Quick hits (part II)

1) I’m quite comfortable with the “native advertising” in many of the podcasts I listen to.  These are great podcasts and they’ve got to pay the bills and I’m sure I’m not alone in paying more attention to the ads when done in a clever way.  To say that this breaks down the wall of journalism and editorial certainly seems like a stretch in the podcasts I enjoy (Panopoly/Slate and Gimlet) and the idea that listeners cannot understand they are hearing a paid ad is ridiculous.

2) The NYT got it really wrong in a recent story about a supposed “criminal” investigation into Hillary Clinton’s emails.  Josh Marshall takes apart their defense.

3) Really enjoyed reading this ranking of all 74 Led Zeppelin songs.  Very much put me in the mood for listening to my CD box set.  I heartily agree with Kashmir at #1.  My biggest dispute is “Hey, Hey, What Can I Do?” way down in the 40’s.  That song was extra special back before you could get any song anywhere because it wasn’t even on any of their albums.  And it’s awesome.

4) On the surface, it may seem perfectly reasonable to not have Medicare cover erectile dysfunction, but if you stop and think about how important proper sexual functioning is for human happiness, this is really not right.

5) The Tech world is coming to value liberal arts degrees.

6) The Solar System is really big and this video is really cool, but not for 45 minutes.

7) Found this story fascinating on how Perdue is trying to gain a competitive advantage by moving to large-scale antibiotic free chickens.  The key to their approach?  A massive focus on cleanliness.  That’s right, keep everything sterile and clean; chickens don’t get sick, and you don’t need all the antibiotics.  Hopefully, this approach will catch on across the whole industry.

SALISBURY, Md. — The floors are spotless in Hatchery 3 on the sprawling Perdue compound here. Doors have been rehung to open out, and temperature control and ventilation systems have been upgraded, all to minimize the potential for airborne contamination.

The 1.5 million eggs that arrive here each week to begin the process of becoming the company’s chicken supply are also clean, with none of the traces of feces or feathers that were common in the past. They will move into chambers that are disinfected daily with hydrogen peroxide during the 21-day incubation-and-hatching cycle, a more rigorous program. No human hand will touch the eggs during those three weeks.

It took Perdue roughly a decade to perfect the raising of chickens without antibiotics of any kind, and now it has reached a tipping point: More than half of the chicken it sells can be labeled “no antibiotics ever,” a first for a major poultry company.

8) Vox with a teacher with a list of 7 things he wishes others understood about being a teacher.

9) Meant to give this it’s own post for too long.  A great, enraged Dahlia Lithwick on a case in Virginia where a clearly innocent man was prosecuted, convicted, and served years in jail before the prosecutor sort-of admitted the case was crap:

Deirdre Enright, director of investigation for the University of Virginia School of Law’s Innocence Project Clinic (disclosure: and a friend of mine), notes that this is where the idea of justice got confused with the promise of winning. As she says, “Lunsford appears to have learned in the middle of her case against Mark that the ‘victim’s’ cell phone tower records contradicted the victim’s version of events, and corroborated the defendant’s. Leaving aside the fact that a competent prosecutor is not learning the underlying facts of her case mid-trial, this was the kind of exculpatory evidence that would cause a fair prosecutor, honoring her obligation to seek and serve justice, to dismiss the charge. Instead, she successfully argued against their admissibility in court. In the wrongful conviction world, the nicest description we have for this phenomenon is ‘tunnel vision.’ ” …

And perhaps that’s the problem right there: Facing a mountain of evidence that showed there was no way the alleged victim could be telling the truth, the prosecutor believed her, then believed her, and then believed her some more…

If anyone suggests that the fact that Mark Weiner was released this week means “the system works,” I fear that I will have to punch him in the neck. Because at every single turn, the system that should have worked to consider proof of Weiner’s innocence failed him. [emphasis mine]

10) The super-important Voting Rights trial in NC (this could very well have national implications and could also very well work it’s way up to the Supreme Court) is now in the hands of the judge.

11) Loved this Will Saletan piece on Republicans and the Iran deal:

If Republicans win the White House next year, they’ll almost certainly control the entire federal government. Many of them, running for president or aspiring to leadership roles in Congress, are trying to block the nuclear deal with Iran. This would be a good time for these leaders to show that they’re ready for the responsibilities of national security and foreign policy. Instead, they’re showing the opposite. Over the past several days, congressional hearings on the deal have become a spectacle of dishonesty, incomprehension, and inability to cope with the challenges of a multilateral world. [emphasis mine] …

There’s plenty more I could quote to you. But out of mercy, and in deference to the many dead and retired Republicans who took foreign policy seriously, I’ll stop. This used to be a party that saw America’s leadership of the free world as its highest responsibility. What happened? And why should any of us entrust it with the presidency again?

12) Yes, crows are pretty damn smart.


Eat more blue whale?

I really enjoyed this thought-provoking Vox interview on the ethics of meat-eating and how it shaped by culture.  And, very much of it, doesn’t really have much of a rational basis (i.e., the fact that our culture is horrified by eating dogs, but does not mind at all eating pigs):

KH: Why do we eat some animals and not others?

HH: That is really interesting, and it gets to the heart of the topic that I’m interested in, which is why we love some animals and why we dislike others. Some of the reasons are just stupid. At least from an objective point of view, if you go and look at biblical rules on meat eating, they are absolutely bizarre in terms of why it’s okay to eat a cow but not okay to eat a pig. It has to do with the shape of their hooves. Why is it okay to eat one type of insect but not another type of insect? It makes no logical sense at all…

I think most of our meat choices are determined by cultural habits and things that get simply passed down from generation to generation. When I was a kid, the idea of eating raw fish would have just been hilarious, and now the idea of eating raw fish is universally accepted. In my little town in western North Carolina, a real conservative place, we have a terrific little Japanese restaurant that people flock to to eat raw fish. Why is sushi popular now when it wasn’t 40 years ago? For the most part, our food choices are governed by the same sorts of fads and fashions that govern our taste in clothing, or whether you wear your baseball hat backward or forward, or what kind of a dog you get.

KH: So it’s basically meaningless?

HH: No. And that’s the difference between deciding what animals you eat and deciding what animals you want to live with as a dog. And the reason is that meat involves killing a creature. That is the great paradox. On the one hand, we’ve evolved, I think, to be empathetic with creatures and to anthropomorphize them. So you see an animal like a puppy and you see a little bit of yourself or your kid in that puppy. But on the other hand, you see a pig — and I think little pigs are adorable — and you want at one level to empathize with the pig but on another level you want to eat that pig. The same thing is true with puppies.

Culture can overcome our natural inclination sometimes. So, for example, we find it absolutely abhorrent, the idea of eating a puppy, but in China, Korea, Southeast Asia, people commonly eat puppies. Twenty-five million puppies or older dogs are eaten each year, and they are considered delicacies. And for most of human history, it’s likely that animals were more likely to be eaten than kept as pets. So that’s why meat is so deliciously morally complicated. It is a meaningless decision on one level but, on the other, it’s very meaningful.

Yep.  The least us pork eaters can do is stop judging those who eat dogs (I’ve accomplished that much, at least).

The interview also gets into an interesting discussion of the ethical dimensions of eating different types of meat.  Honestly, I sometimes do choose chicken over pork and beef because I know it has less negative environmental impact and I figure that the chicken’s suffering is less than that of a pig or cow because the latter are much smarter.  I never considered how many individual chickens versus pigs or cows this impacts, though:

KH: A Big Mac or a chicken nugget? I mean, I suppose the Big Mac would be worse because cows seems more sentient than chickens, despite the fact that chickens are probably treated worse. I put more value on a cow’s life than a chicken’s.

HH: That’s why you’re completely wrong. You have to remember that this is the moral calculus of utilitarianism, which means basically that if you are a sentient animal, you count in the moral calculus. Well, there are 280 — and I did the math on this — there are 280 chickens in a cow. So in other words, to kill one cow, you take one life. To get the equivalent amount of animal protein, you have to kill 280 chickens. Now, by that logic, the animal of choice for animal activists to eat would be a blue whale, because there are 80,000 chicken souls to make up the soul of one blue whale. I contacted Ingrid Newkirk herself, the head of PETA, and asked her if she would agree with me on that, and she said, “Absolutely.” She said if an animal rights activist is going to eat meat, they should eat whales. Eat more whales. So that’s one of the ironies is that beef is more moral than chicken, eating a whale is more moral than eating beef.

I don’t like the use of the term “souls,” for chickens, but I’m quite comfortable saying that it’s worth killing 80,000 chickens instead of one blue whale.  280 chickens versus 1 cow… hmmm.  These are interesting and tricky moral/philosophical issues, so I think I’ll fall back on the environmental as the environmental impact for a pound of meat is pretty clear– listen to the Chik-Fil-A cows and eat more chicken.

Photo of the day

From the Telegraph’s animal photos of the week.  Is it just me, or is that the most human-looking expression you’ve seen on an owl:

A cute owl can barely hide the excitement in its eyes as it hunts for food from a tree branch. The Tengmalm's Owl - typically nocturnal and unsociable - is a rare sight because they usually avoid any human contact. However, this one's piercing yellow eyes were unperturbed by photographer Eugenijus Kavaliauskas' presence nearby. Sitting within 15 yards of the tree, experienced bird photographer Eugenijus told how it was an 'unusual stroke of luck' to see an owl of this kind so close. The 55 year old said: 'It was perched on a tree branch and was hunting smaller migrating birds.

A Tengmalm’s owl hunts for food from a perch in a tree in Silute, LithuaniaPicture: Eugenijus Kavaliauskas/Solent News

Quick hits

1) How the year you born influences your political views.

2) How always blaming mental illness for mass shootings is a cop-out.

3) The BBC ranks the 100 best American films.

4) On how schools should be working on building non-cognitive skills.

5) The new chair of the NC GOP is completely nuts.  Here he has decided to link Hillary Clinton to the KKK.

6) Great Upshot piece by Brendan Nyhan on how to use and interpret presidential election polls.  This is going to be assigned reading for multiple classes.

7) On how the Southern Drawl is fading away in Raleigh.  Safe to say my two children born in the area don’t have the slightest hint of a Southern accent.

8) Yes, the mob justice for killer of Cecil the Lion (honestly, I think it is pretty awesome that he is losing his dental practice over this) is arbitrary and severe.  As German Lopez points out, so is very much of American criminal justice.

9) We bought What Pet Should I Get last night.  Not Seuss’s greatest, but good stuff.  That said, it’s pretty clear that he never had any intention of publishing it and that makes me somewhat uncomfortable.

10) Very cool NYT multi-media feature on a rogue fishing boat and the environmentalists that hounded them for thousands of miles.

11) No standing desks for me!  But some good evidence that just a little bit of movement interrupting your sitting can make a big difference.  Between my small bladder and short-attention span at work and my whiny/demanding kids at home, I’d like to think this probably works out okay for me.

12) Not all surprising, but certainly damning is the way the police officers in Cincinnati worked together to agree to a false narrative in the Dubose shooting.

13) Your long read: NYT Magazine feature on Republican efforts to roll back the Voting Rights Act.  Sadly, North Carolina plays a starring role.

Photo of the day

Great photos of the week gallery from In Focus:

The full moon rises over the illuminated Kazan Kremlin and Qol Sharif mosque in Kazan, the capital of Tatarstan, located in Russia’s Volga River area about 450 miles (700 kilometers) east of Moscow, on July 29, 2015.  Denis Tyrin / AP

Republicans against public education

Sure, it’s one thing for me to complain about how many Republicans in our NC legislature are actively against public education, but it’s nice to have confirmation from Republicans in this state who actually do care about public education.  And how incredibly sad to even have to right that sentence.  If there ever should be a bipartisan issue, it should be support for public education.  Sure, I can handle disagreements about how best to do it, but the fact that so many of our “leaders” don’t actually care about NC having good public education is beyond depressing.  Anyway, great article in the N&O on the war within the NC GOP:

About two years ago, the Republican-dominated southern suburbs of Mecklenburg County elected Paul Bailey to represent them on the school board. He was endorsed by a roster of GOP officials that included three state legislators.

That made Bailey’s comments on the Republican-dominated General Assembly this week all the more striking.

“I’m extremely concerned that we have a state that is dismantling our public school system,” he said. “This state is going in the wrong direction when it comes to public education.”…

“I’m a Republican,” Bailey told me after Tuesday’s board meeting. “But I’m just tired of this crap.” …

But the sharpest criticism of state leaders came from the board’s GOP members.

“This makes me laugh, it’s so ridiculous,” Rhonda Lennon said.

“We are getting ready to open our classroom doors. … And we don’t have a clue yet if we’re going to have to (lay off) 500 teacher assistants or try to hire almost 140 new teachers,” Tim Morgan said.

Larry Shaheen, a Republican political consultant from Charlotte, says the state’s Republicans are split between those who support public education and those who believe that private business can do better than government schools. [emphases mine] In a state that’s currently dominated by the GOP, he says, that struggle will shape the state’s future.

“Regardless of your political persuasion, North Carolina has a rich heritage of public education. You can’t just dismantle it because it happens to be built by Democrats,” said Shaheen, who worked on Morgan’s and Bailey’s campaigns and counts himself in the pro-public education camp.

Shaheen’s comments conclude:

Shaheen says national tensions, including teacher unions that demonize Republicans [ed: hmmm, I wonder why], fuel attitudes in Raleigh. But he says polls support his contention that in Mecklenburg and across North Carolina, belief in public schools crosses party lines.

“Republicans have got to get better on public education,” he said, “and if they don’t, the majority in Raleigh will be unsustainable.”

Alas, this is nothing new with the guys in Raleigh, but they still have solid majorities.  I think PT Barnum had something relevant to say that very much applies to this.

The dirty little secret of decreasing mass incarceration

We’re going to have to let a whole more violent felons out on the streets.  There  was an article in the Times that there finally seems to be some real bipartisan momentum for reforming our horribly inefficient and way over-punitive sentencing laws.  That said, the accompanying article and graphs make it quite clear that this is not at all about just releasing non-violent drug offenders.  This chart is really something:


A massive share in rising prison populations is violent offenders.  The simple truth is we cannot address the overall problem without addressing what we do with violent offenders.  There’s plenty of low-hanging fruit here.  The likelihood of re-offense falls dramatically for older offenders.  And there’s plenty of ways to use technology (GPS and location monitoring with enhanced drug testing, etc.) to keep track of offenders in much more cost-effective ways outside of prisons.  But, we’re not going to solve this problem by just letting a lot of marijuana smokers out of prison.


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