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How Good Are Charter Schools For the Public School System?

cfulmer Re:Skewed stats (715 comments)

In contrast, traditional public schools which fail students do not close and are allowed to fail students year after year after year. Closing a charter school is a feature, not a bug.

about 8 months ago
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How Good Are Charter Schools For the Public School System?

cfulmer Re:Level the playing field (715 comments)

Charters often serve niches of students. A charter which is good with, say, kids with learning disabilities, may be horrible with kids without those disabilities. You can't take the "it's either a good school or it's a bad school" model -- you have to ask "Is it appropriate for this child, or not."

Also, note that many charter specifically target students who are struggling academically.

about 8 months ago
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How Good Are Charter Schools For the Public School System?

cfulmer Re:Level the playing field (715 comments)

In North Carolina, charter schools have to take all comers and accept by lottery if there are more comers than seats available. Can't speak for other states -- each state does something a bit different. That, of course, doesn't mean that each charter school is appropriate for every student. But, of course, the traditional public school system also isn't appropriate for every student.

However, I disagree that they should have to take the same standardized tests. Those tests are generally based on state curricula, so saying "you have to have the same standardized test" really says "you have to teach the same curriculum that the rest of the state teaches." And, that undermines part of the idea of charters -- allowing them to teach a different curriculum.

I've noticed that charter-school opponents really neglect the benefit of allowing parents to choose to send their kids to a charter school, and do not give enough deference to those parents' decisions. Instead, those parents are basically treated like they're not smart enough to make those sorts of decisions. So, for example, opponents may say "Only 36% of the students at this charter school are reading on grade level. We should close that school. Those kids' parents obviously don't know what's best for their kids, so we need to step in." In reality, though, it may be that the public school where those kids would otherwise attend only has 25% reading at grade level. Or, it may be that the charter school is really good at helping kids to read and takes them from being 4 grades below grade level to only 1 grade below grade level. Or....

about 8 months ago
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IAB Urges People To Stop "Mozilla From Hijacking the Internet"

cfulmer Bizarre.... (499 comments)

When the Internet was first starting out, there was a lot of concern about the sheer amount of advertising which would be poured into it. Recall the backlash against the Green Card Lawyers?

If anything, it's the advertising industry that has hijacked the internet. Firefox is just taking one small step in taking it back.

1 year,16 days
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Employers Switching From Payroll Checks To Prepaid Cards With Fees

cfulmer Re:How is this legal? (1103 comments)

Recognize:

(1) This situation is often better than the alternative, where the employee gets a check and has to go to a check-cashing place, which charges even higher fees.

(2) The card fees are generally transaction-based, so the fewer transactions, the less in fees: The guy in the article who spends $40/month on fees is a moron: He should take all the money out in one fell swoop. That might cost him $1.75, but that's far less than he would have paid at a check-cashing place.

(3) Despite what the article says, this is usually what happens when the employee doesn't choose direct-deposit. There may be a few employers out there who are actually dropping direct-deposit, but the majority of employers are using these cards only for those people to whom they usually issued checks.

I don't understand why so many low-income people don't have bank accounts. Free checking still exists at smaller local banks and credit unions (check out first citizens, for example). If they got bank accounts with direct deposit, they could move away from these cards.

That said, it is disgusting how the big banks seem to be gleeful about making money on the ignorance of poor people.

about a year ago
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Scientists Explain Why Chairman of House Committee On Science Is Wrong

cfulmer Re:email leak (476 comments)

That's not a convincing argument, for a number of reasons:

(1) If you are in the 3% (or whatever it is) of climate scientists who disagree with the 97%, then your reputation is taking a significant CURRENT hit -- 97% of your colleagues think you're an idiot.

(2) It's easy to hide in numbers: "Yes, I admit I was wrong. But, so were 97% of climate scientists. That's nothing to be embarrassed about."

(3) It's not likely to be outright fraud, as much as "Hmm... This data didn't come out right.... There must have been some problem with how it was collected or... See, if we massage it like THIS, it comes out better.

(4) Recall that we took a similar view with bankers: "Bear Sterns would NEVER invest in something so risky that the company would fold -- that would be hugely embarrassing for everybody involved." Are climate scientists so much less susceptible to the same human foibles that got to the bankers?

[Note: I'm not saying that climate scientists are wrong; I'm just saying to look at their data and results, and not just trust them because they don't want to hurt their own reputations.]

about a year ago
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Ask Slashdot: What If We Don't Run Out of Oil?

cfulmer Re:We Wish (663 comments)

I believe that electricity-producing solar panels still consume more energy to produce than they produce during their lifetimes. Yet, they're still quite useful and "worth it," partly because you can put one out on the middle of nowhere. Not all joules are created equal.

Petrofuels have an advantage over other energy sources in that they are easy to transport and that the mechanisms to convert them into energy are relatively small. It could easily make sense to use 1.5 joules of nuclear energy to obtain and refine 1 joule of aviation fuel.

about a year ago
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WTO Approves Suspension of US Copyright in Antigua

cfulmer Easy work-around (225 comments)

Affected US companies just need to create foreign subsidiaries and then assign their copyrights over to those subsidiaries. Problem solved. Heck, some of these companies probably already hold their IP offshore.

about a year and a half ago
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3D Printable Ammo Clip Skirts New Proposed Gun Laws

cfulmer Re:I don't understand the "high cap" magazine ban (1862 comments)

The theory is that if magazines holding more than 10 rounds are banned, then nuts who go into elementary schools will have to reload more often and, as a result, will be more susceptible to being stopped during reloads and will be unable to kill as many children. In other words, it's an attempt to reduce the amount of harm caused, not to get rid of the harm altogether.

Please note that I'm not stating an opinion about whether the ban would actually have that effect. I'm just trying to describe the argument in as neutral a way as possible without taking sides.

about a year and a half ago
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Scientists Make Fish Grow "Hands" In Experiment Revealing How Fins Became Limbs

cfulmer Re:Bizarre (110 comments)

Yeah. So, the summary made it sound like evolution happens when new DNA elements occur which activate individual genes, as if you could take a fish cell, feed it the right programming and out would pop a walrus or an eagle. That entire model, though, is wrong -- DNA is not a program being fed into a machine. In many ways, it's both the program and the machine itself. Adding "new DNA elements" is actually the process of adding genes (or, more precisely, adding things which when combined with other parts of the DNA, become genes), which means that you're adding information about how to do something at the same time that you're adding information about when to do something. The verb "activate" does not adequately describe this.

about a year and a half ago
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Scientists Make Fish Grow "Hands" In Experiment Revealing How Fins Became Limbs

cfulmer Re:Bizarre (110 comments)

Yeah, so I wasn't really trying to claim ID was involved (although I'm amused by how many people thought so -- see below). The point was that the idea that genes are sitting around waiting to be 'activitated' isn't really what happens. Thus, the need for a better way to explain what does actually happen.

The structure of my argument was "A or B." If A is absurd, then "A or B" -> B, where B is "need a new way to describe this." However, a lot of people apparently thought B was absurd and concluded A,

about a year and a half ago
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Scientists Make Fish Grow "Hands" In Experiment Revealing How Fins Became Limbs

cfulmer Bizarre (110 comments)

So, the hand genes were just sitting around, waiting to be 'activated' by specific DNA?

I think that means that either Intelligent Design is real or we don't have really good terminology to describe what actually happened.

about a year and a half ago
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Outrage At Microsoft Offshoring Tax In the UK, Google Caught Avoiding US Taxes

cfulmer Re:Change the tax structure (768 comments)

That is a horrible idea. Think of what it does to foreign countries who have US operations -- they would have to pay US tax on their entire worldwide operations. For example, Bayer, a German company, would have to pay German taxes on its German operations AND US taxes on its German operations. If other countries adopted your rule, Bayer could easily end up paying its entire profits (or more!) in taxes because every dollar would be subject to taxation in every jurisdiction.

"No, no, no," you say, "this only applies to US companies." Doesn't matter, for two reasons: (i) Google would still have to pay both German and US taxes on its German operations, as well as taxes in any other country that adopted the same rule, and (ii) all that does is create an incentive for Google to re-incorporate in the Bahamas -- if the rule applies only to US corporations, it's easy to not be a US corporation.

What's really going on here is that the US tax code is keeping all those billions of profits from being distributed to shareholders. Instead, they sit in the off-shore subsidiary. Here's what the US should do: Give a one-time exemption from the corporate tax for money repatriated from foreign subsidiaries. That would do two things: (1) provide a huge bump in dividends, which would then be taxed to the shareholders, and (2) provide a lot of capital which the company could use to expand its US operations, putting a lot of people back to work.

about a year and a half ago
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A US Apple Factory May Be Robot City

cfulmer Re:Automation and Unemployment (602 comments)

I don't know about you, but as somebody who holds some Apple stock in my retirement investments, I'm happy if Apple is actually able to keep that $50. It means my investment, and that of millions of middle-class people like me, is worth more. Regardless, though, Apple still operates in a competitive environment even if you can differentiate their products from everybody else's. They sell more when prices go down. As a result, they'll keep some of that $50, and some of it will go into reduced prices.

about a year and a half ago
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A US Apple Factory May Be Robot City

cfulmer Re:Automation and Unemployment (602 comments)

That's a bit extreme. Of course some people still have jobs -- at minimum, you still need people to operate the machinery. The difference, though, is that the person who does this has far higher skills than the people who were sitting on an assembly line tightening the same bolt or screw day after day. And, you need people designing those machines; you need accountants, marketing people, operations specialists and . . . The fact that the act of manufacturing doesn't employ nearly as many people doesn't mean that there's no employment. It does mean that people will have to improve their skills if they want to find a job, because the jobs of tightening the same bolt day after day are all gone.

about a year and a half ago
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New Jersey Residents Displaced By Storm Can Vote By Email

cfulmer Re:I didn't know (189 comments)

I can guarantee that the Swiss planned out their system in more than 2 days.

about 2 years ago
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Verizon Offers Free Tethering Because It Has To

cfulmer Re:Actually it is a problem (180 comments)

That would be more convincing if the pricing hadn't been set BEFORE the FCC told them that tethering had to be free. Typically, effects happen AFTER their causes, not before.

about 2 years ago
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Do We Need a Longer School Year?

cfulmer Re:Alternate hypothesis (729 comments)

In answer to your first question, a lot of summer activities for students are staffed by college students, who do it for their summer job. That doesn't work well in, say, February. That's just one reason. There are lots of complications. On the last, you have a good point. And, in fact, many year-round school actually run their kids on multiple schedules (it helps maximize school usage -- run 4 different schedules of students, and have 1/4 of them on break at any given time.) You do still run into problems of "My son Johnny is in district A and has these 3 weeks off; his cousin Jimmy has a different 3 weeks off, so we can't schedule a family vacation together."

about 2 years ago
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Do We Need a Longer School Year?

cfulmer Re:Alternate hypothesis (729 comments)

YMCA camps Seagull and Seafarer come to mind (google them if you like) There are also "Summer at Sea" type things and Summer abroad, where students spend a month in a foreign country. My point is that there's a lot going on during the summer which would be foreclosed by year-round schools. Plus, if there's only a 3-week gap in the middle of the summer when kids can go to camp, (i) most summer camps would have to close, and (ii) those that don't are going to have absurdly high demand.

about 2 years ago
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Do We Need a Longer School Year?

cfulmer Re:Summers off? (729 comments)

Unfortunately, that's a popular but incorrect myth. What does it mean to "Work in the fields?" Largely, it means planting, which generally happens in the spring, and harvesting, which happens in the fall. Summer isn't the time of greatest need on the farm. If you look back at the history of public education, you see that when we were more agricultural, schools had a summer and a winter session for this very reason. Instead, the traditional school calendar evolved as a coordination mechanism. It means that families could move from place to place without the children missing school on either end. It means that families can plan vacations together and that organizations which target activities for kids have a big chunk of time when they know that students won't be in school.

about 2 years ago

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Immigration bill vastly increases H1-B visas

cfulmer cfulmer writes  |  more than 7 years ago

The Raleigh News and Observer is reporting that the McCain-Kennedy Immigration Reform bill would increase the number of H1-B visas from its current level of 65,000 to 115,000.

One wonders whether hi-tech companies are pushing this just to deflate wages of their U.S. talent or to avoid costs of training U.S. workers to fill the new positions.

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