Samuel Garner is less than happy about the amount of debt he accumulated in service to his education. You can read the Ordinary Times discussion on the piece, and the consensus is not favorable to Mr Garner. I wanted to focus a bit on the last couple of paragraphs:

But that doesn’t get to the heart of the systemic problem: Education is outrageously expensive and too risky; schools indoctrinate students and their families with lofty ideals and benefit from their ignorance without accountability; and students and their families can borrow at unprecedented rates, allowing schools to continue hiking tuition. Though its advent was surely well-intentioned, our loan system is confusing and exploitative. In a country we often think of as a meritocracy, it’s appalling that we have an education system that frequently does more to punish students for getting educated than it does to reward them.

Ultimately, like many other enlightened countries that recognize education as a critical public good—foundational to the economy and a just society—we need to move toward free public education, including graduate school. Where will this money come from? Given the billions we spend on federal student loan programs and the disgusting amounts of money many college presidents and administrators make, I’m sure there’s plenty of money that could put us in the right direction. To start, we need more substantial efforts to refinance and forgive student debt. There are millions of people like me who would like to get on with their lives.

As is often the case with these sorts of piece, they conflate numerous things and try to shoehorn them all into the same issue. And as is often the case with pieces like this, they choose some of the worst case instances imaginable.

For example, he wants to move towards “free public education” but his experience is with… a private school. So right there, he had a very good, less expensive alternative that he did not avail himself of. He mentions the University of Wisconsin as a possibility, only to dismiss it as “still leaving him in debt.” At no point does he seem to express regret that he didn’t do what he could to lower the costs. He admits error, but that’s not the same thing. Just as he says that no degree is worth $240k, without giving any indication that if his choices were a degree for that much, Wisconsin-Madison for less, or no degree for zero dollars would be preferable.

For the right students, and the right schools, and the right majors, I am actually sympathetic to the notion that “college should be free.” But these are specific questions with specific answers. And if there is one thing that Garner was clear on, it’s that he is uninterested in specifics.


Category: School

In 1984, the narrator mentions screens that enable the government to observe citizens in their own homes. Citizens were not permitted to turn these screens off. For quite a while I’ve seen a correlation between these surveillance screens and internet access, cell phones, and now i-phone technology, the main difference being that we choose to use them. We can turn them off, and we do, but we depend on them nevertheless.

These devices make us “observable” to others, not necessarily or only to the state, but in a way that potentially guides our actions and maybe even the way we think.

We buy things online. Most of those purchases are in principle more traceable than cash purchases and perhaps even more traceable than purchases by check. At any rate, Amazon seems to know what I might be interested when I log on. Our search terms are (or so I hear) somehow remembered by my Google and contribute to what comes up when we search. When I go to weather dot com, the site knows I live in or around Big City. I assume that it would be fairly easy to track down my real identity from the blogs I comment and write on, or at least narrow the identity to my apartment building. Even dumber technologies like my flip phone track my phone calls and messages and my time zone.

And this is mostly beneficial to me. All this connectivity is entertainment, shopping, and a way to express myself and talk with people online I would probably never get a chance to meet in real life. I’m part of online communities where in my own way I have a voice and an opportunity to speak my mind and learn from others. I have and use a Roku, which streams channels from the ‘net. I listen to music on YouTube.

This is all mostly voluntary. I choose to turn on my computer first thing when I get home. The computer remains on until I go to bed, even if I’m not using it.

Still, I can’t shake the thought that I’m patched into a world where I and my choices are observed or at least observable.

I don’t think I’m paranoid. If I were, I wouldn’t use the computer at all. Or I’d use it less often. Or I’d take greater precautions than I do to protect my anonymity. I don’t think government bureaucrats are monitoring my to’ing’s and fro’ing’s on the internet. I am wary of identity theft, but not that wary.

As I see it, I’m taking two gambles. The first is that my life and views are so uninteresting and so non-influential and enough on the mainstream that no one (I hope) sees any special need to track me down. The second gamble is that there are a lot of fish in the pond for identity thieves, and I hope the chances of me getting my identity stolen is lessened by some sort of law of numbers, in addition to sensible precautions I can take myself.

Above, I compared this situation with Orwell’s 1984. It’s not entirely a good comparison. I’m not arguing that being “observable” is totalitarianism. I’m not even arguing that being observable is the same thing as being observed. In some ways, by being more exposed and more “visible” to the online world, I enjoy greater privacy than people did before such things existed. I probably enjoy more privacy on the web in 2015 than I would, say, in a stereotypical small town or closed neighborhood or enclave where everyone knows everyone else’s business.

But there’s also something not quite voluntary about it even though I choose it freely. It makes me uneasy.


starwarssolosI can only hope that this changed some votes in the right direction.

An expert assessing the importance of Donald Trump’s short fingers.

This map of age differences at marriage looks mostly as one might expect, but it’s less of a thing than I would have guessed in China. Gannon, I’m sure, would be disappointed in Argentina being dark blue.

Whites gain more from the social safety net than blacks, proportional to poverty numbers.

Greg Branch writes of Flint, and how it all unfolded.

A teenager in Germany who sparked outrage by claiming to have been raped by a refugee admits to making it up. There’s a definite left-on-left angle with that one…

Marcus Winters reports that charter schools are better at retaining hard-to-educate students, suggesting that maybe the notion that they’re tossing out the low-achievers may have less merit than some suppose?

Roosh, the ally of A Well Known Sex Blogger, has been getting a lot of attention lately.

Housing in New Jersey is expansive. A lot of communities are seeking to keep it that way. Relatedly, and even less surprisingly, resident participation in city planning has some pretty ill-effects.

Carbon dioxide emissions may be making forests more resilient!

Dylan Matthews reports that giving poor people money is good for the recipients and maybe not so good for those around them, but it’s unclear. Relative wealth and relative income are tricky.

Residents of Boulder have found a new, inventive argument to oppose more housing: Pet density.

Walmart coming to a town can be a glorious event. When it leaves, though, it hurts.

Turns out, it’s a bad idea to hire toxic people.

How North Dakota became an epicenter for drone development. Setting aside my usual giddiness with the exploitation of non-coastal human resources and development, the great expanse really is good for this sort of thing.


Category: Newsroom

So… Rubio had a pretty bad night. Not much point in denying that. Some have been arguing that this is the first time Rubio’s been a big target, but that really isn’t true. From a comment I left the other day:

I’m not sure it won’t. That was a huge thing early on, but has become less so with time because he has been getting a lot of negative attention. R2R carpetbombed the Iowa airwaves, and elsewhere. Cruz has been taking shots and really ramped it up over the past week. Trump has taken shots. Kasich’s people took a shot. Talk radio has taken shots. His views on immigration came up in the most unflattering way possible in the last debate, and was brought up in previous debates (in one of which he was Target #1), and he’s still standing.

So while I’m not-at-all sure it won’t happen, there is quite a bit of reason to believe that the obvious liabilities have already played out. There may be some as-yet unfound non-obvious liabilities, but that’s an unknown unknown at this point.

That notwithstanding, those with the perspective that Rubio was suddenly vulnerable going into the debate and now he’s going to get grilled will understandably feel a sense of vindication. My own perspective is that there have been a lot of attacks on Rubio, but Christie is the first one that managed a direct hit. And more to the point, this is the first time that Rubio failed to evade. That’s a pretty big deal. How big of a deal? We’ll know on Tuesday. But it’s hard to imagine that it won’t at least hurt the momentum he’d been generating with endorsements and the Establishment Lane race. While I thought the betting markets were overestimating him, he was the only one of the big three with the chance of putting this away pretty early, and that chance appears to be gone. It’s more likely that he’s going to need to grind it out. But, pending New Hampshire vote tallies, he still has a pretty good chance of doing it. Right now the probabilities I have on the back of my napkin are Cruz and Rubio at 1-in-3 and Trump at 1-in-5. I’d expected to adjust Rubio up after New Hampshire, but now I am expecting to adjust him down (and Cruz up, probably).

The only upshots for Rubio are fortuitous timing (in a way) and a potential to demonstrate solid support if it exists. In the former case, the Superbowl is today and a lot of the focus will be there today and tomorrow and the election is Tuesday. Also, because it was on a Saturday Night, SNL didn’t get a crack at him. In the latter case, if he comes out of New Hampshire looking unfazed by this, then that will be more to his benefit than if the disaster had not occurred. It would indicate that his support has some depth, and that he can weather mistakes.

I don’t believe the upshots will outweigh the bad. I’m looking beyond the primary here and to the general election. We’ve had a vague sense of what his weaknesses as a candidate are, but this crystalized the image. A lot of critics are going with Rubio-as-a-robot, which I actually think is wrong. Rubio comes across as warm in a way that HRC and Mitt don’t, especially. But it does point to a concern I had earlier but that he alleviated in earlier performances: That he’s an empty suit. A Ken Doll. A wind-up doll of sorts. This solidifies those concerns and if this is indicative of where he will be in November, that’s not good for the GOP. If Hillary Clinton ever finds her groove, Rubio will go down in the same way that Thomas Dewey did: As the candidate dismissed as the groom on a wedding cake.

So, without further ado, going into New Hampshire, here is how the race looks for each of the candidates:

Marco Rubio
1st Place: He’s the nominee.
2nd Place: His odds improve considerably if he has some separation here (as looked more likely before the debate than after). Especially if Cruz is #3. If he’s a weak #3, the road gets narrower with more potential for a fourth candidate making things more difficult for him. The key is separation, by either five or more points or Cruz standing in between him and Jeb/Kasich/Christie.
3rd Place: If behind Cruz, he needs a good debate performance ahead of South Carolina but can rebound. If behind Kasich, Christie, or especially Jeb, his odds decrease considerably.
4th Place: He can win, but the path is very narrow. Who got third? That’s the question.
5th Place: He’s done.

Ted Cruz
1st Place: He’s going to be very difficult to beat.
2nd Place: Unless behind Rubio, he’s in very good shape. Possibly to being a 50/50 proposition.
3rd Place: He’s still in good shape. My odds for him go up.
4th Place: He’s still in the race, but needs to rebound in South Carolina.
5th Place: he’s still in the race, but must do well in South Carolina.

Donald Trump
1st Place: This is expected. His odds improve, but not greatly. It’s South Carolina where he is going to need to prove himself.
2nd Place: He’s not done, but his path becomes narrower.
3rd Place: He’s done.
4th Place: He’s done.
5th Place: He’s done.

Jeb Bush
1st Place: I don’t even know.
2nd Place: Unless Rubio is close behind, he’s probably slayed Rubio and become the third viable candidate.
3rd Place: He’s hurt Rubio a great deal and we’re probably looking at a four-man race with good implications for Cruz (and Trump), or a three-man race with Rubio dead.
4th Place: Not enough, but he’ll probably fight on. Especially if he beats Rubio.
5th Place: He will be under some very intense pressure to drop out.

John Kasich
1st Place: I don’t even know.
2nd Place: He will probably be a factor in the race in the short-term, but it’s unclear he has long-term potential. Once NH is exposed as the one-off it probably he, he’s likely to become an afterthought before Super Tuesday.
3rd Place: If he’s ahead of Rubio, probably a short-term factor. If behind, probably not.
4th Place: He’s done.
5th Place: He’s done.

Chris Christie
1st Place: I don’t even know.
2nd Place: Probably a factor in the short-term, slightly more long-term factor potential than Kasich.
3rd Place: If he’s ahead of Rubio, probably a short-term factor. If behind, probably not.
4th Place: He’s done.
5th Place: He’s done.
Note: I am a bit down on Christie this cycle. But I think more than anyone else, he has set himself up to potentially be a viable candidate in 2020.


Category: Newsroom

{This post is a modified version of an OT post. Here, I’ve cut down the portions that appeared here previously.}

The Day Before

Lain has speech therapy on Thursdays, and so we go to the elementary school that morning. Some kids are trying to taunt admin about the schools being closed on Friday. The office folks say the kids are dreaming.

That night we get an automated call. School is canceled for Friday the 22nd.

Grade Schoolers 1, School Administrators 0

Day of Impact

snow-day1snow-beforeafter

The Second Day

No word from Jules. It isn’t a storm in the sense that you might think about, but the snow keeps coming down with a very impressive consistency. (more…)


Category: Home

22356230882_5c4712190e_Bernie-SandersFrom the Thursday night Democratic Debate:

MADDOW: Senator Sanders, as a Vermonter, you have almost a home state advantage here in New Hampshire. But back home across the border, you also have a long history of running against Democrats as a third-party candidate, for governor, Senate, for Congress.

In 1988 your candidacy as a third-party candidate arguably cost the Democrats a congressional seat and sent a Republican instead.

How can you lead the Democratic Party nationally when you have not been a member of the Democratic Party until very recently?

SANDERS: Well, Rachel, actually, that wasn’t accurate. In 1988 the Republican did win, I believe, by 3 points. I came in second. It was 34-31, I think, 19 for the Democrat. In that race the Democrat was the spoiler, not me. And it is true…

Well, if I were in a class I would prefer a response more along the lines of “Show your work.” So here goes… (more…)


Category: Statehouse


Category: Statehouse

beaniebabiesCalifornia has spent $24,000,000 dollars to seize legally purchased guns, and has had very limited success.

Tim Allen’s Last Man Standing isn’t my cup of tea, but I do like that it does at least stand as an example of right-leaning humor.

As a practical matter, my choice here is pretty much made by circumstance. I don’t know at what point I will be able to avoid such exposure entirely, but not there yet.

Eric Crampton looks at shortages, pricing, and marriage. Gabriel Rossman’s response is good.

This is a pretty crappy situation, all around.

Why don’t I believe in a frictionless voting registration process? This is why I don’t believe in a frictionless voting registration process. See also Ventura, Jesse.

On the cusp of the potential Zika crises, Daniel Engber wants us to declare war on mosquitoes. I stand with Dan!

Olga Piece and Marshall Allen look at how Danes handle medical malpractice, focusing less on fault and more on fairness.

Some hospitalists in Oregon are in revolt over managed care bringing in of contractors, while junior doctors in the UK are on strike.

Erika Wesley points out a JAMA study on how our over-reliance on c-sections may be costing lives. My wife’s employer has an impressively low c-section rate… which is causing problems because doctors who are performing obstetrics are having difficulty getting the numbers needed to keep their privileges.

On the other end of the spectrum, Aaron Carroll thinks home births should be honored but we need to work to make them safer.

I was thinking more of a North Idaho and South Idaho, but this would work.

A new book peeks behind the curtains at graduate admissions programs and how they go about making their selections.

You can call this a great many things (antagonizing, dehumanizing, harmful, maybe even benevolent if you are so inclined), but “Plain Packaging” isn’t among them. But hey, maybe we should put pictures of wrecked livers and kidneys and drunk driving corpses on beer bottles

The alcohol industry really, really needs its alcoholics.


Category: Elsewhere

Some years back I met a guy who eagerly billed himself as “the angriest mayor in America.” He was coming to speak to some of our students. He eagerly told me that he hated economists, except this one economist, a guy who unlike all the other economists told it like it really is. He then proceeded to spin some bullshit that, of course, nearly every economist rejects. But he’d found that one guy with an Econ PhD who confirmed his economic beliefs, and that was the evidence he needed to support his claim that he was right and almost all economists were wrong.

Bryan Caplan would surely shake his head in amused or weary acknowledgement of the mayor’s foolishness. And yet Caplan has done the same, in choosing Thomas Szasz as his go-to psychologist. Szasz argued that the mental illness/disease model was wrong, and that “there is no such thing as ‘mental illness’” (source). Although rejected (at least in his more extreme pronouncements) by the majority of the psych profession,* Szasz confirms for Caplan what Caplan wants to be true about psychology. That is, Caplan wants to treat these issues as merely one of preferences. (more…)


Category: Elsewhere

So when I finally got the mail after the Great Snowstorm, there was a letter from a bill collector stating that we were very delinquent on a medical bill from College Medical Associates (CMA), the physician group from which we receive medical care. It was… odd. I am very aggressive about paying medical bills as they arrive. As soon as they arrive. Before I even see what the bill is for, as often as not. Medical providers are especially aggressive about turning things over to bill collectors because when they don’t get paid quickly they are abnormally likely never to get paid at all. And on the other side, if you overpay they are good about sending you back a check. so if it’s under a couple hundred dollars, and it usually is, we can float that.

So what happened? Did I miss one? I wasn’t sure, but I did what I always do and immediately paid the $89.44 the bill was for.

The next day I got a very stern letter from CMA asking me to please stop remitting overpayments, along with a check for $26.57. They made their case that I am ridiculous because here are the amounts of the overpayments you have been making. So for the love of god, please stop. Don’t pay anything further until you get a new bill.

And today I got a new bill! From CMA. For $26.57.

Which of course lead me to compare the bill to the bill collectors to the list of overpayments I’ve made. Wouldn’t you know it: $89.44.

Given their inability to actually keep track of such things and willingness to come down hard on the patients, I’m almost tempted to say “screw these people.”

I’d rather not, though, because CMA is my wife’s employer.


Category: Bank, Hospital

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Greetings from Stonebridge a fictitious city in a fictitious state located in a tri-state area in the interior Mid-Atlantic region. We're in western Queenland, which is really a state unto itself, and not to be confused with Queensland in Australia.

Nothing written on this site should be taken as strictly true, though if the author were making it all up rest assured the main character and his life would be a lot less unremarkable.


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