Thursday, January 05, 2012


Friday Fragments, Chock-Full of Linky Goodness

The Boy got a 1254 piece (honest!) milennium falcon Lego kit for Christmas.  He disappeared into the basement at 2:00 on Christmas Day, and re-emerged six hours later with a fully built ship.  This, after having spent the morning assembling two smaller Lego spaceships.  Given that TB usually hates to be alone and almost never goes into the basement, this was pretty impressive.  At this pace, by the time he’s fourteen I expect he’ll have a fully functional Lego nuclear reactor going in the basement.  


Kevin Carey’s piece on higher education in California is a must-read.  His discussion of the relative impact of budget cuts on the various sectors, compared to the relative attention each has received, tells you much of what makes American politics so frustrating.  Small cuts at the top generate national outrage; turning away tens of thousands of people at the bottom generates a shrug.


The Girl continues to amaze with her preternatural poise.  At one point, just before Christmas, the following conversation ensued:

TG: I wonder if Santa and the Easter Bunny know each other.

DD: Probably.  I bet they share travel tips.

Grandma: They both have to cover the whole world in a day!

TG: Santa has a sleigh, but the Bunny just hops.

DD: How does the Bunny get across the ocean?  Those are some big hops.


TG: Maybe he hops on a ship!

I thought that was a pretty elegant explanation.


This piece details what happens when you shut people out from community colleges, like California is doing.  Simply put, many of the frustrated applicants turn to for-profits.  From a taxpayer’s perspective, this is penny wise and pound foolish.  The students will graduate (or not) with significantly higher student loan debts than they otherwise would have, and much of the cost of the inevitable defaults will fall on the taxpayers.  Others will simply skip higher education altogether.  Some will prosper anyway, but in the aggregate, the opportunity cost of missed productivity gains will snowball.  


Just before the break, I had a reality check in the gym.  I was getting dressed after working out, as were a couple of other men.  One of them was a regular there.  I’d put him in his late sixties.  He’s big and blustery -- he talks in ALL CAPS -- and prone to conservative political rants.  He went off on a particularly spirited one, loudly opining that “we should just go down to DC and blow up the whole thing.”  I let him vent, having learned over time that there’s no point in engaging.  After he left, the other man, who looked twentysomething and probably Latino, looked at me and said matter-of-factly “if I said that, they’d put me in jail.”  It brought me up short, because he was right.  

There was a time when I would have disagreed.  Now, I really couldn’t.  It was a passing moment, but I haven’t been able to shake it off.  

Something has gone very wrong.


This piece on banking is one of the more illuminating, and disturbing, that I’ve seen in a long time.  It basically argues that the opacity of the financial system is a feature, not a bug, and that too much transparency would destroy the entire economy.  The intimidating complexity of the system conveys a false sense of security, thereby encouraging people to take on systemically necessary levels of risk that they wouldn’t take if they actually knew what they were doing. Depending on your taste, you could read the banking system as Socrates’ “noble lie,” or you could compare it to Tinkerbell.  Or maybe the Easter Bunny, complaining about his taxes before hopping on a ship to St. Bart’s.

Something has gone very wrong.

No kidding.
Last I knew -- and I admit it was about 10 years ago-- community college tuition in California was about 1\4 of that in my state. The increase in student numbers could be accommodated more easily if each student paid tuition more in line with national standards -- as it is, it's a crap shoot as to who will get into classes they need... sad.
The reason turning people away at the bottom generates a shrug is they are assumed to be unworthy anyway. Because, well, they are at the bottom. Just world right?

The gym thing is disturbing, and I have nothing for it. Very Wrong.
They wouldn't merely put him in jail. They'd also deport him. Even if he's a citizen.
We have a bit of the paradox here in my state.

The state university offers a very good nursing program, which is very difficult to get into. The private college offers a nursing program which isn't as good, but students are guaranteed entry as long as they can afford private college tuition.

In this case, it means the nurses either are extremely well qualified, or extremely committed to nursing.
You get what you pay for. The lastest use Gov. Brown is making of the initiative process is brilliant. Either people will vote for a tax increase (something their legistative reps insist they don't want under any circumstances or they will get a 4.8 billion cut to K-12 funding. I can't wait to see what happens.
I'm a big fan of the CC system in my state -- it has given my oldest child a second chance that he needs -- and I think the biggest problem is convincing the taxpayers who pay twice (through state funding and by picking up the tab for student loans) that low completion rates are a feature, not a bug. There are many, many young people who register at CC after HS simply because they've been told that only losers don't enroll in college. They have no plan, they are not motivated, and they drop out. Others would be willing to persist, but they can't get over the remedial hurdle. CC's can't be blamed for these realities. If we want everyone to have a chance, but are realistic that these are adults and we can't make them want to be there nor can we re-do their K-12 educations, we have to accept high drop out rates.
Please remember that to a large percentage of the American population, shrugging while disemboweling the poor and differential treatment for white and nonwhite Americans means that something has gone very, very right.
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