Cool miscellany

1) The history of how female breasts came to be treated as a sex object.

2) Obama’s clearly winning; just admit it  (certain marital experts have been eerily quiet lately).

3) Now, this is really, really cool.  An analysis of the most popular pin numbers.

4) Bloomberg rates Raleigh America’s best city.  Whoo-hoo!

5) How the English Premier League rose from the dust of English soccer just 20 years ago.

Photo of the day

Pigeons from Big Picture.  I love captured motion:

Racing pigeons are released from their racing boxes as they start their flight from Alnwick to their home lofts across Yorkshire and Humberside in northern England, April 21, 2012. (Nigel Roddis/Reuters)

Two shorts

1) Interesting piece on the growing conflict over circumcision in Europe.  Secularization versus religious tolerance:

But the debate over ritual circumcision shows that the tensions extend even further.

Rabbi Goldberg does not seem especially worried. Anyone can file a complaint against anyone else in Germany, and he may never face formal charges. Rabbi Goldberg has not hired a lawyer and declined an offer from one who was willing to handle the case for free.

The more serious threat, in the eyes of Rabbi Goldberg and many Jews, Muslims as well as Christians in Europe, comes from what they see as an attack by secular society on religious ritual, on faith itself. A seemingly insignificant decision by a lower court in Cologne, against a doctor who circumcised a Muslim boy, has fed a rapidly spreading drive to criminalize a practice that is core to Jewish and Muslim belief.

In contrast to the United States, baby boys in Germany and other European countries are not routinely circumcised for health reasons. The World Health Organization recommends circumcision as a way to reduce the spread of AIDS, but many doctors in European countries regard the practice as harmful and even barbaric.

May not exactly be necessary, but it’s certainly not barbaric.  The three Greene boys survived just fine.

2) Yes, we really do need death panels:

WE need death panels.

Well, maybe not death panels, exactly, but unless we start allocating health care resources more prudently — rationing, by its proper name — the exploding cost of Medicare will swamp the federal budget.

But in the pantheon of toxic issues — the famous “third rails” of American politics — none stands taller than overtly acknowledging that elderly Americans are not entitled to every conceivable medical procedure or pharmaceutical…

Medicare needs to take a cue from Willie Sutton, who reportedly said he robbed banks because that’s where the money was. The big money in Medicare is not to be found in Mr. Ryan’s competition or Mr. Obama’s innovation, but in reducing the cost of treating people in the last year of life, which consumes more than a quarter of the program’s budget.  [emphasis mine]

Seriously, we as a society need to just accept that we cannot afford to do every possible treatment for everybody.  There’s real costs here beyond just the millions of dollars spent to give people just a few extra, if any days.  The big cost is the opportunity cost as that money could bring much greater benefits elsewhere in our health care system.

The need to belong

Amazing the type of hazing apparently that has been going on at SUNY Binghamton:

One junior, who expressed great love for the university, relayed accounts from two pledges. One said her sorority threw pledges into a freezing shower where they had to recite the Greek alphabet. Another reported being forced to eat concoctions meant to make pledges vomit on one another and to hold hot coals from hookahs in their hands. The e-mail concluded: “Save the innocent and naïve who can’t seem to save themselves.”

Forced drinking, a staple of college hazing, comes up in a few reports. There also were reports of students’ getting frostbite from walking barefoot in the snow. One said pledges, blindfolded, driven miles from campus and relieved of their phones, were expected to find their own way home. Another said a fraternity branded pledges on the leg, back or buttocks.

Nice.  Why on earth would anyone put up with even half this crap just to join a voluntary organization?!  I cannot even imagine.  Of course, that’s got something to do with why I never had any interest whatsoever in joining a Greek organization.  But, obviously, the drive to belong in humans is really strong.  And will lead people to do to incredibly stupid things.

The state of the race in sports metaphors

So, was discussing the state of the race with my class yesterday, and I decided on a few sports metaphors that I think suggest where things are.  I know as a political scientists I’m not supposed to think “gaffes” like the 47% matter, but I think some of them do.  And I think the ones that do are those that feed into an extant, negative, media narrative of a candidate.  Well, in this case, you couldn’t ask for more to suggest that Romney is an out-of-touch plutocrat.  Do I think many voters will look at Romney’s comments and change their mind?  No.  Do I think that this will shape the ongoing news frames of his campaign in a negative way?  Most definitely.  Do I think that makes it harder for Romney to come back and win?  Most definitely.  Candidates that make repeated mistakes when they are down in the polls do not get positive news coverage.  Coming back from a deficit– even a small one– is certainly much harder when there is a persistent negative frame to news stories about your campaign.

I’ve decided that Romney was already looking at 3rd and 10.  Very doable, but fails more often than not.  He just got sacked and no we’re at 4th and 17.  Doable, sure, but that much harder.  [Maybe it’s gone from 2 and 12 to 3rd and 15, but you get the drift].  I don’t think there’s anything Romney can do that wins him the race now.  I think he needs Obama to screw up.  Best opportunity– the debates.  To switch to baseball, Romney is now trailing Obama by a few games and even if he wins the rest of his games, it may not be enough.  He needs Obama to lose some, too.

Well, accurate of not, that’s my official informed opinion of the moment.

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