26 May 2017

It's Personal

It is easy to fall into the trap of thinking that politics is just about competing abstract ideas. But, policies that result from politics, and even the social climate that results from the rhetoric that politics produces, affect the lives of real people.

My daughter's graduation yesterday from George Washington High School, an "inner city" school in Denver, Colorado, was a stark reminder of that fact.

There many speeches. They didn't proclaim a bright future where graduates could follow their dreams. Instead, the graduates were praised as resilient survivors who were equipped to survive in an adult world that had become an increasingly hostile place for them since the last election.

One graduate was a Dreamer who had lived in the U.S., undocumented, since he was 11 years old and would be attending CSU on a scholarship tailored to someone in his shoes. The Trump administration has started deporting people like him.

Another was a young black man who'd had a run-in with the law and disciplinary problems in middle school, but who turned his life around in high school and was off to play college football. The Trump administration wants to adopt policies that make it likely that he will have no recourse if he is targeted groundlessly by police and that he might end up spending disproportionate terms in prison if he makes a misstep.

One of the two valedictorians described the graduates (in the school color green gowns) as baby sea turtles, struggling against the ocean and long odds to make it in the world. Unlikely the sea turtles, they are not alone in the world, but the world is definitely not on their side.

One graduate had lost a mother to brain cancer but persisted. Another's mom had pulled through as her son struggled to figure out how school could be relevant - but his mom made clear that education was the path to a better life than he'd know in his childhood. Some graduates had children facing an uncertain future.

The programs that face deep cuts in the federal budget proposed by President Trump are programs that a large share of my daughter's classmates have relied upon to help meet their basic needs. Those cuts mean their little siblings will be hungry and may be denied medical care.

Many of her classmates' families send remittences to family abroad. Trump plans to heavy tax those transfers. 

Some of her classmates are homeless. Trump's policies, if implemented, will swell the number of George Washington High School students in those dire straights.

The upswing in expressions of hate directed at these students has visibly swelled since the election.

As a community, the students who attend George Washington High School, their family members, and the faculty and administration, are united in trying to create positive conditions for those students and in trying to give them a bright future. But, no one is fooling themselves. There are many obstacles in the way of these new graduates.

21 May 2017

Women Are Present, But Rare, In Formerly All Male Army Specialties

In 2010, 14.1% of enlisted active duty military personnel and 16.4% of officers, were women. 

Right now, less than 0.5% of women joining the U.S. Army are in specialties, like infantry, armor and the Rangers, which were reserved for men until 2015, and while the numbers will grow, they probably won't ever be terribly high, so long as raw physical strength and fitness (as well as extreme aggression in some cases) remain important qualifications for those positions. But, some women are taking on those positions according to the same standards as the men seeking to fill those posts.

Rough gender equality in positions calling mostly for physical strength is always going to be a literary trope of the science fiction and fantasy genre (because a female warrior is an intriguing character for both male and female readers), and not reality. On the other hand, we have already reached a point where traits in which women are at a severe disadvantage are critical only in posts which make up a minority of the posts in the active duty military. 
There were 48 women trainees who arrived at Fort Benning in February, and 32 of them were deemed ready to attempt basic training without any additional physical training. The 18 graduates were among those 32 soldiers. 
There were 148 men who started the class, and 119 of them graduated. . . . [Ed. women made up 22% of those who actually started and 13% of the graduates; 50% of the women failed to make it through basic training after starting, while 20% of the men failed to do so. In addition, a third of the women who applied and an unknown (but surely smaller) percentage of the men who applied, weren't physically fit enough to begin the program.]
The integrated training of men and women soldiers has played out at the Maneuver Center of Excellence in a public way since early 2015 when 19 women became the first soldiers to attend Ranger School, the Army's most demanding combat arms training. 
Capt. Kristen Griest, then assigned to military police, and Capt. Shaye Haver, an Apache helicopter pilot, became the first women to earn the Ranger tab in August 2015. Maj. Lisa Jaster completed the training two months later. 
A year ago, the first women to attended the basic officer leadership courses reported to Fort Benning to begin the integration of the officer ranks in Armor and Infantry. In October 2016, 10 women graduated the Infantry Basic Officer Leadership Course, the in December 2016, another 10 women graduated the Armor Basic Officer Leadership Course, becoming first lieutenants. 
"We started with leaders first," Kendrick said. "We have female company commanders out in the formation now. We have graduated lieutenants, I saw some of them out there this morning. We have produced four NCOs who have changed their MOS that have proceeded the privates. So, what you have here is the last step in producing soldiers that will be part of those formations ... for integration here." . . .
Maj. Gen. Jeffrey Snow, commander of Army Recruiting Command at Fort Knox, who is not surprised that the number of women completing these initial integrated courses is small. 
"We never anticipated to see a significant influx into the combat arms," Snow said. "The research indicated that the majority of the women will still go into non-combat positions. But what it did do for us -- and believe this in my heart of hearts -- it caused women to look at the Army in a different light and say, 'Hmm, it's now a level playing field.' So even though they didn't go into combat arms, we had a good year in 2016. We had 14,000 women make the decision to join the regular Army and Army Reserves. That was the best year in 10 years from a percentage perspective, and I think we are on track to do the same thing this year." 
Women failing to meet the standard than men by percentage is not surprising, said Kendrick, who offered an explanation. 
"Most of female trainees are on the lower scale of height and weight -- 5-foot-3, 5-foot-4, 5-foot-2, 5-foot, 120 pounds, 100 pounds -- our physical requirements are not altered for any percentage of body weight," Kendrick said. "They carry the same load as everybody else. What we find is when you have a smaller, skinnier person -- frail, I guess would be a word -- those physical requirements are very difficult." 
Currently, there are about 100 women either training or in the pipeline to do infantry basic training at Fort Benning, Snow said. The publicity generated from the first class to graduate should help increase that number, Snow said.
From Military.com.

A typical enlisted soldier, of either gender, is an eighteen or nineteen year old, who recently graduated from high school, who wasn't an obvious candidate to be college bound, but was in the middle 50% of their high school class, and a high school athlete. A decision to not just enlist, but to pursue a speciality in a combat arm like the infantry, is an incredibly bold move for a young woman.

According to Pew, within the military there are three categories of specialties that are more common for women than men (in parenthesis): 30% (12%) of women have administrative specialties, 15% (6%) are in medical specialties, 14% (12%) are in supply specialties. In addition 18% (31%) are in electrical or electronic specialties, 10% (10%) have communications specialties, 5% (7%) are craftsmen or in other technical specialties, 3% (19%) are in infantry, gun crews or seamen specialties, and 5% (5%) are in non-occupational roles.

This isn't necessary a bad thing for women in the military. Almost all of their jobs have relatively close civilian analogs. A much larger share of men are being trained in specialties with no civilian equivalent.

Like men, about half of women in military service are married. But, unlike men, about half of women in the military who are married, are married to someone else in the military.

How Long Is A Marathon In Imperial And Metric Units?

A marathon has an official distance of 42,195 meters (42.195 km), which is 26.219 miles (a.k.a. 26 miles, 385 yards). The approximation commonly seen on car stickers in the U.S., 26.2 [miles], is 33 yards too short. The three significant digit approximation in metric units: 42.2 [km] is 5 meters too long.

The distance is rooted in a Greek legend from the historic era.

Krugman Draws Wrong Lesson About Macroeconomics From Financial Crisis

Noah, at Marginal Revolution, think the less of the financial crisis is that macroeconomics has very few credible findings. I tend to agree that the entire sub-discipline is rotten. Krugman, in contrast, tries to make the case that macroeconomics was just simply missing some key data points to tune its models.
Noah is generally very down on macroeconomics, but I believe that we’ve learned a lot in macro since the 2008 crisis. Take fiscal policy: before the crisis there was strikingly little solid evidence about its effects, largely because history gave us so few natural experiments (causation generally ran from business cycles to budgets rather than the other way around). But the crisis gave us both some experiments via austerity and a renewed search for historical cases. I’d point to Blanchard and Leigh, using austerity as an experiment, and Nakamura-Steinsson, exploiting regional shocks from defense spending. Not saying these are the only fine papers, but they’re enough to show that there’s a real there there. 
I think we’ve also had some dramatic confirmation of what some of us thought we knew about monetary policy at the zero lower bound. I can think, for example, of a 1998 paper that has held up really well; but I’ll leave that as an exercise for readers. 
What about trade? Autor/Dorn/Hanson on the China shock may not be the last word, but surely a revelatory approach. In a strange way, I’d put Subramanian and Kessler in the same category: realizing that this globalization is different from anything that came before is a big deal. 
I guess that in a way I’m pushing back against Noah’s nihilism (noahlism?) even while endorsing his method. I think there has been a lot of good economics done, even if there are also vast literatures not worth your time.
From here.