Chart of the Day

Via Drum, CPBB has updated their chart of the factors leading to the deficit over the next decade:

Drum writes, “So cut this out and post it on your refrigerator.”  Heck, I wish there was a way to post this on the refrigerator of every Republican I know.  Then again, if they still are unsure that Obama was born in America, I don’t exactly expect them to be convinced.

Koch U.

I realize that universities are having a tough time and need to try and get money where they can, but what Florida State has done is absolutely deplorable, abominable, and any other harshly negative word you can come up with.  Even worse that the bozos in the Econ department (tells you what you need to know about their integrity) try so hard to defend it.  It’s one thing to take money from wealthy people for specific purposes, e.g., to start a particular institute or program, it’s quite another to let them tell you which faculty you can hire.  Florida State has utterly debased itself.  The details:

A foundation bankrolled by Libertarian businessman Charles G. Koch has pledged $1.5 million for positions in Florida State University’s economics department. In return, his representatives get to screen and sign off on any hires for a new program promoting “political economy and free enterprise.”  [emphasis mine]

Traditionally, university donors have little official input into choosing the person who fills a chair they’ve funded. The power of university faculty and officials to choose professors without outside interference is considered a hallmark of academic freedom.

Under the agreement with the Charles G. Koch Charitable Foundation, however, faculty only retain the illusion of control. The contract specifies that an advisory committee appointed by Koch decides which candidates should be considered. The foundation can also withdraw its funding if it’s not happy with the faculty’s choice or if the hires don’t meet “objectives” set by Koch during annual evaluations.

This is a surprisingly well written article coming from the St. Petersburg times, adding in the context to let the readers know just how egregious this is:

Most universities, including the University of Florida, have policies that strictly limit donors’ influence over the use of their gifts. Yale University once returned $20 million when the donor demanded veto power over appointments, saying such control was “unheard of.”

Jennifer Washburn, who has reviewed dozens of contracts between universities and donors, called the Koch agreement with FSU “truly shocking.”

Said Washburn, author of University Inc., a book on industry’s ties to academia: “This is an egregious example of a public university being willing to sell itself for next to nothing.”

We’ve certainly had issues with this here at NCSU as there is a wealthy conservative “think” tank in Raleigh that has tried in numerous ways to get more involved with the PS and Econ programs here.  (Among their goals: “Encourage respect for the institutions that underlie economic prosperity and freedom of action and conscience”). They actually sponsor a speaker series where thoughtful conservative speakers (yes, there are a few out there) are typically brought in.  I have no problem with this, as obviously left to our own devices, we will certainly bring in more liberal speakers.  They’ve attempted to have more influence over curriculum matters in various ways here and at UNC over the years, but have generally been rebuffed.  In a program they stopped doing, they were actually providing grants for undergraduate research with no strings at all (I wonder if they stopped that because one of the recipients used the money for a godless, liberal study about how women politicians are treated differently by the media).

I just hope (probably in vain) that other academic institutions do not take this Koch U. approach.


So, presumably you’ve seen that Newt Gingrich is actually running for president.  I assume he’s not delusional enough to think he can win the nomination, but I suspect he really misses the big political stage he had during the 1990’s.  If he’s one thing, he’s certainly an egomaniac.  Anyway, a somewhat odd piece in the Times on how his 3rd wife and former mistress, Calista, may actually be an asset to his campaign.  I’m not buying.  First, tell me that the woman doesn’t look like a wax model:


From the article:

Yet in a curious tale of Washington reinvention, the onetime congressman from Georgia is counting on the third Mrs. Gingrich for his political redemption.

As he prepares for a Republican presidential primary run — he said Monday that he would formally declare his intentions on Wednesday — Mr. Gingrich is presenting himself as a family man who has embraced Catholicism and found God, with his wife as a kind of character witness. Depending on one’s point of view, she is a reminder of his complicated past, or his secret political weapon.

Nothing in the article came close to persuading me she’s a secret political weapon.  Unless you count singing in the church choir or playing in a community orchestra.   Nope– mostly she’s just a reminder that Newt is a hypocritical serial cheater who twice left wives sick with serious diseases (cancer and MS) to take up with younger women.

ADHD and screen time

Interesting article in Science Times yesterday on the relationship between time spent in front of screens (especially video games) and kids having ADHD.  It’s really a great case study of trying to figure out cauasality in ambiguous circumstances.  Does the screen time cause ADHD (a nice naive hypothesis, but I’m far from sold), or does the ADHD actually cause more screen time (an equally, if not more plausible, argument).  I took extra interest in this as I’ve got a son with ADHD who loves his screen time (and also struggles with social skills, as do many ADHD kids).  The deal:

In fact, a child’s ability to stay focused on a screen, though not anywhere else, is actually characteristic of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. There are complex behavioral and neurological connections linking screens and attention, and many experts believe that these children do spend more time playing video games and watching television than their peers.

But is a child’s fascination with the screen a cause or an effect of attention problems — or both? It’s a complicated question that researchers are still struggling to tease out…

The child may be playing for points accumulated, or levels achieved, but the brain’s reward may be the release of the neurotransmitter dopamine. Children with A.D.H.D. may find video games even more gratifying than other children do because their dopamine reward circuitry may be otherwise deficient.

Indeed, at least one study has found that when children with A.D.H.D. were treated with methylphenidate (Ritalin), which increases dopamine activity in the brain, they played video games less. The authors suggested that video games might serve as a kind of self-medication for these children.

So increased screen time may be a consequence of A.D.H.D., but some researchers fear it may be a cause, as well. Some studies have found that children who spend more time in front of the screen are more likely to develop attention problems later on.

In a 2010 study in the journal Pediatrics, viewing more television and playing more video games were associated with subsequent attention problems in both schoolchildren and college undergraduates…

Her co-author Richard Milich, also a professor of psychology at the University of Kentucky, suggested that besides the primary implications of this problem for academic performance, this finding may also shed light on social difficulties.

“This inability to see causal relations may affect this social problem we’ve known for 30 years,” he said. “These kids have dramatic social problems. They’re highly rejected by their peers.”

It may be a self-perpetuating loop, experts say: Children who have trouble with their social skills may be thrown back even more to the screen for electronic companionship.

In my son’s case, I don’t think it is about electronic companionship (though, it would be great if he had more time to spend time with friends)– I’m pretty sure he gets a huge dopamine kick from video games.  There’s been times when I’ve compared him to a crack addict when it comes to his compulsive need for video games.  I’m sure he’ll always really love video games, but at least while he lives at home (presumably another 7 years or so) we can (and do) limit the time.

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