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In politics. it’s only wrong if the other party does it. Let us just remember that it was the Democrats, under Clinton, who started massive use of “soft” money. “Starting in late 1995, the Democratic National Committee used soft money to pay for a months-long blitz of television commercials, basically indistinguishable from campaign ads, that bolstered Clinton in the polls.” Thanks to Politico’s Josh Gerstein for leading me to that.

And from the Baltimore Sun, there was this recounting of Clinton’s role in promoting soft money:

“In one tape, Clinton tells a group of donors in December 1995 about the importance of the Democratic Party ads — paid for by the unregulated soft money — in boosting his own poll numbers.

On the tape, Clinton says: “We realized we could run these ads through the Democratic Party, which meant we could raise money in $20,000 and $50,000 and $100,000 blocks.

“So we didn’t have to do it all in $1,000 [donations] and run down what I can spend, which is limited by law. So that is what we have done.” ***

Of course, the GOP soon followed, but we have to thank Bill Clinton for leading us in this direction.

BTW, and I am not making this up, the State Department just spent $100,000 on a sculpture of a camel to be put in front of the US Embassy in Pakistan. The artist who was paid the money just happened to be an Obama fund raiser. It’s a duplicate of this one, shown in Napa, CA. I raise this as a micro example of how the entire US system is corrupt, from generals who retire and they lobby for defense contractors, to, well you name it.

“Every election is a sort of advance auction sale of stolen goods.”

― H.L. Mencken

The results of two major studies on US pre-K education are linked to here. The TN study seems to show negative effects, while the HHS study shows no significant statistical effects at 3rd grade. (Note that the US has spent $180 billion on Head Start since its inception.)

There are links in this Brookings article to the TN study, done by the state department of education and Vanderbilt. http://www.brookings.edu/blogs/brown-center-chalkboard/posts/2013/11/20-evidence-raises-doubts-about-obamas-preschool-for-all-whitehurst#

The 3rd grade follow up study on Head Start: a link to the HHS official report is here. http://www.acf.hhs.gov/programs/opre/resource/third-grade-follow-up-to-the-head-start-impact-study-final-report-executive The report was done by really good outside experts, including Abt Associates, where Laura used to work.

Also of interest is this British viewpoint which says formal education starts too early, but a play-based pre-school is important. http://www.cam.ac.uk/research/discussion/school-starting-age-the-evidence I think this is consistent with the Montessori approach.

Finland Education Claims

Perhaps you’ve seen the poster proclaiming that Finland has the world’s best educational system, in part because it pays teachers as much as doctors.

Finland’s system is still very good, and I agree with many of its unusual features, but it is no longer #1. http://www.businessinsider.com/why-finland-fell-in-the-pisa-rankings-2013-12

Finland also benefits from a very homogeneous population. Compare, e.g., Texas which has had a great influx of non-English speaking students. A couple of years ago I looked at Texas versus some other states that had better average educational achievement scores. (I used Texas because it is often subject to ridicule.) The federal government’s achievement statistics are broken out by race — white, black, Hispanic. It turned out that Texas does very well when comparing, say, Texas Hispanic versus State X Hispanic, across all three categories. But Texas’ average is down because it has so many minorities. Hispanics make up 37.6% of the state’s population. (Compare to MN which has an 87% white population.)

There is no correlation between spending per pupil and educational achievement. Adjusted for inflation, teachers’ salaries have risen dramatically since 1970, but federal tests are flat. http://www.cato.org/blog/president-call-big-new-ed-spendingheres-look-how-thats-worked-past You can also look for state by state comparisons and you will find states that spend a lot of money but have poor outcomes (DC comes to mind.) The best correlation with educational achievement is family income (which is why good statistical analysis is weighted by how many kids qualify for the federal lunch programs.)

I do think doctors make too much money. The US needs to put more of them on salary.

Humor: Picking A College

Remember, always be kind to the humorist :)

This is a rough guide as to whether a college has a good academic reputation. This saves a lot of time looking up information in US News’ book.

You can usually drop a school from consideration if it has a direction in its name used (e.g., Eastern), doubly so if it has two (Southwestern). (Exceptions> Northwestern and Northeastern as the entire name.) Also if it has both State in its name AND its other name is not a State (e.g., Alcorn State). Another negative indicator is a name with letters after it (A & T, e.g.,). A school with “Saint” in its name or named directly after a saint should give one pause, although there are some exceptions. Ditto for reference to the Bible or the name of a religion.

Now, a few positive markers. If a school is named after a rich person, its safe to go there (Duke, Carnegie-Mellon, Vanderbilt). This is also true for schools within a university named after a rich person.

The surest indicator to a good school, though, is to look up the percentage of Asian kids there. (Ducks from flying objects.) If the % is double digits, don’t bother applying though, it’s almost impossible to get in.

I disagree with the Addicting Information article. http://www.addictinginfo.org/2013/12/11/pope-francis-quotes/ The article, without any corresponding evidence, says conservatives are evil. I have many conservative values, fiscally mainly, and think that many “liberal” policies have an unintended effect of harming those liberals try to help. My “liberal” values are social ones. I see no overall moral difference between conservatives and liberals. I think that our last three presidents all have done tremendous evils, taking actions that have killed thousands of innocent people. They al did talk a good game, and that’s about it. A lot of conservative people who go to fundamentalist churches may be anti abortion (a moral gray area) and gay marriage. But they may be kind to people and work for the poor in church activities, and work hard at raising families. I have met people who professed liberal beliefs and were, well, stinkers in their personal lives. I am deeply interested in economic analysis of what government does. It’s what I did for a living. That’s my basis for saying that individual labels and biases for action/inaction mean nothing.

I was comparing the compensation of the highest paid American CEOs, athletes and entertainers and the lists are very similar in compensation levels. [Footnote: there are some outliers at the top of each list, like the Apple guy who makes $387 million; once you get to #5 or so the lists are similar]

Let’s pick on Walmart though. Its CEO was scheduled to make $23 milion in 2013. That places him 79th on the CEO list according to the AFLCIO list. If he was an athlete he’d be 60th on the list, just ahead of Roy Halladay of the Phillies. (Halladay was 4-5 last year with a 6.82 ERA but he has been a great pitcher for many years.) If the Walmart CEO was in the entertainment business he’d be 58th on the list, just behind Kristen Stewart.

So why don’t most people criticize the pay scales of athletes and entertainers? (I do, because I think they’re all overpaid at the highest levels.)

This is a reflection on Republican opposition to Obamacare, and whether the messy roll out of the exchanges tells us anything.

The Bush expansion of Medicare (part D) for prescription drugs had a messy roll out also. And opposition to the expansion came came from the left side of the spectrum — partisan politics. http://www.npr.org/blogs/health/2013/07/12/200401757/ACA-VERSUS-PART-D

Remember that a scant 7 years ago the Republicans favored expanding Medicare, and Democrats opposed the expansion. Here’s one of the votes. http://clerk.house.gov/evs/2003/roll669.xml Wikipedia traces the cliff hanger voting. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Medicare_Prescription_Drug,_Improvement,_and_Modernization_Act#cite_note-7

I believe the ACA rollout would have been much better if the signup time for the exchanges had been pushed back, say, three months. The most recent technical articles I’ve read said the private code writing company was not given enough time to do the job.

Partisan politics is bananas. It’s a wonder anything sane ever gets done.

“There is a rising libertarian stream that Chris Christie has said is a very “dangerous thought,” so let’s be clear about what libertarianism is and what it isn’t. It is not anarchism, it has a role for government. What libertarianism says, it comes in many flavors and many degrees of severity. It basically says, before the government abridges the freedom of an individual, or the freedom of several individuals contracting together, that government ought to have, A, a compelling reason, and B, a constitutional warrant for doing so. Now, if Mr. Christie thinks that’s a “dangerous thought,” a number of people are going to start saying Mr. Christie himself may be dangerous.”

According to this NYT article, http://www.nytimes.com/2013/07/17/health/health-plan-cost-for-new-yorkers-set-to-fall-50.html?pagewanted=2&_r=0&hp

“Individuals buying health insurance on their own will see their premiums tumble next year in New York State as changes under the federal health care law take effect . . .”

This is a very incomplete article. It focuses on exchanges. The exchanges will service only a minority of the population (15 million people nationwide is the latest CBO estimate). The subsidies are highest in the first few years so people will sign up — then the subsidies melt away. Many young people without health insurance have made the deliberate choice to avoid health insurance — now if they do not join a plan they have the tax to pay. The ACA mandates that all insurance plans (not just the exchanges) subsidize older people — who are on average richer than young people. (This was how the AARP was brought on board.) In short, the national insurers have been forced by law to ignore the actuarial tables and jack up rates for, e.g., young families. The vast majority of people will not be in the exchanges. To the extent big insurers participate in the exchanges, they may cover losses by raising the regular rates.

In short, a narrow band of the population will benefit from subsidized rates, but much of that subsidy is being paid for by roping healthy people into the system, and by raising the rates for younger people who already have insurance.

It is unclear how well the exchanges will work if physicians refuse to take exchange patients. Most family practices are heavily subscribed, and do not accept Medicaid patients now.

So I would be wary of reading very much into this article.

For a take on how the young and healthy will be subsidizing others under the ACA in California, see http://www.forbes.com/sites/theapothecary/2013/06/03/democrats-new-argument-its-a-good-thing-that-obamacare-doubles-individual-health-insurance-premiums/ And for why NY insurance was so expensive to begin with, see http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/wonkblog/wp/2013/07/17/heres-why-health-insurance-premiums-are-tumbling-in-new-york/

GMO Corn

One often hears that GM corn produced tumors in rats. The study took place in 2009 and has been refuted for poor statistical methods. From Wikipedia on the subject of GM corn: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/GM_corn#Safety_issues

“The French High Council of Biotechnologies Scientific Committee reviewed the 2009 Vendômois et al. study and concluded that it “..presents no admissible scientific element likely to ascribe any haematological, hepatic or renal toxicity to the three re-analysed GMOs.”[11] However, French government applies a principle of precaution against GMOs. A review by Food Standards Australia New Zealand and others of the 2009 Vendômois et al. study concluded that the results were due to chance alone.[12][13]“

You should know that the leading voice for anti-GMO food was a former teacher of levitation to yogi students. http://academicsreview.org/reviewed-individuals/jeffrey-smith/

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