Chart of the day

Every semi-intelligent Republican ought to be ashamed and appalled by the chart below:


Don’t go to U Penn law school

The Times has a little “expert” discussion forum on the gay marriage ruling.  Pennsylvania Law Professor, Amy Wax, weighs in and is eviscerated by the commenters.  Rarely do you see the commenters have the better of the argument to this degree.

The Gay Marriage ruling

As you’ve probably noticed, I’m not actually all that passionate on this topic, though I think the legal arguments are really interesting.  From all I’ve read so far, I think what is most notable is how the Judge’s decisions based “findings of fact” (and the incredibly poor show by the anti gay marriage folks on “the facts”) really have  the potential to shape future decisions.  By several accounts, the Judge’s decision was largely written for an audience of 1– Anthony Kennedy.  I found this New York Times Analysis really quite surprisingly sophisticated in the level of legal analysis for a newspaper story.   Key point– the Judge rejected the California law on the basis of rational scrutiny, i.e., the state has no rational basis for opposing gay marriage.  This makes it much harder to overturn than if he had just used “strict scrutiny,” which a higher court could have easily argued was not the appropriate standard.  All that said, I think this is an important point:

Ultimately, Professor NeJaime said, even the four more liberal justices on the Court might shy away from a sweeping decision that could overturn same-sex marriage bans across the country. “The Supreme Court rarely likes to get too far ahead of things,” he said.

Gay marriage is one of those issues where the long-term trend is decidedly clear and I really don’t think it might actually make the cultural change more difficult if imposed by the Supreme Court, rather than evolving more gradually through legislation.

Wealthy cyborgs for the Republican party

Big Steve pointed me to this new blog from a friend of his.  Good stuff– love this little bit:

So when does it may sense to vote Republican? If you are among the top 1-5 (maybe 10) percent of income-earners, you may benefit from Republican tax cuts to the wealthy. If you are not, you may end up with a tax increase as the federal and state governments struggle to make up for the loss of revenue by raising sales and local taxes. Moreover, if you at all depend on Social Security or Medicare to help make ends meet in your august years, you are not likely to benefit from Republican plans to privatize or severely slash these programs.

But being wealthy is not enough. You should also ideally be a cyborg or some other super-human life-form that will be unaffected by Republican de-regulation of air, food, drug and water safety standards, not to mention consumer protections and product safety.

The Republican Party understands that they have a a very narrow natural constituency–mainly the super wealthy who are impervious to, or do not care about, the level of arsenic in the water supply, the level of carbon emissions in the air, the safety of children’s toys, the risk of contracting E. Coli in tainted meat or vegetables, the stability of our banking system, and the safety of coal mining, nuclear power reactors, and offshore drilling operations. Cognizant of this , GOP activists have used fearrace-baiting, and cultural/religious warfare to broaden their constituency.

Not sure I’d go quite that far myself, but it sure makes for an entertaining and provocative post.  Which I could write like that.

If preschool makes your smarter, why are we cutting it’s funding?

Because, nobody ever said we make policy rationally in this country (I might argue that Republicans have more than their fair share of the blame for that).  Anyway, about the first part– a nice summary of some recent research courtesty of Jonah Lehrer:

While the economists cite a wide variety of research, their most impressive evidence consists of a few different studies that looked at the long-term effects of early childhood education. Let’s begin with the Perry Preschool Experiment, which consisted of 123 low income African-American children from Yspilanti, Michigan. (All the children had IQ scores between 75 and 85.) When the children were three years old, they were randomly assigned to either a treatment group, and given a high-quality preschool education, or to a control group, which received no preschool education at all. The subjects were then tracked over the ensuing decades, with the most recent analysis comparing the groups at the age of 40. The differences, even decades after the intervention, were stark: Adults assigned to the preschool program were 20 percent more likely to have graduated from high school and 19 percent less likely to have been arrested more than five times. They got much better grades, were more likely to remain married and were less dependent on welfare programs.

The cool thing about this is it is not about IQ, but other personality factors that pre-school seems to have a lasting impact upon:

How does preschool work its magic? Interestingly, the Perry Preschool didn’t lead to a lasting boost in IQ scores. While kids exposed to preschool got an initial bump in general intelligence, this dissipated by second grade. Instead, preschool seemed to improve performance on a variety of “non-cognitive” abilities, such as self-control, persistence and grit. While society has long obsessed over raw smarts – just look at our fixation on IQ scores – Heckman and Cunha argue that these non-cognitive traits are often more important. They note, for instance, that dependability is the trait most valued by employers, while “perseverance, dependability and consistency are the most important predictors of grades in school.” Of course, these valuable skills have little or anything to do with general intelligence. And that’s probably a good thing, since our non-cognitive traits are much more malleable, at least when interventions occur at an early age, than IQ. Preschool might not make us smarter – our intelligence is strongly shaped by our genes – but it can make us a better person, and that’s even more important.

On the political front, investing in pre-school for at-risk children is therefore an amazingly smart use of our public funds.  Might do more than about anything else to save money on our prison budget, but sadly, public budgeting doesn’t actually work that way.  Lehrer writes: “The economists calculate that, for every dollar invested in preschool for at-risk children, society at large reaps somewhere between eight and nine dollars in return. That’s how I want my tax-dollars spent.”

Alas, as Kevin Drum points out in a wonderfully-titled post, this is exactly where states are cutting in their current budget crises:

here’s the latest news on budget cuts aimed at the worst possible place:

States are slashing nearly $350 million from their pre-K programs by next year and more cuts are likely on the horizon once federal stimulus money dries up, according to the National Institute for Early Education Research at Rutgers University. The reductions mean fewer slots for children, teacher layoffs and even fewer services for needy families who can’t afford high-quality private preschool programs.

….Wealthier parents can afford to send their kids to private preschools, but children from poorer families will likely languish in lower-quality childcare that doesn’t prepare them for kindergarten, experts said…

Sounds like socialism to me! Here in America we prefer nature red in tooth and claw. For poor people, anyway.

Argh.  Frustrating.

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