Saturday, July 26, 2008

IPS - Worst in the Nation

According to yet another study on the subject of public school graduation rates, Indianapolis Public Schools graduate 19% of its' students.

19%. From the Indy Star report:
Only about a quarter of public schoolchildren in Indianapolis attend IPS. And the district -- by big-city standards -- is not especially large, with 35,000 students, and shrinking.

It is shrinking, in part, because parents increasingly are sending their children to charter schools. Others move from the district or, in affluent neighborhoods, send children to schools outside the district.

It's pretty simple. If you have any means, and any hope for your children, you get them out of IPS. You move, you send them to private school- anything but send them to IPS.

This constitutes a near wholesale rejection of IPS. 75% of students and parents reject IPS. But of the 25% who settle on IPS, another 81% fail to graduate from it.

So, IPS graduates 4.75% of Marion County students. (19% of the 25%) That's about as dismal as could be imagined. Why does all this money continue to be sent down a rat hole? For this, the elderly are being displaced from their homes in the property tax war?

If 75% of Marion County rejects what is being given to them for free, and another 81% of the students who stay in IPS later reject what is being given to them for free, isn't it time to start questioning whether or not it is the great benefit it's touted as, and as importantly, should be given?

I think at this point, IPS should be scrapped entirely. If it should survive, then tuition should be charged. The people who value education will pay for it. Those who don't, well, 75%, plus another 81% percent of the remaining 25% are rejecting it for free anyway.

Here's a link to the Schott Foundation's most recently published study.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Human Nature Never Changes

One thing that irks me is to hear someone say, "Non-interventionist foreign policy may have been fine 200 years ago, but this is a different day and age.

Horsefeathers. I was reading Doug Masson's latest blog entry, called "War is a Racket". It featured a couple of lengthy citations about war, and the motive to transfer wealth from the Treasury to the businesses making war materiel.

This war in Iraq is foolish. Iraq was a threat to the USA? Iraq was hardly a threat to Iran, let alone the USA. It certainly wasn't planning to do anything to us, which is why we should have left Iraq alone. Yes, Saddam Hussein was a nasty, brutal dictator. That's our problem? Not a chance.

The longer this drags on, the more I begin to wonder why we're there.

Anyhow, Masson's quotables are from WWI, and Mark Twain. The idea of cashing in on war is not new. Human nature doesn't change. That's why ideology can be applied across eras, and why pragmatism is more like sticking your finger up in the air to see which way the wind blows.

I was also reminded of the great Dead Kennedys bit "Kinky Sex Makes the World Go Round".

Marion County Homicides in July

Last summer, in the run-up to the mayoral election in Indianapolis, then-Mayor Bart Peterson was widely assailed by critics for the astonishing murder rate in Marion County. The critics were largely Greg Ballard backers.

Well, here we are one year later, and the murder count in Marion County is once again astonishing. As of yesterday, 22 days, 15 murders, one associated suicide. Link to Indy Star article on the latest atrocity, with list of July homicides.

So, one new mayor really doesn't make a difference.

I'm sure there will be some petty partisan sniping, regarding the failure of the new Mayor to reverse the course. Certainly the Peterson critics set the table for that. But it wouldn't be any different today had Peterson been re-elected, had Libertarian Fred Peterson been elected instead, or had Ghandi been resurrected and made mayor.

There is a mindset within Marion County, and other major American urban centers that says that violence is the answer to problems. That has to change.

I am not calling for the banning of guns. Removing the legality around the ownership of a particular piece of machinery does not change the mindset. Besides, as we saw in Washington DC, guns were still being used in the commission of crimes there. DC's ban failed to make it a safer place.

I am not calling for the banning of hip-hop, which often glorifies gun violence. Removing the music and videos won't eliminate the angst and dissatisfaction in the minds of those who turn to violence Besides, even societies who explicitly have been in command of their people, such as the Soviet Bloc, had underground avenues through which counter-cultural materials were obtained.

This is going to require an unravelling of what made the mindset in the urban center. That is a task of such broad reach, that it's not worth going on in depth in with a blog post. I must confess that I am not part of the solution. I fled the city. (Not just Indy, but Cleveland before.) It's far easier to just vote with your feet and get out, especially when you feel like you have ideas to contribute that are rejected out of hand. 

I don't see it getting better in Indy any time soon. The election of a new Mayor and a new majority in the City-County Council is not akin to the waving of a magic wand. 

Monday, July 21, 2008

Foreclosure and Attendant Intellectual Bankruptcy

Another thing Steve forwarded to me was a link to a recent item by Bill Moyers on PBS, regarding foreclosures and sub-prime lending. It was of interest to him and to me, because we both once lived in Cleveland in the St. Hyacinthe neighborhood, which sits adjacent to Slavic Village. Friends always mistakenly referred to our home as Slavic Village. Turns out that Slavic Village has been hit harder by foreclosures than any other place in the US. The item infuriated me.

The bias shown by Moyers and so many others is astonishing. The rush to blame capitalists is profound. I understand they are blinded by their anti-capitalism ideology, but how can you miss that there are two parties in any given loan agreement?

Moyers refers to 'predatory lending'. I'm not sure exactly what this is supposed to mean, although it is clearly an attempt to paint a picture of the savagery by a powerful agent of a feckless innocent.

I call bullshit.

The person obtaining the loan knows his situation. He knows if he can afford to make payments or not. So, if someone knows the chances are good that they cannot make payments, and they take the money anyway, isn't that at the very least an act of fraud? Nobody forces the borrower to sign the documents. Certainly, nobody forces them to spend the money. They do this happily.

Cuyahoga County Treasurer Jim Rokakis gives two illuminating passages.
You'd tell them, "I don't have any money." "No problem, we don't, you don't require a down payment." Or, "I have a horrible credit score." "No problem, we're not gonna let that get in the way." "But I don't even have job." "No problem. We're not gonna document your income."

A couple of things come to mind. Collusion. Fraud. Two guilty parties who should go to jail. More Rokakis:
And the real victim here is the person that lives on that block, that person who pays their taxes, plays by the rules, has done nothing to deserve what they're facing today, which is a devastated neighborhood, with their most valuable asset, their home, now worth virtually nothing. That's the victim.

Government does have a legitimate role to play here- protecting the innocent homeowners Rokakis describes. I believe in the free market, but I no more support this savagery than I support warlordism on the basis of a 2nd Amendment defense.

Let those who took bad loans suffer the consequences fully. Let those lenders who issued bad loans also suffer the consequences fully. No bailouts for these bad actors. If the lenders have any assets left, that's where you turn to restore the properties, to the extent it can be done, in the name of protect the innocent neighboring property owners who did nothing wrong.

So, let's not merely call it 'predatory lending'. Let's also call it 'fraudulent borrowing', or even 'predatory borrowing'. It takes two to tango on this one.

Here's the piece. Try to stay with it, through all of the BS rhetoric. It ain't easy.

The item treats this area as though it was doing great, and then the sub-prime lending started, and suddenly the neighborhood began to ring the bowl. Nothing could be further from the truth. Slavic Village began it's decline immediately after WW2, when the Ferro Motor Company shuttered and moved out to suburban Brookpark, as did much of the increasingly affluent population. Slavic Village became an area of 'starter homes'- a place you bought your first home, but also a place you left as soon as you could trade up.

I left St. Hyacinthe in 2000- long before the sub-prime phenomenon was in anyone's awareness. I was offered the opportunity to buy the house across the street from me in 1998, as I was interested in working to build the neighborhood up. I declined. The asking price? $11,000. The problem was the horribly sunken foundation.

There was another house down the street I looked at. It was a double. I was told I couldn't go upstairs. Why? There was a family squatting there. I also couldn't go into the basement. I was told this right as I nearly fell down to the basement floor- because the staircase had collapsed, and silly me, I expected it to be in place. The living room floor was hard wood, but it had a hole in it about 3' in diameter. It looked like a cannon ball had been shot through it. But this wasn't the HMS Indomitable. What in the world caused that?

The asking price was $5,000. I laughed at the realtor and told her, "You can pay me $5,000 and I'll take it."

That realty check might have been nice, you know, to make the piece seem like it was dwelling in the real world, just a bit. In infuriated me to watch, knowing that millions of American views would be sitting and watching, going, "wow, look how the lenders wrecked that place". It just isn't true. It was largely wrecked already. that's why I gave up and left in 2000 for the suburbs myself.

Shoddy, shoddy journalism. Yet still of interest.

On a more positive final note, good to see my old college radio buddy Brian Davis. He's long had a passion for helping the homeless that I respect greatly.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Rex Bell's Excellent Travels

Being that I just got back from a week in the Yellowstone Park area, it's hard to imagine that I could possibly have travel envy for anyone, and yet I have just a bit for my friend Rex Bell.

It seems he just did a tour of Washington with other Indiana Libertarian candidates. Rex is a candidate for Indiana House, District 54, and he journeyed with Congressional candidate Dr. Eric Schansberg (9th District), Indiana Senate candidate Steve Keltner (District 30), and former Libertarian state chair Mark Rutherford.

Among those Rex and the group met with was Dick Heller, he of Heller vs DC, the landmark 2nd Amendment case just heard by the Supreme Court. Then he met with folks from the Cato Institute, the Libertarian Party's national HQ, David Weigel of Reason Magazine, and more.

Check out Rex's full post!

I kind of knew that Rex had met with Reason, thanks to a post on Reason's 'Hit & Run' by Weigel, mentioning the possibility of Bob Barr campaigning in Indiana in tandem with Hoosier Libertarians like Rex, Keltner, and Schansberg.

Whatever envy I feel just shows that no one vacation can satisfy every facet of one's being, great though the experiences may be. Congrats, Rex!