We had a nice discussion last night, I thought. Thanks to Linda for doing the research and walking us through the issue. By way of follow-up, here are two things.
- We’ve had two other recent discussions of crime issues. Here are the “Monday’s Mtg” post for each. Among the many good links in the first post is to a book on the ABCs of criminal justice reform that I was alluding to all last night. His name is Mark Kleiman, and I read his criminal justice-oriented website (actually, it’s a group blog written by a dozen crime and health policy experts) all the time. One of them, Keith Humphries, contributed to the comment thread on another issue, our discussion of marijuana legalization.
- Also, here is a quickie description of the amazing idea that our crime waves were caused directly by lower IQ and other brain damage from widespread post-War use of lead in gasoline (note: NOT lead paint, as I stated at the meeting).
Linda, our lawyer and defense attorney, suggested this topic, since a lot has happened recently in California’s effort at “realignment;” a.k.a., relieving prison overcrowding by releasing some prisoners and shifting responsibility for others to the local level. There’s concern over whether it’s being done right (including with enough resources) and whether it could endanger the public.
Linda will open us up on Monday night with an explanation of what’s been happening. In brief, in 2011 the Supreme Court ruled that this state’s prison system was so overcrowded that it amounted to cruel and unusual punishment. The Court ordered California to find a way to relieve (part of) the overcrowding ASAP, and the state has been working on it. The legislature passed a law, AB-109, that would have released some prisoners and transferred a ton of money to county and local governments to house some of them in local jails and to monitor others that would be released on parole. The whole situation kind of blew up in January, when Governor Brown announced that – even though the goal of going down to 137% of state prison capacity has not been reached – that CA has done enough and would not meet the goal. He has since backtracked from this open defiance of court orders, and he just announced a plan to get us the rest of the way there.
I’m looking forward to learning more about this from Linda, and also to discussing criminal justice more broadly. Everybody thinks that crime control = imprisonment. But, pre- and post-incarceration aspects of crime control are just as important. After all, about 95% of people that go to prison get released eventually and keeping them from re-offending is a major part of the game.
DISCUSSION QUESTIONS –
- What has the state been doing to relieve prison overcrowding, through AB-109 and other measures?
- Are these actions working? Will they lead to more or less crime? Could this really endanger the public?
- Why is Governor Brown challenging the court rulings now? What is in his latest (early May 2013) plan to complete the process?
- What are the lessons of all this for incarceration policy and crime control in general? Is the public finally ready to end the era of mass incarceration as the primary solution to the crime problem? What could replace it?
- The Economist magazine summarizes CA’s prison realignment issue as of mid-2012.
- A 4-page pdf Fact Sheet on Realignment (from CA Dept. corrections, so it’s highly optimistic)
- The latest as of April (NYT) and May (SJ Mercury News) of 2013. A journalist slams Brown for defying the courts.
- Your always optional think tank longer reads:
Just a quick intro post this week, since the issues surrounding North Korea are pretty obvious. Since the fall of communism, the nations that have to deal with North Korea have all had the same basic strategy: Try to keep them from doing anything too crazy and destabilizing while waiting patiently for the whole regime to collapse. Now they have nuclear weapons (maybe 6-8 of them, without looking it up) and they are testing longer-range missiles. They also have a new leader, who’s 27; maybe totally in charge, maybe not; and making bombastic threats that are extreme even by North Korea’s standards.
What does this mean? Anything different? What do we do now? Anything different? We can focus on this crisis. But, I thought it might be helpful to might discuss the future we know is coming sooner or later: Regime collapse and the many, many dangers that follow.
We’ve talked before about failed states, the Arab Spring, how wars end, etc. Some authoritarian states fall relatively peacefully (South Korea, Eastern Europe), or at least without severely damaging our interests (USSR, Argentina, Burma just recently). Others fall ugly or really ugly (Congo, Syria). Why the differences, and which will North Korea be, and when? What can we do to prepare for the inevitable?
Discussion Questions -
- What is the latest crisis all about? What is the evidence that North Korea is becoming more of a threat than it always has been?
- What does the West know about what is motivating the new aggression? Is it an indicator if strength, or weakness?
- Regardless, should we be more worried about the regime’s intent and capabilities?
- Should the United States be doing anything different with regard to North Korea? What do we need other countries to do and how can we get them to do it?
- The future:
- When will the regime start to totter? What are the signs to look for? What can we learn about signs from our failure to predict the USSR’s fall and so many others’ collapse?
- Do we want it to fall? Do China and South Korea want it to fall?
- How dangerous will the fall of North Korea be?
- What can we do now to plan for making the situation less perilous?
- North Korea is a lot more dangerous than you think. I recommend this one. More on the missile and nuke threats here.
- No, let’s not exaggerate the threat it poses.
- Why is the regime making all these threats now? No good options for us in latest crisis.
- Understanding North Korea – including how to influence how they behave. Recommended.
- [Updates: Regime Collapse scenarios]:
Gary’s Meeting of the Minds club, our sister group devoted more to philosophy, science, and intellectual history, has a new schedule though August 2013. See it by clicking on the “Meeting of the Minds” link at the top of CivCon’s homepage.
FYI, on May 23, the new San Diego Debate club will hold its second big event. The topic is, “Public Sector Unions: Good or Bad for America?” Some CivCon members probably will be on the panel (now reduced from 6 members to 4 for logistical reasons). These include Aaron, Bruce, and myself. We are trying to get heavy hitting main speakers, such as local union reps.
For details and to RSVP: http://www.meetup.com/The-San-Diego-Debate-Club/
Ooh, is this a big, fat issue for our group, even bigger than education reform that we took on last week! Immigration reform is bitterly divisive and the last try at a comprehensive rewrite went down in flames in 2007 fanned by the GOP’s base voters – even though the Bush White House, the Republican congressional leadership, and most Democrats supported it. Could the stars really be aligned just six years later?
Maybe. Everybody knows our immigration system is broken. Republican leaders want reform to start to rebuild their bona fides with Hispanics and the Party’s business wing wants it, too. The Democrats want to bring illegal immigrants out of the shadows and under the rule of law so they can contribute to better wages for all workers, and, yeah, for prosaic political reasons, too (like cementing the Latino vote for a generation, including new citizens). A bipartisan Senate “gang of eight” released an 800-page bill on April 13 and the whole town is trying to hammer out a grand compromise that might be acceptable to the Tea Party-dominated House. The White House is letting Congress take the lead, and House Republicans and talk radio types are not yet openly trying to sabotage the whole thing again. We could talk about the politics endlessly.
But, what about the substance? Which immigration reforms might actually “work” to solve the system’s many flaws? Surprisingly, there is a fair amount of consensus among policy types on what the goals of reform have to be and what the major moving parts of a reform law should look like. the Senate plan is based on that consensus, basically.
So, on Monday night, I’ll open by explaining the
- Major flaws in our immigration system, including our broken legal immigration system, which does not get nearly enough attention; and
- Major elements of reform that the gang of eight, et. al., are negotiating over, and how they would fit together in a new system
I’ll skip the politics of the issue, although the politics are fascinating and more than a little weird. Basically, GOP elites want this to happen, and have to try to figure out a way to make it happen without reawakening the sleeping giant of their base voters and the Tea Party-oriented House members that must answer to them. The Democrats have to walk a fine line between compromising to get GOP support and angering their liberal, union, and Latino supporters. And, nobody wants to put all of this effort and political capital into an end product that turns out so watered down and self-contradictory that it fails to solve our immigration problems.
DISCUSSION QUESTIONS –
- What are major problems of our immigration system that comprehensive reform would have to address? Is there any agreement between right and left on what the problems are and their causes?
- What reforms were nearly passed in 2007 and why did the effort collapse? What principles underlay those ideas?
- What is the basic outline of the current reform effort? What are the major moving parts of reform and how are they supposed to work together as policy to solve (hint: just improve, really) the system’s problems?
- How much room is there – both substantively and politically – to compromise before this whole thing falls apart?
- Conservatives and Liberals: What do you want most out of immigration reform? What are your deal breakers? What would constitute victory and what would be a defeat?
- ABCs of legal and illegal immigration:
- Basic immigration facts. Recommended.
- A portrait of unauthorized immigrents in the United States. How many, where from, where go, etc.?
- How does our legal immigration system work?
- The death of immigration reform in 2007. A must-read to understand the politics.
- Today’s reform effort:
- The basics of the gang of eight’s 800-page plan released April 13.
- How does it address the major immigration problems we face? A must-read.
- Conservatives voice their objections (from National Review).
- The Politics:
- Oh, by the way: What the public thinks of immigration reform,
- Your always optional long read: What’s Wrong with our Immigration System?
Public school vouchers are a conservative idea to use taxpayer funds to subsidize students that want to move from one school to another, usually poor students. They are very controversial, and they’re being implemented in a bunch of states. Vouchers may be all about giving parents more choices for their kids’ education, helping trapped students to escape failing schools, and improving public education by spurring more competition between them. Or, maybe vouchers are a trick by conservatives to defund public education, shovel public money to private religious and for-profit schools, undermine teachers’ unions, and reinforce the idea that they care about the well-being of poor minority kids.
At any rate, the voucher movement (see a link below for the history) seemed dead in the water just a few years ago, but now it’s back. President Bush de-emphasized vouchers and focused on high-stakes testing (No Child Left Behind), creating more charter schools, and other reforms. Democrats joined him on some of these. Now, however, vouchers are back with a vengeance, and the education wars may be heating up again. Mitt Romney’s education proposals were quite radical; basically he would have tried to pass a universal school voucher program. At the state level, Tea Party-oriented governments have revived vouchers, and programs are underway or in the approval phase in a dozen states.
I think I’ve got a lot of good links below to get you up to speed on the voucher topic. So, on Monday, I’ll just briefly explain what school vouchers are and where they are being used, and then I will outline the major pros and cons as I understand them. FYI, unknown to many, major education reforms already are being implemented throughout the United States, and some of the things they’re doing sound pretty exciting. The first link provides a good rundown of the three major areas of reform. Reading this would lay a good foundation for any future discussions we have about education.
DISCUSSION QUESTIONS –
- What are the main areas of education reform these days? What’s being done and where do liberals and conservatives usually stand on these ideas?
- What are school vouchers? Where did the idea come from How do they work and where have they been implemented?
- What are the arguments for and against vouchers? What ulterior motives might be behind both support for and opposition to vouchers?
- What is the evidence to date that school vouchers work as advertised?
- What do you think of other conservative education reform ideas, such as charter schools, teacher incentive pay and easier hiring and firing, high-stakes testing, local control of standards, etc.? What about liberal education reform ideas, like the common core curriculum?
- Can we all agree on anything?
- The next wave of education reform is happening now. I recommend just for the value of learning about education reform issues.
- The history of school vouchers (and a premature obituary of them) from 2008.
- What are school vouchers and their pros and cons. Or, try this one. These are, surprisingly balanced, since they are from HuffPost and Salon. Either recommended.
- Vouchers are a very promising idea. Recommended, and also read: No, they are not - a direct rebuttal.
- And, they are a sham and a scam, too. (Liberal catnip, but containing more than a wisp of truth, IMO).
- Evidence: No clear academic progress to students in voucher programs. (Note: Conservatives have criticized studies like this one.)
- [UPDATE:] Motives matter because they tell us something about what advocates really want a new policy to achieve. We should not talk about this topic without understanding the ulterior motives of some voucher reformers. One is to direct public money to private religious schools (Warning: This is a pretty blistering diatribe, but still.). Another is to make money in the for-profit education industry. These motives do NOT necessarily make vouchers a bad idea, but it does mean, IMO, we have to be careful in assessing the enthusiasm for them. And, yes, teachers unions, etc., have their ulterior motives for opposing vouchers, too.
Let’s also debrief on the premiere of Bill’s San Diego Debate Club. He did a great job setting it up, but maybe we have ideas for improvement.
I’ve been really busy so I won’t get a “Monday’s mtg” post on the complicated issue of school vouchers up until, say, Sat night. Most of my time will be trying to get up to speed in time to give the ABCs of the issue for you in person on Monday, not in the intro post. I want to make sure I understand the conservative position on vouchers beyond the “it’s a ploy to destroy public schools and funnel money to religious schools” angle.
For those of us that were at the San Diego Debate Club premier, what did you think? Ideas to improve the debates? tell me in comments or in person Monday.