Archive for May, 2011

Retire Government Experts On Full Pay–It’s Cheaper

May 31, 2011

     Do not think about, write about or deal with  human behavior without determining the effects of incentives.

     The only people smart enough to set policy are those who are smart enough to know they never should.

      Surely they jest when making these policies. Green jobs? Whenever the government talks about creating jobs, it’s either government jobs or heavily-subsidized jobs. No one has ever explained how any of this helps anyone but the recipients. It certainly harms those from whom the money is taken.

Ontarians could see energy bills jump $310

By Jonathan Jenkins, QMI Agency
TORONTO — Subsidies mean every job created under the Liberals’ Green Energy Act will cost $179,000, forcing every Ontario household to pony up an additional $310 a year in electricity costs, the C.D Howe Institute says.

<insert>

      What are taxpayers for except to support nonsense from government planners?

"Ontario’s renewable electricity subsidy is a costly means of reducing domestic (greenhouse gas) emissions and creating jobs," the report, co-written by former Ontario Power Authority boss Jan Carr, says.

<insert>

     There should be a halt to chatting about “greenhouse gases”. Since there is no greenhouse effect, there can be no greenhouse gases. This is as much of a metaphor, and a twisted one at that, as “chemical imbalance” is concerning mental illness.

"These costs will be borne by Ontario electricity consumers and amount to $310 annually per household, with additional costs due to the intermittency of power from renewables and the transmission infrastructure investment needed."

Compared to building natural gas-fired generation, the reports says Ontario will pay $1.5 billion more for subsidized wind, solar and biomass electricity, as the government is offering 20-year contracts paying between 13 to 80 cents a kilowatt hour depending on the type of generation.

Ontario could reduce that total impact of the GEA if it stopped offering those subsidized energy contracts through its Feed-In-Tariff (FIT) program.

Energy minister officials said the report overstated the FIT contracts’ impact and said renewable energy is projected to make up just 13% of the province’s energy mix over the next 20 years.

"We believe we should be building a clean energy economy in this province," Energy Minister Dwight Duguid said.

"Good energy policy is good economic policy," he said. "Obviously, they take a different view."

The subsidies will also be reviewed over this summer with an eye to reducing them, Duguid said.

"There’s always been the expectation — we’ve been very clear on this — that costs would be coming down," Duguid said.

<insert>

     Costs will be coming down in government subsidies when rabbits do calculus.

"Those subsidies were set to attract investment and build a clean energy economy here in Ontario and make Ontario the clean energy leader," he said. "That’s what they’ve done."

Duguid said the government estimates 13,000 jobs have been created as of 2011 by the GEA and the province is on track for its prediction of 50,000 jobs by 2012.

<end>

      And the number of jobs destroyed by the misallocation of resources?   Do they lack faith in free enterprise or have supreme faith in themselves? 

Cheerio and ttfn,
Grant Coulson
Cui Bono–Cherchez les Contingencies

It’s Good To Be A Government Worker–It’s Very Good

May 30, 2011

 

    Do not think about, write about or deal with  human behavior without determining the effects of incentives.

     Lots of money for a useless meeting.

Ottawa cop cashed in on G20 overtime

By Jamie Long, QMI Agency

OTTAWA – Fifty-five Ottawa police officers were paid $2,080 each for one day’s work at the G20 summit in Toronto after an alarming afternoon of vandalism and rioting forced the RCMP to call for backup, according to Ottawa police.

That’s a small correction to RCMP documents on the cost of summit security, which said 40 Ottawa officers received $2,860 each for the one-day emergency call June 27.

Ottawa police said federal taxpayers, through the RCMP, have reimbursed the $114,399 in salaries, which does not including travel expenses, meals and lodging.

"These officers were called in, a majority were off duty," said Insp. Mark Ford, who was one of those awakened around midnight June 26 and shipped to the summit for reinforcements.

He defended his payout, saying this was not a normal eight-hour day.

"By the time you factor in the logistics, the travel to and from, and in excess of 12 hours on the ground deployed, the work cycle was almost 37 hours," he said.

<insert>

      That makes it reasonable. Only $55 per hour for a useless exercise. This amount was a drop in the bucket compared to what the whole “summit” cost.

Ford received the call from Ottawa police Chief Vern White, who was summoned by the RCMP to supply extra help.

The superintendent and deputy police chief also made calls to 54 other officers, said Ford.

The Ottawa Police Association refused comment on the money figure, but did provide its take on why officers jumped out of bed for the overtime.

"Certainly, globally, it is our duty to do so," association president Steve Boucher wrote in an e-mail.

"We are sworn to protect life and property. That includes all public demonstrations."

Ottawa cops were not originally called upon for event security, Ford added, because protests often stretch to the nation’s capital.

But documents show the summit was an overtime bonanza for police officers from across the country.

"It was very much a last-minute request for the police services. I was just about to start my holidays when I got that call," said Ford, who admitted money was a part of his motivation.

"But to get 55 people in the middle of the night on a summer weekend, that’s pretty good."

The Vancouver Olympics was the last time Ottawa police sent a large contingent out of town, which included more than 70 officers. The cost per officer wasn’t as high because that was not an emergency call.

<end>

    The only way to stop them wasting money is to ensure they have less to waste.

Cheerio and ttfn,
Grant Coulson
Cui Bono–Cherchez les Contingencies

Large Decline In Crime—Stability Of Employment In Justice System

May 29, 2011

   Do not think about, write about or deal with  human behavior without determining the effects of incentives.

    "Gee, a gold medal. We’ll get it bronzed." Bob’s Burgers

      We have yet another example that the motivation for crime is not mainly economic. Crime does not go up in times of recession nor down in times of prosperity.

Steady decline in major crime in U.S. baffles experts

By Richard A. Oppel Jr.
New York Times

<insert>

      If they can’t predict crime rates, then they aren’t experts.

The number of violent crimes in the United States dropped significantly last year, to what appeared to be the lowest in nearly 40 years, a development that was considered puzzling partly because it ran counter to the prevailing expectation that crime would increase during a recession.

In all regions, the country appears to be safer. The odds of being killed or robbed are now less than half of what they were in the early 1990s, when U.S. violent crime peaked. Small towns, especially, are seeing far fewer murders: In cities with populations under 10,000, the number plunged by more than 25 percent last year.

Criminology experts said they were surprised and impressed by the national numbers, issued Monday by the FBI and based on data from more than 13,000 law-enforcement agencies. They said the decline nationally in the number of violent crimes, by 5.5 percent, raised the question to what extent crime could continue to fall — or at least fall at the same pace as the past two years. Violent crimes fell nearly the same amount in 2009.

"Remarkable," said James Alan Fox, a criminologist at Northeastern University. "Given the fact that we have had some healthy declines in recent years, I fully expected that the improvement would slow."

There was no immediate consensus to explain the drop. But some experts said the figures collided with theories about correlations between crime, unemployment and the number of people in prison.

<insert>

   I can guarantee that the dramatic drop in crime will not be accompanied by a drop in the number of people employed by the courts or police. That is why “public service” is proof against logic and economic circumstance.

The nation has endured a devastating economic crisis, but robberies fell 9.5 percent last year, after dropping 8 percent the year before.

"Striking," said Alfred Blumstein, a professor and a criminologist at the Heinz College at Carnegie Mellon University, because it came "at a time when everyone anticipated it could be going up because of the recession."

Nationally, murder fell 4.4 percent last year.

In San Jose last year, violent crime was down about 6.5 percent. There also were small decreases in rapes, a 5 percent drop in robberies and just under an 8 percent drop in aggravated assaults, according to FBI data.

Unofficially, many of the same crimes show drops this year as well, although police insiders said violent gang crime seems to be increasing in San Jose.

But the good news has been overshadowed in recent months by the city’s unexpected and dramatic rise in homicides. Last year, there were 20 homicide victims. This year so far, there have been 19 killed and that doesn’t count the San Jose State University double murder-suicide.

"Clearly, we are concerned about the uptick," said Assistant Chief Diane Urban. "But it’s too soon to tell if there is some trend here. It could be an anomaly."

<end>

     Make drugs legal and the over-capacity of the justice system would be really high.

Cheerio and ttfn,
Grant Coulson
Cui Bono–Cherchez les Contingencies

Oil, Technology And Price

May 28, 2011

    Do not think about, write about or deal with  human behavior without determining the effects of incentives.

     Below, we’ll see some solution to the “energy crisis”. The eco-crazies will screw this up in the states where they have sway, as they are already doing. This will diminish the standard of living of everyone, but at least they’ll feel morally superior. The behavior of some towards progress and/or economic activity in general reminds me of Professor Wagstaff:

    Professor Wagstaff (Groucho Marx): Horse Feathers–movie–1932– [singing] I don’t know what they have to say / It makes no difference anyway / Whatever it is, I’m against it. / No matter what it is or who commenced it, I’m against it! / Your proposition may be good / But let’s have one thing understood: / Whatever it is, I’m against it. / And even when you’ve changed it or condensed it, I’m against it! / For months before my son was born / I used to yell from night till morn: / Whatever it is, I’m against it! / And I’ve kept yelling since I’ve first commenced it, I’m against it.

     Keeping with the Groucho theme:

I intend to live forever, or die trying.

Politics is the art of looking for trouble, finding it everywhere, diagnosing it incorrectly and applying the wrong remedies.

Of course I remember the first time I had sex–I kept the receipt.

I would never belong to any club that would have me as a member.

All from Groucho

Shale Boom in Texas Could Increase U.S. Oil Output
By CLIFFORD KRAUSS
CATARINA, Tex. — Until last year, the 17-mile stretch of road between this forsaken South Texas village and the county seat of Carrizo Springs was a patchwork of derelict gasoline stations and rusting warehouses.

Now the region is in the hottest new oil play in the country, with giant oil terminals and sprawling RV parks replacing fields of mesquite. More than a dozen companies plan to drill up to 3,000 wells around here in the next 12 months.

The Texas field, known as the Eagle Ford, is just one of about 20 new onshore oil fields that advocates say could collectively increase the nation’s oil output by 25 percent within a decade — without the dangers of drilling in the deep waters of the Gulf of Mexico or the delicate coastal areas off Alaska.

There is only one catch: the oil from the Eagle Ford and similar fields of tightly packed rock can be extracted only by using hydraulic fracturing, a method that uses a high-pressure mix of water, sand and hazardous chemicals to blast through the rocks to release the oil inside.

The technique, also called fracking, has been widely used in the last decade to unlock vast new fields of natural gas, but drillers only recently figured out how to release large quantities of oil, which flows less easily through rock than gas. As evidence mounts that fracking poses risks to water supplies, the federal government and regulators in various states are considering tighter regulations on it.

The oil industry says any environmental concerns are far outweighed by the economic benefits of pumping previously inaccessible oil from fields that could collectively hold two or three times as much oil as Prudhoe Bay, the Alaskan field that was the last great onshore discovery. The companies estimate that the boom will create more than two million new jobs, directly or indirectly, and bring tens of billions of dollars to the states where the fields are located, which include traditional oil sites like Texas and Oklahoma, industrial stalwarts like Ohio and Michigan and even farm states like Kansas.

“It’s the one thing we have seen in our adult lives that could take us away from imported oil,” said Aubrey McClendon, chief executive of Chesapeake Energy, one of the most aggressive drillers. “What if we have found three of the world’s biggest oil fields in the last three years right here in the U.S.? How transformative could that be for the U.S. economy?”

The oil rush is already transforming this impoverished area of Texas near the Mexican border, doubling real estate values in the last year and filling restaurants and hotels.

“That’s oil money,” said Bert Bell, a truck company manager, pointing to the new pickup truck he bought for his wife after making $525,000 leasing mineral rights around his family’s mobile home. “Oil money just makes life easier.”

Based on the industry’s plans, shale and other “tight rock” fields that now produce about half a million barrels of oil a day will produce up to three million barrels daily by 2020, according to IHS CERA, an energy research firm. Oil companies are investing an estimated $25 billion this year to drill 5,000 new oil wells in tight rock fields, according to Raoul LeBlanc, a senior director at PFC Energy, a consulting firm.

“This is very big and it’s coming on very fast,” said Daniel Yergin, the chairman of IHS CERA. “This is like adding another Venezuela or Kuwait by 2020, except these tight oil fields are in the United States.”

In the most developed shale field, the Bakken field in North Dakota, production has leaped to 400,000 barrels a day today from a trickle four years ago. Experts say it could produce as much as a million barrels a day by the end of the decade.

The Eagle Ford, where the first well was drilled only three years ago, is already producing more than 100,000 barrels a day and could reach 420,000 by 2015, almost as much as Ecuador, according to Bentek Energy, a consultancy.

The shale oil boom comes as production from Prudhoe Bay is declining and drilling in the Gulf of Mexico is being more closely scrutinized after last year’s Deepwater Horizon disaster.

What makes the new fields more remarkable is that they were thought to be virtually valueless only five years ago. “Everyone said the oil molecules are too large to flow in commercial quantities through these low-quality rocks,” said Mark G. Papa, chief executive of EOG Resources.

EOG began quietly buying the rights to thousands of acres in the Bakken and Eagle Ford after an EOG engineer concluded that the techniques used to extract natural gas from shale — fracking, combined with drilling horizontally through layers of rocks — could be used for oil. Chesapeake and a few other independents quickly followed. Now the biggest multinational oil companies, as well as Chinese and Norwegian firms, are investing billions of dollars in the fields.

The new drilling makes economic sense as long as oil prices remain above $60 a barrel, according to oil companies. At current oil prices of about $100 a barrel, shale wells can typically turn a profit within eight months — three times faster than many traditional wells.

But water remains a key issue. In addition to possible contamination of surface and underground water from fracking fluids, the sheer volume of water required poses challenges, especially in South Texas, which faces a severe drought and rapidly diminishing water levels in the local aquifer.

At the rate wells are being drilled, “there’s definitely going to be a problem,” said Bay Laxson, a local water official.

Dave Thompson, regional production superintendent for the oil company SM Energy said the industry knew that water issues were “an Achilles heel.” He said his company was building a system to reuse water in the field.

But unlike Pennsylvania and New York, where fracking for natural gas has produced organized opposition, the oil industry has been mostly welcomed in western and southern states.

<insert>

     Pennsylvania and New York, where the eco-righteous hold sway.

Thanks to the drilling boom, the recession bypassed North Dakota entirely. Here in Dimmit County, Tex., the unemployment rate has fallen in half, and sales tax receipts are up 70 percent so far this year, allowing the county to hire more police officers and buy sanitation and road repair equipment.

“In my lifetime, this is the biggest thing I’ve ever seen,” said Jose Gonzalez, 78, a retired teacher and son of migrant farm workers, who leased mineral rights to Chesapeake for $27,000 and sold another plot for $100,000 to a company building an RV park for oil workers. “You can see I’m happy.”

<end>

        Apparently, the “end of oil” has been announced prematurely because it assumed that technology and price would remain stagnant. The predictors can go back to other, catastrophic predictions, neither discouraged nor discredited, but still wrong.

Cheerio and ttfn,
Grant Coulson
Cui Bono–Cherchez les Contingencies

Updated Supporting Documents For Direct Instruction Courtesy Kerry Hempenstall

May 28, 2011

    Do not think about, write about or deal with  human behavior without determining the effects of incentives.

       Here is an updated list for documents, most available online, in support of Direct Instruction. In the jurisdiction where I live, where the arrogance of the government education “experts” is only matched by their incompetence. Direct Instruction cannot be used. There are two good (note use of sarcasm) reasons for this. The first is that only textbooks published in Ontario may be used in Ontario because, as we all know, the purpose of education is to support textbook publishers. The second is that Direct Instruction is the absolute opposite of the litany of fads taught in schools of education because, as we all know, government experts are always right.

Reviews supporting Direct Instruction programs (with updated links)
Kerry Hempenstall

How does one make judgements about which literacy programs/approaches
deserve respect and implementation? One can go to the primary sources
(original research), though this may be very time-consuming, or one may
feel unable to critically evaluate research merit. An alternative is to
examine reviews and the findings by respected sources.

One focus involves whether particular programs incorporate the
components considered crucial by relevant authorities. That is, is the
approach in question theoretically plausible? Does it have the
recommended elements to enable it to succeed?

How does Direct Instruction stack up theoretically?
The National Reading Panel (2000) issued a now famous report consequent
upon a Congressional mandate to identify skills and methods crucial in
reading development. The Panel reviewed more than 100,000 studies
focusing on the K-3 research in reading instruction to identify which
elements lead to reading success.

From a theoretical perspective, each of the National Reading Panel
(2000) recommended foci for reading instruction (phonemic awareness,
phonics, fluency, vocabulary, comprehension) is clearly set out and
taught in Direct Instruction literacy programs. An examination of the
program teaching sequences in, for example, the Reading Mastery and
Corrective Reading texts attests to their comprehensive nature.

However, these necessary elements are only the ingredients for success.
Having all the right culinary ingredients doesn’t guarantee a perfect
soufflé. There are other issues, such as what proportion of each
ingredient is optimal, when should they be added, how much stirring,
heating, cooling is necessary? Getting any of these requirements wrong
leads to sub-optimal outcomes.

So, it is with literacy programs. “Yet there is a big difference between
a program based on such elements and a program that has itself been
compared with matched or randomly assigned control groups” (Slavin,
2003). Just because a program has all the elements doesn’t mean that it
will be effective necessarily. Engelmann (2003) points to the logical
error of inferring a whole based upon the presence of some or all of its
elements. If a dog is a Dalmatian, it has spots. Therefore, if a dog has
spots, it is a Dalmatian (Engelmann, 2003). In this simile, the
Dalmatian represents programs known to be effective with students. It is
possible to analyse these programs, determine their characteristics, and
then assume incorrectly that the mere presence of those characteristics
is sufficient to ensure effectiveness. Engelmann is thus critical of
merely “research-based” programs, that is, programs constructed only to
ensure each respected component is somewhere represented. He points out
that this does not guarantee effectiveness.

So for a true measure, we must look also for empirical studies to show
that a particular combination of theoretically important elements is
indeed effective.

The vital question then becomes: Has a particular program demonstrated
replicated effectiveness? For what populations?

"The program know as DI (or capital D, capital I) puts all of [the
features of 'di'] into an explicit package. It’s a more structured
version of di that’s been field tested. DI has taken the basic
principles of di and applied them in explicit lessons to various aspects
of curriculum at different levels. It includes programs to teach
reading, math, and science. And because its lessons are written out
(‘scripted’ or manualized), it’s more consistent from teacher to
teacher. DI has simple eaten the lunch of other instructional approaches
in field tested and therefore is a best-practices example of the
superiority of a scientifically based instruction program. And yet, …
it hasn’t been declared by the federal government to be any better than
the competition, much of which is unmitigated hogwash.!"
Kauffman, J. M. (2010). The tragicomedy of public education: Laugand crying; thinking and fixing. Verona, WS: Attainment. ISBN 1578616824

________________________________________
Hattie examines meta-analyses of research studies relating to student
achievement, and concludes that Direct Instruction is highly effective.
No other curricular program showed such consistently strong effects with
students of different ability levels, of different ages, and with
different subject matters. …

“One of the common criticisms is that Direct Instruction works with very
low-level or specific skills, and with lower ability and the youngest
students. These are not the findings from the meta-analyses. The effects
of Direct Instruction are similar for regular (d=0.99), and special
education and lower ability students (d=0.86), higher for reading
(d=0.89) than for mathematics (d=0.50), similar for the more low-level
word attack (d=0.64) and also for high-level comprehension (d=0.54), and
similar for elementary and high school students .The messages of these
meta-analyses on Direction Instruction underline the power of stating
the learning intentions and success criteria, and then engaging students
in moving towards these. The teacher needs to invite the students to
learn, provide much deliberative practice and modeling, and provide
appropriate feedback and multiple opportunities to learn. Students need
opportunities for independent practice, and then there need to be
opportunities to learn the skill or knowledge implicit in the learning
intention in contexts other than those directly taught” (pp. 206-7).
Hattie, J. A.C. (2009). Visible learning: A synthesis of over 800
meta-analyses relating to achievement. London and New York: Routledge.
________________________________________
Corrective Reading, a remedial small group form of Direct Instruction,
has strong evidence of effectiveness (Slavin, 2009, Best Evidence
Encyclopedia)
Slavin, R.E., Lake, C., Davis, S., & Madden, N. (2009, June) Effective
programs for struggling readers: A best evidence synthesis. Baltimore,
MD: Johns Hopkins University, Center for Data-Driven Reform in
Education.
http://www.bestevidence.org/word/strug_read_Jul_07_2009.pdf
________________________________________
Reading First focuses on core reading programs in grades K-3. There are
only two programs widely acknowledged to have strong evidence of
effectiveness in this area: Success for All and Direct Instruction.
Slavin, R.E. (2007). Statement of Robert E. Slavin, Director Center for
Data-Driven Reform in Education. Committee on Appropriations
Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related
Activities.  Hearings on Implementation of No Child Left Behind. March
14, 2007. Retrieved March 16, 2007, from
http://www.ednews.org/articles/8996/1/Statement-of-Robert-E-Slavin-Director-Center-for-Data-Driven-Reform-in-Education/Page1.html
________________________________________
"The evidence is pretty much overwhelming," said Prof Steve Dinham, the
Australian Council for Educational Research research director for
teaching, learning and leadership. "Direct instruction and explicit
teaching is two to three times more effective than inquiry-based
learning or problem-based learning."
Smith, B. (2008). Results back principal’s return to instruction. The
Age, 10 May, p.8.
________________________________________

”Research conducted over the past thirty years has provided considerable
evidence to support the efficacy of direct instruction programs in
primary schools. Recent meta-analyses of intervention research have
found that techniques associated with direct instruction are among the
most effective teaching practices for improving academic achievement,
particularly for students with learning difficulties (e.g., Borman et
al., 2003; Forness, Kavake, Blum & Lloyd, 1997). … There is substantial
evidence relating the use of direct instruction in the development of
phonemic awareness and phonological knowledge, vocabulary knowledge and
word recognition (e.g., Foorman, Francis, Fletcher, SchatscMehta, 1998; Munro, 1997, 1998, 1999, 2000a,b; Rohl, 2000; Rohl & Pratt,
1995; Swanson, 1999; Wright & Jacobs, 2003). … Support also has been
found for the benefit of direct instruction in the teaching of reading
comprehension (e.g., Foorman et al., 1998; Gardill & Jitendra, 1999;
Swanson, 1999; Gersten & Carnine, 1986; Vallecorsa & de Bettencourt,
1997)”.
National Inquiry into the Teaching of Literacy (2005). Teaching reading
- A review of the evidence-based research literature on approaches to
the teaching of literacy, particularly those that are effective in
assisting students with reading difficulties. Australian Government:
Department of Education, Science and Training. Retrieved November 1,
2007, from http://www.dest.gov.au/nitl/documents/literature_review.pdf.
________________________________________
“On average, when the Corrective Reading program was coupled with
repeated reading lessons, findings reflected a large effect (M ES =
1.52) for students with disabilities (i.e., Gregory et al., 2005; Strong
et al., 2004). In these two investigations, essentially, all students
improved on their reading fluency, and results were varied with regard
to performance on answering comprehension questions. … Although more
research comparing whole-word to phonic instruction is needed with
adolescent populations, one study suggested that adolescents who were
taught phonic analysis skills were better able to transfer their skills
when they encountered words that were novel to them (ES = 1.30 on
pseudoword reading), contrary to those adolescents who received either
whole-word reading skills or no specialized instruction (i.e.,
Bhattacharya & Ehri, 2004)”.

“Students who have not acquired some degree of reading decoding and
fluency skills by middle school are at a disadvantage, as they are
increasingly expected to extract and synthesize information from content
area texts (Biancarosa & Snow, 2004; Santa, 2006). Moreover, “students
who lack sufficient fluency entering into the middle grades are not
likely to find much instructional support for their difficulties”
(Rasinksi et al., 2005, p. 26)”.
Joseph, L. M., & Schisler, R. (2009). Should adolescents go back to the
basics?: A review of teaching word reading skills to middle and high
school students RASE TL & LD. Remedial and Special Education, 30(3),
131. Retrieved from
http://search.proquest.com/docview/236328142?accountid=13552
________________________________________
"For example, Direct Instruction (DI), a behaviorally oriented teaching
procedure based on an explicit step-by-step strategy (ES=.93) is
six-and-one-half times more effective than the intuitively appealing
modality matched instruction (ES=.14) that attempts to capitalize on
learning style differences. Students with Specific Learning Disabilities
who are instructed with DI would be better off than 87% of students not
receiving DI and would gain over 11 months credit on an achievement
measure compared to about one month for modality matched instruction."
Kavale, K. (2005). Effective intervention for students with specific
learning disability: The nature of special education. Learning
Disabilities, 13(4), 127-138.
________________________________________
“Across varying contexts, Direct Instruction, the Comer School
Development Program, and Success for All have shown robust results and
have shown that, in general, they can be expected to improve students’
test scores. These three models stand out from other available
comprehensive school reform (CSR) designs by the quantity and
generalizability of their outcomes, the reliable positive effects on
student achievement, and the overall quality of the evidence. … These
clear, focused, and well-supported school-based models of improvement
are in stark contrast to top-down direction and flexibility for
educational reform”.
Borman, G. (2007). Taking reform to scale. Wisconsin Center for
Educational Research Retrieved February 4, 2007, from
http://www.wcer.wisc.edu/news/coverstories/taking_reform_to_scale.php
________________________________________
The American Institutes for Research (2006) reviewed 800 studies of
student achievement and of the 22 reform models examined, Direct
Instruction and Success for All received the highest rating for quality
and effectiveness. CSRQ Center Report on Elementary School Comprehensive
School Reform Models
http://www.air.org/focus-area/education/index.cfm?fa=viewContent&content_id=635
________________________________________
“There is ample empirical evidence that the Direct Instruction programs
have succeeded with a wide range of learners. This has been recognised
by diverse groups, for example, the US Government’s acceptance of the
Direct Instruction model as one eligible for funding. The US Department
of Education allocates enormous amounts for the implementation of
replicable, research based school reform models. Its approved list
includes Direct Instruction programs. Direct Instruction programs have
also been acknowledged as having the exemplary research base required
under the recent USA Reading First Act, 2001 (Manzo & Robelen, 2002).”
Manzo, K., & Robelen, E. (2002, May 1). States unclear on ESEA rules
about reading. Education Week online. Retrieved February 14, 2003.
http://www.edweek.org/ew/articles/2002/05/01/33read.h21.html
________________________________________
Major reviews of the primary research can provide additional surety of
program value. In a Department of US Education meta-analysis,
Comprehensive School Reform and Student Achievement (2002, Nov), Direct
Instruction was assigned the highest classification: Strongest Evidence
of Effectiveness, as ascertained by Quality of the evidence Quantity of
the evidence, and Statistically significant and positive results. “Its
effects are relatively robust and the model can be expected to improve
students’ test scores. The model certainly deserves continued
dissemination and federal support”
Borman, G.D., Hewes, G.M., Overman, L.T., & Brown, S. (2002).
Comprehensive School Reform and Student Achievement.
http://www.csos.jhu.edu/crespar/techReports/Report59.pdf
________________________________________
Power4Kids
http://www.haan4kids.org/power4kids/CTRG%20ex%20summary.4.3.06.doc
Following the successful models of rigorous medical science, the
Power4Kids reading study will be a landmark in education ~ a
large-scale, randomized, controlled, longitudinal field trial. It is the
second largest study of its kind ever to be conducted in public schools.
It is designed to provide conclusive evidence of the effectiveness of
quality remedial reading programs, along with determining common
learning profiles of students and the best targeted-intervention for
each profile. Regardless of the reason a child struggles to learn to
read, Power4Kids will provide the information and winning models of how
to close the reading gap in our schools. Four (4) highly effective
remedial reading programs have been awarded a position in the study by
virtue of their scientifically-based evidence of effectiveness. The
programs are:
Corrective Reading, Failure Free Reading, Spell Read P.A.T., Wilson
Learning Program
________________________________________
The Council for Exceptional Children provides informed judgements
regarding professional practices in the field. The Direct Instruction
model was judged by the Editorial Committee to be well validated and
reliably used.
http://www.teachingld.org/ld_resources/alerts/2.htm
________________________________________
Direct Instruction is the only model to be recommended by American
Federation of Teachers in each of their reviews. American Federation of
Teachers (1999). Building on the best: Learning from what works.

Seven Promising Reading and English Language Arts Programs "When this
program is faithfully implemented, the results are stunning." (g. 9).
http://www.eric.ed.gov/ERICWebPortal/contentdelivery/servlet/ERICServlet?accno=ED421695).

Four Promising Schoolwide Academic Programs
http://www.eric.ed.gov/PDFS/ED421559.pdf

Five Promising Remedial Reading Intervention Programs
(
http://www.eric.ed.gov/PDFS/ED445315.pdf).
______________________The report Bringing Evidence Driven Progress to Education: A Recommended
Strategy for the U.S. Department of Education (2002) reports Direct
Instruction as having strong evidence for effectiveness.
http://www.eric.ed.gov/PDFS/ED474378.pdf
________________________________________
The Center for Education Reform (2003) nominated DI among its “Best
Bets”.
“Strong, proven education programs for kids – programs that demonstrate
success for more than just a handful of students”
McCluskey, N. (2003). Best bets: Education curricula that work. Center
for Education Reform. Retrieved 11/5/2004 from
http://www.edreform.com/_upload/bestbets.pdf
________________________________________
Better by design: A consumers’ guide to schoolwide reform: A report from
the Thomas B. Fordham Foundation supports the Direct Instruction model
as a viable approach to schoolwide reform
http://www.edexcellence.net/publications-issues/publications/betterbydesign.html
________________________________________
Reading Programs that Work: A Review of Programs for Pre-Kindergarten to
4th Grade
This independent review included Direct Instruction among six
school-wide effective reading models (Schacter, 1999)
http://www.mff.org/publications/publications.taf?page=279
________________________________________
Corrective Reading: Decoding and Corrective Reading: Comprehension are
among the programs adopted by the California State Board of Education in
1999, after it abandoned the Whole Language model.
http://www.cde.ca.gov/be/ag/ag/yr10/documents/jan10item20a1.doc
________________________________________
Marilyn Jager Adams, author of a major text on reading: “Beginning to
read: Thinking and learning about print” commented on Direct Instruction
thus "The research is irrefutable."
________________________________________
The two best known examples of sound research-based practices coming to
scale are Direct Instruction (Carnine, Silbert, & Kameenui, 1997) and
Success for All (Slavin, Madden, Dolan, & Wasik, 1996).
Foorman, B.R., & Moats, L.C. (2004). Conditions for sustaining
research-based practices in early reading instruction. Remedial and
Special Education, 25, 51-60.
________________________________________
From renowned researcher on effective teaching, Barak Rosenshine,
“Reading Mastery is an extremely effective program for teaching
decoding to all children. The mean score for 171 students across six DI
schools, who began the program in kindergarten and who remained in the
program for four years was at the 49th percentile. I think this is a
wonderful finding” (Rosenshine, 2002).
________________________________________
Adams & Englemann’ (1996) meta-analysis resulted in an effect size of
0.69 for the 44 acceptable comparisons involving the Direct Instruction
program Reading Mastery. Across DI programs, the average effect size for
173 comparisons was 0.87. In White’s 1988 DI meta-analysis involved
learning disabled, intellectually disabled, and reading disabled
students, the average effect size for Direct Instruction programs was
.84. A similar meta-analysis of the effectiveness of the whole language
approach to reading found an effect size of only 0.09 (Stahl & Miller,
1989). An effect size of 1 means a gain of 1 standard deviation –
equivalent of a year’s progress (0.8 is a large effect size, 0.5-0.8 is
a medium effect size, and less than .5 is a small effect size).
Adams, G., & Engelmann, S. (1996). Research on Direct Instruction: 25
years beyond DISTAR. Seattle, WA: Educational Achievement Systems.
________________________________________
2004 Florida Center for Reading Research aims to disseminate information
about research-based practices related to literacy instruction and
assessment for children in pre-school through 12th grade. Its Director
is well known researcher, Joe Torgesen.
“The instructional content and design of Corrective Reading is
consistent with scientifically based reading research” (p.4).
Torgesen, J. (2004). SRA Corrective Reading. Florida Center for Reading
Research. Retrieved 16/1/2005 from
http://www.fcrr.org/FC________________________________________
Sally Shaywitz does recommend the REACH System (Corrective Reading,
Spelling Through Morphographs, and R&W) for "dyslexic" children in her
much publicised book The Brain and Dyslexia.
________________________________________
In the Oregon Reading First Center Review of 9 Comprehensive Programs
2004 Reading Mastery was ranked number 1.
To be considered comprehensive, a program had to (a) include materials
for all grades from K through 3; and (b) comprehensively address the
five essential components of the Reading First legislation.
Program Title
1 Reading Mastery Plus 2002
2 Houghton Mifflin The Nation’s Choice 2003
3 Open Court 2002
Others:
Harcourt School Publishers Trophies 2003
Macmillan/McGraw-Hill Reading 2003
Scott Foresman Reading 2004
Success For All Foundation Success for All
Wright Group Literacy 2002
Rigby Literacy 2000
Curriculum Review Panel. (2004). Review of Comprehensive Programs.
Oregon Reading First Center. Retrieved 16/1/2005 from
http://oregonreadingfirst.uoregon.edu/inst_curr_review_core.html
________________________________________
DI for English language learners
The beginning reading programs with the strongest evidence of
effectiveness in this review made use of systematic phonics – such as
Success for All, Direct Instruction, and Jolly Phonics (Slavin & Cheung,
2003)

Slavin, R.E., & Cheung, A. (2003). Effective reading programs for
English language learners: A best-evidence synthesis. Center for
Research on the Education of Students Placed at Risk.
www.csos.jhu.edu/crespar/techReports/Report66.pdf

Cheerio and ttfn,
Grant Coulson
Cui Bono–Cherchez les Contingencies

If You Want To Change Results—Change The Contingencies—It’s Elementary

May 27, 2011

   Do not think about, write about or deal with  human behavior without determining the effects of incentives.

    All taxpayers should be renamed Jesus because they’re constantly suffering from the sins of others.

     I’m putting this here in case anyone from my past is searching for the name. As indicated earlier, I was a civil servant for a while. One of the three places I worked was Durham Centre for the Developmentally Handicapped.

“Inconvenient Truth” Film Criticizes “Waiting for Superman”

The film, produced by parents and teachers, confronts the claims and solutions in David Guggenheim’s "Waiting for Superman."

A group of parents and teachers are banding together to show where last year’s blockbuster documentary “Waiting for Superman” went wrong, the Huffington Post reports. Over the past year, “Waiting for Superman” took the education world by storm with its calls for better teacher oversight, reigning in unions, more standardized testing and bigger investment in charter schools.

The result of their effort is a new movie called “The Inconvenient Truth Behind Waiting for Superman,” a first step in a campaign that, according to Diane Ravitch, former U.S. Assistant Secretary of Education, will show that teachers across the country are demoralized. Hundreds of teachers gathered together at Riverside Church in Manhattan to vent their frustration with their one-sided portrayal in Guggenheim’s film.

<insert>

    Of course teachers are demoralized, they work in a top-heavy bureaucracy and never know the joy of unforced commerce. One of the truths about human behavior is that it is heavily determined by the contingencies of an organization and, if the contingencies are incorrect, which they always are in government organizations, the behavior will be incorrect. You get what you reinforce, and if what you reinforce is following rules which make no sense, you get nonsense. When you get nonsense, you don’t get results. When you don’t get results,  many people get disillusioned and demoralized, especially those who are responsible for the results but can’t determine their methods.

    “We want to start a movement,” Brian Jones, a teacher and one of the movie’s narrators, said in a panel after the film. He linked the documentary with the recent waves of teacher-led protests that seem louder and larger than ever before. Julie Cavanagh, one of the film’s producers and a teacher in Red Hook, Brooklyn, minced no words, thanking the audience for gathering “as we battle the corporate reform movement.”

“The Inconvenient Truth Behind Waiting for Superman” was created by the Grassroots Education Movement, and features New York City teachers and parents who are disaffected by government’s approach to public education. Some parents, talking directly into the camera, express dissatisfaction with overly harsh discipline in charter schools. One parent described an incident where her child was punished for sneezing during class. Teachers expressed frustration at being forced into class-sharing arrangement with charter schools.

The film also touched on charters’ inability to deal with special-needs children, forcing them to move back to public school to get the help they need.

Those gathered at the viewing said that Guggenheim’s solution to the problems of bad schools is flawed. “Superman” promotes more charter schools, which are schools that are funded by the state but run by independent groups. Cavanagh thinks a better solution would be to throw more support behind struggling schools rather than close and convert them to charters.

<end>

   “Support” means more money. Haven’t heard that song before. Reinforcing failure doesn’t work in war or any other human activity.

Cheerio and ttfn,
Grant Coulson
Cui Bono–Cherchez les Contingencies

The Life Of Government Is The Death Of Dreams

May 26, 2011

      Do not think about, write about or deal with  human behavior without determining the effects of incentives.

      The growth of government has attended the flattening of real standard of living. Coincidence?

    A politician concludes a stem-winding, tub-thumping, rhetoric-soaring, heart-pounding speech by saying, “These, then, are my principles. Of course, if you don’t like them, I have others.”

    A recent poll has demonstrated that 82% of Canadians believe that killing Bin Laden was justified. Seems like the namby-pamby school system doesn’t have as much influence as those running it like to believe. They would have it that Western Imperialists, aka the U.S., had produced conditions so vile that Bin Laden’s rage was not only inevitable but justified.

      The nations closest to debt default, Portugal, Ireland , Italy and Greece, have national debts over 100% of annual Gross Domestic Product with Greece’s being by far the largest in terms of GDP. The problem in the U.S. is that its debt is climbing to that level. Suggestions are made to reduce the debt while there’s still time.

John Stossel 
Battle of the Budgets

Since America is on the road to bankruptcy, we’ve got to make some changes. What would you do?

The Peter G. Peterson Foundation gave $200,000 to six think tanks to write budget proposals. The money went to the conservative American Enterprise Institute and Heritage Foundation; the "liberal" Center for American Progress, Economic Policy Institute and Roosevelt Institute Campus Network; and the Bipartisan Policy Center.

On my next Fox Business show, representatives from most of these think tanks will summarize their proposals, and I’ll have the audience pick its favorite. It’s a "Battle of the Budgets." The winner will get one of the Emmys I won during my days as a consumer reporter. I know, it’s corny, but I produce a TV program. If the subject is budgets, I’ll use any gimmick to make it interesting.

The proposals:

The American Enterprise Institute plan would reduce the debt-to-gross-domestic-product ratio to 60 percent. It’s 68 percent now.

AEI would preserve most military spending, but cut Social Security by giving every retiree an $850 monthly check and not letting 62- to 65-year-olds collect benefits early. The payroll tax would be eliminated on people 62 and older to encourage them to stay in the workforce. The age for Medicare would rise to 67, and the program would be revamped into a government subsidy for private insurance. AEI would eliminate farm subsidies and the child tax credit. AEI would replace all current taxes with a consumption tax like the "Fair Tax."

The Bipartisan Policy Center plan would cut the debt to about 50 percent of GDP within 25 years. It would freeze military and discretionary spending, require people with incomes over $106,000 to pay more into Social Security and "slightly" reduce benefits for the wealthy. Medicare spending growth would be limited to the GDP increase plus 1 percent. Beneficiaries could move to private plans.

The center would cut the top corporate tax rate from 35 percent to 27 percent and establish a new 6.5 percent "Debt Reduction Sales Tax."

Yikes! A new tax! I’m reminded of Milton Friedman’s words: "Nothing is so permanent as a temporary government program."

<insert>

       Nothing comes so close to everlasting life as a government program.

The Roosevelt Institute claims to reduce our debt to 63 percent of GDP. The plan would cut spending by ending the Iraq and Afghanistan wars by 2015, but make no cuts in Social Security, Medicare or Medicaid. The institute wants more spending on "domestic investment" — universal preschool, the safety net, transportation and worker retraining. Roosevelt’s tax plan would cut corporate rates by 3 percentage points, but create a new "too big to fail" tax on banks and impose a new "financial transactions" tax.

Under the Economic Policy Institute’s plan, jointly written with Demos (demos.org), our debt would increase to 90 percent of GDP. Military spending would be cut by $960 billion over 10 years. People making over $106,000 would pay more into Social Security, but Medicare and Medicaid would not be touched. The plan calls for $84 billion a year more in discretionary spending than President Obama wants — more for early childhood education, child care, public transit, rural broadband connectivity, and research and development.

EPI and Demos would repeal the George W. Bush tax cuts on high-income people; enact a 50 percent tax on estates worth over $10 million, a financial speculation tax, and a surcharge on top earners; tax capital gains and dividends as ordinary income; and increase the gasoline tax. It’s good to hear what liberals would do if they were in power.

Finally, the Heritage Foundation plan is the only one that would actually balance the budget. Federal spending would gradually drop to 18.5 percent of GDP, below the modern average. Heritage would preserve most military spending, but Social Security and Medicare benefits would be phased out for individuals making over $110,000 a year. The eligibility age would rise to 68 and then be indexed to life expectancy.

Heritage would replace all taxes with a simple flat income tax, with deductions remaining for higher education, charitable donations/gifts and mortgage insurance.

As a libertarian, I’m underwhelmed. This year, our government will spend an astounding $3.8 trillion. We need to eliminate entire agencies, departments and missions. None of these think tanks do that.

<end>

       Short-term pain or long-term death. Take your pick.

Cheerio and ttfn,
Grant Coulson
Cui Bono–Cherchez les Contingencies  

The Remarkable Helen Dortch Longstreet

May 25, 2011

   

     Do not think about, write about or deal with  human behavior without determining the effects of incentives.

      Obama has made a trip to Ireland to visit his “roots” emphasizing his “whiteness”. Since he was elected emphasizing his “blackness”, must be some kind of political thing.

      Below is a brief history of a remarkable woman who defended Lee’s “Old Warhorse”, James “Ol’ Pete” Longstreet against the calumnies of revisionist Southerners who blamed Longstreet for the failure of the Southern attack on the last day of Gettysburg, July 3, 1863. The failure of an attack against a prepared enemy, some of who were behind a stone wall, well-supplied with artillery, up a long slope, under observation for more than a mile, scarcely needed a scapegoat.

“ HELEN DORTCH LONGSTREET was the second wife of General James Longstreet, and was known as ‘The Fighting Lady’. She is remembered for her work as a Confederate memorialist, progressive reformer, environmentalist, civil rights activist, and librarian and postmistress. She was born in Carnesville, Ga. on April 20th, 1863, the daughter of Mary Pulliam and James Speed Dortch. She atteneded the Georgia Baptist Female Seminary (now known as Brenau College) and the Notre Dame Convent in Baltimore, Maryland. While at college, Helen met General James Longstreet, the controversial Confederate officer and grandfather of her roommate.
<insert>

      Grandfather of her college roommate, Love works in mysterious ways.

She described the first meeting with the General in an unpulished (sic) memoir called ‘Wooed to the Warrior’s Tent’. After college, Helen served as assistant state librarian of Georgia from 1894 until her marriage to Longstreet in 1897. She was the first woman to hold office under Georgia’s state government. She used her position to author the ‘Dortch Bill’, passed by the Georgia General Assembly in 1896, which made it possible for women to hold the office of State Librarian. Helen and Longstreet were married at the Georgia Governor’s mansion on September 8th, 1897. She was thirty-four; he was seventy-six. The General died on January 2nd, 1904. After Longstreet’s death, Helen was appointed postmistress of Gainesville, a position she held until 1913. Defending her husband’s role in the Civil War became another of her causes, and she worked fiercely to see that his place in history was accurately portrayed, fighting accusations that he was responsible for the Confederate defeat at Gettysburg. She had promised him "in the future, so long as I shall live, whenever your war record is attacked, I will make answer". In 1905 she published the book ‘Lee and Longstreet at High Tide’, which was her husband’s account of the War. 
 

<insert>

     It was actually her account, interleaved with official records. Longstreet was blameless and didn’t want to make the attack.  Lee often said that he, “….thought my army could do anything.”, but it couldn’t make the Gettysburg charge.

In the book Helen stated that, because of the statements of insignificant men, "the South was seditiously taught to believe that the Federal victory was wholly the fortuitous outcome of the culpable disobedience of General Longstreet". She also noted that the attacks on Longstreet hadn’t started until after the death of General Robert E. Lee, who, she was sure, would have defended her husband. The book appeared one year after one of Longstreet’s harshest critics, General John B. Gordon, had published his memoirs—renewing the attack on Gen. Longstreet’s actions. Helen also founded the Longstreet Memorial Association to place a statue to her husband at Gettysburg. In 1898, Helen Longstreet was appointed postmaster in Gainesville, reportedly the first woman to hold that position in the state. She was also active in politics. She served as a delegate to the Progressive Party Convention in 1912 and backed Theodore Roosevelt’s presidential campaign. She had a passion for environmental preservation, and took on the Georgia Power and Railroad Company in 1911 to 1913. They were planning a dam at Tallulah Gorge which would divert the river’s flow from the famous waterfalls. That would affect the thriving tourist town’s economic future. Helen traveled the state to gain support for her organization ‘The Tallulah Falls Conservation Association’. In 1913 she lost the battle, though Georgia Power would go on in 1992 to lease 3,000 acres to the State of Georgia to create the Tallulah Gorge State Park, and return the natural flow through the canyon. Not content with campaigning for environmental issues in the continental U.S., she took the battle to the Virgin Islands, fighting for improved economic and social conditions, as well as the exposure of the corrupt political system. After the fight over the Tallulah Falls Dam, Helen returned to college, where she studied speech, lectured, and worked as a freelance author. Some of her other causes at this time included women’s suffrage, civil rights for African-Americans, and promoting the establishmen of the Georgia State College for Women in Milledgeville. She also kept up her defense of her late husband, with the Longstreet Memorial Exhibit at the New York World’s Fair of 1939, and at the Golden Gate Exposition in San Francisco in 1940. At the age of 80, during World War II, she went to work as a riveter at the Bell Bomber Plant in Marietta, partially for patriotic reasons, and partially to point up the need to employ women in the defense industry. She stated at the time that "I am going to assist in building a plane to bomb Hitler." Helen worked the 8 a.m. to 4:45 p.m. shift. A controversy broke out over unionism and Mrs. Longstreet’s age was brought up. She was asked to quit. She refused, saying she had the eyesight of a 20-year-old, and was otherwise healthy. "I’ve been an assembler and riveter for about two years and have never lost a day from work," she was quoted in the ‘Atlanta Journal’, "or been a single minute late. I will quit only when the last battle flag has been furled on land and sea."

<insert>

     I appreciate the phrase “ when the last battle flag has been furled…”.

In 1947 she became the first woman to have her portrait placed in the State Capitol. She also ran an active write-in campaign for Governor against Herman Talmadge in 1950, but was uncuccessful. In 1957 Helen Longstreet was admitted to the Central State Hospital in Milledgeville for mental illness. She remained there until her death on May 3rd, 1962. She was buried in West View Cemetery in Atlanta. In 1999 the trails at Tallulah Gorge State Park were named the ‘Helen Dortch Longstreet Trail System. In 2004 she was inducted into Georgia Women of Achievement.

The General James Longstreet Monument at Gettysburg was dedicated on July 3rd, 1998.

<end>

     Defending her husband all her life and building bombers at 80. Remarkable is too weak a word.

Cheerio and ttfn,
Grant Coulson
Cui Bono–Cherchez les Contingencies

Adam Smith And Altruism With A Dash Of Cooperation

May 24, 2011

   

          Do not think about, write about or deal with  human behavior without determining the effects of incentives.

       The world, apparently, will now end on October 21. Even religious folks can make mistakes in mathematics.

       "How selfish soer man be supposed, there are evidently some principles in his nature, which interest him in the fortune of others, and render their happiness necessary to him, though he derives nothing from it, except the pleasure of seeing it."- Adam Smith, The Theory of Moral Sentiments".

      Liberal caricatures of capitalism paint it as dog-eat-dog. Leaving aside the fact that dogs don’t eat each other, free enterprise is based on cooperation and it is government-sponsored enterprises which require coercion.

Born to co-operate
National Post, May 24, 2011

New research showing that humans are hardwired to help each other is changing our view of evolution

<insert>

       Aside from the fact that the research is hardly new, humans are born to cooperate with and aid one another.

The story of evolution, we have been told, is the story of the survival of the fittest. The strong eat the weak. The creatures that adapt to the environment pass on their selfish genes. Those that do not become extinct.

<insert>

      Darwin never used the term, “survival of the fittest”.

In this telling, we humans are like all other animals — deeply and thoroughly selfish. We spend our time trying to maximize our outcomes — competing for status, wealth and mating opportunities. Behaviour that seems altruistic is really self-interest in disguise. Charity and fellowship are the cultural drapery atop the iron logic of nature.

All this is partially true, of course. Yet every day, it seems, a book crosses my desk, emphasizing a different side of the story. These are books about sympathy, empathy, co-operation and collaboration, written by scientists, evolutionary psychologists, neuroscientists and others. It seems there’s been a shift among those who study this ground, yielding a more nuanced, and often gentler, picture of our nature.

The most modest of these is SuperCooperators by Martin Nowak with Roger Highfield. Nowak uses higher math to demonstrate that “co-operation and competition are forever entwined in a tight embrace.”

In pursuing our self-interested goals, we often have an incentive to repay kindness with kindness, so others will do us favours when we’re in need. We have an incentive to establish a reputation for niceness, so people will want to work with us. We have an incentive to work in teams, even against our short-term selfinterest because cohesive groups thrive. Co-operation is as central to evolution as mutation and selection, Nowak argues.

But much of the new work moves beyond incentives, narrowly understood. Michael Tomasello, the author of Why We Cooperate, devised a series of tests that he could give to chimps and toddlers in nearly identical form. He found that at an astonishingly early age kids begin to help others, and to share information, in ways that adult chimps hardly ever do.

An infant of 12 months will inform others about something by pointing. Chimpanzees and other apes do not helpfully inform each other about things. Infants share food readily with strangers. Chimpanzees rarely even offer food to their own offspring. If a 14-month-old child sees an adult having difficulty — like being unable to open a door because her hands are full — the child will try to help.

Tomasello’s point is that the human mind veered away from that of the other primates. We are born ready to co-operate, and then we build cultures to magnify this trait.

In Born to Be Good, Dacher Keltner describes the work he and others are doing on the mechanisms of empathy and connection, involving things like smiles, blushes, laughter and touch. When friends laugh together, their laughs start out as separate vocalizations, but they merge and become intertwined sounds. It now seems as though laughter evolved millions of years ago, long before vowels and consonants, as a mechanism to build co-operation. It is one of the many tools in our inborn toolbox of collaboration.

In one essay, Keltner cites the work of the Emory University neuroscientists James Rilling and Gregory Berns. They found that the act of helping another person triggers activity in the caudate nucleus and anterior cingulate cortex regions of the brain, the parts involved in pleasure and reward. That is, serving others may produce the same sort of pleasure as gratifying a personal desire.

In his book, The Righteous Mind, to be published early next year, Jonathan Haidt joins Edward O. Wilson, David Sloan Wilson and others who argue that natural selection takes place not only when individuals compete with other individuals, but also when groups compete with other groups. Both competitions are examples of the survival of the fittest, but when groups compete, it’s the cohesive, co-operative, internally altruistic groups that win and pass on their genes. The idea of “group selection” was heresy a few years ago, but there is momentum behind it now.

Human beings, Haidt argues, are “the giraffes of altruism.” Just as giraffes got long necks to help them survive, humans developed moral minds that help them and their groups succeed. Humans build moral communities out of shared norms, habits, emotions and gods, and then will fight and even sometimes die to defend their communities.

Different interpretations of evolution produce different ways of analyzing the world. The selfish-competitor model fostered the utility-maximizing model that is so prevalent in the social sciences, particularly economics. The new, more co-operative view will complicate all that.

But the big upshot is this: For decades, people tried to devise a rigorous “scientific” system to analyze behaviour that would be divorced from morality. But if co-operation permeates our nature, then so does morality, and there is no escaping ethics, emotion and religion in our quest to understand who we are and how we got this way.

<end>

    We are not “nature, red in tooth and claw”, but cooperative folks who care about the welfare of each other. It is governments, not free enterprise, which require coercion.

Cheerio and ttfn,
Grant Coulson
Cui Bono–Cherchez les Contingencies

Chicago Planners Know The Future

May 23, 2011

 

          Do not think about, write about or deal with  human behavior without determining the effects of incentives.

       There are those who know better than others. Just ask them. Hubris is the belief that one has special knowledge. If ever there was an example, here it is. Chicago, home of the current president and vying for the title of  “The City With The Big Hubris”, is predicting the future based on Global Warming nonsense. Chicago politicians, true to all Elitists, is being proactive via government spending and action, a course which has never gone wrong.

A City Prepares for a Warm Long-Term Forecast

Monday, May 23, 2011
By LESLIE KAUFMAN, The New York Times

CHICAGO — The Windy City is preparing for a heat wave — a permanent one.

Climate scientists have told city planners that based on current trends, Chicago will feel more like Baton Rouge than a Northern metropolis before the end of this century.

So, Chicago is getting ready for a wetter, steamier future. Public alleyways are being repaved with materials that are permeable to water. The white oak, the state tree of Illinois, has been banned from city planting lists, and swamp oaks and sweet gum trees from the South have been given new priority. Thermal radar is being used to map the city’s hottest spots, which are then targets for pavement removal and the addition of vegetation to roofs. And air-conditioners are being considered for all 750 public schools, which until now have been heated but rarely cooled.

"Cities adapt or they go away," said Aaron N. Durnbaugh, deputy commissioner of Chicago’s Department of Environment. "Climate change is happening in both real and dramatic ways, but also in slow, pervasive ways. We can handle it, but we do need to acknowledge it. We are on a 50-year cycle, but we need to get going."

<insert>

     All that snow I dealt with last winter must have been an aberration.

Across America and in Congress, the very existence of climate change continues to be challenged — especially by conservatives. The skeptics are supported by constituents wary of science and concerned about the economic impacts of stronger regulation. Yet even as the debate rages on, city and state planners are beginning to prepare.

<insert>

     It’s just the plain stupid and troglodytes who are outside the loop of knowledge. “Wary of science”?  Non-believers in scientific projections based on political hysteria.

The precise consequences of the increase of man-made greenhouse gases in the atmosphere are hard to determine, but scientists are predicting significant sea level rise; more extreme weather events like storms, tornadoes and blizzards; and, of course, much more heat. New York City, which is doing its own adaptation planning, is worried about flooding from the rising ocean. The Navy has a task force on climate change that says it should be preparing to police the equivalent of an extra sea as the Arctic ice melts.

Some of these events will occur in the near-enough term that local governments are under pressure to act. Insurance companies are applying pressure in high-risk areas, essentially saying adapt or pay higher premiums — especially in urban and commercial areas.

The reinsurance giant Swiss Re, for example, has said that if the shore communities of four Gulf Coast states choose not to implement adaptation strategies, they could see annual climate-change related damages jump 65 percent a year to $23 billion by 2030.

<insert>

    Whoa–that’ll learn ‘em to pay attention to their betters.

"Society needs to reduce its vulnerability to climate risks, and as long as they remain manageable, they remain insurable, which is our interest as well," said Mark D. Way, head of Swiss Re’s sustainable development for the Americas.

Melissa Stults, the climate director for ICLEI USA, an association of local governments, said that many of the administrations she was dealing with were following a strategy of "discreetly integrating preparedness into traditional planning efforts."

Second City First

Chicago is often called the Second City, but it is way out in front of most in terms of adaptation.

The effort began in 2006, under the mayor at the time, Richard M. Daley. He said he was inspired in part by the Kyoto international treaty for reducing carbon emissions, which took effect in 2005, and also by an aspiration to raise Chicago’s profile as an environmentally friendly town.

As a first step, the city wanted to model how global warming might play out locally. Foundations, eager to get local governments moving, put up some money.

"There was real assumption that Chicago could be a model for other places," said Adele Simmons, president of Global Philanthropy Partnership, a nonprofit group based in Chicago that helped bring in $700,000 at the early stages.

Climatologists took into account a century’s worth of historical observations of daily temperatures and precipitation from 15 Chicago-area weather stations as well as the effect of Lake Michigan in moderating extreme heat and cold to come up with a range of possibilities based on a higher and lower range of worldwide carbon emissions.

The forecasts, while not out of line with global predictions, shocked city planners.

If world carbon emissions continued apace, the scientists said, Chicago would have summers like the Deep South, with as many as 72 days over 90 degrees before the end of the century. For most of the 20th century, the city averaged fewer than 15.

By 2070, Chicago could expect 35 percent more precipitation in winter and spring, but 20 percent less in summer and fall. By then, the conditions would have changed enough to make the area’s plant hardiness zone akin to Birmingham, Ala.

But what would that mean in real-life consequences? A private risk assessment firm was hired, and the resulting report read like an urban disaster film minus Godzilla.

The city could see heat-related deaths reaching 1,200 a year. The increasing occurrences of freezes and thaws (the root of potholes) would cause billions of dollars’ worth of deterioration to building facades, bridges and roads. Termites, never previously able to withstand Chicago’s winters, would start gorging on wooden frames.

Armed with the forecasts, the city prioritized which adaptations would save the most money and would be the most feasible in the light of tight budgets and public skepticism.

"We put each of the priorities through a lens of political, economic and technical," said Suzanne Malec-McKenna, the commissioner of Chicago’s Department of Environment. "What is it, if you will, that will pass the laugh test?"

Among the ideas rejected, Ms. Malec-McKenna said, were plans to immediately shut down local coal-powered energy plants — too much cost for too little payback.

For actions the city felt were necessary but not affordable, it got help again from a local institution, the Civic Consulting Alliance, a nonprofit organization that builds pro bono teams of business experts. In this case, the alliance convinced consulting firms to donate $14 million worth of hours to projects like designing an electric car infrastructure and planning how to move the city toward zero waste.

Mr. Daley embraced the project. He convened 20 city departments in 2010 and told them to weigh their planning dollars against the changes experts were predicting. The department heads continued to meet quarterly, and members of Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s administration have said he is committed to moving the goals of the plan forward, albeit with an added emphasis on "projects that accelerate jobs and economic development."

Updating Infrastructure

Much of Chicago’s adaptation work is about transforming paved spaces. "Cities are hard spaces that trap water and heat," said Janet L. Attarian, a director of streetscapes at the city’s Department of Transportation. "Alleys and streets account for 25 percent of groundcover, and closer to 40 percent when parking lots are included."

The city’s 13,000 concrete alleyways were originally built without drainage and are a nightmare every time it rains. Storm water pours off the hard surfaces and routinely floods basements and renders low-lying roads and underpasses unusable.

To make matters worse, many of the pipes that handle storm overflow also handle raw sewage. After a very heavy rain, if overflow pipes become congested, sewage backs up into basements or is released with the rainwater into the Chicago River — an emergency response that has attracted the scrutiny of the Environmental Protection Agency.

As the region warms, Chicago is expecting more frequent and extreme storms. In the last three years, the city has had two intense storms classified as 100-year events.

So the work planned for a six-point intersection on the South Side with flooding and other issues is a prototype. The sidewalk in front of the high school on Cermak Road has been widened to include planting areas that are lower than the street surface. This not only encourages more pedestrian traffic, but also provides shade and landscaping. These will be filled with drought-resistant plants like butterfly weed and spartina grasses that sponge up excess water and help filter pollutants like de-icing salts. In some places, unabsorbed water will seep into storage tanks beneath the streets so it can be used later for watering plants or in new decorative fountains in front of the high school.

The bike lanes and parking spaces being added along the street are covered with permeable pavers, a weave of pavement that allows 80 percent of rainwater to filter through it to the ground below. Already 150 alleyways have been remade in this way.

The light-reflecting pavement is Chicago’s own mix and includes recycled tires. Rubbery additives help the asphalt expand in heat without buckling and to contract without cracking.

The new streets bring new challenges, of course. The permeable pavers have to be specially cleaned or they eventually become clogged with silt and lose effectiveness.

Still, the new construction is no more expensive than traditional costs, Ms. Attarian said. Transforming one alleyway costs about $150,000. But now, she said, "We can put a fire hose on it full blast and the water seeps right in."

Reconsidering the Trees

Awareness of climate change has filled Chicago city planners with deep concern for the trees.

Not only are they beautiful, said Ms. Malec-McKenna, herself trained as a horticulturalist, but their shade also provides immediate relief to urban heat islands. Trees improve air quality by absorbing carbon dioxide, and their leaves can keep 20 percent of an average rain from hitting the pavement.

Chicago spends over $10 million a year planting roughly 2,200 trees. From 1991 to 2008, the city added so many that officials estimate tree cover increased to 17.6 percent from 11 percent. The goal is to exceed 23 percent this decade.

The problem is that for trees to reach their expected lifespan — up to 90 years — they have to be able to endure hotter conditions. Chicago has already changed from one growing zone to another in the last 30 years, and it expects to change several times again by 2070.

Knowing this, planners asked experts at the city’s botanical garden and Morton Arboretum to evaluate their planting list. They were told to remove six of the most common tree species.

Off came the ash trees that account for 17 percent of Chicago tree cover, or more than any other tree. Gone, too, are the enormous Norway maples, which provide the most amount of shade.

A warming climate will make them more susceptible to plagues like emerald ash disease. Already white oak, the state tree of Illinois, is on the decline and, like several species of conifer, is expected to be extinct from the region within decades.

So Chicago is turning to swamp white oaks and bald cypress. It is like the rest of adaptation strategy, Ms. Malec-McKenna explains: "A constant ongoing process to make sure we are as resilient as we can be in facing the future."

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      As long as it costs a lot of money and won’t be useful, we’ll do it.  As long as there’s a lot of hysteria and prediction of horrible events, we must believe.

Cheerio and ttfn,
Grant Coulson
Cui Bono–Cherchez les Contingencies


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