January 29, 2006

Wisconsin’s Governor to Inner-City Kids: You’re Stuck

Filed under: Consumer Outrage,Taxes & Government — Tom @ 5:52 pm

Yesterday I posted on “Wisconsin Tort-ure,” and noted how the state’s governor, Jim Doyle, with the help of the state’s courts, is turning its legal system into an antibusiness, anticonsumer quagmire.

Apparently he’s not content to stop there. He’s also determined to limit the effectiveness of the pioneering school-voucher program in the state’s largest city (link may require registration):

Milwaukee’s Parental Choice Program, enacted with bipartisan support in 1990, provides private school vouchers to students from families at or below 175% of the poverty line. Its constitutionality has been supported by rulings from both the Wisconsin and U.S. Supreme Courts.

Yet Mr. Doyle, a union-financed Democrat, has vetoed three attempts to loosen the state law that limits enrollment in the program to 15% of Milwaukee’s public school enrollment. This cap, put in place in 1995 as part of a compromise with anti-choice lawmakers backed by the unions, wasn’t an issue when only a handful of schools were participating. But the program has grown steadily to include 127 schools and more than 14,000 students today. Wisconsin officials expect the voucher program to exceed the 15% threshold next year, which means Mr. Doyle’s schoolhouse-door act is about to have real consequences.

“Had the cap been in effect this year,” says Susan Mitchell of School Choice Wisconsin, “as many as 4,000 students already in the program would have lost seats. No new students could come in, and there would be dozens of schools that have been built because of school choice in Milwaukee that would close. They’re in poor neighborhoods and would never have enough support from tuition-paying parents or donors to keep going.”

There’s no question the program has been a boon to the city’s underprivileged. A 2004 study of high school graduation rates by Jay Greene of the Manhattan Institute found that students using vouchers to attend Milwaukee’s private schools had a graduation rate of 64%, versus 36% for their public school counterparts. Harvard’s Caroline Hoxby has shown that Milwaukee public schools have raised their standards in the wake of voucher competition.

Mr. Doyle says he will agree to lift the cap to 18%, but only if it’s tied to a change in the school-aid formula that he knows would never pass the Republican legislature–particularly in an election year. So instead of building on this education success, Mr. Doyle and his union allies are poised to close the book.

….. What the Milwaukee (example shows) is that unions and their allies are unwilling to let even successful voucher experiments continue to exist. If they lose one court case, they will sue again–and then again, as long as it takes. And they’ll shop their campaign cash around for years until they find a politician like Jim Doyle willing to sell out Wisconsin’s poorest kids in return for their endorsement. Is there a more destructive force in American public life?

Don’t get me wrong. A 64% graduation rate for the voucher schools, while nothing to celebrate, is at least an improvement. But 36%? Isn’t anyone associated with Miwaukee’s “regular” public schools ashamed, or even the least bit embarrassed?

So Wisconsin’s governor (yes, he’s a Democrat) wants to let trial lawyers run wild and keep inner-city kids trapped in failing schools, and will veto any sensible legislation that runs counter to those goals. He is turning back the clock in a state that was a laboratory for effective social-policy experimentation in the 1990s, including welfare reform that became the model for national reform in 1996. Is there another incumbent governor in America more worthy of defeat?

Major Left-Wing Blogs Appear to Be Virtually Silent on Google-China Censorship

Here’s a real puzzler that I hope I am wrong about:

Am I the only person noticing a silence, bordering on total, from the big lefty blogs on Google’s co-operation with the Chinese government in search-result censorship?

There are plenty of examples in history of the Left looking the other way when oppression rears its ugly head. Just one — the non-reactions of presidential candidates Gene McCarthy and George McGovern in 1968 when the Russian tanks rolled into Czechoslovakia and crushed the Prague Spring, as documented by Evans & Novak in their column just before that year’s Democratic convention (sorry, I don’t have a link, but I remember it like it was yesterday; e-mail me if you have a link).

If I am correct, the big left blogs’ ignorance of the Google censorship story may be yet another instance of “see no evil” when it’s perpetrated in the name of a Communist government.

Here’s what I’ve done to check into the coverage (as of roughly 2:30 PM ET; click on the links indicated to do the searches yourself):

  • A search on “ Google” and “China” at Daily Kos gave only results pre-dating Google’s move in both instances. (Note: The Kos searches were very slow when I did them, and you may have to try multiple times to get a result.)
  • A search on “Google” and “China” at MyDD yielded the same results — every listing pre-dated Google’s move.
  • A very recent entry (12:18 Pacific today as I was updating this post) at Daily Kos, an entry that may not have been indexed for search yet, did cover Google’s move, only to ask: “Has anyone noticed that the American government is BEING MORE INTRUSIVE THAN THE CHINESE ONE? at least in some ways …..”. Uh-huh.
  • I also did a great deal of scrolling through entries at Daily Kos and MyDD while doing a browser word search on “Google,” and found nothing.
  • A browser word search on Atrios’s archive page for January 22-28 on “Google” and “China” found nothing, nor did a browser word search on his home page today.

Note that in all cases that I did NOT look through the comments.

I can’t say for certain that there is absolutely nothing other than the single Bush-Bash entry I found about Google’s China censorship at these three sites, but if there is anything else, it certainly isn’t prominent.

So who’s really living in a bubble? Is it asking too much to expect SOMEONE, especially the bigwigs, at three of the left’s top blogs to notice that over a billion people are having what they can see filtered by an oppressive regime?

Say it ain’t so, Kos, and Atrios, and MyDD.

Cross-posted at NewsBusters.org.

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UPDATE: A strong anti-Google DailyKos entry appeared at 12:47 Pacific Time, shortly after this post was “finalized” (content was don at about 3:30 Eastern, or 12:30 Pacific, and “Previous Posts” were added at about 4:30 PM ET). Diarist PhiloTBG rips Google a new one “When 1.3 billion people cannot access information about their country’s political history and status, there has been no progress. Google hasn’t made information more available, they’ve made it less accessible by systematizing the work of China’s internet censors into an easy to use platform. Propaganda has never been so easy to spread. The truth has never been so easy to hide. This is Google’s doing and their actions are truly a study in hypocrisy, cowardice, greed, and delusion.”. Good to see from PhiloTBG. This DKos post remains the only one critical of Google at any of the Big Three sites as of 9PM ET. It would still be nice to hear if the bigwigs at the Big Three sites have an opinion, or if they even care.

UPDATE 2: How convincing can it get? Here are Google.com and Google.cn image searches on “Tiananmen” (HT LGF and Ninme).

UPDATE 3: Paul Boutin (HT Instapundit) shows that you can see the tanks through Google China by misspelling “Tiananmen.” A whole new generation of Chinese will probably be initiating creative misspelling, code, and other misdirection efforts soon.

UPDATE 4: MacStansbury and Tel-Chai Nation have posts that plausibly contend, based the left’s efforts to silence free speech here in the US (campaign-finance law, revival of the misnamed “Fairness Doctrine,” etc.), that their silence on Google-China may relate to their wishes to restrict and control political discussion here (campaign-finance law, revival of the misnamed “Fairness Doctrine,” etc.).

UPDATE 5: Props to PhiloTBG for his link to an online petition (see Comment 23 below for more detail if you need it) and the liberal activist group Act for Change for theirs.
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Previous Posts:

Internet Wall of Shame Update: Google Developments

Filed under: Corporate Outrage,Taxes & Government — Tom @ 1:07 pm

It has been five days since Google’s announcement about how it would (mis)handle its China search engine service.

There has been more reaction than anyone could hope to chronicle. Here are some of the high (and low) points:

  • A number of sites are refusing to run Google ads, among them Blogger News Network, Texas Roast (who said so in a note to Instapundit), and Pamela at Atlas Shrugs, as written up in The Boston Globe (also more on her below).
  • An open letter to Google blog has been set up, asking that it not censor search-engine results in China, or anywhere else in the world. It has 271 (now 272) comments.
  • Rebecca MacKinnon at RConversation has post upon post upon post upon post, with links to what users are experiencing as Google implements its China plan and to other comments and articles. I hope she keeps it going next week.
  • Roger Simon thinks there should be a stock divestment campaign. Divestment campaign or not, the stock bears watching, because one of its underpinnings, the unimpeded free flow of information, has been knocked out from under it. Stocks that trade at Price/Earnings Ratios of 96, which is where Google stands as of Friday, are vulnerable to any influence that would indicate that the fast growth track that “justifies” the P/E ratio is being disrupted. It may not take as many people refusing to run Google ads or as much of a reduction in the clickthrough rate as you might think to create that disruption.
  • In the middle of this post, Atlas Shrugs notes that Google’s decision is part of a pattern of terrorist-enabling and China-coddling.
  • You didn’t expect religion to get a free pass, did you? From Junkyard Dog (HT Michelle Malkin) — “Google Airbrushes Christ from the Internet”
  • The artwork in response to Google’s decision has been ubiquitous. Here’s my fave (excuse the rough edges, it was part of a bigger graphic):

    GoogleTank

Permanently Retiring Roberto Clemente’s Number: A Controversy That Shouldn’t Be So Controversial

Filed under: General — Tom @ 10:35 am

Note to non-sports types: This is not really a baseball story, but a story that ultimately touches the larger society. It will take a while to get there, so be patient.

Robinson Clemente

Major League Baseball retired Jackie Robinson’s Number 42 permanently in 1997 (Robinson is pictured at left) to commemorate the 50th anniversary of his breaking the sport’s color barrier.

There is a similar movement afoot to permanently retire Roberto Clemente’s Number 21 as baseball’s first Hispanic star.

Clemente was an exceptional player. When I was a kid during the (ouch) 1960s and you recited the best players in the National League (the only league that existed as far as Cincinnati was concerned), it would always be (in this order) “(Willie) Mays, (Hank) Aaron, Clemente.” No one else was close, not even my beloved Ernie Banks of the Chicago Cubs (yes, I am one of those cursed Cub fans).

Clemente may be as complete a player as ever played the game. He certainly had “the five tools” in abundance, perhaps over a longer span than the players we would name before him as kids: He could run, field (12 Gold Gloves), throw (perhaps the most feared right fielder’s arm ever), hit (career batting average of .317), and hit for power. He collected his 3,000th base hit, making him a certainty for Baseball’s Hall of Fame, in 1972.

That 3,000th hit would be his last. Clemente, whose humanitarian efforts were legendary, died at age 38 in a plane crash while flying relief supplies to Nicaraguan earthquake victims. The Hall of Fame waived its normal 5-year post-career waiting period and inducted Clemente into The Hall at its first opportunity.

Nevertheless, retiring Clemente’s number permanently, so that no one in baseball can ever wear Number 21 again, while a very reasonable thing to consider, is a tough call. I’m in favor of it, but I can understand those who would respectfully oppose it.

What I don’t understand is the position taken by Jackie Robinson’s daughter Sharon and Hall of Famer Frank Robinson (no relation to Jackie or Sharon):

“To my understanding, the purpose of retiring my father’s number is that what he did changed all of baseball, not only for African-Americans but also for Latinos, so I think that purpose has been met,” Robinson told the newspaper at a birthday celebration for her father in Times Square. “When you start retiring numbers across the board, for all different groups, you’re kind of diluting the original purpose.”

In September, Washington Nationals manager Frank Robinson made similar comments, saying baseball should find another way to honor Clemente.

Drew Sharp of The Detroit Free Press doesn’t agree with Sharon and Frank Robinson, and points to Jackie Robinson-Roberto Clemente parallels that should not be ignored:

….. she’s missing the point of what her father was all about.

If Jackie Robinson symbolized inclusion, then wouldn’t honoring his Hispanic equivalent only magnify Robinson’s importance?

Her criticism of the Clemente movement comes across as “this is ours, and you can’t share it.”

And isn’t that attitude a small reflection of the segregation her father valiantly fought nearly 60 years ago?

It’s ridiculous to debate who was braver or whose path toward history proved more perilous. Both should be appreciated for the uniqueness of their circumstances. And if that means having both of their numbers appear side-by-side at ballparks all over the majors, then that just shows how we continue to make gains as a melting pot.

….. The Hispanic influence ….. all started with Clemente, the first Latino superstar. He thought he was an outcast, mocked and demeaned because he didn’t quickly grasp English and basically was branded as a lesser light in God’s eyes.

Sound familiar?

But Clemente maintained a quiet dignity, never lashing out at his detractors because he understood the long-term and far-reaching consequences.

Sound familiar?

Did Jackie Robinson open the door for all people of color? Absolutely. His courage cut a swath through Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic, Venezuela and Cuba as well as in the United States. But it’s awfully close-minded for Sharon Robinson to think that the modern-day disciples of Latin heritage should worship only at the altar of her father’s memory.

Clemente was as much if not more of a force behind the burgeoning numbers of Hispanics in the major leagues as Jackie Robinson.

I think that if Clemente gets the honor, baseball is perfectly capable, given the unique and awesome contributions of both men, of stopping at two permanently retired numbers.

The larger point: As happens time after time in race relations today, Sharon Robinson has needlessly injected controversy into a situation that should be thought through carefully. Let’s hope that Major League Baseball’s decision is handled better when it comes than its consideration of it has been handled so far.

If Clemente’s number is permanently retired, people will always recite baseball’s barrier-breaking pioneers as (in this order) “Robinson, Clemente.” Robinson’s accomplishments will not be diminished by Clemente’s inclusion, and there will be no disrespect to Clemente because his name is mentioned after Robinson’s.

Positivity: Happy 250th to Mozart!

Filed under: Positivity — Tom @ 7:05 am

Friday, January 27 marked the 250th anniversary of the birth of “Amadeus” (Wiki entry on Mozart is here), and his devotees are making a weekend of it:

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