October 17, 2012

Posted by orrinj at 7:52 PM


Obama, Romney have similar basic views on education (Howard Blume, 10/12/12, Los Angeles Times)

When it comes to fundamental education issues, in fact, the presidential candidates have similar positions:

Both support an overhaul in how teachers are evaluated, calling for students' standardized test scores as one measure of teachers' effectiveness.

Both back the growth of publicly funded charter schools, most of which are non-union and operate independently of school district control.

Both want to make it more difficult for instructors to earn and retain tenure, in an effort to more easily dismiss teachers. And when budget crises force districts to shed teachers, the two candidates want to end layoffs that are based on seniority and instead dismiss low-performing teachers first.

Both also support paying more to effective teachers, a move that unions mostly decry as unsuccessful and divisive.

"There's not much difference between the two candidates on education," said author Paul Tough, who has written about trends in school reform. Many of those proposals that "started as Republican ideas have become accepted Democratic ideas now. There is now a kind of orthodoxy, and it is surprising how much it's been embraced by the Obama administration."

Or it would be surprising were he not orthodox.

Posted by orrinj at 7:35 PM


Ari Mendelson's fine satire of modern academia, Bias Incident, is up for Book of the Month at the Freedom Book Club--vote early, vote often....

And John Fonte, who contributed to our Sovereignty book, just won the 2012 Henry Paolucci/Walter Bagehot Book Award for his book, Sovereignty or Submission: Will Americans Rule Themselves or be Ruled by Others?

Posted by orrinj at 7:28 PM


Flemish nationalism: a new landscape : The results of Belgium's local elections has brought victory in the northern Flanders region to the conservative and nationalist but democratic New Flemish Alliance. This represents the transformation of Flemish nationalism (Cas Mudde, 10/15/12, OpenDemocracy)

Insofar as the international press took any interest in Belgium's local elections on 14 October 2012, the story it found there was about the rise of separatism. The Washington Post got in early with a headline the previous day: "As EU basks in Peace Prize glory, separatists from Belgium to Spain are on the march" (nationalists tend never to be "on the rise" but ever "on the march"). And like virtually all other media, the Huffington Post summarised the local elections as follows: "Big separatist gains in local Belgian elections."

But rather than the rise of Flemish nationalism, the local elections were about the transformation of Flemish nationalism. [...]

The VB is not dead yet, as VB chairman Bruno Valkeniers declared with a degree of pathos as the results came in; but the party is (for the moment) no longer relevant in Flemish politics. This also means that Flemish nationalism is now squarely back in the conservative, but liberal-democratic, camp. Paradoxically, this makes it actually more threatening to the Belgian state. Because while radical-right Flemish nationalism could be contained by a cordon sanitaire, conservative Flemish nationalism cannot.

Posted by orrinj at 7:25 PM


Britain Losing Allegiance to the EU (Ralf Neukirch, Christoph Pauly, Christoph Scheuermann and Christoph Schult, 10/16/12, Der Spiegel)
David Cameron knows that if there is one thing that pleases his fellow party members, it's a rant against Brussels. At last week's Tory party conference in Birmingham, it didn't take long before the British prime minister had his audience in high spirits.

Cameron reminded his listeners of the negotiations with other European Union member states over the fiscal pact last December. "There were 25 people in the room, urging me to sign," he said proudly. "And still I said no." The reaction was predictable, with the delegates applauding enthusiastically.
The Tories had understood the message Cameron was trying to convey, namely that the government in London no longer has much in common with Europe. The British want to have no part of further integration on the continent, and they also want to withdraw from many areas of policy in which they have been involved in Brussels so far.

The new approach has sweeping consequences for the European Union. Cameron's stance has already prompted the Germans to rethink their approach. Chancellor Angela Merkel had long hoped that a permanent division of the EU could be avoided. She had repeatedly said privately that one should not give the British the feeling that they are no longer part of Europe, and that the door must be kept open for London.

Those hopes have now been dashed. 

Posted by orrinj at 7:20 PM


Chelsea Clinton steps up to fight diarrhea deaths in Nigeria (Julie Steenhuysen, 16 Oct, 2012, Reuters)

Chelsea Clinton is taking on the discomforting issue of diarrhea, throwing her family's philanthropic heft behind a sweeping effort in Nigeria to prevent the deaths of 1 million mothers and children each year from preventable causes, including 100,000 deaths from diarrhea.

The 32-year-old daughter of President Bill Clinton and Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton joined Nigerian officials, the prime minister of Norway and other leaders on Tuesday in promoting expanded access to zinc and oral rehydration solutions or ORS, a treatment that could prevent more than 90 percent of diarrhea-related deaths in the country.

"It is unconscionable that in the 21st century, children still die of diarrhea," Clinton told Reuters in an exclusive interview by phone from Abuja, Nigeria.

Posted by orrinj at 6:58 PM


Let's Be Less Productive (TIM JACKSON, May 26, 2012, NY Times)

Productivity -- the amount of output delivered per hour of work in the economy -- is often viewed as the engine of progress in modern capitalist economies. Output is everything. Time is money. The quest for increased productivity occupies reams of academic literature and haunts the waking hours of C.E.O.'s and finance ministers. Perhaps forgivably so: our ability to generate more output with fewer people has lifted our lives out of drudgery and delivered us a cornucopia of material wealth.

But the relentless drive for productivity may also have some natural limits. [...] If more is possible each passing year with each working hour, then either output has to increase or else there is less work to go around. 

Only in America could we consider it a problem that we create ever more wealth with ever less work.  Oddly, people seem to be convincing themselves that the point of a national economy is to create the latter rather than the former.

Posted by orrinj at 6:21 PM


Romney 50%, Obama 46% Among Likely Voters ( Lydia Saad, 10/16/12, Gallup)

Half of likely voters now prefer Mitt Romney for president and 46% back President Barack Obama in Gallup interviewing through Monday.

The thing to remember is that W was basically at 50% all Fall in 2004 and never more that the margin of error away from that magic number.

2004 Presidential Trial Heats

Compare that with Mr. Obama, who can't get to 50.  Folks don't suddenly change their minds about incumbents.

Can Romney Expand the Map? (Dick Morris, October 17, 2012, RCP)

[H]is campaign and the PACs supporting him could find it easier to win some states not initially designated as swing or battleground states than some of those that have been in the campaign cross hairs all along. In these new states -- like Michigan, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Minnesota and even New Jersey -- Romney does not have the high negatives Obama's ads have given him in states like Ohio, New Hampshire and Nevada. Their voters' main impression of Romney comes from a very good convention speech and a spectacular performance in the first debate.

The Romney campaign and the PACs supporting the Republican should raise their sights and put major efforts and funding into these new swing states. It is entirely possible, for example, that Romney could lose Ohio and carry Michigan or Wisconsin, thereby winning the election anyway.

In Michigan, for example, a private statewide poll conducted on Oct. 4 showed Obama ahead by 46-40. A follow-up poll by the same firm on Oct. 13 showed him ahead by only 44-43. A poll by McLaughlin and Associates -- a very reputable Republican firm -- showed Romney leading in Pennsylvania 49-46, and Tom Smith, the Republican Senate candidate, only 2 points behind Democratic incumbent Bob Casey Jr. (46-44). Another private poll shows Romney only 4 points behind Obama in Minnesota. All three of these polls offer encouraging evidence that broadening the campaign's sights to include these new swing states could be a very effective strategy.

Posted by orrinj at 5:38 AM


Obama Wins Second Debate, But Romney Scores With Centrist, Likable Storyline (Peter Beinart Oct 17, 2012, Daily Beast)

[I]t's possible this race is no longer about Barack Obama. For days I've struggled to figure out why the first debate so dramatically shifted the polls. I don't think it's mostly because Obama was lousy. After all, most Americans have seen Obama speak well dozens of times; they know he just had an off night. The first debate moved the polls because Obama, through his passivity, allowed Romney to shine. Romney came across as competent, moderate and normal, something he hadn't managed all summer.

And I suspect--or should I say, fear--that the reason the polls moved so much is that there were a lot of voters who had tuned Obama out as a result of the bad economy. They were ready to vote against him so long as Romney passed a reasonable threshold, which he did. We've seen this before in presidential campaigns: In 1980, Americans were looking for an excuse to vote against the incumbent, Jimmy Carter, and so what mattered most in the debates was that Reagan didn't look like a right-wing maniac. In 2008, Americans were looking for an excuse to vote against the de facto incumbent, John McCain, and so what mattered most in the debates was that Obama didn't look like a novice. If the debates are really about people disillusioned with Obama becoming comfortable with Romney, it doesn't really matter that Obama did better than Romney tonight because Romney did well enough. He again and again reminded Americans that the economy is worse than Obama said it would be, and he offered some kind of plan to make it better.

Mildly backwards, in that re-election campaigns never have much to do with the challenger.