Archive for September 28, 2008

The guy that got the economy right

September 28, 2008

The New York Times profiles Nouriel Roubini:

On Sept. 7, 2006, Nouriel Roubini, an economics professor at New York University, stood before an audience of economists at the International Monetary Fund and announced that a crisis was brewing. In the coming months and years, he warned, the United States was likely to face a once-in-a-lifetime housing bust, an oil shock, sharply declining consumer confidence and, ultimately, a deep recession. He laid out a bleak sequence of events: homeowners defaulting on mortgages, trillions of dollars of mortgage-backed securities unraveling worldwide and the global financial system shuddering to a halt. These developments, he went on, could cripple or destroy hedge funds, investment banks and other major financial institutions like Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.

The audience seemed skeptical, even dismissive. As Roubini stepped down from the lectern after his talk, the moderator of the event quipped, “I think perhaps we will need a stiff drink after that.” People laughed — and not without reason. At the time, unemployment and inflation remained low, and the economy, while weak, was still growing, despite rising oil prices and a softening housing market. And then there was the espouser of doom himself: Roubini was known to be a perpetual pessimist, what economists call a “permabear.” When the economist Anirvan Banerji delivered his response to Roubini’s talk, he noted that Roubini’s predictions did not make use of mathematical models and dismissed his hunches as those of a career naysayer.

Here’s hoping that, unlike all of us who were right about Iraq, Roubini gets listened to in the future.

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[LCSD] Mary Northern

September 28, 2008

I just ran across a comment from Mary Northern on last week’s LE editorial. I am, frankly, floored. Speechless. I’m going to try and go through this comment, but know that my initial reaction was something on the order of ‘holy shit’.

Caveat: While it is technically possible this is not actually Mary Northern, I see no reason to think it’s anyone but her. Someone correct me if you know better.

The first two sentences:

” I am only guessing that AK wrote this piece and I have to ask you PLEASE!!! if you are going to try to presume to know something about what you are writing about you should research the facts!!!!

Yes, she used that many exclamation points. Nothing technically wrong with that, but it’s generally the province of the ironic or the immature.

So what facts is Northern presuming the Express doesn’t know? Let’s see:

“at the expense of the other eight public schools” Do you have any idea how much money Lebanon is able to keep extra because of the Charter School??? Not to say anything about the jobs were created. They will be able to keep about $400,000 this year alone not to say anything about the other years we have been in this district. The district keeps about $7,200 for every Sp. Ed. student that we educate, we have about 15 now I think. The district keeps $1,200+ for all the other students. The district was even making about $.10 a carten on our kids milk. So now we buy direct.

Whoa. I’m going to assume the numbers Northern quotes are correct. I have no reason not to. There are, however, other facts that seem relevant here. For example:

1) If PIE did not exist, most (but not all) of the students at Sand Ridge would be attending LCSD schools – and the LCSD would keep all of the money.

2) There is a cost associated with sponsoring a charter school. It takes time and energy on the part of LCSD employees, for one – and given PIE’s inability to file the necessary paperwork with the state regarding the registration of teachers and administrators, it seems to have taken a substantial amount of time on the part of LCSD employees. This time has a monetary cost.

The state is not stupid, or at least not completely stupid; when the charter school law was passed, I’m sure this realization was part of the reason sponsoring districts are allowed to keep up to (I think) 15% of the per-student dollar allocation from the state, depending on the age of the student. I’m not sure anyone has done the math, taking into account exactly how many hours each LCSD employee has spent working on charter school business, but it’s clear that the money the LCSD keeps of the per-student allocation is not pure profit, but used to cover the cost the district incurs.

3) I don’t know what the deal was with the milk cartons. Not sure why it was included in the comment. To me, it makes Northern sound even more irrational and angry. I should note, too, that this has nothing to do with whether it is true or not. Assuming it was true, then PIE did the right thing – but then once it’s done, you drop it and move on. No reason to get apoplectic over milk, right?

4) The job-creation bit is arguably the same as the per-student allocation bit: Most of those jobs would be in the LCSD if PIE didn’t exist. Those students don’t just disappear.

5) The overall assumption that Northern seems to be making is that PIE and the Sand Ridge students came from nowhere, and therefore, any money the LCSD keeps is both unfair to PIE and pure profit for the LCSD. Needless to say, this is wrong. There is a fixed pool of students in the LCSD, so (again, most of) the students at Sand Ridge would otherwise be in the other eight LCSD schools. I have to wonder if Northern gets this and is just being cynical in her comment, or really doesn’t get it. I only bring up the latter possibility because she sounds so unhinged and angry in her comment.

Anymore, there’s more to the comment:

I know there is a math problem going around but come on!!!

Based on the test scores I’ve seen, Sand Ridge might have the biggest math problem of all. Also, how is this relevant? And why are there so many exclamation points?

AK you have been very one sided since I’ve been in Lebanon, you need to just report the news correctly, unbiased.

I’m not sure exactly what Northern is referring to here, as the comment was left on an editorial, which means that the writer is allowed to put their opinion in. If Northern is upset that the Express is not framing the issue as “the LCSD is stealing from PIE,” maybe that’s because it’s not true.

I tend to hear often from anti-Robinson folks that the Express does not report the news correctly, but I rarely hear a specific example of an instance where the Express failed to report something newsworthy. Remember, just because it makes Robinson look bad doesn’t mean it’s newsworthy, and neither is the newspaper obligated to adopt the framing of the issue that a particular reader wants.

(As an aside, I’ve also noticed that many of the people who are upset with the Express have no idea how a newspaper works, and the things they get upset about are a newspaper being a newspaper. More on that at a later date.)

The remainder of the Northern comment:

Everyone knows you have had a problem with Rick, get over it!! Rick has nothing to gain here, Rick is for the kids, Rick is for the teachers and staff that have to put up with bad politics. Recalling Rick and Josh would be a big mistake they are some of the very few that are fighting for what is right!!! You tell me what they have to gain?

1) What does ‘get over it’ even mean in this context? Northern fails to address even a single reason the Express has given in its editorials regarding why the Express is supporting the recall. Maybe that would be more helpful than ‘get over it’.

2) Northern’s characterization of Alexander is pretty much in line with what I’ve heard from other Alexander supporters. I’ve heard it enough to believe it’s a genuinely held belief on the part of many. That said, I want to offer two caveats: First, that this characterization is not held by everyone. Lots of others folks I talk to don’t think Alexander is for teachers, staff or students (and there are varying opinions as to what he’s really for or about). The second caveat is that to an extent, Alexander’s intent doesn’t matter. It’s his effect on the district that matters, and on that count, I – and many others – would argue that he’s been a terrible board member. I have been surprised by the number of people I talk to that personally know Alexander and swear up one side and down the other he’s really trying to do what he thinks is the right thing. That’s better than the alternative, but it’s not good enough. If good intentions were all it took, we wouldn’t be in this mess, would we?

Conclusion

Northern’s comment scares me a little. Either she’s totally cynical about how things work, and understands the points I made about where the money comes from and where it’s spent vis-a-vis the LCSD and PIE and is just trying to put one over on people (or work the refs), or she – disturbingly – doesn’t even understand how the relevant state laws work and why they exist.

Either prospect is not good. I have never met Mary Northern, and am not going to pass judgment on her character (or her intentions, natch). However, I can say that I think this comment is a very, very bad presentation of her and by extension, PIE.

I’ve seen several comments in other places that suggest that Northern really does view things as us-vs-them, LCSD-vs-PIE. This is not helpful, if true.

Parking at OSU

September 28, 2008

I have a question: What authorizes OSU to kick everyone out of staff and student permitted parking lots on game days and then charge for those spaces?

I’ve looked at the OSU Parking Services website as well as the OARs that govern OSU parking (yes, they exist, and there’s a fair amount of them), and in neither place do I find anything about the university’s right or ability to kick people out of parking spots they have paid for.

This is, in some ways, a moot point, as I’m not a student. But I work across the street from a staff parking lot that was filled with tailgaters at 5 PM Thursday.

That, and last year I was told OSU required all staff and students to move their cars from permitted lots by 3 PM so OSU could charge tailgaters for use of those same spaces.

The longer I am around OSU, the more Parking Services seems to be completely independent from any oversight, which is actually kind of surprising for OSU.