Quick hits (part II)

Sorry these are a little late today.  Spent more time than anticipated watching the terrific Notre Dame vs. Florida State game last night.

1) Really interesting Vanity Fair article that give an account on this Ebola outbreak– unlike all the others- became an epidemic.

2) On a somewhat related note, a FB friend shared this story from last year of how an extremely dangerous bacteria was nearly impossible for the NIH to eradicate from it’s research hospital.  With plenty of scary stuff about the future of antibiotic resistant bacteria.

3) Heck, let’s stick with a theme.  Here’s a Yahoo! story about a robot that uses ultraviolet light to disinfect rooms (the CDC used a robot that filled rooms with hydrogen peroxide gas).

4) Alright, let’s just keep going here.  James Surowiecki putting everything in perspective and reminding us we should be way more scared of the annual flu.

5) A Tennessee woman involved in manufacturing meth got 6 years added to her sentence for being pregnant at the time.  Hmmm, that just doesn’t seem right in a variety of ways.

6) We could use better data on charter schools.

7) True tales from the making of Princess Bride.  Much to my dismay, my 8-year old son refused to like it because of the title.  My almost 4 daughter liked it even though it was over her head.

8) Teenagers should so not be interrogated without a parent or a lawyer.  It is a legal travesty that this happens all the time.  I’ve told David never to talk to the police without a parent.  Never.

9) Garrett Epps on the “undue burden” standard from Casey and how courts are increasingly ignoring it.

10) Republican Congressmen are intent on cutting NSF funding based solely on the title of research.

11) How modern pork production is bad for pigs and not so good for workers, either.

12) NYT Magazine feature on how billionaires are becoming their own political parties.

Quick hits (part I)

1) The New Yorker’s Maria Konnikova on Walter Mischel (the marshmallow self control guy)

2) Really interesting NYT profile of super-far-right Kansas Secretary of State, Kris Kobach

3) That would be so awesome if the ability to effectively grow Alzheimer’s brain cells in the lab actually leads us much more quickly to a cure or effective prevention.

4) So there was a Wire reunion and you can watch it.

5) Vox says this attack ad makes the Willie Horton ad look tame.  I think they are right.  To add insult to injury, the Republicans actually put this policy in place.

6) On what grade level of reading ability are presidents’ speeches over time.

7) Did the pro-life movement actually lead to more single moms?  Maybe.

8) Interesting Ozy piece on how cancer may ultimately be an ineradicable part of life.  Actually reminded me of one of my favorite science fiction works ever, Robert Sawyer’s Calculating God, in which the nature of cancer plays a fundamental role.

9) The keyboards from early IBM PC’s (my dad had one) were simply the awesomest.

10) James Surowiecki on the capitalism and streaming entertainment services.

11) Loved this description of Curb Your Enthusiasm from a recent Larry David appearance:

“ ‘Curb’ is about what’s beneath the surface of social intercourse, the things we think about and can’t say,” David told Remnick. “I’m normal. If I said the things he does”—he, of course, being the Larry David who goes around eating his in-laws’ manger scene, inviting a sex offender to a Seder, and teaching kids how to draw swastikas—“I’d be beaten up. He’s a sociopath!” A pause. “But I’m thinking them!”

So is everyone else, and that’s the brilliance of “Curb.” The show exists to prove how thin the veneer of social custom and courtesy really is, and to reveal the inner sociopath that we are supposed, at all costs, to suppress.

12) 538 looks at which diet will help you lose the most weight.  Easy, the one that is easiest for you to stay on.

13) How to get the right kind of sleep depending upon what your test the next day will be on.  Seriously.

14) Really liked this TNR piece on how judges should respond to burdensome laws on the right to vote and the right to abortion when legislators are so clearly lying about their actual intent:

But if courts cannot, and should not, prove deliberate discrimination, they can still apply objective balancing tests, to weigh the benefits of a law against its costs. When they do, the relevant question changes: judges no longer ask whether a legislature’s motivation was to limit abortion or to protect patient safety, but whether such a law can be justified by a reasonable person who takes both values seriously. In an important sense, this inquiry is far less fraught and far more coherentno mind-reading necessary.

15) Andrew Sullivan on the latest out of the Vatican

Why the government should buy birth control for more people

In short, it saves the government a ton of money.  It’s a great investment.  From Wonkblog:

Past research from the Guttmacher Institute, a research organization that supports publicly funded family programs, already found that family planning services helped prevent an estimated 2.2 million unintended pregnancies in 2010, which would have resulted in about 1.1 million unplanned births.

A new Guttmacher report out Tuesday morning finds that the public investment in family planning actually saved taxpayers $13.6 billion in 2010 from the costs of those unintended pregnancies, as well as from other services the programs provide, like testing for sexually transmitted infections and cervical cancer. [emphasis mine]

About 9 million women received contraceptive services from publicly supported providers in 2010, costing about $2.2 billion and accounting for about one-third of all women who received such services that year. Most of these publicly funded visits occurred in Title X-supported health centers, as well as Medicaid physician offices, report author Jennifer Frost and her colleagues write in the new study published in The Milbank Quarterly.

Title X funding, in particular, has come under attack from some conservatives in recent years…

The Guttmacher report is a reminder that family planning services are about much more than just contraception. More than 90 percent of these publicly funded providers offer screening for HIV and sexually transmitted infections, like chlamydia and gonorrhea. Catching these diseases early can pay off down the road through immediate treatment and long-term changes in a patient’s behavior.

Wouldn’t it be great if conservatives were more interested in saving the government money than in having women face greater consequences for having sex?

“Pro” abortion

I enjoyed reading Hana Rosin’s take on Katha Pollit’s new book, Pro, which argues that women should be unashamedly in favor of abortion.  Right now, in ceding the moral and linguistic high ground, the pro-choice side is on the defensive:

Because frankly, in 2014, it should be no big deal that in a movie a young woman has an abortion and it’s no big deal. We shouldn’t need a book explaining why abortion rights are important. We should be over that by now.

The reason we’re not, according to Pollitt, is that we have all essentially been brainwashed by a small minority of pro-life activists. Only 7 to 20 percent of Americans tell pollsters they want to totally ban abortion, but that loud minority has beaten the rest of us into submission with their fetus posters and their absolutism and their infiltration of American politics. They have landed us in the era of the “awfulization” of abortion, Pollitt writes, where even pro-choicers are “falling all over themselves” to use words like “thorny,” “vexed,” “complex,” and “difficult” instead of doing what they should be doing, which is saying out loud that abortion is a positive social good…

n the years since Roe v. Wade, in fact, the left has time and again signaled retreat—a point my colleague Will Saletan also emphasizes in his 2004 book, Bearing Right: How Conservatives Won the Abortion War. “Safe, legal and rare,” “Permit but discourage”—these updated slogans have left the pro-choice side advocating the neurotic position that you can have an abortion but only if you feel “really really bad about it,” Pollitt writes.

The fog of regret has meant no one is able to confidently defend or even cleanly describe what’s actually going on: Three in 10 American women have abortions by the time they hit menopause. They are not generally victims of rape or incest, or in any pitiable situation from which they need to be rescued. They are making a reasonable and even admirable decision that they can’t raise a child at the moment. Is that so hard to say? As Pollitt puts it, “This is not the right time for me” should be reason enough. And saying that aloud would help push back against the lingering notion that it’s unnatural for a woman to choose herself over others.

Sorry, not working on me.  I was “pro-life” for a lot longer than you’d expect, but left that position long behind because it became quite clear that far too many on the pro-life side were pro-fetus and really had not much interest in helping women and children and also great interest in punishing women for having sex.  That said, although I know believe pre-viability abortion should be legal with minimal obstacles, I still don’t call myself “pro-choice” because I think far too many on the pro-choice side sufficiently wrestle with the complex, thorny, and difficult, ethical and moral questions involved.  You just cannot change the fact that you are ending a life, that in most-cases were nature to take it’s course, would emerge as fully human and vested with all the rights that implies.  I totally understand and appreciate all the reasons we keep abortion legal, but how can you refuse to admit this a complex moral issue?  One of my friends is an expert in the ethics of fertility (and quite pro-choice), and likes to characterize the issue thusly,”if you think it is an easy call either way, you haven’t thought hard enough about it.”

It is quite easy to put aside many of the ardent pro-lifers objections as they are full of illogic and contradictions, e.g.,

She cites one poll for example showing that 38 percent of people say abortion is as “bad as killing a person already born.” But in the same poll 84 percent say it’s fine to save the life of a mother. If you really think about it, this position is untenable. No one would say it was fine to kill a toddler if the mother needed its heart. The pro-life position, she concludes, involves a reflexive moralism but doesn’t really reflect what people know to be true, which is that the fetus and the mother have a complicated relationship, unlike any other.

but I have not ready anything of Pollit’s book that suggests that abortion is not actually a complex moral and ethical issue.  Simply saying otherwise does not make it so.

Quick hits (part II)

1) John Dickerson on how fundraising emails encapsulate everything wrong with politics:

Perhaps it’s effective, but there’s a larger point to be made about political fundraising emails: They are a bouillon cube of all that is awful about American politics—the grasping for money, the neediness, the phony plays on your emotion, the baiting, and reduction of anything complex into its most incendiary form. What makes these emails bad is not the breadth of their insult—you can opt out of receiving them, which makes them easier to avoid than a television commercial—but what it says about the people who send them. Here’s the short version: They think you’re stupid.

2) Personally, I love Common Core math.  I love that my boys are asked not just to apply algorithms, but actually understand what they are doing and really think about math.  Here’s a nice Vox post explaining the virtues of this approach.  Also, so embarrassed to admit I missed this math problem (but I am so inside the box I don’t even know I’m in the box).

3) This piece by Sahsa Issenberg about changing minds on gay marriage and what they may tell us about changing minds on abortion was really fascinating.  Long, but worth it.

4) Amy Davidson on Texas’ abortion law nicely takes about the “not a large fraction” argument.  And TNR’s Jen Gunter looks at the patient safety argument.

5) Yeah, so our kids totally need grit and persistence.  We just haven’t quite figured out how we are supposed to teach them.

6) In case you haven’t seen this alternate ending to Titanic that’s gone viral.  It truly is awful.

7) So love this Onion headline:

Yard Sign With Candidate’s Name On It Electrifies Congressional Race

8) Paul Waldman on our failure to actually learn in our dealings in the Middle East.

9) Sharing your chocolate makes it taste better.

10) Sensationalist coverage of foreign policy makes Americans more hawkish.

11) Adam Gopnik on the power of images in terrorism.

12) This Onion headline so captures some awkward experiences I’ve had:

Coworkers Each Putting In Herculean Effort To Sustain Conversation For Entire Commute

13) Of course teachers should have serious apprenticeships rather than just 6 weeks of student teaching.  Let’s do this.

14) Awesome interactive Smithsonian feature on the Anthropocene era we are living in.

15) The latest in the Post’s terrific series on the abhorrent police practice of stealing innocent people’s cash because, you know, drug dealers use cash, too.

Quick hits (part II)

1) In further asymmetry, you are just not going to find any Democrats as crazy left as these Republicans are crazy right.  And they are about to be elected to Congress.

2) John Judis‘ and Jamelle Bouie’s takes on Brownback and the Kansas GOP experiment run amok.

3) Exercise if great for your brain.  Especially if you’ve got ADHD.  And now we’ve got cool brain images to show it.

4) There are not enough female Republican officeholders because there are few Republican women in the pool of possible candidates.

5) Nice Vox piece on our over-reaction to ISIS.

6) You probably won’t be surprised to see this Reason post about Iowa state troopers stealing $100,000 in legal poker winnings.

7) I’m shocked, shocked that the anti-environmentalists put in charge of the NC environment have not taken the coal ash spill seriously.

8) The demands that the IOC makes on potential Olympic host cities are pretty amusing.

9) I didn’t know about “efficiency wages.”  And now I do.  Nice explanation for why not everyone can work at Costco.

10) Gotta love that the “Republicans are people too” campaign is all based on stock photos.

11) Nice Ruth Marcus column on the 5th Circuit decision on Texas’ abortion laws.  What never ceases to amaze me is the way judges pretend that the purpose of TRAP laws is to protect women’s health as opposed to shut-down abortion clinics.

12) Great example of campaign media just getting it all wrong (regarding chickens and the Iowa Senate race).  And speaking of chickens, love this Vox piece on our ever larger chickens:

Giant chickens with dates






Quick hits (part I)

1) A reminder from Jonathan Ladd that, joking aside, this Secret Service fiasco is serious stuff.

2) A nice list of ten things that would improve our food system far more than labeling GMO’s (I bet I could come up with more than 10).

3) Vox on how college are doing diversity all wrong:

The key here is this: colleges need to get more specific about who they want to help, and why. Universities’ commitment to “diversity”  is important, but it’s a poor substitute for a policy of equal access for the disadvantaged because “diverse” students and disadvantaged students are not necessarily one and the same. Several studies have shown that beneficiaries of diversity-based admissions policies typically hail from the most well-educated and economically successful segments of “diverse” communities. That’s why a diversity strategy will not help universities reclaim their mission of fostering socio-economic mobility.

4) Jeffrey Toobin on the Hobby Lobby legacy (Ginsburg was right).

5) A woman leaves her 7-year old home alone under very safe circumstances and writes about it.  Everybody freaks out.  I’m with her.

6) A Federal Appeals court decided that Texas’ new abortion law does present an “undue burden” to women’s Constitutional right to abortion because 1/6 is not a “large fraction” of women.  Nuts!

7) Clay Shirky, famed professor of “New Media” is banning laptops in his classes.  And based on the scientific evidence, he is definitely right to do so.  I started with this policy this semester.  The post nicely lays out the rationale.

8) Thanks to Mike for sharing this awesome link about “good old days” syndrome.

9) Vox interviews Matt Bai on politicians, their affairs, and media coverage and how Gary Rice changed it all.  Really fascinating stuff.

10) The head of the Oklahoma highway patrol suggests that women who want to avoid being sexually assaulted by the Oklahoma highway patrol need to make sure they obey the law.  Seriously.

11) Brazil’s lessons for us (and Hillary Clinton) on what doesn’t work for dealing with inequality.

12) Very nice Dave Roberts piece on polarization (and it’s asymmetry).

13) Yes, a Florida police officer did taser a woman in the back as she walked away from him.  And it’s on video.  And he’s currently on paid leave.

14) The gender politics of pockets (the new Iphone is too damn big).

15) Seriously, we need to get about everybody who is not planning on having a baby anytime soon on a LARC.


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 550 other followers

%d bloggers like this: