Sunday, January 25, 2009

Who Said Hope Isn't A Solution?

Actually, I've said it and quite often. Don't get me wrong. It's necessary to get anything of significance done; it's just not a plan of action. Or maybe it is:
One intriguing hint of what researchers led by Ray Friedman of the Vanderbilt Owen Graduate School of Management calls the “Obama Effect” suggests that maybe, just maybe, Obama will do more for the scholastic achievement of African-Americans than anything since Brown v. Board of Education.
Apparently, a mere four days into Obama's term, the recalcitrant Black-White test score gap may have all but disappeared:
The results varied according to when the students took the test. Before the convention and in early October, the performance gap was as wide as ever: white students got a median score of 12.1 compared to blacks’ 8.8 before the convention; the scores were 12.9 and 8.4, respectively, in early October. But just after Obama’s convention speech, and just after election day, “when Obama’s stereotype-defying accomplishments garnered national attention,” as the researchers put it, there was a remarkable effect. Among students who watched Obama’s speech, blacks’ and whites’ scores were statistically equal (10.3 vs. 12.1) after the acceptance speech and 9.8 vs. 11.1 after election day. The difference is considered statistically insignificant--that is, likely due to chance.
If I didn't know any better, I'd immediately write off this study as containing a fatal flaw. But I do know better. I know that there is an extensive body of research experiments that supports the theory that a significant portion of the Black-White test score gap has to do with stereotype threat, as explained in this article.

As a scientist, I'm still not ready to gleefully embrace the results of this study. In fact, I can't wait to read it so I can pore over it for flaws and limitations (as we are brainwashed to do in grad school).

But dammit, living in this city and through this current turd of an economy, I'm takin' a li'l Hope wherevers I can find it.

Sunday, January 04, 2009

Dear Gov. Jindal, Do The Right Thing

Dear Governor Jindal,

I was so pleased to hear that you understand and are concerned about the link between dropping out of school and ending up in prison, and that you would like to address these problems.
Every year 14,000 high school students drop out of school. Every year we lock up about 14,000 people in our prisons. I don't think that's a coincidence. -Gov. Bobby Jindal on his initiatives to reduce Louisiana's dropout and recidivism rates. [Times Picayune, 1/4/09, p. A-13]
I was not so pleased to read on the very same newspaper page your plans to stave off a projected $341 million budget shortfall by delaying the opening of a mental health crisis center in New Orleans and by canceling plans to add 6 inpatient beds to the N.O. Adolescent Hospital. You should be aware that a recent study shows that children in LA impacted by Hurricane Katrina currently suffer from physical and mental health problems at rates double that of homeless children in New York City.
NY Times 12/5/08:
...41 percent under age 4 had iron-deficiency anemia -- twice the rate for children in New York City's homeless shelters. Anemia, often attributable to poor nutrition, is associated with developmental problems and academic underachievement.

More than half of those ages 6 to 11 had a behavior or learning problem, yet in the East Baton Rouge School District children can wait for as long as two years to be tested for learning disabilities.

...many of the children of Hurricane Katrina are behind in school, acting out and suffering from extraordinarily high rates of illness and mental health problems. Their parents, many still anxious or depressed themselves, are struggling to keep the lights on and the refrigerator stocked.
Governor, these are the children most likely to not finish high school and then end up in jail, and these are the very children that your budget cuts will hurt most. I think that the Obama administration and Congress would be hard-pressed to hand over $450 million for a new Charity hospital to a state that won't even spend $4.25 million to address the dire needs of its own citizens, needs which should have been addressed 3 years ago now.

Show us that you care about your citizens. Let us know whether a man of God would choose $385,040 in pay raises for 6 Cabinet members already making six figures a year over thousands of families who have nowhere else but you to turn to for survival. Six psychiatric inpatient beds at NOAH will cost $250,000.

Governor Jindal, do the right thing this time.

Friday, January 02, 2009

JoAnn Taylor, Poster Child for Misdirected Outrage

Instead of being outraged about people being murdered in front of her own home, JoAnn Taylor is mad about her neighbor's memorial to her slain son. Other neighbors like it. Her artwork has even opened the door for youngsters in the neighborhood to deal with their grief over their own murdered loved ones.

It's easy to get ticked off by the absurd aspects of Ms. Taylor's stupid vendetta: the fact that she moved there years after the sidewalk and home were already creatively painted (or so said the grieving mother today on WWL) or that Ms. Taylor's real problem is her own issues with her neighbor's "lifestyle." The Times Picayune website already has tons of comments about this story, most of which I actually agree with for once; but this one best articulated to where Ms. Taylor and all of us should really be directing our outrage [a little background: the city is threatening to fine the woman $100 per day until she paints the sidewalk gray]:

How about we fine Ray Nagin and Warren Riley $100 a day until they can get the murders under control?

Why not fine the Public Works Department $100 for all the damage done to our vehicles by some of the worst roads in the Western Hemisphere?

Driving around town, a visitor could easily mistake our infrastructure for that of Port-au-Prince.

This woman has filled the vacuum of lawlessness in this city with something of her own creation. Those complaining about the liberties she has taken with public property are under the delusion that this is still a place of law.

Amen, Hallelujah, and Thank You Jesus to that.


2 doctors weigh in on health reform

From a T-P article on the two new physician congressmen from Louisiana:
Both hope to hear from the president-elect, or his top health aides, so they can advocate for measures that put more emphasis on patient responsibility and free market solutions to Obama's campaign promise to provide coverage to more than 40 million uninsured Americans.
Because that has been working so well for the American people? Honestly, do you know ANYONE who is pleased with the cost and quality of their health insurance or who isn't hassled by her health insurance provider when it really counts (i.e., other than a quick well visit to the doctor)? Do we really need to advocate for more emphasis on free market solutions? Isn't that what we already have? It sounds a lot like Nagin's repopulation plan.

Oh wait. That wasn't a plan at all. Just like this isn't a fucking plan either!!

As for patient responsibility, last I heard, the patients' responsibility to pay for medical treatments not covered by their expensive health insurance is a main cause of personal bankruptcy filings. But Congressmen, you're right. The American people need more bills. It's not like there's a mortgage crisis or rising unemployment or a financial market meltdown or anything!

Now for the piece de resistance:
But Cassidy also spoke about working across party lines to get affordable homeowners insurance to south Louisiana residents ...

"If our workers can't afford to live near the refineries, pipelines and shipyards that serve the entire nation, then our whole national economy suffers, " Cassidy said.

So, healthcare insurance...leave to the market forces. Homeowners insurance...too important to leave to the market forces? Huh? People not being able to afford healthcare threat to the economy, but people not being able to afford homeowners insurance in Louisiana...threat to the whole national economy?

What the...?

Idiots, I tell you. Fucking idiots.

We're watching you, Congressmen. We're watching.