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Childrens’ Day And The UN Convention On The Rights Of Children

Childrens’ Day And The UN Convention On The Rights Of Children

Associated with the UN Convention on the Rights of Children is a Universal Childrens’ Day.  It is November 20, the date that in 1959 the UN adopted the first version of the Convention, which had 10 articles.  It is celebrated in many nations, but not in the US.

A competitor is International Childrens’ Day, also called the International Day for the Protection of Children.  This is June 1 and was declared in Moscow in 1950.  It is also widely celebrated, mostly in former or current socialist or communist nations, and is a big deal in Russia in particular even now, a national holiday.  It is also not celebrated in the US.

Curiously there is an official Childrens’ Day in the US, although almost nobody pays attention to it.  It is  the second Sunday in June, a week before Fathers’ Day, which way dominates it, although Mothers’ Day way dominates both of them.  Ironically, given its current obscurity, the US one was the first one established, back in 1857 for that date by a Universalist minister, Rev. Douglas Leonard in Chelsea, Massachusetts.

At least 90 nations have an official Childrens’ Day, with a variety of dates for this.

The matter of the US starting Childrens’ Day but then coming to ignore it has a parallel with International Womens’ Day, founded in 1909 in Brooklyn by socialist Clara Zetkin. It is widely celebrated around the world, and a big deal in many nations, including Russia.  But it is only barely recognized, mostly by feminists, in the US now.

Mothers’ Day was founded by pacifist and Methodist, Anna Jarvis, in Grafton, West Virginia, in 1908 on its current date.  The US Fathers’ Day was started the same year nearby in Fairmont, West Virginia. Jarvis would later come to be unhappy with the crass commercialization of Mothers’ Day.

There is a much older Fathers’ Day celebrated by Roman Catholics since the Middle Ages.  It is on St. Joseph’s Day, March 19.

Anyway, I think there may be a link between the ignoring of Childrens’ Day in the US, even thought it was started here compared with how it is treated in many other nations, and the bizarre refusal of the US alone among UN nations not to ratify its Convention on the Rights of Children.

Barkley Rosser

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Devos’s Magic Show

What would it take to save a scab industry from leaving the market place? The sorcerous of Grand Rapids Betsy DeVos has the answer.

Betsy DeVos’s Department of Education reversed the Obama-era crackdown on vocational and career schools thereby allowing new and inexperienced entrants into the field and alleviating pressure on old participants to have meaningful programs leading to “gainful employment in a recognized position” for which they were trained. Making the words “gainful employment in a recognized position” disappear is what made prior scammers nervous when the government would take action and refunded the fees paid and loans alleviated.

Redundancy alert . . . precisely, the Western Michigan sorceress of charter schools removed the one regulation for “non-profit” and for-profit schools offering programs leading to careers and which allowed the Department of Education to crack down on fraudulent educational programs or programs which did not result in those meaningful words “gainful employment in a recognized occupation.” Ms. DeVos made this one requirement disappear because she did not want to “target schools simply by their tax status” such as “for-profit.” Her assumption was in error as the regulation covered “all” schools whether for-profit or nonprofit and was looking at the offered programs. Our current president even had to ante up when his real estate school did not produce results in gainful employment in a recognized occupation.”

Upon knowing this exclusion by DeVos, I would think even Joe Biden might change his message to Millennials telling them to “tough it out” and he may begin to have some empathy for them after campaigning for Republican Congressional Representative Fred Upton in Betsy’s backyard of Grand Rapids. But then he has been in the pocket of MBNA and Delaware Incorporated banks forever and has made it impossible to discharge student loans through bankruptcy. Maybe???

Now if these six words “gainful employment in a recognized occupation” magically disappeared (psst and they did), what would it take for a career education program to lose its eligibility for federal student aid under DeVos? . . . a for-profit institution could not lose its financial lifeline or federal student aid no matter how poorly it performed its mission as spelled out in a statute to prepare students for “gainful employment in a recognized occupation” resulting from that education as stipulated previously.

One hundred percent of students could be dropped from their career program with all of them deeply in debt, or perhaps no single graduate landing a job in their field of training, and still . . . still the federal government would keep the pipeline of guaranteed federal student loans and Pell Grants flowing in to the school.

With DeVos’s reversal, the NYT surmised: “Executives in the for-profit education industry would be sleeping better, secure in the knowledge that even the worst schools and programs were no longer at risk of “magically” being thrown off the taxpayer-backed gravy train, no matter how epically they failed and robbed their students.” This AB author took liberty and added words to make his point.

Under Obama, “the Job Training industry was on its heels. Under DeVos, they had been given a magical new life, a second chance by the department,” said Eileen Connor, the director of litigation at Harvard Law School’s Project on Predatory Student Lending.

Ms. DeVos, who invested in companies with ties to for-profit colleges before taking office, has made it an agency priority to unfetter schools offering training in professional jobs and trades by eliminating restrictions on them and also nonprofits. She also allowed a growing number of for-profit schools to magically evade those loosened rules by converting to nonprofits.

That is what the Los Angeles Pentecostal megachurch’s affiliate Dream Center wanted to do in 2017 when it asked to buy the remains of Education Management Corporation . . . change it from for-profit to nonprofit and use the profits to fund its other programs. One year after taking over a chain of for-profit schools, dozens of Dream Center schools are near bankruptcy and others have been sold with a hope they can survive.

Collectively Argosy University, South University and the Art Institutes have ~26,000 students in programs resulting in associate degrees in dental hygiene and doctoral programs in law and psychology. Fourteen campuses of mostly Art Institute schools have a new owner after an arranged transfer involving private equity. Another 40 or so others are now under the control of a court-appointed receiver who has accused school officials of trying to keep the doors open by taking millions of dollars earmarked for students to pay operating expenses.

Federal funding for Argosy ceased from the Department of Education when the court-appointed receiver discovered school officials had taken about $13 million owed to students at 22 campuses and used it for payroll expenses, etc. Lauren Jackson seeking a doctorate at Argosy’s Illinois School of Professional Psychology in Chicago did not receive the $10,000 she was due in January. She was paying expenses for herself and her 6-year-old daughter with borrowed money and GoFundMe donations.

26,000 students being defrauded by schools offering programs meant to teach them a skill leading to “gainful employment in a recognized occupation” is only a start to which DeVos has failed to account for in the Department of Education. DeVos does profit by this failure due to her own dabbling in areas feeding off of these failures. There is money to be made in preying on defrauded students, so many of them, and larger than the baby boomer generation. The most tragic consequence of conservatives’ abandonment of federal accountability of career programs is just that and the devastating personal toll it will take on hundreds of thousands of hopelessly indebted students” for whom there is no relief.

Millions in Student Loan Cash Disappears, Tejas Sachdeva, “Tasks”

Inside the Financial Holdings of Billionaire Betsy DeVos

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UN Convention on the Rights of the Child

UN Convention on the Rights of the Child

After Peter Dorman’s latest post this seems appropriate to follow up.  Very recently I was at a talk where somebody spoke on the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child.  A theme of the talk was how few Americans know about this UN Convention while most reasonably well informed people in virtually the entire rest of the world know about it.  A first version of it was passed  by the UN in 1959.  A second round was in 1989.  I do not know what the US’s position was on the first round, but on the second round, while the US signed it in 1995, it was never ratified by the Senate and never has been.  Right wing Christian types claimed it took away rights of parents over their children, although any reasonable examination of it shows that is nonsense.  Up until 2015, Sudan and Somalia also were with the US in not ratifying it, but then both of them did so, leaving the US to be the only nation on earth (or at least in the UN) not ratifying it.

Unsurprisingly there may be more reasons now why the current Senate will not raritify it as it looks like US behavior on our southern border is in open violation of parts of the Convention.  It has 42 articles, and the fact that so many nations have accepted it is a sign of how really uncontroversial it should be.  There is no reasonable reason to oppose any of the 42 articles.  Anyway, I shall simply note a few that are now especially unfortunate now given recent US conduct. (these are the simpler versions for children):

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Misleading Congress Appears to Be a Tactic of Barr

This tidbit was reported in an October 13, 1989 Los Angeles Times. In a June 21 (1989) legal opinion requested by Atty. Gen. Dick Thornburgh, Assistant Atty. Gen. William P. Barr reversed a ruling dating back to the Carter Administration denying the FBI authority to take unilateral action overseas in what was then referred to as the President’s snatch authority. The earlier Carter ruling had also warned federal agents could face kidnaping charges abroad if they used such tactics.

The ruling was made with regard to bringing Panama’s Noriega to trial for drug- trafficking. Assistant Atty. Gen. William P. Barr refused to discuss the broad new grant of power, the legal grounds used to justify it, or even to acknowledge its existence even though the earlier ruling in 1980 was made public.

When Congress asked to see the full legal opinion; Barr refused and said he would provide an account that “summarizes the principal conclusions.”

Yale law school professor Harold Koh wrote that Barr’s position was “particularly egregious.”

Congress had no appetite for Barr’s stance and issued a subpoena to acquire the full OLC opinion out of the Justice Department.

Koh posits:

“Barr’s continuing refusal to release the 1989 opinion left outsiders with no way to tell whether it rested on factual assumptions that did not apply to the earlier situation, which part of the earlier opinion had not been overruled, or whether the overruling opinion contained nuances, subtleties, or exceptions that Barr’s summary in testimony simply omitted.”

In 1991, Congress obtained a copy of Barr’s 1989 opinion which was later published by the Clinton Administration. What Barr did not disclose and which can be reviewed in Just Security’s Ryan Goodman’s “Barr’s Playbook: He Misled Congress When Omitting Parts of Justice Dep’t Memo in 1989” was:

• The 1989 opinion asserted that the President could violate the United Nations Charter because such actions are “fundamentally political questions.”
• The Presumption of acts of Congress comply with international law.
• A failure to report to Congress the opinion discussed international law on abduction in foreign countries.

While not the principal conclusions of the opinion and whether wrong or right, Barr “represented to Congress in his written and oral testimony that the OLC opinion did not address these legal issues, even though it did.”

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The Limits of Human Joy and Sorrow

In this post I will use revealed preference and assume people are rational. Sorry. I’m an economist and I can’t entirely resist.

I will argue that our joy and suffering is bounded, that we can’t be infinitely happy or infinitely miserable.

The first argument is standard, the second is something Peter Mollgaard thought of the instant I explained the first.

Both discussions are typically limited (as economists tend to be) to selfish swinish agents who care only about consumption. This has nothing to do with the argument.

The proof that we are not rational utility maximizers with utility unbounded above follows. It is called the St Petersburg paradox.

If we were capable of unbounded joy, for any positive epsilon no matter how small there is a lottery which we would rationally play which gave us horrible pain with probability 1-epsilon and good outcomes with probabilities adding up to epsilon. The trick is an infinite series of good outcomes. goodoutcome(i) for i a natural number. goodoutcome(i) occurs with probability epsilon/2 and gives us happiness 2/epsilon. Goodoutcome occurs with probability 2^(-i)epsilon and gives us happiness 2^(i)/epsilon

So expected happiness if we take the bet is (1-epsilon)(a very large negative number) + the sum from one to infinity of 1. That is infinite expected happiness.

We don’t make such bets. What if epsilon = 1/google that is 10^(-100) ? 10^100 is the original meaning of the word “google”. The company chose the word for that number exactly as the Apple corporation chose the name of a fruit.
what if epsilon = 1/(google plex)= 10^(-google) = 10^(-10^100). or one over a google plex plex and so on.

Similarly, we are not rational utility maximizers capable of infinite misery. For any X>0 no matter how huge and any epsilon >0 no matter how tiny, we would accept happiness of -X with certainty rather than + X with probability 1-epsilon and a series of increasingly horrible outcomes
getting -2/epsilon with probability epsilon/2 and -2^i/epsilon with probability 2^(-i) so if we didn’t take -X with certainty our expected welfare is minus infinity.

Again epsilon can be so low that if something happened with probability epsilon every millisecond, the chance that it has happened since the big bang is 1/(google plex). I guess I should call the second paradox the Mollgaard paradox, but I want to call it the Leningrad paradox, because Leningrad is St Petersburg and because the limits of human misery were well explored by the Stalinist purge of Leningrad followed soon after by the Nazi (and Finnish) seige of Leningrad. We are talking about two of the most massive losses of human life ever (and much slow death by borderline fatal malnutrition become fatal after long suffering). But it would be worth a 1/google plex risk of that happening again even if there were a series of risks of it happening once, twice, four times etc.

This has been another explanation of why the concept of infinity is pernicious following in the tradition of Zeno’s paradox but never reaching the end of the list of errors due to the concept of infinity (which list is infinite). Borges tried to catalogue them (he does that sort of thing) in “Avatars of the Tortoise.”

There is a concept which corrupts and upsets all others. I refer not to Evil, whose limited realm is that of ethics; I refer to the infinite.

Oh my look at the second google hit for [avatars of the tortoise]

I think it is also not needed. But I am confident with probability epsilon (not a type not 1-epsilon) that every counterintuitive result in mathematics has something to do with infinity and could not be explained if instead of natural numbers we started with the cyclical group with N elements (no matter how big N is) and then went on to define rational and real numbers as we do.

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Is Stephen Moore a Gold Bug?

Is Stephen Moore a Gold Bug?

A lot of the criticisms of putting the twin village idiots known as Herman Cain and Stephen Moore on the FED assert that they are gold bugs. Kate Riga watched CNN when Erin Burnett interviewed Stephen Moore on this allegation:

Stephen Moore tries to flip-flop on the gold standard — but Erin Burnett is prepared and armed with a montage of his past statements

Watch and enjoy! Now Moore did say he would prefer targeting an index of commodity prices, which led me to FRED and its Global Price Index of All Commodities. Moore has not be all that specific how his commodity price target would work but let’s speculate his index would be a lot like this one. Suppose the FED targeted commodity prices to be where they were in 2005 since this index is based where it would equal 100 in 2005. Just imagine how a Moore monetary policy would have worked say during the booming 1990’s. Commodity prices were low so his policy prescription would have been massively expansionary during a booming economy. For much of the period from 2007 to 2014, we would have had a contractionary monetary policy even as U.S. aggregate demand was often incredibly weak. In other words, his commodity price based monetary policy would be about as destabilizing as was monetary policy under the gold standard.

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What Did the Founding Fathers Fear?

A President Falsely Charging ‘Treason.’

The Constitution: “Treason against the United States, shall consist only in levying war against them, or in adhering to their enemies, giving them aid and comfort.”

Article III; Section 3: Treason against the United States, shall consist only in levying war against them, or in adhering to their enemies, giving them aid and comfort. No person shall be convicted of treason unless on the testimony of two witnesses to the same overt act, or on confession in open court.

The Congress shall have power to declare the punishment of treason, but no attainder of treason shall work corruption of blood, or forfeiture except during the life of the person attainted.

Trump: “I think what the Democrats are doing with the Border is TREASONOUS. Their Open Border mindset is putting our Country at risk. Will not let this happen!”

Conor Friedersdorf, The Atlantic: “’As having an ‘open border mindset’ is not levying war against America nor giving aid and comfort to its enemies, Trump is guilty of levying a false accusation of unsurpassed gravity and additionally guilty of violating his oath to protect and defend Article III, which defines treason as ‘only’ those offenses.’”

I find it difficult to take Trump seriously although I should take him seriously, we all should do so, and we all should work our hardest to make him a private citizen again with the potential of him going to prison afterwards. If two women doing bribes to get their kids into name-brand schools can be charged, then why not Trump for his past frauds? Trump the master dealer maker of fraud and lies. It is not over.

Having Ms. Pelosi as the Speaker of the House was fortuitous for this nation. She knows how to deal with those who have the mindset of a child. Please note the mini-clap of hers after Trump gave his SOTU address to Congress.

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Trump Has Birth Nations Skipping Generations

Trump Has Birth Nations Skipping Generations

Starting around 2011 or so, Donald Trump began to get a lot of attention on the looney racist right in the US by becoming one of the leading advocates of birtherism, the claim that Barack Obama was born in Kenya rather than Hawaii.  Of course, Obamam’s father was born in Kenya.

Now, curiously, Trump is at it again, although now involving his own family.  He has taken to claiming that his father was born in Germany.  His father’s father was born there apparently, with the name “Drumpf.”  But by all accounts I know of, Trump’s own father was born in The Bronx in New York City.  It seems he is playing a reverse form of birtherism here, although it may be an effort to assert a stronger connection to the erstwhile “Master Race” of the Nazi movement.

Of course, it may also be that this is simply part of a more general mental breakdown, given the rather large number of either blazingly false or just blazingly stupid things he has been coming out with in the last several weeks.

Barkley Rosser

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Does Cochrane Really Understand the Latest on Minimum Wages?

Does Cochrane Really Understand the Latest on Minimum Wages?

John Cochrane thinks we liberals who think higher minimum wages can do some good by offsetting monopsony power fail to grasp labor economics. He is citing some work by Jeffrey Clemens, Lisa B. Kahn, and Jonathan Meer. Alas his blog post screwed up the link to this interesting paper:

Compensation consists of a combination of cash and non-cash attributes, and depends on worker productivity. We also allow for the possibility of a bargaining wedge whereby the firm pays less in total compensation (cash and non-cash benefits) than a worker’s marginal product. When the minimum wage rises above the prevailing wage (cash payment) but below a worker’s marginal product, the firm will shift the mix of compensation towards cash and away from non-cash benefits, but will still find it worthwhile to employ the worker. This distortion can create losses to worker welfare which, if large enough, will push workers to prefer their outside option of nonwork. We also show that, in the presence of a bargaining wedge, the welfare effects of minimum wage increases are non-monotonic. In general, wage gains associated with increases in worker bargaining power will tend to improve welfare, while wage gains that are accommodated through reductions in non-cash benefits can reduce welfare.

In many ways, this dates to a 1980 paper by Walter Wessels (“The effect of minimum wages in the presence of fringe benefits: An expanded model,” Economic Inquiry), which the authors cite. Wessels assumed a perfectly competitive model where government interference lowered worker total compensation. Wessels published later papers, which alas the authors did not cite. In 1994, the Journal of Labor Research presented an extension of Wessels thinking that incorporated monopsony power entitled “Minimum wages and the wessels effect in a monopsony model” by J. Harold McClure:

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There He Goes Again

On my personal blog, I mentioned that Tom Nichols is absolutely unwilling to discuss the run up to the US/UK?Australian invasion of Iraq. He is careless about facts and expresses contempt for even considering the official conclusions drawn by Hans Blix. He will not face evidence and has total contempt for expertise.

He asked me to stop replying to him and I did, but I have proof that he is wrong.

The man can’t handle facts and he refuses to listen to actual experts on the topics on which he makes assertions based on prejudice, stubborness and tribal loyalty.

Now I am here to mentoin that he’s done it again.

He has a little twitter exchange with Mike Gravel in which he demonstrates, again, his contempt for data and experts.

Nice come back. At a level with “There you go again”*. But stupid. First the rate of opioid overdose deaths is vastly higher now than in 1980. The drug problem of the 1960s was minor compared to the current crisis. By 1980 the heroin epidemic had passed. It’s true that there was a crack epidemic during the Reagan administration. But the big drug in 1980 was marijuana which is no longer a problem, because our generation (the pot heads of the 70s) are making the laws and know it was never a big problem.

But Nichols really demonstrates his contempt for data and expertise by asserting that “poverty” and “1980” go together. There is a technical literature on poverty. The first statistic is the official poverty rate. That rate was low in 1980 and shot up as soon as Reagan was elected (I am not asserting causation — it had more to do with Volcker). Nichols has a vague sense that the country was in bad shape in 1980 then Reagan saved it. He can’t be bothered to look up the relevant official statistics before tweeting. He places his prejudice and conservative tribal loyalty above the calculations of subject matter experts, because he has no respect for expertise.

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