To the editor:
Edward Glaeser, using less-than-academic research [Can Buffalo Ever Come Back?, Autumn 2007], claims that Buffalos median home value is just $61,000, far below the state average of $260,000, but thats wrong. Check with the National Association of Realtors and youll see that Buffalos median housing price is $110,900, which is $40,000 more than stated. Hardly a typo; more like making up data to enforce a preconceived opinion. And if you gather statistics for the region (not just the city), the average housing price (different from the median, but equally useful) is $231,000, right up there with the state average.
Edward L. Glaeser responds:
While I appreciate the suggestion that I make things up out of whole cloth, I regret to inform Mr. Buckley that in this case, I used the U.S. Census, American Fact Finder.
The Census is the standard source for housing values in cities, not the National Association of Realtors, and for good reason. The NAR gives the price of average sales during a particular (recent) time period. It does not give the sales price for an average existing home in a region. Recent home sales figures tend to represent newer and much more expensive homes. In an older city, the NAR data are extremely unrepresentative of the overall housing population. Few experts would actually use them to look at overall housing costs.
The Census data have their own problems. They represent a self-reported housing value, not a sales price. Research suggests that these self-reports tend to overstate actual housing prices, which suggests that the $61,000 figure overstates the true sales prices.
To the editor:
Melanie Phillipss Britains Anti-Semitic Turn [Autumn 2007] is a perfect example of Zionist radicalism. The author takes the erroneous deductive leap of equating anything critical of Israel with anti-Semitism. They are not the same! Indeed, as the author cites, many liberal Jews are also highly critical of Israels recent policies.
My criticisms of Israel are consistent with those made by English intellectuals, as enumerated by Phillips: its illegal settlements in the West Bank, its apartheid treatment of Palestinians, its ignoring of numerous UN resolutions, its cruel use of cluster bombs against civilians in Lebanon, and its construction of a dividing wall between itself and the West Bankgenerally usurping Palestinian land in doing so and often making normal intercourse for the people living nearby impossible. Furthermore, I resent that over $100 billion of American taxpayers money has been donated to Israel in the form of economic aid over the last 25 years, even though Israels standard of living is light years above the countries of Africa, where we give small change. I oppose donating another $30 billion of arms to Israel over the next ten years.
Despite my strong condemnation of the state of Israel, I highly esteem the members of the Jewish faith, who have contributed greatly to society almost everywhere.
New York, NY
Melanie Phillips responds:
Richard Huber repeats the canard that all criticism of Israel is denounced as anti-Semitism. This is wholly untrue. Criticism of Israels policies is entirely legitimate, as it would be of any other country. The point of my article, however, was to demonstrate that Israel is not being treated like any other country. It is instead being demonized and delegitimized based on lies, libels, and distortions marked by many of the unique tropes and characteristics of Jew-hatred down through the ages. Huber repeats some of these falsehoods in calling the settlements illegal, accusing Israel of apartheid, and painting Israels self-defense as aggression.
To the editor:
In Grading Mayoral Control [Summer 2007], Sol Stern accuses the Department of Educations public-relations juggernaut of distorting data and exaggerating the Bloomberg administrations accomplishments. Ironically, his argument is based on greatly exaggerating the size of the departments communications office, which has not 29 but 12 staffers, including two secretarieshardly excessive for a $15 billion organization in the largest media market in the world.
Sterns claim that the department does not provide transparent information about school performance is demonstrably false. Just in the last few months, we released the results of the first annual survey of public school parents, teachers, and students, as well as the first-ever school Progress Reports, giving the public more and clearer information than theyve ever had about how schools are performing.
Stern goes on to demand an independent research agency to evaluate the departments policies without mentioning that the chancellor committed long ago to creating one. It launched in October.
Stern also attempts to trivialize the gains New York Citys students have made in recent years. But the facts speak for themselves: since the mayor took control of the schools, whether you begin counting in 2002 or 2003, New York Citys gains have substantially outpaced those of the rest of the state in both fourth and eighth grade, the two grades for which we can make such comparisons over time. And following years of stagnation, the graduation rate has risen nine points since 2002 and seven points since 2003.
While Stern is entitled to his own opinions on each of these issues, he is not entitled to his own facts.
New York City Department of Education
Sol Stern responds:
In researching my article, I found a budget document on the DOEs website titled Current Headcount, which stated that 29 people worked in the Office of Communications. After the article was published, David Cantor sent me documents showing this consisted of three separate unitsa 15-member Communications Office (not the 12 he now claims), a Strategic Response Unit, and an Office of Public and Community Affairs. We dont know how many of these people work in public relations. But whether its 15 or 29, its still at least four times the number under the old Board of Education, when New York was also the largest media market in the world.
Its misleading for Cantor to keep harping on the state test scores, when the 2007 National Assessment of Education Progress results demolished the DOEs boasts about improvement in fourth- and eighth-grade reading and eighth-grade math.
Im impressed that the DOE asks parents and teachers about their schools. I would be more impressed if they asked whether the school system had actually improved as a result of mayoral control.
Finally, the chancellors research organization has nothing to do with the state-funded independent research agency I called for in my article. How could the chancellors outfit be independent if he sits on the board?