How we think about poor people

Great post from Thomas Mills.  I think a huge difference between Republicans and Democrats really comes down to our basic conception of what it means to be poor.  Obviously, it is a combination of individual choice and societal circumstance, but Republicans put far more emphasis on the former, the Democrats on the latter.  Personally, I would say Democrats allow for individual choice to play a role more than Republicans allow for societal context, but that’s an empirical question to be settled.  Anyway…

Back in the early 1990s, I went to work as a human resource director for an aluminum die cast company. The company had moved to rural North Carolina from the Midwest because of low wages, low taxes and no unions…

On dispute after dispute, I found myself siding with employees rather than management. 

I believed in the carpal tunnel syndrome that management denied existed. I thought the guy who got his hand permanently disfigured should continue to get workers’ compensation despite the company’s claim that he had received job training and now should be on his own. And when employees walked out after management insisted on leaving garage sized-doors open despite temperatures in the low 20s, I explained that they were not on a “wildcat strike,” as management contended, but that their mamas had taught them a long time ago to have enough sense to shut the door and come in from the cold. 

Needless to say, I didn’t last long. After six months, I quit. In my exit interview, my supervisor, who was gruff but basically a good guy, told me, “You’re just so naive. These people will get away with as much as they can while doing as little work as possible.”

And that, I believe, is a common Republican world view. They think the majority of poor people and working folks aren’t trying to get ahead in life; they are trying to get over on the system. [emphasis mine]…

Like my former bosses, Republicans are probably thinking “What a bunch of naive liberal bunk.” And that’s the difference in the Democrats who ran the state and the Republicans who control it now. 

Nobody ever considered Marc Basnight, Tony Rand or Jim Hunt anti-business. But those Democrats also weren’t anti-poor. They understood that poverty was often caused by circumstances beyond people’s control and they also believed that government had a role in alleviating the impact of hardship on families. Most importantly, though, they believed that children were victims of poverty, not causes of it, and that education and support, from early childhood through college, offered the children of poverty the chance to escape it. 

As long as we have leaders who see our poorest citizens as burdens and grifters, we’re doomed to make poverty harsher and ensure a permanent underclass. The free market may be the vehicle to create jobs, but it does little to soften the blow of poverty. To create the type of society I believe in, we need to do both. [emphasis mine]

Amen.

Obamacare has helped nobody! 

Or so believes a striking majority of Republicans.  Via Greg Sargent:

With the political world still pondering what yesterday’s court rulings mean for the future of Obamacare, CNN has published a fascinating new poll that asks a question I haven’t seen before. It asks whether the law has personally helped respondents, but then follows up and asks whether respondents think the law has helped others.

And guess what: A huge majority of Republicans and conservatives don’t think the law has helped anybody in this country…

Crucially, an astonishing 72 percent of Republicans, and 64 percent of conservatives, say the law hasn’t helped anyone…

Perhaps these numbers among Republicans and conservatives only capture generalized antipathy towards the law. Or perhaps they reflect the belief that Obamacare can’t be helping anyone, even its beneficiaries, since dependency on Big Gummint can only be self-destructive. Either way, the findings again underscore the degree to which Republicans and conservatives inhabit a separate intellectual universe about it.

Ummm, wow.  Again, I wonder what the response would be with a follow up question of “really?” but Sargent is certainly right that it demonstrates Republicans in a separate universe (I hesitate to call it an intellectual universe :-) ) on this.  Alternatively, many of the big beneficiaries are poor people, so maybe they are just nobody.

Race and criminal injustice

So, I listened to this slightly old Gist podcast this morning.  Sure, I know about the role of race and social class in our criminal justice system, but it still remains bracing and distressing to hear first-hand accounts of the institutional racism.  Then I watched this (again, terrific) John Oliver segment on our prison system.  Such an indictment.  Middle-class white people doing drugs?  No problem.  Black people?  Prison for you.  And so much more.  If you care about criminal justice in America, you really owe it to yourself to watch:

Then I (finally) read from a conservative taking our criminal justice system to task.  Nice to see from somebody who writes for the National Review, rather than just a libertarian, like Balko:

Imagine if I were to tell you there is a large group of government employees, with generous salaries and ridiculously cushy retirement pensions covered by the taxpayer, who enjoy incredible job security and are rarely held accountable even for activities that would almost certainly earn the rest of us prison time. When there is proven misconduct, these government employees are merely reassigned and are rarely dismissed. The bill for any legal settlements concerning their errors? It, too, is covered by the taxpayers. Their unions are among the strongest in the country.

No, I’m not talking about public-school teachers.

I’m talking about the police.

We conservatives recoil at the former; yet routinely defend the latter — even though, unlike teachers, police officers enjoy an utter monopoly on force and can ruin — or end — one’s life in a millisecond.

Yep.  And again a litany of horrible police misconduct that all too often is barely punished.  I am ashamed to admit I had not heard of the case of Eric Garner in New York City.  The police killed him by choking him and sitting on him while he cried out “I can’t breathe.”   The above piece links to the horribly disturbing video.  His offense?  Allegedly selling cigarettes on the street.  More here from the NYT Editorial:

Mr. de Blasio and the police commissioner, William Bratton, say there will be a thorough investigation into Mr. Garner’s death. The undercover officer, Daniel Pantaleo, had to surrender his badge and gun; another officer was put on desk duty. Two paramedics and two emergency medical technicians were placed on modified duty. The Civilian Complaint Review Board, meanwhile,has promised to re-examine the last five years of chokehold complaints. The board received 1,022 such complaints since 2009 and substantiated nine of them, recommending administrative trials for the credibly accused officers. But, in all but one of those cases, they received the lightest sanctions or no punishment at all. This is not reassuring.

It should go without saying that neighborhoods should feel protected by law enforcement, and that officers should be expert at defusing conflicts and avoiding lethal violence.

And lastly, you should really take some time and read this fabulous Sarah Stillman piece on the criminal justice system’s war on poor people.  Truly disgusting and depressing.

Extreme Conservative judicial activism

Just wow.  It is hard to imagine a more extreme case of judicial activism than what came out of the DC Circuit Court yesterday.  In the Halibig case, two Republican-appointed judges basically argued that the ACA intentionally included the seeds of its own destruction.  And chose to argue this rather than the lights-years far more obvious interpretation that there was simply a drafting error.  Whatever the opposite of Occam’s Razor is, this is it.  The dissent on the 2-1 decision, which Drum quotes extensively from here, completely eviscerates the majority opinion

Their conclusion is that Congress deliberately withheld subsidies from federal exchanges as an incentive for states to set up exchanges of their own. On this point, Judge Harry Edwards was scathing in his dissent:

Perhaps because they appreciate that no legitimate method of statutory interpretation ascribes to Congress the aim of tearing down the very thing it attempted to construct, Appellants in this litigation have invented a narrative to explain why Congress would want health insurance markets to fail in States that did not elect to create their own Exchanges. Congress, they assert, made the subsidies conditional in order to incentivize the States to create their own exchanges. This argument is disingenuous, and it is wrong. Not only is there no evidence that anyone in Congress thought § 36B operated as a condition, there is also no evidence that any State thought of it as such. And no wonder: The statutory provision presumes the existence of subsidies and was drafted to establish a formula for the payment of tax credits, not to impose a significant and substantial condition on the States. [emphases are Drum's]

It makes little sense to think that Congress would have imposed so substantial a condition in such an oblique and circuitous manner….The simple truth is that Appellants’ incentive story is a fiction, post hoc narrative concocted to provide a colorable explanation for the otherwise risible notion that Congress would have wanted insurance markets to collapse in States that elected not to create their own Exchanges.

There’s no evidence that Congress ever thought it needed to provide incentives for states to set up their own exchanges. Certainly they could have made that clear if that had been their intention. As Edwards says, this claim is simply made up of whole cloth. In fact, he says acerbically, the entire suit is little more than a “not-so-veiled attempt to gut the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act “:

Don’t worry, though, writes Ezra, no way the SC is going to go along with this:

The Halbig case could destroy Obamacare. But it won’t. The Supreme Court simply isn’t going to rip insurance from tens of millions of people in order to teach Congress a lesson about grammar…

This is plainly ridiculous. The point of Obamacare is to subsidize insurance for those who can’t afford it. The point of the federal exchanges is to make sure the law works even in states that can’t or won’t set up an exchange.

For Congress to write a law that provides for federal exchanges but doesn’t permit money to flow through them would have been like Congress writing a transportation law that builds federal highways but doesn’t allow cars, bikes or buses to travel on them…

For Halbig to unwind Obamacare the Supreme Court would ultimately have to rule in the plaintiff’s favor. And they’re not going to do that. By the time SCOTUS even could rule on Halbig the law will have been in place for years. The Court simply isn’t going to rip insurance from tens of millions of people due to an uncharitable interpretation of congressional grammar.

For five unelected, Republican-appointed judges to cause that much disruption and pain would put the Court at the center of national politics in 2015 and beyond. It would be a disaster for the institution. Imagine when the first articles come out recounting the story of someone who lost their insurance due to the SCOTUS ruling and then died because they couldn’t afford their diabetes or cancer treatment. Imagine when every single Democrat who had any hand at all in authoring the law says the Court is completely wrong about what the law meant. Imagine when every single Democrat runs against the Court.

Similar “don’t worry” take from Emily Bazelon.  This case is going to the full DC Circuit, where most seem confident wiser (and Democratic-appointed) heads will prevail.  Bazelon also nicely takes to task the textualism approach of the majority opinion:

Please. This is not about deferring to Congress. It’s about reading a text so myopically that you miss its larger meaning. More from Gluck: It “does a disservice to textualism and all those who have defended it over the years—turning it into a wooden unreasonable formalism rather than the sophisticated statutory analysis that textualists have been claiming they are all about.” The IRS lets people get subsidies when they sign up for health insurance, whatever the type of exchange, because this is what federal agencies are supposed to do: Choose the most plausible reading of a law, the one that fits with the consensus understanding of it. That’s how regulations are made. And once an agency has made its choice, courts are supposed to go along, unless it’s clear that the agency really blew it. Which is hardly true of granting subsidies to people who sign up for health insurance—the basic mechanism of Obamacare.

And, finally, Drum makes the point that in the event this truly absurd argument somehow gets five votes from the Supreme Court, the politics for conservatives become really, really tough.  It’s one thing to prevent a benefit from coming into being.  It’s quite another to yank the health insurance away from literally millions of Americans.  Those stories of the 40-year mom of four who can no longer get her chemotherapy will be politically devastating:

So what’s the political reaction? The key point here is that people respond much more strongly tolosing things than they do to not getting them in the first place. For example, there are lots of poor people in red states who currently aren’t receiving Medicaid benefits thanks to their states’ refusal to participate in Obamacare’s Medicaid expansion. This hasn’t caused a revolt because nothing was taken away. They just never got Medicaid in the first place.

The subsidies would be a different story. You’d have roughly 6 million people who would suddenly lose a benefit that they’ve come to value highly. This would cause a huge backlash. It’s hard to say if this would be enough to move Congress to action, but I think this is nonetheless the basic lay of the land. Obamacare wouldn’t be destroyed, it would merely be taken away from a lot of people who are currently benefiting from it. They’d fight to get it back, and that changes the political calculus.

And I’m going to close this long post by just lamenting on how truly sad I find it that two judges on the second most important in the country can write an opinion of such pathetic intellectual merit and such transparent partisanship that it takes not a law degree, but simply a high school education to see through it.  This makes Bush v. Gore look like a magisterial legal decision.

Southern Democrats’ dilemma

Nice piece from Bob Moser on the dilemma for current Southern Democratic senate candidates.  The long-standing playbook has been to position oneself very centrist to appeal to conservative Southern Democrats.  But changing demographics means the demographic base in the South is both more minority and more liberal.  So, what’s a Senate candidate to do?

 But Hagan’s tentative attitude [about Obamacare] has become a common theme across the South this year. As the region has become the Republican Party’s national fortress, Southern Democrats have won Senate seats by playing down their ties to their party.This year, six Democrats — three incumbents and three challengers — are waging competitive campaigns. The results in North Carolina, Georgia, Kentucky, Arkansas, Louisiana, and Mississippi could determine whether Obama faces a hostile Senate for his last two years in the White House. (Republicans need to pick up six seats to gain control, and only about 15 are competitive nationally.)

The question is whether Democrats in these states are better served by following the region’s five-decade-long drift toward the GOP — or by betting that the climate is finally changing in their favor…

It’s a sign of things to come in states like North Carolina, where large influxes of Latino immigrants and “relocated Yankees,” both black and white, are tilting the demographic balance toward the Democrats and inspiring a new progressive movement. But despite Obama’s own surprising Southern breakthroughs — after Al Gore and John Kerry lost the entire region, he won three large Southern states in 2008 and two in 2012, falling just short in North Carolina — the region’s blue future is still a long-term proposition. Candidates like Hagan are stuck between the past, when Southern Democrats’ recipe for victory involved courting white moderates and conservativesand a future in which they’ll be able to successfully campaign as full-throated, national-style Democrats. To win, Hagan and her compatriots must simultaneously woo independent-minded whites while persuading massive numbers of young voters and nonwhites, who lean left on both economic and social issues, to join them.

It’s an awkward proposition, to be sure. But the Democratic contenders have appeared hell-bent on making it look downright impossible…

“The old blue-dog model doesn’t work anymore,” says Ed Kilgore, a Georgia native and Democratic strategist who helped craft that model during his years with the centrist Democratic Leadership Council. “The people you’re appealing to aren’t going to vote for any Democrat anymore. You just don’t go right on every conceivable issue.” But that is exactly what his old friend [Georgia Senate candidate Michelle] Nunn — aside from her progressive stances on abortion rights and gay marriage, which she doesn’t like to talk about — is doing. Her platform consists of reducing corporate tax rates, entitlement “reform” (read: cuts) and debt reduction, supporting the Keystone pipeline, and cheering for military strikes in Syria. It’s not exactly catnip for the state’s emerging majority.

Okay, so no big changes this year, but Moser has an interesting prediction for the future:

What might happen if Democrats in the fast-evolving 21st-century South ran as honest-to-goodness, true-blue Democrats? Because the old Republican Lite habit dies hard — and because politicians of all stripes are timid by nature — we won’t find out this year. But it won’t be long. Perhaps in 2016, maybe in 2020, the mold will be broken: A new-style Southern Democrat will run in a state like Georgia or North Carolina or Texas and win with a full-throated progressive message. The demographics make it inevitable. And the result ultimately will be a whole new national political order. No longer will it be Southerners in Congress who are the stubborn impediments to progressive reform, as they’ve been for 150 years. And no longer will Republicans have a stranglehold on the region in presidential elections. The five largest Southern states — Georgia, Virginia, North Carolina, Texas, and Florida — account for most of the region’s electoral votes. They’re also the states where conservative whites are losing their hegemony by the day. How will the GOP carry national elections without them?

By the next decade, if demographics are (and they usually are) destiny, it will be Southern Republicans who are dodging and ducking and triangulating, conjuring ways to hold on to their aging and shrinking white base while appropriating Democratic issues and rhetoric to woo the new progressive majority. If they need tactical advice, they can always hire Kay Hagan or Michelle Nunn as campaign consultants. Their species of Southern Democrat will be, by then, a fading relic of a strange, distant, and inexplicable past.

I’m not quite as convinced of this scenario as Moser.  For one, there’s the possibility that the white voters is these states– though a shrinking majority– move as heavily Republican as the white voters in the deep South.  But still, I’d rather be a Democrat in these states (at least NC, VA, and FL, maybe GA) in 2016 or 2020 than a Republican.  And as for the ambitious Democratic politicians, it will be interesting to see when an unabashed national/i.e., liberal, rather than a more conservative “Southern Democrat” breaks through to win major state-wide office.

Let ‘em out

Okay, let’s start by saying that I think most violent felons need to be serving substantial prison sentences.  That said, we incarcerate far too many people for far too long in this country.  That might be worthwhile if it actually kept us safer.  But there’s not a lot of evidence that it does.  Nice Wonkblog post on how recent prison reductions in NY and NJ have not done anything to increase crime rates, as you might expect if all this incarceration was actually reducing crime:

The Sentencing Project

The sentencing Project

We certainly can’t take these three charts and conclude that reducing prison populations reduces crime. But these trends do make it harder to argue the opposite — particularly in the most heavily incarcerated country in the world. As the Sentencing Project puts it, “in the era of mass incarceration, there is a growing consensus that current levels of incarceration place the nation well past the point of diminishing returns in crime control.”

The militarization of the police

Great New Rules from Bill Maher.  I especially like how Maher points out that it is huge failure of “small government” conservatives to stand up to such egregious abuse of governmental authority.

The pope I don’t like

Pope Francis– awesome.  Art Pope– not so much.  Anyway, nice story about the latter in the Post recently.  I had a great conversation with the new NYT reporter on “the South” beat today (hopefully, that should result in my expertise in the NYT sometime in the future) and we discussed Pope, among many other things.  It is quite clear that this one man has a hugely disproporationate influence in NC politics.  That said, when one looks at the rather substantial intra-party squabble going on over the budget right now, it’s also clear that Pope is not quite the puppetmaster many of his detractors believe him to be.  Safe to say if he really was the all-powerful wizard behind the curtain, the Republican party would not be acting as it currently is (unless this is some super-smart devious plan to fool journalists and people like me).  Anyway, here’s some good stuff from the Post story:

There is no one in North Carolina, or likely in all of American politics, quite like Art Pope. He is not just a wealthy donor seeking to influence politics from the outside, nor just a government official shaping it from within. He is doing both at the same time — the culmination of a quarter-
century spent building a sphere of influence that has put him at the epicenter of North Carolina government and moved his state closer to the conservative vision he has long imagined.

“There are not many people as influential, because few people have invested the time and the money that he has on behalf of his state,” said Republican former governor James G. Martin, who tapped Pope, then 28, to be a lawyer in his administration in the 1980s.

From the outside, Pope’s family foundation has put more than $55 million into a robust network of conservative think tanks and advocacy groups, building a state version of what his friends Charles and David Koch have helped create on a national level.

They even have the whole thing in graphic form:

Art Pope’s influence on North Carolina

 

Dangerous sofas and public policy

Back in November, I read this Kristof column that referenced the documentary, “Toxic Hot Seat.”  I put it on the DVR and finally watched it last week.  Really good stuff (though, as film-making, a little bloated at 90 minutes).  Here’s the summary from Kristof:

RESEARCHERS this summer purchased 42 children’s chairs, sofas and other furniture from major retailers and tested them for toxic flame retardants that have been linked to cancer, birth defects, diminished I.Q.’s and other problems.

In a study released a few days ago,the Center for Environmental Health reported the results: the toxins were found in all but four of the products tested…

These flame retardants represent a dizzying corporate scandal. It’s a story of corporate greed, deceit and skulduggery, powerfully told in a new HBO documentary, “Toxic Hot Seat,” that is scheduled to air on Monday evening.

This is a televised window into political intrigue and duplicity that makes “House of Cards” or “Breaking Bad” seem like a Sunday school picnic.

The story goes back to the 1970s, when the tobacco industry was under pressure to make self-extinguishing cigarettes because so many people were dying in fires caused by careless smokers. The tobacco industry didn’t want to tinker with cigarettes, so it lobbied instead for requiring flame retardants in mattresses and couches.

This became a multibillion-dollar boondoggle for the chemical industry, but studies showed that flame retardants as actually used in sofas don’t prevent fires. This is easy to test: Just set a cushion on fire. The documentary shows that it will burn right up.

More than anything, this was a documentary about how those with money and strong financial incentive manipulate our political process not just to their financial gain, but literally to the death of others (it’s pretty clear that exposure to all these chemicals is responsible for at least some rare cancers in firefighters):

As the evidence grew about the danger of flame retardants, legislation was proposed in California, Maine and elsewhere to curb these chemicals. That’s when a mysterious organization called Citizens for Fire Safety Institute began running commercials defending the chemicals.

“The California Legislature is considering a bill that will endanger our children,” the group warned in one commercial. Another cautioned that without flame retardants, household furniture would spread fire through a home.

“Say no to laws that put our children in danger,” the group warned.

So who are these Citizens for Fire Safety? Their website once showed an image of children in front of a fire station and described the group as “a coalition of fire professionals, educators, community activists, burn centers, doctors, fire departments and industry leaders.”

“Toxic Hot Seat” follows a group of Chicago Tribune reporters as they dig into Citizens for Fire Safety. Their excavation of public records revealed that this “coalition” has just three members — a trio of giant companies manufacturing flame retardants. The organization was a lie, meant to deceive politicians and voters.

Just a powerful indictment of the chemical industry and the callowness of our politicians, who should be protecting us.  I was pretty curious to see the response from the chemical industry.  It’s here.  And it’s a masterclass in how to mislead with carefully-chosen language.  My favorite part:

“The docudrama also paints an incomplete and distorted picture of current regulation. The fact is that more than a dozen federal laws govern the safe manufacture and use of flame retardants, and all new flame retardants must be rigorously evaluated by the Environmental Protection Agency before manufacture.

The key issue in the documentary is the California law, not national laws, which actually ends up setting a de facto national standard.  Furthermore, notice that all new flame retardants must be rigorously evaluated.  They are free to slowly poison us with the old ones.  The makers of the documentary are clearly making a piece of advocay, but that is certainly not the case with the reporters at the Chicago Tribune.  You can check out their great reporting, featured prominently in the film, here.

More on the criminalization of parenthood

Terrific column from Ross Douthat.  Just going with a long excerpt I love:

But the pattern — a “criminalization of parenthood,” in the words of The Washington Post’s Radley Balko — still looks slightly nightmarish, and there are forces at work here that we should recognize, name and resist.

First is the upper-class, competition-driven vision of childhood as a rigorously supervised period in which unattended play is abnormal, risky, weird. This perspective hasn’t just led to “the erosion of child culture,” to borrow a quote from Hanna Rosin’s depressing Atlantic essay on “The Overprotected Kid”; it has encouraged bystanders and public servants to regard a deviation from constant supervision as a sign of parental neglect.  [all the emphases are mine]

Second is the disproportionate anxiety over child safety, fed by media coverage of every abduction, every murdered child, every tragic “hot car” death. Such horrors are real, of course, but the danger is wildly overstated: Crime rates are down, abductions and car deaths are both rare, and most of the parents leaving children (especially non-infants) in cars briefly or letting them roam a little are behaving perfectly responsibly.

Third is an erosion of community and social trust, which has made ordinary neighborliness seem somehow unnatural or archaic, and given us instead what Gracy Olmstead’s article in The American Conservative dubs the “bad Samaritan” phenomenon — the passer-by who passes the buck to law enforcement as expeditiously as possible. (Technology accentuates this problem: Why speak to a parent when you can just snap a smartphone picture for the cops?)

And then finally there’s a policy element — the way these trends interact not only with the rise of single parenthood, but also with a welfare system whose work requirements can put a single mother behind a fast-food counter while her kid is out of school.

This last issue presents a distinctive challenge to conservatives like me, who believe such work requirements are essential. If we want women like Debra Harrell to take jobs instead of welfare, we have to also find a way to defend their liberty as parents, instead of expecting them to hover like helicopters and then literally arresting them if they don’t.

Otherwise we’ll be throwing up defenses against big government, while ignoring a police state growing in our midst.

Quick hits (part II)

1) My favorite use for “big data”?  Baby name analysis.  Here’s a cool analysis of trendy baby names, i.e., names that burned bright, but for a short period.  Here’s to you Ashley, Linda, Jason, and Mark.

2) I did not know that almond milk has become a thing among hipsters.  I am a regular soy milk drinker because I simply like it’s taste better than low-fat milk and it has a similar health profile.  I’ve never used almond milk because, despite almonds being full of protein, almond milk is strangely devoid of it.

A single ounce (28 grams) of almonds—nutrition info here—contains six grams of protein (about an egg’s worth), along with three grams of fiber (a medium banana) and 12 grams of monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats (half an avocado). According to its label, an eight-ounce serving of Califia almond milk offers just one gram each of protein and fiber, and five grams of fat. A bottle of Califia delivers six eight-ounce servings, meaning that a handful of almonds contains as much protein as the mighty jug of this hot-selling beverage.

What this tells you is that the almond-milk industry is selling you a jug of filtered water clouded by a handful of ground almonds.

3) Very thorough look at what the research on bed-sharing with you baby does and does not tell us.  I think a very telling point is that the research groups together those who do it haphazardly with those who do it on purpose and these are very different groups.  All of our children slept in our bed some as infants because when you are breast feeding in the middle of the night, that’s just way easier.

4) Nice to see Weird Al getting so much love with his new videos.  This post makes a case for “Smells like Nirvana” as his finest work.  Nice post  I’m pretty partial to Amish Paradise, myself:

5) I hate tipping.  I’m a reasonable tipper, but I totally object to the concept of it for most all cases.  And I am right to, writes Brandon Ambrosino in Vox.  There was also a nice Freakonomics podcast last year on just how foolish the practice really is.

6) I love Yahoo Tech (formerly NYT) Technology writer David Pogue.  It’s pretty amusing the silly question people write to him with, as he explains in this video.  The best part is I found out about Let Me Google that for You.  So need to use this site with my students.

7) Loved this video on how dark matter forms the invisible structure of the universe.

8) I kind of like how Vox has taken to debunking popular myths/misconceptions about social science and such.  Here, they render the Myers-Briggs (i.e,. I’m an ESTJ) harmless.  Not new, though– Gladwell wrote about these same problems a decade ago.  In a similar vein, they nicely summarize the long-existing evidence that sugar does not make kids hyper.

9) How becoming a father changes your brain.

10) I think the idea of “bandwith poverty” is really important.  Excellent NPR story on the matter.  It is really cognitively demanding to be poor.

11) Want to learn better?  Test, test, test (or quiz, quiz, quiz).

12) No, it will never become law, but I love the idea of this legislation that simply says that abortion clinics should simply be regulated in the same way as all other clinics that provide outpatient medical services.

13) 50 state-themed lego dioramas.  Awesome.

14) The secret of effective motivation.

15) Yet more evidence that if you really want less teen pregnancy and less abortion, you should want more free/low-priced IUD’s.

 

 

The Republicans’ women problem

The real problem for Republicans with women voters is that women are simply more liberal than men on most all the key role of government issues that define so much modern political debate.  And it has been this way since at least the 1980’s.  This is very well established ground within political science.  In fact, Laurel and I were actually just working on studying “just” the gender gap before we somewhat accidentally studies across the impact of children, which has shaped our research ever since.

Earlier this week, I wrote about GOP Congresswoman Renee Ellmer’s inane comments about how pie charts are just too tough for women voters.   A number of nice blog posts, etc., on the issue around, but I particularly enjoyed Amy Davidson’s.  It also featured this excerpt from Ellmer’s that I had not previously noticed:

Ellmers’s comments reflect a certain Republican school of thought: women love the G.O.P; they just don’t realize it. (Their lack of self-awareness is such that, as a G.O.P. postmortem on the 2012 election noted, Obama’s margin with women was eleven per cent.) This, Ellmers said, is a matter of “tone”: “Women, by and large, agree with us on all of the issues. If you go through each issue, they agree. [emphasis mine]It’s how we are able to articulate ourselves—make sure that we’re getting the point across that we care, before we do anything else.”

This just could not be further from the truth!  Where is Ellmers getting this misinformation?  Fox news, I suppose.  Regardless, how can their be any hope of Republican legislators effectively addressing the needs of women citizens if they are so sadly misinformed about women (on average, of course) really think!  For a little context, here’s some charts from a Pew 2012 poll that looked at the gender gap on various key issues:

Yet, somehow Ellmers believes that women actually agree more with Republicans?!  Also noteworthy (and I hope I’ve mentioned this before), the gap is definitely not about abortion (as clearly seen in the last chart).

I also enjoyed Amanda Marcotte’s take, to a degree:

Women are likelier than men to make minimum wage or less.Women are more likely to fall into one of the eligibility categories for Medicaid.Women still make lower wages because of gender discrimination. Women like having contraception coverage and a social safety net. If anything, making the impact of policy easier to understand would drive even more women away from Republicans and toward Democrats.

But, alas, she’s got to go and ruin it by making it also about abortion when the data just don’t support that.

Regardless, insofar as Ellmers’ take is indicative of that of Republican politicians, don’t expect to see this pronounced gender gap narrowing much any time soon.

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