News, News, News

Lots of news today.  Briefly, from the Daily Barometer, a column on the credit card industry:

So when we hear now that President Obama and Congress are considering various measures to protect consumers from abusive credit card company practices, we should be suspicious.

In the end, we will find that those protective measures are a net benefit, but prudence dictates we be suspicious of populist rhetoric and give the counter-arguments a fair hearing.

Sounds good….except for this:

From this viewpoint, government regulation is just an interference with an efficient market, bound to produce unexpected negative outcomes by impinging free choice.

This viewpoint is compelling because it relies on the simple principle of market efficiency. In theory, the sum of individuals choosing what’s best for themselves creates what economists call a “Pareto optimal” situation – where the most people are getting the most value possible.

Yeah, the free market is a myth.  Tripathi seems to recognize this:

It’s called “predatory lending,” and it’s a market failure so old that it is mentioned in the Bible under the heading of “usury.”

Free markets are great … when they work right. In this case, though, the credit card companies really are jerks, and it is perfectly appropriate to regulate them.

It’s funny – Tripathi spends the column outlining the basics of the ‘free market’, but then notes at the end that credit card companies are jerks… and he never wonders if there is a connection there.  Put it in his language, he never wonders if there is an incentive in the market to be an asshole.  (Hint:  Yes.)  I can see why he didn’t, since making the connection would be an attack on the free-market model, and he’s an MBA student, but hey.  Everyone needs myths, right?

Next, also from the Daily Barometer, a column on fees:

So often it seems like Oregon State students are required to dole out significant amounts of money in student fees that go toward various projects and programs that really don’t give us a clear idea of where our money is being spent.

Had the author, Dwight Wozich, actually spent the rest of his column explaining where fees go, actually having done the research (did I mention this guy is a history major?), it would have made for a nice column that served to inform the student body.  Instead, Wozich just complains about what he thinks the fees aren’t doing, based on – apparently – zero knowledge and research whatsoever (for example, the incidental fee goes to so many different things it would be highly impractical to break it out in a bill).

Magically, there is one fee that Wozich understands and supports:

While the Student Recreation and McAlexander Improvements projects will require a modest increase of student fees – about $17 per term during the regular school year and $12.75 during the summer – these are the first major initiatives that I have been partial to in my four years as a student here and that I have been absolutely certain of where my money will be going.

Perhaps if he had done one shred of research – for f***’s sake, I am not a student and even I know who the fees chair for this past year is and how to contact her, not to mention the outgoing Senate Chair – his column might have amounted to something.  As is, it’s kind of painful to watch an ignorant history major strike a pose.

Moving on to the GT, there were two letters on the recent cross burning in the Alsea area.  Both made the same point:

Most appalling was Sgt. Clay Stephens’ response that this was not a hate crime because there were no threats or other evidence of prejudice.

Since when have burning crosses and white sheets NOT been symbols of prejudice, meant to terrify and intimidate blacks? The sheriff’s office needs to classify this as a hate crime and launch a full investigation. Classifying this act as a “reckless burning” is giving a wink and a nod to the perpetrators that their cowardly acts will be tolerated.

Yup.  The Sergeant really stuck his foot in his mouth on this one.  I’m going to assume he’s been thoroughly chewed out by now, and hopefully not just for the bad PR, but for the content of the decision.  I’m with the letter-writers; since when is the default position on a cross burning that it’s not a hate crime?  Moreover, when was the last time there was a cross-burning in the mid-valley in front of a house full of white people?

Finally in the GT, a story on the Corvallis School District’s pending decision on whether or not to use dogs to search schools where there is no probable cause:

The school board has been talking about the possible change to its student search policy for several weeks. Superintendent Dawn Tarzian said she wanted to have the special session to gather as much public input as possible. The possible use of drug-sniffing dogs was brought to Tarzian by her high school and middle school administrators.

A student gets it:

Janessa said the use of drug-sniffing dogs “is unnecessary and would have a negative effect on the Corvallis High School community.”

“The administration has worked very hard to create a positive relationship with students in a friendly, safe environment,” Janessa said. Random drug dog searches would cause the students to “feel outraged because that trust has been betrayed.”

The key here is that all students would be affected by this decision, regardless of their history, their attitudes, their past behavior, anything – this is a form of collective punishment.  Moreover, the stories I have seen have been remarkably slim on evidence that broad searches using dogs are necessary.  They seem to rely on the will of MS and HS administrators only.

This person (I sort of hope they are not a teacher) does not get it:

Alex Dionne, the Crescent Valley High School representative to the school board, said during discussion following the public testimony that she sees no problem with the use of a drug-sniffing dog, as long as it is “the last resort.”

She said it’s the students who are bringing drugs to school who are betraying the school administration’s trust; not the other way around.

You can’t lump all students together like this, precisely for the reason Janessa outlined above (speaking of bad PR moves), and especially in light of the lack of evidence of the severity of the problem.  Perhaps if the Corvallis School District really wants dogs, they could make the case based on evidence – show the students the data on the increased number of students caught with drugs, for example.  Justify the decision directly to the student body, and don’t move forward without doing so. Lack of trust between students and staff is a killer.

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