Vouchers in Milwaukee

by Harry on April 21, 2004

Caroline Minter Hoxby has just published a paper (available, like all her papers, free at her website) in the Swedish Economic Policy Review claiming that the performance of Milwaukee’s public schools (measured in terms of test scores per dollar of spending) improved quite dramatically during the heat of the battle over vouchers (in the late 90’s), and that the gains of that time do not seem to have fallen back (though they have plateaued).

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Vanunu

by Chris Bertram on April 21, 2004

There’s been surprisingly little blog comment on the release of Mordechai Vanunu, the Israeli atom whistle-blower. He’s been released subject to outrageous restrictions on his freedom of association and movement. Jonathan Edelstein has a “fairly balanced and moderate post”:http://headheeb.blogmosis.com/archives/024458.html on the subject, Gene at Harry’s place has “a somewhat sneering one”:http://hurryupharry.bloghouse.net/archives/2004/04/21/the_cult_of_mordechai_vanunu.php . But despite Edelstein’s reasonable tone, I can’t agree with him when he writes

bq. Vanunu betrayed his country and chose illegal rather than lawful means to pursue his political agenda; it was his choice to go to a foreign newspaper with classified information rather than addressing his concerns to left-wing Israeli lawmakers.

The “betrayal of country” accusation strikes me as somewhat dubious. There have been plenty of whistleblowers in Britain — such a Clive Ponting, Sarah Tisdall and, most recently, Katharine Gun — who have gone to the press with details of possibly illegal and certainly immoral behaviour by Britain’s governments and defence establishment. But no-one has called them traitors. As far as I can see his crime was not to weaken Israel’s security by revealing genuine secrets, but to bring into the light of day facts about Israel’s nuclear programme that everyone knew but which couldn’t be admitted openly for political and diplomatic reasons. Do such revelations a traitor make? As for the accusation of using illegal means, that’s pretty laughable given that Vanunu was illegally kidnapped in Italy! Or is illegality ok for states but and not for their citizens?

The September Project

by Eszter Hargittai on April 21, 2004

Where will you be on September 11th?

Jay Nordlinger defends Iran-Contra

by Ted on April 21, 2004

Jay Nordlinger, of the National Review, on hypocrisy:

I had a memory: It was of Ronald Reagan and his dealing with the hostage situation in Lebanon. An AP reporter was held captive there — name of Terry Anderson. He had a sister named Peggy Say, and she became kind of a spokeswoman for the hostages’ families. Every day, she’d be out in front of the White House, sockin’ it to Reagan, saying how he was hard-hearted and callous and rigid and all the rest of it. And the media were in broad agreement with this. Reagan had a ridiculously inflexible position: No negotiations with terrorists.

But, lo, it was revealed that Reagan was a softie, that he was, indeed, flexible, that he was engaged in some maneuvering to free those hostages, so concerned was he about the individuals’ fates.

And the media (along with the rest of the Left)? They turned on a dime. Now they were super-principled about terrorists. Now any dealing for the release of those hostages was a travesty and an outrage.

Is Nordlinger honestly and truly trying to say that the President should have the authority to secretly cut deals rewarding terrorists? It appears that he is.

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68 dead in Basra blasts

by Ted on April 21, 2004

Unforgivably horrible.

Iraqi police recruits, children on a school bus and many others were killed today in a series of bomb attacks in the British-controlled city of Basra that claimed at least 68 lives…

The explosions sowed panic across Basra, which had been relatively peaceful during this month’s upsurge of violence in other parts of central and southern Iraq.

US officials believe al-Qaida linked Jordanian militant Abu Musab al-Zarqawi was behind the Irbil, Baghdad and Kerbala attacks. They claim an intercepted letter revealed a strategy to foment civil war between Sunni and Shia Muslims to make the country ungovernable.

Basra’s governor also blamed Osama bin Laden.

It didn’t happen

by Ted on April 21, 2004

From today’s Washington Post:

The Pentagon deleted from a public transcript a statement Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld made to author Bob Woodward suggesting that the administration gave Saudi Arabia a two-month heads-up that President Bush had decided to invade Iraq.

At issue was a passage in Woodward’s “Plan of Attack,” an account published this week of Bush’s decision making about the war, quoting Rumsfeld as telling Prince Bandar bin Sultan, the Saudi ambassador to Washington, in January 2003 that he could “take that to the bank” that the invasion would happen…

Woodward supplied his own transcript showing that Rumsfeld told him on Oct. 23, 2003: “I remember meeting with the vice president and I think Dick Myers and I met with a foreign dignitary at one point and looked him in the eye and said you can count on this. In other words, at some point we had had enough of a signal from the president that we were able to look a foreign dignitary in the eye and say you can take that to the bank this is going to happen.”

We are hearing about this because the Administration directly contradicted a celebrity Post reporter about a hot news story, and the reporter kept his own records.

What haven’t we heard about?

UPDATE: Some insightful commentary on this story, and Woodward generally, from Ranting Profs.

The Year of the Cat

by Harry on April 21, 2004

A local DJ played ‘The Year of the Cat’ a few weeks ago and said that it was about ‘some British comedian called Tony Hancock‘ (yeah, like, the greatest single-handed comedian of the 20th Century, but I’ll let that pass). So, I listened to the song over and over again. And then again. I know the story of Hancock’s life better than anyone my age should, and though the song does sound a little sad, I simply can’t get the reference. (Is ‘a country where they turned back time’ Australia? If so why?) Google doesn’t help much: I got this German site, and an error message. Now I hear Steve Harley’s show and he (who ought to know) associates the song with Yussuf Islam which makes much more sense. Does anyone know the story about this?

“CNN reports”:http://www.cnn.com/2004/SHOWBIZ/Music/04/21/music.worst.songs.ap/index.html that _We Built This City_ by Starship has been voted worst song of all time in what looks like a slightly less scientific poll than we could get by sampling the readership of a random blog. The list of the 50 worst looks like it is designed to bring back bad music memories. Other offenders honored include Paul McCartney (twice), Vanilla Ice, Billy Ray Cyrus and Toby Keith. (TK is on the list only because it was produced by the anti-American liberal media.)

McWhirter dies

by Harry on April 21, 2004

Norris McWhirter, the man responsible for the Guinness Book of Records, and, arguably, the British public obsession with meaningless facts has just died. Read the obituary, which has entirely admirable people saying very nice things about him. I don’t like to speak ill of the dead so I won’t.

Revise and Resubmit

by Kieran Healy on April 21, 2004

“Speaking”:https://www.crookedtimber.org/archives/001729.html of books, I’m about 250 pages in to “Robert Skidelsky’s”:http://www2.warwick.ac.uk/fac/soc/economics/staff/faculty/skidelsky/ one-volume abridgment of his three-volume life of Keynes. “Joan Robinson”:http://cepa.newschool.edu/het/profiles/robinson.htm has just shown up at Girton and is not being allowed to attend the meetings of Keynes’s Political Economy Club, despite being obviously the smartest economics undergraduate at Cambridge. Meanwhile, a little earlier Keynes complains about having to rework his _Treatise on Probability_ for publication:

bq. After every retouch it seems to me more trifling and platitudinous. All that is startling is gradually cut out as untrue, and what remains is a rather obscure and pompous exposition of what no human being can ever have doubted.

And a little later, “Frank Ramsey”:http://www-gap.dcs.st-and.ac.uk/~history/Mathematicians/Ramsey.html cheerfully informs a meeting of “the Apostles”:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cambridge_Apostles that their “Moorean”:http://www.philosophypages.com/ph/moor.htm obsession with discussing the moral value of different states of mind “although a pleasant way of passing the time, is not discussing anything whatever, but simply comparing notes.”

Freebies

by Kieran Healy on April 21, 2004

David Bernstein feels he “doesn’t have enough”:http://volokh.com/2004_04_18_volokh_archive.html#108246863843005786 to read:

bq. I find it a bit odd that I’ve been blogging for the VC for almost a year but have not made it on to any publisher’s review copy lists … a smart university press (or even trade press) would put me on their list for review copies of law books, or at least some subset of law books. … I just find it interesting that book publishers have been so slow to recognize a new medium through which they can publicize their wares.

As it happens, we have almost been drowned by blog-based publicity for books. “The”:http://volokh.com/2003_10_05_volokh_archive.html#106582889309170254 “only”:http://volokh.com/2003_10_05_volokh_archive.html#106563477335982255 “thing”:http://volokh.com/2003_10_05_volokh_archive.html#10656538526880754 “is”:http://volokh.com/2003_10_05_volokh_archive.html#10656538526880754 “it”:http://volokh.com/2003_09_21_volokh_archive.html#106450848270473629 “somehow”:http://volokh.com/2003_10_05_volokh_archive.html#106553138229092263 “or”:http://volokh.com/2003_10_05_volokh_archive.html#106547755115976868 “other”:http://volokh.com/2003_10_05_volokh_archive.html#106555866011950443 “always”:http://volokh.com/2003_09_21_volokh_archive.html#106441717295055075 “seemed”:http://volokh.com/2003_09_21_volokh_archive.html#106427893234426462 “to”:http://volokh.com/2003_10_05_volokh_archive.html#106563450112693960 “be”:http://volokh.com/2003_10_05_volokh_archive.html#106555866011950443 “promoting”:http://volokh.com/2003_10_26_volokh_archive.html#106741121432737373 “the”:http://volokh.com/2003_10_19_volokh_archive.html#106660114558552134 “same”:http://volokh.com/2003_10_19_volokh_archive.html#106713811667575301 “book”:http://volokh.com/2003_10_19_volokh_archive.html#106657556477010526.

Second-mover advantage

by John Quiggin on April 21, 2004

It’s the fate of market innovators to be undercut by new entrants. As noted by Henry, Bill Tozier has hit on the idea of auctioning co-authorship rights, including the acquisition of an Erdös number of 5. As of this posting, the Ebay high bid stands at $US 31.

But Bill has apparently failed to learn the lessons of the dotcom era. The first is to patent everything. As far as I can tell, Bill has failed to file for a business methods patent on his idea, leaving it open to new entrants to imitate him, or even to patent the idea themselves.

The second is that the best way to undercut the competition is to give your product away. Following on this lesson, I’ve decided to set my co-authorship price (including *free* Erdös number of 4) at zero. That’s right, potential co-authors! Send your paper to me with a space for my name on the front page, after yours[1]. SEND NO MONEY! If I like it, I’ll insert my official stamp, and send it off to an appropriate journal. I don’t know why I didn’t think of this earlier!

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