Preschool Halloween and Inequality in America

So, yesterday was the Halloween at Evan’s preschool: St. Andrew’s Catholic Church Early Childhood Center in Apex, NC.  He made a great Yoda.

Anyway, Kim pointed out to me the incredibly high number of fathers attending this event, at about 10am.  Probably about 2/3 to 3/4 of the kids had their dads as well as moms there.  Basically, this struck me as quite a symbol of the amazing advantages all these kids will have in life.  First, as if living in Apex alone didn’t tell you, that fact that all these dads were there means that they were likely upper-middle class professionals in control of their own schedule.  They don’t let you leave your job at the factory for your kid’s Halloween parade.  Secondly, it shows that these are involved dads.  That’s a couple of very important legs up on life for these kids.  Personally, I appreciate this fact, which is one of the reasons I’m a liberal.  I was thinking cynically about how many of these kids some day will go on to graduate from a good college land a good job, credit it all to their own ingenuity and hard work, and get angry at all those poor, lazy people wasting all of their hard-earned and well-deserved tax dollars.

So, the same day I’m thinking all of this, Matt Yglesias had a nice post on inequality.  We have nowhere near the social mobility in this country that most people think we do:

Pete Davis mentions a new book that sounds interesting. He observes that we like to think of the United States as a land of opportunity, “but a new book, Creating an Opportunity Society, by Ron Haskins and Belle Sawhill of the Brookings Institution proves otherwise.”

That’s what we like to think, but a new book, Creating
an Opportunity Society, by Ron Haskins and Belle Sawhill of the
Brookings Institution proves otherwise. They took a close look at
intergenerational mobility and found that 42% of American men
with fathers in the bottom income quintile remain there as compared to:
Denmark, 25%; Sweden, 26%; Finland, 28%; Norway, 28%; and the United
Kingdom, 30%
. They present a wealth of new and old research
evidence to support the conclusion that if you’re born poor in America,
you’re likely to remain poor.

In fact, non college graduates of the richest fifth of Americans end up doing better than college graduates whose families come from the poorest fifth.  How’s that for a meritocracy.  I’m lucky and so are my kids for having huge advantages early in life.  I’m also lucky because I appreciate that fact.


About a month ago, I blogged about perhaps my favorite book I have read this year, Nurtureshock (which I sadly typo-d in the original post).  Anyway, how exciting for me to discover there’s a Nurtureshock blog now.  Definitely added to my bookmarks.  The first post I came across was one about Disney refunding millions of dollars to the Baby Einstein customers (suckers?) who actually believed watching these videos would make their children smarter.  I believe PT Barnum would have something to say about this.  Anyway, Disney has tacitly (though not explicitly, it turns out) admitted defeat by this refund.

There was a lot of hoopla about Baby Einstein over the weekend. To understand it, you need a brief backstory – and then some deeper backstory, too.

A month and a half ago, Disney announced in a press release that it was going to begin issuing refunds for its Baby Einstein videos: buyers of the DVDs can return them to Disney for $15.99 or exchange them for other products.

However, nobody noticed – not until this past Friday, when the Campaign for Commercial-Free Childhood (CCCF) issued its own press release. In that statement, the CCCF claimed that the refund offer was a victory for the organization, borne out of its ongoing campaign against Baby Einstein and the makers of other baby DVDs.

Within hours, the New York Times suggested that CCCF had won a major concession, and Disney’s refund offer “appear[s] to be a tacit admission that they did not increase infant intellect,” an assessment soon repeated by the Wall Street Journal and in other publications.

You can read more about the subject at the blog.  The book, which you really should read, has a nice explanation on how the videos are little more than a cheap babysitter.  There is value in that, but nobody should think it’s making their children smarter.

Big Pharma

Meant to get to this last week, but Time had a great article on how Big Pharma totally got their way in health care reform.  There's a reason they are willing to spend millions of dollars in ads in support of reform.  The details– well worth reading– are largely about how they won (bought) the rights to keep new biologics (drugs made from organic material) from facing generic competition for a dozen years.  My favorite part, though, is simply this litany of awe-inspiring statistics on their lobbying efforts:

It's understandable the drugmakers would want a roll-call accounting of
who their friends and enemies are, considering the size of the
investment they are making on Capitol Hill: in the first six months of
this year alone, drug and biotech companies and their trade
associations spent more than $110 million — that's about $609,000 a day
— to influence lawmakers, according to figures compiled by the
nonpartisan watchdog group Center for Responsive Politics. The drug
industry's legion of registered lobbyists numbers 1,228, or 2.3 for
every member of Congress. And its campaign contributions to current
members of Waxman's committee have totaled $2.6 million over the past
three years.

Is it any wonder they ended up getting the legislation they wanted regardless of whether it will be best for American consumers or our health care system as a whole? (Which, by the way, is worth your 3 minutes to read since I'm not going to summarize it).

Eat more veal!

Bet you didn't expect that from me.  Either did I.  Fascinating story in today's Post:

This is not that veal: the mostly flavorless meat from calves
raised in crates so small they can't turn around. Humanely raised veal
— sometimes called pasture-raised, sometimes called rose veal because
of its color — comes from calves that drank their mother's milk and
ate pasture grass. Its producers argue that if male calves, an
otherwise useless byproduct of the dairy industry, are not ethically
raised for meat, they are sold to less-humane veal producers or

And this paragraph really got to me:

Most important, dairy cows must give birth to provide milk. Their male
calves are unsuitable for beef production and too costly to keep on the
farm. "It's a resource that needs to be utilized," said Nancy
Pritchard, who raises calves at Smith Meadows Farm in Berryville, Va.
Or to put it more bluntly, as producer Sandy Miller of Painted Hand
Farm in Newburg, Pa., does: If you consume dairy, you should eat veal.

I've never knowingly had any veal, but I think I'm going to have to try and find the humane variety.

My health care company wants to limit my options

What a treat to get the following piece of mail from Blue Cross/Blue Shield of North Carolina:



(image courtesy TPM)


Who wants that?  I sure do.  I'm supposed to join with BCBS and send this to Kay Hagan, why?  Because I support BCBS NC's monopoly on the individual market for health insurance in North Carolina?  Because I support them as the only health insurance option for the thousands of teachers and public employees in this state?  Because next time I get in a fight with them over whether they want to cover Alex's therapy I should be glad I have no other options?  Right.

Even more maddening, BCBS is actually a non-profit.  Apparently, though, they can use up to 25% of their non-profit profits to spend on grassroots lobbying like this.  So glad to know that my premiums can be higher and that this year's copays for specialists doubled so that BCBS NC has the money to send out these mailers to everybody.

The “level playing field” public option

If you've been following the health care reform debate, you may have heard a lot about the "level playing field" public option.  This is basically the idea of instituting rules to try and ensure that a government insurance program does not have any competitive advantages over private insurance plans.  Why would you want this "level playing field"?  To protect private insurance companies, of course?  Any other good reasons?  Not that I know of.  Here's the thing, the whole point of a government insurance plan is that it is actually more cost effective than private plans.  A government plan only needs to break even, won't spend a ton on marketing, and probably constructed would be able to keep prices down through the bargaining power that comes with big size (think Wal-Mart).  That's all good.  A government insurance plan has inherent advantages which would serve to save all of us money whether we use it or not (much like Wal-Mart drives down prices at other stores as well).  The truth is, that government is not naturally on this "level playing field" and it is just stupid to take away the natural advantages that come with a government plan to protect insurance industry profits and keep all of us paying more for health care.  It's like asking the Yankees to keep A-Rod and Jeter out of the line-up so we can have a level playing field World Series.  You don't give up what actually works.

Voting and testosterone

I don't actually have anything interesting to say about this, but a couple people have brought it up to me.  Actually seems pretty straightforward:

Republican men nationwide may have experienced a drop in testosterone
levels the night Barack Obama was elected president, according to the
results of a small study that found another link between testosterone
and men's moods.

By taking multiple saliva samples from 183 young men and women on election night, researchers found that the testosterone levels of men who voted for John McCain or Robert Barr dropped sharply 40 minutes after Obama was announced the winner.

The testosterone levels of men who voted for Obama stayed the same throughout the evening…

The lowered testosterone levels the study found in Republican men after
the election matches what other researchers have found when men are
involved in face-to-face competition. Scientists have shown that more
often than not in showdowns such as sports competitions or physical
fights the loser ends up with a drop in testosterone.


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