May 11, 2008 archive

Potential Democratic VP picks.

Assuming Barack Obama actually gets the nomination (we cannot rule out Clinton somehow nabbing it at the brokered convention), I think there are perhaps three politicians who could possibly add to his ticket going into the general election:

John Edwards – His populist talk and devotion to working class issues, combined with his skills as an attorney, make him an ideal vice presidential candidate.  He managed to sell himself as one in 2004, and although he didn’t get enough footing to remain in contention for the nomination this year he still has a base of supporters who could help bridge the divide between Obama’s followers and Clinton’s.  But this is unlikely, because Edwards is an economic populist, and corporate Democrat Obama blew it big time when he tried to finagle an endorsement only to end up angering Donna Edwards by attacking her husband’s health care plan.

Christopher Dodd – Dodd has the stones to go toe to toe with adversaries on the campaign trail, and he has shown leadership in the Senate by shaming Obama and Clinton into voting against one of the appropriations bills for the occupation of Iraq.  I see no reason why he couldn’t make a strong ally on the campaign trail.

Bill Richardson – Although I don’t think he’ll add much to an Obama ticket going into November, his executive experience is desperately needed in the White House.  He could be seen to help the senator make a case that he can bring in people who know the ins and outs of governing (as opposed to legislating).

Assuming Hillary Clinton manages somehow to get the nomination at convention, I see only two potential candidates who could possibly help her win in November:

Ted Strickland – Although he has only been governor of Ohio for roughly a year and a half, he has shown he can get things done.  He has also demonstrated an ability to get the GOP in the Buckeye State’s legislature to play ball on things like the budget.

John Edwards – This is a somewhat unlikely pick considering the former senator from North Carolina is an economic populist and Clinton is an economic conservative whose support of NAFTA is likely to continue should she win the White House.  But the two of them are closer on important issue such as health care than either of them are to Obama, and while Edwards did go after her on the campaign trail he didn’t make it personal like the Illinois senator has.

Regardless of which Prima Donna ultimately gets the Democratic nomination, the only way to add to the ticket is to pick a populist vice presidential candidate, or one with executive experience.

Low Class Gains in Higher Education

A new economics study by Joseph Altonji, Prashant Bharadwaj, and Fabian Lange demonstrates that:

The earnings premium for skilled labour has increased dramatically in recent decades. Yet, as this column shows, Americans are not acquiring significantly greater skills in response to this change. The resulting gap will increase US income inequality in the coming decades.

The study goes on to demonstrate that despite the increased premium value of developing labor skills through higher education, the population in general has not sought these skills in relative proportion.  In other words, we aren’t seeing many gains in people improving their financial prospects by investing in their own education.

Economist Brad DeLong says that the study’s authors don’t know why this is happening (which is a fair complaint), but goes on to suggest that

This raises the possibility that the only easy way to reduce market inequality is to greatly increase the supply of the skilled and educated in the long run by making higher education free

This seems unlikely to be effective to me on two levels.  First of all, an economist ought to understand (and DeLong does) that there is no such thing as “free”; someone will have to pay for higher education to be free to its consumers.  Indeed, as he points out, “which is a very dubious policy on the inequality front, because it starts with a honking huge transfer from the average taxpayer today to the relatively rich well-educated of tomorrow.”

But the more important rebuttal to his point (more effective than his own) is that brought up by Tyler Cowen: that the skills required to succeed at even a low level in college are poorly taught to the population at large.

One of my close friends is completing her first year as a public school teacher in New York City (her third year as a professional teacher).  Her class is a fourth grade class at a public school in Grand Concourse in the Bronx.  She has 28 students, only one of which reads at a fourth grade level.  For a wide variety of reasons, despite her significant efforts, it is unlikely that more than a couple of her students will be at a fifth grade level when the school year ends this month.  And no, this is not the most remedial class of fourth graders her school has.

It seems to me that DeLong obscures the real problem, that of students being unprepared and unlikely to succeed in higher education, with that of students being unable to afford higher education.  Many, if not most, college and graduate students debt finance their education; a rational choice considering the economic benefits that education will offer them.  However, rational actors will not pay for a premium education if they consider themselves unlikely to succeed at it and therefore unlikely to reap the future economic benefit.

I read this study as evidence of the continued failure of our primary and secondary education systems, not as a study of the failure of our society to make higher education affordable or making the information about the benefits of higher education widely available.  What say you?

Weekend News Digest

Weekend News Digest is an Open Thread

From Yahoo News Top Stories

1 Boat carrying Myanmar aid sinks; toll climbs beyond 28,000

Associated Press

20 minutes ago

YANGON, Myanmar – A Red Cross boat carrying rice and drinking water for cyclone victims sank Sunday, while the death toll jumped to more than 28,000 and aid groups warned of a humanitarian catastrophe.

The boat was carrying supplies for more than 1,000 people and was the first Red Cross shipment to the disaster area, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies said. All four relief workers on board were safe, it said.

“This is a great loss for the Myanmar Red Cross and for the people who need aid so urgently,” said Aung Kyaw Htut, the distribution team leader of the Myanmar Red Cross.

Fugly Foam

Grampy is still the king.  His eyes light up when he sees me.  We have some time to kill before we can check into the campground so we head for the boardwalk.  I watch him savor the beauty of sand dunes and beach grass ten feet below us.  We arrive at the peak of the last dune and look out at the Atlantic Ocean.  I say “Do you like the beach?”  He melts my heart by looking at me with those wide innocent eyes and says it, beach, for the first time in his life.

Café Discovery

[Note:  I wrote this review many moons ago.  The book is mostly very hard to find now…unless you want a pdf version.  When I was looking or something to publish for this Mother’s Day, I rejected my own letter to my mother (Dear Mom), also written many years ago, and selected this.

…mom, I need to be a girl: a review

by Robyn Serven, 1998

The sheer number of issues the concept of gender variance raises is sometimes overwhelming.  Just exactly what does it mean to be differently-gendered?  How did we get to be this way?  How are we supposed to live our lives?  How do we build respect for ourselves in this culture?  How do we ask to be treated as any human being would/should be treated, while simultaneously asking that our difference be acknowledged in the world community?  How do we establish that we are not crazy and simultaneously acquire the medical treatment we desire?

One question which has been addressed all too little is, “How should we be raised?”  Given the number of transgendered people who have spoken in less than glowing terms about their treatment as children, the lack of positive writings in this regard is disheartening.  Are we not shirking our duty to future generations of gender-variant people by failing to address this issue?

Final Salute

Remember this photo? I’m sure you’ve seen it a dozen times as it’s made it’s way around the web. Her name is Katherine Cathey and she’s a mother, a mother of a son who never met his father Marine 2nd. Lt. Jim Cathey. Katherine mentions this photo in a video, of which I’ll give you the link to in a moment, one you should view.

So . . . Who Will Be Obama’s V-P??

As so often happens these days, the Saturday evening post-movie (Iron Man) conversation turned to politics.  The consensus is Hillary is through in the campaign.  The lack whether she should be Obama’s running mate.  Some say unity is the thing now.  And the need for Obama to appeal to Joe and Jose Six-Pack.

My take?  No way it’s Hillary.  First, too much animosity between the two and too big a political figure to be a V-P.  In fact, I think Obama, as is his wont, while being conciliatory, will also take the position that the Clintons represent the old way of doing things.  

Second, is Hillary the one to appeal to Six-Pack?  While she does better with this group than Obama, she isn’t exactly loved by them either.  Indeed, if you could choose two candidates that are least loved by Six-Pack, I can’t imagine two lesser than these.  

So, who will it be?  Webb of Virginia?  Fairly conservative, but could help get Reagan democrat southerners.  Don’t think so.  Too conservative and won’t likely pull enough southern man voters to put Obama over the top there.

My bet:  Richardson of NM.  I think Obama can’t win the south and will instead focus on the west.  And the west means hispanic voters.  Richardson appeals to western whites, but more importantly gets Obama the hispanic vote.  

What do you think?

Mothers Hands

My mom’s been gone for nine years now and I can hardly remember her face. When I think of my mother I see her hands. I don’t think this is only due to the fact that her hand is in nearly every picture I have of myself or my sibs from years ago, as much as she was always doing something with her hands. And I don’t think its due to the jangling bracelet she habitually wore with its coins from Arabia, India, Africa & other foreign countries.

She was one of a dying breed, as npk mentions. (and btw~thank you for the inspiration npk!) She was a homemaker, always doing something with her hands.  

A State Dept. Powerpoint on How to Rule the World

David Kilcullen  is a member of Gen. David Petraeus’ famous team of intellectuals.  He has served in Iraq as part of the general’s cadre and is currently working for the State Department as well as in the private sector.  Dr. Kilcullen has a Ph.D. in political science from the University of New South Wales and wrote his dissertation on counterinsurgency in traditional societies.

At the Department of State website devoted to collecting resources about counterinsurgency (“COIN” for short), there is a powerpoint presentation by Dr. Kilcullen titled “Counterinsurgency In Iraq: Theory and Practice, 2007 – by David Kilcullen.”  This is possibly the single most, shall we say “interesting,” powerpoint presentation I have ever seen.  


Me mum left this earth decades ago and me babies chose not to be born. Seems to me I’m the last person to write an essay on mother’s day. So I’ll throw this out thought out there, and ask for your stories.

The creation energy isn’t limited to our bodies; it isn’t limited to our gender. We– all sexes, all ages– experience the process of conception, gestation, birth and mothering through our projects, our gardens, our loves, our lives.  We experience still birth, early death, abortion. We know the power of a two-year-old’s “No!” and rambunctious thoughts that won’t behave. Most of us have colored outside the lines. And we’ve all rocked ourselves, or someone else, to sleep at night.

So, what are your stories of love and creation?  Of sunny days in the park and late nights in darkness?  Who is your favorite mother?  Who is your most troublesome child? What project just wouldn’t take despite the best sex in the world to make it so? And what joy has been just too enormous for a single heart to contain?  “I wanna story!”  😉

Because Kokopelli, that rascal, was a mom, too, I’m sure of it!

On Mothers’ Day Protests In Kathmandu

cross posted from The Dream Antilles


Mothers’ Day isn’t celebrated in Nepal.  Modern Mothers’ Day began as Women’s Day of Peace.  In  fact, NPK today has posted the stirring 1870 Proclamation.  So it’s a synchronicity that hundreds of Tibetan women in Kathmandu including Buddhist nuns chose today as an all-woman protest against Chinese occupation of Tibet.

Reuters reports:

Nepali police detained 562 Tibetan women at an anti-China rally in Kathmandu on Sunday, the first all-women protest against Chinese rule in their homeland, officials said.

Some shouted “We want free Tibet” while others wept as they were dragged along the road to police vans and trucks and driven to detention centers. Many were wearing black armbands and had their mouths gagged with cloths.

Nepal considers Tibet part of China, a key donor and trade partner, and has been cracking down on protests by the exiled Tibetans against Beijing.

Police said the protesters would be freed later.

Nepal borders Tibet.  More than 20,000 Tibetans have been living in Nepal since fleeing their homeland after the recent failed uprising and China’s crack-down.

“We are not against Nepal. Our protests are against China. So why are they arresting us?” asked a 70-year-old protester who gave her name as Chinjhoke, tears rolling down her face.

According to BBC Nepal

cannot allow Tibetans to demonstrate because it recognises Tibet as an integral part of China.

But the UN says the mass arrests are against the spirit of a society governed by the rule of law.

Today’s protest in Kathmandu followed yesterday’s in which

A group of Tibetan protesters chained themselves together in front of the Chinese Embassy’s visa office in Nepal’s capital, Kathmandu, on Saturday.

Sixteen protesters secured themselves to each other with chains and padlocks at the Chinese embassy in the heart of Kathmandu, and were joined by dozens of other Tibetans who chanted ‘Free Tibet’ and ‘We want freedom.’

Police official Ramesh Thapa says 120 people were detained for defying a ban on demonstrations against China, Nepal’s neighbour to the north.

I don’t think it can be argued that arrests for that reason comply with an acknowledgement of human rights.    Evidently, it’s important to Nepal to mimic Chinese responses to peaceful protest.

I watch all of this with increasing frustration.  I am astonished by the courage of the Tibetan protesters, that they risk so much to bring to the world’s attention their grievances about the occupation of Tibet.  But I don’t believe that what they do will result in action that will change things.  That belief brings me despair.

All I have to offer on this Mothers’ Day is this Metta prayer:

   May all beings be well and safe, may they be at ease.

  Whatever living beings there may be, whether moving or standing still, without exception, whether large, great, middling, or small, whether tiny or substantial,

  Whether seen or unseen, whether living near or far,

  Born or unborn; may all beings be happy.

  Let none deceive or despise another anywhere. Let none wish harm to another, in anger or in hate.”

Just as a mother would guard her child, her only child, with her own life, even so let me cultivate a boundless mind for all beings in the world.

Let me cultivate a boundless love for all beings in the world, above, below, and across, unhindered, without ill will or enmity.

Standing, walking, seated, or lying down, free from torpor, let me as far as possible fix my attention on this recollection. This, they say, is the divine life right here.

May it be so.

Pony Party: Sunday music retrospective

Simon and Garfunkel I

Sound of Silence

Load more