One year ago our daughter died and was born.
We called her Sakura, for the cherry blossom. Sakura is a thing of beauty that does not, and cannot last, longer than a short time. But we meet its brief time in this world with joy and not sorrow.
Not surprisingly, I guess, thinking about her this way doesn’t make it hurt any less.
This is no epic tragedy. There are no scoundrels or blackguards here. No might-have-beens or woeful choices. No one to blame – not even ourselves as much as we have tried. It was just an indifferent shuffling of chromosomes that determined that she should never live.
So why am I writing this? To prove that she existed? We have the papers to prove that, and a tiny urn in the bedroom holding that part of her ashes I could not bear to give to the sea. To let others know that they are not alone? Why? I cannot offer them any comfort, or pretend it is there to be had.
Maybe we just want to know why we miss so much someone we never knew.
All we know is she was beautiful.
Vanavil is a school for the poorest of the poor in the middle of Tamil Nadu, India. It started in 2005 as an orphanage/school for the children of two historically nomadic communities left stranded by the devastating tsunami of 2004. Many of the children of these two communities (the Narikuravar and Boom Boom Mattukarar) who were taken in had lost their parents and were destined for a life of begging or worse. Their luck was that a few well-to-do committed people decided to look after them. Now, it is a school of around 140 children drawn from all ethnicities in Tamil Nadu. Located in the countryside, where land and buildings are cheaper and there is less temptation for the children to turn to begging, 10 low-paid teachers are running an orphanage plus elementary school.
One of these committed do-gooders is a friend of mine, Matthew Wennersten, a Jewish American married to an Indian wife who, as a former school teacher, became interested in the fate of these kids. He doesn’t teach at the school nor does he tell them what to do, but he does smooth over things with the state schooling administrators and with corporate sponsors. He wants to increase the shoe-string budget of this school and asked me whether I knew any Australians willing to help out. Thus this bleg. See over the fold for more on this school.
I went to visit this school last week. Continue reading
What’s in a name? In the September 2013 round of re-shuffles, I count no less than 17 changes in names of government departments in Australia, either by some name disappearing or some name changing.
This appears to be a regular game in Canberra. When I worked in Canberra in 2003, there was FaCS (Department of Family and Community Services). Since then, there have been FACSIA (Dept Of Families, Community Services & Indigenous Affairs), FAHCSIA (Department of Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs), and DSS (Department of Social Services). Similarly, we now have DE (Department of Education) whereas we used to have DEEWR (Department of Education, Employment and Workforce Relation), which itself preceded DEST (Department of Education, Science and Training).
Please help me out here, you knowledgeable Troppodillians in Canberra. What is going on with all these name changes? Is someone making money off changes in the stationary?
My confusion partly stems of noticing that some departments change what they do, but keep the same name through the decades. The Treasury comes to mind, which seemingly hasn’t changed its name for 100 years, but has seen major changes in what it does. It has now and then housed bits of the tax office, and currently has responsibilities that didn’t even exist when it was first set up (like retirement income arrangement). Why hasn’t the Treasury changed its name to reflect these changes. We might have then had such exotic specimens as the Department of Taxation, Efficiency, Retirement, Revenue, and Other Regulation. Similarly, the Department of Defence seems to have kept its name ever since 1942, whilst it now has responsibilities it could not have had at the start (missiles, counter-terrorism).
So some kind of game seems to be occurring in Canberra that means some general areas witness continuous upheavals in names, and other areas do not. I truly have no idea what the underlying economics and politics of that game is. Do you know the answer?
Researchers warn that substance abuse among the elderly will double by 2020, but few journalists or policymakers worry about age pensioners squandering welfare money on alcohol and drugs. Things were different in 1905–6 when a royal commission looked at establishing a Commonwealth funded old age pension scheme in Australia. The commissioners recommended: "That a penalty should be imposed for supplying an old-age pensioner with intoxicating drink."
By 1901 both Victoria and New South Wales had established old-age pension schemes. And it wasn’t long before newspapers were running stories about pensioners spending all their money on drink. According to a 1901 report in Sydney’s Evening News:
Work for the Dole doesn’t work, says economist Jeff Borland. Citing a study he and Yi-Ping Tseng carried out using data from the late 1990s, he argues that it does nothing to create long-term employment opportunities and too little to build skills. But maybe Borland is missing the point. Maybe Work for the Dole isn’t meant to help participants find work.
A new working paper (to be found here) by two PhD students in our school muses about whether firms optimise profits or returns-to-costs. Normally in economic papers you see the presumption that firms optimise profits, but from the point of view of investors allocating in lots of firms at the same time, it would seem to make more sense to presume they maximise returns. In many situations this will amount to the same thing, but not all situations: you for instance get a divergence as soon as you have some barrier to entry, which is rather common. Its the sort of paper that makes you remember your 3rd year micro lessons. Anyhow, if this is your cup of tea, here is their abstract:
We introduce a theory of return-seeking firms to study the differences between this and standard profit-maximising models. In a competitive market return-maximising firms minimise average total costs leading to output choices independent of price movements. We investigate the poten- tial for mark-ups over cost under both competitive and non-competitive market structures and characterise output and input choices under both, amongst a series of other interesting results. We also extend the model in the case of discrete output and input space and show what conditions are required of demand shifts for firms to modify their production plan.
by Melissa S. Kearney, Phillip B. Levine
This paper explores how specific media images affect adolescent attitudes and outcomes. The specific context examined is the widely viewed MTV franchise, 16 and Pregnant, a series of reality TV shows including the Teen Mom sequels, which follow the lives of pregnant teenagers during the end of their pregnancy and early days of motherhood. We investigate whether the show influenced teens’ interest in contraceptive use or abortion, and whether it ultimately altered teen childbearing outcomes. We use data from Google Trends and Twitter to document changes in searches and tweets resulting from the show, Nielsen ratings data to capture geographic variation in viewership, and Vital Statistics birth data to measure changes in teen birth rates. We find that 16 and Pregnant led to more searches and tweets regarding birth control and abortion, and ultimately led to a 5.7 percent reduction in teen births in the 18 months following its introduction. This accounts for around one-third of the overall decline in teen births in the United States during that period.
Read all about it.