Monday, May 31, 2004

Blog Studies

I wasn't going to post today. Not only is it a holiday, but it's our 7 year anniversary, and I didn't want to be like that loser who blogged in the bathroom during his anniversary. But here I am posting. Why? Because I'm a loser.

There are now three blog studies currently underway. One by Dan Drezner, one by Eszter Hargittai, and one by myself and my co-author, Toni.

Dan's and Eszter's papers relate to blogging and the media. Ours is on blogging and political participation. We've got a short, sweet survey completed, and ready to be sent out next week. More later on the paper itself.

But like Eszter, I've been having some difficulties coming up with a list of the top 50 political blogs. For us, the actual order of the 50 is not important, just that we don't miss any of the biggies.

The Truth Laid Bear has a list of the bloggers with the most links and a list of the bloggers with the most hits. But links doesn't always translate into hits. And their hit list only includes those who use sitemeter. The Technorati list includes too many items that aren't really blogs.

Also, sometimes it is difficult to decide who is a political blogger and who isn't. For example, is Lileks a personal blogger or a political blogger?

The group blogs are also causing us some difficulty.

I've been using the ecosystem of the Truth Laid Bear and weeding out all the obvious non-political blogs, like Blogshares and the mormon web ring. The survey will have a filter question that will double check that the blogger considers his/her blog to be political. Now, I'm thinking about crosschecking the list with Technorati to double check that we're including the most important. Any other suggestions?


Friday, May 28, 2004

A Final Post Before the Weekend

Please say a prayer for Sarah Fox and her family. Sarah was a local girl and young Juillard student, brutally killed in Inwood Park on a path that my husband and boys regularly walk upon. When she disapperared last week, her family plastered her picture on every pole and store front. Many of these pictures are now decorated with hearts and crosses. I am sad beyond words.

More on Teachers

Go join the good discussion of teachers and education reform at Crooked Timber. I just wanted to add a few more points here.

1. I never said that we shouldn’t pay teachers better, I just think that money alone won’t bring the best people into the profession.

After I got my Masters from the Univ. of Chicago, I took a couple of years off from grad school and tried desperately to get a job teaching. The obstacles were enormous — paperwork, union regulations, redundant education course requirements, the incompetent Board of Education. I eventually got a job, through a connection, teaching special education in the South Bronx. Did it for two years until ambition pushed me back to graduate school.

Sure, teachers should be paid better, but other measures (and perhaps costly measures) have to put in place, as well, to really attract the best.

2. As Harry said, school leadership is also one essential element in improving schools. Some say that this is the decisive factor. Problem is that the education leadership programs suck just as badly as the teaching programs.

3. Also as Harry said, being a good teacher is dependent on one's qualities. Not everybody can teach. It's a talent that some have and some don't. Just because "every child can learn" doesn't mean that every grown up can teach. Those who can't should be encouraged to find another line of work. And those that burn out, should be transitioned into administration or other careers entirely.

4. Gary sent me this great quote from Thomas Sowell:

Who could be against "higher standards"? Only someone who knows what that pious phrase really means. What are called "higher standards" are arbitrary restrictions that keep out potential competitors for the jobs of existing school teachers. Since educators are drawn disproportionately from the bottom half of college students, it is not hard to find better people to put into the nation's classrooms. That is why teachers' unions and the education establishment in general are so determined that only people who have been through education schools and departments be hired. Education credentials are barriers to protect existing teachers' jobs from competition. Such credentials have no demonstrable relationship to the ability to teach. To sell all this to the public, requiring meaningless credentials is equated with "higher standards" for teacher hiring.

Gary also mentioned a book by John Gatto, "Underground History of American Education." I'm unfamiliar with this book, but I thought I would pass along the info.

5. It might be politically stupid to point out that money isn't everything. This sentiment could fuel those who want to end public education entirely. Perhaps. But it's the truth.

What I think would be politically strategic if changes were made in the culture and the operation of teaching in exchange for higher salaries.


Thursday, May 27, 2004

Attracting Good Teachers

Michael Winerip writes in the Times that the two most important characteristics of good schools are small class size and good teachers, both of which require additional funding to achieve.

The secret to quality public education has never been a big mystery. You need good teachers and you need small enough classes so those teachers can do their work. Period. After that, everything seems to pale, including the testing accountability programs, technology, building conditions. Even curriculum seems secondary, as our best public colleges demonstrate. We have West Point and we have Berkeley, and the question isn't which has the correct curriculum; the question is which curriculum is the best fit for the student and teacher.

I'm not going to get into small class size today. There are contradicting studies out there, and I'm not sure who to believe. But I do think that a good teacher can handle a class of 22, as easily as a class of 17. If you have a finite amount of dollars, then concentrate on the teachers, rather than on class size.

If we had infinite amount of dollars, then I would also work on job programs for poor areas, on parenting classes, on adult education, and complete overhaul of some neighborhoods.

There's no question that having good teacher are important, unless one is entirely reliant on computer aided instruction. So how do we attract better teachers? I guess money wouldn't hurt, but I think that there has to be other changes in place to get that Harvard grad to chose to teach.

Money ain't everything. Look at the lines of smart people applying to graduate schools. Professors make about the same as high school teachers. In some cases around here, the teacher do better. And they aren't burdened by publishing responsibilities, student loans, and tenure pressures. Smart people can flock to a career for other reasons than a paycheck.

Make it harder to become a teacher. A recent study by David Steiner showed that ed schools are a joke [more from Eduwonk]. Make these schools more rigorous or just shut them down. Teachers could go through traditional departments and then learn teaching tricks with a mentoring year at a school. Toss the teachers exams and rely on the GREs.

Professionalize. Teachers need to act more like white collar workers than blue collar workers. They ought to not punch a clock, but work overtime for free if needed. They should be paid according to their effort and ability, just as any other career. Bad teachers should be quickly fired. Of course, the teachers unions hate these proposals.

Make it easier to become a teacher. NYC has a great program that helps other professionals transition into teaching. This program needs to be greatly expanded. I would like there to be more outreach to graduate students. I want it easier for smart people to become teachers, and harder for the dumb to become teachers.

Incentives. Student loan forgiveness programs or subsidized housing are two ideas.

Advertise. People need to know that this is a job that is in sync with your kid's schedule, that gives you three months of vacation a year, and that doesn't have the pressure and stress of being a lawyer or a doctor. Oh, and you can make a difference in a kid's life. That, too.

Good teachers are important, but pay raises alone will not bring the best and the brightest.

UPDATE: More discussion on this post at Crooked Timber, curtesy of Harry.


Wednesday, May 26, 2004

Step Away From the Blog

To celebrate four years of marriage, Richard Wiggins and his wife, Judy Matthews, recently spent a week in Key West, Fla. Early on the morning of their anniversary, Ms. Matthews heard her husband get up and go into the bathroom. He stayed there for a long time.

"I didn't hear any water running, so I wondered what was going on," Ms. Matthews said. When she knocked on the door, she found him seated with his laptop balanced on his knees, typing into his Web log, a collection of observations about the technical world, over a wireless link.

Really, honey, I don't have a problem. I can stop at any time. Blogging never interferes with my work. Really.

As we wave good-bye with one hand, we say hello with the other.

Via Dan Drezner, I came across Jon Stewart's address to William & Mary's class of 2004. Dan pulled out this bit:

I am honored to be here and to receive this honorary doctorate. When I think back to the people that have been in this position before me from Benjamin Franklin to Queen Noor of Jordan, I can’t help but wonder what has happened to this place. Seriously, it saddens me. As a person, I am honored to get it; as an alumnus, I have to say I believe we can do better. And I believe we should. But it has always been a dream of mine to receive a doctorate and to know that today, without putting in any effort, I will. It’s incredibly gratifying. Thank you. That’s very nice of you, I appreciate it.

I’m sure my fellow doctoral graduates—who have spent so long toiling in academia, sinking into debt, sacrificing God knows how many years of what, in truth, is a piece of parchment that in truth has been so devalued by our instant gratification culture as to have been rendered meaningless—will join in congratulating me. Thank you.

What Jon Stewart didn't know was that after receiving his honorary PhD, the Comedy Channel cut his salary to $45,000 a year, transferred him out of New York City to a small rural town in the Midwest, and forced him to grade 150 essays on "How a Bill Becomes a Law."


Tuesday, May 25, 2004

Tuesday is Reader Mail Day!

I received lots of great mail last week mostly congratulating us on becoming home owners. In fact, I still owe many responses.

Here's a completely different, but honest e-mail from C.

I must say that reading your blog periodically has convinced me of something: having kids is unaffordable, and largely not worth the hassle. I suspected this all along -- just ask the several ex gf's with whom I broke up over this issue -- but reading your accounts has convinced me that I was right. The amount of money involved alone is enough to put me off -- besides, I'd rather have whatever money I make for myself rather than have to shell out for whatever the kid(s) need(s). Is that selfish? Probably, but so what.

That's me. Just one big bloggy prophylactic. I'm going to have write more cute kid stories and balance things out. Don't want to diminish the population anymore.

Forever Unprepared

Do you remember those teenage nightmares about showing up to school unprepared for the big Trig exam? You mean the test was today? I thought it was next week.

Well, one of the bad things about being an academic is that you never stop having those dreams.

Last week, I dreamt that my co-presenter and I both showed up to the political science conference without our notes. We both had no clue what to say as we stood before a packed room of political scientists. And George Clooney. Yes, in my dream George Clooney had a deep and abiding interest in internet politics, and was very disappointed to learn that I am a complete dolt.

Got to stop watching ER reruns on TNT before bed.

Read This

A great op-ed by David Brooks. Bush believes that democracy is the only cure for the violence in Iraq. What happens if liberty fails?

It's a huge gamble to think that the solution to chaos is liberty. But it's fitting that during the gravest crisis of his presidency, President Bush reverted to his most fundamental political belief. He began this war in Iraq repeating the sentiment embodied in the Declaration of Independence, that our creator has endowed all human beings with the right to liberty, and the ability to function as democratic citizens. He said last night with absolute confidence that the Iraqis are democrats at heart.

Bush is betting his presidency, and the near-term future of this nation, on that central American creed.

It's an epic gamble. Because, let's face it, we don't know whether all people really do want to live in freedom. We don't know whether Iraqis have any notion of what democratic citizenship really means. We don't know whether they hear words like freedom, liberty and pluralism as deadly insults to the way of life they hold dear. We don't know who our enemies are. Are they the small minority of Baathists and jihadists, or is there a little bit of Moktada al-Sadr in every Iraqi's breast?

Carter or Clinton?

I've started letting friends from the neighborhood know that we're moving. It's tough.

We'll be leaving behind kids that grew up with my kids. The big extended family of the playground. Some families we'll probably never see again, though I'm sure that there will be many trips across the GW bridge to visit a few of the closest families.

The hardest part is telling the parents who are going to send their kids to the local public school. There will be one less middle class kid in the school. I feel like I'm letting down the cause.

I do very much believe in pubic schools and was very committed to the idea of working with the other parents to improve the schools for everyone. I believe in schools that have a diversity of children. I believe that high parental involvement can make average schools better. Without us, the remaining families will have one less advocate in their corner.

But is it right to compromise your kid's future for your politics? Is it better to be Jimmy Carter or Bill Clinton?

Both Carter and Clinton were very vocal supporters of public education and close allies of the teachers unions. Both opposed school vouchers. Carter sent Amy to an average DC public school; his politics aligned with his life. Clinton sent Chelsea to a private school. Public schools were good enough for others, but not for his kid. He didn't want to sacrifice her education for his politics. Carter probably did the wrong thing for Amy, but was consistent. Clinton did the right thing for Chelsea, but was a hypocrite.

We're moving to a town with excellent schools. We're exercising a choice by moving; not everyone can afford to make that choice. Other friends are sending their kids to fancy private schools; only a small number of people can make that choice. The middle class and the rich have a choice in schools.

It is perfectly understandable that Clinton wanted to do the right thing for Chelsea. One should always put your kids above abstract political principles. Having kids really forces you to be accountable to your politics. A childless person might say absolutely that others ought to make the best of bad schools in the name of diversity, but when it's your little kid's future at stake, these decisions take on new significance.

If you exercise a choice, and move to the suburbs or go to Dalton, then you have to help others have a similar choice. To avoid being a hypocrite, you have to adjust your politics to reflect your life. You can't send your kid to Dalton and oppose school vouchers for the poor. You have to support school choice for everyone.

UPDATE: Russell Arben Fox has been wrestling with the issue of principles and his child's education. Comments by Jay and Erika.


Monday, May 24, 2004

Illness and Inspection

Just a quick update on life around here. Longer post tonight.

We've all been so sick this past week. We've passed around the same sinus infection. Last night was Ian's turn. He cranked up a high fever and rolled around our bed for hours trying to get comfortable. The only one mysteriously immune is Jonah, who is impatient with his forced captivity in the sick ward.

We had the housing inspection on Saturday morning. Glenn, the enthusiastic inspector, walked around with meters and dials cheerfully seeking out mold, rot, and bugs and dispensing hours of advice on sanding floors, maintaining a dry basement, and trimming vines. He chuckled at the bizarre decorating choices of the previous owners. Steve followed him around with a notebook scribbling down every word of wisdom from Glenn. Glenn seemed to like that.

The good news is that there is nothing wrong with the place. Nothing, but the bizarre decorating choices. A heavy sigh of relief.

We're so looking forward to getting into the new place. We don't feel like doing a thing in the apartment. Dusting and vacuuming. Why bother? And all of the inconveniences of life in the city are more stark. We're ready to go.


Friday, May 21, 2004

Read This

More on raising kids in the city v. suburbs. Claudia speaks in praise of backyards.

Did it shock you that women were participants in the prison abuses in Abu Ghraib? It did Barbara Ehrenreich who thought that women were morally superior to men. She and other feminists of her generation believed that gender equality was the only important fight, because once women assumed positions of power, the world would become a magical place. Now she knows that she was wrong.

What we have learned from Abu Ghraib, once and for all, is that a uterus is not a substitute for a conscience. This doesn't mean gender equality isn't worth fighting for for its own sake. It is. If we believe in democracy, then we believe in a woman's right to do and achieve whatever men can do and achieve, even the bad things. It's just that gender equality cannot, all alone, bring about a just and peaceful world.

Talk amongst yourselves.

Fresh Fish

Stanley Fish gives some parting advice as he exits the Ivory Tower. He says that universities should not teach moral character.

In other words, don't confuse your academic obligations with the obligation to save the world; that's not your job as an academic; and don't surrender your academic obligations to the agenda of any non-academic constituency — parents, legislators, trustees or donors. In short, don't cross the boundary between academic work and partisan advocacy, whether the advocacy is yours or someone else's.

I'm confused. I thought his big gripe was that he didn't think he should be accountable to parents and legislators, even though they paid his salary. Legislatures and parents were just calling for checks on run away spending, and not asking for bible classes or anything. Odd.

Geezers in the Mosh Pit

My friends are starting to 40. I'm not quite there myself, but I'm still close enough to smell it.

That's why I loved this Op-Ed by Nick Hornby, the author of High Fidelity.

It's hard not to think about one's age and how it relates to rock music. I just turned 47, and with each passing year it becomes harder not to wonder whether I should be listening to something that is still thought of as more age appropriate — jazz, folk, classical, opera, funeral marches, the usual suspects....

Youth is a quality not unlike health: it's found in greater abundance among the young, but we all need access to it. (And not all young people are lucky enough to be young. Think of those people at your college who wanted to be politicians or corporate lawyers, for example.) I'm not talking about the accouterments of youth: the unlined faces, the washboard stomachs, the hair. The young are welcome to all that — what would we do with it anyway? I'm talking about the energy, the wistful yearning, the inexplicable exhilaration, the sporadic sense of invincibility, the hope that stings like chlorine. When I was younger, rock music articulated these feelings, and now that I'm older it stimulates them, but either way, rock 'n' roll was and remains necessary because: who doesn't need exhilaration and a sense of invincibility, even if it's only now and again?

He goes on about how music needs to find a middle road in between Britney Spears and alternative groups like Wilco.

A fine bit of writing.


Thursday, May 20, 2004

Reader Mail Day!

Usually reserved for Tuesday, but we're having an odd week here at Apt. 11D.

Last week, I wrote about our adventures in central Pennsylvania, aka "Alabama." Teep gives me a first hand account of the changes in the region,

We've seen a lot of retirees from the DC/Baltimore metro area and that's pushed house prices up beyond what folks locally can afford... the median income for people where I live is 30k a year... For people living on 30K a year, a quarter of a million dollar house is a bit out of reach.

The kids have left for the city and the parents subdivide the place (most local farms are between 40 and 120 acres) and sell off the 2 or 3 acre 'farmettes' to retirees at prices that local folks can't afford. It's depressing as hell, but when the farmer parents could get maybe 200k for the whole place sold as a lot and they can easily get twice that if they subdivide it for residential use... it's asking a lot for them to choose between a comfortable retirement and the preservation of the family farm, y'know?

What I failed to write in that post, was how beautiful the whole area was. We had a great time taking little adventures off the highway. The kids waded in the Delaware water gap, we explored Nescopek state park, and took a long detour on Route 45. You sure have nested in wonderful part of the country. I hope that the retirees don't ruin things for the locals.

Read This

Unfair divorce settlements helps explain the growing gender gap. Two economists from Columbia argue that the decline in marriage has tended to make men richer and women poorer, they find that states with rising divorce rates have seen a decline in support for Democrats among men and a marked rise in such support among women. The data also show that women become more likely to vote Democratic after a divorce and less likely after marriage. (via Apartment 401)

Jay explains that suburbs are a better deal than trendy urban neighborhoods.

I guess I've disappointed some readers by bailing out of the city. Mental Multivitamin has no problem with her three kids in Chicago. Well, Chicago ain't New York City. Try finding a space big enough for a minivan in NYC and then parallel park. And there are no apartments with backyards in Manhattan. Perhaps a roof garden, if you're Donald Trump. Try finding an affordable apartment in the Lower East Side.

Just because one lives in a city, it doesn't mean that you're interesting, hip, or progressive. There are just as many racist bores in the city, as there are in the suburbs. [That's me over reacting to a stray comment on another blog. I haven't moved to the suburbs, yet, and I'm already defensive.]


Wednesday, May 19, 2004

Raising Kids in the City and the Suburbs Or Why the Middle Class Leaves the City

Apartment 401 and Matthew Yglesias say that city kids grow up just fine, if not better, than kids in the suburbs.

Maybe. But it takes a lot of money and parental energy.

Education. Let's take Dalton off the table. It costs $26,000 per year. So, now we're limited to parochial schools and public schools. The only good parochial schools are on the east side of Manhattan - 1-1/2 hour commute. The local public school is okay until third grade and then we're dealing with a 40 minute commute downtown. That's back and forth for me and Ian - 4 hours on the subway.

Pre-K, daycare, babysitters. Double the price in the city.

Diapers, formula, milk. Double the price in the city.

Outdoors. Kids like to be outside. Try carrying a bike, a stroller, and a three year old down four flights of stairs. If the baby needs a nap, then no one goes outside. If one kid is sick, then no one goes outside.

Activities. My kid loves soccer and swimming. There's nothing like that in our neighborhood, so take the subway again for 40 minutes and pay primo dollars.

The Car. To make runs to Target to get the cheaper diapers, one needs a car. Grandparents demand visits; need a car. A parking space costs $300 per month. No parking space means $300 in parking tickets and guys sitting on the hood.

Chores. One really needs a dish and clothing washer with kids. Lots of older NYC apartments, like ours, do not permit this equipment. I spend at least an hour a day hand washing dishes. I spend 1-1/2 hours picking up my kid from pre-school. What could I be doing with that time?

More than one. Admittedly, things became really annoying after I had a second kid. One kid is doable in the city; two kids makes it much more tough.

Kids do grow up just fine in the city. There is a lot of great things for them here -- diversity, energy, culture. But it helps if you can afford a million dollar apartment in the right neighborhood and hire help to do some of the shlepping. We're not moving for the space or even safety. We're moving because I'm sick of the expense, subway schlepping and all the stairs. I'm moving to make my life better.

We're moving to an older suburb with small pieces of property and sidewalks. The downtown is around the corner. I am hoping that we still come into the city once a week.


I went and got myself ferociously sick. Three days of no sleep will do that to you.

Partially, I'm very excited. We really did luck into a beaut of place. Maybe the railroad tracks at the end of the block scared others away. Hey, in my family, trains are a selling point.

It an old 1910 Arts and Crafts style home - a Four Square. I've been fanticizing about ripping out the carpet and fake wood paneling, and returning it to its former glory.

We never expected to buy a home that we actually liked, because of the high prices tags. Luck and trains were on our side.

Stress has certainly kept me from sleeping, also. As, Dan said, this is a giant hurdle, maybe the biggest, on the way to becoming a grownup. So far, so good. The owner signed the papers. The lawyers should be done on Friday. On Saturday, there will be the inspection.

Why is buying a home so stressful? The house will suck up every cent that we have, plus some from the parents, and every spare cent in the near future. It's difficult to make a budget, since we don't have a good idea of all the expenses of living in the suburbs. We could be eating a lot of mac n' cheese for the first few months. I'm also worried that after the housing bubble bursts, we'll never recoup our expenses. I'm worried that the inspectors will find something leaking, sputtering, or crawling.

And it is going to mean a huge change in life style for us. I've lived in the city for 15 years and grown used to slouching in coffee shops, wading through crowds, and copping attitude with punks. Things will be different. We might sublet our rent controlled apartment for a year or two, just in case the suburban experience goes terribly wrong.

But, I'm sure that moving is the right thing to do. I just have to convince my body of that fact. My lungs and sinuses are having a wide scale rebellion right now.


Tuesday, May 18, 2004

An evil virus has taken advantage of my stress and insomnia. I am limping about unable to form a coherent post.

Thanks to everyone for their support and advice. Especially Dan Drezner and Brad deLong. More later when my head clears.


Sunday, May 16, 2004

The Money Trap

My stomach is in knots. I fear that I might blow chunks at any minute. My brain can not hold a thought for more than a nano-second.

I think we bought a house.

Last week, after we got back from our week of tromping through the woods of PA and tossing a ball effortlessly in my in-laws backyard, I felt sure that we had to leave the city. I suddenly knew that it was the right thing for the kids. We can't afford an apartment right next to Central Park or a fancy private education. The four flights of stairs with the stroller and diaper bag have become onerous. It is too expensive to move within the city to a better apartment. We really have no other choice. We'll miss the city terribly -- the community life and the museums. But finally, FINALLY, the pros outweigh the cons. We have to move right away and make some compromises.

To find new possibilities, I made a chart of all the towns in the area. With a column for schools and a column for commute time. (Feel free to mock me now.) And I narrowed it down to Hillsdale, New Jersey, which seemed to have both. The house? We didn't care. Any shack would do.

We made an appointment with the real estate agent for Saturday who promised us three good options.

On Saturday morning, I got calls from all my friends. The NY Times real estate section had just written a cover article about the town highlighting what I just found out. Good schools and a short commute. Argh! The two-income hordes would descend with open checkbooks and push us out again.

We raced over to the newly exposed town and put a bid on house #3. It is a big old home. With good bones, like lots of oak trim and a front porch. But it has suffered from neglect and a bad divorce. We're going to have to do lots of work with sledge hammers and paint brushes, if everything works out.

There is a lot that will just have to remain undone for years. Like putting in a proper stove and a new kitchen cabinets. And questions will have to remain unanswered until we can afford the answers. Like what do you suppose is under that drop ceiling? And why did they put a coat closet in front of a window. Is there wood under the lineoleum? Will the boiler make it through another winter?

In the meantime, we can grill burgers in the backyard, my husband can walk to the train station, and I'll be flopped on the sofa with a book next to a baywindow.

We put in a bid. They upped it by a little and told us about the gutter problem. We accepted. Tomorrow we'll call the bottom crawling lawyers and I suppose that's it. Provided the inspectors don't find bugs. Good Lord, what have we done?


Friday, May 14, 2004


"The police just have a conspiracy against rocker chicks." And more words of wisdom from Courtney Love.

Prisoner abuse or the Berg beheading. What do people care more about? How is the media covering these events? How do we interpret these events? Really interesting stuff. Good post by Instapundit on how the blogosphere is focusing attention on the Berg beheading. While the main stream media is talking more about the prisoner abuses. Also see John Podhoretz in the Post. Also from the Times.

I wanted to link to the Atlantic monthly article on Tony Blair, but it's not on line. So, instead I'll give you this review of The Call of the Mall by Paco Underhill. I'm reading it now, and loving it. I'll give my own review in the future.

Increasingly, cities are becoming the province of the rich, the childless, or the poor. I love cities. But America hasn't lived there for a long time ... If you really want to observe entire middle-class multigenerational American families, you have to go to the mall."

From the Times, check out the Skyscraper Museum. You can take a virtual tour of the best buildings in lower Manhattan. Click on their web walk.


Thursday, May 13, 2004

Three Posts by Dan

Dan Drezner has had several recent posts that caught my attention. I liked his call to have Rummy resign. Hubby has been stomping around the house lately, arguing the same thing.

Dan also discusses what is more influential: blogging or academic literature. He writes, I doubt that politicians ever listened to what E.E. Schattschneider, David Mayhew, Hans Morgenthau, or Graham Allison said on a day-to-day basis -- but the political world they live in was partily constructed by their ideas.

I added a comment that academics are very influential today. Their credentials allow them to be behind-the-scene advisors, though most academic articles are largely ignored by everyone. Sorry, but bloggers haven't had that kind of impact yet.

His most recent post on the decline of the adult sitcom quotes David Brooks:

[P]arents have gone to extraordinary lengths not to let jobs get in the way of child rearing. They have added work time, but on average, they have not stolen those hours from child-rearing time. The time has come out of housework, relaxation, and adult friendships.

Well, for me, nothing killed adult interaction more that dissertation writing. By hanging out at the playground, I met a whole gang of new friends. We've had a lot of parties, thinly veiled as birthday parties for the kids, and then hung around drinking beers. Opportunities for adult interaction is one major advantage to raising kids in the city.

I'm not sure that the decline in adult interaction can be solely blamed on intensive child rearing. There are so many other variables of modern life that have affected social life. Increased mobility of families. The rise of housing developments that lack downtown centers. The increase in work obligations.

I haven't read Brooks' book, yet. But I would like to check out his facts. Some writers would argue that there is still much adult interaction, it just takes place in the workplace. And perhaps on the internet.

Still, social isolation is a huge interest of mine. It has a major impact on politics. We don't want to bowl alone.


Wednesday, May 12, 2004

Making the Curse Cool

Hey, girls, it's finally here. New, hipper tampons!

Say goodbye to Cathy Rigby on a balance beam. And ads of women dressed all in white whispering "fresh", "clean", and "odorless."

"I was in the feminine protection aisle, trying to sort through the endless sea of products, and I was floored when it hit me - not one box had an ounce of style. Where was the fun, the feminine flair?" said Barbara Carey, president and founder of Dittie, which is a unit of the Akasha Group in Orinda, Calif.

Ms. Carey said she decided at that moment to develop a brand of products that did not regard a woman's menstrual cycle as an ailment. "Kotex looked like Dr. Scholl's Wart Remover, Tampax looked like Lactaid and Playtex looked like Benadryl," Ms. Carey said.

This company's feminine hygiene products will now be packaged in hipper boxes, have cooler ads, and use younger women to push their products. They are mimicking advertising techniques of the soda and record industry.

I love it. Edgy tampon ads. Maybe they should go a step further, and make the tampons themselves edgy. Dye them black. Or add excessively long strings.

How about instead of concentrating on the packaging, we stopped bleaching tampons with cancer causing agents. Or removed the sales tax, just as there is no sales tax on essential food items. Just a thought.


Tuesday, May 11, 2004


James Carville once said about Pennsylvania that it was Philadelphia on one side, Pittsburgh on the other, and Alabama in the middle.

We spent a good part of last week roaming around the Alabama part of PA. Farms and gun racks. We took Route 80 to Cleveland taking lots of stops to let the kids stretch their legs.

We stayed over in State College, PA, a town created in farm country to serve Penn State. It's the only town for hundreds of miles with a Thai restaurant and clothing boutiques. A town entirely devoted to the 70,000 students.

Universities as economic development for an area of the country where the old industry has become irrelevent, outsourced, or made unprofitable. I don't know why I found this facinating, but strange things amuse me.

Whenever we drive through small towns on the way to a destination, we often wonder what people do there for a living. There are some jobs that are necessary for local consumption -- school teachers, letter carriers, cops. But there are only so many of those jobs. These small towns need money from outsiders. They have to sell something or provide a service. A McDonalds off the highway. An education.

It's one of the failures of the technological era that computers and the internet haven't led to jobs for these areas. After all, there is really no reason that my husband has to work in Times Square. He could easily do his job anywhere with high speed internet access. And we could afford one of those quaint Victorian homes out there. But it hasn't happened. Cities continue to monopolize jobs.

And the Albama area of Pennsylvania gets older and older. PA has one of the oldest populations in the country. The kids have left for the city, while the parents run the farm.


Monday, May 10, 2004

Parent Politics Links

MAMA is a grassroots, activist mothers organization. The group's goals include fostering kid-friendliness in activist communities and protecting and increasing family-friendly public space.

A WSJ article on how hard it is for women to transition back to work after taking off time to raise kids. (thanks, David)

I'm Baaaack

Pulled the rental car into a metered parking spot around the corner at around 5:00 today. Hauled up about 50 bags of dirty laundry. Made a proper meal that didn't involve french fries and eventually coaxed the kids to sleep.

We spent the last week meandering through Pennsylvania and visiting relatives in Cleveland. Ohio and Pennsylvania... lots of white folks there.

Now we're sipping martinis, getting caught up on e-mail and bills, and returning to our old lives.

It was a proper vacation. I'm suitably chilled out. The stresses of last week seem silly and minor. But I did let one work deadline blow past me, so I better get to it. Longer post tomorrow.


Tuesday, May 04, 2004

Finding a quiet place to work is always a challenge when you’ve got two small kids in a New York city apartment. I’ve done my time in local coffee shops and schlepped downtown to the university library. But the workplace of late has been a local public library.

I’ve grown adept at tuning out crotchety old folks fighting over sections of the Times and teenagers flirting loudly. Today was especially challenging. The rain drove the kids off the street, so the flirty teenagers multiplied. Just as I was in that sweet spot of writing, when the ideas really flow, a man dumped a stack of books on Hitler right next to me. I quickly realized that he had Tourrettes, because he began mumbling about the dirty Nazis and jerking his head around violently.

Now this I couldn't tune out. But I didn't want to get up and move to a different table, because I didn't want to hurt his feelings. I didn't want to be a Tourrettes-bigot. After a half an hour of profanities and a little spitting, I just left the library.

OK, guys, that's it for a little while. We're heading off to Cleveland for a week. Driving there with the kids. (Yes, we're on drugs.) So posts will be rare until next week.


Monday, May 03, 2004

Read This

New York is in the midst of a school funding war. The Post had an interesting op-ed that points out that money alone does not improve schools. It doesn't, but I do think it is part of the cocktail of factors that makes a good school. After all, the better suburban schools do spend a lot of money. And many inner city schools are in need of basic supplies. NYC teachers have to beg on the internet for chalk and books, and mismanagement can't take all the blame. Some day I'll write more about this.

Jessica Crispin has two posts on The Bitch in the House and The Bastard on the Couch.

The Decline of Marriage

There are two articles in yesterday's Times about the crisis of marriage. One points to the high rate of divorce in America, particularly in Roanoke, VA. The national rate of divorce and separation grew 10 percent in the 1990's, according to the 2000 census. It grew about 30 percent in Roanoke. The article vaguely points to the correlation between Roanake's economic woes and its high rate of divorce.

The article has some contradictory facts on divorce and women. It's says that divorce means a shrunken standard of living for most women. But it also says that women who taken managerial jobs can afford to leave their husbands. The extra money gives them more freedom.

The other article is by David Brooks. Brooks refers to a study that shows that hooking up has replaced marriage. Brooks writes,

Sexual marketplaces are a rapidly expanding feature of society, and they are becoming more distinct from marriage marketplaces. Furthermore, as the sex markets become bigger and more efficient, people have less incentive to get married. As the scholars Yoosik Youm and Anthony Paik write, "Opportunities in the sex market act as constraints in the marriage market."

The big problem here is that there is an overwhelming body of evidence to suggest that marriage correlates highly with happiness. Children raised in marriages tend to have more opportunities than children raised outside marriage.
Over all, Americans are spending much less time married. They marry later and divorce at high rates, and remarry less and less. We are replacing marriage, one of our most successful institutions, with hooking up. This is a deep structural problem, and very worrying.

This issue of marriage wasn't on my radar a few months ago. I never really thought about the politics of marriage and divorce until reading Ann Crittenden's The Price of Motherhood . She has a good chapter on the devastating impact of divorce on mothers. And how divorce laws are skewed against those who take off time to raise the kids.

I'm convinced that one of the reasons behind the dual income family is the fear of divorce and not greed. You never know for sure that your partner will be around to support you in the future.

It is also one of the reasons that mothers are starting to demand pay and benefits for the unpaid work of raising kids. There is just no guarantee that your spouse will take care of you. Taking time out to raise kids is very risky.

Divorce isn't just a moral crisis; it's an economic crisis.

Rauol Felder, the NYC divorce lawyer, was quoted in the New Yorker last week that divorce should be made more difficult. Others are proposing subsiding marriage classes.

In the coming years, marriage and divorce will be discussed more and more in political circles, not just in religious circles. The trick is to bolster shaky marriages without trapping people in disastrous marriages, to provide security without chains, and to balance the needs of parents and children.

UPDATE: Harry at Crooked Timber picked up this post. He finds it ironic that women work more to guard against divorce, but those long hours pretty much guarantee that they’ll end up divorced. James Tooley thinks that the solution is for more women to forgo all career aspirations and serve their hubby (gag). But Harry suggests that both partners work less and tend to their relationship.

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?

< ? Redhead Blogs # >

< ? Blogging Mommies # >