Friday, March 28, 2014

Weekend Reading, 14/3/28: On Wage Fixing, Parenting and Texas Abortion Law

1.  Wage fixing, anyone?  This story is worth wading through.  The US antitrust laws lost most of their teeth a long time ago.  I'm still hoping for a good set of dentures, because even the free-market acolites should acknowledge that market power isn't the same thing as the power to do good.

2.  Parenting can be very tough, especially because everyone and their uncle Harry are willing to critique those attempts as "experts."  Then there are the actual experts, with study after study on various parenting outcomes.  Parenting often looks like tightrope walking while carrying a week's worth of groceries and nappies/diapers.

Thus, if you are a parent you might be relieved or upset (depending which way you are tipping on that tightrope) by the renewed focus on "free range" childhoods and how important they are for creativity.  You might also be relieved or upset by the recent finding that parental help with homework is not at all helpful*.

If all that is too much for you, read this parenting article, put up your feet and have a large glass of nectar.  While someone else watches your children, naturally.

3.  The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals:

ruled Thursday that two provisions of a Texas abortion law are constitutional, including one that has closed a third of the state’s clinics. The unanimous panel, made up of three women appointed by Republicans, had already allowed the full brunt of the law – the same one now-gubernatorial candidate Wendy Davis tried to block – to go into effect.
The Supreme Court has held that laws restricting access to abortion can’t put an “undue burden” or have the purpose of putting a “substantial obstacle” in the path of a woman seeking an abortion. But in a decision written by Judge Edith Jones and signed onto by Judges Jennifer Elrod and Catharina Haynes, the Fifth Circuit argued that Texas’s law wasn’t harsh enough to meet that standard.


In the oral argument in New Orleans in January, an attorney for the clinics had pointed out that the closures disproportionately burdened women living in the Rio Grande Valley, which had only two clinics. The judges were skeptical then, and they elaborated in their decision: “Even if we were to accept that both clinics in the Rio Grande Valley were about to close as a result of the admitting privileges provision, however, this finding does not show an undue burden,” they wrote. In fact, they don’t have to “accept” anything – both clinics closed three weeks ago.
The closures are not an undue burden, write the judges because “it takes less than three hours on Texas highways” to get to Corpus Christi. (The Corpus Christi clinic is expected to close in September.) “Although some clinics may be required to shut their doors, there is no showing whatsoever that any woman will lack reasonable access to a clinic within Texas,” they add, but only heed evidence from the trial in October, when the law had barely taken effect.

I'm not a goddess of law but I wonder how courts decide when something is an "undue burden."  Sometimes just having to fill in a form can be argued to be a burden, sometimes having to travel a long distance is not an undue burden, even if travel costs money and time.   So.
*I can think of a reason why this might be the case.  The point of the homework is not to submit a perfect set of answers but to learn from going through the tasks, and that learning includes taking on the responsibility for the task as well as for the particular items the homework tries to teach. 

It's the process which matters, more than the outcome, and premature help with the process (or even knowing that a parent will go through the answers later and will fix any mistakes before the teacher sees the) could dilute the incentives to work hard on the assignment.