Saturday, April 13, 2013

Talking about Talking to the Babies of the Poor.

This Article 

...sent me off on a Facebook post that grew long and rambling enough it took refuge over here on this old warhorse of a blog.

About 50 different fascinating/frustrating conversation starting points in this article.   I was interested to see them address one interesting wrinkle I wondered about, having spent a lot of time working on the Upper East Side: rich babies with Nepalese nannies (it's a thing) who have little English.
More seriously, it amazes me we'd rather pay to put an extra cop and a gun and a radio and a squad car in a neighborhood than a nurse with a clipboard and some brochures, given how much long term difference each one can make.

I've seen a lot of coverage on the school closings issue here in Chicago.  The city had a bunch of meetings where parents could speak to the Superintendent, the Police Chief and other city functionaries.  The amount and variety of the questions and demands that went to the Police Chief confused me, until I realized that to people in these neighborhoods, the police are the only-yet a constant-point of interaction with the government.  How can this be a workable solution, on any level? It is expensive to flood a neighborhood with extra cops, socially as well as financially, and is of questionable long term effectiveness.  The big strides in New York city safety were not only the result of more police but of smarter police strategy, a unique population density situation and perhaps a low number of gang members, which is something people are trying to figure out).

I have a liberal bias and believe in government as an expression our collective will as a citizenry. If that will would have us change the situation of places like Chicago's South Side, for moral or straight up financial reasons, don't we owe it to ourselves to do it in a way that makes sense from the perspective of social science? The benefits of programs for the children of poverty are well documented, yet watching the news nearly every night, I see many standing at podiums and on siren lit street corners demanding more cops and nobody pounding their fist saying we need to double or triple the amount of social service workers on those same streets. Why do we not have social service patrol cars, (yellow-and-whites?), rolling around town with a nurse and a social service worker in each one, making connections with people and looking for places where the government can intervene in a positive way.  We force default this job to police officers once things have gone too far,and it shouldn't be their job.

 It amazes me how often I realize I am making a terrible parenting mistake, and I am literate, have access to the internet 24/7, wise and supportive friends and family, a few baby care classes under my belt, an adult life's worth of life experience and a stack of child-rearing books in our home. Tons of kids are growing up in homes where their parent or parents have none of that help when making their parenting decisions, and that is going to hurt those kids. Period.  Now a parent myself, it is clear to me parenting worthy of the name is not the sort of magic, instinctual force of wonder a lot of our popular culture makes it out to be.  When Leona was born, The Parenting did not arrive like this:

Rather, it seems to be a series of decisions and actions which will lead to either better or worse outcomes. With a base of knowledge and experience, one can improve the quality of those decisions and actions and therefore, the outcomes. A pretty good definition of a skill, or perhaps a trade, in either case something that can be improved with coaching and practice no matter what your level of underlying talent. We have devised a system in this country to provide training to every person who drives a car, whether that comes from a class or a more experienced driver. We do this because we have to share the road with these drivers. I'm not sure a good portion of the country sees themselves as having to live with these children.

Yet these children are our big chance. Again, I'm a believer in using government to change things, but I'm not sure I've ever read anything that convinces me the government has come up with any measurably positive way to get adults in poverty out of poverty. I can't honestly say that I believe the majority of people over 30 on government assistance right now will ever be fully self sustaining. There are a lot of reasons for that, a big one being so much of the money that used to circulate among the middle and lower classes has been sucked out of that part of society and locked up in the very top tier where it sits, doing nothing. Still, the fact remains, we can probably do only so much for older generations. Maybe even those in school already.

However, all the signs point to the premise that we can do a whole hell of a lot for those kids 3 and under. And next year there will be more, and we can help them too, and 15, 18 years from now the science says we should be able to expect much higher grades, much lower drop out rates, much lower arrest rates, much lower teen pregnancy rates and much better parenting by those teens who do get pregnant.
All of which saves us money, improves entire lives and perhaps helps to throw some hiccups into the cycle of poverty.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

BREAKING: Movie Stars are Good Looking

I've noticed that a good portion of the traffic to the website of my business comes through this page, so it seems only mannerly to have something recent and not-too-think-piece-y on it.  Here' goes:

In the gym today they were playing The Empire Strikes Back on one of the TV's and I looked up to realize with surprise Carrie Fisher was incredibly attractive in that movie.  Of course she was, she was the (sort of) ingenue, but I was surprised by this fact, having been just young enough when the first movie hit the theaters that Han and Leia were not actually people of an understandable age to me. I knew girls my age, and which ones were cute, I knew adults and which teachers were pretty, but these people in their twenties confused my ten-year-old self and by the time Empire came out and I could appreciate and fear girls who were nearly twenty Han and Leia were my family, basically, and off the Hot or Not track for good.

I had the same experience a few months ago when I went to see a newly remastered print of Raiders of the Lost Ark.  (totally holds up, by the way...) As the opening sequence closeups in the cave's treasure room rolled by, I turned to my wife and whispered "Jesus Christ he's good looking."  I was stunned, just as I was today at the gym, as everyone is when going through old boxes of family photos and stumbling on a picture that looks like a promo still for a silent film starlet.  That's great aunt Esther?!

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

What Hath They Wrought?

As you can see from the time stamps below, I don't often venture over here, but from time to time there are things I'd like to write down that are not a few characters long or-heaven forfend-require linking to more than one source.  This requires exactly two, though given free reign I shudder to think where one might end up.

The herd of cats that is my "selection" of news feeds delivered two public resignation letters this morning. One you've probably heard of, from a man at Goldman Sachs. The other, from a now ex-Google employee,(hit paragraphs 1, 3-4-5, 8,9, skim the rest) is burning through the tech news this morning and may or may not crossover into the mass media.  They are connected in two ways, as I see it, both of which raise questions.

The first question is "Why does a search on Google for 'Goldman Sachs Resignation' return four HuffPo links and a USA Today link before it finally lists the original NY Times article?  In what world do these search results avoid choking the life out of the worthwhile content that drives people to use your search product?"

The second is perhaps more serious. What did these guys think they were doing?  Or maybe the question is how were they able to avoid knowing what they were doing.  What makes these two resignations notable is that by most measures these are two of our best and brightest.  We have here products of the finest schools, survivors of two legendarily competitive hiring processes.
One has recently learned Google is an advertising company, the other that Goldman Sachs is primarily in the business of making money for Goldman Sachs.
How did this happen?  These are not Benjamin Braddocks or Holden Caulfields, these are people extremely accomplished in their careers leaving pay packages in the multiple six figures by writing letters of a tone usually reserved for the second-to-last-scene in a John Hughes movie.

This situation has had me remembering those talks one saw on tv alot from 2009 through 2010 about how to some up the previous decade and wondering:

Were the Aughts the Decade of Lying to Ourselves?

There were some doozies in there.

  • WMD's
  • Iraq was a 9/11 participant.
  • 40 year old men can just naturally get way better at baseball.
  • Housing prices will always double every 4 years.
  • Complicated new banking  products are a great idea and the banks are totally handling it.
Some believe these were all calculated campaigns of disinformation. I am not that cynical anymore and also find that line of thought uninteresting.  Instead, I look at that list and see a bunch of situations that a well meaning person who had the best of intentions could desperately want to be true due either to decisions they'd already made or decisions they feel they need to make.  Not James Bond villainy, Shakespearean villainy and/or heroism, depending on the play.   This is where it ties into those resignation letters.  Were these two clearly bright young men and the decisions they made about where to spend their careers just doing the same thing the country was doing as a whole, creating a fictional version of their reality in order to justify the far more lucrative of options?   

It's not something I think I can answer, but I thought the question was interesting, as was the fact all these fictions had similar life spans.
A note about the title of the post: It is, of course, a reference to the first message Samuel Morse sent on his new technology the telegraph.  "What hath God wrought" he sent, ascribing to an outside force the credit for something he had spent years building himself.  I meant to weave it in in a clever way, but have spent too much time here already with many things to build myself.