Video of the day

Okay, this is basically an ad, but damn this stuff is cool!  I want some.

The waterproof Iphone (towards the end) is amazing.  Seems to me that Apple (and others) should start treating their electronics with this product.

The Republican farm bill

Great take from Chait:

The political complication that comes into play is that farm subsidies have traditionally been packaged together with food stamps. Food stamps strike me as an especially meritorious program. Giving people money because they’re so poor they struggle to eat regularly makes way, way, way more sense than giving people money because they’re in a particular (and generally lucrative) line of work. You could replace food stamps with some other kind of cash grant, but the main idea of helping people because they’re poor is sound.

Historically, the two programs have passed together. There’s some policy rationale for this. Some of the farm subsidies drive up the price of food, making it harder for poor people to buy the food and thus making it more necessary to subsidize them. But the main rationale for joining food stamps is political. It gets urban liberals to vote for farm subsidies that hurt their constituents, and it gets rural conservatives to tolerate food stamps that they’d otherwise oppose. And since advocates of both farm subsidies and food stamps fear losing their program more than anything else, they strongly endorse keeping them together…

Indeed, the incredible position of many conservatives is that the government should be handing out money to people because they run a farm, but should not hand out money to people who happen to be poor…

It’s no longer novel that conservative Republicans have positioned themselves to Obama’s left on domestic spending that benefits their own constituencies. We have seen three years of Republicans attacking Obama for robbing Grandma’s Medicare. But at least Medicare is a justifiable program. The existence of farm subsidies is insane, and the fact that a party that hates government so much it engages in a continuous guerilla war of shutdowns, manufactured currency crises, and outright sabotage can’t eliminate it may be the most telling indicator of the GOP’s venality

Keep getting arrested

Interesting editorial from the Greensboro News & Record calling for an end to the arrests on Moral Monday as serving all involved:

It’s time to do something else.

The “Moral Monday” protests are fine. Large crowds gather outside the legislative building to express opposition to the Republican policies enacted within. This is American democracy at work. Unlike in Egypt, no one is calling for anyone to be forced from office. Instead, the demonstrators will try to vote them out at the next election…

Still, rallies draw attention. National, and even international, media have been reporting on North Carolina politics this year, thanks to the protesters. Photos of “Uncle Sam” in handcuffs went viral on the Internet. State Commerce Secretary Sharon Decker told reporters Monday, “I’m fielding calls every day, ‘What the heck’s going on there?’ The current environment makes it very challenging to market North Carolina.”

The arrests are a big part of that. Are they necessary?

General Assembly Police Chief Jeff Weaver says arrests are made to allow access to legislative chambers and ensure safety. Has anyone really been kept out of the House or Senate chamber because of demonstrators? Has anyone been endangered? If it’s a matter of closing the building for the evening, can’t protesters be escorted out and then released, and then the doors locked? …

At the same time, can’t the protesters change their tactics? They shouldn’t try to block, or even appear to block, lawfully elected representatives from doing their jobs. And nothing is gained through arrests. They are making their points very effectively through their noisy protests and generous news coverage. It’s time for both sides to call off the arrests.

Nope.  A lot is gained through arrests.  The simple truth is there would be nowhere near the level of attention and media coverage if not for the arrests.  Civil Rights movement anybody?  I don’t think many protesters or arestees have illusions that they are going to change the minds of current Republican legislators.  But getting arrested brings far more attention to the issues where I suspect a majority of the public is on the Democrats’ side.  As long as that’s the case, there’s no reason for Democrats to want to stop the arrests.  

How long can you wait?

To have a baby that is.  Really, really good story on the matter in the Atlantic.  I read it at the beach (overlooking the Atlantic ocean, no less) and have been meaning to give it a good blog post ever since, but since I haven’t yet, it’s time to give it at least a half-assed blog post.  Short version: I thought I knew a lot about fertility statistics, but it turns out not nearly as much as I thought.  Women’s fertility certainly does decline after 30, but not nearly as dramatically as I had been led to believe.  This bit was easily the most eye-opening:

The widely cited statistic that one in three women ages 35 to 39 will not be pregnant after a year of trying, for instance, is based on an article published in 2004 in the journal Human Reproduction. Rarely mentioned is the source of the data: French birth records from 1670 to 1830. The chance of remaining childless—30 percent—was also calculated based on historical populations.

In other words, millions of women are being told when to get pregnant based on statistics from a time before electricity, antibiotics, or fertility treatment. Most people assume these numbers are based on large, well-conducted studies of modern women, but they are not. When I mention this to friends and associates, by far the most common reaction is: “No … No way. Really?

The studies using modern data paint a much more optimistic picture:

Surprisingly few well-designed studies of female age and natural fertility include women born in the 20th century—but those that do tend to paint a more optimistic picture. One study, published in Obstetrics & Gynecology in 2004 and headed by David Dunson (now of Duke University), examined the chances of pregnancy among 770 European women. It found that with sex at least twice a week, 82 percent of 35-to-39-year-old women conceive within a year, compared with 86 percent of 27-to-34-year-olds. (The fertility of women in their late 20s and early 30s was almost identical—news in and of itself.) Another study, released this March in Fertility and Sterility and led by Kenneth Rothman of Boston University, followed 2,820 Danish women as they tried to get pregnant. Among women having sex during their fertile times, 78 percent of 35-to-40-year-olds got pregnant within a year, compared with 84 percent of 20-to-34-year-olds. A study headed by Anne Steiner, an associate professor at the University of North Carolina School of Medicine, the results of which were presented in June, found that among 38- and 39-year-olds who had been pregnant before, 80 percent of white women of normal weight got pregnant naturally within six months (although that percentage was lower among other races and among the overweight). “In our data, we’re not seeing huge drops until age 40,” she told me…

In Dunson’s study of modern women, the difference in pregnancy rates at age 28 versus 37 is only about 4 percentage points. Fertility does decrease with age, but the decline is not steep enough to keep the vast majority of women in their late 30s from having a child. And that, after all, is the whole point.

My two younger sisters were born when my step-mom was 38 and 40.  I’ve always thought how lucky she was to conceive with no issues at that age.  Turns out, she wasn’t lucky, but actually fairly normal.  Now, I think there’s plenty of reasons to go ahead and have those kids before late 30’s if a woman is in a healthy relationship– and her odds to get worse, just not dramatically– but I have to say, this really does revise a lot of what has become conventional wisdom on fertility.

Obama the Muslim

Lots of good stuff I should be writing about today.  But I’m trying to be a good boy and work on the 2012 NES data for my research.  But I just came across the variable on Obama’s religion and couldn’t resist posting this crosstab:


Those figures are column percentages– i.e., 29% of Republicans apparently believe that Obama is a Muslim.  And this is a plurality, easily beating the 23% who respond that he’s a Christian.  Heck, even 11% of Democrats have been persuaded of this.  I’m really going to enjoy playing with this as a dependent variable, but alas, back to parenthood now.

Photo of the day

Very cool National Geographic gallery of unusual photos that includes photo tips on how to get the shot.  Love this one.

Photo: A time exposure photograph of a cowboy and cars in the Badlands of North Dakota

Cowboy and Cars, Badlands

Photograph by Annie Griffiths, National Geographic  

Photo Tip: When shooting at night, long exposures that let cars pass all the way through the frame will give you rivers of white and red lights.

“Homosexuals”: not so bad

So, I’ve been having fun playing with the 2012 ANES data the past few days (yes, parenthood and the 2012 election). I was coding the variables on attitudes towards gays yesterday and noticed that they now have two versions of the question wording. The traditional wording on these issues uses “homosexuals” but the new wording uses “gays and lesbians.”  Presumably, homosexuals is more pejorative and it’s well established that changing a single word– even for a synonym– can have clear effects.  (One of my favorite anecdotes is about the Christian news website that automatically converted the word “gay” to “homosexual” in all their news stories.  Leading to American sprinting great Tyson Gay being touted as Tyson Homosexual in a story).

Anyway, I was surprised to find that using “homosexual” vs “gays and lesbians” made no difference on this, the job discrimination question, or on any of the others I quickly eyeballed.  Short version: Americans have become quite accepting of gays and support their rights, no matter what you call them.


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