Friday, February 23, 2007

Apple CEO's lambasting of teacher unions gets a reaction

Steve Job's previous concerns about the problems with teacher unions has hit a nerve. Steve Jobs has probably lost more than a few computer sales to public schools.

California Federation of Teachers has invited Apple CEO Steve Jobs to either attend an annual CFT convention next month or offer a public apology for his "insulting comments" to California's teachers. Should Jobs fail to apologize or neglect to attend the conference, where he is encouraged to speak with the people who educate California's children and hear from them what the situation is like, the CFT will create a new award specifically for Apple's chief. "We'll call it the Rotten Apple, for the individual who best personifies the need to think differently about public education and teacher unions," California Federation of Teachers president Mary Bergan wrote in a letter to the executive. Bergan aggressively rebuted Jobs' statement to an educational reform conference last week, where he expressed belief that the schools have become unionized "in the worst possible way" and that the unionization with lifetime employment of K-12 teachers is "off-the-charts crazy." . . .


Tuesday, February 20, 2007

"Apple CEO lambasts teacher unions"

It is pretty gutsy to go before a group of people who purchase your product and say that government protection of their jobs hurts children. Yet, if you had asked me what position Steve Jobs (Democrat) and Michael Dell (Republican) would have taken on school unions, I would have been completely wrong. I would have incorrectly guessed that Jobs supported the unions and Dell was more likely to oppose them. Well, Jobs is exactly right here. I am amazed that he made the statement that he does on teacher unions, and I am equally disappointed with Dell. Jobs is correct that you can not run a business and give customers what they want if you can't get rid of employees are not doing their jobs. Why should children be the ones that have to put up with this service in schools?

Apple Inc. CEO Steve Jobs lambasted teacher unions Friday, claiming no amount of technology in the classroom would improve public schools until principals could fire bad teachers.

Jobs compared schools to businesses with principals serving as CEOs.

"What kind of person could you get to run a small business if you told them that when they came in they couldn't get rid of people that they thought weren't any good?" he asked to loud applause during an education reform conference.

"Not really great ones because if you're really smart you go, 'I can't win.'"

In a rare joint appearance, Jobs shared the stage with competitor Michael Dell, founder and CEO of Dell Inc. Both spoke to the gathering about the potential for bringing technological advances to classrooms.

"I believe that what is wrong with our schools in this nation is that they have become unionized in the worst possible way," Jobs said. . . .

Apple just lost some business in this state, I'm sure," Jobs said.

Dell responded that unions were created because "the employer was treating his employees unfairly and that was not good.


Monday, February 12, 2007

Valentine Flowers are bad for the Planet?

Many of these flowers are grown in third world countries and the claim it is horrible that the flowers are shipped in the cargo holds of planes that travel to developed countries. By this notion, are we going to ban all foreign trade? This isn't serious. What do these environmentalists what these poor third world countries to do? Wealthier countries care more about the environment than do poorer ones. Just naturally cars and other things are more efficient in wealthier countries over time without any government intervention, so if we do something that makes these third world countries poorer, their environment will deteriorate.

The Valentine's Day bouquet — the gift that every woman in Britain will be waiting for next week — has become the latest bête noire among environmental campaigners.

Latest Government figures show that the flowers that make up the average bunch have flown 33,800 miles to reach Britain.

In the past three years, the amount of flowers imported from the Netherlands has fallen by 47 per cent to 94,000 tons, while those from Africa have risen 39 per cent to 17,000 tons.

Environmentalists warned that "flower miles" could have serious implications on climate change in terms of carbon dioxide emissions from aeroplanes. . . .

Labels: , ,

Saturday, February 10, 2007

Incentives matter in paternity as with everything else

It is hard to ignore all the competition by men claiming to have been the father of Anna Nicole Smith's child. Apparently men sometimes deny responsibility for being a father of a child when they are not married to the mother. Surely there are a few exceptions. But when has there ever been this number of men (four possibilities have been mentioned to date and possibly there are more to come) who claim to be the father of the same child. Possibly this is due to Anna Nicole being unusually promiscuous, but if she was only worth $500 and not possibly $500 million, would you have a married man and others coming forward claiming that they were her child's father?


Utah Legislature finishes Approving First Universal Voucher BIll

"The Utah State Legislature approved one of the broadest school voucher programs in the nation on Friday, allotting up to $3,000 for any public school student to put toward private school tuition."

Just like with right-to-carry laws, it will get harder and harder to scare people with horror stories about what "might" happen with vouchers.


Wednesday, February 7, 2007

Defining Freedom in the US and Cuba: Charlize Theron

Comparing freedom in Cuba and the United States:

THERON: Well, I would argue that there's a lack of freedom in America. I think -- I think -- you know, I think we tend to...

SANCHEZ: Yes, but you don't have Democrats being arrested and thrown in jail. And you can have a meeting in your house and ...

THERON: No, but I do remember not too long ago some people getting fired from their jobs in television because they spoke up on how they felt about the war.

SANCHEZ: Do you think the lack of freedoms in Cuba are parallel to the lack of freedoms in the United States?

THERON: Well, I would -- I would compare those two, yes, definitely.

SANCHEZ: Yes? .... It sounds like -- it sounds like you don't have a very high opinion of the United States if you think that the freedoms...

THERON: Oh, my God. No, you're so wrong. I absolutely love it. Why do you think I live in the United States?

THERON: I want to make out with you right now. . . .

It is amazing that Ms. Theron doesn't understand the difference between a government banning activity (especially when the government owns everything) and a private TV station firing someone for making a statement. How does she not understand the freedom of the TV station? How does she not understand that the person is free to work for other stations or radio stations?

In any case, as a minor aside, was she referring to the CBS people who were fired for the fake Bush documents? I am not sure of the intellectual leap between firing people for sloppiness/fraud and the government not allowing someone to perform.

Labels: ,

Tuesday, February 6, 2007

Steve Jobs on Eliminating Digital Rights Management

The third alternative is to abolish DRMs entirely. Imagine a world where every online store sells DRM-free music encoded in open licensable formats. In such a world, any player can play music purchased from any store, and any store can sell music which is playable on all players. This is clearly the best alternative for consumers, and Apple would embrace it in a heartbeat. If the big four music companies would license Apple their music without the requirement that it be protected with a DRM, we would switch to selling only DRM-free music on our iTunes store. Every iPod ever made will play this DRM-free music.

Steve Jobs has a very provacative posting at today asking for the elimination of digital rights management (DRM) that is used "to protect its music against theft." The most interesting part of the discussion to me was way Apple doesn't license its FairPlay DRM to others because it would be difficult for Apple to control information about the program and these leaks could be used to disable the protection. He suggests that is part of the reason that Microsoft has moved to the Apple model of having one company control both the hardware and software.

The other issue is ending DRM. Obviously Jobs would support this only if he believes that he has the best online music store and best hardware. Many economists have argued that Apple had locked customers into using iTunes once they had bought an iPod and that then the fact that they bought songs on iTunes would lock them into buying iPods in the future. The numbers that Jobs provides makes it clear that the investment the people make in songs bought by iTunes is so small that it is hard to think that there is much of a lock-in effect. He claims that the average iPod owner only has 3% of their songs from iTunes. The implication that he draws that this DRM hasn't stopped piracy. That last part seems like a big jump in logic to me, at least with the evidence that he has provided. These songs could be from people's legitimate CD collections. I also wonder about how much of this other space is due to podcasts, movies, audio books. It is because I have problems with this last step that I also have problems with his conclusion that the big four record companies would be better off junking DRM. Doing so could greatly increase piracy, which is what the record companies fear. I appears Jobs believes that he would benefit, but all that goes to show is that people aren't being locked into the iPod world. iPod and iTunes are both doing well because they are the best out there, not because people are locked into them.

There is one other possible interpretation to all this. It is possible that Jobs is reacting to recent pressure from multiple European countries to share its DRM. Apple might believe that it is easier for the music companies to defend this and at the same time Apple can make it look like it is in agreement with the Europeans. This interpretation depends on the reasonable assumption that the music companies are willing to fight hard to defend their property rights.

UPDATE: Well, others have picked up on this last point. "But several industry executives said they viewed Mr. Jobs’s comments as an effort to deflect blame from Apple and onto the record companies for the incompatibility of various digital music devices and services."

Labels: ,

Sunday, February 4, 2007

Utah House Passes Universal Voucher Bill

It is too bad that this passed only after Milton Friedman had died, but it is still quite a testiment to the influence that he had on the nation's public debate. This will have a bigger impact on schooling in big cities. The shame is that competition is still not occurring in the biggest cities in the US with horrible public school systems.

School voucher opponents, dejected after the House voted 38-37 Friday in favor of a school voucher bill, predicted supporters will one day regret their votes.
They fully expect HB148 to sail through the Senate and win Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr.'s signature, but rather than calling for a constitutional challenge or a repeal effort, they spoke only of "bad policy" and escalating costs.
"I'm terribly disappointed. I think people sold out from fear of special interest groups," said Rep. Carol Spackman Moss, D-Holladay, a retired teacher.
If the bill is signed and becomes law, the heavy lifting would fall to the Utah Office of Education, which would have to get the program up and running by summer so parents can use their vouchers by fall.
"It's a huge assignment and [the bill is] very prescriptive," said Carol Lear, attorney for the Utah Office of Education.
Voucher supporters embraced each other in the halls after the vote.
"We've been chewing on this issue for seven years," said Rep. Stephen Urquhart, R-St. George, who sponsored this year's bill. "We learned from the dialogue, and we have passed something that will be beneficial to some families and it will be beneficial to the system overall."
HB148 would let parents spend public money on private school tuition. Families whose children already attend private schools would be exempt unless they are low-income, but every family with children in public schools would be eligible for vouchers ranging from $500 to $3,000. Public schools would lose some but not all state money for every voucher student who leaves. . . . .

Labels: , ,

Thursday, February 1, 2007

The "Bogus" Science of Secondhand Smoke

This person must be really hated among medical people, but my guess that he is sufficiently only that he is willing to go against the political correctness on the smoking issue. Look at his background: "former deputy director of the National Cancer Institute's Division of Cancer Cause and Prevention, and he received the U.S. Public Health Service Superior Service Award in 1976 for his efforts to define less hazardous cigarettes."

In any case, from an economist's point of view, the entire debate over secondhand smoke is largely besides the point when it comes to these regulations. The question an economist would ask is whether whatever harm from the secondhand smoke in born by the smoker, and the answer is that there is not a problem as long as someone owns the air. In a restaurant or other building someone clearly owns the air and bears the cost of allowing the air to have more smoke in it than their customers desire. Some people may like to smoke with their meals and they will pay to do it and others might want perfectly clean air. Even if you only had one restaurant in town, the restaurant owner has a strong incentive to give the customers who value the type of air the most what they want.

Smoking cigarettes is a clear health risk, as most everyone knows. But lately, people have begun to worry about the health risks of secondhand smoke. Some policymakers and activists are even claiming that the government should crack down on secondhand smoke exposure, given what "the science" indicates about such exposure.

Last July, introducing his office's latest report on secondhand smoke, then-U.S. Surgeon General Richard Carmona asserted that "there is no risk-free level of secondhand smoke exposure," that "breathing secondhand smoke for even a short time can damage cells and set the cancer process in motion," and that children exposed to secondhand smoke will "eventually . . . develop cardiovascular disease and cancers over time."

Such claims are certainly alarming. But do the studies Carmona references support his claims, and are their findings as sound as he suggests?

Labels: , , , ,