Thursday, February 4, 2010

Sorry, we have no blogs today

Instead, read this very good post from James Kwak at on taxation and the economy:, February 4, 2010

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Europe & Why It's Kind of Fucked Up

Today reader "Adrienne" asks:

i'd be mostly interested to hear any/all thoughts you have on the EU

...and directs me to the article below.

So glad you asked, Adrienne! I have any/all thoughts on EVERYTHING.

Quit yer bitchin', Zapatero

NY Times, February 2, 2010

Ok. So Obama was supposed to go to the EU Summit meeting in May, for... um... not certain... for kicks? Because they have great museums over there? Point is, he never really said he was going, and now he's definitely not, and Prime Minister Zapatero of ¡Spain! is mighty steamed about it.

Dude. If you had a friend who lived in this crazy loft, and sometimes it was totally the best party ever over there, but normally, there was like, a fistfight, you couldn't rely on there being any cold beer, it was out of the way, and the people who lived there were always pissed about how you were dressed, and always insisted you pay for the pizza that you all agreed was a good idea to order, and this friend invited you over on a Wednesday night when you had just gotten off a 2nd shift, had homework to do, and had to get to work by 7am the next day*, would you go?

Europe didn't fucking coordinate their stimulus with us for SHIT last year, when it was crucial to do so (blame the Krauts for that one), Obama's already been there a zillion times, and there is nothing important whatsoever on the agenda for this May summit. Going is a total waste of time.

The E.U. is largely dysfunctional because they have a central bank and common currency, but they don't coordinate their fiscal policy, so when a country (like Spain, and recently, Greece) gets in trouble, they can't devalue their currency to help out: people are just up the creek. But even though they're supposed to be in a "European Union" of sorts, France and Germany and other rich countries never want to bail out the losers like Spain and Greece, etc. I guess I don't blame them, but then, what's the point of a Union? At least in this country, when Nebraska insists on getting way more budgetary dollars than it deserves or can be justified by any standard of morality, California and New York ante up. Also, we have a common minimum wage and a few other important thingies.

Normally I'm a big fan of the Europeans, and I hate the whole "Europeans are snobby and weak" mentality that fat, lazy, worthless Americans often espouse (there'd be no United States of America without the French navy, and if you dispute that, you are goddamn ignoramus and should move to Russia), but in this case, I do have to say to the Spanish (a.k.a. "The French of Italy"), "WAAAAH WAAAAH WAAAAH, shut up, crybabies."

* In case my analogy isn't obvious I'm equating the 2nd shift/homework/early work day to dealing with health care reform, bailout, stimulus, horrible economy, putting up with Republicans all the time, etc.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Fewer But Still Plenty of Children Left Behind

Blammo! It's time for more James Call: Expert.

Reader "Damian" today asks me to summarize and give commentary on the Obama admin's new education approach.

No Child Left Behind vs. Children

NY Times, January 31, 2010

Ok so like the No Child Left Behind act was kind of a "shape up or ship out" directive to all our public schools. Tough love: nice in theory, but if you're a cripple, and I take away your crutches, and command you to walk, how much success should I reasonably think you're going to have getting around? The Bush admin didn't really do shit to help schools help themselves, other than to just say, "Here's a bunch of standardized tests, pass them or your budget is cut." This pretty much applied across the board.

The Obama administration is rightly going to back off on that one-size-fits-all approach, probably eliminating the worst of the tests and holding different schools to different standards. For instance, if your school goes from God-awful to Just Fairly Bad, you'll get a nice chunk of education budget change. But if your school is Good and simply remains Good, you won't get any extra scrilla.

Sounds good, right? Rewards progress? The inherent problem is that the schools who have the resources and community support to improve themselves dramatically are already pretty good schools. They're located in good school districts. Of course those schools can improve - they're surrounded by the middle or upper class, not poverty with its attendant chronic social problems. Inner city schools and other failed institutions located in hellholes are going to struggle the hardest to improve at all. They're the ones who need the money the most, regardless of progress, really.

We'll only be able to judge this new education policy in retrospect. To me, it seems like this the big innovations are probably going to bypass a lot of schools, especially as charter schools are rewarded. I dunno, I could be wrong. The education czar, Arne Duncan, seems pretty on point. But who knows. I doubt this new policy will be any worse than Every Child Left Behind Because They Flunk Some Bullshit Standardized Test.

There is some *unqualified* good news though - admidst the so-called "spending freeze," the Education budget is going up about $40 billion dollars, over 2 years. I mean, that's peanuts compared to what the Pentagon gets, but it's better than normal. Which is kind of sad, when you think about it.

My proposal: SWAP the Pentagon and Education budgets. Especially since the value earned back on $1 in education investment tends to come to about $1.30-$1.50, over time. But then, I'm a big liberal commie fag traitor who hates America and our values.