OK Republicans

Living in NC, I like to give the idiocy of our GOP state legislators some attention.  Thanks to FB, I’ve learned that (not surprisingly) they’ve got good company in Oklahoma.  Apparently, one of them has never heard of the Supremacy Clause of the US Constitution:

A bill introduced Monday in the Oklahoma state Senate would forbid the United States Supreme Court from reviewing Oklahoma laws.

State Sen. Ralph Shortey (R-Oklahoma City) introduced Senate Joint Resolution 84, which would amend Oklahoma’s constitution to remove the U.S. Supreme Court’s ability to review the constitutionality of Oklahoma laws.

If Democrats introduce laws this dumb (I admit, it is possible), I certainly don’t hear about it.


The establishment comes down on Newt

We’ll never quite now how much of Newt’s seeming collapse in Florida is based on being destroyed in the ad market, being pummeled in the debates, or the Republican elites coming down hard on him.  But man, he sure looks done now (though this year, I’m definitely refraining from definitive pronouncements).

Damn, I should’ve sold Newt short a week ago!  Anyway, John Cassidy has a really nice piece about the GOP Establishment finishing off Gingrich the past week:

The only realistic scenario in which Gingrich could have defeated Romney was one in which he halted Mitt’s victory march in South Carolina and then took him down in Florida. When the Party elders saw Newt successfully carry out part one of this plan, they decided to halt his progress, and quickly. As Palin noted in her post, some of their attacks upon the former Speaker shaded the truth, others; such as the ones questioning his credentials as a Reaganite, were highly inflammatory. To the latter point, Palin recycled a 1995 quote from Nancy Reagan, who’d said, “Barry Goldwater handed the torch to Ronnie, and in turn Ronnie turned that torch over to Newt and the Republican members of Congress to keep that dream alive.”

Newt and his Alaska-based patron—for that is now her primary role—have just learned a lesson that many Democratic candidates have learned since 1968, when Richard Nixon put together the first recognizably modern Presidential campaign: never underestimate the ruthlessness of the G.O.P. electoral machine.

Yep.  You just don’t usually see a Republican on the losing side of the ruthlessness.  I did predict at lunch today that Newt will stick around as long as the media keeps paying attention to him.  Hopefully, that’s a good long while.  It’s just hard (though certainly not impossible) to see a road to victory at this point.

Reality in 12 easy charts

I was looking for some good visuals as I revise my economic policy lectures and I discovered that Jared Bernstein had put together a a set of CBPP charts that he nicely titles “Guideposts on the Road back to Factville.”  I like my title better.  Regardless, it is the handy data you want to win an argument with any conservative (i.e., introduce him to this handy non-Fox News world we call reality) on deficits, taxes, and economic inequality.  Hard to pick a favorite, but I think this classic does the trick pretty well:

Actually, there is one failing in this set as it does not include a chart showing how health care spending drives long-term debt.  Not that CBPP hasn’t taken care of this:

The Best album you never heard

Sorry, for posting to be a little slower.  You can blame my attendance last night at a Jeff Mangum show in Chapel Hill.  You’ve probably never heard of Mangum, or his former band, Neutral Milk Hotel, but he/they are responsible for one of my all-time favorite albums that chances are you’ve never heard of.   Here’s my favorite track from In the Aeroplane over the Sea, “Holland, 1945”

As Neutral Milk Hotel was having it’s greatest success over a decade ago, Mangum “snapped” as he put it last night, and completely left the music scene.  Thus, the fact that he is back touring after all these years led to some pretty excited fans and is an NPR-worthy story.  Anyway, last night he performed a mostly solo set that was a simply amazing performance.  I feel quite lucky that I was able to see him.

Watch more TV

It’s harmless.  Or, at least it won’t kill you. Via the Austin Carroll:

Results: During a median follow-up of 5.8 years, 542 participants died. At baseline, 12.7% of participants reported watching television or using a computer less than one hour per day, 16.4% did so for 1 hour, 27.8% for 2 hours, 18.7% for 3 hours, 10.9% for 4 hours, and 13.5% for 5 or more hours. After extensive adjustment, the hazard ratio for all-cause mortality for the top category of exposure was 1.30 (95% confidence interval: 0.82, 2.05). No significant trend across categories of exposure was noted. The amount of screen time was also not significantly related to mortality from diseases of the circulatory system.

I will grant you I’m not unbiased here. I love TV, I love computers, and I love video games. On the whole, I think consuming amounts of technology that would stagger mere mortals has not hurt me too much; I think I’ve turned out OK. But I agree that there should be limits. Although I’m more permissive with my kids than many of my friends are with theirs, my children are not allowed to spend too much time playing video games and watching TV. They’re turning out pretty well, too.

I will also grant you that my wife and I spend an enormous amount of time with our children, and they have a number of advantages that other children might not. But that’s the point. It’s hard to determine which of these things is causal. It may be that there are other factors that are correlated with lots of TV time that may make kids or people worse off. Perhaps parents who let their kids watch enormous amounts of TV are more likely to be bad parents. Perhaps parents who let their kids watch enormous amounts of TV are working three jobs, struggling to make ends meet, and can’t play with their kids as much as they would like. Perhaps parents who let their kids watch enormous amounts of TV are depressed or sick. There are any number of scenarios where kids who have it harder are more likely to watch TV, without it being the TV that’s hurting them.

Many of the studies account for that as best they can. But the media likes to run around extrapolating a small statistically significant correlation into headlines like “TV WILL KILL YOU!” The sensationalism is pretty staggering. This leads to a publication bias, where results that are likely to shock and garner headlines are more likely to get accepted and printed.

Love both the points about the nature of parenting and the media’s bias towards more negative, i.e., “TV will kill you!” news.  I certainly spend lots of time in front of screens, but according to my doctors (and myself), I’m pretty damn healthy.  Of course, I’m also fortunate to have a job that allows me time to exercise, and honestly, I’m part of a socio-economic stratum that strongly values, and thus reinforces, exercise and good physical health.  I just wish my kids wanted to read a little more and watch TV a little less.  But they’re doing okay.

Yes, racists are less intelligent

Alright, one of those headlines liberals cannot help but love:

Low IQ & Conservative Beliefs Linked to Prejudice

Indeed.  To be fair, it is most definitely the combination.  And as the article suggests, low IQ and liberal beliefs probably have some bad effects (though, unlikely to be this unsavory).  But there’s definitely some interesting stuff going on here– and it is backed up by findings we already know, such as the lower cognitive complexity involved in conservative beliefs.  Some highlights:

There’s no gentle way to put it: People who give in to racism and prejudice may simply be dumb, according to a new study that is bound to stir public controversy.

The research finds that children with low intelligence are more likely to hold prejudiced attitudes as adults. These findings point to a vicious cycle, according to lead researcher Gordon Hodson, a psychologist at Brock University in Ontario. Low-intelligence adults tend to gravitate toward socially conservative ideologies, the study found. Those ideologies, in turn, stress hierarchy and resistance to change, attitudes that can contribute to prejudice, Hodson wrote in an email to LiveScience…

As suspected, low intelligence in childhood corresponded with racism in adulthood. But the factor that explained the relationship between these two variables was political: When researchers included social conservatism in the analysis, those ideologies accounted for much of the link between brains and bias.

People with lower cognitive abilities also had less contact with people of other races.

This finding is consistent with recent research demonstrating that intergroup contact is mentally challenging and cognitively draining, and consistent with findings that contact reduces prejudice,” [emphasis mine] said Hodson, who along with his colleagues published these results online Jan. 5 in the journal Psychological Science.

This last bit would seem to have some interesting implications for diversity in the classroom, i.e., it really is good for you.  It’s also somewhat amusing to me just how far the article goes to assure that these findings don’t mean that liberals are smart and conservatives are dumb.  These are averages– then again, maybe the conservatives reading this need extra help understanding that :-).  Anyway, this certainly is interesting and provocative.  I love this one summary:

“They’ve pulled off the trifecta of controversial topics,” said Brian Nosek, a social and cognitive psychologist at the University of Virginia who was not involved in the study. “When one selects intelligence, political ideology and racism and looks at any of the relationships between those three variables, it’s bound to upset somebody.”

Okay, back to intelligently liking minorities.

Photos of the day

Hey, it’s Saturday, you get two photos.  Alan Taylor put together this great set where he asked his readers to make requests for particular types of photos for him to curate.  Lots of awesome photos.  My two favorites (with the explanations) are below:

Maurice Li (@Maurice) asked me for “your favorite photo of the solar flare-fueled aurora borealis”. I have to say my favorite comes from the source,the sun itself, brought to us by NASA: A solar flare erupting on the Sun’s northeastern hemisphere, seen on January 22, 2012. Space weather officials say the strongest solar storm in more than six years is already bombarding Earth with radiation with more to come.(AP Photo/NASA) # 

Arjen vd Broecke (@PaVink) asked for a “‘Timing is Everything’ photo that could not have been taken a second earlier or later”. Here you are: A German shepherd leaps into the air biting a water balloon thrown her way while playing on a hot summer day in Encinitas, California, on August 16, 2010. (Reuters/Mike Blake) #

Rush to judgement

Wow, this Kathleen Parker column is awfully disturbing.  Honestly disappointed to see such sensationalistic and shoddy journalism in the Times:

A  New York Times story on Friday that essentially indicted and convicted a 22-year-old star football player on an alleged sexual assault charge by an anonymous accuser should have begun as follows:

“We know absolutely nothing about this rumor except what six people told us anonymously about this guy who they say sexually assaulted this girl. We don’t know who she is or what she said, or really anything, but here’s HIS name and what ‘they’ say about him.”…

Instead, with throat-clearing authority, the story begins with the young man’s name — Patrick J. Witt, Yale University’s former quarterback — and his announcement last fall that he was withdrawing his Rhodes scholarship application so that he could play against Harvard. The game was scheduled the same day as the scholarship interview.

Next we are told that he actually had withdrawn his application for the scholarship after the Rhodes Trust had learned “through unofficial channels that a fellow student had accused Witt of sexual assault.” And there goes the gavel. Case closed.

But in fact, no one seems to know much of anything, and no one in an official capacity is talking. The only people advancing this devastating and sordid tale are “a half-dozen [anonymous] people with knowledge of all or part of the story.” All or part? Which part? As in, “Heard any good gossip lately?” …

Moreover, when Witt requested a formal inquiry into the allegations, he says, the university declined. “No formal complaint was filed, no written statement was taken from anyone involved, and his request . . . for a formal inquiry was denied because, he was told, there was nothing to defend against,” according to the statement.

The Times apparently didn’t know these facts, but shouldn’t it have known them before publishing the story? It’s not until the 11th paragraph that readers even learn about the half-dozen anonymous sources. Not until the 14th paragraph does the Times tell us that “many aspects of the situation remain unknown, including some details of the allegation against Witt; how he responded; how it was resolved; and whether Yale officials who handle Rhodes applications — including Richard C. Levin, the university’s president, who signed Witt’s endorsement letter — knew of the complaint.”

Translation: We don’t know anything, but we’re smearing this guy anyway.

Naturally, Parker draws parallels to the Duke Lacrosse case.  There was certainly a rush to judgement there, but in the media’s defense, its really different when you are publishing things based on a Distinct Attorney (whom, until that point you had no reason to know was dishonest and unscrupulous) than the allegations of half a dozen anonymous sources with “part of the story.”  Yikes!

Don’t rescue me

Loved this Emily Yoffe story about just how crazy so many pet rescue organizations can be.  In the case of our most recent adoptee, Sasha (pictured below, with Sarah on top), they actually did a background check on us as pet owners with our vet.   It was also pretty clear that they were worried about Alex’s autism being a problem.

But that’s nothing.  You should read the stories in this article.  Here’s a brief litany:

Katie wrote that she wanted to adopt a retired racing greyhound but was told she was not eligible unless she already had an adopted greyhound. Julie got a no from a cat rescue because she was over 60 years old, even though her daughter promised to take in the cat if something happened to Julie. Jen Doe said her boyfriend’s family lives on fenced farm property with sheep, but they weren’t allowed to adopt a border collie—whose raison d’être is herding sheep—because the group insisted it never be allowed off-leash. Philip was rejected because he said he allowed the dog he had to sleep wherever it liked; the right answer was to have a designated sleeping area. Molly, who has rescued Great Danes for more than 30 years, was refused by a Great Dane group because of “concern about my kitchen floor.”

And there’s more egregious examples that Yoffe goes into more detail on.  After a guinea pig tale you’ll have trouble believing, Jack Shafer concludes:  “They are trying to do something good,” he says, “and they end up doing something bad.”

“Education” Lottery

Among the recent controversies with our now not-running-for-reelection governor, Bev Perdue, was  is her advocacy for a 3/4 cent sales tax increase to help plug state education budgets.  I’d prefer a less regressive tax, but North Carolina has slashed education spending under the Republican legislature in a fairly appalling way.  Simply spending more money on education is not necessarily the answer, but I’d argue that hiring more teachers and giving them the salaries and raises they deserve, is definitely a good thing.

Anyway, the issue that totally haunts and distorts the education funding debate in NC is the damnable “North Carolina Education Lottery.”  When this lottery was passed, it was quite controversial.  Conservatives opposed it because they are uptight moralists and many progressives opposed it because, heck, it’s just bad public policy (a tax on the statistically illiterate, who are least able to afford it).  As for me, given that all the surrounding states have a lottery, adding NC to the process seemed like not a horrible policy, but I’d rather none of us have a lottery.  Anyway, to help sell it, supporters decided that the revenues would be earmarked for education spending and we’d call it the “education lottery.”  Presumably, that was enough to get just enough support to pass it (then Lt. Governor Perdue cast the tie-breaking vote).

Anyway, the horrible unintended consequence of this is that many North Carolinians seem to think that the “Education Lottery” should have solved all of school funding problems.  So not true.  They wonder, why should we raise taxes even a tiny bit, when we’ve already got the lottery to pay for education.  What they don’t realize is that the scale of state spending on education absolutely dwarfs.  If I got the numbers right after a fair amount of googling last night, in the most recent fiscal year, the lottery contributed $400 million to education funding.  Sounds good, until you realize that NC spent $20 billion on education.  In short, for you non-math majors, that’s a whopping 2% of state spending on education.

Thus, it seems like the lottery supporters have done some real long-term harm to education in NC by actually convincing many voters that we don’t need to do anymore to fund education when, in fact, we desperately need to.  I swear, if only we had the “North Carolina Lottery” things on this score would actually be much better.

Photo of the day

Don’t usually see someone sticking their finger in the President’s face.  Here, Arizona Jan Brewer and President Obama “discuss” immigration.


SuperPAC name generator

I was talking with some friends yesterday about Making a Better Tomorrow Tomorrow, Winning our Future, Americans for America (yes, that’s real) and thought it would be really cool to come up with an internet SuperPAC name generator.  Just have randomly generated combinations of America, Future, Winning, Restore, etc.  If I had any computer programming skills, I’d actually make such a thing.  Alas, I don’t.  A quick google search reveals that NPR got this idea just a couple of weeks ago.  I’m not all that impressed with it though.  Somebody should make something better.  I was not impressed by “Cure The Purple Mountain Majesty” or “Enrich Astronauts.”  I’d like something more along the lines of Winning a Better Future for America.  Anyway, it’s a pretty cool idea.

%d bloggers like this: