Assorted Links 3/30/10


Virtual Choir

  • Word Workshop: Writing for Government and Business: Critical Thinking and Writing, April 15, 2010
  • Word Workshop: Writing to Persuade: Hone Your Persuasive Writing Skills, April 16, 2010
  • Media Relations for Public Affairs Professionals, May 4, 2010
  • Advanced Media Relations, May 5, 2010
  • Public Affairs and the Internet: Advanced Techniques and Strategies, May 6, 2010
  • Crisis Communications Training, May 7, 2010
  • Persuading Congress: Candid Advice for Executives – “Persuading Congress, by Joseph Gibson, is a very practical book, packed with wisdom and experience in a deceptively short and simple package.

    This book will help you understand Congress. Written from the perspective of one who has helped put a lot of bills on the president’s desk and helped stop a lot more, this book explains in everyday terms why Congress behaves as it does. Then it shows you how you can best deploy whatever resources you have to move Congress in your direction.”

  • This is not History with a capital H – “But both the Democrats and Republicans overstate the reform plan’s importance. The new law is not a major change, nor an historic achievement. It does not represent an enormous step forward, but neither is it a calamity. The reality that neither party will admit is that the reforms represent a modest change that does not address the structural problems of the healthcare system in the US.

    Key reforms in the bill include: reducing the number of uninsured by 32million by 2019; requiring people to buy insurance, while providing assistance to the lower paid; creating ‘exchanges’ where people can buy insurance from an array of private providers; requiring insurance companies to accept applicants with pre-existing conditions and not allowing them to drop people who develop conditions; and introducing certain cost-cutting measures. The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimates that the reforms will cost the federal government an additional $938 billion over 10 years. However, these costs are to be covered by tax increases and cuts in the growth in Medicare (government-provided healthcare to older people), and the CBO estimates that the health-spending deficit will actually decline by $143 billion in the next 10 years.

    Of course, the new law is significant, and it does contain enhancements. Changes such as having more people covered by insurance, and regulating insurance companies’ ability to deny coverage, are genuine improvements and will make a difference to many people’s lives. But in the context of the scale of the problems with healthcare in America, the reforms are conservative and minor. As Obama himself has said, this reform package is very similar to the one championed by the Republicans in 1993 in opposition to the Clinton proposals, which themselves were not all that radical.

    Once implemented (and many of the reforms will not be phased in for years to come), the reforms in the new plan will still leave the US with a system that is, in many respects, inferior to those operated in other countries. For a start, the law will not, as proponents claim, introduce universal coverage: 23million will remain without insurance. Furthermore, it will not address the inefficiencies that have meant that US healthcare is very high-cost for worse or no-better care than in other countries. Private health insurance premiums have risen about 4.5 times more than inflation over the past decade, and the new plan will not necessarily control these costs. The package will also not change the inherently flawed system of reimbursements that pays doctors for quantities of tests and other services, which is a key source of inefficiency, and thus the costs of care are likely to keep rising.
    . . .
    Only those with low expectations could conclude that these reforms constitute a major overhaul that solves most or all of the system’s flaws. Unfortunately, such low expectations are all-too commonly found today. We need to raise our horizons and expect more if we are to see what is really going on.”

  • The Republican Health Care Failure – “Instead, we have allowed the left to define the problem as exclusively one of access — of the nearly 50 million without insurance dying in the streets (of course, we don’t talk about that number anymore because nearly a third of that number are illegal immigrants, an issue Obamacare studiously avoids).
    . . .
    Imagine if instead of the Medicare Part D entitlement, the Bush administration had moved a smart, substantive health care bill that addressed cost as the key to unlocking access, making health plans dramatically more affordable, addressing medical liability, and moving away from employer-based plans by giving any group — whether an employer or not — the ability to organize their own health insurance pools?
    . . .
    This may be oversimplified. There are certainly many very good conservative health care scholars whose work I should have been reading more closely these last few years. But politics is a battle of perceptions, and the perception — that became reality — was that Republicans brought a knife to a gun fight when it came a debate about the scope and reach of health care reform. We may have won the political battle over health care, in that a majority of Americans opposed Obamacare, but sometimes it is the policy battles that set the tone for the future political battleground, moving the entire spectrum on which they are fought further left.”
  • Resisting ObamaCare, Gandhi Style – “It is hardly surprising then that Americans are feeling a growing panic as they watch their constitutional republic descend into a banana republic. President Obama is fond of quoting Mahatma Gandhi’s line that ‘we should be the change we want to see.’ But Gandhi also said that ‘civil disobedience becomes a sacred duty when the state has become lawless and corrupt.’ Americans instinctively understand this which is why pockets of resistance to ObamaCare are already emerging. The question is only whether they can be constructively harnessed into a grassroots, Gandhi-style civil disobedience movement powerful enough to undo this monstrosity.
    . . .
    But the lawsuits that have a shot at sticking in court are the ones that various attorney generals around the country are preparing under the Constitution’s commerce clause. This clause gives the federal government expansive powers to regulate interstate commercial activity. But it has never before been invoked to force Americans to purchase a product as a condition of lawful residence in this country. This crosses a line that might well make five Supreme Court justices balk.

    Any strategy of nonviolent civil resistance has to first make a good faith effort to achieve its end through the available political and legal means. But there comes a time when changing the law requires acts of conscience.”

  • Poachers Turned Gamekeepers – “Like Felix, I agree with David that ‘dumb regulation’–or, in less pejorative language, simple and relatively inflexible regulation–is far more likely to do the trick than the kind of complex, encyclopedic, tick-all-the-boxes regulation exemplified by the bloated pig currently wending its way through the legislative python in Congress. But I also agree with Felix (and, so it would seem, with David) that simple regulation will only work if it is overseen, enforced, and modified as necessary by extremely intelligent and motivated regulators.
    . . .
    Now Dick Fuld, at least in his prime, was a forceful and scary man. It takes a certain kind of personality to tell such a man to go fuck himself to his face. Fortunately, we just happen to have a substantial supply of brass-balled, take-no-prisoners, kill-’em-all-and-let-God-sort-’em-out people ready to hand. By happy coincidence, these individuals also happen to be intimately familiar with the ins and outs of the global financial system, the nature and construction of the myriad securities and engineered products polluting financial markets, and the numberless tricks and stratagems large financial institutions use to end-run rules and regulations designed to keep them in check.

    These people are called investment bankers.

    . . .
    While individually expensive, I don’t believe you would need to hire many such people to make this kind of regulatory regime work. Given that you really only need high-powered regulators for the very biggest institutions, I am guessing you could get away with fewer than 100 to start. In fact, it might be less, because you really only need these people to direct and train their junior staff, and to interface directly with senior executives of the regulated entities. Fully loaded, I imagine you could fund a financial regulatory SWAT team like this for less than $150 million per year. That’s a drop in the bucket compared to the financial losses these supposedly regulated institutions have already inflicted on the American taxpayer, not to mention in comparison with the normal run rate of your average stodgy, inefficient, and ineffective government bureaucracy.”

  • Why Its Good to Own the Ratings Agencies (Or At Least to Have the Same Owner) – “Dean Baker speaks to the issue of the US and its AAA rating.

    I had considered that the Ratings Agencies might become instruments of national policy, implicated as they are in numerous scandals and misbehaviour. If you don’t do the time, then you must have turned cooperative and informant in at least a soft and accommodating way.

    But I had never considered this particular angle. Now there is room for doubt that they might serve the will of the US government, but there should be no doubt, given their recent history, that they are all too often willing to say and do whatever pleases Wall Street.”

  • MPs cash-for-influence: the inside story: The exclusive story behind the MPs cash-for-lobbying sting, revealed by the journalist who uncovered Westminster’s double-dealing – “They say that after the expenses scandal, the reputation of MPs sunk lower than that of estate agents. It’s anybody’s guess, then, where their reputation stands after this week’s cash for influence affair. However, after falling so spectacularly for a simple undercover television sting, it is perhaps the intelligence of such politicians that is now more in question. Why did people who are supposed to possess the intelligence to run our country not have the intelligence to see through such a thin spoof?

    I produced and directed the Dispatches programme Politicians for Hire, which revealed senior politicians, including former cabinet ministers Stephen Byers, Geoff Hoon and Patricia Hewitt, offering their lobbying services in return for cash. Looking through the many hours of footage, the question that I asked myself continually was how people who helped run this country for many years could have even turned up for those interviews, let alone said what they did.

    Stephen Byers was the first person to be interviewed in our sting, in which we set up a fictitious company called Anderson Perry, backed by a website full of management consultant jargon and fairly crass one liners. (Our offices were theoretically in smart St James’s although the meeting rooms there were only hired by the hour.) When he first responded to the unsolicited call from Anderson Perry, Byers was in the middle east. He was one of nearly 20 politicians who were approached about a month ago. Not one of them put the phone down. That was startling enough; and a course of action that Alistair Darling said this week should have been de rigueur.
    . . .
    Why, I wondered, would any serving MP or peer, in light of the expenses scandal, want to respond to an unsolicited call from a lobbying company they had never heard of, representing anonymous clients? I once made an undercover film about Chelsea football hooligans and it was far more difficult to fool them than it was to open up the heart of Westminster. Anderson Perry’s so-called lobbyist didn’t even claim to be an expert in public affairs, but somebody who previously worked only in PR. Rather than question her credentials to be running the London branch of a big US public affairs firm, some of the MPs merely congratulated her on her big break.
    . .
    The more I watched and listened, the more it seemed reasonable to conclude that our candidates had fallen out of love with politics—and with party politics in particular. Stephen Byers was apparently no longer a “tribal animal”; Geoff Hoon insisted that defence matters in particular were party neutral; Conservative MP Sir John Butterfill claimed easy access to both main parties. In their attempts to show off their access to all areas, they painted an image of Westminster as one big club where the members just pretend to be different for the public’s sake.” Duh

  • Housing’s Big “Shadow”: Up to 10M More Homes Could Be for Sale, Zillow.com Says – “Humphries doesn’t expect anywhere near 10 million more homes to come on the market in the near term. But this ‘pent-up supply’ combined with foreclosures already in the pipeline and those yet to come because of negative equity and job losses means it will take three-to-five years ‘before we see more normal appreciation rates return to the market,’ the economist predicts.” three-to-five years
  • Peter Schiff: ‘Very good reason’ to believe home prices will collapse – “By transferring more underwater mortgage balances onto the public books, the plan puts taxpayers on the hook for further losses if housing prices continue to fall. Given the massive support for real estate already afforded by record-low interest rates and massive federal tax and policy incentives, there are very good reasons to believe that home prices will indeed collapse when these crutches are removed. Recent spikes in long-term interest rates warn of this prospect.

    If the Administration had allowed losses to fall where they rightfully belong, namely on those who foolishly loaded up on toxic mortgage bonds, then the housing market would have already found its true clearing level. Instead, every measure is working to prolong and delay the ultimate reckoning, while setting up taxpayers as the patsy. Given the horrendous government deficit projections for the next several years, any losses incurred by the government mortgage portfolio may add a critical stress on America’s fiscal viability.”

  • Guest Post: Grading Alan Greenspan – “Alan Greenspan’s self-serving “The Crisis,” a 66-page white paper outlining exactly why no part of the extant global financial/liquidity/credit/solvency/deleveraging crisis was the fault of the Federal Reserve whose board he chaired for 18 year or anyone or any other entity for that matter, contains among the many exculpatory assertions, a fascinating, if not stupefying, revelation that, in setting capital adequacy levels, reserves and leverage limits, policymakers:
    br>
    …have chosen capital standards that by any stretch of the imagination cannot protect against all potential adverse loss outcomes.
    . . .
    OK, so it’s only the second draft of his term paper — maybe he’ll revise the final publication to attribute at least some culpability, but don’t count on it. Right now, I give it a ‘D+.'”

  • In Trust Funds We Trust – “While the trust fund has a positive balance, the Social Security Administration has the statutory authority to redeem their bonds and pay out the current level of benefits; it would take an affirmative act of Congress to reduce the level of benefits (and that won’t happen).

    However, once the trust fund is depleted, Social Security can not, by law, pay out more than it takes in. If Congress declines to act at that later date then Social Security will limp along as a true ‘pay as you go’ transfer mechanism at some level of benefits lower than ‘promised’.”

  • Surprising Inability To Think Clearly About Privatization; Teachers Unions, The Child Molester’s Best Friend – “Eric has it correct. People should get paid what the free market is willing to pay. No more no less. This inevitably brings up ridiculous comments about bank bailouts and CEO pay. Well in a free market banks would not have been bailed out, and in a free market interest rates would be set by the market, not by a group of clowns acting on behalf of the already wealthy.

    A free market and corporate fascism are not the same thing. No one has railed against bailouts more than I.
    . . .
    Good grief indeed. Public unions are a problem everywhere. That is a simple statement of fact. Unions prevent dismissal of inept workers, base pay on seniority rather than skills, and in general public union pay and benefits far exceeds that of the private sector. It is virtually impossible to get rid of horrendous teachers if they have tenure.

    It is a statement of fact, not conjecture that public unions have bankrupt cities, counties, municipalities and states.”

  • Egalitarianism Is Nice, But When It’s Your Kid – “A cultural conservative is a liberal with a teenage daughter. Sometimes the education begins earlier.”
  • The Lie of the Liberal Arts Education – “It is an Orwellian world in which we live when fucking novelists want to distance themselves from those who criticize the government.
    . . .
    And yet here we have an example of a novelist — a person trafficking in the most personal of ideas and expressions — demanding a form of political censorship that, when it is reversed, and the object of derision is, say, a black-faced Joe Lieberman or Michael Steele, doesn’t demand the same kind of cultural white washing.

    Perhaps his next book of writing exercises should include a chapter on ‘banned topics.’ Just to be on the safe side.

    Shame on Brian Kiteley. I mean, if a novelist is so bothered by pointed speech that he’d support political censorship, is it really any wonder that our institutions of higher learning have become cauldrons of conformity and anti-intellectual groupthink — or that students leave them with a healthy fear of ever giving offense?
    . . .
    But at least I don’t pretend to champion creative expression and individuality of thought, then turn around and agitate for the silencing of speech I don’t like.

    I’d rather make my living, such as it as, as an indigent jerk than as a tenured hypocrite growing fat off platitudes about free speech that I don’t actually believe.
    . . .
    Kiteley’s pretense of ‘alarm’ leads me to believe that it isn’t ME he is worried about; rather, he seems alarmed by the possibility of some of his fellow travelers seeing his name on my site and not being able to make important intellectual distinctions. And he wouldn’t want them questioning his ideological bona fides and purity.

    The irony is rich, if you know where to dig.”

  • Harsanyi: Masters of distraction – “For those grappling with history, here’s what a ‘mob’ looks like: furious citizens raiding the Bastille, stabbing and decapitating its governor, Marquis Bernard de Launay, and placing his head on a pike to parade around Paris streets to cheering crowds.

    Or, to put it in more contemporary terms, think anti-capitalist, stone-throwing, Starbucks-hating, economic-justice thugs. Or perhaps radical environmentalists who burn down housing projects and research facilities for Mother Earth. For a domestic terrorist, you won’t need to go farther than your local Chicago university to spot a Weatherman — sorry, Weatherperson.

    And one would think that with all the threats politicians get every year, they would be more serious about whom they accuse.”

  • “People bad at math demand chance to heckle people good at math” – “In letters sent late Saturday night, Representative Henry Waxman called on the chief executive officers of AT&T Inc., Verizon Communications Inc., Caterpillar Inc. and Deere & Co. to provide evidence to support costs they said will result from the recently passed health-care reform bill.

    Waxman has also requested access to the companies’ internal documents, which one committee Republican says is ‘an attempt to intimidate and silence opponents of the Democrats’ flawed health-care reform legislation.'”

  • The Plight of the Unskilled College Grad – “I am just beginning to explore the issue of sorting out the economic value of college at the margin, rather than on average. One aspect of this is to distinguish between college graduates with skills and college graduates without skills, with the further distinction between private sector and public sector employment. I suspect that the average salaries of college graduates are boosted by those of skilled college graduates (engineers) and public-sector-employed college graduates (teachers). I wonder what the average salary looks like in the private sector for the unskilled college graduates (communications majors, majors with the word ‘studies’ in them, etc.).”
  • Not Hiring (In California) – “David DeWalt, who heads McAfee, is very intentionally not hiring new staff in the Golden State. Even worse for California, the company a while ago transferred entire departments elsewhere. Is McAfee based in California? Kind of. Only 14%, or roughly 900, of McAfee’s 6,500 employees are left in Silicon Valley.

    This is a cost-saving measure. McAfee ranks Silicon Valley fourth with the dubious distinction of most expensive places to do business, behind Russia, Japan and London. That’s kind of shocking. Mountain View, Calif. sure ain’t Tokyo in any sense.

    DeWalt figures he can save 30 to 40% every time he hires outside of California. And that’s roughly the premium he has to pay in the form of a moving bonus to get someone to relocate to California. Sunshine, pretty hills and nice beaches aren’t enough? Apparently not.”

  • A Response to the New York Times – “The New York Times on March 25 accused Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, now Pope Benedict XVI, of intervening to prevent a priest, Father Lawrence Murphy, from facing penalties for cases of sexual abuse of minors.

    The story is false. It is unsupported by its own documentation. Indeed, it gives every indication of being part of a coordinated campaign against Pope Benedict, rather than responsible journalism.”


Extend the Life of Your Razor Blades with Your Forearm

  • Avoid the Audit: Six Red Flags That’ll Put You in Tax Purgatory – “I don’t know why, but the idea of doing taxes terrifies me. All those forms requiring detailed numbers and asking questions I don’t quite understand–there’s so much room for error! The consequences of messing up are even more intimidating. I’ve never been audited by the IRS (knock on wood), but I can imagine it’s a nerve-wracking process. However, even crossing all my Ts and double-checking my math doesn’t guarantee an audit-free year. As a tax novice, I decided to read up on the matter, and now that I’ve done some homework, it’s clear that a few factors make the IRS more likely to pay extra attention to your tax papers.”
  • How to get $30,000 Worth of Expert Advice for Less Than $20 – “Companies pay authors and experts $25,000+ to give an hour and a half keynote speech that only provides a surface-level overview of their topic. For less than $20, you get that expert in your living room for the weekend. You get that expert in your car during your commute for the next month.”
  • Kids With Preexisting Conditions Still Not Covered Until 2014 – “I think Mr. [Timothy Jost of the Institute for America’s Future] understood the Senate bill perfectly well, even if Barack Obama did not.”
  • Wheat Ridge High School Class of 1970 – “The reonion committee is working away planning the 40th reunion the weekend of August 13-15, 2010. Wheat Ridge, Colorado WRHS1970.com”
  • Common Market Food Co-op – “Common Market Food Co-op was a ‘new wave food co-op’ located at 1329 California Street in Denver, Colorado, from 1975 – 1980. It started as a buying club at the University of Denver in the early 1970s, and for a few years prior to moving to the old Safeway at 13th and California Streets, Common Market operated out of a small storefront on Champa Street.”
  • The Scent of Weakness – “Many people are persuaded by cult artifices into any sort of behavior, including ritual suicide and murder. It’s crucial to understand that many suicide-murders are part of a religious ceremony. The attack is the climax of the ceremony. This is neither complicated, nor subtle.

    Suicide murders are merely a small fraction of cult behaviors. Cults often do not revolve around religions. Communist cadres once fanned across the globe, teaching that capitalism must die on a global scale for communism to reach its imagined grandeur. Yet even as communist countries have failed across the world, true believers intoned the conviction that ‘real communism’ had never been tried, and if it were, it would fulfill its promises. This ‘willing suspension of disbelief’ demonstrates an important aspect often organic to cults: when cult prophecies are proven wrong, we might expect the cult to disintegrate in face of the evidence. Yet instead of disintegrating, powerful cults often refortify, strengthen, and redouble recruitment. Failure can cause them to grow.

    Some cult leaders are true believers while others are true deceivers. From the outside, cults often can be easy to spot, though the hardest cult to see is the one you are in.
    . . .
    Al Qaeda in Iraq was partially but significantly undone by overuse of suicide attackers. The Taliban is marching down the same path, but top-tier Taliban are smarter than al Qaeda and are trying to avert backlash.
    . . .
    The Taliban’s efforts at repackaging themselves as kinder, gentler mass-murderers is failing. Their suicide bombing campaign is backfiring. The Taliban are losing their cool. Something is in the air. The enemy remains very deadly, yet the scent of their weakness is growing stronger while our people close in.”

  • Pot Farmers Against Pot Legalization or, Life Becomes a Reason.tv Video – “Legalizing any product will almost certainly reduce its price, even if you factor in a heavy vice or excise tax which will be attached to legal weed. And it will definitely encourage more people to start growing and selling pot, increasing supply and, ceteris paribus, driving down prices. So we can all understand why pot growers might be nervous at the prospect of legalization. And hopefully they can understand why their fears about competition are no more compelling than those of any producer in a free-market economy.”
  • The 7-year-old special ed aide – “Miss Brave is trying to teach 28 second graders in a New York City school, including Julio, who belongs in a small special ed class. Easily frustrated, Julio responds by ‘pounding on his desk and punching himself in the head.’ Teaching without an aide, Miss Brave asked her most responsible student to be Julio’s ‘buddy’ and now thinks: I’ve turned a seven-year-old girl into a ‘para’ (teacher’s aide). How fair is that?”
  • Parents’ Choice: Save For College Or Retirement? – “Often, new parents’ first instinct is to start socking away college dollars. After all, they want the best for their children and, chronologically, college comes first. ‘People say, ‘My son was just born. I want to start a 529 (state college savings) plan.’ It’s so emotional. They want to do something for their kids,” observes a 50-something dad who is about to send his oldest off to college and has advised new parents at the forum Bogleheads.org. He adds: ‘I ask them ‘What are you doing now?’ and they say, ‘We’re saving $2,000 in a 401(k) and $2,000 in one of those 529s.’ If all they can save is $4,000 a year, they should put it all in retirement.”
    . . .
    That leads Russell, Pa.-based college funding consultant Troy Onink, president of Stratagee.com, to suggest the following sequence: Parents should save heavily for retirement before the kids are college age, cut back on retirement contributions while they’re paying tuition bills, and then, when the kids are through school, redirect all the income they were sinking annually into tuition back into retirement savings.”


Video: Best used car classified ad ever?

  • TV Poltergeist Helps With Your April Fool’s Pranks – “We’ve all seen the TV-B-Gone, which can be funny for a minute or two. However, it requires user input, which will no doubt get you caught. This year might I suggest trying the TV Poltergeist. Hide this little guy anywhere in the living room (just make sure the LED can be pointed at the TV) and turn it on. Every 5 to 20 minutes the TV will be turned on or off. It will continue to do this until either the batteries die or it is manually turned off. If you can hide it well enough, this prank can last for days! Sounds like $13 well spent to me.”
  • 5 ways the iPhone beats the Nexus One – “Despite my recent post about the Nexus One being a better phone than the iPhone, there are several things that the iPhone does better than Android. Here’s my short list:
    . . .
    So there you have, life isn’t perfect in Android-ville. The iPhone definitely has its pluses, but at the end of the day the Nexus One is still a better smartphone.”
  • Lady Gaga Is Probably Not An Illuminati Shill – “Conspiracy theorists have seized on Lady Gaga’s latest music video, ‘Telephone,’ as evidence that she’s a mind-controlled agent of the CIA. If that sounds like a stretch, consider that VigilantCitizen.com has raked in over 1,300 comments on its conspiratorial analysis of ‘Telephone.’ Hundreds of thousands of people have likely read it, and perhaps many believed.”

    Whew! I know I can sleep better tonight!

  • A University With No Students? – “A story in the March/April issue of the Washington Monthly about the demise last year, after its accreditation was pulled, of the financially and academically troubled Southeastern University in Washington, D.C., hit close to home. My home, actually, because I live just four blocks away from Southeastern’s decrepit single-building campus in Washington’s sleepy Southwest quadrant adjacent to the Potomac waterfront. A university calling itself ‘Southeastern’ that’s really in Southwest Washington? That’s part’s of the mystery of Southeastern, founded in 1879 by the YMCA as a night school for working adults but somehow self-transformed into a ‘university’ worthy of membership in the Middle States Association of Colleges and Schools, the same organization whose Commission on Higher Education accredits Princeton and Johns Hopkins. Middle States had granted accreditation to Southeastern in 1977, and the university hung on for 32 years, until Middle States pulled the plug in March 2009, effectively killing the school.
    . . .
    Then along came the 1960s and 1970s, during which the federal government got into the business of subsidizing post-secondary education on a massive scale via loan programs and Pell grants for students. In order to qualify for the government aid, students must attend a school accredited by a regional or national accrediting organization–and so Southeastern, like hundreds of other former vocational and trade schools around the country (some of them nonprofit like Southeastern, many others not), scrambled to turn itself into a ‘real’ university in order to win the coveted accreditation and tap into the spigot of aid dollars that accreditation promised. That was when Southeastern’s troubles began. In the old days the discipline of the market would have forced a lousy school that cheated its students to close its doors in short order. Under the current system, in which taxpayers, not students, underwrite much of the cost of post-secondary education, such schools can limp along for decades on the government dole as long as they remain accredited, often wreaking financial havoc on the hapless young people who sign up for their useless courses and attendant debt loads.
    . . .
    The real problem isn’t so much the accrediting bodies so much as the fact that we have allowed federal student aid to become the chief financial underwriter of higher education. This faucet of federal funding has led to all sorts of perverse results: jacked-up tuitions, bloated administrations, grandiose campus building projects–and gross failures such as Southeastern.”
  • Texas: Small Town Speed Traps Rake In Millions – “The top forty speed traps in the state of Texas raked in a total of $178,367,093 in speeding ticket revenue between 2000 and 2008 despite having a combined population of less than 56,000 residents. Motorist Aren Cambre collected ticket issuance data from the state’s Office of Court Administration to identify which towns generated the most revenue per capita from speeding tickets.

    Cambre said ‘intellectual curiosity’ drove him to analyze the records. He found that the town of Westlake issued an average of 38 tickets worth $4696 each year for every resident. The small community contracted with the Keller Police Department to have traffic units stake out Highway 114 to issue a high volume of tickets to drivers passing through the small town. Keller Police Chief Mark Hafner defended the ticketing practices as essential to reducing fatalities on that freeway.”

  • So Where is the Nexus One, Verizon? – “As a long time Verizon customer I was ecstatic to hear that the Nexus One would appear for the Verizon network this week. I have played with the Nexus One and it is one sweet smartphone. The BlackBerry Storm is getting long in the tooth and the Nexus One would be an awfully good replacement for it.

    I must have hit the Google site dozens of times this week and I still find the lousy message that it is ‘coming soon.’ Google and Verizon are still sending those who click the link to the Droid web page. Come one, where is the Nexus One, Verizon?”

  • Images, Analogies, and Cooties – “In a comment, Mishu linked to ‘The Lie of a Liberal Arts Education.’ Jeff Goldstein, on Protein Wisdom, tells us he’d posted a political cartoon and one of his old mentors had e-mailed him, asking that the blogger take his name from the list of old teachers. That we are responsible for those who have studied under us would make neither my raft of old teachers very happy nor me about many of my students.”
  • 9 Reasons Why Google Apps is “Telework in a Box” – “I’ve recently been thinking about how Google Voice, Google Wave and Google Buzz joining the full Google Apps lineup would make it a budget-friendly teleworking platform. Organizations can now literally purchase themselves a ‘telework in a box’ solution — a complete office productivity software, communications and collaboration package — with little or no requirement for support from their own technical staff.

    Here are some reasons why Google Apps might be your organization’s ideal telework platform:”

  • Starting Your Career Right: Finding a Great Mentor in College – “At the same time, though, I interacted with a lot of professors, advisors, and others who didn’t seem to click with me at all. They provided very little help along the way. Often, it was clear that they were just telling me things to get me out of their way. Sadly, I found that most college students tend to wind up with a negative perspective of professors and advisors in general because of these experiences.

    How does one separate the wheat from the chaff? How can a college student find a good mentor that can help him or her on the path to a good career — and avoid the ones that provide little or no help? Here’s the game plan for doing just that.”

  • A Father-Daughter Bond, Page by Page – “When Jim Brozina’s older daughter, Kathy, was in fourth grade, he was reading Beverly Cleary’s ‘Dear Mr. Henshaw’ to her at bedtime, when she announced she’d had enough. ‘She said, ‘Dad, that’s it, I’ll take over from here,’’ Mr. Brozina recalled. ‘I was, ‘Oh no.’ I didn’t want to stop. We really never got back to reading together after that.’

    Mr. Brozina, a single father and an elementary school librarian who reads aloud for a living, did not want the same thing to happen with his younger daughter, Kristen. So when she hit fourth grade, he proposed The Streak: to see if they could read together for 100 straight bedtimes without missing once. They were both big fans of L. Frank Baum’s Oz books, and on Nov. 11, 1997, started The Streak with ‘The Tin Woodman of Oz.'”

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