August 08, 2014

Juvenile (in)justice

In case you missed it, here's my op-ed on the need for juvenile justice reform in today's Gazette.

MR. MOJO RISIN'. I have often been asked by out of state friends about WV Senator Joe Manchin. I usually say that some days are better than others (that's something the Spousal Unit frequently says of me). I'd  say that this was one of his good days. In a speech to Marine veterans, Manchin called for a cutback in US military adventures overseas.

INEQUALITY. What a drag.


August 07, 2014

The lottery of birth

You can say a lot of things about gambling but the biggest roll of the dice we take is one in which we don't get a conscious vote, i.e. the family into which we are born. Here's an interesting article from The Economist about just that. It features some affluent parents in the DC suburbs and some not so affluent parents in southern West Virginia. It also highlights a home visiting program that is doing great stuff here.

A lot of research shows that the first 33 months of life are crucial and this is a sweet spot for intervention to promote the good and ward off the bad.

Home visiting, aka in home early childhood education, is a major issue in West Virginia. For the last year ago, we've fought and mostly won struggles to preserve funding for these programs. The next big fight will be to push for universal eligibility for voluntary participation in these programs.

(I also learned a new term--for me anyway--from the article: helicopter parents. These are those who hover so much over their kids that the kids hardly have a chance to develop on their own.)

More on the birth lottery here.

August 06, 2014

Who'd a thunk it?

This is a bit of a surprise. The New York Times recently reported that the business group Standard & Poor's recently released a report arguing that inequality in the US is threatening economic growth.

According to the Times,

The fact that S.&P., an apolitical organization that aims to produce reliable research for bond investors and others, is raising alarms about the risks that emerge from income inequality is a small but important sign of how a debate that has been largely confined to the academic world and left-of-center political sources is becoming more mainstream.

The full report is here. I like the last lines:

The challenge now is to find a path toward more sustainable growth, an essential part of which, in our view, is pulling more Americans out of poverty and bolstering the purchasing power of the middle class. A rising tide lifts all boats...but a lifeboat carrying a few, surrounded by many treading water, risks capsizing.

August 05, 2014

Annals of Whack

Here's a look at five of the most bizarre conspiracy theories floating around out there. My personal favorite is the one where the Obama administration is stockpiling 30,000 guillotines. Holy Madame Defarge, Batman! I'm a little disappointed that an evil alien/Obama cabal didn't make the list.

ON A MORE RATIONAL NOTE, one place in India has hired human "monkey mimics" to control the behavior of pesky primates. It occurs to me that at some point, monkeys might be hired to control the behavior of pesky humans...

IT'S WORKING, CONTINUED. Here's a look at how the Affordable Care Act, aka Obamacare, is working in places where it is allowed to.


August 04, 2014

Different worlds

West Virginia is a fairly small state, but sectional differences between north, south, east and west are huge. I can't think of a better illustration of this fact than these two recent news items. The first describes hard times in coal country while the second describes an alternate universe in the state's eastern panhandle. Changes in both places, along with the gas boom in the north, make for a volatile political mix.

GOOD LUCK. Being poor means, among other things, that one can't afford to have any bad luck, which is unfortunate since most of us do at some point. Here's a little look at what that means in the context of the minimum wage.

GOOD POLICY. Here's an item on subsidized jobs, an idea that seems to have bipartisan support. There were some innovative jobs programs as part of the Recovery Act, but most shriveled up when the funding dried up.