Teen Birth Rate Here and There

from "Trends in Teen Pregnancy and Childbearing." Adolescent Health Topics. The Office of Adolescent Health, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 12 Dec. 2014.

from “Trends in Teen Pregnancy and Childbearing.” Adolescent Health Topics/Reproductive Health. The Office of Adolescent Health, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 12 Dec. 2014.

On Friday WBUR reported from Boston

The birth rate among teens in Massachusetts is at its lowest recorded level in the state’s history, a report out Friday says.

The birth rate of teens ages 15-19 fell 14 percent last year, from 14 births per 1,000 women in 2012 to 12 births per 1,000 women in 2013, the Massachusetts Department of Health reported.

“This is terrific news for all Massachusetts families, and a dramatic indication that our decisions to invest in our young people — through education, support and resources — can have a real and lasting impact on their lives and in their communities,” Gov. Deval Patrick said in a statement.

Indeed, according to the Department of Health and Human Services,  the statistics on teenage birth rates were also terrific news for Massachusetts and for most of New England, New York, New Jersey, and Minnesota in 2011 when all those states already had rates below 20 births per 1000 women between the ages of 15 and 19.  They were the only ones, and they really stand out on the map. Continue reading

President Obama is Wrong About the Liberal Arts

Check out this article from Inside Higher Ed highlighting comments made by President Obama about the discipline of Art History.  It ends with a chart of politicians that have attacked liberal arts disciplines, only 4.  I’m pretty sure it could be much longer than it is.

This article by Virginia Postrel in Bloomberg argues that Art History was a particularly bad major for President Obama to use in his comparison, noting that it’s a major for the elite and that people who have degrees in Art History are wildly over-represented in the top 1% of wage earners.   Be that as it may, and whether he intended it or not, the President’s remarks were an implicit attack on liberal arts education in general.  I take exception to that.

I do agree with the first part of his statement.  It is possible to get a good, high-paying job without a college education.  They are decent jobs and if that is what you know you want to do, you should do it.  I see many people go to college who don’t need to, and arguably shouldn’t go, often accumulating debt working toward degrees they’re unable to complete, only to end up in a job they wouldn’t have needed it for. Continue reading

Happy Holidays


Master of the Trebon Altarpiece [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Once again conservative media is outraged over people who say “Happy Holidays, and once again I am disturbed by the vitriolic reaction against what is, to my mind, a magnanimous, generous, all encompassing gesture.  Wishing someone Happy Holidays seems rather Jesus-like to me.  I’m not sure if that makes it Christian, though.  An awful lot of Christians today seem to have a real chip on their shoulder, and don’t behave at all like the Jesus whose story is told in the gospels.

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Global Warming and Electricity Bills

chapte21It seems like shops, restaurants, schools and libraries and other public places are increasingly leaving the lights on after dark.  I don’t mean a few lights so as to deter thieves or vandalism, but I mean literally every light in the place.  Why is this?

When I was growing up our we got scolded for leaving the lights on in rooms because electricity costs money and dad, wasn’t made of it.  As I got older and started paying my own bills, I knew exactly what he meant.  I was quite young when the oil crisis hit, but I remember it well.  I remember being told to conserve our resources because they were finite, expensive and because we did not want to be beholden to foreign powers.

The same period also saw the rise of the environmental movement.  Most electricity was produced by generators that polluted the air of our cities, and the meltdowns.  Accidents at Three Mile Island and Chernobyl provided that even “clean” nuclear energy was dangerous.  So I have always turned off all anything that uses electricity that was not in use in order to economize, and because it was better for the environment.

Some of those reasons were overstated, but have they all evaporated?  Has electricity become that cheep?  Or is it that new light bulbs and appliances are so much more efficient that it doesn’t matter if they’re left on?  Seriously, I’m wondering.  Because when I see every light left on in a place like a library or school where people should know better, I have to wonder.



Unequal Clashes on the Roads: Bikes, Pedestrians and Motor Vehicles

The Overpass

The Overpass

I biked to the Green Line today from my home in MetroWest.  For most of the way to the Woodland stop I ride along Route 16 feeling relatively safe. Sometimes the vehicles come a little close for comfort and I worry I might get run off the road.  But I’m usually riding down the edge of the road, wearing a helmet, and not at risk of getting pushed into ongoing traffic, so I feel fairly safe.  But then I get to that giant clusterf–k of roads surrounding the 95/128 overpass.  In rapid succession you have Wales St., Quinobequin Road, the On and Off Ramps for the interstate, Neshobe Road, and finally Beacon Street.Every time I get there I feel like I take my life in my hands!

I obey the rules of traffic as much as possible when I commute by bike.  It seems like the safest way.   Today I tried to go straight through a green light while oncoming traffic was turning left.  I had the right of way, yet they started and just kept going.  If I wanted to get through, I would have had to insist.  I started forward and whistled as loud as a could.  An oncoming utility van with open windows slowed down, yelled at me, “You’re supposed to act like a car,” and then kept going.  It was a nerve-racking situation.  I was, in fact, behaving like a car, obeying the rules of traffic and I had the right of way.  I made it through safely, but I was flustered, and a bit breathless.

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The Sharpest Tools in the Shed


Totally inappropriate footwear and my damp feet!

It is unquestionably to my advantage that people with advanced degrees or who work where I do are often highly intelligent. People find out those things about me and assume I, too, have above average intelligence.

In reality, I don’t have sense enough to wear boots to work on a drizzly, chilly day when there’s still two feet of snow piled everywhere from the weekend blizzard!  To paraphrase the observation of a wise man very dear to me, sometimes it seems that the more education I get…

Reasonable Gun Laws Do Not Threaten 2nd Amendment Rights


Emotional testimony v. Cold hard facts!

I believe in the importance of the Constitution with it’s Bill of Rights to the proper functioning of our democracy. I also believe Second Amendment. Without a new amendment directly annulling it being being ratified, the government cannot take away the guns of law abiding citizens.

On the other hand, I do not believe that reasonable legislation intended to keep criminals from getting and using guns to commit crimes or to keep innocent civilians, particularly children, from being killed by guns necessarily infringes on 2nd Amendment rights.

Most of all, I believe facts are facts, and that looking beyond the biased, skewed rhetoric of entrenched sides to the actual facts, we may stand a much better chance of coming up with good policy on the matter. That is clearly illustrated in the graphic at the top of this post that appeared on a friend’s Facebook page today.  There was an emotional assertion made as a hearing that is contradictory to the facts.  The emotional assertion was repeated a lot in the media.  I didn’t hear it challenged until at least the next day. Continue reading

Too True To Be Funny

Did you see this headline?  “Dental assistant fired for being ‘irresistible’ to boss

When I first heard it, I thought it must be from The Onion or some other satirical news outlet, because it just seemed to ridiculous. I didn’t actually hear the report until the evening on ABC News when I learned the incident had not only occurred, but the Iowa Supreme Court had upheld the right of the dentist to do so. Ryan Foley, reporting from Iowa city in an Associated Press article wrote:

December 24, 2012 (WPVI) — A dentist acted legally when he fired an assistant that he found attractive simply because he and his wife viewed the woman as a threat to their marriage, the all-male Iowa Supreme Court ruled Friday.

The court ruled 7-0 that bosses can fire employees they see as an “irresistible attraction,” even if the employees have not engaged in flirtatious behavior or otherwise done anything wrong. Such firings may be unfair, but they are not unlawful discrimination under the Iowa Civil Rights Act because they are motivated by feelings and emotions, not gender, Justice Edward Mansfield wrote.

An attorney for Fort Dodge dentist James Knight said the decision, the first of its kind in Iowa, is a victory for family values because Knight fired Melissa Nelson in the interest of saving his marriage, not because she was a woman.

I don’t even know where to begin questioning the absurdity of the ruling.
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Privatize Airport Security?

You can get through airport security much more quickly these days courtesy of the CLEAR program. For a modest annual fee you can be screened in advance so that you can pass through airport security in an express lane with minimal searches. All you have to do is pay to be screened in advance. I find this disturbing. I don’t think airport security should be for sale.

I travel by air fairly frequently, I’d say at least twice a year throughout my adult life, including years in which I traveled more than 2-3 times a month. I feel like I’ve gotten pretty good at getting through security quickly, and I also have some ideas how to speed things up.  This program won’t help.

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The Absurdity of Drug Testing Welfare Recipients w/o Cause

This image has been making the rounds of social media and popped up on the walls of some of my friends today.  These services don’t have -1 or dislike buttons, but I dislike. I dislike it very much!

The post argues workers in regular jobs are tested, so welfare recipients should be, too. Well I don’t think random drug testing should be required for those who are fortunate enough to be employed, either. I had been taught that a basic, fundamental precept of our legal system has been that we are a country in which everyone is entitled to the presumption of innocence and protection from unnecessary search and seizure.  Our rights as free, independent citizens were to be infringed on only in the most dire, necessary circumstances. In my opinion, random drug testing should be permitted only for workers in jobs where public safety is dependent on their sobriety.  I’m not convinced that other employers have a right to test at all unless there is demonstrable reason to do so, either in terms of the nature of the position or in terms of job performance. If an employee does an impeccable job at work and is always there when he should be, what does it matter that he has lost every weekend for the past year due to drug induced blackouts. I do not believe a big brother state, let alone a big brother employer.

Let’s also remember who we’re proposing to test.
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