This is National School Choice Week, and that’s great. Having the ability to choose a school is certainly better than being assigned to a single, government institution. But just being able to choose a school must not be the ultimate goal. That must be total educational freedom, both because freedom is the most basic of human rights, and because freedom best provides education for the whole of society.
Unfortunately, when you’re stuck in day-to-day ed policy grappling – Which studies show what about test scores? How much did New York City spend on rubber rooms? – you can easily lose sight of the major, broad reasons that educational freedom is so crucial. In honor of National School Choice Week, here’s a quick refresher:
Freedom involves choice, but a little choice is hardly freedom
You can have choice without having freedom. You don’t have freedom if you can choose between Wendy’s and McDonald’s for a burger, but are forbidden from having any other food. Or if you can select between the local Methodist and Lutheran churches, but nothing else that might satisfy your beliefs or spiritual needs.
Freedom means being able to choose from any options that others are freely willing to provide and that don’t force harm on others. We’re not particularly close to that, for any meaningful number of people, in any school choice program.
No one is omniscient
People make bad choices all the time. But guess what? That includes the people who presume to know what is “best” for each and every child. It is the inescapable reality of humanity that no person or group is even close to omniscient, which is why the argument so often proffered against choice – we can’t let people make bad choices for their kids – is utterly backwards. Because human beings are so limited, it is far safer that power reside in voluntary agreements between educators and parents than with central authorities. When bad decisions are, inevitably, made in the former, only small numbers are hurt. When in the latter, everyone goes down.
There’s been a lot of coverage lately of Rice University student Zack Kopplin’s crusade against voucher programs, which allow people to choose schools that teach creationism. Were Kopplin’s argument fundamentally that taxpayers should not have their money taken against their will to schools with which they might disagree, it would be one thing: vouchers do transfer taxpayer money, though they provide far more overall freedom than does public schooling. But Kopplin’s argument – like the arguments of so many people on numerous education issues – isn’t ultimately about freedom. It’s about prohibiting others from learning something he doesn’t like.
This is first an omniscience problem – Kopplin is so sure he is right about creationism that he’d keep people from freely choosing it. But assume Kopplin is right and creationism is entirely wrong. That hardly makes his demand one that, if met, would necessarily produce net educational good. No, potentially serious, negative, unintended consequences could accompany freezing people out of religiously based education. For instance, traditional Christian morality calls for married, two-parent families, and one of the few things in social science that one would call pretty firmly established is that coming from such a family gives a child a significant leg up. Religious people also tend to have much greater stocks of social capital than the nonreligious, also generally a plus.
In light of those things, would it be worth undermining religion because you think creationism is nonsense? Maybe, maybe not – like most matters, there are far too many caveats, unanswered questions, and variables surrounding religiosity to make an absolutely conclusive determination. But those who attack choice because they don’t like what some might choose often don’t contemplate the potential negative consequences of their actions at all. And without freedom, if those negative consequences prove real, it inflicts harm on everyone.
“Concentrated benefits and diffuse costs,” and “everyone is self-interested.” Put those together, and you quickly grasp why the systems that serve society best tend strongly to be the ones in which people interact voluntarily, not those in which government is in charge.
When I want to buy a computer, I am almost guaranteed to get one with terrific functionality and reliability. Why? Because the people who make and sell computers – selfish, profit-seeking corporations – have to produce something good or I, and countless other selfish, profit-seeking customers, will go somewhere else.
Not so with public schools. They take my money no matter how they perform, and my only hope for satisfaction is to vote in politicians who will reform them. But I also want the politicians to provide strong defense, transportation, fiscal discipline, etc., and I can’t focus just on the politics of education. In contrast, teachers unions, administrator associations, and other edu-employee groups can and do focus on education, and will do so more than anyone else because their very livelihoods are at stake. And what do these self-interested people want? More money and less accountability, the opposite of my interest. But the politicians will tend to pay much more attention to the employees on education then to me because they are single-issue and highly motivated, while I am highly divided.
In stark contrast to buying a computer, I lose, the producer wins, and that is how the system is designed.
Competition, innovation, and specialization
A free market is really just the economic outcome of having free people, and these three things – competition, innovation, and specialization – are what drive the success of free markets. Providers in a free market compete for customers, and two keys to winning that competition are providing the best product at the best price. Do that, and customers will leave the other guy and come to you. And how do you make better products at better prices? Innovation!
Of course, not all customers want or need the same thing; some may need a big flatbed for haulin’ stuff, others a tiny hatchback to save on gas. Given that, free markets also feature specialization, where customers with different needs can get products well suited to them because there is money to be made in catering to smaller groups. In contrast, and despite the fact that all children are unique individuals, what do we get from public schooling? One set of standards and tests, because, generally, money can only go to the single, government system of schools.
We need freedom, which is the most basic human right and the key to delivering the best education for the entire society. As we pursue school choice, we must never lose sight of this much bigger goal.
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‘They said they found the bullets… that’s what could f*** me up’: What teen accused of gunning down two British tourists in Florida told brother in prison phone call
Shawn Tyson, 17, accused of murdering two holidaymakers in April 2011
James Cooper, 25, and James Kouzaris, 24, found shot dead in street
Men ‘begged shooter to let them go’ as they tried to return home
Tyson’s DNA found on Mr Cooper’s jeans, court hears
By PAUL THOMPSON
PUBLISHED: 15:56 GMT, 22 March 2012 | UPDATED: 02:55 GMT, 24 March 2012
Accused: Shawn Tyson is alleged to have gunned down two British tourists
The teenager on trial for killing two British tourists in Florida admitted he was worried he would be tied to the murders after police found bullets in his home, a court heard today.
Shawn Tyson was recorded on a phone call from prison to his half brother saying: They said they found the bullets. That’s what I’m saying could f*** me up’.
He made the call the day after he was held for the murders of James Cooper and James Kouzaris.
The alleged killer is said to have murdered the pair after they drunkenly stumbled into the rundown Newtown neighbourhood of Sarasota.
He allegedly forced the terrified pair to pull down their trousers before firing a volley of shots.
Tyson is accused of going to rob the best friends in April 2011, and then killing them when they said they did not have any money.
A court in Sarasota heard that when police searched his home they found two .22 bullets on his bedroom floor. Cooper, 25, and Kouzaris, 24, were shot dead by bullets fired from a .22 revolver.
Prosecutors in Sarasota have told the court the then 16-year-old was known to carry that type of weapon. In the call played to the jury at the Sarasota County Courthouse Tyson also told his brother: ‘Somebody said that they seen me out there or some sh**.’
Evidence: The .22 calibre shell casings allegedly found buried near the murder scene
Best buddies: James Kouzaris (right) and James Cooper (left) became friends after meeting at university
TYSON’S PRISON PHONE CALL
Shawn Tyson called his half brother from prison saying police had found bullet casings connected to the shooting, the Florida courtroom heard today.
Here is Tyson’s recorded telephone conversation with his half brother, who has not been named, from Sarasota County Jail:
Tyson: ‘What’s up, bro?’
Brother: ‘What’s up, lil’ man?’
Brother: ‘What them crackers talkin’ about?’
Tyson: ‘S***. I don’t even know right now. I don’t know why they talkin’ about.’
Brother: ‘Yeah, I don’t know what them crackers talkin’ about. S***, like. You was in the house, like.’
Tyson: ‘I know… that’s what I keep on… these crackers talkin’ about that somebody say they seen me out there or some s***.’
Brother: ‘Them crackers trippin’, man.’
Tyson: ‘Hell yeah.’
Brother: ‘S***, you’re chate, through. You know what I’m sayin’ like? You ain’t got no guns or nothin’. Like f*** them crackers talkin’ about.’
Tyson: ‘Only thing is, they found the bullets, though.’
Tyson: ‘They found the bullets.’
Brother: ‘Oh. Damn!’
Tyson: ‘That’s the only thing that’s gonna f*** me up.’
Brother: ‘They found them in the house?’
Tyson, who has the word ‘savage’ tattooed on his chest, has denied any involvement in the murders. He faces life in prison with no parole if found guilty of the two first-degree murder.
Prosecutors have said the bullets used to kill Cooper, from Warwicks, and Kouzaris, from Northampton, can be traced back to Tyson.
As well as the live .22 bullets found at his home they have told the jury the teenager asked friends to get rid of the murder weapon. The gun was later sold and had never been recovered.
But police were led to seven spent shell casings that are of the same calibre as those used in the murders.
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Defence lawyers have said Tyson’s fingerprints were not found on any of the bullets and witnesses who cooperated with police had made deals to avoid lengthy prison sentences.
She said the two brothers who were involved in the disposal of the murder weapon were liars with lengthy criminal records.
Earlier, Detective John Todd told the jury of nine men and five men that a witness in the case Marvin Gaines had told police Tyson had admitted to the killings.
Tyson, who turned 17 on the opening day of the trial, is also said to have bragged about the murders to his friend Latrice Washington.
Prosecutors told the jury he told her that the British tourists pleaded for their lives but he shot them when they said they had no money.
The court had heard Cooper, from Warwick and Kouzaris, from Northampton, were found dead with their trousers half way down their bodies.
Detective John Todd said the only reason the men were found that was because they were victims of a robbery.
Asked by prosecutor Karen Fraivillig why the men’s trousers were pulled down he said: ‘In this case all the evidence points to an attempted robbery.’
A court in Sarasota, Florida, has been shown graphic crime scene photos of the two men after they were shot dead last April while on holiday in the town.
Digital: A rendering of the crime scene shown during the testimony in the Shawn Tyson murder trial
Prosecutors say Shawn Tyson forced to men to strip off after ambushing them as they stumbled through a run down housing estate in the Newtown area of the city.
Todd’s insistence that both men were forced to drop their trousers as part of the robbery came after Tyson’s lawyer Carolyn Schlemmer said there were a ‘thousand reasons’ why the men were found semi naked.
‘There could be a thousand different reasons for which pants are down, correct?’ Schlemmer asked Todd, the lead detective in the murder investigation. Schlemmer pointed out that nothing had been taken from the victims, who still had a digital camera and about £80 in cash on them.
‘You are not aware of anything haven been taken from Kouzaris and cooper?’ Schlemmer asked.
Both men had been shot multiple times with their personal possessions, including wallets and mobile phones, scattered on the ground.
The final picture: James Kouzaris photographed earlier on in the night that he was killed in the notorious district of Newtown
CCTV: These images show the pair drinking in a bar shortly before they were both killed
Victim: James Cooper pictured having fun in a bar just hours before he was gunned down alongside his friend
Tyson faces life in jail without parole if found guilty of first-degree murder. Prosecutors have told a jury Tyson lay in wait for Cooper, 25,and Kouzaris, 24, as they stumbled drunk through The Courts housing project after getting lost.
Both men pleaded for their lives but were shot multiple times as they attempted to flee from Tyson and another man who has never been caught.
Eyewitnesses have placed Tyson at the scene of the shooting and a trace of Tyson’s DNA was found on Cooper’s jeans.
Yesterday the court heard how the two British holidaymakers were dining and drinking in the city’s downtown with Cooper’s parents on the night of April 15.
The entire party was staying at a Longboat Key beach condo. Cooper’s parents went back to the condo in a car and urged the two young men to take a cab back home.
The pair went to two bars and left on foot after several drinks.
But shortly before 3am, they ended up in a crime-ridden neighbourhood more than a mile from the bars. Witnesses said they saw Cooper and Kouzaris walking shirtless and stumbling through the neighbourhood.
They also reported that they were being followed by two black men, one with a red bandanna around part of his face.
Prosecutor Ed Brodsky said Tyson told a friend that the men were lost and that he then tried to rob them. The tourists told Tyson they did not have any money and pleaded for their lives.
Brodsky said Tyson told his friend: ‘Since you ain’t got no money, then I have something for your a**.’
The tourists’ bodies were found shirtless on the street. Both men still had their wallets and did have money. Cooper also had a mobile telephone and camera in his trouser pocket.
Gunned down: James, 24, from Northampton (right) and James, 25, from Warwickshire, were murdered during a holiday in Florida with family and friends
Authorities later found that Kouzaris’ blood alcohol level was 0.243 and Cooper’s was 0.214 – well past Florida’s legal limit for intoxication, which is 0.08.
Defence lawyer Carolyn Schlemmer said during her opening statement that there is nothing to tie Tyson to the shootings as no murder weapon was ever recovered.
She said many of the people slated to testify against Tyson were either pressured by authorities, made deals with authorities in exchange for information on Tyson, or were unreliable drug users and convicted felons. Other witnesses lied to law enforcement, Schlemmer said.
‘No witnesses will testify that they saw Tyson shoot Cooper and Kouzaris,’ Schlemmer told the jury. ‘Keep an open mind.’
But, in opening the prosecution case yesterday, after three days of jury selection at Sarasota Court, Assistant State Attorney Brodsky said: ‘The reason you are here today and what this case is about are the tragic events that occurred just shortly less than a year ago.
‘On April 16, 2011, at approximately three in the morning, two British men who were here on vacation would find that they would die at the hands of gunfire.’
Pointing at Tyson, who wore an orange shirt and tie, he said: ‘The evidence will conclusively demonstrate to you that this man right here is responsible for the deaths of James Cooper and James Kouzaris.
Accused: Shawn Tyson is on trial for the murders of British tourists James Cooper and James Kouzaris
‘You will find that this case is about two different sets of boys, men, who seized opportunities.
‘The [victims] travelled approximately 4,500 miles to be here and you are going to hear that just three days prior to James Cooper’s death he had just turned 25 years old.
‘James Kouzaris was 24 years old and the evening leading to this event they were with James Cooper’s parents, they had travelled abroad with James Cooper’s mother, James Cooper’s father and a friend of theirs.
‘And you are going to learn that at approximately 2.56am in the morning, that residents and neighbours in the Newtown area would report hearing between six and eight gunshots ring out in the neighbourhood.’
The court heard that autopsies showed Cooper was shot four times – three of the bullets went straight through his body, the fatal one into his chest, perforating his left lung and ending up in his heart.
Kouzaris had been shot twice in the back and was killed by a bullet which perforated his spleen, diaphragm, left lung and his heart. The bullets were from a 0.22 calibre weapon.
Murder scene: James Cooper and James Kouzaris were found dead on this one way street which is off the usual tourist trail
Brodsky said one witness, who was staying with his girlfriend, would describe hearing noise outside at about 2.45am. He said: ‘He saw two white males walking eastbound down Carver or Gore Court.
‘He would describe the two men as being shirtless, he would describe the men as appearing to be drunk because they stumbled and he would describe that as the two men walked down the street that he saw two black males crouching and watching them as they walked by.
‘He will then tell you that approximately one minute or so later he heard gunshots ring out and that several minutes thereafter the police would arrive.’
Another witness, who was driving with her girl friends, described seeing two white men, shirtless, and two black men standing in front of them.
Brodsky said a friend of Tyson’s, Jermaine Bane, would describe seeing the teenager on the night of the murders.
He received a call from him, but thought it was accidental as he heard Tyson telling someone there were two white men walking in the area, but then hung up.
He said about five or ten minutes later he heard gunshots, and shortly afterwards Tyson called him and asked if he had heard shots. When he said yes, the teenager told him to go outside and see if there were any bodies out there.
‘He will also describe Shawn Tyson as sounding out of breath and that he was breathing heavy’, Brodsky said.
Bane will also describe seeing Tyson with a revolver, which he would frequently carry wrapped in a red bandanna, he added.
Another witness, who lived opposite Tyson, described seeing the teenager jump into the window of his apartment shortly after the gunshots.
The prosecutor told the court that Tyson told another witness he had ‘done ‘em’, referring to the two Britons. And witness Marvin Gaines said Tyson told him he had put the gun under his house and, when he asked why, he told him: ‘Those two bodies back there, I did that’.
Gaines said he later gave the gun to Bane and buried seven shell casings from that weapon in his yard.
Statistics: Posted by yoda — Sat Mar 24, 2012 8:44 am
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It’s Not Just Gasoline Consumption That’s Tanking, It’s All Energy
February 14, 2012
It’s not just gasoline consumption that’s declining–petroleum and electricity consumption are also dropping. Is that indicative of economic growth?
A number of readers kindly forwarded additional data sources to me as followup on last week’s entry describing sharply lower deliveries of gasoline. (Why Is Gasoline Consumption Tanking? February 10, 2012)
The basic thesis here is that petroleum consumption is a key proxy of economic activity. In periods of economic expansion, energy consumption rises. In periods of contraction, consumption levels off or declines.
This common sense correlation calls into question the Status Quo’s insistence that the U.S. economy has decoupled from the global ecoomy and is still growing. This growth will create more jobs, the story goes, and expand corporate profits which will power the stock market ever higher.
Courtesy of correspondents Bob C. and Mark W., here are links and charts of petroleum consumption, imports/exports, and electricity consumption. Let’s start with a chart of total petroleum products, which includes all products derived from petroleum (distillates, fuels, etc.) provided by Bob C. The chart shows the U.S. consumed about 21 million barrels a day (MBD) at the recent peak of economic activity 2005-07; from that peak, "product supplied" has fallen to 18 MBD. The current decline is very steep and has not bottomed.
This recent drop mirrors the decline registered in 2009 as the wheels fell off the global debt-based bubble. Those arguing that the U.S. economy is growing smartly and sustainably have to explain why petroleum consumption looks like 2009 when the economy tipped into a sharp contraction.
A link of interest from Mark W.: Montly U.S. Product Supplied of Finished Motor Gasoline (Thousand Barrels per Day) showing gasoline "product supplied" from 1945 to 2011. This shows gasoline has declined about 700,000 barrels per day from 2007, from 9.2 MBD to 8.5 MBD in November 2011. This represents about a 13% decline.
A number of readers wondered if gasoline imports might account for lower domestic shipments. That is a good question, and Bob C. found the answer in other EIA (U.S. Energy Information Agency) charts.
Weekly U.S. Imports of Total Gasoline (Thousand Barrels per Day)
Weekly Imports & Exports of Petroleum and Other Liquids (Thousand Barrels per Day)
Exports of Petroleum and Other Liquids
Here we see that of 8.5 million barrels a day of gasoline supplied, roughly 500,000 barrels are imported. In other words, the percentage of imported gasoline is modest.
The U.S. imports and exports petroleum products, but the net result is imports of around 8 million barrels a day. The U.S. imports about 10.5 MBD and exports almost 3 MBD for a net import total of 7.5 MBD. The secular decline in net imports from the 2006 top is consistent with the view that consumption has declined as a reflection of economic activity.
Mark W.also forwarded these charts of Electrical power consumption. Not only has electrical consumption never recovered the levels of mid-2008, it peaked in mid-2011 and has begun a sharp decline in late 2011.
I marked recent recessions on a long-term chart of electrical consumption to show that the deep recession of 1981-83 barely registered, while the recessions of 1990-91 and 2000-2002 are essentially noise.
That makes the secular decline from 2006 peaks all the more striking. (It is perhaps no coincidence that the housing bubble peaked in 2006-07 along with the extraction of home equity craze.)
Clearly, electrical consumption is in a downtrend with no recent historical precedent. Those claiming that U.S. growth is sustainable and the Dow is heading for 15,000 must square their rosy projections with sharply declining energy consumption. The two simply don’t match up.
As a lagniappe, here is a link from correspondent Joel M. on downward revisions to shale oil estimates. This injects a note of realism in the recent euphoric depiction of the U.S. as having essentially boundless supplies of petroleum equivalents. Substantial, yes, virtually unlimited, no.
Shale gas estimates continue downward: Energy Bulletin.
Statistics: Posted by yoda — Tue Feb 14, 2012 6:38 am
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