It’s Book Review Time!

Yes, once more it’s that time! My latest BlogHer Book Club review is here! If you want to read yet more about Tana French’s Faithful Place — rather than, say, just reading the book, go ahead and read some other reviews too.

In Closing: Being Green; the fallacy of school choice; scrap the TSA; stupid snarky arguments on unemployment rebutted; the new GOP; your orange carrots are a 17th century political statement; this can’t be good; I don’t know where to begin; we need more rulings like this, please; weather; clueless egghead can’t understand why nobody will implement his stupid plan that ignores reality; and please remember that Whitney Elementary is still a place that desperately needs donations just to keep its students clothed and fed.

I’d Bet a Dimon It

Oh Jamie, Jamie, Jamie. Me thinks thou dost protest too much.

JP Morgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon was actually able to say with a straight face that the reason the economy has stalled is too much banking regulation. Somebody pass the man a fire extinguisher; his pants are surely ablaze. Fed officials “dispute” it. Heck, when Jim Cramer says you’ve gone too far, that’s a big hint.

We already — still — have a problem where banks think the rules don’t apply to them. That’s even more true at the “too big to fail” institutions. The Feds can’t make banks follow the law. The states don’t even have authority to make them follow the law. And yet Jamie thinks he has too many regulations?

Just ignore those pesky regulations, Jamie. Keep ignoring the law. And especially, ignore those angry consumers who are tired of getting screwed.


In closing: on health care; Jesus wouldn’t approve of Ayn Rand; national debt; local news; spam; band-aids on a bullet wound; I hope it never happens to his wife; the elements; food prices going up; wage “growth“; Hooverites; fossil sea turtle; and the continuing saga of Whitney Elementary.

Nevada Firestorm

And no, I’m not talking about the two multi-acre blazes within 4o miles of Las Vegas.

Well, the internet has been all abuzz over the latest from Sharron Angle. Everybody and their dog has already had something to say about her latest interview, including the guy who interviewed her. No wonder she does so few of them! Ezra Klein points out that the choice should be fairly simple, given that Nevada has one of the highest unemployment rates in the country, Angle thinks all those unemployed people should get up off their lazy asses and find a [nonexistent] job, and Reid keeps trying [and failing] to get unemployment benefits extended to at least try and prevent all those unemployed people from becoming homeless too. At least her website has been updated with a little less crazy. She still does think it’s unreasonably hard to get a ballot initiative up in Nevada. I have long urged people to Just Say NO to all voter initiatives, so this is just fine with me.

But wait! Let’s not forget that The Other Reid (he’d prefer to just be known as “Rory“) is in an election too, and his opponent Brian Sandoval has also been campaigning. This week he announced a plan for Nevada schools. It includes giving a “grade” to each school and allowing kids in poorly graded schools to transfer to better schools. Now, there’s 2 problems I see with this. First is that No Child Left Behind already allows the same freaking thing; why reinvent the wheel? The second problem is geography. Nevada is a big state with a small population, and 73% of the population is in one county. While the idea almost makes sense in the Las Vegas Valley, the Reno area, and the Carson City area, it makes no sense in the rural areas where the next school might be an hour or two away.

His second plan is the popular idea of making teacher pay dependent upon student performance. Well, here’s the thing. Teachers can only control what happens in their classroom, and even then only most of the time. When you’ve got kids worried about living on the street, kids stealing ketchup packets so they can have dinner, gang violence, child abuse, parents who don’t give a damn, official curricula that still use sight words*, limited ability to discipline students who are out of line, a bureaucracy that would make any government proud, and a half dozen impediments to learning in the classroom, merit pay is a sick joke.

And idea three is to outsource non-educational services. That would include janitorial services, human resources, and food service. It makes me wonder what firms I would find if I were to look closely at Mr. Sandoval’s investments! There is just no way that it’s cheaper to have a cleaning crew come in at night than to have one or maybe two people on hand all day to clean messes as they occur. Hiring a for-profit catering service to put the cafeteria ladies out of work is just madness. This is aside from the concern some parents will have over whether the employees of these firms might maybe have some desire to harm a child. As much as I would like to dismiss this as tinfoil hat lunacy, the fact of the matter is that Clark County School District has had incidents where non-teachers are accused of harming students.

* I was just horrified to learn what constitutes homework for a first grader!

In closing: A tangible Good Thing from health insurance reform starts today; mortgage rates at record lows, why aren’t we borrowing? (because unemployment is around 10% and most homes are worth less than what is already owed, duh); a financial reform package passed the House and is headed for the Senate, let the hunt for loopholes and political favors begin (it’s ok, banks will ignore what they don’t like anyway); fiscal austerity still doesn’t work; Real Socialists beg the wingnuts to stop calling Obama one of them; a bit of follow-up, the list of countries Van Der Sloot can be extradited to for more charges grows; both of these statements are logical, but both cannot be true; 100 Yen shops, the Japanese Dollar Store; vaccinate your kids!; smart pet tricks; flying cars; and libertarians.

Two Sad Stories Involving Children

#1, in which Seatbelts Would Have Saved Lives

Yesterday, an ordinary looking minivan blew out a tire and clipped another vehicle. What happened next was horrifying. The van rolled multiple times. It turns out that inside that van were 15 people — in a van that normally seats 8 — only two of whom were wearing seatbelts. Thirteen children were thrown from the vehicle. Ten people were severely injured, five were killed, including a little kid 3 years old. One witness says there were “kids flying everywhere.”

Please, people. Make sure everybody in your vehicle is belted in. If that means taking two vehicles or getting a bigger vehicle, so be it. For that matter, check your tires regularly. This was preventable. The adults in that vehicle had a responsibility to do certain things to keep those kids safe and they failed.

#2, in which Grade School Kids Lack Almost Everything

Every city has a school like Vegas’s Whitney Elementary. In some ways, it’s like any other grade school in Clark County School District, one of the 5 largest school districts in the nation. It’s got a mix of students from all racial backgrounds, although it’s almost half Hispanic. It doesn’t have the best test scores, but the scores could be a lot worse.

However, of their 562 students in 2007-2008, 370 got free school lunches and another 62 got reduced price lunches. The principal estimates that 75% of the 622 current students have experienced homelessness or are at risk of becoming homeless. Because most of the families can’t afford much of anything, the school holds monthly birthday parties for all the kids who had a birthday, complete with cake and presents. The school has it’s own food bank, it’s own clothing donation stockpile. Every teacher has a story of a kid who needed help.

Now, say what you want about personal responsibility. These are little kids, all under the age of 12. Not one of them has any control over his or her circumstances. None of them can legally get a job, and frankly society is better off with them learning to read and write than becoming unskilled child laborers. There is a Christmas wish tree from these kids in my office. It will break your freaking heart. There are kids that just want a pair of pants that fits, or maybe a sweater. There are kids who asked for one toy, singular, that I could buy with the kind of money I typically have in my wallet. There is one family that all they want for Christmas is to have electricity!

So if it is in your heart to send something to Whitney Elementary, please do. If instead is in your heart to find and give to your own hometown’s version of Whitney Elementary, that is wonderful too. If all you can send is kind wishes and prayers or maybe spreading the word, it’s better than nothing.

In Closing: the best reason for Cheney to run for President in 2012 is that he thinks we run elections under Gallifreyan rules and won’t let him be extradited to the Hague (is this seriously the best the Republicans got??); The Life of Brian couldn’t be filmed today, and more’s the pity; I guess terrorists only count if they are brown; recycle small electronics with the USPS; yawning is good for you; obligatory item on controlling health insurance costs; Blue Cross BS demonstrates why we need reform now; I’m going to let the economists worry about whether this Dubai mess is a big deal (their Vegas investments notwithstanding) (sorry, a drop of 150 on the Dow doesn’t impress me anymore); WTF is wrong with Africa??; concentration of wealth; the importance of arts education; an a cartoon on commercial and industrial regulation.