In the late 1980s, when telemarketing was at it is peak, a company called our home during dinner. I picked up the phone and handed it to my dad. This is what we heard him say:

"I'm not interested."

"No. No, thank you."

"Well ... I'm not ever going to die."

And then he hung up. My mom and I looked at each other, and then him, with looks of incredulity. He explained that it was a company selling life insurance.

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One of the first lessons in an economics class is every action has a cost. That is in stark contrast to lessons in the political arena where politicians virtually ignore cost and talk about benefits and free stuff. If we look only at the benefits of an action, policy or program, then we will do anything because there is a benefit to any action, policy or program.

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Several years ago, Project Baltimore began an investigation of Baltimore's school system. What they found was an utter disgrace. In 19 of Baltimore's 39 high schools, out of 3,804 students, only 14 of them, or less than 1%, were proficient in math. In 13 of Baltimore's high schools, not a single student scored proficient in math. In five Baltimore City high schools, not a single student scored proficient in math or reading. Despite these academic deficiencies, about 70% of the students graduate and are conferred a high school diploma -- a fraudulent high school diploma.

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Some of the confusion in thinking about matters of race stems from the ambiguity in the terms that we use. I am going to take a stab at suggesting operational definitions for a couple terms in our discussion of race. Good analytical thinking requires that we do not confuse one behavioral phenomenon with another.

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