Should young people’s votes be worth more

This Ezra post is so awesome (and brief) I’m just going to re-post the whole thing.  I cannot wait to use this (or a similar) analogy in my class next time I teach the Intro course.

Here’s your out-of-the-box policy idea for the day:

America should implement weighted voting to make voting more objective and fair, and give the young more power, because the consequences of political decisions will affect them the longest. Weighted voting would restore power to twenty and thirty year olds, where it resided before the advent of medical science. With the aid of computers, it would be easy to give everyone a Voting Score, just like we all have a credit score.

If your response to this is that it’s crazy and offensive, that all American adults are equal and so is their vote, you might want to familiarize yourself with the U.S. Senate, where a Wyoming resident’s vote is worthalmost 70 times as much as a Californian’s, or the electoral college, where the presidency could be won by a candidate who loses the popular vote 4:1.

All of which is to say, we already reweight voting in this country. But we do it to give residents from small states more power. Does that really make more sense than reweighting by age, education, race, income orsome other demographic characteristic?

Sexism in Hollywood

Not only does Dahlia Lithwick write great articles in Slate, she links to really interesting things in her facebook feed.  In this case, Roseanne Barr’s first-person account of the rampant sexism she experienced behind the scenes with her very successful sit-com.  I never watched more than a scene of the show here or there, but I found this account fascinating (and very one-sided– I’d love to hear from some of the other people involved).  A couple of good tid-bits:

The end of my addiction to fame happened at the exact moment Roseanne dropped out of the top ten, in the seventh of our nine seasons. It was mysteriously instantaneous! I clearly remember that blackest of days, when I had my office call the Palm restaurant for reservations on a Saturday night, at the last second as per usual. My assistant, Hilary, who is still working for me, said—while clutching the phone to her chest with a look of horror, a look I can recall now as though it were only yesterday: “The Palm said they are full!” Knowing what that really meant sent me over the edge. It was a gut shot with a sawed-off scattershot, buckshot-loaded pellet gun. I made Hil call the Palm back, disguise her voice, and say she was calling from the offices of Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman. Instantly, Hil was given the big 10-4 by the Palm management team. I became enraged, and though she was uncomfortable doing it (Hil is a professional woman), I forced her to call back at 7:55 and cancel the 8:00 reservation, saying that Roseanne—who had joined Tom and Nicole’s party of seven—had persuaded them to join her at Denny’s on Sunset Boulevard…

Nothing real or truthful makes its way to TV unless you are smart and know how to sneak it in, and I would tell you how I did it, but then I would have to kill you. Based on Two and a Half Men’s success, it seems viewers now prefer their comedy dumb and sexist. Charlie Sheen was the world’s most famous john, and a sitcom was written around him. That just says it all. Doing tons of drugs, smacking prostitutes around, holding a knife up to the head of your wife—sure, that sounds like a dream come true for so many guys out there, but that doesn’t make it right! People do what they can get away with (or figure they can), and Sheen is, in fact, a product of what we call politely the “culture.” Where I can relate to the Charlie stuff is his undisguised contempt for certain people in his work environment and his unwillingness to play a role that’s expected of him on his own time.

If you have even a passing familiarity with Roseanne or any interest in Hollywood, the whole thing is really worth a read.

The Bachman Odds

I honestly think the inside-the-beltway types spend too much time with various Republican elites to realize just how amazingly anti-intellectual much of the Republican party has become.  Here’s Dee Dee Myers writing about Michelle Bachman (in a longer piece about women presidential candidates):

Should she decide to run, it’s easy to imagine scenarios in which she could seriously affect the outcome.

What’s impossible to imagine is that she could be a serious candidate. She knows shockingly little about history and public policy.

Honestly, I don’t think knowing “shockingly little” about history and policy is much of a disadvantage among the Republican primary electorate.  Still, its fun to catalog Bachman’s idiocy:

This is the woman who claimed that the Founding Fathers ended slavery and said in not one but two speeches that the Revolutionary War’s “shot heard round the world” at Concord and Lexington happened in New Hampshire. She insists that judges encourage kids to try homosexuality, gay marriage is the most important issue of the past 30 years and the Serve America Act, an effort to increase volunteer service, is a sinister plot to create “re-education camps.”

Myers’ quotes Mark Halperin at putting the Bachman odds at 1000 to 1.  So does Chait, who makes the case that Halperin is underestimating her odds by at least a power of 10.  It all depends on Mitch Daniels:

If no other establishmentarian Republican enters the race, then the field is fairly clear for Pawlenty. If he wins in Iowa, he can coast the rest of the way. If Bachmann wins in Iowa, the terrified party elites will probably rally to the side of the next most viable candidate, which will probably be him, assuming a second-place showing there. I assume that Pawlenty’s establishment support would probably (but not certainly) allow him to defeat Bachmann.

But, if Daniels enters the race, it would create a very strong chance for Bachmann to capture the nomination. It could split the potential establishment alternative should she win Iowa. And if Daniels rather than Pawlenty emerges as the choice of the party elite, then Bachmann has an opponent she could beat. Pawlenty is perfectly acceptable to the most conservative factions of the party, and could hold his own with the extreme-crazy wing while dominating among the less-extreme-crazy wing. Daniels might simply face implacable opposition from the extreme-crazy wing.

Certainly sounds plausible.  I’d put her odds at 100 to 1 or better.  In many ways, I think a Bachman nomination would be great for both parties.  For the Democrats– you guarantee Obama a second term.  For Republicans– they follow the wingnuts right off the cliff, and presumably come back a healthier and more rational party less in the image of Michelle Bachman and more in the image of David Frum.

Time to bet against Romney

I should’ve linked this before Huckabee dropped out, which many have suggested seems to make things even tougher for Romney (conventional wisdom seems to be that it helps Pawlenty and Bachman– oh how I would so love for her to do well), but I did want to mention that Romney is clearly doomed because of his health care position.  It did not have to be that way, but clearly the conservative establishment has decided that it does.  Of course, Chait has long been predicting Romney’s demise, but I think it is notable that the WSJ editorial page (and many other “mainstream” conservative organs) have clearly concluded his defense of his MA health care plan are untenable.  I especially like this bit from Chait— an amazing (and accurate) indictment of the modern Republican party:

Conservative blogger Jennifer Rubin approvingly summarizes the accusation against Romney as him “being a technocrat and not a conservative.” It’s a revealing use of language. She correctly deems technocracy and conservatism — at least the sort of conservatism acceptable to the conservative movement and the current Republican Party — mutually exclusive. This is an important reason conservatives have responded so fiercely to Romney’s health care program — it suggests a willingness to follow empirical results over free market dogma. That he views the market as merely a powerful welfare-enhancing tool, rather than as an a priori philosophical commitment, proves his ideological unfitness.

Romney’s argument boils down to his plan was fine, because the people of MA chose it for themselves, but Obama’s very similar plan is a horrendous, socialistic, “federal government takeover” of medicine, simply because it is implemented at the federal, rather than the state, level.   I’d love to see the people other than Romney’s family who are actually convinced by that argument.

Last chance

I’ve meaning to write up a post on the fascinating and mind-blowing results of the blog survey.  In the unlikely event you are reading this post, but haven’t taken the spiritually and emotionally rewarding survey yet, please do so.  I’ll have a write-up later this week.

Who are the politicians against us having more qualified engineers and PhD’s?

Inspired by this post from Ezra Klein, I’ve been mean to tackle the absurdity of our immigration policies again for a while, but I keep not getting around to it because I keep reading/experiencing more and I’ve got a bad habit of putting off big posts.  So, let’s see if we can keep this relatively short (more links, less excerpts, maybe).  Ezra’s basic point: we make it really easy for foreigners to come here and earn engineering degrees and PhD’s, but then we make it really hard for them to stay.  Say what you will about our problems with illegal immigration from south of the border, but this is just nuts.  Why in the world should we be turning away highly qualified, ambitious people who want to work in this country?  Anybody who thinks that’s a good idea understands less than zero about how the economy works.

I’ve mentioned before my highly skilled, educated, and talented Canadian friend who keeps relying on temporary visas.  Meanwhile, his wife who used to be a pretty skilled employee herself is legally forbidden from any work whatsoever.   Just this weekend, I learned that the hard-working and capable PhD who runs the distance education programs for NCSU’s School of Public and International Affairs is heading back to Turkey to take his talents there, because apparently it is proving impossible for his wife to be hear legally.  Argh!

Apparently, even Jonah Lehrer is so frustrated by the absurdity of this that he’s moved beyond neuroscience for a recent column to talk about just how incredibly short-sighted this all is:

Consider some recent data. The U.S. Patent Office says immigrants invent patents at roughly double the rate of non-immigrants, which is why a 1% increase in immigrants with college degrees leads to a 15% rise in patent production. (In recent years, immigrant inventors have contributed to more than a quarter of all U.S. global patent applications.) These immigrants also start companies at an accelerated pace, co-founding 52% of Silicon Valley firms since 1995. It’s no accident that immigrants founded or co-founded many of the most successful high-tech companies in America, such as Google, Intel and eBay.

Why is immigration so essential for innovation? Immigrants bring a much-needed set of skills and interests. Last year, foreign students studying on temporary visas received more than 60% of all U.S. engineering doctorates. (American students, by contrast, dominate doctorate programs in the humanities and social sciences.)

These engineering students drive economic growth. According to the Department of Labor, only 5% of U.S. workers are employed in fields related to science and engineering, but they’re responsible for more than 50% of sustained economic expansion (growth that isn’t due to temporary or cyclical factors). These people invent products that change our lives, and in the process, they create jobs.

But the advantages of immigration aren’t limited to those with particular academic backgrounds. In recent years, psychologists have discovered that exposing people to different cultures, either through travel abroad or diversity in their hometown, can also make them more creative. When we encounter other cultures we become more willing to consider multiple interpretations of the same thing. Take leaving food on one’s plate: In China, it’s often a compliment, signaling that the host has provided enough to eat. But in America it can suggest that the food wasn’t good.

Why, why, why?  Ezra’s post concludes:

This is one of those policy problems that’s very easy to solve as a technical matter — just let these students stay — but very difficult to solve as a political matter.

So who are these morons in Congress so scared of these “imgrants” that they keep/put in place policies that make it increasingly harder for the best and brightest of other nations to help grow our economy?  Seriously.  I’m no immigration policy expert so I’d really like to know just what the argument people are making that drives such an amazingly counter-productive policy.

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