Quick hits (part I)

1) NPR on the power of peer groups in preventing campus rape.

2) Cool optical illusion.

3) Police shoot dogs all the time.  Just hope the police never come to your house looking for a criminal (Balko on the epidemic of shoot first, worry about whether the dog is a potential threat later).

4) Post editorial on the wrong-headedness of the Rick Perry prosecution.  DJC sent me a link suggesting that Perry will be convicted.  I just don’t see it happening.

5) Can taxing the wealthy strengthen democracy?  Probably yes:

The historical record, however, suggests that taxing the wealthiest does have an important, but different, consequence: making the wealthy vested in the common good. In fact, taxing the wealthy was crucial for the emergence of representative government itself.

6) George Will confirms Nixon’s attempts to sabotage peace in Vietnam in order harm LBJ and HH.  Nixon may have done some good things as president, but he was an absolutely abominable human being who would do anything to achieve and protect power.   Or so it was made pretty damn clear to me watching the new HBO documentary on the Nixon tapes.

7) Interesting libertarian piece by Mike Munger on government by unicorn.  Raises good points, to which I say I’ll still take government by horribly fallible humans over the alternative.

8) People in rich counties disproportionately search google about tech stuff (and boy do they love Canon cameras).  In poor counties it’s all about diabetes.  And hell.

9) John Oliver with his typically brilliant job on police militarization.

10) Interesting essay by Lev Grossman on how he struggles as a writer until he started writing fantasy.  I’ve been meaning to read The Magicians for a while.  Will try to do so soon unless some of you tell me otherwise.

11) Dahlia Lithwick on how the police in Ferguson have run roughshod over all sorts of Bill of Rights protections.

12) Lenore Skenazy on helicopter parenting run amok and how today’s parents want to criminalize the behavior that was the parenting approach of their own parents.

13) Fascinating study of why some people, but not others, in a near-death experience (a plane crash) develop PTSD.   I’ve always been a very psychologically stable person, but I’ve never really been pushed.  I’ve always wondered how I would respond to something like this or being in a war zone.  Of course, I hope I never have to find out.

14) That toddler injured by the flash-bang grenade thrown it its crib during a no-knock warrant search?  The county does not think it needs to pay for his medical bills.  Is this America or Russia damnit?!

15) Turns out breakfast is not the most important meal of the day after all.  Maybe.  I actually never ate breakfast at all until I got married and then started eating it every day just because Kim was.  I cannot imagine not doing so now (though sounds like not a bad way to save some calories, actually).

 

Photo of the day

Watched a fascinating documentary last night, “The Summit.”  It is about the deadliest day in the history of attempts to climb K2– the second tallest mountain in the world (and a much more technically difficult climb than Everest).  And here’s the mountain:

7584211314_0a828a2d66_z

Aamir Choudhry

Quick hits (part I)

Another multi quick-hits weekend.  Enjoy.

1) Pope Francis’ list of tips for becoming a happier person.  Not bad.

2) Five myths about the border crisis.  Myth #1:

1. U.S. immigration policy is to blame for the surge of unaccompanied minors.

3) Hit the reset button on your brain?

Every status update you read on Facebook, every tweet or text message you get from a friend, is competing for resources in your brain with important things like whether to put your savings in stocks or bonds, where you left your passport or how best to reconcile with a close friend you just had an argument with.

If you want to be more productive and creative, and to have more energy, the science dictates that you should partition your day into project periods. Your social networking should be done during a designated time, not as constant interruptions to your day.

Nope, don’t see this happening for me.

4) Speaking of which… fascinating experiment of what happens when a reporter literally “likes” every single post on FB.

5) A happy marriage without children.  Well, of course.  But you damn sure better really like your spouse.

6) Of course, if you do have kids, don’t go to prison.  Our inhumane system will make it absurdly expensive and difficult to stay in touch with them.

7) Also, careful with getting yourself on the sex offender registry.  Even the parent who helped initially push it says it is way over-used now.

8) Was a decrease in testosterone among early human males responsible for eventually leading to civilization?  Makes sense to me.  And some science to support the idea.

9) States with stand your ground laws have more homicides.  I’m shocked.  Shocked.

10) I’m often amazed at how my students’ typos just seem to jump off the page at me whereas my own remain virtually invisible.  Here’s the science behind why this is.  I strongly encourage my students to have a friend read their paper for this reason.  Quite clearly, few actually do (or they have lame friends).  While I’m at… many of them really need to be a lot more careful with their use of the thesaurus.  I don’t have any examples quite this extreme, but my students are using words they don’t actually understand all the time.

11) Great TNR piece from Jason Zengerle about how Civil Rights are going backwards in Alabama.

12)  Veal farmers are adopting more human methods.  On the downside for veal lovers (I never eat it), this apparently means it tastes less like veal and more like regular beef.

13) The Post has a piece on NC Senator Kay Hagan looking to benefit from the backlash against the Republican-led legislature.  I’ve already seen several ads on this theme.

14) Cool study shows that reading about discrimination against “Mudbloods” in Harry Potter can help make kids more tolerant.  Awesome.

Poet Laureates and Elitism

I couldn’t decide if I was going to blog about the fact that our governor named someone who’s entire poetry resume consisted of two self-published volumes to be the state poet laureate.   Sure, it’s small potatoes but it is indicative of McCrory’s overall cluelessness.  Apparently, there was nothing “written on the walls” for McCrory to consult:

“We were not aware of the traditional process that was in place, it wasn’t written down anywhere on the walls,” McCrory said, surprising reporters who told him it was online last week.

Might I suggest that next time something is not written down, the governor and his staff might consult google or bing.  There, they would quickly discover that the position of laureate is expected to have some eminence and esteem.  Nothing against the poor women who has already resigned.  Alas, the governor was far more concerned with knee-jerk anti-elitism:

“One of my objectives is to open up the availability of all appointments to people that typically aren’t inside the organized groups,” McCrory said. “We’ve got to open up opportunities for people that aren’t always a part of the standard or even elite groups that have been in place for a long time. And it’s good to welcome new voices and new ideas.”

Those stupid elitists!!  Like college professors who think they know more than other people on an topic just because they’ve devoted their life to studying it.  Raleigh’s Scott Huler has a brilliant response:

You have to give Gov. Pat McCrory credit: He’s doing everything he can to stamp out elitism in our state. Given how many years we’ve spent having people do jobs they were educated and trained for – ending up with nothing but one of the fastest-growing economies and best places to live in the nation – it seems like a worthy experiment.

His most recent attack on the “elite” came when he appointed to the position of poet laureate someone who apparently has never published a poem she didn’t pay for. He said one of his goals is to “open up opportunities for people that aren’t always a part of the standard or even elite groups that have been in place for a long time.”

And you can’t disagree; he has demonstrated that time and again since his inauguration. Sure, you can point out that a good thing for inexperienced poets to do is practice writing poems, but that would be like suggesting that inexperienced, say, actors should, oh, I don’t know, practice acting. When of course commonsensical anti-elitism says that what you should do is give them Academy Awards rather than keep giving the prizes to the same old Meryl Streeps and Daniel Day-Lewises who have been clogging up the ranks for so long.

Same, obviously, with physics and chemistry. McCrory has shown himself world class at ignoring scientists on topics like climate change, but that just shows what a maverick iconoclast he is. Do you want all these so-called scientists to keep getting all the Nobel Prizes and Fulbrights? Pshaw. We should be giving them to people who like to think they have something to say about those subjects. Waiting until people have in some way proven themselves is exactly the opposite of good old-fashioned American anti-elitism.

Right indeed.  I think Huler quite nicely makes the point that this self-evidently foolish choice of a poet laureate speaks to a larger, anti-intellectual “anti-elitism” that characterizes McCrory’s approach and does a huge dis-service to the state.

Super-Mega Quick hits

Sure, I’m at the beach, but quick hits will not be denied!  (In fact, it’s extra long as a direct result)  There’s a ton, but I didn’t feel like breaking them up this week.  Sorry.  Enjoy…

1) Krugman on conservative delusions about inflation.  It really is pretty amazing how these continue.

2) Challenges universities face from a professor’s point of view.

3) Loved this essay in the Atlantic on how all the mothers in animated movies are dead.  Or at least essentially out of the picture.  A notable exception– The Incredibles, one of the best animated films in the past decade (and a favorite of all the Greene kids and parents).

4) Nice Brenday Nyhan in the Upshot.  When beliefs and facts collide, beliefs win.  Though, not for me and my enlightened and scientifically-minded readers :-).

5) Apparently, this is the year of 42 year old women.  It just so happens I’m married to one.

6) Kristof on just one more sad story of wronful imprisonment.  I’m going to be reading this guy’s book.

7) Three psychological findings I wish I’d known in high school.  Indeed.

8) I so loved classic rock when I was a teenager.  I thought I was much too cool for the rock of the times.  Of course, now that’s “classic rock” too.  538 with a look by the numbers.

9) Nice Economist piece on the myth of the omnipotent presidency and the damage that the myth does.

10) Yahoo Tech presents 15 entertaining novelty twitter accounts.  Some of these really are awesome.

11) Fascinating story on the last days of Diane Rehm’s husband and how we starved/dehydrated himself to death (he had advanced Parkinson’s).

12) Back before youtube there was jibjab.  This land is your land was a revelation.

13) Okay, turns out that whole how to/not to praise children thing really is getting complicated.  Still, I think it is clear that it is a good idea not to over-praise nor praise excessively for innate abilities.

14) Nice Salon piece on how NC”s new Republican-led voter disenfranchisement laws really are the most evil in the country.

15) I was fascinated by this Atlantic piece on how the “crossover” has taken over the new car market.  I had no idea.  Of course, my cars are from 1998 and 2000.  Really interesting on the history of cars versus minivans versus SUV’s, etc.

16) When I first read about the Kentucky State Senator and the temperature on Mars, I figured he couldn’t really be that dumb.  Turns out he’s not.  But still pretty damn stupid.  I’m sorry, Democratic state legislators just don’t come this dumb.

17) Pope Francis, radical environmentalist.

18) There was going to be a Seinfeld episodes about guns, but the cast nixed it when they were already rehearsing.

19) It is just too easy to be declared a suspicious person by the US Government.  With all sorts of bad consequences.

20) How coffee fueled the Civil War.  My sense is that stimulant drugs have fueled soldiers whenever and wherever they have been available.

21) You all know about my love for apples.  Turns out, I’ve really got to get my wife to start eating more.

More Hobby Lobby

1) A new post from Kevin Drum that explains that the decision really isn’t about abortion, but actually birth control:

That was then, this is now:

The Supreme Court on Tuesday confirmed that its decision a day earlier extending religious rights to closely held corporations applies broadly to the contraceptive coverage requirement in the new health care law, not just the handful of methods the justices considered in their ruling….Tuesday’s orders apply to companies owned by Catholics who oppose all contraception. Cases involving Colorado-based Hercules Industries Inc., Illinois-based Korte & Luitjohan Contractors Inc. and Indiana-based Grote Industries Inc. were awaiting action pending resolution of the Hobby Lobby case.

Nonetheless, the court has now ruled that a religious objection to contraceptives is indeed at the same level as a religious objection to abortion. In other words, just about anything Catholics consider a sinfor Catholics is justification for opting out of federal regulations. I wonder if the court plans to apply this to things that other religions consider sinful?

Uhhh, yeah.  I suspect not.  A coincidence that all five members of the majority are practicing Catholics?  I think not.

Politically, this is good news for Democrats.  There may be some confusion as to whether IUD’s etc. are actually abortifacients (they are not), but to allow a company to say all forms of birth control are immoral and fight for that as your political value?  That’s a loser.  Americans– Catholics just as much as anybody else when it comes to actual practice– love their birth control.  Of course, the losers are women who need affordable, high quality birth control.

2) Five myths of the case debunked (I linked it about the abortifacient issue).

3) I love Yglesias for giving some pushback on the corporations are people angle.  In some important ways, we really do need to treat corporations like people:

The basic functions of a corporation — including contracts and property ownership — would be useless unless corporations enjoyed basic constitutional protections. If corporations didn’t hold the same due process rights as human beings, the idea of firms holding property and entering into contracts would be worthless.

By the same token, the idea that corporations have a right to free speech is essential to preserving the values of the First Amendment. It’s imperative that not only do Fox News’ anchors have the right to criticize the Obama administration, but that Fox News as a corporate entity has that right. Otherwise, censors could effectively silence critics by heavily fining hostile broadcasters and publishers even while leaving the human critics unmolested. Similarly, NARAL Pro Choice America and the National Organization for Women are themselves corporations. It’s critical to the democratic process that they are able to criticize Supreme Court decisions, lobby congress, and otherwise act as constitutional persons.

4) That said, even if John Oliver isn’t quite 100% right on the law here, he’s dead right on the satire.

He also did a heck of a job as Vanity Smurf in Smurfs 2, which I saw yesterday (“hey, what the heck, that’s John Oliver”, I thought to myself).

5) And from the pure rant department, this is kinda awesome:

Your boss doesn’t get to dictate what you do with your paycheck, whether it’s buying groceries, donating it all to orphans, or splurging it on hookers and blow.

Your boss might take issue with you buying pork because he’s Jewish, donating it to orphans because she thinks they’re godless, or on the hookers and blow because that’s not very Christian of you. However, your bosses would be ridiculed for thinking they have the right to tail you to make sure you’re spending YOUR money in accordance with their faith, right? There’s not much difference here. Set aside that the insurance is not directly offered by Hobby Lobby, or that they could pay taxes/penalties instead of lawyers and legal fees by kicking everyone onto the exchange, thereby taking away their supposed moral conundrum. Spoiler alert: HEALTH BENEFITS ARE COMPENSATION FOR YOUR LABOR. Why would you think for one second that your boss gets to dictate what you do with your compensation?

6) And never hurts to mention that this asinine system of health insurance is an historical quick that makes no sense.  And if it was up to Democrats, we would surely do away with it.

The Wildlings Army

Non Game of Thrones fans can just stop here, but heck, I figure most of my readers probably are GOT fans.  Anyway, one thing about this past week’s episode really annoyed me.  The whole idea that the Wildling Army numbered 100,000.  I’m not going to complain about dragons, Valererian Steel, or what have you, but damn it, this is just entirely realistic.  George RR Martin has said that the setting is largely based on medieval England and one thing that sure has hell did not exist in medieval times was 100,000 man armies.  Furthermore, if we know anything about the Wildlings they live in an incredibly resource-poor area– look at that awful weather and all that damn snow and ice.  Surely, a vast majority of the adults need to be working in some form of food production just to keep anybody fed.  In order to have the specialization of a huge army you need to have enough productive resources to feed that army even though the army is busy fighting instead of producing food.  Just no way is that happening north of the wall.  I did this mini-rant for a friend, who said, “but Steve, it’s fiction.”  Yeah, sure, but one of the reasons it is such great fiction is that Martin really looks to the complexities of actual life (dragons, etc.,) aside to guide his fiction.  He clearly dropped the ball here.

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