Jasper Smith

Commentary on politics, economics, culture and sports.

Archive for March 2007

In which Jasper hyperventilates about school vouchers

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Megan McArdle, in the midst of a series of posts about education reforms, goes off on her fellow libertarians:

I can’t say I’m thrilled to find that there is a statistically significant minority of my ideological quasi-brethren lining up to tell me that it’s a terrible idea to try and help poor kids with the school system. For one thing, my interlocutors say, the driving factor in the quality of a school is the quality (for which, read Socio-Economic Status) of its kids. And for another, it’s immoral to take money from people to educate someone else’s children…I’m sorry if my nom de blog fooled you, but I’m not that sort of libertarian. Children are a perennial problem for libertarians, but what it boils down to is this: children (and to my mind, the severely disabled), have positive rights. They have a right to be fed, educated, clothed, sheltered, and given medical care on someone else’s dime. And if their parents abdicate this responsibility, then it passes onto the community, including the state, even if none of us asked said parent to reproduce. So arguing that educating poor children is immoral . . . well, I hardly know what to say, except remind me not to get into a lifeboat with you.

You go, girl!

Commenter “Norm” on the thread opines thusly:

Liberals, of which I am one, desperately want to improve poorly performing schools. We just don’t think these schemes will work. It’s not that we hate markets, it’s that we have seen markets approaches fail time and time again at solving this very sort of problem.

Hey Norm, what about that “scheme” called American post secondary education? Unlike K-12, college level schooling in the US is not characterized by uniformity, centralization, lack of choice, geography-based assignment, etc. Rather, post K-12 in the US is characterized by diversity, specialization, choice, and, most importantly, competition. Universities compete fiercely with each other, and customers are free to vote with their feet. Indeed, post-secondary schools in the US are allowed to go out of business, and many do so each year. They do not, like elementary and high schools, possess a guaranteed pool of customers that insures their survival as long as babies continue to be born in their “territories.”

Moreover, American post-secondary education — in contrast to American K-12 — not only stacks up well against international competition, but is inarguably the world’s finest university system by any measurement. That’s right, the American education sector characterized by a widespread requirement to compete for customers is the world leader. The American education sector that is characterized by an utter lack of necessity to compete for customers is a world lagger. Funny, that.


Written by Jasper

March 21, 2007 at 8:44 am

Posted in Blogs, Culture, Economics, Policy

The case for and against Fred Thompson

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Via Ezra comes this analysis from the Washington Post’s Chris Cillizza about former Tennessee senator Fred Thompson:

There is a sense among Republicans that Thompson could stand toe to toe with with the big boys thanks to his star power and personal magnetism. The politician-turned-actor is a well-known face to many Americans from his role as Arthur Branch on the television show “Law and Order.” Don’t underestimate star power as a factor in politics….Americans are easily starstruck, and Thompson, frankly, looks the part of a president…Thompson’s decision to retire from the Senate in 2002 rather than seek another term is also a blessing in disguise when it comes to the 2008 presidential race…By walking away from a sure-thing second term in 2002, Thompson reinforced that populist image. He also spent the next five years outside of Washington as his party steadily lost the trust of the American public…The final piece of the Thompson puzzle is money…Lucky for Thompson that his home state is renowned for its willingness to donate to political candidates….Baker, Frist and Alexander are intimately involved in the recruitment of Thompson and would undoubtedly bring their financial networks to bear on his behalf — ensuring a solid financial base on which to build a national campaign. Combine Thompson’s capacity for fundraising in his home state with his starpower and his acceptability to social conservatives and you have a package that no other candidate in the field offers.

Jasper isn’t so sure. To me, Thompson seems like a decent, intelligent human being. There’s a certain dignity to him (a quality that’s, er, lacking in certain other unnamed personages), and that’s why he’s so popular in GOP circles. It’s not just fear of losing the White House and a consequent desire to nominate a strong candidate — it’s a reaction (conscious or otherwise) to the almost surreal awfulness of the current administration.

That said, I doubt Thompson is the GOP’s best bet. He might well prove formidable in the primaries (that is, among registered Republicans) but I think in the general election the GOP is headed for real trouble in places like Ohio, Colorado and Florida (ie., purple states). They need a centrist, or someone who can at least be spun as one.

Popularity among dispirited right wingers should not be confused with appeal to the broad middle.

Written by Jasper

March 20, 2007 at 12:05 am

Posted in Election 08, Politics

Best blogospheric one liner award

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From a comment thread on an Ezra Klein post about the potential for a Fred Thompson candidacy:

Have the DC hospitals seen an increase in fingernail injuries? From all the bottom-of-the-barrel scraping that the GOP is doing?

Why not just nominate the corpse of Ronald Reagan and be done with it?

Emphasis mine.

Written by Jasper

March 19, 2007 at 10:07 pm

Posted in Blogs, Election 08, Politics

Things that make you go hmmmmm…

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Tamper with a college prospect? Moi?

Written by Jasper

March 19, 2007 at 12:23 pm

Posted in Boston, Sports

The Monkey off their back

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The Cs finally take one on the road against the Spurs. This is the first time since Timmy entered the freakin’ Association that Boston has actually managed to win one in San Antonio (16 games!) and the first time in eighteen games they’ve beaten the Spurs, period.

It was a solid performance by Boston. Rajon Rondo hauled in fourteen rebounds. The Celtics are now 6-4 in the their last ten games. They seem to have clearly turned the corner. In some ways this season is turning out just perfect. I mean, if you can’t make the post season, you might as well get a high percentage shot at obtaining the services of either Greg Oden or Kevin Durant. And should they actually haul in one of these two studs and at the same time finish strong, it’s kind of the best of both worlds: they’ll benefit from a huge increase in talent (provided their highly heralded pick is the real deal) and they will have managed to put an optimistic sheen on the current roster’s abilities.

Still, I think there is some cause for disquiet now: Boston is playing well. I think it’s entirely possible the Celtics could go, say, 10-6 in their final sixteen games. That would put them at 30-52. It’s not out of the realm of possibility they could go from their current perch in the Oden/Durant sweepstakes — the second worst record in the NBA — to, oh, the eighth or ninth worst record.

That would suck.

On the bright side Memphis defeated Chicago.

Written by Jasper

March 18, 2007 at 5:48 am

Posted in Boston, Sports

In which Jasper supports the internment of the Japanese

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Just a bit more on the topic of immigration from the Islamic world. My case for limits on Muslim immigration was characterized thusly by one commenter on the Yglesias thread:

But your argument is the kind of thinking that led to the internment of the Japanese during World War II, one of the great shames of our national history.


No, I think my argument is the “kind of thinking” that made us cautious with, say, allowing dedicated Communists to immigrate during the cold war. In other words, totalitarian Islam is a robust, dangerous ideological opponent of the United States. Pretending this is not the case frankly patronizes our enemies. I don’t know as I’d go so far as to characterize the movement like many other do as an existential threat to America. But that’s at least in part because Muslims are much smaller in number here than they are in, say, France or Holland or Israel.

Call me crazy, but I’d just as soon not have our filmmakers slaughtered in the streets, or suicide bombers boarding our buses. Heck, I’m even opposed to the phenomenon of cabdrivers refusing to serve purchasers of fine Napa wines. Again, when the Ummah finally goes through the Enlightenment, we can talk about opening the floodgates.

And yes, I know not all Muslims are radical opponents of the Western way of life. But some of them — and from what I’ve seen it’s an uncomfortably large percentage — most assuredly are. Again, without having a mind reading machine that can carefully screen the innermost thoughts and sentiments of would-be immigrants, it seems to me that a prudent policy would entail — wherever practicable — carefully limiting (but not eliminating) immigration from countries that are associated with robust Islamist movements.

But as for Latin Americans or Asians, on the other hand, I say let ’em come.

Written by Jasper

March 17, 2007 at 10:41 am

Posted in Culture, Policy, Terrorism

Bill Richardson says yes to cannabis

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Good for Bill Richardson:

New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson says he plans to sign a medical marijuana bill despite the controversy surrounding it. “Is it risky? So what if it is risky. It’s the right thing to do,” the Democratic presidential candidate told the Albuquerque Journal. “Sure I’ll catch national grief over this. But I don’t tailor my style, or what I stand for, to primary states.” The bill, which cleared the New Mexico Legislature Wednesday, would allow state residents suffering from certain debilitating medical problems to be state-certified for medical marijuana use to ease their symptoms, the newspaper said. Supporters say the measure would affect a relatively small number of people. “What we are talking about is 160 people in deep pain, and it only affects them,” Richardson said.

Written by Jasper

March 17, 2007 at 9:05 am