Monday, April 26, 2010

Linkism

More fallout in the immigration switcheroo:
A House aide e-mails TPM to say that "My boss was told in no uncertain terms from leadership that there is no way we're doing Immigration reform this year. Just no way."

Another senior Democratic adviser put the issue less starkly, telling TPM that "House members have put themselves out there taking votes on major issues first this year. It's not that we can't do it ... we just want to see the Senate move first."

A new political taxonomy.

A week-old segment of Michael Lewis, David Boies and Andrew Ross Sorkin on Charlie Rose. Sorkin is kind of boring but Lewis and Boies have some interesting things to say.

Mike Konczal is firmly in the habit of writing interesting/disturbing things about financial reform:
So if this reform takes place, the amount of derivatives traded is likely to increase. JP Morgan would lose profit, though everyone would be buying more of the product they sell. This is not like the example above. Of course, these are interested parties in reform being quoted here, but the general argument that a presumption for clearinghouses and exchanges would increase the volume of traded derivatives is an opinion I hear more often than not.

China bubble watch. An analyst warns that emerging markets are facing a hot money flood. Stephen Walt says China’s acting like a realist. Is Arizona’s immigration law like living in China? Also, a slideshow of China’s rural heartland.

How wine grapes portend the big problems of climate change.

This profile of a charter school CEO is interesting, but displays some problems of the genre. The writer of the profile, in seeking to inhabit the profiled, too often comes to identify with and slant the article to the benefit of the profiled. You might call it a version of regulatory capture. So in this profile we begin to get the impression of Eva Moskowitz, superwoman (who is perhaps slightly over-obsessive, but just-win-baby), but the writer slips in some of the ambiguity later:
Moskowitz doesn’t buy the self-selection premise. The children in proximate zoned schools, she insists, “are the same kids we have.” She notes that Success floods the neighborhood with glossy oversize brochures (six pieces per household, at a cost of more than $300,000 per year), and that two of three eligible Harlem families actually fill one out. “Zoned schools say, ‘We have families from domestic-violence shelters’—so do we,” Moskowitz says. “They’ve got families in blah-blah situations—so do we.”

Based on available statistics, however, charter schools have fewer of these families, including the poorest of the poor. One problem with “school choice,” as writer-activist Jonathan Kozol noted, is that the “ultimate choices” tend to get made “by those who own or operate a school.” At stake is not just who gets in, but who stays in. Studies show “selective attrition” in the KIPP chain, among others, with academic stragglers—including those seen as disruptive or in need of pricey services—leaving in greater numbers. In one flagrant local example, East New York Preparatory discharged 48 students shortly before last year’s tests, among them seven poor-scoring third-graders. (Citing financial mismanagement, the Department of Education plans to revoke the school’s charter in June.)
And:
English Language Learners (ELLs) are another group that scores poorly on the state tests—and is grossly underrepresented at Success. The network’s flagship has only ten ELLs, or less than 2 percent of its population, compared to 13 percent at its co-located zoned school. The network enrolls 51 ELLs in all, yet, as of last fall, provided no certified ESL teacher to support them. After a site visit to Harlem Success Academy 1 in November, the state education department found that the school had failed to show evidence of compliance with its charter and with No Child Left Behind, which mandates ESL services by “highly qualified” teachers. The matter is currently under review. (According to Sedlis, the network hired an ESL teacher in January.)
This is no reason for completely discounting her results, merely to apply some skepticism.

Thankfully, the Senate killed this pro-Warren Buffett provision in their version of the bill:
The Senate Agriculture Committee inserted language into its derivatives bill last week at the request of Sen. Ben Nelson (D., Neb.) that would have exempted any existing derivatives contracts from new collateral requirements—the money set aside to cover potential losses.

Berkshire has $63 billion in derivatives contracts, and Mr. Buffett has boasted he holds very little collateral against these products.
The reason Berkshire can get away with this is its sterling credit rating; however, if this story reminds you of anything, it’s AIG, another company with a sterling credit rating leveraging that into derivatives (emphasis on leveraging). Definitely a way to reduce the number of derivatives written and also their potential to take down the system.

Tech companies are hoarding their money.

Are gravel batteries the solution to the problems of wind energy?

Ross Douthat writes a somewhat overheated column on the South Park-Muhammad controversy, though I agree banning it was a goofy decision. Lost in the fulminating over the controversy is that South Park itself featured a plot about a network removing Muhammad from its controversial cartoon, though that controversial cartoon was Family Guy, in South Park’s anti-Family Guy screed.

Against historic preservation districts in New York:
It is wise and good to protect the most cherished parts of a city’s architectural history. But New York’s vast historic districts, which include thousands of utterly undistinguished structures, don’t accomplish that goal. Worse, they impede new construction, keeping real estate in New York City enormously expensive (despite a housing crash), especially in its most desirable, historically protected areas. It’s time to ask whether New York’s big historic districts make sense.

An interesting article in Sports Illustrated about efforts to open baseball academies in the Dominican Republic. If you like it—hell, even if you don’t like it—make sure to watch Sugar, a movie that came out just last year.

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