Seattle v. Race v. Class

In the wake of the recent Supreme Court ruling, the Seattle Public Schools are wrestling with the idea of using income instead of race as a “tiebraker” when deciding high school admission:

Currently, Seattle’s Open Choice system allows students to choose their schools. Several popular — and mostly white — high schools have waiting lists while high schools that serve mostly students of color are losing enrollment.

School districts should now “think about other factors,” said Gary Orfield, a professor in UCLA’s Graduate School of Education and Information Studies. “They need to think about geography, language, poverty and test scores, and combine those with race, and figure out how to increase diversity in that way.”

Seattle School Board President Cheryl Chow said family income is a better arbiter of success in school than race, anyway

I’m generally pretty sympathetic to the idea of replacing race-based affirmitive action with a more class-based system (so is Barack Obama, btw). After all, you get most of the same kids anyway, and you sidestep the race issue. But I’m not totally convinced it’s going to be successful in the long term. If there’s anything that’s more of an entitlement than being white in America, it’s being rich in America. How long until the rich parents sue because they’ve been crowded out by poor kids? Not long! In fact, the lawyer who brought the original suit is already thinking about it:

Instead of looking for a replacement for the racial tiebreaker, the district should focus on improving schools, said Harry Korrell, the attorney for the parents who sued the district.

“If what they’re trying to accomplish is the same racial balancing that the court rejected here, and they want to use that [socioeconomic] mechanism instead of race, then they may have trouble,” he said.

He has a point. The Open Choice program starts in high school. By high school, the achievement gap between poor students and rich ones is almost irreversible. In fact, if you recall Paul Tough’s article in the NYT Magazine last fall, it may start as early as 3 years old. Tough’s argument, which seems reasonable to me, is that you have to get the poor kids early, and actually give them a better education than the rich kids to make up for ineffective parenting* and put them on the same playing field as their wealthier counterparts.

So let’s make for some kick-ass elementary and middle schools — ones where the low-income neighborhoods have smaller classes and better teachers — and the high school issue should take care of itself. It’s a hard sell, but that’s what it would take.

* Lower-income parents, according to Tough, expose their kids to fewer words, which hinders their early brain development vis-a-vis rich kids.

Expensive Cars

I don’t normally read him, but today’s Charles Krauthammer column is about the energy bill, so I subjected myself to it. Here’s what I was rewarded with:

Apart from the safety issue, there is the issue of cost. Car prices will rise. That could in turn drive one or all of the Big Three U.S. auto companies, all reeling financially, into insolvency.

The problem with the big three is not that they can’t sell expensive cars. In fact, they’ve been selling expensive, highly profitable SUVs for years. Their problem is they can’t make a profit selling cheap cars. But if CAFE standards rise, and cheap cars get more expensive, that should do wonders for the big three, no?

Elizabeth Edwards and Teh Gay

Elizabeth Edwards’ pro-gay marriage views are welcome, of course, but aren’t they a little convenient?

It’s pretty obviously a way to wink at the gay community and signal support while her husband barnstorms South Carolina talking about how he’s “uncomfortable” with the issue. I suppose it’s pretty clever, as base-winking goes. Much better than the way Bush used to obliquely reference hymns and psalms in his State of the Union addresses.

Friend of Matski? Run for Office!

Got a phone call this morning from a old friend of mine, Dan Grant.  IIRC, Dan was last seen over some enchiladas suissas at one of Austin, TX’s many fine TexMex eateries.  Now, Dan’s running for Austin’s congressional seat.

Check out Dan’s site.  Some really interesting stuff there.  And if you can find it in your heart to keep the blue part of Texas blue (or, at least, reverse the unholy red/blue inversion that Tom Delay engineered down there) , I’m sure Dan would appreciate your financial support.

Recording Industry Soon To Overtake Detroit Automakers And Major League Baseball As The Worst-Run Industry In The Country

If I could curse on this blog, I would curse about the effin’ record industry:

No, music fans, there isn’t a problem with your Web connection — it’s just that many Internet radio stations are deliberately offline today.

Many Web-based music services and some conventional radio stations that offer Internet audio streams are scheduled to shut off their online music and programming until midnight tonight. Organizers are calling it Day of Silence and are hoping it will focus attention on a royalty-fee increase that many Internet-based broadcasters say could drive them out of business.

The new rates are set to go into effect July 15, barring swift action from Congress.

Participants in the event include such online-only music services as Pandora, Live365 and Real Networks’ Rhapsody, as well as radio stations such as WAMU in Washington and KCRW, based in Santa Monica, Calif. One notable service sitting out the protest, according to organizers, is AOL Radio. A spokeswoman for AOL declined to comment.

Earlier this year, a three-judge oversight panel that is part of the Library of Congress followed the recommendations of a group created by the recording industry to increase online royalty fees when the old rates expire. The group, SoundExchange, distributes royalty payments for online broadcasts to musicians.

SoundExchange said the higher rates reflect the fact that CD sales are collapsing and that the recording industry needs to find new sources of revenue to survive. Although Internet radio stations say they’ve helped music lovers find new bands, resulting in more album and ticket sales, SoundExchange said the recording industry hasn’t seen the trend.

And in the meantime, support your local radio station.

Bad News

Remember that story we all read a while back about how the Sunni tribal chiefs were so sick of al Qaeda they were siding with the U.S. to fight terrorists? Remember how awesome that sounded at the time?

Well, it looks like al Qaeda got the memo, too:

More than 40 people died today in a wave of suicide bombings across Iraq, including an attack on a hotel in Baghdad where a group of sheiks opposed to militants linked to Al Qaeda was holding a tribal conference.

The bombing at the Mansour Hotel, which is also headquarters to several news organizations, killed 12 people and wounded 18. At least four sheiks were among those killed, news agencies reported.

The sheiks are members of Anbar Awakening, a group of Sunni Arab tribal leaders and former insurgents opposed to Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia. The sheiks’ group has joined forces with police units backed by the United States to fight Al Qaeda, prompting a power struggle in the region.

And there you have it, the Anbar Awakening joins the heap of bright spots in Iraq that have faded away like a desert mirage. At this point, I don’t know what else can be done. As soon as any group does something positive in Iraq (or anywhere, for that matter), the U.S. tries to back that group, and instantly the group is either discredited or actively targeted for having associated with us. The American brand has become so toxic that everything we touch turns to shit, to paraphrase Tony Soprano.

We can’t change this dynamic in Iraq, no matter how many years we keep 150,000 soldiers and marines driving around the desert blowing things up and waiting to be blown up. When politicians say we need a “political solution” in Iraq, not a military one, it’s easy to dismiss it as cliche. But it’s also true.

Episode 301

The U.S tries soft power against Iran, hedge funds and private equity firms get in trouble, and finally: it’s the auto industry versus Congress in an energy bill smackdown!

Links mentioned: the Iran pieces are here and here. The articles on Bear Sterns and subprime mortgages are here and here. The latest on the energy bill is here, and the Auto Alliance blog, DriveCongress, is here.

Update: Podcast working now…