Quick hits (part I)

1) I see how it can potentially get out of hand, but I really don’t think schools should be banning parents from having lunch with their kids.

2) As you know, I’m big ran of LARC’s as a tool in fighting poverty.  And Delaware is now giving it a try.  Unfortunately, some research suggests this is not as promising as we might have thought:

The idea of contraception as a key to economic mobility emerged after the 1960s and 1970s, when contraception and abortion became legal state by state. A string of studies showed that, when birth control arrived, women’s careers and educational attainment improved — and the number of children they had declined.

Isabel Sawhill, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, has measured the wide gulfs in outcomes between young women with unintended children and those with planned pregnancies later on. She has written extensively in support of expanded LARC access.

“It’s very expensive and very hard to reduce poverty,” Ms. Sawhill said. “Reducing unplanned births is easy by comparison.”

But it’s possible that youthful, unplanned pregnancies are a symptomof poverty, more than a cause.

One study of teenagers with unintended pregnancies found only small differences in outcomes between those who had miscarriages and those who delivered babies. A review of the returns on investment from contraception found relatively small effects.

“The causal link is kind of a big question mark,” said Caitlin Myers, an associate professor of economics at Middlebury College, who teaches a class on unplanned parenthood in the United States. Ms. Myers said an effort like Delaware’s would improve women’s autonomy and reduce abortions. But she was skeptical that it would necessarily reduce poverty. “To what extent does unintended pregnancy cause bad outcomes versus bad outcomes causing unintended pregnancies? It’s a symptom of poverty, of inequality, of hopelessness about the future.”

3) Popehat (one of those people I discovered on twitter who is just so educational on legal issues) calls out Alan Dershowitz, “Alan Dershowitz Is Lying To You” and it’s just awesome.

4) Really enjoyed this “18 lessons for the news business from 2018.”

The relatively few magazines that are finding a future are thought-provoking, reader-supported ones.

The New Yorker, The Atlantic, Vanity Fair, and Wired are among those that are making the digital subscriber transition. Each offers audiences a unique set of voices and reporting. Each, arguably, has risen to our times. It’s the shelter, fashion, travel, and lifestyle magazines — beset by unlimited free digital competition — that suffer, slim, and shutter.

The lesson, again, and again: Unique voices supported by subscribers point a way forward.

Indeed.  I subscribe to all of those but Vanity Fair.

4) Interesting take from Seth Masket, “The Demise of the Weekly Standard is a Blow to the Republican Party.”

5) Oren Cass writes, “The Misguided Priorities of Our Educational System: We spend too much money on college students and not enough on everyone else.”  He’s right– especially when it comes to vocational education.

One explanation for this bizarre state of affairs, in which society invests heavily in those headed for economic success while ignoring those falling behind, is the widespread belief that everyone can be a college graduate. If that were true, the shove toward the college pipeline might make sense.

But most young Americans do not achieve even a community-college degree. Federal data show that fewer than one in five studentssmoothly navigate the high school to college to career pathway. More students fail to complete high school on time, more fail to move on from high school to college, and more drop out of college. Forty years of reform, accompanied by a doubling of per pupil spending, has failed to improve this picture. Standardized test scores haven’t budged. SAT scores have declined. More students enroll in college, but the share of 25-year-olds with a bachelor’s degree did not increase from 1995 to 2015, and it stands barely above the 1975 level…

But while the median college graduate earns more than the median high school graduate, those workers are not the same person — indeed, they are likely people with very different academic prospects. Look instead at the wage distributions for more comparable samples: those with earnings toward the high end for workers with only high school degrees and those at the low end among college graduates. The federal Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that high school grads with above-average earnings (50th to 90th percentile) earn $34,000 to $70,000 annually. College grads with below-average earnings (10th to 50th percentile) earn $28,000 to $58,000.

Pushing people from the former category to attend college and land in the latter category does them few favors. And remember, that assumes they graduate; people in their position typically will not. Remember also, those are the outcomes before we attempt to create an attractive non-college pathway that they might prefer and that might equip them for success.

6) This is a great feel-good story, “A mother’s leap of faith at an African airport, and a 15-year mystery.”

Maya Hughes was 5 years old when her mother asked a stranger at an airport in Sierra Leone to help get her back to the United States safely. The man helped, then disappeared. Fifteen years later, the three got back in touch with each other.

7) Great stuff from Frank Rich:

What will move them [Republican politicians] is not necessarily Trump’s hara-kiri isolationist agenda but the damage his behavior both abroad and at home is inflicting on the financial markets. The sheer uncertainty of a chaos presidency is pushing the Dow to its worst December since the Great Depression. McConnell and his humiliated departing peer Paul Ryan have tolerated Trump’s racism, misogyny, and nativism, his wreckage of American alliances, his kleptocracy, and his allegiance to Vladimir Putin. They have tolerated as well his con job on the coal miners, steelworkers, and automobile-industry workers of his base. But they’ll be damned if they will stand for a president who threatens the bottom line of the GOP donor class. [emphasis mine]

8) Elizabeth Warren says the government should produce generic drugs.  Given the world’s largest actual collusion ever, this is a very interesting idea.

9) A former student of mine tweeted at the epitome of bad faith politics, NC GOP director Dallas Woodhouse, Chili’s social media account ended up in the middle.

10) I haven’t read enough yet to have a firm take on Mattis and his resignation, but I found Yglesias‘ contrarianism on him very interesting:

Secretary of Defense James Mattis’s decision to resign, complete with a strongly worded letter slamming President Donald Trump, is not so much the end of “adults in the room” safeguarding the country from the president’s worst instincts as it is the end of the myth that there ever were any such adults.

Mattis was, after all, recommended to Trump in the first place because Barack Obama had fired him for his reckless advocacy of military confrontation with Iran. And while the last grown-up was unable to restrain Trump from imprisoning asylum-seeking childrenabusing his pardon power for Joe Arpaioabusing declassification powerundertaking a partisan purge of the FBIcheering the French far right, or issuing apologias for neo-Nazis, he finally decided to take his stand over Trump making the perfectly defensible decision to withdraw US forces from a hazily defined open-ended mission in Syria that lacked any legal authorization.

There’s nothing wrong with quitting over a policy dispute that you feel strongly about. (Though, frankly, I think Trump is on the right side of this one.) But that’s all this was — a normal dispute within the range of things reasonable people can disagree about.

At the end of the day, Mattis proved ineffective or uninterested in preventing shocking abuses of power and flagrant immorality only to throw down over a perfectly legitimate order from the commander in chief.

And while resigning sooner, over something better, would have been welcome, the notion that it could have meaningfully improved outcomes is silly. Trump is unfit for office, and flagrantly so, in ways that are fairly obvious and have been obvious for years. There are no adults in any room he leads, and there never will be. The real grown-ups are the ones who’ve been outside the room trying to get him out of office.

11) I’ve always enjoyed the Black Key’s “Little Black Submarines” when I’ve heard it, but never really gave it all that much thought.  Heard it on the radio the other day, though, and thought, that would be a great guitar part to learn.  It is!  I love a good rock song made up of standard open chords.  And now I’m (and my 12-year old) obsessed with the song.

12) Really interesting Linda Greenhouse piece on the divide among Republicans on the Supreme Court.  It’s a little early to definitely put Kavanaugh on the “sure, very conservative, but not total Republican hack” side along with Roberts, but so far, things are suggestive.  As to Thomas, Alito, and Gorsuch?  Yeah, total hacks.

13) Love this, “Like Tomboys and Hate Girlie Girls? That’s Sexist: We need to stop maligning femininity, in both girls and boys.”

 

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About Steve Greene
Professor of Political Science at NC State http://faculty.chass.ncsu.edu/shgreene

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