Saturday, January 30, 2010

In Control of Chicago's Schools

On Thursday Chicago Mayor Richard Daley appointed Mary Richardson-Lowry president of the Board of Education. Richardson-Lowry was most recently a partner at Mayer Brown where she represented clients in matters of public law, commercial transactions, and finance and bonds. Before practicing law at Mayer she served as Chicago Buildings Commissioner, Senior Supervising Attorney, and as Assistant Corporation Counsel of the City of Chicago's Department of Law. Check out what Lowry had to say after the jump.

Articles of the Day

Getting the facts wrong on Race to the Top. (And getting your knuckles rapped for it.)
Teachers getting freaky...and not with their curriculum.
Freshman are feeling the effects of the recession. Who isn't?
Language immersion 2.0

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Weaning a Business School Off of Wall Street

BusinessWeek catches up with Dean Peter Henry, of the Stern School of Business, and gleans how he will transition Stern from it's heavy focus on placing grads in finance and investment banking in the midst of a hectic economic climate.

Harold Ford's Road to Recovery

Ford opines on how the Democrats can lead the economy out of recession and reclaim some confidence headed into the midterm elections. I'll go through each of his three "ideas" in depth and see where he stands. We'll begin after the jump.

Articles of the Day

Researchers say meat from pigs sickened with H1N1 is safe to eat. Hmm...any takers?
Ta-Nehisi and Ezra Klein talk shop on policy.
Kids' cholesterol is through the roof.
Glenn Greenwald goes after the David Brooks over his simplistic analysis of the Brown victory .

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

The Politics of Taxes

Last year during the climate bill debate there some GOP legislators that were clamoring about the energy fee increases that the public would bear if the bill passed. Many of these legislators called the increases a "tax." But is a fee increase due to government regulation a tax? Not really. It's just one of the many consequences of public policy. It's just another reason to be an engaged citizen. Not a reason to join the Tea Party.

And it's that kind of simplified thinking that turns a worthwhile debate about how governments should minimize or even avoid certain consequences into a 5th grade level free- for-all that might as well be in a lunch room. But I get it. People don't like paying taxes, especially the people who actually pay them. (And sad to say there are those who don't pay them that are up in arms, too.)

However many people don't favor cuts to programs either. So what's a legislator to do? They are damned if they do and damned if they don't. Well not necessarily. The goal should be to cut through the muck and explain how, for one, a fee increase isn't a tax. That's not spin. That's a fact.

Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell is in the unenviable position of explaining the difference. The Washington Post writes how McDonnell is adopting outgoing Gov. Kaine's budget and trying to fill a $4 billion dollar shortfall.

But what about raising the "fee" on restaurant inspections, as proposed in the budget McDonnell inherited? Or adding 18 cents to a 75-cent fee on phone lines? How about something called the "recordation tax fee" -- which is nothing more than a fee to people who pay a tax? 
These and other fees, which were proposed by outgoing governor Timothy M. Kaine (D) to help close a two-year, $4 billion budget shortfall, pose an immediate challenge to McDonnell, who said Monday that it "will not turn our economy around by taxing Virginians more."

But it's unclear whether that same philosophy extends to fees, which McDonnell has supported in the past, and how business leaders and an angry electorate might react to him and his party if they back higher levies while seeking to cast themselves as the protectors of people's hard-earned money.

I think he should start by simply asking critics: "If businesses must pass rising costs on to consumers in order to stay business, how do you expect government to operate with zero increased costs to consumers of government services?" Sure it's possible that government can do that but not without increasing the deficit or significantly cutting a program (and I mentioned how popular some programs are). Furthermore, some Virginia agencies and departments have long been self funded as the Post mentions. So, for instance, the Department of Game and Fisheries relies on the fees they charge hunters to stay in business. Why should I be taxed to pay for services to hunters? I don't hunt.

In addition, user fees are far more an efficient source of income than general taxation. If not enough hunters are applying for licenses (whether there is a lack of interest in hunting or lack of interest in paying for the license) then the department will have to downsize.

A "low tax advocate" quoted in the article says:
"If you buy or sell a house, if you have a phone or if you buy insurance, if you do any of those three things, the government takes more money from you. That seems to me to be a tax -- and covers an awful lot of people," Parmelee said. "I would seriously doubt the governor could support any of those." 
That isn't the definition of a tax. To be defined as a tax a fee has to be punishable if it goes unpaid. There's no punishment if I don't get a hunting license. Some may feel this is semantics but it's hardly that. It is more proof that the politics of taxes has gotten completely out of control. When constituents or "low tax advocates" expect government to provide services - especially when the quality or quantity of those services is not being debated - for the same cost regardless of the economic environment, that's a serious problem.

How To Eat During An Interview

It may not be as easy as you think...

Articles of the Day

Obama and the Market don't work together. And they aren't supposed to.
Florida's unemployment rate may soon be 12%. Ouch.
If only Haiti had been colonized long enough...everything would be different.
Dissecting Hillary's speech on Internet freedom.

Monday, January 25, 2010

John Stewart Explains the Democrats' Real Problems

The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
Mass Backwards
Daily Show
Full Episodes
Political HumorHealth Care Crisis

The Insolence of Understanding: Part II

By Anthony A. Jack
(Cross-posted at Social Science Lite)

[Yesterday on these pages] I wrote a post entitled, "The Insolence of Understanding," as a reaction to seeing an advertisement for wearing baldcaps in support of those with cancer. The post was not to question their motives or intent; personally, I believe their cause (raising money for cancer research and support of those with cancer) is admirable. What I questioned was the idea and/or action of dawning on another's identity, persona, or physical characteristic for a cause when one has the freedom to eschew any such constraint, hindrance, or restriction it places on one's abilities. I update my thoughts on this with another example that I think makes my point clearer. Thus, I turn to one episode from my favorite show of the Fall season: gLee!*

Simon Johnson Proposes Paul Krugman for Fed Chair

Johnson opines that Krugman would be an excellent choice. For the uninitiated - Johnson is a force in economics. His blog - - is one of the most widely read econ sites in the world. So to hear him throw his weight behind Krugman is interesting to say the least.

I like Krugman and usually find his analysis compelling. But I think the likelihood of the Obama administration embracing him his quite low. For one, Krugman has throttled the administration for the small size of the stimulus, being too soft on Wall Street, and paying far more attention to deficits than the very real fear of a double dip recession. And that's not all. Krugman himself has stated how he speaks his mind far too much to be another administration official focused on "toeing the line." (He previously served in the Clinton administration for a short time.)

I think if Krugman were picked he would be an excellent choice. Bank reform would be more likely, and Elizabeth Warren would probably receive much more support in her efforts to protect consumers through an independent body known as the Consumer Financial Product Agency. Why? Because Krugman would have the bully pulpit of the Fed, and while Fed Chair isn't known as a role that interacts with politics directly, the acquiescence of  the Fed would be a huge plus.

So it's probably not going to happen, and that's too bad. 

Articles of the Day

Charlie Rose sits down with Prince Alwaleed bin Talal.
VC's get in on the health care boom.
Health Care after Scott Brown...(those words are scary enough).
Newsweek uncovers a little known fact about the safety of international travel.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

The Insolence of Understanding

By Anthony A. Jack
(Cross-posted at Social Science Lite.)

I was on the T heading to Boston Common to watch (500) Days of Summer (amazing movie) when I looked up and saw the above advertisement situated on top of the door. Me being over six feet tall and damn near color blind, the relative “loud” sign stood out on the otherwise dim train. I didn’t think about it that much but when I looked again, it made me uneasy.

Snack On This

The Times pontificates on the snack culture that has consumed our society.

Articles of the Day

Google co-founders decide to raise a quick $2 billion.
The 3 Facebook settings you should
The foreign language that has survived classroom cuts? Chinese.
Flight to quality? Top undegrads receive record number of applications.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Covering Haiti For the Wrong Reasons

Some of the media onslaught is no doubt helpful to assisting Haiti and the multitude of victims in the aftermath of the earthquake. But not all of it. Some of it is absurd, self-serving and short-sighted. Because after Haiti is rebuilt (and thankfully enough countries, NGO's, and others have stepped up to ensure it will be), the media will be long gone.

David Hinckley's article on the media nonsense hits the nail on the head.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Public Universities Could Do Better

The Washington Post looks at some choice statistics on the number of low income students receiving financial aid at public colleges and universities.

The Post notes that:

From 2003 to 2007, public research universities increased the amount of aid to students whose parents make at least $115,000 a year by 28 percent, to $361.4 million, said the Education Trust, a nonprofit advocacy group.
Those schools routinely award as much in financial aid to students whose parents make more than $80,000 a year as to those whose parents make less than $54,000 a year, according to the report, "Opportunity Adrift."
Thirty years ago, a federal Pell Grant covered most of the cost of attending a four-year college; today it covers about a third, making it more difficult for low-income students to attend their states' flagship schools. The typical low-income student is stuck with a bill totaling about 70 percent of the family's annual income, the report says. 
 The article mentions how "minority enrollment increased from 24.5 percent in 2000 to 28.5 percent in 2007." However, an increase in minority student enrollment shouldn't be conflated with low income student enrollment, nor is it compelling evidence that low income students are facing less barriers. To be sure, an increase in diversity - even if it is evidenced by racial diversity - is a noble achievement. But that alone will not do. Schools will need to seek out ways to advance educational opportunities for our most vulnerable students.

Paying For a College Tuition In a Recession

Pell Grants are a great help to those who can qualify for them (even though they practically require a vow of poverty - but that's a separate discussion). The Journal of Black Education tracks the percentage of low income students at top liberal arts schools and talks a little about the history of the Pell Grant program. Check it out after the jump.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Facebook Wants to Share the Wealth

Facebook announced a Ph.D fellowship program that will "enable [them] to address many [technical] problems at a fundamental level and solve them." Sounds like a move a company makes when they feel entrenched in their industry. Facebook has grown up boys and girls.

The details:

As part of our ongoing commitment to academic relations, we are pleased to announce the creation of a Facebook Fellowship program to support graduate students in the 2010-2011 school year.
  • Tuition and fees will be paid for the academic year.
  • $30K stipend (paid over 9 months of the academic year).
  • $5K per year toward conference attendance and travel.
  • $5K toward a personal computer.
  • Opportunity to apply for a paid summer internship.
  • Recipients are responsible for the taxation on any funds.

Yale Donation Causes Uproar in China

I'm sure he didn't expect this.

Articles of the Day

Finally, Time analyzes the GOP's obstacles to a landslide in the midterm elections.
Out of control board pay.
Your DNA isn't your fate (thankfully).
Language labs in schools get an upgrade.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Maureen Dowd Continues to Get It Wrong

Maureen Dowd never ceases to amaze me at how simplistic her political anaylsis is. Recently she's taken to excoriating Obama for his "coolness," in the belief that, in excess, it has led to a certain aloofness that has "turned the Situation Room into a Seminar Room."

However eloquent that may be, it doesn't really account for what Americans' needs are or what our security apparatus lacks. In fact, her comments are closer to unadulterated paternalism than leadership. "He’s so sure of himself and his actions that he fails to see that he misses the moment to be president — to be the strong father who protects the home from invaders, who reassures and instructs the public at traumatic moments," crows Dowd. 
No Drama Obama is reticent about displays of emotion. The Spock in him needs to exert mental and emotional control. That is why he stubbornly insists on staying aloof and setting his own deliberate pace for responding — whether it’s in a debate or after a debacle. But it’s not O.K. to be cool about national security when Americans are scared.
To be sure, the public does look to the President for reassurance. But should that include condescending hand holding? I don't think so. And after eight years of war and 'War on Terror' rhetoric, I think the public has had its fill of patriotism, militarism, and good vs. evil juxtaposition along the lines of The Dark Knight. (Great movie, not so great instruction on how to run a country.) True, Dowd doesn't suggest Obama lead us to war, but the implication of a nation avoiding critical analysis of complex issues to arrive at practical solutions is nearly just as costly. 

What would critical analysis of terrorism look like? Fareed Zakaria fills us in:

Is there some sensible reaction between panic and passivity? Philip Zelikow, the executive director of the 9/11 Commission and later a senior State Department official in the Bush administration, suggests that we should try to analyze failures in homeland security the way we do airplane catastrophes. When an airliner suffers an accident, major or minor, the National Transportation Safety Board convenes a group of nonpartisan experts who methodically examine what went wrong and then issue recommendations to improve the situation. "We approach airline security with the understanding that it's a complex problem, that we have a pretty good system, but that there will be failures -- caused by human beings, technology, or other factors. The point is to constantly fix what's broken and keep improving the design and execution," says Zelikow.

Imagine if that were the process after a lapse in homeland security. The public would know that any attack, successful or not, would trigger an automatic, serious process to analyze the problem and fix it. Politicians might find it harder to use every such event for political advantage. The people on the front lines of homeland security would not get demoralized as they watched politicians and the media bash them and grandstand with little knowledge.

Overreacting to terrorist attacks plays into al-Qaeda's hands. It also provokes responses that are likely to be large-scale, expensive, ineffective and possibly counterproductive. More screening for every passenger makes no sense. When searching for needles in haystacks, adding hay doesn't help. What's needed is a larger, more robust watch list that is instantly available to all relevant government agencies. Almost 2 million people travel on planes in the United States every day. We need to isolate the tiny percentage of suspicious characters and search them, not cause needless fear in everyone else.
This example from the New York Times shows how ineffectual airline security can be.

An Unholy Relationship?

Charter schools and unions working together? The Harvard Education Letter digs into the innovative concept.

Articles of the Day

Michelle Rhee hosts a case competition to spur innovation in education (Hat Tip: Eduwonk)
Bruce Bartlett fears reducing the deficit now will prolong the recession.
FiveThirtyEight breaks down how politicians can retire, helping themselves AND their party in the process.
Marc Lynch thinks "Captain Underpants" shouldn't cause the U.S. to bring back the War on Terror.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Why the IRS is Rethinking Liens

 CNN talks with taxpayer Nina Olson who has looked in depth at the pluses and minuses of the IRS using liens to ensure delinquent taxes are paid. Liens place the government first in line ahead of all other creditors. So why are they out of favor? Check it out after the jump.

Articles of the Day

Playwright is getting ready for his big day.
Public universities are playing the out-of-state lottery.
Florida hospitals testing digital records.
Health sector adding jobs at rapid clip.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Dear Mama

I'll be back to regularly scheduled programming tomorrow. But I close with Tupac's "Dear Mama" as a celebration and dedication to my own mother. Enjoy.

Jesus Walks

One Love

My Date with a Body Scanner

Anecdotal experiences are touching, but they shouldn't form one's opinion on matters of policy. Or should they? When I posed hands forward, feet awkwardly spaced, inside of a body scanner (that eerily resembles a stand up MRI machine), I believed there wouldn't be any question that I posed no threat to my flight. I wish the TSA agent had felt that way. Seriously, I did.

Instead, he was instructed through an ominous looking ear piece to frisk me. Aggressively. First with palms open and digits gripping as though my BMI was incorrectly gauged and he wanted to check my bodyfat percentage manually. Literally.

The second method was with palms facing to him (yeah, to him) so that he was running the backs of his hands along my body. I'm still trying to figure out what backs of hands can feel that fingers can not. Must be something that requires weeks of government training.

The third method wasn't physical but was just as annoying. This consisted of asking me the same questions over and over again in the hopes I would trip up while answering. (Come on now I've seen enough confessions on Law & Order to know better; The lack of space on my DVR can attest to that.  Do you have anything in your pockets? Did you empty your pockets? Are you wearing a back brace? Is your back braced?

So what did I learn from my date with a body scanner? That it's foreplay and not even very good. Because if it had gotten the job done, then I wouldn't have felt so used. Seriously, if pat-downs are still required after someone is x-rayed to the point that you can see if they are anatomically correct, I fail to see what value they are providing.

Sure, one could argue that pat-downs aren't really required but sometimes are needed to clear up discrepancies. Except in my case there wasn't any. I didn't have any items in my pockets, any articles attached to my body, or any braces bracing anything that didn't need bracing.

So what should TSA do with body scanners? I don't know. How about convincing us that they work? What do they do that a metal detector and/or pat-down can't? That is, aside from take these pictures that we could really, really do without.

Beenie Man & Mya

Soul to Sqeeze

A National Model For Charter School Success

Andrew Rotherham, founder of Eduwonk, opines on how Masssachusetts charter schools' success can replicated on a national level. Some excerpts are after the jump but it's worth a full read.


Not much to say about this one. They lyrics, the melody, the voice. It's Jaheim. Enjoy. Supposedly Jaheim is currently attending St. Johns University in Queens, NY and preparing to release a new album in February. I wish him luck.

Santana & Steven Tyler

They are few voices as distinctive and passion-filled as Steven Tyler's. No matter what mood I'm in this song can uplift it. Santana's riffs are mellifluous as usual. One of my favorites through and through. Enjoy.

Articles of the Day

Does the future of health care include telemedicine?
Yale Law alum fighting for his life.
Old News - Watch you friend on Facebook.
Sen. Nelson (D-Neb.) wants to extend Medicaid deal to all other states. Great idea. And for his next trick he'll be pulling the hundreds of millions of dollars needed to pay for it out of his winter hat.

Today Will Be a Little Different

Today is my birthday and because I only celebrate it once a year (for now at least), I have decided to intersperse a few of my favorite videos among blog posts. Enjoy.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Does Your Doctor Say 'I'm Sorry'?

Saying 'I'm Sorry' in health care. How it could change things for the better.

Dr. Atul Gawande on Making Less Mistakes in the OR

I follow Gawande religiously. He's insightful, articulate and easy to follow.

One Resolution That's Doable- Have More Sex

CNN looks at the health benefits of having more sex (a favorite activity among most all of us). One couple resolved to have sex every day for an entire month, and even got the party started in December. The mission was actually a noble one - more time for sex left less time for smoking and poor eating habits.

Unsurprisingly, the couple will be continuing their daily activity during January, too. Aside from replacing bad habits and procreation, could sex have significant health benefits? Sex researcher Beverly Whipple doesn't necessarily think so. "It's a chicken-egg situation, Whipple says, [w]e can't definitively say there's a cause-and-effect relationship between sex and better health."

However here are 10 unequivocal benefits:
1. A longer life
In a British study, men who had intercourse at least twice a week lived longer than men who had sex less than once a month. A U.S. study had similar findings, and a Swedish study examining the sex lives of 70-year-olds found that men who died before their 75th birthday had ceased having sexual intercourse at earlier ages.
The Swedish study didn't find that women lived longer if they had sex more frequently, and neither did a study in North Carolina. However, in the North Carolina study, women who reported enjoying sex more lived longer than those who didn't report enjoyment.

2. A healthier heart
In a British study, people who had intercourse twice a week or more were less likely to have heart attacks and other fatal coronary events. Those who had sex less than once a month had twice the rates of fatal coronary events, compared with those with the highest frequency of intercourse.

3. Lower blood pressure
In a study published in the journal Biological Psychology, people who had sex more often tended to have lower diastolic blood pressure, or the bottom number in a blood pressure reading. Brody's experiment, in which more sexually active study subjects had markedly less dramatic blood pressure spikes when they were put under stress, also supports the benefit.

4. Lower risk of breast cancer
A French study found that women who have vaginal intercourse not at all or infrequently had three times the risk of breast cancer, compared with women who had intercourse more often.

5. Lower risk of prostate cancer
A Minnesota study found that men who'd had intercourse more than 3,000 times in their lives had half the prostate cancer risk of those who had not. While it's not clear why this would be true, studies have found that men who had more intercourse tended to have better prostate function and eliminated more waste products in their semen. "These differences could conceivably impact prostate cancer risk," Brody writes in his article.

6. Pain relief
Whipple and others have conducted studies suggesting that more sexual activity helps relieve lower back pain and migraines.

7. A slimmer physique
A study of healthy German adults revealed that men and women who had sex more frequently tended to be slimmer than folks who didn't have as much sex. Sex burns 50 to 60 calories per encounter, Whipple says, so sex three times a week for a month would burn about 700 calories -- or the equivalent of jogging about seven miles.

8. Better testosterone levels
A group of men being treated for erectile problems saw greater increases in testosterone when, along with the treatments, they had frequent sex. Specifically, men who had sex at least eight times per month had greater increases than those who had sex less than eight times per month.

9. Fewer menopause symptoms
Menopausal women in Nigeria experienced fewer hot flashes when they had sex more frequently. Brody says this may be because sexual activity helps regulate hormonal levels, which in turn affect the symptoms of menopause.

10. Healthier semen
In three studies, men who had frequent intercourse had a higher volume of semen, a higher sperm count and a higher percentage of healthier sperm, compared with men who tended to participate in other sexual activities.

Articles of the Day

If you thought there was a shortage of nurses, try nursing faculty.
FDA drug approval - pricey as always.
Denying care to undocumented immigrants.
10 years went by - are you healthier?

Monday, January 11, 2010

Racism In Black & White (without the black part)

Raina Kelley must have eaten her Wheaties this morning. She actually has a smart angle on this whole Harry Reid mess, and I haven't heard it elsewhere.

10 Education Reformers To Watch

Tom Vander Ark of lists the top reformers to watch in 2010.

1. Arne Duncan is taking advantage of an unbelievably large budget and pushing a tough reform agenda targeting low-income kids and struggling schools. While he'll have his hands full with reauthorization, he has assembled a top notch team.

2. Joanne Weiss leads the mother of all grant program--Race to the Top--with the same skill and diplomacy she exhibited at New Schools.

3. Jim Shelton and sidekick Shivam Shah run grant programs of historically gigantic proportions: i3, Promise Neighborhoods.

4. Gene Wilhoit is pushing state chiefs, supporting common standards, and asking us all to think hard about the future of learning.

5. Eric Smith, FL Commissioner, is leveraging the progress that Gov. Bush made earlier in this decade; he's got a lock on phase 1 Race to the Top money
6. Paul Pastorek, LA Superintendent, is a smart outsider and has maintained post-Katrina intensity.

7. Joel Klein, with support of Mayor Bloomberg, is the best urban school leader and continues to expand impact with Education Equality Project.

8. Joe Williams, Democrats for Education Reform, is reframing partisan debate, challenging historical alliances, and pushing an aggressive performance-based agenda

9. David Steiner, NY Commissioner, and his able deputy John King, got more done in the first few weeks than most chiefs do in a lifetime.

10. George Miller will play the most important role in the reauthorization of major federal education bill.

(Hat Tip: Huffington Post)

Private School....In This Economy?!

The USA Today looks at the recession's possible effects on the changes in private and public school enrollment. The U.S. Department of Education estimates, "from 2006 to 2009, public school enrollment grew by nearly a half-million students, or about 1%, while private school enrollment dropped by about 146,000, or 2.5%."

While parents don't share the reasoning behind their changes, with less discretionary spending in family households the past two years, one can infer the economy probably played some kind of role.

The journalist speaks with a family that previously had three children in private school:
They're saving about $20,000 a year in tuition, but like many former private-school families, they're coming face-to-face with larger class sizes and the public school bureaucracy as they push to get services for their children.
"We ask a lot of questions — we follow up on things," says Allyn, a former professional dancer who's the cultural arts coordinator for the city of Evanston. "We contact the school board. ... We'll challenge teachers, we'll challenge coordinators. My kids are mortified because they don't want to be singled out."
Allyn is quick to point out that she does not abide by the status quo when it comes to her children's education:
"Those of us who have seen other options are not as likely to accept the P.R.," she says. "They'll tell me, 'It can't be done, it can't be done,' and I don't understand why it can't be done, because the private schools managed to do it."

She says friends are still talking about how to get their kids into public schools with programs that suit their kids' needs and interests — much as they talked about private schools in years past. A few have gotten "so frustrated with their public school experience" — dealing with standardized testing and school bureaucracies — that they're considering home schooling.

Is Texas Too Tired to Race to the Top?

Only Texas and Alaska are opting out of US Department of Education reforms that are required for those states who are participating in Race to the Top (RTP). RTP is a brainchild of Arne Duncan, education secretary, that pits states against one another in a contest to see which can devise the most effective reforms. Winners will be awarded a a slice of a $4 billion dollar pie. More after the jump.

From Bad to Worse

China rids toys of lead but unfortunately substitutes an even worse chemical.

Was Harry Reid Right?

Ruth Marcus hits it out of the park again with her analysis on the comments Harry Reid made about Obama during the '08 election. We can pretend a lot of things but let's not pretend as though an African American's skin color and accent isn't relevant in this day and age. It has been in the past, and it will continue to be. To what extent? That's the prevailing question. And one I do not have an answer for.

Marcus divines:
Reid’s assessment of the salience of Obama’s skin tone was relevant. Not only do we not live in a colorblind society, we live in an exquisitely color-sensitive one. A 2007 study that used magnetic resonance imaging to examine brain reactions to photos of light- and dark-skinned subjects found more activity within the amygdala, which reflects arousal to perceived threats, when dark-skinned faces were shown. “Disconcertingly, to the extent that Afrocentric features increase the likelihood of making stereotypic inferences, this may result in severe consequences for those possessing high levels of Afrocentric features,” the authors wrote.

As for “Negro dialect, unless he wanted to have one,” well, do we all have to pretend we don’t know what Reid is talking about? There is a distinctly recognizable African American voice and some African Americans dial it up or down depending on the setting. It was striking during the campaign how Hawaii-born, Indonesia-raised, Chicago-living Obama sounded so strikingly southern when he was campaigning in southern states. That “blaccent” was useful to Obama in some venues. But I have little doubt that it would have been held against him by some white voters, perhaps subconsciously, if it were his regular voice.

Articles of the Day

Big Pharma driving generics out - with the FDA's help.
Buying bogus health degrees - why are some gov't appointees on the list?
Year end round up of health news.
Miracle food without the miracle.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

2010 Primaries to Watch

Chris Cilliza of the Washington Post details the 10 primary races to watch this fall.

Florida Isn't Just Counting Oranges

Yesterday I spoke about how Teach For America is studying their teacher corps and devising ways to 1) predict which candidates will make great teachers, and 2) find out why those predictive skills and qualities translate into success in the classroom.

Florida seems to be following suit. Florida's education secretary released this:
The state has a new, 17-member teacher task force that will hold its first meeting tomorrow morning at the University of Central Florida. A state Department of Education press released issued late this afternoon says the group is "an open forum for the Commissioner of Education and fellow teachers to discuss education-related issues."

"Over the next several months, members of the Teacher Task Force will work to identify the characteristics of effective teachers and work with Department staff to determine plans to duplicate those traits across the state. In addition, Task Force members will work to improve new and existing Department of Education educator resources and ensure open and continued dialogue between the Department and Florida’s educators designed to elevate the teaching profession."

(Hat Tip: The Gradebook)

Weak Criticism Makes For Weak Insight

This Week in Education goes after Amanda Ripley and Teach For America for the article I highlighted a few days ago, "What Makes a Great Teacher?".  I find their comments a bit perplexing. Check them out after the jump.

Too Needy For Two

Sure social networking has changed a lot of things. But has it changed common sense? I hope not. This article in The New York Times details how our digital world is increasingly connected to our real one. Some aspects of this are undeniable: a new relationship may yield new "mutual friends", an ex may linger on one's friends list long after the relationship is over, and a little Facebook stalking may ensue. Check out more after the jump.

Medicaid + Nonprofits Can Work Successfully

The San Diego Tribune looked at an innovative program in California that has been in operation since 1986. St. Paul’s Program of All-Inclusive Care for the Elderly (PACE) is one of 70 such sites nationwide, and focuses strongly on saving money through proactive and convenient preventive care.

PACE clients are at least 55 years old and must qualify for Medicaid or pay out of pocket. In addition, the Tribune notes, "Membership is limited by geography: PACE participants must live within several miles of the program’s main care center." And since PACE operates on an HMO model, clients are also required to choose physicians within the PACE system.

Due to these restrictions PACE isn't fit for everyone. But for those who the model is convenient, it is a cost-effective and all-inclusive exemplar of how preventive care can lead to long term gains.

Articles of the Day

Companies cutting back on legal spending.
Crain's NY 40 under 40.
10 Rising stars in public health
Legal education turning into bad sociology?

Who's Watching What?

Check out this cool Netflix graphic breaking down where their movies went.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

The GI Bill Goes Ivy

Putting the GI Bill to good use.

Accountability that Doesn't Account For Common Sense

Ruth Marcus shines some light on the "accountability" meme currently sweeping through D.C. and the punditocracy in regard to terrorism. Continue after the jump.

Rulers Don't Measure Teachers

This Atlantic piece looks at a fundamental question: What makes a great teacher? As trite as it may seem such a question underlies the foundation of education reform. After all, getting rid of bad teachers may turn out to be the easy part. Finding better teachers to replace them isn't likely if it isn't known how good teachers got that way in the first place.

The C-Span Negotiations

Ezra Klein debates the benefits and disadvantages of C-Span televising health care negotiations. Recently C-Span threw out an offer to Congress and the White House to air the negotiations in their entirety. On its face, such an offer seems like it deliver the kind of transparency that Obama talked about in his campaign. But what are the unintended consequences? Klein gets into it after the jump.

Strap on Your Seatbelts -- Cadillac Plans Are a Go

Superb analysis and breakdown of what a "Cadillac" plan is and what the expected consequences of its use are when it's rolled out in the health care market. Kaiser Health News and NPR break it down after the jump.

Let's Work Together....Seriously

Is there bipartisanship on the horizon for education reform in Washington? Not sure but some think so. Check out The Wall Street Journal's take on it.

(Hat Tip: Eduwonk)

Articles of the Day

Dr. Drew: Charlatan or man with a cure?
Reimagining the human brain.
The changing role of HBCU's.
Maryland reconsidering forcing surgery for those seeking gender change on DL's.

Leno on Leno

Friday, January 8, 2010

Arenas - Gangster or Gentleman?

Sally Jenkins goes searching for the "real Gilbert Arenas." She does a pretty good job of asking questions that many of us may be thinking but not too many of us are voicing, at least in the media and blogosphere.

Jenkins also steps into some dicey terrain writing, "Is there anything more ridiculous than a soft guy pretending to be hard? Arenas had an admittedly painful childhood...but there is nothing in his background that suggests he knows anything about real gangsterism."'ll be interesting to see what kind of reaction she receives on this note. More after the jump.

Ladies - Keep Your Bras to Yourselves

I'm on Facebook fairly frequently whether I'm socializing, networking or just being nosy. The bra color craze that swept status messages the past 48-72 hours (with women inserting their bra color in their status update) didn't do much for me. Did it help with breast cancer awareness? Doubt it.

In fact there are some who question cause-related marketing altogether. Samantha King, associate professor at Queen's University, is one such detractor. King wrote Pink Ribbons, Inc: Breast Cancer and the Politics of Philanthropy, an in-depth look at how cause-related marketing has gotten companies into the act of shilling awareness for dollars, increased the amount of money going to research as opposed to access to care, and socialized society to believe "the idea that breast cancer is a disease which predominantly effects young, slim, ultrafeminine, white women."

David Simon On Life After The Wire

(Favorite clip from The Wire)

Interview with David Simon, creator of The Wire. I loved the show and thought it explored social issues in a holistic way. It went beyond mere juxtaposition of good vs. evil or the modern cop show variety of white (the law enforcement apparatus) vs. black (the urban community).

All five seasons sought to highlight not just crime but the underlying causes, the politics that surrounded it, and the lack of clear solutions. If you haven't seen it check it out.

Here's an excerpt of the interview: The show was known for its complete absence of exposition. Was that a risk?
Simon: If you're trying to be hyper-realistic about your universe as a writer, the one thing you have to get away from is the notion that you're going to explain everything for the reader or the viewer at the moment that all of them might require explanation. Not only does that burden storytelling, and make it false, it's also not the way real life works. [That kind of writing] allows for a different kind of storytelling ambition. TV has never discovered it to any great degree because for most of its history, every 12 minutes they had to stop, sell you some s--t, and worry that you were going to take a leak. Premium cable and the banishment of advertisement created a situation where you could be a lot more sophisticated about your storytelling and not worry about leaving people behind. You killed a bunch of characters. Who was the hardest?
Simon: They were all hard. There was nobody that I wanted to kill off, but the story requires it. This was a tragedy we were writing, and these things have to happen. The hardest one was probably the first, because it was Wallace .The crew was mad. The Baltimore crew had worked on Homicide, and they were used to a certain amount of darkness, but the way in which we killed Wallace bothered everybody on-set. It was the first time we had confronted just where the show was going. I knew there was more to come, but that was the first bite of the apple really. Did you ever wonder if the message was too bleak?
Simon: The parting message is we are no longer a culture than can recognize our own problems, much less begin to solve them. We will accept the short-term solution, the juked statistics, the jerry-rigged profit over actual substance every time. This is the America we've built and paid for, and it's all we deserve. We have not paid the real cost of being a first-rate society. As long as we buy into the notion that you can build a just society with capitalism alone, it's not going to get any better. It was a critique. I am not anti-capitalist, but if you think that's the prescription for building a just society, you're just naïve. It was a real, angry critique of the last 30 or 40 years.

A Plug for Professor Cobb

Professor Jelani Cobb will be releasing The Substance of Hope: Barack Obama and the Paradox of Progress on May 25, 2010. It's available for preorder now on Amazon.

Cobb is a professor at Spelman, fellow blogger, and has a unique perspective on society and politics. I verbally spar with him when I can and enjoy it immensely. So pick it up because you'll probably learn something.

Articles of the Day

Banning private schools?
Libertarians think Obama looks a little like W.
The real deal on Gardasil.
Disease prevention isn't cheap, and may cost more than we think.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Quote of the Day

“I find it interesting that people who couldn’t spell China 10 years ago are now experts on China. China is not in a [economic] bubble.” 

- Jim Rogers, billionaire and co-founder of the Quantum Fund with George Soros.

Dancing Around War

Just about the best (and bravest) article I've ever seen written about the problem with the GOP's noxious view of blanket soldier worship. It deserves a full read. Short on time? Here's an excerpt after the jump.

Come All Ye Loans

The following info details the average debt held by graduates of various degree programs. Some of this info won't really be new, but for prospective students who are starry-eyed this serves as a practical slap in the face - success isn't just a multitude of credits away, it's also a multitude of loan statements as well.
Debt Burdens of Graduate Students by Degree Program

Graduate Education Debt
All Education Debt
(Grad & Undergrad)
Graduate & Professional Degree Programs
Percent Borrowing
Cumulative Debt
Percent Borrowing
Cumulative Debt
Master’s Degree
Doctoral Degree
Professional Degree
Master of Business Administration (MBA)
Master of Social Work (MSW)
Master of Science (MS)
Master of Arts (MA)
Law (LLB or JD)
Medicine or Osteopathic Medicine
Pharmacy (PharmD)
Source: (data is from NPSAS 2007 – 08)

Articles of the Day

Muslims choosing capitalism over principles.
Blue Dog Dems trying to survive in Alabama.
Elite vegetarians (not really, they just eat elite meat).
Want to change the way your child is taught? Join the military.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Stern Right on Suspending Gilbert Arenas

Bravo to NBA Commissioner David Stern for taking swift and decisive action. For too long the NBA has had issues with athletes' thuggish behavior and poor choices off the court. Catch what Stern said after the jump.

Leadership Has Its Roots

Crain New York's 40 under 40 list is always interesting. For those who are unfamiliar, the trade magazine highlights 40 New Yorkers who stood out over the past year. Wes Moore stood out to me because of his unique background. He's also of Jamaican heritage (such as myself) and was a White House Fellow (something I aspire to be).

Are the Democrats Really Dropping Like Flies?

Political Animal goes after the assertion Democrats are "dropping like flies." The media has been falling all over themselves as of late with the recent retirements of Sen. Byron Dorgan (ND) and, as of this morning, Sen. Chris Dodd (Conn.). More after the jump.

Asking Teach For America the Wrong Questions

This article in the Times looks at a recent study done to gauge the long term effects Teach For America (TFA) has on its teacher corps. While the study was suggested by TFA, it finds "the program neither achieves an earlier organizational goal of “making citizens” nor produces people who, in great numbers, take their civic commitments beyond the field of education."

Articles of the Day

The ghosts of Katrina.
Opportunity cost of giving in to terrorism.
Teacher preparation (or the lack of it).
Food Stamps don't deliver.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Wasting Time "Repealing" Reform

The Washington Post looks at attorneys general who are clamoring about repealing reform. Hmm...aside from California's victory over the EPA regarding regulating carbon emissions from vehicles, when is the last time a state was successful in overturning a federal law as hotly debated as this one?

Clearly it's politics that has these fine republican attorneys in a tither. And there's nothing necessarily wrong with that - unless they know it's going to be unsuccessful from the beginning and are wasting precious time and resources just to gin up support. Whether that is the case or not is still up for discussion.

The knock against reform is principally centered on the individual mandate:
"Conservatives make two primary arguments against the mandate. The first is that an individual's inactivity -- in this case, the failure to buy health insurance -- does not qualify as interstate commerce, and thus Congress does not have the power to regulate it under the Commerce Clause. The second is that the financial penalty the law would impose goes beyond Congress's ability to lay and collect taxes."
On the other side are those, including Jack Balkin constitutional scholar at Yale Law, who believe that:
"[T]he Supreme Court has ruled that Congress may regulate "activities that 'substantially affect' interstate commerce" and that individuals' purchasing (or not purchasing) health insurance clearly falls within that category. Besides, Balkin added, "it's a really easy argument to show that this is a tax designed to promote the general welfare. . . . The Commerce Clause issue is irrelevant."

I've never really been a fan of the idea that some states, such as Virginia (my own), have of  holding a popular vote for the attorney general position. I believe it makes it that much harder to distinguish between politics and strict law enforcement.

Young Athletes and Concussions

Exploring the consequences of young athletes enduring concussions.

Articles of the Day

Jeffrey Rosen profiles Supreme Justice Scalia.
Virginia and North Carolina ridding tobacco from public spaces.
USA Today feels Obama's education policy looks similar to Bush's.
Nearsightedness is on the rise.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Rush Sampled Health Care Reform - He Loved It.

A couple of days ago it was reported that Rush Limbaugh was raced to the hospital. It seems that he was suffering from chest pains. Thankfully he's ok and will be headed back home soon. The day he was released, Rush offered two pieces of advice. Some of which was good, and some not so much.

A Little More Resolve Never Hurt Anybody

There's been a rash of end of the decade pronouncements proclaiming just how bad the past decade was. The media, and liberals in particular, have been outdoing themselves at painting the ugliest picture possible. Andy Serwer from Time Magazine called it "the decade from hell" and Thomas Schaller of the Baltimore Sun went with "the naughties".

Sanjay Gupta Performing Surgery

An inside look at Dr. Sanjay Gupta performing surgery.

Health Bill without Formal Conference

TNR has an exclusive that democrats plan on informally reconciling the two different health bills instead of heading into a formal conference. Great idea considering how obstinate republicans are in delaying passage of a bill.

Articles of the Day

The case against privacy during air travel.
Japan's solution to homelessness.
Why specializing may get you a job quicker.
How an attorney fell into his passion.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Doctors Say Medicare is Getting Old

Yesterday I pointed out the inherent fallacy in a Medicare Buy-In option. This article in Bloomberg further details the problems with Medicare finance. The article correctly notes how the Mayo Clinic was "praised by President Barack Obama as a national model for efficient health care, will stop accepting Medicare patients as of tomorrow at one of its primary-care clinics in Arizona, saying the U.S. government pays too little."

Ted Kennedy's Fight For Health Care Reform

Sanjay Gupta on what motivated Ted Kennedy to fight for health care reform.

Articles of the Day

Why the U.S. should befriend the tax man.
Politicians didn't do so bad during the recession.
The most valuable college football teams.
Video of Joel Klein, chancellor of NYC public schools, on innovation in education.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

LinkedIn Could Use More Friends

This Wall Street Journal article highlights the challenges LinkedIn faces in not only getting but also keeping eyeballs on their site. Sure, their membership has grown "reaching 53.6 million at the end of November from 31.5 million a year ago", and many people, myself included, consider it more professional than Facebook and a great way to brand one's self in the public space.

Why the Medicare Buy-In is the Wrong Policy

By John S. Wilson
This article appeared on

Why the Medicare Buy-In is the Wrong Policy -

With the public option being a frequent point of contention among not just republicans and democrats but also democrats themselves, it’s no wonder that “compromises” are yielding alternative solutions.

One such solution receiving a multitude of support from liberal and centrist democrats is the Medicare Buy-In. States such as California, Texas, and especially Florida, with one out of every six residents enrolled in Medicare, should pay particular attention.

Articles of the Day

Steve Case (yes, that Steve Case) makes the argument for a focus on wellness and less insurance.
 Vanity medicine at its best.
The biggest barrier to wellness? Poverty.
Health care reform and fraud.
Five years later: how the tsunami improved disaster preparation.

Friday, January 1, 2010

When Politics Turns Silly

Senator Ben Nelson's (D-Neb.) reelection polls aren't looking so good. According to Rasmussen Nelson is down by about 30 points to his republican challenger, Governor Dave Heineman. Now I understand why Nebraskans are wary about health care reform. They are a somewhat conservative bunch and haven't warmed to the bill. I also understand why Heineman thinks he has a toehold in the race and a way to gin up some momentum. But I really don't understand why anyone is even conducting,  let alone paying attention to, polls on an election that is almost 36 months away and will take place in 2012. Silly indeed.

Articles of the Day

Michael Chertoff, former homeland security chief, makes the case for body scanners

Boutique law firms are taking on the big boys

New Ohio law addresses dating violence in class setting

Pregnant women taking a gamble on prescription use

Getting Medicare after 65 - not as easy as you may think

From A Practitioner's Perspective: An Interview with Dr. Phillip Duncan

Yesterday Dr. Phillip Duncan, a cardiologist in private practice in Richmond, VA, authored a guest post on how to reform the health care system. I conducted an interview with him to get a better idea of reform from a practitioner's perspective.