New York State’s fiscal lunacy

A few items from Insty make you wonder if New York state politicians routinely have LSD mixed in with their bottled water:

CHANGE: Cash-poor NY state may issue IOUs like California.

Basically, New York state will now pay in virtual money. But you ain’t seen nothing yet:

A PENSION SHELL GAME: “Gov. David A. Paterson and legislative leaders have tentatively agreed to allow the state and municipalities to borrow nearly $6 billion to help them make their required annual payments to the state pension fund. And, in classic budgetary sleight-of-hand, they will borrow the money to make the payments to the pension fund — from the same pension fund.”

Is your head hurting yet? But Roger Kimball has a novel suggestion:

ROGER KIMBALL: The age of the IOU, or chickens/roost, and “anarchy literally.” “And here’s a policy suggestion that I offer free and for nothing. If New York offers its citizens IOUs instead cash, citizens should do the same come April. After wading through the pages of gibberish that our legislators have thoughtfully provided under the rubric of your tax returns, they should enter the amount owed, sign on the dotted line, and enclose an IOU instead of a check. If an irresponsible and fiscally incontinent state can hold on to your money (and you should never forget that it is your money), then you are justified in practicing a little self-defense and treating the state with a little of the contempt with which it treats you. If five or ten or a hundred people did it, it wouldn’t make much difference. What if five or ten thousand people did?”


8 reasons why college tuition is the next bubble to burst

Via Insty and others, a nice summary of 8 reasons why college tuition is the next big bubble to burst: (the article is apparently so popular the site exceeded its bandwidth limit, here is the Google cache)

1) Tuition is, and has been, increasing at double the rate of inflation

On average, college tuition increases at around 8 percent per year, which means the cost of college doubles every nine years.  Because colleges know that students will simply borrow more money to cover tuition increases, colleges have been relying on steady tuition hikes to solve all of their money problems.  If this continues a college degree will soon cost as much as a house.

2) Students are borrowing more than ever to pay for college

The number of college students graduating with over $25,000 in student loan debt has tripled in the past decade alone.  Today, 66% of students borrow to pay for college, taking on an average of $23,165 in debt.  Twelve years ago, 58% borrowed to pay for college, taking on only $13,172 in debt.

3) For profit colleges are paying homeless people to take out federal loans to enroll

Because student loans are so easy to acquire, enterprising colleges are paying homeless people to enroll.  The math makes sense when you think about it: if paying someone a $2,000 “stipend” gets the college $20,000/year in tuition courtesy of the federal government, that’s money well spent.  Unfortunately, many people who accept such “stipend” offers never graduate, become overwhelmed with student debt, and destroy their already bad financial records.

4) Colleges are on a non-teaching staff hiring spree that far outpaces enrollment

Why hire a full-time professor when you can hire an “environmental sustainability officer”?  According to the a New York Times article, over the past two decades colleges have doubled their non-teaching staff, while enrollment has only increased by 40%.  Often times staff members have exotic duties like monitoring environmental sustainability, or their focus is on student “lifestyle.”  Economist Daniel Bennett, who conducted this study, says “Universities and colleges are catering more to students, trying to make college a lifestyle, not just people getting an education. There’s more social programs, more athletics, more trainers, more sustainable environmental programs.”  Of course, much this exotic hiring and lifestyle catering is made possible by student loan money.

5) For profit reliance on federal loans has reached an all time high

According to Bloomberg, publicly traded higher education companies derive three-fourths of their revenue from federal funds, up from just 48 percent in 2001 and approaching the 90 percent limit set by federal law.  The fact that colleges are almost completely relying on borrowed money to finance tuition, up to the legal limit, means we’ve almost hit the breaking point.  If not for the easy student loan money sloshing around, many colleges would go belly up tomorrow.

6) Schools are spending on luxurious amenities to lure in more students

Flush with student loan money and wanting to attract even more, colleges are increasingly spending on luxury dorms, gyms, swimming pools and other amenities.

Freakonomics author Stephen Dubner noted that when he went back to his college, a chancellor told him that “[the gym] was a top priority because parents and prospective students increasingly think of themselves as customers, shopping for the most amenities for the best price, and the colleges that didn’t come to grips with this would soon see their customers going elsewhere.”  But gyms are just the tip of the ice burg.  At High Point University in North Carolina, students are treated to valet parking, live music in the cafeteria and Starbucks gift cards on their birthdays.

7) College president salaries are sky high, even in a historical economic downturn

USA Today reported that 23 Private College Presidents Made More Than $1 Million in 2008, while 110 made more than $500,000.  In case you were wondering, this is not the norm — as recently as 2002, there were no million-dollar presidents.  And it’s no wonder the college administrator gravy train continues despite the down economy.  After all, when your “customers” have easy access to credit and pay you with money they don’t have, the economy doesn’t really matter, does it?

8) The student loan problem cuts across all schools, for profit and nonprofit

Often times the discussion about a high tuition leads to a flogging of for profit colleges.  And while for profit colleges are often the worst about shamelessly fattening themselves at the trough of student loans, it’s not a for profit vs. non profit issue. In fact, for profit colleges account for less than half of student loan defaults.  Nor is the issue one of “good colleges” vs. “bad colleges.”  As this New York Times article illustrates, even students at prestigious non-profit schools like NYU can find themselves in financially ruinous circumstances because of their student loans.

Shanghaiing homeless people into enrolling in college so they can get student loans… This is the sort of absurdity that one normally encounters in over-the-top satirical novels…

Report: Half of euthanasia in Belgium without consent

Daily Mail (h/t: multiple):

A high proportion of deaths classed as euthanasia in Belgium involved patients who did not ask for their lives to be ended, a study found.

More than 100 nurses admitted to researchers that they had taken part in ‘terminations without request or consent’.

Although euthanasia is legal in Belgium, it is governed by strict rules which state it should be carried out only by a doctor and with the patient’s permission.

The disturbing revelation  –  which shows that nurses regularly go well beyond their legal role  –  raises fears that were assisted suicides allowed in Britain, they could never be properly regulated.

Since its legalisation eight years ago, euthanasia now accounts for 2 per cent of deaths in Belgium  –  or around 2,000 a year.

The researchers found that a fifth of nurses admitted being involved in the assisted suicide of a patient.

But nearly half of these  –  120 of 248  –  also said there was no consent.

‘The nurses in our study operated beyond the legal margins of their profession,’ said the report’s authors in the Canadian Medical Association Journal.

It is likely many nurses ‘ under-reported’ their involvement for fear of admitting an illegal activity, the study said.

But it added that many were probably acting according to their patients’ wishes, ‘even if there was no explicit request’.

Last night, Dr Peter Saunders, director of the Care Not Killing campaign in Britain, said: ‘We should take a warning from this that wherever you draw the line, people will go up to it and beyond it.’

‘Once you have legalised voluntary euthanasia, involuntary euthanasia will inevitably follow,’ he added.

But pro -euthanasia group Dignity in Dying said rules that see the patient taking their own life, rather than a doctor administering the drugs, could still work.

As I have argued multiple times elsewhere: some slopes truly are too slippery to walk. If this is the only way Belgium’s model of socialized medicine can be kept solvent, what needs euthanizing is the model, not the patients.

The Alien in the White House

No, don’t worry, I haven’t gone “nirther”, and neither has Dorothy Rabinowitz, who thus entitled her latest WSJ op-ed. She refers not to his place of birth, but to a state of mind.

The deepening notes of disenchantment with Barack Obama now issuing from commentators across the political spectrum were predictable. So, too, were the charges from some of the president’s earliest enthusiasts about his failure to reflect a powerful sense of urgency about the oil spill.

There should have been nothing puzzling about his response to anyone who has paid even modest critical attention to Mr. Obama’s pronouncements. For it was clear from the first that this president—single-minded, ever-visible, confident in his program for a reformed America saved from darkness by his arrival—was wanting in certain qualities citizens have until now taken for granted in their presidents. Namely, a tone and presence that said: This is the Americans’ leader, a man of them, for them, the nation’s voice and champion. Mr. Obama wasn’t lacking in concern about the oil spill. What he lacked was that voice—and for good reason.

Those qualities to be expected in a president were never about rhetoric; Mr. Obama had proved himself a dab hand at that on the campaign trail. They were a matter of identification with the nation and to all that binds its people together in pride and allegiance. These are feelings held deep in American hearts, unvoiced mostly, but unmistakably there and not only on the Fourth of July.

A great part of America now understands that this president’s sense of identification lies elsewhere, and is in profound ways unlike theirs. He is hard put to sound convincingly like the leader of the nation, because he is, at heart and by instinct, the voice mainly of his ideological class. He is the alien in the White House, a matter having nothing to do with delusions about his birthplace cherished by the demented fringe.

Read the whole thing.

1863: Government of the people, by the people, for the people.

2010: Government of the people, by the New Class, for the New Class and its anointed mascots.

Quote of the day: Mark Steyn

This was published over a month ago, but remains as true now:

To the coastal commentariat, “undocumented immigrants” are the people who mow your lawn while you’re at work and clean your office while you’re at home. (That, for the benefit of Linda Greenhouse, is the real apartheid: the acceptance of a permanent “undocumented” servant class by far too many “documented” Americans who assuage their guilt by pathetic sentimentalization of immigration.)

‘Black flight’ in the Dallas school district

Here is a Dallas Morning News story that is guaranteed to make liberal heads explode, as it pits two favored ‘mascot’ groups of the ‘anointed’ against each other.

The subject is ‘black flight’ in the Dallas school district. Black parents are increasingly trying to move to better-to-do suburbs, in order to place their children in highly ranked schools there. The main motive? Guess what: lower percentages of Hispanic/Latino kids.

I never subscribed to the asinine theory that only white people can be ethnically prejudiced. (I avoid ‘racist’ here, since Latinos can be of any race.) And ethnic tensions between blacks and Hispanics certainly exist. But it appears that the real motivation is not ethnic bigotry per se, but avoiding recent immigrant (legal and otherwise) kids with deficient English.

Go read the whole piece. Note that it is not written from a conservative or libertarian point of view.

The higher education bubble about to burst

Two great articles about the college tuition bubble about to burst: subprime goes to college, and, by Instaman himself: Instaman’s own Washington Examiner piece.

What is the root of all evil here? Is it the utterly misguided idea that everybody — including people with average or below-average intelligence — needs a college education (how about actually teaching something in high school instead)? Is it the proliferation of vapid make-believe majors of the ‘studies’ ilk, while engineering and hard sciences increasingly have to recruit (legal) immigrant students from abroad? Is it the use, by employers, of irrelevant college degrees as a proxy for standardized tests which employers are no longer allowed to administer, leading to situations where BA/BS college degrees become an admissions ticket to jobs that don’t require a college education to begin with? Is it the availability of cheap student loans with no regard for whether the graduate will be gainfully employed at a level that will enable him/her to repay the loan? (Insty gives the example of somebody with $100K in student loan debt who got a degree in gender and religious studies, currently employed as a photographer’s assistant and having trouble making payments meet.) Is it the fact that ‘studies’ degrees have a much higher profit margin for colleges than labor-intensive, high-cost degree programs in STEM fields (=science, technology, and medicine)?

My answer would be: all of the above.

Zombie on “peace” flotilla: “Losing is the new winning”

Don’t miss Zombie’s take on this, and his/her tongue-in-cheek take on the kneejerk sympathy for the underdog that motivates people who ought to know better.

The post also embeds a useful video by Shraga Simmons summarizing the evidence:

An earlier Zombie post that ought not to be missed is a photoreportage of an 0bama visit to San Francisco, finding him reviled by left-wing loonbat and “out of the closet” conservative demonstrators alike.

iPad: First impressions

The iPad contains no technology that did not previously exist. Yet, now having used oe for about a week, i am prepared to say it’s a game changer.

Biggest minus point for me: the virtual keyboard doesn’t have arrow keys, which makes editing text difficult unless you have very thin, delicate fingers. There is also the lack of Flash support, but i knew that going in.
Otherwise, it’s become my permanent sidekick. Use it for reading (iBooks as well as Stanza, which finally got updated for iPad support), browsing, note-taking,… Pretty much everything that doesn’t involve major writing and editing. And it’s a great music player too.

WordPress blogging mostly works: still cannot post on Correspondence Committee, owing to this site being coded in ASP.NET (yikes).

Battery life is more than adequate for my needs. And the most striking feature, perhaps, is how easily non-tech minded people take to the interface. (It’s quite a people magnet in public.)

A scandalous saga of withheld footage

Thus entitles David Horowitz (the JPost editor, not his namesake) his observations about the incomprehensible decision of Israeli spokesmen to withhold footage shot from a neighboring “peace vessel”, which clearly (if quite unintentionally) Israel’s claim that the naval commandos had no choice but to fire in defense of their lives.

Approximately 12 hours after the event, however, when all the condemnations had been issued, the demonstrators had weighed in worldwide, the Arab League, Security Council, Human Rights Council and all were convening or preparing to devote their attentions to this latest Israeli outrage, official Israel finally decided to release the grainy but distinct footage it had been sitting on all day showing precisely what had unfolded in the pre-dawn battle at sea.

Much earlier in the day, it had made available indistinct footage, shot from overhead, of commandos rappelling down to the vessel, and ostensibly being set upon by a raging mob of activists. But this footage was too blurry to be conclusive. The IDF Spokesman’s Office had added captions, but, said a second foreign journalist with whom I spoke on Tuesday, “You couldn’t make anything out definitively. It just looks like ants running around in all directions down there.”

The belatedly liberated footage, however, was evidently shot from a neighboring vessel, the camera held slightly below the level of the Mavi Marmara’s top deck where the confrontation took place. This footage is also far from perfect, but it is conclusive. The clarity with which it shows the commandos coming down onto the deck and being pounced upon and thrashed is sufficient to render the footage nauseating. The clubs and the irons bars rise and fall with sickening force and frequency.

While many of those aboard the flotilla may have sincerely believed they were on a mission to alleviate suffering in Gaza, those people who mobbed the commandos clearly had a very different agenda. Nobody watching that footage could ever again in good conscience brand them “peace activists” or “human rights activists.”

And everybody watching it could finally appreciate the veracity of [IDF spokesman, Col., Avi] Benayahu’s hitherto-unsupported interviews from hours before, claiming that the commandos had faced a veritable lynching.

For many Israelis who had believed the IDF account all along, the belated supporting evidence may have only deepened the frustrations felt all day at the rest of the world’s readiness to doubt Israel’s account of events and believe the false narratives of its enemies.

But for some of the foreign press, who had been less willing to accept Benayahu’s improbable account of commandos overpowered by civilians, the footage was a revelation.

“I saw it, and I realized I had done Israel an injustice,” one of my foreign colleagues said on Monday, with admirable candor. “At that point, and only at that point, I understood what the Israelis had been saying.”

Let there be no doubt about this. The failure to release in good time the video evidence that showed exactly why Israeli commandos resorted to live fire aboard the Mavi Marmara, the video evidence that would emphatically have affected the way the incident was perceived around the world, was not accidental. Neither was it the consequence of some kind of bureaucratic snafu. Nor was it held back for technical reasons.

It was the result of a decision. The officials, in their various competing, conflicting, inadequate propaganda hierarchies, actively chose, after consultation, not to release it. (The Jerusalem Post’s military correspondent Yaakov Katz provides some of the specifics elsewhere on these pages.)

Some of their considerations are not beneath contempt. There was a legitimate concern, for instance, that the footage, showing colleagues in such trouble, might prove demoralizing for Israeli troops. And some of their considerations are utterly contemptible, including the scandalous parochial obsession with local TV – the insistent, misguided desire to hold back dramatic material until late in the Israeli day, so that as many people as possible here will see it fresh on the 8 p.m. Hebrew nightly news.

These, and all other considerations, in a competent official media hierarchy that recognized the urgent imperative to disseminate the footage, would have been immediately set aside. Even allowing generous time for processing and editing the material, the footage could have been flashing across TV screens worldwide by our breakfast time, before news of the entire incident was even beginning to permeate. Would it have completely transformed the way the incident was reported and understood? No. Would it have greatly helped Israel’s case? Unquestionably.

This is not the first time Israel’s abysmal official public diplomacy hierarchies have made this kind of criminal misjudgment, to the terrible detriment of the national interest.

In July 2006, early in the Second Lebanon War, they did almost exactly the same thing. A pre-dawn Israeli air strike on a building in Kafr Kana, in which sheltering Lebanese civilians were killed, was globally reported as having been utterly lacking in military justification and accepted by the international community as evidence of criminal, indiscriminate Israeli aggression.

Only at the end of that black day did the Israeli security establishment convene a press conference – in Hebrew, just in time for the nightly news here – at which footage was released showing Katyushas being fired from the immediately adjacent area.

Monday’s failure was more abject, however. Rather than hopefully enabling a well-intentioned viewer to begin to understand why Israel had acted, as was the case in 2006, the promptly released Mavi Marmara film would have left no doubt about the authenticity of the Israeli narrative.

One of my foreign colleagues said his TV station would repeatedly have run the key few seconds, showing the rods and clubs pounding the outnumbered, ill-equipped commandos. Indeed, on Tuesday, numerous world TV stations were doing precisely that, and some of them were commissioning stories asking why official Israel had shown such spectacular public diplomacy ineptitude in withholding the clip. This behavior puts paid to that other false and defeatist Israeli claim about the foreign media, which has also been reprised in the last two days: “They wouldn’t have broadcast the footage anyway.”

The delayed release of the critical footage was far from Israel’s only public diplomacy failure on Monday. Numerous foreign journalists will tell you that they made phone call after phone call seeking official Israeli responses to the unfolding events, in vain.

Unfortunately, Israel’s official hasbara efforts at times bring to mind Conquest’s Third Law: “The behavior of any large organization is best understood by assuming it to be controlled by a cabal of its enemies”. If it weren’t for an “Army of Davids” of unofficial defenders in the new media…

The whole incident shows two structural problems with Israel’s hasbara apparatus: an obsession with domestic public opinion (as evidenced by Benayahu’s giving a clear, articulate statement in Hebrew for domestic consumption rather than in English for foreign consumption) and a mistaken assumption that foreign media will be “against us no matter what”. As the great Talmudic sage, Reuven Avraham ha-Tarnegolon (known to the rest of the world as Robert A. Heinlein :-)) once put it in Yalkut Elazar ha-Gadol: “Certainly the game is rigged. Don’t let that stop you; if you don’t bet, you can’t win.”

UPDATE: “Render” at C2 provides some very useful links on the IHH group, which is anything but an innocent band of “peace” activists:


What is IHH? pt.1

What is IHH? pt.2