Fannie and Freddie

by John Q on September 8, 2008

Measured by the dollar amount involved, the nationalisation of the mortgage guarantors Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, announced today by the Bush Administration, is the largest in history. No less than $5 trillion of assets and obligations have been taken over by the US government in one hit.

Of course, that debt had long been regarded as having an implicit government guarantee and the companies involved were quangos (in the original sense of quasi-NGOs) rather than genuine private firms. Fannie was a government agency privatised in the 1960s, and Freddie was created to provide competiion for Fannie. So even though the US government will now guarantee virtually all new mortgages, this is more an admission of existing reality than a big step towards socialism.

The significance of the event is not in the marginal change in the status of Fannie and Freddie from quasi-private to quasi-public, but in the abandonment of the pretence that the normal operations of financial markets are capable of cleaning up the mess they have created, even with the liberal helpings of public money that have already been dished out.

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Teach First, Teach for America and Toynbee Hall

by Harry on September 8, 2008

There’s an ongoing low-level argument in our house about Teach for America, which may reflect our own dispositions more than any actual disagreement. My spouse doesn’t like it much, because it promotes the idea that teaching is something clever people can do just because they are clever, and she doubts that the students who do it are very good in the classroom (she has some experience of non-standard routes into the classroom, having, herself, entered LAUSD as an emergency credential teacher straight out of college, the year before TfA began). I agree with all that, of course, and the students of mine who have done it give very mixed reports back to me. But taking into account the fact that the classrooms the TfAers occupy would mostly be occupied by similarly under-qualified teachers, most of whom will leave within a couple of years and some of whom within a couple of weeks, and having seen on campus the way that TfA has harnessed (and, it seems to me, contributed to) the idealism of high-performing students, I have a more positive take on it (the dispositional difference here is probably between viewing glasses as half-full or half-empty; though our dispositions are reversed when it comes to politics more generally). So when the TES asked me to profile a “thinker who has influenced education”, my wife suggested Wendy Kopp, and I thought it would be a way to work out my thoughts a bit more. It was a nice coincidence because Charles Windsor had just become the patron of Teach First, the UK organisation modeled on TfA.

Here’s what I wrote.

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Three Ponies and You’re Out!

by John Holbo on September 8, 2008

“[T]he court made no distinction between what needs were reasonable, given the age of the children, and what simply amounted to a ‘fourth pony,'” wrote Parker, who was joined by Judges Rudy Coleman and Thomas Lyons.


It’s good to know that this old post has had so much influence on the legal community.

link thanks to.

Related topic for discussion: Tolstoy’s classic pious fable, “How Many Ponies Does A Man Need?”

Presidential speech wordles

by Henry Farrell on September 8, 2008

Hilzoy has some “word by word analysis”: of John McCain’s convention speech, which reminded me that I hadn’t seen anyone do any convention speech Wordles. Which doesn’t mean that no-one has done one – just that they don’t seem to be popping up in the blogosphere. So here are yer wordles for Barack Obama, John McCain, Joe Biden and Sarah Palin, in that order (I’ve used different colour schemes for the Democratic and Republican nominees to make it easier to distinguish them).

Barack Obama

John McCain

Joe Biden

Sarah Palin