Saturday, January 28, 2006

School Choice?

Well isn't this interesting:

WASHINGTON, Jan. 27 — A large-scale government-financed study has concluded that when it comes to math, students in regular public schools do as well as or significantly better than comparable students in private schools.

The study, by Christopher Lubienski and Sarah Theule Lubienski, of the University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana, compared fourth- and eighth-grade math scores of more than 340,000 students in 13,000 regular public, charter and private schools on the 2003 National Assessment of Educational Progress. The 2003 test was given
to 10 times more students than any previous test, giving researchers a trove of new data.

Though private school students have long scored higher on the national assessment, commonly referred to as "the nation's report card," the new study used advanced statistical techniques to adjust for the effects of income, school and home circumstances. The researchers said they compared math scores, not reading ones, because math was considered a clearer measure of a school's overall effectiveness.

The study found that while the raw scores of fourth graders in Roman Catholic schools, for example, were 14.3 points higher than those in public schools, when adjustments were made for student backgrounds, those in Catholic schools scored 3.4 points lower than those in public schools.

A spokeswoman for the National Catholic Education Association did not respond to requests for comment.

This is why I have always said the rush for school vouchers is a bit a a scam. The primary thing that makes private schools "better" than public ones is who attends private schools. Private schools don't contain any kind of magic. They just contain wealthier, more stable students, and fewer of them -- all of which would change if vouchers were made a widespread educational "improvement" tactic.

Friday, January 27, 2006

Poll Positions

Several major polls out in the last couple of days. Let me pull together some highlights:

Bush: still not popular, tarred with ethics problems
Job approval: 42% (one year ago: 49%) - NYT/CBS
46% (52%) - WP/ABC
43% (51%) - Gallup/CNN/USA Today
41% (50%) - Fox

Country's on the right track: 32% (39%) - NYT/CBS

Disapprove of the way that Bush is handling ethics in government: 56%, up 7 percentage points in the past five weeks. - WP/ABC

Honest and trustworthy: 49% (Jan 2005: 56%) - CNN/Gallup
Strong and decisive: 51% (61%) - CNN/Gallup
Shares your values: 44% (Apr 2005: 55%) - CNN Gallup
Clear plan for solving country's problems 34% (Feb 2005: 42%) - CNN/Gallup
Uniter/divider 41%/51% (Jan 2005: 49%/49%) - CNN/Gallup
Presidency to-date a success 46% (Clinton comparable: 70%, Bush just before 9/11: 56%) - CNN/Gallup

Congress: GOP tanking, tarred by Bush; Dems doing fine
Unfavorable: 61%, the highest in 10 years. - NYT/CBS
Republican Party unfavorable: 51%, worst since Bush took office. - NYT/CBS
Democrats favorable: 53% - NYT/CBS
Generic D/R: 43%/34% (2002 comparable: 39% 37%) - NYT/CBS
Will vote for if opposes Bush: 51% (Clinton April 98: 41%) - CNN/Gallup

Surveillance of Americans: Split on whether it's proper, much trust of the government:
Approve of eavesdropping without a warrant: 46% - NYT/CBS
Approve of eavesdropping without warrant "in order to reduce the threat of terrorism": 53% - NYT/CBS
Acceptable "in investigating terrorism": 51% - WP/ABC

"Government" won't go far enough with laws/will go too far taking civil iberties: 40%/48% - NYT/CBS
"Bush" wont do enough/will go too far: 48%/44% - WP/ABC
Wiretapping is "ONLY to fight terrorism"/to expand the presidency: 61%/29% - NYT/CBS
Trust gov. a great deal/fair amount to surveill the right people: 58% - NYT/CBS

Abramoff: Corruption is widespread -- but especially among Republicans
Corruption is widespread: 58% - WP/NYT
Bush should disclose contacts between aides and Abramoff: 76% Two in three Republicans joined with eight in 10 Democrats and political independents in favoring disclosure. - WP/NYT

More likely to take bribes R/D: 28%/13% - NYT/CBS
Better at standing up to lobbyists and special interest groups R/D: 27%/46% (year ago: 34%/42%) - WP
Better with corruption D/R: 40%/31% - CNN/Gallup

Iraq War: Split whether it was right, what to do now, unsure if it made us safer
Right/wrong to invade 47%/50% (Jan 2005: 45%/49%) - NYT/CBS
Going well: 45% (41%) - NYT/CBS
Stay as long as it takes/get out ASAP: 50%/45% (Jan. 2005: 51%/42%) - NYT/CBS
Made us safer: 39% - NYT/CBS
Not worth it: 55% - WP/ABC

Thursday, January 26, 2006

Ken Blackwell In Full Effect, Again!

Boy, he really gets around. After running flawless elections in Ohio and Iraq, Ken Blackwell apparently is setting things up in Haiti, too.

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti, Jan 25 (Reuters) - Haiti's election authorities have decided not to put voting stations inside the nation's largest slum, drawing accusations they are discriminating against the troubled nation's poorest citizens.

The teeming Cite Soleil slum, with between 300,000 and 600,000 residents, and other shantytowns in the capital were the bedrock of support for former president Jean-Bertrand Aristide, who was ousted in February 2004 after an armed revolt.

They may now be a significant source of support for front-runner Rene Preval, an Aristide protege who served as president from 1996 to 2001, as the Caribbean country staggers toward a new presidential election on Feb. 7.

The ability of slum residents -- who complained of being disenfranchised by Aristide's ouster nearly two years ago -- to vote in the presidential and legislative elections has become an important issue, with critics denouncing what they see as an absence of voting stations near poor areas.

On Chris Matthews

Atrios wonders, and rightly so, what's up with MSNBC's Chris Matthews' relentlessly big-upping Tom DeLay.

Actually, it's not just DeLay. When you think about it, Matthews seems to have an almost school-girl-meets-teen-idol type of relationship with several prominant Republican elected officials.

  • His 'aren't you really just a regular guy?' interview with DeLay was humiliating -- for Matthews.
  • His starry-eyed depiction of the faux majesty of George W. Bush borders on the erotic, while his 'everybody likes Bush' nonsense betrays an embarassing estrangement from reality.
  • I was sure that at some point during his pre-recall election interview of Arnold Schwarzenegger, Matthews was going to whip out a pen and ask for Arnold's autograph.

Meanwhile, his contempt for prominent Democrats like the Clintons, Al Gore, John Kerry, and Nancy Pelosi -- to say nothing of the Republicans' favorite liberal hobgoblin Michael Moore -- is so palpable my TV screen warps every time Matthews positions himself to take a gratuitous swipe at one of them.

I'm no professional psychotherapist, but what I see here is a little kid who yearns to be buddies with the local bully -- the yapping little puppy sidekick to the proverbial ornery bulldog. Bush, DeLay, Arnold: they represent the kicking ass-for-the-sake-of-kicking-ass wing of elected officaldom, and I think that's what turns him on now. He probably got scarred by his time working for Jimmy Carter, taking away the lesson that the only true virtue in politics is the raw exercise of power. If Kerry were president, Matthews would be cutting him up daily, no matter how good a job Kerry were doing, because Kerry lacks the rock-star quality and the heartlessness needed for the pointless pummeling Matthews becomes orgasmic over.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

The Long Arm of Jim Crow

Every once in a while the New York Times editorial page will highlight some dirty stuff that would never see the light of day otherwise. This is one of those times:

Americans tend to think that the worst forms of institutional racism simply went away after Congress passed the landmark civil rights laws of the 1960's. But black police officers in Georgia who were denied membership in a supplementary retirement fund decades ago for reasons of race know better.

Because of Jim Crow policies that barred them from the fund as shamefully late as the mid-1970's, many of these officers are facing troubled and underfunded retirements, with benefits substantially lower than those of their white colleagues.
The Georgia Legislature inexplicably failed to help these officers when a bill came before it two years ago, but it has received a new bill and a fresh opportunity to show its commitment to simple justice. Under the current bill, being shepherded by State Representative Tyrone Brooks, the state would assume half of what it would cost hundreds of working black officers to buy retirement coverage for the years they were barred from the fund.

If the measure is passed, which seems likely, it will take care of only those police officers who are still on the job. Retired officers are left out in the cold by a provision of the State Constitution that prevents the Legislature from helping them. To help this group, the voters would have to ratify an amendment to the State Constitution, which would first have to clear a State Legislature that has not been exemplary when it comes to issues of racial fairness.

But Georgia should do whatever it takes to give justice to all of the people affected by this shameful episode. Beyond that, other Southern states with Jim Crow legacies should begin to prepare themselves to encounter similar issues. If this happened in Georgia, it almost certainly happened elsewhere.

Bravo to the Times for bringing this example of ongoing racism to the fore.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Another Man Freed From Prinson Following DNA Test

I swear, I would not be so calm and sanguine if I had had a quarter century of my life stolen from me.

ST. PETERSBURG - As supporters cheered and his lawyers fought tears, a St. Petersburg man went free Monday, proven innocent by his own DNA and long-lost evidence after spending nearly a quarter-century in prison.

After a Tampa judge uttered the magic words, ''You're a free man,'' Alan Crotzer, 45, became the fifth person in Florida to be exonerated by DNA evidence after conviction.

Crotzer's release also comes as Florida lawmakers consider whether to extend or abolish a controversial July deadline for submitting DNA claims. Crotzer, a soft-spoken, slim man, spent his first moments of freedom learning how to use a cellphone and open a hotel door with a swipe card, technologies that were not around in 1982, the year an all-white jury deliberated for an hour before convicting him and a judge sentenced him to 130 years. He also treated himself to a bath, a luxury he could only dream of for the past 24 years.

''I was blessed to have these people trying to get me out because they knew I didn't do anything,'' said Crotzer, grinning widely and surrounded by well-wishers at a party thrown Monday to celebrate his release. ''I am just thankful for that. You know, I'm not bitter. No bitterness.''

Crotzer and two other men, Douglas and Corlenzo James, were convicted of robbing a Tampa family using a sawed-off shotgun in July 1981. Douglas James and Crotzer were also found guilty of kidnapping and raping the family's 38-year-old mother and her 12-year-old daughter. One of the victims picked Crotzer out of a police photo lineup, and the jury sided with prosecutors, who painted him as the ringleader.

And is it my imagination, or are a hugely disproportionate number of these freed men black and Latino?

Haiti: Iraq On a Smaller Scale

Another of America's foreign policy disasters is playing itself out in the Carribean nation:

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti, Jan. 21 - Nearly 20 months after the United Nations arrived to stabilize the hemisphere's poorest country and avert a civil war, there is still no cease-fire in this violent city on the sea.


But last Tuesday, two Jordanian soldiers were shot to death in skirmishes with local gangs, and another was seriously wounded. It was the third fatal strike against United Nations personnel since December, a month when relations between the international peacekeeping mission and local people worsened.

The violence has raised demands in capitals from Brasília to Washington to Ottawa for an explanation of what has gone wrong with Haiti's transition to democracy. What is clear is that the $584 million a year mission has failed to bring peace to Haiti, and the caretaker government has failed to bring elections.

First of all, Haiti is not undergoing a "transistion to democracy." Haiti was already a democracy before the US-backed coup against Aristide in 2004. Secondly, violently overthrowing a democratically-elected and locally popular leader generally will create conditions that make bringing peace to a country difficult.

But he and several other United Nations officials, as well as two high-ranking Western diplomats, rejected assertions that the mission had failed. They charge that Haiti's tiny elite, along with interim Prime Minister Gérard Latortue, have orchestrated a campaign to undermine the mission and delay the elections, because the Haitian leadership is nervous about what opinion polls indicate are likely to be the results.


A recent poll sponsored by the United States government indicated that the leading candidate is former President René Préval, considered a protégé of Mr. Aristide. The Aristide government was undone by a protest movement, led by people like the businessman Mr. Apaid, a revolt by former soldiers and police officers and American

"They thought they could get rid of one government and have the country to themselves and their friends," a United Nations officials said, asking not to be identified out of fear that his comments could hurt his position in Haiti. "But Préval has come and ruined the party."

Exactly. This is a classic Western (and especially American) we-don't-like-your-leader-so-we'll- have-him-overthrown-and-install-a-sympathetic-puppet,-but-oops,-this-is-a-lot-harder-than- we-thought scenario.

When will the Masters of the Universe ever learn?

Not What They Had In Mind, part 2

From the NY Times:

The first official history of the $25 billion American reconstruction effort in Iraq depicts a program hobbled from the outset by gross understaffing, a lack of technical expertise, bureaucratic infighting, secrecy and constantly increasing security costs, according to a preliminary draft.

Monday, January 23, 2006

Not What They Had In Mind

Well this is working out well...

Supporters of al-Qa'eda in Iraq have used the elections staged by the United States to gain positions of political power, the American military believes.

According to senior officers based in Anbar province, an insurgent stronghold in western Iraq, al-Qa'eda-linked politicians have gained seats in local elections to provincial assemblies.


American intelligence has also learnt that not only are some of its supporters now politicians but that a number of its leaders have married into leading local tribes to secure alliances.

Although the organisation, headed by the Jordanian Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, originally consisted primarily of foreign fighters, it now has many Iraqi supporters, with one US official estimating that Iraqis have made up a majority of its active members since the middle of last year.

Let's Get It On!

The administration's PR campaign is all bluster. They are obviously very scared, as they should be, that they could actually get caught up in a legal crisis over the warrantless wiretapping scandal.

WASHINGTON, Jan. 22 - With a campaign of high-profile national security events set for the next three days, following Karl Rove's blistering speech to Republicans on Friday, the White House has effectively declared that it views its controversial secret surveillance program not as a political liability but as an asset, a way to attack Democrats and re-establish President Bush's standing after a difficult year.

Sunday, January 22, 2006

Because Black People All Speak For One Another

From Peter Daou:

In light of the still-burning Chris Matthews scandal, I watched Sunday's political shows with keener interest than usual.

And something very strange happened on Meet The Press. I'm wondering what Huffington Post readers make of it: Tim Russert asked Senator Barack Obama to respond to Harry Belafonte's remarks about George W. Bush being a "terrorist." My question is, why? Why did Russert ask Obama in particular about the statements of someone who isn't an elected official, who doesn't speak for Democrats, who doesn't represent Obama, who doesn't represent the Democratic Party, who is entitled to his own opinion.

This is the same stunt they (the mainstream media) pull all the time. Another typical example will be asking Al Sharpton to comment on a remark Louis Farrakhan has made.