Thursday, August 26, 2010

For-Profit Colleges Deserve a Butt-kicking!

The Obama administration has started to come down on a horrible scam perpetrated on people trying to better themselves: the slimy collection of for-profit universities that fill daytime TV with their ads. These schools enlist anyone, promise great jobs after graduation, keep the kids in school as long as possible while they collect federal subsidies, charge outrageous tuition while providing an almost worthless education, and leave their students deeply in debt. For instance, an associates degree at a for-profit school would cost about 10 times the cost of earning it at a community college, and the credits would not likely transfer to a decent 4 year college.

I am no expert on these schools, but I did teach 2 courses at ITT-Tecj a few years ago. I quit for 3 reasons: They made me wear a tie, they paid shit, and I felt like part of a scam by working there. The students I taught were attempting to get bachelors degrees, but were far too stupid to earn a degree of any kind at any decent school. I passes most of them because I felt sorry for the way they were being ripped off by ITT and told that their degree would be of value in future employment. The text book I used was a piece of crap, pre-packaged for the class and sold only via ITT. The course was badly designed. And, there were myriad rules for faculty to follow, all of them designed to make sure that ITT kept its acreditation, which, for good reason, was always in danger of going away.

I will say the people who worked at the Denver ITT seemed to be decent people, at least the faculty. However, there were constant emails about keeping retention up.....seemed to be all the dean cared about. In fact, the people I was teaching were not learning anything, were not capable or interested in learning anything, and should have been told to leave and save their money.

In contrast, by the way, Front Range Community College, where I have taught for 8 years, has low costs, people who look out for the students best interests, and the credits earned are automatically transferable to CU or most other schools. And they let me teach in shorts and sneakers!

Kudos to Obama for clamping down on this scam.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Maybe we are getting less stupid! Or maybe not.

As more and more people start to realize the stupidity of the war on drugs, and states begin to pass more sensible marijuana laws, it sometimes gives me hope that maybe we are not the nation of idiots I sometimes think I live in. That usually lasts until I read the next report on what the Republicans in Congress are doing, or watch the Daily Show to see what the morons on Fox News are all lathered up about now.

Well, here is today's bit of good news. According to the NY Times and a CNN poll, a slight majority of Americans now think gays should be allowed to marry. Interestingly, the story says that in 1996, when the idiotic "Defense of Marriage" act was passed, only 26% of Americans favored gays getting married. Today, the number is somewhere around half, depending on which poll you like.

What happened? I have a grim theory that it is generational. The kids I teach today all have gay friends, and see gays as people who may be different, but are not much bothered by them. In 1996 they were little kids, too young to get polled. Meanwhile, in those 14 years a bunch of older people, far more likely to object to gay rights, have died. So, it is probably not so much that individuals have changed their minds, but that the people who came of age in that time, replacing the deceased, had different values and life experiences.

Now, if I can just teach those youngsters a bit about Economics!

On the other hand, it appears our technology is making us dumber, as this story about idiots in our National Parks points out.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

My Brush with Bobby Thompson

Even the most casual sports fan has heard of Bobby Thomson's "Shot Heard Round the World" in 1951 to win the National League pennant for the Giants over the Dodgers. I will ignore the New York-centric idea that so much more has been made of that home run than Bill Mazaroski's World Series homer to beat the Yankees in 1960, probably the greatest moment in the history of sports as, not only was it a homer that won game seven of the series, but THE YANKEES LOST!! (I guess I didn't really ignore it, did I. Pisses me off!)

Bobby Thomson died yesterday, which seems like good reason to tell my sort-of brush with the man who provided this great sports memory. I have played golf in a foursome with Bobby Thomson's old golf clubs.

Huh? Well, when I was in grad school in Michigan, a friend of mine there, Chuck Mitchell, was married to Bobby Thomson's lovely daughter, whose name escapes me. And Bobby had given Chuck his old golf clubs. And Chuck and I played golf together a few times. I am horrible at keeping in touch with people, and thus have no idea where Chuck and wife are today.

I wish I could report there was something magical about Bobby Thomson's old golf clubs, that merely by touching them I was able to shoot holes-in-one. But, they were just old golf clubs. Which makes this a pretty lame story, I guess.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

I Just Got Taller and Thinner!

Wonder why I call this blog The Tall Thin Guy? Years ago, a conservative friend was arguing the point that Fox News is fair and balanced, as their motto says. My response was that he must then also believe I am tall and thin (I am 5'6", about 188). After that I realized that by consistently misrepresenting themselves, Fox had managed to convince a decent number of people that they are fair and balanced, despite the fact that anyone with half a brain can see they are doing the PR work of the GOP 24/7. So, I decided to call myself tall than thin, figuring some people would believe that as well.

In case you are still under the mistaken notion that Fox even makes any effort to be fair and balanced (and Glenn Beck is more that politically unbalanced!), then it might be difficult to explain the $1million donation that News Corp, Fox's parent, just made to the GOP. You can read about it HERE.

I think I feel a growth spurt coming on!

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Are the Climate Change Deniers Still Yaking?

If you are a Fox News watcher, you are probably now convinced that climate changed does not exist, which was proved by the fact that it was cold last winter, and that a few scientists sent some snarky emails to each other. That passes for science among the ignorant. Remember, a lot of these people also deny the facts of evolution.

Meanwhile, look at the weather going on around the world. Russia is aflame with fires caused by a heat wave never seen there before. Pakistan is under water. The facts are that extreme weather events are happening more frequently, just as the climate scientists models have predicted.

Looked on with the same un-scientific eye that the nutjob morons did the winter snows, the summer in Russia would be proof that global warming is going to kill us all soon, and reason to panic. In fact, both the winter cold and the Russian heat are just points of data to be entered into models with all much other data to determine what really is happening. To say a specific day proves or disproves a theory is like saying that Peyton Manning, after throwing his next interception, is a bad quarterback. Or, that because I parred a few holes in my first round of golf in 2 years, I am a good golfer. In both cases, a look at all the data would prove both those conclusions wrong.

What do scientists think of this summer of extremes? Read this NY Times story to find out.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

What Congress Ought to Be Doing

As the election nears, the amount of non-sensical lying and pandering to the worst instincts of voters will make intelligent people want to puke. Here in Colorado, the GOP dove completely out of reach of their rockers by nomination Teabagger candidates for both Governor and Senate, and, although they are unlikely to win the general election, it is likely that we will see more ignorant Sarah Palin clones in DC and statehouses.

As far at the economy goes, the conservatives bluster is that the deficit is too big, unless of course it is caused by more tax cuts. At this time in history, they are mostly wrong. Economists have shown that the stimulus and actions of the FED saved us, so far, from falling into a second Great Depression. And as for tax cuts, while in the short term they make sense in as part of a second round of stimulus, in the long run we will have to both cut spending and raise taxes to keep from being Greece in 10 years.

So, here is MY PLAN as to what Congress should be doing. It makes sense, so you can be sure little of it will happen.
1) A new stimulus plan is needed with more spending on infrastructure projects, as well as aid to the states to keep our education system from crumbling. This type of spending will help us both long and short term, much like the WPA projects still in use from the 30's do today.
2) Allow the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy to expire, but extend them for 3 years for everyone else.
3) Get to work on fixing the long term economics problems we face by making serious and expansive changes to health care, social security and medicare. This is a far bigger problem than the current deficits being run to stimulate the economy, which make sense right now. What does not make sense is legacy programs whose current deficit is estimated at over $50 Trillion. Seriously tackling these tough programs, which Congress is about as likely to do as they are to turn down campaign contributions, would signify to markets that we are serious about the long term. This would give those who we need to buy government bonds to finance our deficit more comfort that they are not investing in the next Greece, and keep interest rates from rising.
4) Hey, while I'm in this fantasy world, how about legalizing drugs, prostitution, an gambling so we can stop wasting resources trying to tell people how to run their lives. Then, tax them so the addicts pay for their own treatment.

I believe the first 2 items on my list will happen to some extent. 3 and 4 are the ones that would really contribute to long term fiscal sanity. But since voters live in the short term, you can forget about Congress dealing with them.

Enjoy your election season. I'm going to only watch TV via Hulu so I don't have to watch the scumbag political ads!

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Saving $ on Text Books

Test books prices are generally outrageous, which bothers me. I know that some students and parents of students read this, so you might want to check out THIS STORY from the NY Times on how you might save some money.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Greenspan Want Tax Increase!

Shocking! Alan Greenspan, former Fed chairman and near libertarian, now not only wants banks to be more strictly regulated, but wants the Bush tax cuts to expire. Like many economists, he is concerned about the long term problems caused by our giant deficits, which, any same person can see, will require both higher taxes and cutting back on government programs.

Read the whole story HERE.

Also, I have added a new link under Fun Economics Blogs. It is the Planet Money blog from NPR. Good stuff. They do very interesting podcasts on Tue and Fri.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Good News and Good News of a completely different sort!

First the BIG good news: Federal Judge Walker has ruled California's Proposition 8 unconstitutional because it discriminates against a specific class of people, and therefore violates the 14th Amendment to the Constitution. This is what I've said all along. If the law allows a man to marry a woman but not a woman to marry a woman, than it is not a "fair" law. You could not deny a woman any other right that a man has, or vice versa.

The argument that gay marriage somehow diminishes the heterosexual kind is so ridiculous I can't imagine anyone actually making it. Equally noxious is the idea that since it was voted on, it is OK do deny people equal rights. If the state of California had voted to deny the rights of black people to marry, would that be constitutional? Of course not.

This case will go to the Supreme Court, where there are already 4 votes against it by the backward idiots Roberts, Alito, Scalia and Thomas. These 4 guys seem to only believe the constitution meant that rights belonged to corporations, not individuals, unless of course guns were involved. Hopefully the other 5 justices will see how silly this issue is.

The other good news is mostly for us here in Colorado. It was announced yesterday that a week-long professional bike race will take place next year here in the Centennial State. This state is a perfect place for a grueling bike race, and if sponsorship holds up could become a big deal. However, the impending legal action against Lance Armstrong, who had a lot to do with this happening, could kill it real fast. If Lance goes down as a PED user, no sponsor in the US is going to touch the sport.