LAW | CIVIL RIGHTS
Ezra Klein | Wonkblog | The Washington Post
It turns out Scalia’s comment was wronger than I thought — and wrong in a way that Scalia, in particular, should have known.
Antonin Scalia thinks that the idea that gay couples might adopt children is an argument against gay marriage. It relied, remember, on the idea that sociologists are, in some significant way, split on this question. That’s not what the American Sociological Association thinks. Here’s its official statement on the matter:
The claim that same-sex parents produce less positive child outcomes than opposite-sex parents—either because such families lack both a male and female parent or because both parents are not the biological parents of their children—contradicts abundant social science research. . . .
Pretty definitive. And here’s the punchline: That paragraph isn’t buried in a press release on its blog or in an editorial from its trade magazine. It’s from the amicus curiae brief that the ASA filed in the very case Scalia was commenting on.
Dylan Matthews | Wonkblog | The Washington Post
It certainly seems like the four Democrats – Ginsburg, Breyer, Sotomayor and Kagan – will vote against DOMA under any theory that will get them a majority. The Democrats would probably prefer a straight-up ruling that DOMA violates the rights of gay people to equal protection, under the Fourteenth Amendment.
Curiously, Kennedy did not say a word about DOMA and the fourteenth amendment. This is odd because he is the author of the two most important gay rights decisions in the court’s history – Lawrence and Romer, both decided under the fourteenth amendment. But Kennedy did express several times that he thought DOMA infringed on states’ rights, another pet issue of his. The Democrats would surely join him in this approach if that’s what it took to overrule DOMA.
WAR AND PEACE
James Fallows | The Atlantic
The Iraq and Afghanistan conflicts, taken together, will be the most expensive wars in US history – totaling somewhere between $4 to $6 trillion.
. . . a surprisingly large fraction of the long-term costs comes from the disability payments and medical obligations to people who served. People who were 18 or 20 years old when the war began, and who were injured or disabled (but survived), may need public help until very late in this century.
Bradford Delong | Project Syndicate
In fact, the losses from what I have been calling the “Lesser Depression” will almost certainly not be over in 2017. There is no moral equivalent of war on the horizon to pull the US into a mighty boom and erase the shadow cast by the downturn; and when I take present values and project the US economy’s lower-trend growth into the future, I cannot reckon the present value of the additional loss at less than a further 100% of a year’s output today – for a total cost of 1.6 years of GDP. The damage is thus almost equal to that of the Great Depression – and equally painful, even though America’s real GDP today is 12 times higher than it was in 1929.
. . . Nevertheless, my conclusion is that I should stop calling the current episode the Lesser Depression. Yes, its shape is different from that of the Great Depression; but, so far at least, there is no reason to rank it any lower in the hierarchy of macroeconomic disasters.
. . . A majority of the Fed’s governors believes that aggressive monetary expansion has reached, if not exceeded, the bounds of prudence. A majority in the US Congress is taking its cues from “Theodoric of York, Medieval Barber” (a staple of the US comedy show Saturday Night Live in the 1970’s). It believes that what America’s infirm economy needs is another good bleeding in the form of more rigorous austerity.
As Oscar Wilde’s Lady Bracknell says in The Importance of Being Earnest: “To lose one parent…may be regarded as a misfortune. To lose both looks like carelessness.” It was America’s misfortune to undergo one disaster of the Great Depression’s scale; to undergo two does indeed look like carelessness.
Paul Krugman | Conscience of a Liberal | The New York Times
In the 30s there was a very severe initial slump, but a strong recovery after 1933 as one country after another went off gold and adopted reflationary policies. This time around, the initial slump wasn’t so bad, but recovery was hobbled by austerity policies, especially in countries on the euro, and has now stalled out completely. So Europe in 2013 is doing barely better than Europe in 1935 — and all indications are that by next year recovery will be lagging behind what was achieved in the Great Depression.
Matthew Yglesias | Moneybox | Slate
the structures are depreciating assets, it’s the land that appreciates, and the land that you own will appreciate faster if it’s upzoned. So why do we have NIMBYs anyway? One reason is that people care about things other than money. People wouldn’t live in nice houses in the first place if they didn’t care about things other than money! The people who’ve chosen to live in a given neighborhood are self-selected to like it the way it is, and thus are biased against change for non-pecuniary reasons. From a purely financial perspective you can just relocate, but in real life that’s much more annoying than just driving your mobile home across town. But a second reason is that people genuinely misunderstand this. In rural areas, people do talk about buying and selling land and buying and selling structures as separate issues. But in urban and suburban areas, people generally just talk about “house prices” or “housing costs” and lump it all together. But if you take a block of expensive rowhouses and upzone it for 10-floor condos then the value of the rowhouses should go up even if the price of dwellings falls.
philosophy | science | religion
Austin Considine | Vice
Five million dollars is a hefty grant for any academic to receive, let alone a philosopher. And yet that’s exactly what UC Riverside philosophy professor John Martin Fischer received last year for a project that will involve dozens of scientists, philosophers, and theologians from around the world to examine a subject that is probably unknowable: immortality.
With a subject as ephemeral and amorphous as immortality, one wonders what answers we can reasonably expect for the $5 million price tag. Fischer doesn’t propose to determine whether god exists (he is, himself, a non-believer) or heaven is real. But there’s plenty to work with. Human immortality is a broad subject. It is science and religion. It is futurism and conservatism. It comprises biology, cybernetics, philosophy, theology, cosmology, and quantum physics.
The scope of The Immortality Project reflects that boundlessness.
AID | DEVELOPMENT
Jacquelline Fuller | Harvard Business Review
Since launching in Kenya, GiveDirectly continues to evaluate its approach with randomized control trials. They use a lottery system similar to medical trials and compare developmental outcomes of households who have received funding against those who haven’t. Their rigorous data shows that no-strings-attached cash transfers improve health and downstream financial gains. They also use this data to refine their model, and make it available on their website.
Recipients, who are often living on less than 65 cents a day, invest in everything from food for starving children to long-term assets, including land, livestock and housing. The data fights conventional wisdom: Money spent on alcohol and cigarettes either decreases, stays constant or increases in the same proportion as total other expenses (approximately 2% to 3%).
. . . Investments in common goods such as roads, schools and wells are critical in helping people out of poverty. But GiveDirectly has a new concept: What if cash transfers are used as a standard benchmark against which to measure all development aid? What if every nonprofit that focused on poverty alleviation had to prove they could do more for the poor with a dollar than the poor could do for themselves?
In this world, cash transfers could play a role like index funds play for private investors: They could be a sizeable share of your philanthropic portfolio and a benchmark used to evaluate more expensive, “actively managed” investments. We’d learn more about which programs need additional funding and which are falling below the “direct to the poor” mark.
WORK | CULTURE
Joan C. Williams and Rachel W. Dempsey | Harvard Business Review
In the aftermath of the publication of Sheryl Sandberg’s Lean In, two things are becoming clear. One: we are in the midst of a powerful new feminist movement. And two: the backlash has already begun.
Led by high-powered women like Sandberg and Princeton professor Anne-Marie Slaughter, a new wave of executive feminism has emerged aimed squarely at the highest levels of the professional world.
FOOD | NUTRITION | HEALTH
Michael Ruhlman | Ruhlman.com
What America has is a living problem. America seems to think that the answer to how to eat can be found on the news, from studies, from your doctor (who’s reading the same reports you are and following the same party line now being contradicted by that “small body of unsettling data”), not even from your mayor.
The data that matters to me is the data I receive after I’ve finished eating something. Do I feel good after eating a roast chicken with gravy and mashed potatoes and a pile of shaved sautéed Brussels sprouts? Yes. How about after I eat a bag of Cheetos? Not so good. What does that mean? Think about it. Think. Do you feel good after you exercise? Yes, because it’s good for you. Or you can hunt for data on the Internets if you want The Truth. Go ahead, read up on it. Or watch all the “a new study finds” stories on the ABC Nightly News.
Part of the problem is our obsession with longevity rather than quality of life. Why can’t we become obsessed with good rather than long? Sure I’d prefer 90 healthy years to 75 healthy years. But do I want 75 healthy years followed by 5 years of mental and physical decline, followed by 10 years of increasing dementia that puts a strain on my family?
Elli Vuorinen | Vimeo
Wooden knocks are echoing in a frozen landscape when a lonesome man is searching for a tongueling of his own.
GoodBye Horses is a 2009 installation by artist Sandrine Pelletier at galerie Rosa Turetsky. The three galloping horses were created using suspended wool coated in black latex and tar, resulting in a stark contrast between the chaotic lines of the figures against the white gallery walls. From some angles the horses are unrecognizable, but even when brought into focus appear to be haphazard, almost violent illustrations.
Joe Mitchell | Stereo Subversion | 6 May 2010
Doubtless, if Mary Shelley, Percy Bysshe Shelley, Dr. Polidori, and Lord Byron were to reunite for their dark summer of 1816 on Lake Geneva, Rasputina could well be the house band. However, I think Rasputina would politely decline the invitation. They have their own scene to make.