Volume 3.40 (Sept 29-Oct 5)

Pick of the WeekHow American parenting is killing the American marriage (Danielle and Astro Teller, Quartz)– “Sometime between when we were children and when we had children of our own, parenthood became a religion in America. As with many religions, complete unthinking devotion is required from its practitioners. Nothing in life is allowed to be more important than our children, and we must never speak a disloyal word about our relationships with our offspring. Children always come first. We accept this premise so reflexively today that we forget that it was not always so.”

The Economy

Finally, the Truth about the AIG Bailout (Noam Scheiber, NYT)

This one chart shows how broken the US economy is (Matthew Yglesias, Vox) income gains distribution graph

Five things the Goldman tapes teach us about financial regulation (Nolan McCarthy, WaPo Monkey Cage)

The Big Picture

Inequality is killing American babies (Dylan Mathews, Vox)– “The authors find that there’s very little difference between the US (which has 6.17 infant deaths per 100,000), Finland (3.36), and Austria (4.16) when it comes to deaths in the first month (“neonatal deaths”). The differences come when you look at months two through twelve of an infant’s first year.  Then, the authors break down the mortality rates for each country by social standing. They find infants born to “mothers who are high education/occupation, married and white” in each country have basically identical mortality rates. American children of rich white moms who went to college do just as well as their Finnish counterparts. But there’s a BIG gap between less advantaged groups in each country. “Higher postneonatal mortality in the US,” the authors write, “is due entirely, or almost entirely, to high mortality among less advantaged groups”:”

Economic Inequality is Much Worst then Most Americans Believe (David Sirota, In These Times)– “In the report, Harvard University and Chulalongkorn University researchers analyzed survey data from 40 countries about perceptions of pay gaps between rich and poor. In every country, respondents underestimated the size of the gap between CEO and average worker pay. In the United States, for example, the researchers found the median American respondent estimated that the ratio of CEO to worker income is about 30-to-1. In reality, the gap is more than 350-to-1.  The study also found the median American respondent said the ideal pay gap is about 7-to-1—a lower ideal than respondents in many industrialized countries. Additionally, no major industrialized country has anywhere close to a 7-to-1 pay gap. That ratio is more than seven times lower than the actual gap in social democratic countries like Denmark and Sweden.”

Losing the birth lottery (Markus Bergstrom, WaPo)– “One could certainly argue that racial discrimination is worse than borderism because it excludes people from opportunities within their own countries. But how much worse? Many aspiring immigrants are born into nations where jobs are nonexistent, corruption is rife and indiscriminate violence plagues daily life. Being legally segregated into poverty and tyranny because of one’s ancestry is a cruel fate, regardless whether it’s because of race or citizenship.”

White people are more likely to deal drugs, but black people are more likely to get arrested for it (Christopher Ingraham, Wonkblog)


The left Democrat mirage (Lance Selfa, Socialist Worker)

Who are ‘We the People’? (Eric Lewis, NYT)– “Corporations (as well as unions) can spend on political speech to further their group interests as though they were individual political actors. Corporations can assert religious rights to gain legal exemptions from laws that would otherwise apply to them. Muslim detainees at Guantánamo Bay, however, have none of these rights.”

When sunshine doesn’t always disinfect the government (Jason Grumet, WaPo)– “The opposite of transparency is privacy, not corruption. Despite the scars of past scandals, we must recognize that there are moments in government where the imperative for deliberation trumps the imperative for access.  While clearly well-intended, the requirements of open meetings are ironically driving serious discussions further underground. On federal advisory committees created to address national crises such as the 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil spill or the 2008 financial crisis, for example, no more than two members could discuss substantive issues without advertising the meeting in the Federal Register and allowing the public to listen in. The result of such rules is not transparency but either a cumbersome sequence of two-person conversations, larger “informal” conversations that skirt the law or the avoidance of controversial issues.”

Americans have no idea how the government spends money (Christopher Ingraham, Wonkblog)


Why Rumors Outrace the Truth Online (Brendan Nyhan, The Upshot)


Contraception, News Coverage and Identifying Fringe Groups (Paul Waldman, The American Prospect)– “Which doesn’t mean they necessarily shouldn’t be quoted in an article like this one, but it does mean that they should be identified with a little more precision. Simply saying that the group “takes an abstinence-only position” isn’t enough, not by a long shot. It’s fair to say that almost no one who read this article would have heard of them, and just by reading it you might think they’re a direct competitor to the American Academy of Pediatrics. But they aren’t. They’re a group with a miniscule membership that was created to advance a socially conservative policy agenda. So in order to make readers understand, you have to say something about the group’s size relative to the organization that really represents pediatricians, and something about their raison d’etre. It isn’t hard—all that’s necessary would be, “…the American College of Pediatricians, a small group of doctors that advocates socially conservative positions on matters of marriage, sexuality, and contraception…” or something similar.  They would no doubt interpret that identification as belittling them, but it’s the truth. What they got instead was The New York Timesputting them nearly on par with the AAP, something they certainly don’t deserve.”

LGBT Issues

The best legal case for same-sex marriage could be children (German Lopez, Vox)– “Still, the courts have cited marriage’s benefits for children in previous same-sex marriages. Justice Anthony Kennedy, who’s widely expected to act as the deciding swing vote when the Supreme Court rules on marriage equality, cited the children of same-sex couples in his decision that struck down the federal ban on same-sex marriage. Kennedy wrote that stigmatizing same-sex marriage “humiliates tens of thousands of children now being raised by same-sex couples. The law in question makes it even more difficult for the children to understand the integrity and closeness of their own family and its concord with other families in their community and in their daily lives.”  Kennedy’s point is backed by some of the research into the issue. One study found the children of same-sex parents can be happier than the rest of the population. But another study concluded that prohibiting the children’s parents from getting married could actually inhibit their developmental outcomes.”


The myth of religious violence (Karen Armstrong, The Guardian)– “After a bumpy beginning, secularism has undoubtedly been valuable to the west, but we would be wrong to regard it as a universal law. It emerged as a particular and unique feature of the historical process in Europe; it was an evolutionary adaptation to a very specific set of circumstances. In a different environment, modernity may well take other forms. Many secular thinkers now regard “religion” as inherently belligerent and intolerant, and an irrational, backward and violent “other” to the peaceable and humane liberal state – an attitude with an unfortunate echo of the colonialist view of indigenous peoples as hopelessly “primitive”, mired in their benighted religious beliefs. There are consequences to our failure to understand that our secularism, and its understanding of the role of religion, is exceptional. When secularisation has been applied by force, it has provoked a fundamentalist reaction – and history shows that fundamentalist movements which come under attack invariably grow even more extreme. The fruits of this error are on display across the Middle East: when we look with horror upon the travesty of Isis, we would be wise to acknowledge that its barbaric violence may be, at least in part, the offspring of policies guided by our disdain.”


Want to reduce teen pregnancy and abortion? Start with long-term birth control (Jason Millman, Wonkblog)– “Teenage girls who were offered these types of contraceptives at no cost were significantly much more likely to use them, and they had substantially lower rates of pregnancy, birth and abortion when compared to U.S. teens, according to the study in the New England Journal of Medicine.  Just about 4.5 percent of U.S. teens between 15-19 report using long-acting contraceptive methods, which have a much lower fail rate under typical use (less than 1 percent) when compared to birth control pills (9 percent) and male condoms (18 percent), according to the CDC. The costs can be prohibitive, though. Without insurance, an IUD could cost more than $1,000 for a one-time insertion.  But removing financial and educational barriers to accessing these forms of birth control increased their usage, according to the NEJM study, which holds pretty major implications for the U.S. teen birth rate that — despite hitting record lows last year — is still 5.5 times higher than the rate in Western Europe and trails the rest of the developed world.”

The Best Birth Control Method for Your Teenage Daughter (Rebecca Leber, New Republic)


Growing Bold Mormon Daughters: The Impossibility of Emma Watson and Jacinda Ardern (Gina Colvin, KiwiMormon)– “Lets face it, the political consciousness and engagement required to make an impassioned speech to the UN on gender equality isn’t the object of Mormonism. Mormon young girls are socialized, under the direction of elderly men, to accept marriage and motherhood as the greatest expression of their feminine selves. The extensive curriculum material that our Mormon young are exposed to does not currently place an emphasis on the development of a social justice mind set, nor does it encourage our girls to bring an end to their relative powerlessness.    Rather they are socialized to accept their powerlessness in a patriarchal system, and to be unconscious of class, race and gender inequalities.  Even if you argue that its not the role of church to produce such young women, I can’t help but think that her church experience might at some stage be an impediment to the development of an expansive and thoughtful politically engaged mind.  There would have been a great deal of religious impedimenta for the Mormon Emma Watson to sift and sort through in order to craft an insightful personal narrative that calls attention to inequitable highly gendered systems that privilege patriarchies. Perhaps I might have been able to raise her awareness but eventually she would have had to battle with the religious discourses that so overwhelmingly seek to shape the paradigms and frameworks through which she sees and makes sense of the world. That’s no easy task in the face of the plentiful resources that are deployed in order constitute the ideal Mormon woman of the Mormon Brethren’s imagination.”

Changing our General Conference Scorecards (Joanna Brooks, Feminist Mormon Housewives)– “But representation can’t be the only thing that matters when we watch General Conference. It can’t be the only thing on our Mormon feminist scorecards.  As a Mormon feminist, I want a feminist movement that’s about more than changing the score in the game of representation. I want a much bigger agenda, a bigger scorecard, a scorecard on how well we’re doing in this religious movement that is supposed to be about getting everyone safely to Zion.”

Attacking the Family (Sam Brunson, By Common Consent)– “Unless we want to argue (and I certainly don’t) that the wealthy are more moral than the poor, and the highly-educated more moral than the less-educated, the numbers don’t permit us to tell a story based purely on moral failing.[fn4] Instead, it forces us to tell a socioeconomic story.”


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