Great tits

Sometimes you just can’t take the 16-year old out of the blogger and I cannot resist somewhat provocative blog post titles and watch how they drive traffic.  I think I may get a lot of disappointed viewers with this one.  As a bit of a birder, I was aware that there is a common species of bird in much of Europe known as the Tit.  However, I didn’t know, there were actually “Great Tits” until I came across this Quirks and Quarks story about the life of European Bumblebees.  Short version, The Great Tit is actually a fairly significant predator of bumblebees– they manage to catch them and eat them from the inside out without ever getting stung.  Impressive.

The Republican budget strategy: lie

In politics, the liars pretty much always win (typical news story: “Democrats say X, Republicans say Y” without mentioning that X is much more true than Y), thus the Republicans have hit upon a smart strategy for selling their budget plans.  Here’s Cohn:

It’s becoming pretty clear how Republicans plan to defend their budget. They’re going to lie about it…

Here’s what Rubio said:

The Ryan plan doesn’t cut Medicare. Actually, it increases funding in it. And the only people in this town that have voted to cut Medicare are the people that supported Obamacare, that cut half a trillion dollars over the next 10 years out of Medicare and is using it to fund a healthcare experiment somewhere outside of Medicare. The only people in this town that have voted to cut Medicare spending are the people who voted in favor of Obamacare. That’s a fact. And so the truth is the people.

Sigh. This is pretty much the opposite of the truth.

If you want to know why, Cohn really lays it all out.  Otherwise, just take my (and Cohn’s word for it).  And, there’s every reason to believe they’ll get away with it.  Here’s what I wrote about lying before:

From what I’ve seen, the secret is to lie all you want, but just stop any particular lie when the media calls you out on it.  McCain’s problem was that he kept on lying so egregiously and pervasively about Palin’s reformer credentials (e.g., the Bridge to Nowhere) well after several media sources debunked this.  That basically pissed off the media.

When it comes to a fairly complicated and very policy-oriented issue, it’s safe to say most journalists will just throw up their hands and say, “that’s policy,” or “that’s too complicated” rather than do something like read Cohn’s blog and try to understand the issue.  That means, the burden is on Democrats, then, to loudly and pervasively call Republicans out on this.  Only then is there any hope of pushing back against the lie.  Even then, there’s still a good chance you just get left with “he said, she said” journalism that doesn’t get at the truth for the public.

The future of marijuana

I was looking around for material to use on my final exam for Public Opinion & Media (note to students– this won’t be it) and came across this nice summary of recent public opinion on the legalization of marijuana.  Much like the future of gay marriage, the demographics strongly suggest this is going to happen.  First the basics:

Wow.  That’s some pretty dramatic change in two decades!  Actually a student paper I read for the aforementioned class said that the whole “medical marijuana” approach was very much an intentional strategy to gradually change attitudes towards full legalization.  Sort of a camel’s nose under the tent.  Damn sure seems to be working.  And as to that demographic future:

Demographic trends show that the movement to embrace legalization will likely continue: Both recent polls reveal younger respondents as the most likely supporters. In the Pew poll, the majority of 18-29 year olds (54 percent favor/42 percent oppose) and a slim plurality of 30-49 year olds (49 percent support/47 percent oppose) said marijuana use should be legal. In the new CNN poll, about as many respondents under 50 said they supported legalizing marijuana (49 percent) as opposed it (50 percent).

And, as someone who spends a very good portion of his waking hours on a college campus and hanging out with college students, I found this tidbit quite interesting:

Both the CNN and Pew surveys found those who have attended college much more likely to support legalization than those who have not. According to CNN’s research, those who attended college opposed legalization by a five percentage point margin, while those who did not opposed it by 27 percentage points. The Pew poll, which broke responses down further, similarly found that college graduates and those with some college education were much more likely to support legalization than those with a high school education or less.

I’ll end with my standard disclaimer on the issue… never smoked a joint, never will, but I do find it a really interesting matter of policy and likely future policy change.

The 2nd ever Fully Myelinated Reader survey

If you are reading this, please, please, please take just a few minutes to fill out my brand new reader survey.  For one, NCSU now offers free use of Qualtics survey tools– and it’s awesome. So much better than Surveymonkey.  Secondly, and most importantly, yes, I write this blog for me because there’s always just stuff I feel the need to share/share my opinion on, but I am really curious as to what you like most and least about what I’m doing and who my readers actually are.

I don’t think it should take more than about 5 minutes.  Please!

[Also, if you catch any problems/errors, please let me know.]

Death penalty and racism

I’m not a regular reader of Mike Munger’s (Chair of Duke PS Department and Libertarian candidate for governor in NC) blog, but I do check out the occasional post he links to on facebook.  It is posts like this that make me sympathetic to the libertarian enterprise:

Alberto Alesina & Eliana La Ferrara
NBER Working Paper, April 2011

Abstract: …We find robust evidence of bias against minority defendants who killed white victims: In Direct Appeal and Habeas Corpus the probability of error in these cases is 3 and 9 percentage points higher, respectively, than for minority defendants who killed minority victims…

My own view [Munger]: Capital Punishment should be abolished immediately
1. It’s barbaric (I won’t insult you with a link. It’s obvious that the state should not have the power to murder a helpless unarmed person entirely in its power. If you come to my house and break in, I will shoot you, multiple times, with a large caliber weapon. But that’s self-defense. Capital punishment is obviously murder).
2. It’s racially biased. We mostly kill black people. (See above, or just read the damned newspaper in Texas)
3. It’s economically biased. If you can afford a real attorney, you’ll get life in prison. And public defenders simply cannot possibly give a real defense.
4. It’s more expensive. Cheaper to pay for lifetime incarceration than to pay for all the appeals after the fact. We provide little for actual trial expenses, but then pay millions for appealsafter the trial has been botched.

Yep.  It is important to note, that this is not just about the race of the defendant– there’s a real interaction here.  Black people killing other Black people, eh.  But a Black person killing a white person?  Then society really is ready to come down hard.

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