of stagflation in the 1970s.

Now, most days I’m more of a monetarist than an Austrian, and don’t see Weimar style inflation as necessarily baked into the cake.  (As of January the M3 was still shrinking.) But  I’m not so stupid as to think that no amount of monetary promiscuity could not cause inflation so long as unemployment is high.

Romer:

For theorists, any rise in an indicator of expected or future inflation, like the recent boom in commodity prices, suggests that the Fed’s credibility is at risk. They fear that general inflation could re-emerge quickly, despite high unemployment.

[…]

The fight over quantitative easing is about the costs. The empiricists say the policy won’t cause inflation because the economy remains so weak. The theorists argue that a small gain in growth could come at the price of a rapid rise in inflation.

Are all the “theorists” really arguing this?  I never got the impression that the “theorists” were keen on the wage-inflation idea.  I think they are arguing that a shit-pile of funny money will cause inflation, and without necessarily helping employment.

My general impression of the Romer piece is that she has made two serious errors, (1) setting up a straw man, and (2) relying on the highly questionable relationship between employment and inflation.

Stupid question time

Posted: February 28, 2011 by aliceaitch in Nanny State, Stupid Question Time

If the Canadian health care system is so gosh-darned spiffy, why does a baby have to be sent to the United States for a tracheotomy?

Oh, this doesn’t have to do with quality of care, it just has to do with Canada’s socialized medical system refusing to perform an operation that would allow a baby to come home to die (after ultimately living a longer life) instead of dying in a hospital?  That makes things perfectly clear.  Because surely it’s a cost-saving measure.  I’m sure that the $1693 cost of a tracheotomy is more than the cost of keeping the kid in the ICU until he croaks.  And I’m sure the extra security the hospital is having to shell out for doesn’t cost $1693.  This would have nothing to do with “euthanizing” a wanted child, I’m sure.

This is all so perfectly clear now.  Thanks for answering my question!

Caption this

Posted: February 28, 2011 by aliceaitch in Fun With Media

You’d think a national morning show could afford someone literate to write “there” captions.

She doesn’t want to be a teacher anymore…

Posted: February 28, 2011 by chad98036 in Edumakashun

Self described great teacher thalli1 writes, at The Daily Kos, that after 34 years of selfless service he is ready to pitch the towel in.  His reasons (paraphrasing):

Because of budget cuts class sizes began to grow, and as cuts continued he was expected to clean his classroom, and do his own clerical work, as well as plan his curriculum in addition to his daily lesson plans.  Wait I thought that teachers having control of the curriculum was a good thing? He was also expected to teach kids with ADD, Autism, and limited English proficiency.  Same with mainstreaming – isn’t it a tenet of modern liberal educational thought that mainstreaming is good? Somehow he managed to suffer through those hardships and then No Child Left Behind came along,  Ah now we are getting somewhere., and people were upset that their kids weren’t learning, “it became acceptable to bash teachers, schools, and education in the media”, in the authors words, and when schools couldn’t make adequate annual yearly progress the district stepped in.

The district began to look for ways to help these building to succeed.  The focus on test scores escalated to a crazy level.  The teachers in one of the elementary buildings in my district were told they could no longer teach anything besides reading, math, and science because those were the subjects that were tested.  Our building wasn’t ever told that specifically, but it was understood that we were to focus on practices that would improve our students’ test-taking skills.

The district decided to implement required core instructional materials that were mandated to everyone.  Suddenly, the creativity of the job was being removed.  They wanted everybody to teach the same materials, the same way.  I’ve never been one to buck the system, so I began to wrack my brain for how to use these new materials and still keep the lessons interesting for my students.

At the same time, class sizes and special needs were growing.  The behavior classroom was closed and its students were mainstreamed into the regular classroom.  I tried to become an expert on dealing with anger issues.  I tried to learn how to help fifth graders with severe disabilities, limited mobility, and cognitive levels of very young children, all in my regular classroom now filled with 30-35 students.  My job became an even greater challenge than it had always been before, but still my attitude was to think “bring it on!”  I just couldn’t fathom the idea that my natural teaching ability wasn’t exactly what was needed to solve any and all challenges that came my way.

Didn’t she just complain about having to come up with a curriculum?

Maybe it’s that for the first time, our school didn’t meet AYP because two few English Language Developing students in the entire school didn’t pass their reading benchmarks.

Maybe it was the e-mail I got saying that the department of education in Oregon has raised the cut scores again this year by six or seven points per grade level, even though they just raised them a couple of years ago.  I found out that if they would have used these new cut scores last year, over half of the students in grades 3-8 who passed their benchmarks wouldn’t have passed.  That led to a realization that as a school we have very little chance of meeting our adequate yearly progress this year, but of course I’m not allowed to say that because there are no excuses. It’s hard not to feel discouraged.

and there we have it, but instead of accepting some responsibility for a broken system.  It’s easier to put the blame on everyone else.  The author has a litany of excuses, budget cuts, shortened school year, mainstreaming, etc., but what it comes down to is a system that ran without accountability, and essentially let the teachers unions have their way for years and is now systemically damaged.  In this article in the Oregonian the point is made that the unions made choices that led to the larger class sizes, furloughs and shortened school year.  Now they have to pay the price:

most comparisons put Oregon’s per-student school funding at about the national average. Other studies place the salaries, and especially, the benefits, that Oregon provides its teachers at slightly above average. Yet the state is 49th in class size and very near the bottom in the length of the school year. It’s clearly a matter of priorities, and power.

Teachers have unions. Taxpayers have anti-tax groups, the initiative and the Legislature. Students and parents have nowhere to turn except to school boards. And that’s not a fair fight. The most difficult and least-appreciated jobs in Oregon public life are seats on local school boards. There’s no money in it. No power. There’s nothing but hard choices, and too often, hard feelings with neighbors.

Yet it’s at the school board level that decisions are made in every school district, every year, that have the effect of crowding more kids into classes. In district after district this year, school boards battled teacher unions over pay raises that directly affected class size. Some school boards held the line on teacher pay increases and avoided layoffs that would have driven up class sizes. But others did not.

I think this perfectly makes the point about what Scott Walker is trying to accomplish in WI.  If the unions retain collective bargaining rights, any concessions they make today will be rolled back tomorrow.