Photo of the day

My instagram of the deep-fried everything booth at the NC State fair on Friday.  Personally, you just can’t beat straight-up fried dough covered in butter and cinnamon-sugar, i.e., an elephant ear, so that’s what I went with, as I do every year (had my first ever elephant ear at the 1993 NC State fair).  Funnel cakes are good, but nothing like an elephant ear.

Anatomy of a smear

So, I have a friend/former student who is currently in a very tight race for the NC Senate.  One of the few competitive races in the whole state (thank you, gerrymandering).  Anyway, Sarah is pure awesomeness.  She’s super smart, super hard-working, friendly, great family, etc., in short everything you could want in a representative and political candidate.  Her work career has been spent in raising money for worthy institutions, e.g., Duke Children’s hospital, an animal shelter, and a center for mentally disabled adults and children.

So, when I talked to Sarah and she told me her opponent was running a negative ad against her, I genuinely thought, “but what?!”  I figured maybe generic opposition to a liberal Democrat, i.e., “Sarah Crawford wants to raise your taxes!” etc.  But now, her opponent has an ad that is pure smear.

Sarah’s flaw is that she is married to a “influential special interest lobbyist.”  Oh how I’m sure Dan wishes he was influential.  When you are a lobbyist for an environmental coalition you are not exactly influential with the NC legislature (and, of course, every interest is a “special interest.”  Well, what about the “millions” in out of state money for Sarah,  Well, an environmental group did spend over a million in NC, but Sarah’s campaign was just one of many targeted races.  Hardly millions of out-of-state money on her race.  As for the tangled web of special interest money leading back to Dan?  These were environmental ads and Dan is an environmental lobbyist.  But he’s not stupid and was therefore beyond scrupulous in avoiding any impropriety (he actually told my Interest Group class all about it last Spring).

And then the one that really got me was “and now an Election (forward?  not clear to me) investigation.”  Oh, so sleazy as this clearly implies that Sarah is the target of an investigation.  She’s not of course.  A group that supports Sarah is the subject of a complaint (the legitimacy of which I truly have no idea) that was filed the day before this ad hit the air.

There is not even the slightest hint of Sarah’s campaign actually doing anything wrong in this “investigation.”  I get it, this is politics, not beanbag toss, and I am sure I have seen worse.  But it really is pretty amazing to see firsthand the integrity impugned of one of the best people you know.  It’s no wonder nobody wants to run for political office.  Sarah will hit back with on her opponent, but it will be based on the reality of his very real votes that hurt the people of NC, not false and sleazy innuendo.


Quick hits

1) The zeppelins of WWI

Although the zeppelin was embraced by both the Germans and the Allies during World War I, the Germans made far more extensive use of the rigid, hydrogen-filled airships. The concept of “strategic bombing”—targeted airstrikes on a particular location—didn’t exist before the conflict. The advent of aerial warfare changed that, and also robbed the British of the protection afforded by the English Channel. The zeppelin allowed Germany to bring the war to the English homeland. Kind of.

2) Parenting as a Gen-Xer:

It struck me recently, after one of my quiet carpool rides, that my generation of parents – we of the soon-to-be or recently 40 year old Gen X variety, the former latchkey children of the Cold War and an MTV that actually played videos, former Atari-owners who were raised by the the Cosby Show and John Hughes, graduated high school with the kids from 90210, then lumbered through our 20s with Rachel, Ross, Chandler, Monica, Phoebe, and Joey and flip phones – is perhaps the last to straddle a life experience both with and without the Internet and all its social media marvels.

3) EJ Dionne on NC politics.  And a WSJ piece on how NC politics increasingly resemble those of Virginia.

4) Eating octopus?  No thanks.

5) Jon Chait with an interesting essay on the value of playing football.

6) Are Alabama Judge Tom Parker’s ideas the key to dismantling Roe v. Wade?  I suspect not, but it is disturbing to think about somebody with his ideas (forget the Constitution– the real version– it’s all about God– Parker’s version) serving as a judge.

7) Maria Konnikova on social media and the Dunbar number

Dunbar did the math, using a ratio of neocortical volume to total brain volume and mean group size, and came up with a number. Judging from the size of an average human brain, the number of people the average person could have in her social group was a hundred and fifty. Anything beyond that would be too complicated to handle at optimal processing levels. For the last twenty-two years, Dunbar has been “unpacking and exploring” what that number actually means—and whether our ever-expanding social networks have done anything to change it.

8) Nice post from Mike Cobb on how to have a healthy skepticism towards non-attitudes reported as attitudes on surveys.

9) Really nice piece from John Dickerson about Matt Bai’s new book, the media, and political scandal.

10) Jon Chait decries California’s new “yes means yes” approach to sexual assault.  Ezra Klein writes easily the most interesting commentary (supportive of the law) I’ve read on the matter.

11) A look at the great impact exercise can have on a child’s brain.  The results are great, but, there’s this:

Each two-hour session also included downtime, since children naturally career about and then collapse, before repeating the process. In total, the boys and girls generally moved at a moderate or vigorous intensity for about 70 minutes and covered more than two miles per session, according to their pedometers.

That doesn’t strike me as remotely scalable.  I’d love to see some efforts along these lines of an exercise program for kids with less time commitment.

12) Vox on why the LED light was worth the Nobel Prize.  (For what it’s worth, I remember reading many years ago how a white LED light was a holy grail).

13) NYT Magazine on how school lunches have become a political battleground.  Personally, I think everybody needs to give pizza more respect.  My middle and high schools all offered pizza as a lunch entree every day.  That’s how it should be.

14) You probably don’t know that much about giraffes.  You should.

15) A sixteen year old spent three years in jail for allegedly stealing a backpack before the charges were dropped.  Just another day (or three years) of criminal justice in America (at least if you are poor).

The real purpose of Voter ID

“Integrity of elections” my ass.  If you believe that, I’ve got a bridge to sell you.  How about this (nicely shared in chart form by Drum):

Voter turnout was reduced by 2-3 percentage points in both states. But of course there’s more to the story. Some groups were more strongly affected than others. Here are the results for Kansas:

Age. In Kansas, the turnout effect among registrants who were 18 years old in 2008 was 7.1 percentage points larger in size than the turnout effect among registrants between the ages of 44 and 53.

….Race or ethnicity. We estimate that turnout was reduced among African-American registrants by 3.7 percentage points more than among Whites in Kansas.

….Length of registration. In Kansas, the reduction in turnout for people registered to vote within 1 year prior to Election Day 2008 was 5.2 percentage points larger in size than for people registered to vote for 20 years or longer prior to Election Day 2008.

Victory! Turnout plummeted among blacks, young people, and college students. What more could an enterprising Republican legislature want?

Oh, and, um, maybe voter fraud was reduced. The Kansas Secretary of State responded to a draft of the GAO report by explaining that “if lower overall turnout occurs after implementation of a photo ID law, some of the decrease may be attributable to the prevention of fraudulent votes.” You betcha.

And from a strongly-worded (and rightly so) Op-Ed in the N&O:

The Supreme Court’s disappointing ruling against reinstating same-day registration and counting out-of-precinct votes serves as a stark reminder that it is time for everyone outraged by the ongoing war against voting to call this coordinated attack for what it is: dishonest, unjust and racist. Harsh words, perhaps, but the shoe fits. [emphasis mine]

The rationale for voting restrictions is restoring public confidence in the integrity of our elections. The problem is that reasons to lack confidence in their integrity have been fabricated, largely out of whole cloth. Major studies have repeatedly failed to unearth anything other than infinitesimal evidence of voter fraud, and states defending their laws restricting voting rights – including North Carolina – have not brought forward evidence to support their claims that it is a problem.

We’ve heard the quotation, attributed to Vladmir Lenin, that a lie told often enough becomes the truth. Anyone who pays attention to Fox News, Rush Limbaugh or most of the Republican delegations in Raleigh and Washington has heard one conspiracy theory after another for years now about how Democrats are out to steal elections, and these stories often revolve around the inherent political corruption in urban areas with high percentages of voters of color. It’s easy to understand why folks are nervous about rigged elections when the likelihood of them is promoted as inevitable and sold as if they reflect an inherent flaw in the character of a substantial percentage of the electorate.

Given the opportunity, the North Carolina legislature restricted opportunities to vote in-person, where evidence of fraud is virtually non-existent, and did not restrict opportunities to vote absentee, where evidence of actual fraud has persisted for decades. The difference is that allowing early voting, same-day registration and counting ballots cast out-of-precinct are more likely to boost African-American turnout, which is more Democratic, while absentee voting boosts white turnout, which is more Republican.

Voting is not a partisan matter. It’s the cornerstone of democracy. In its zeal for reducing voting among groups it mistrusts, our legislature even discontinued pre-registration of 16- and 17-year-olds. Raise your hand if you think that getting young people signed up to vote is a bad idea.

And spare me your “but you need an ID to … why not to vote.”  Because we have not had problems with in-person voter fraud under the current regime and because requiring that ID disproportionately affects minority groups in electoral representation.  That’s why.

Coolest maps ever

I don’t know how I missed seeing before this collection of maps that uses US census data to show racial segregation in American cities, but it is simply awesome.  My favorite is Detroit (thanks to Eminem I know about 8 Mile Road which divides this map):

In Detroit, among the most segregated cities in America, 8 Mile Road serves as a sharp dividing line. Image: Dustin Cable White: blue dots; African American: green dots; Asian: red; Latino: orange; all others: brown

And you know what’s really cool, you can go here and zoom in on your own neighborhood!


Everybody likes to think Cary, NC is just a bunch of rich white people (and okay, lots of blue dots here), but that purple circle of diversity– that’s my neighborhood.  (And if you are curious, all that red is a huge Indian population in western Cary and neighboring Morrisville).

Not quite 100%

Greg Sargent has some thoughts on last night’s NC Senate debate and highlights a line that had me rolling my eyes:

Charlotte Observer has a collection of videos of key exchanges during the debate, and this one usefully frames what happened:

“I assume you’re proud you voted with him 96 percent of the time,” Tillis said. “I think it’s fair to make this election about his policies.”

Hagan’s response: “One hundred percent of the time Speaker Tillis’ policies have hurt North Carolina,” she said. “He’s gutted education, killed the equal pay bill, no Medicaid expansion.”

This race could end up being as much about right-wing governance at the state level than about the national Obummer agenda, or even more so.

Nice sound bite, I suppose.  But really, 100%.  Not even going to give Tillis the broken clock’s worth of being right?  That said, it did remind me of this nice NC Policywatch piece about seven other bad/stupid things the legislature has done that have drawn less attention.  It’s hard to pick a couple, because when you read, they are all just dumb ideas (especially #2), but here you go:

1) Lawmakers abolished the nationally recognized N.C. Teaching Fellows program that provided college scholarships for students who agreed to spend at least four years in the classroom. More than 75 percent of Teaching Fellows stay in teaching past their four-year commitment…

2) Lawmakers ended all state funding for the state’s drug treatment courts that provide a tough and effective alternative to incarceration for nonviolent drug offenders that actually save the state money.   The courts costs a few thousand dollars for each participant, roughly a tenth of the almost $30,000 year it costs to keep them behind bars.

Numerous studies show the program works. One found that 75 percent of the graduates of drug court were arrest free two years after finishing the program.

It is also one of a handful of programs supported by both prosecutors and advocates for alternatives to incarceration.

In his 2013 State of the State speech to lawmakers, Governor McCrory called on the House and Senate to restore funding for the courts, but they ignored his request and he signed a final budget in 2013 that included no funding. The courts were barely discussed at all in 2014…

5) Lawmakers ended a requirement that all community colleges participate in the federal student loan program that makes low-interest loans available to students.

More than half of North Carolina students attending college or universities are enrolled in community colleges. Just a few years ago 57 percent of North Carolina community college students lacked access to low interest federal loans–the largest share of any state in the country at that time.

Thanks to the 2010 law that required community colleges to offer the loans, that percentage dropped to 36 percent past year, still too high but a vast improvement.  That requirement is gone, thanks to the General Assembly, and many students who need help while they are in school are now forced to turn to private loans with interest rates three or four times as high as the rate on the federal loans.

Just a lot of dumb policies have come out of Raleigh.  Even though these in particular are not the problem for Tillis, the best evidence suggests that it is the far right legislative agenda at the state level that is bringing Tillis down compared to other Republican Senate challengers.

We’re 51!

From the Greensboro News & Record.  Ugh.

Among the 50 states and the District of Columbia, North Carolina ranks as the worst state for teachers, according to a new ranking by WalletHub.

The personal finance website analyzed data along 18 categories to come to its rankings.

The metrics it looked at included looks at states’ median starting salaries, unemployment rates and teacher job openings, among other factors.

Here is where North Carolina ranked in several categories:

  • Average starting salary, 41,
  • Median annual salary, 47,
  • Unemployment rate, 38,
  • Ten-year change in teacher salary, 51,
  • Pupil-to-teacher ratio, 32,
  • Public school spending per student, 48,
  • Teachers’ wage disparity, 43, and
  • Safest schools, 40.

I enjoyed all the comments about how it is the Democrat’s fault that the ten-year change in teacher salary is 51.  And whereas Democrats can take a portion of the blame, Republicans have controlled the legislature (and the budgeting process) since 2011 and we have seen our teacher salary ranking decline rapidly in recent years.


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